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hell. We are guilty of ungrateful rebellion against God; and anger against our fellow-men, and the unsinning brutes; and our tongues are often “set on fire of hell,” as James expresses it. Our various lusts are as fires kindling in our hearts, and only to be extinguished by the waters of the sanctuary : Herod's lust and Balaam's ambition consumed them. Fire gives exquisite pain : the dead “ cannot feel, though they are set on fire round about * ," but the time will come when the worm will gnaw, and the conscience will be recovered to its life, and its fearful stings will be deeply felt.
Fire converts all inflammable matter into its own nature, till the subject is altogether like itself. Sin has changed the mind into enmity itself against God +.
This fire consumes every thing on which it preys, our hepes suffer. The godly are often tried in their confidence'; they find it difficult to maintain their ground against all they meet with: a sense of past sins, and present imperfections, tries their hopes.
They suffer in their comforis : they are scorched, withered, and dried up —“His mercy is clean gone for ever; he will be favourable no more.”
Their prospects are darkened by the clouds of smoke from this fire of sin : while good men feel this in a degree, the wicked experience it in the fullest sense. They have no hope, no comfort, no pleasing prospect. This I have often seen. May I never witness such scenes again!
3. The future punishment of sin is eternal fire. It is the just element of sin ; God hath decreed it, and will execute his own sentence to its fullest extent. Is it fit that the offender should be judge in his own cause? Who is so able to judge what is eternally fit to be done, as he who is eternal? “ Fire is the portion of their cup I.” Impenitent sinners suffer the vengeance of eternal fire §. It burns to the lowest hell ||. These are everlasting burnings ** : and that fire never can be quenched ++.
The godly are brands plucked from these fires. Angels sing “ Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good-will towards men." Saints adore him that loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood. Even the wicked say, "The Lord hath done great things for them.”
But the Great Advocate gives a public proof and a • Isa. xlii. 25. + Rom. viij.7. Psa. xi. 6. & Jude 7. || Deut. xxxii. az. ** Isa. xxxiii. tt Mars. JXV: 41 T?
general general declaration of it in the court of Heaven in the church on earth it is recorded ; and in the saved sinner's conscience it is confirmed and sealed by the Holy Spirit,
Now should my brand acceptance find,
ON SUDDEN DEATH;
IN THE CASE OF MINISTERS, THE 'he frequency of sudden death, is often the subject of
conversation. It would, perhaps, be difficult to say, whether there are more sudden deaths now than formerly. Events of this kind surprise and affect us for a moment, while similar events of preceding years are soon forgotten; but the frequency of sudden death is often mentioned by writers of former ages. God, in the course of his all-wise providence, has always removed some of his creatures in this unexpected manner, in order that the attention of thoughtless mortals may be more effectually roused to the consideration of their eternal concerns; and history records many happy instances of their good effect.-Peter Waldo, a merchant of Lyons, in the latter part of the twelfth century, who became the instrument of promoting true religion among the people afterwards called Waldenses, was converted to God by the sudden death of one of his neighbours in his presence; and the excellent Judge Hales became seriously religious from a similar incident,
When we consider the astonishing delicacy of the human structure, we cease to be surprized at sudden death, and are ready to wonder that it does not happen more frequently. Our life is but a vapour; and it it vanish in a moment, it is no more than may be expected. The grand improvement we ought to make of a providence so awful, is to be always ready; for in such an hour as we think not, “ the Son of Man cometh.” If we are interested in Christ by precious faith, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, we are always habitually ready; and iť is as much our privilege and duty to walk closely with God, and to maintain a spiritual and watchful frame in the diligent performance of every good work, that we may also be actually ready. It should then be a matter of indifference with us, whether we are removed suddenly or gradually.
There are some advantages to be hoped for when we have notice of our dissolution, we enjoy a better opportunity of setting our houses in order, and regulating all our temporal affairs. We may also be enabled to bear our dying testimony to the truths of the Gospel ; we may evince their excellence by the support and confort we derive from them; and we may profit the souls of our surrounding relatives and friends.
On the other hand, if suddenly translated from this scene of sin and sorrow, we escape at once all the pains, and agonies of slowly dissolving nature, and the horrors of dying, as it were, by inches. The tempter misses all opportunity of harrassing our weak spirits with distressing doubts and fears. We feel none of the pangs of separation from our beloved relatives, dear to us as our own soul, but “we slip out of the world as a man would sometimes choose to do out of a large company, without taking a formal leave. This is to be surprized into happiness, and is more like a translation than a dissolution.”
In the course of my reading, I have been often struck with the accounts we have of many faithful ministers being suddenly removed by death. It was the earnest desire of some of them; and the rest, we may suppose, generally wished not to outlive their usefulness. Apprehending that a brief recital of some of these instances may be acceptable and useful, I have taken the pains to transcribe them.
The famous John Wickliff, the morning star of the Reformation, was struck with a paralysis when preaching in his parish-church of Lutterworth ; and while his parishioners were conveying him from thence in a chair to the rectoryhouse, he expired. 1384.
Mr. David Black, minister of St. Andrews, in Scotland, died while administering the Lord's supper.
Mr. Robert Bruce (of Scotland) had eaten a single egg for breakfast, as was his custom, and having called for another, soon after said, “Hold, daughter, hold; my Master calls me.” He then called for a Bible; but his sight suddenly failing, he desired his finger might be placed on Rom. viii. 33, &c. when he said, “ Now God be with
you, my children, I have breakfasted with you, and shall sup with my Lord Jesus Christ this night:"— and then immediately died.
Dr. Leighton (a truly excellent character) osten dreaded the pains of a lingering death, and wished to avoid giving
any trouble to his friends in those circumstances. The Lord gratified his desires. He died at an inn, in his sleep.
Dr. T. Gouge, minister of St. Sepulchre's, London, and for his great friendship to Wales, called the Apostle of that country, went to bed well, and was found dead in the morning, Oct. 29th, 1081, aged 77.
Isaac Ambrose, minister of Preston, and afterwards of Garstany, in Lancashire, was a man of eminent piety. Having received a visit from some of his friends, he told them he had done his work ; he was now ready whenever his Lord should call. When they departed, he retired to his study for prayer ; where, having staid longer then usual, he was found (I think on his knees) expiring. “He was holy in his life, happy in his death, and honoured by God and all good men.” 1664, aged 72.
Mr. John Oaks (one of the ejected ministers) who succeeded Mr. Thomas Vincent, in London, was suddenly taken ill immediately after his afternoon prayer before Sermon, and removed from the pulpit to glory. Dec. 1688.
It is very remarkable, that on the next Sabbath but one, Mr. Kentish, when he had roused the attention of his own congregation, by mentioning in his sermon the sudden death of Mr. Oakes, was himself struck with death *
Mr. Shewel (of Coventry) who was going through a course of sermons on Indwelling Sin, found himself on the Saturday utterly unable to prosecute his intended subject; and, to the great surprize of his people, the next day, took for his text, “ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”. Some were apprehensive he was about to leave them, it seemed so like a farewell-discourse; and so indeed it proved; for on the following Wednesday morning, after he had prayed in the pulpit, and read his text, which was Rom. v. 12. (“And death by sin," &c.) he dropped down in an apoplectic fit, was carried out of the pulpit into the vestry, without speaking one word more, and in an hour or two departed. This was about 1695.
Mr. Tailour, in a funeral sermon for Mr. N. Vincent, says, “ For my own part, on mature deliberation, I do not think it a desirable thing for a good man to be worn away like a stone by a continual dropping. May my house and soul be in order, and then the sooner it quits this vile body, and leaves this wretched world, if in the twinkling of an
• Mentioned by Dr. Grosvenor in his “Observacions on Sudden Death,” aod quoted from Dr. Annesley's funeral sermon for the Rev. Mr. Brand.
eye, so much the better.” He had his wish, says Dr. Grosvenor, in some measure, dying in his sleep.
“ To whom the rare felicity was giv'n
To fall asleep on earth, and wake in Heav'n.” Mr. Wilcox, author of the sermons, and (if I mistake not) of the Choice Drop of Honey from the Rock Christ, often expressed a wish that, if it were the will of God, his departure might be sudden. He also was gratified. He died suddenly, when preparing to go out to his church-meeting. He often used to say “ Sudden death, sudden glory;" whick words are inscribed on his tomb-stone in Bunhill Fields.
Mr. Samuel Wilson, minister at Sutton Ashfield, Nottingham, was in perfeet health when he left home, after dinner, to take a book to a neighbour's; he was taken ill while crossing a field, and expired almost immediately, Oct. 1771, aged 63.
Mr. John Ker, minister of Karmunnoch, while assisting in the dispensation of the Lord's supper, in the TronChurch, Glasgow, in the act of exhorting the second table, was suddenly taken speechless, fell down, and expired a few hours after, April 27, 1775.
Mr. Robert Walker, author of some excellent sermons, after preaching a morning lecture in one of the churches of Edinburgh, was taken ill, and died in the afternoon of the same day.
The death of the great Mr. George Whitfield was sudden. On Saturday, Sept. 29th, 1770, he rode fifteen miles, and preached at Exeter (in New England) from 2 Cor. xiii. 5, to a great multitude of people in the fields; after which he rode many miles to Newbury. In the night he was seized with a violent fit of the asthma, and expired at six in the morning, aged 56.
Dr. Conyers, of Deptford, tho' not afraid of death, was often afraid of dying ; and would say to his select friends, “I wish I could slip away from you, and get to my Jesus in Heaven, as easily as I could walk out of one room into another.” About three weeks before his death, he said to a friend, -"I can tell you what will give you pleasure - I am delivered from the fear of dying." She replied, “ Then we shall soon lose you?” and so it proved. On Saturday he marked a spot for his grave; and on Sunday morning, when finishing the public service, his speech faultered while pronouncing the blessing - he could not rise from his knzs. He was removed to his house, saying as he was carried, “I have no pain. I hope I shall soon be with Jesus." About four in the afternoon he went to glory, April 23, 1786, aged 62.