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to light; and when this light is once extinguished in the minds of any, they can find no rational ground of hope beyond the grave. It is out of their power to prove, either that they shall exist, or that they shall not exist, after death ; and if they should exist, that their existence will afford them any happiness. They cannot prove that there is not another world, nor that the other world will not be a state of complete and endless misery. For, if they can exist in this world without a God, they may exist in another world without a God; and if they can suffer in this world without a God, they may suffer in another world without a God. The principles of atheists and infidels directly tend to take away every ray of hope in the hour of death. And the more learned, the more ingenious, the more reflecting they are, the more pain, anxiety and distress they may expect to feel, when death approaches and eternity opens to view.
This has been found to be the case by the bitter experience of the most celebrated infidels, who lost all their hopes and sunk into despair, at the trying and awful hour of death, which has often filled the souls of pious believers with joy and triumph. If we believe that it is safe and happy to die in the Lord, then we must believe that to die without God, without Christ, and without hope, must be, of all things this side of eternity, the most painful and distressing to a rational and immortal mind. Infidelity never appears more absurd and shocking, than in contrast with the scenes of mortality. Who can wish to be an infidel, while he stands by a deceased saint, or a deceased sinner? Death is one of the most powerful antidotes against infidelity; and if any thing in this world can effectually convince unbelievers of the absurdity and criminality of their sentiments, it seems that a serious and contemplative view of the dying and the dead, must produce this desirable effect. If they have the least humanity, they must wish to see their fellow men die in peace, and to die in peace themselves. They must renounce either their principles, or all claim to tender and benevolent feelings. For nothing can be more cruel, than to destroy in their own minds and in the minds of others, every ground of hope in a dying hour. Let them no longer reject the counsel of God against themselves, but make it the business of their remaining days, to prepare themselves and others for a peaceful death and a blessed immortality.
2. It is a serious and weighty reflection suggested by this subject, that nothing will prepare men for death, but what will prepare them for heaven. It is the ardent wish of many to escape the wrath to come, though they have no desire to go to heaven, and dwell for ever in the presence of a holy God. These persons often imagine they are sincerely preparing for death, while they are making no preparation for heaven. They live soberly, walk uprightly before men, frequently meditate on the shortness and uncertainty of life, read the word of God, ob- . serve the Sabbath strictly, call upon God in private and in secret, and perform every external duty which they find necessary to maintain peace of conscience, and banish the fears of death. But these are refuges of lies, which naturally tend to uttter disappointment and despair. Death will destroy every ground of hope, but that which is built upon a renovation of heart, and a cordial reconciliation to God. Our Saviour, who holds the keys of death and of hell, expressly said to those in his day who were strictly moral and externally religious, but destitute of internal holiness: 6 Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." And, "if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” Love to God, faith in Christ, and a sincere desire to glorify and enjoy God, are essential to a due preparation for death. No external duties, no selfish desires, no mercenary hopes of future happiness, will fit men for heaven; nothing short of holy love and purity of heart will prepare them to be absent from the body and present with the Lord.
3. This subject shows us how much those honor and support religion in the eyes of the world, who really and visibly die in the Lord. While they lie upon the confines of time and eternity, with sweet composure and serenity of mind, joyfully waiting for the happy moment to join the general assembly and church of the first-born in heaven, they exhibit the most beautiful and instructive spectacle ever to be seen on earth. Their solemn and trying situation affords them the best opportunity of discovering to all around them the beauty, strength, and consoling power, of vital piety. The clear and lively prospect of eternity is one of the sweetest tests of the real views and feelings of expiring christians. The most hardened and stupid are constrained to acknowledge that that religion which removes the fears of death, and fills the soul with joy when nature is decaying and all earthly hopes are vanishing, must be a divine and important reality. Nothing strengthens the hopes of saints, and destroys the hopes of sinners, so much as beholding a sincere believer die in the full enjoyment of the peculiar supports and consolations of the gospel. The wicked are frequently more struck with a conviction of the reality and importance of religion, by seeing a saint die in serenity and joy, than by seeing one of their own character die in all the darkness and bitterness of despair. How beautiful and how important has religion often appeared in those who died in the Lord! How often has an expiring saint constrained sinners to
desire that they might die the death of the righteous, and that their last end might be like his! How calm, and serene, and instructive, were the deaths of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; of Joseph, Joshua and David! They called their families and friends around them, conversed freely with them, gave them their dying counsel, and closed their eyes in peace. These examples are recorded for the instruction and admonition of all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Let them set their houses and their souls in order, and prepare to glorify God, do honor to religion, and give the finishing stroke to their character, by a calm, peaceful and instructive death. This will embalm their memories, and make them blessings to the world after they have left it.
Finally, the subject we have been contemplating affords matter of peculiar consolation to mourners, who have good evidence that their departed friends have died in the Lord. This consideration removes the heaviest part of bereavements; mixes light with darkness, and joy with sorrow. Though pious friends are the most amiable and valuable, and their lives are the most to be desired, yet their death is least to be regretted and lamented, if to be regretted and lamented at all. If they have left evidence of their dying in the Lord and entering into rest, their gain, their happy change, their present glory and felicity in the presence and enjoyment of God, ought to inspire the hearts of their surviving relatives with gratitude and joy, however great a loss they have suffered by the painful separation.
This consolation, we trust, the bereaved and afflicted pastor of this people has now a right to enjoy. Though God has been pleased, by a long, pining, painful sickness, to put an early period to the life of his dear consort, yet he has brought about this melancholy event under the most desirable and alleviating circumstances. He gave Mrs. Fisk time and opportunity, and apparently a heart, to prepare for a peaceful and happy death. While her body and her mind were sufficiently vigorous, though under the decays of nature, he arrested her attention by a sudden, clear and impressive view of his being, his character, and absolute sovereignty. Her fears were alarmed, her conscience was awakened, and she saw nothing before her but an awful and miserable eternity. In this distressing situation, he made her acquainted with the plague of her own heart, and fully convinced her that she was entirely in his hands, as the clay is in the hands of the potter, and that he had a good right to make her either a vessel of mercy or a vessel of wrath. But as her sense of danger, her conviction of guilt, and her opposition to divine sovereignty, were very strong and sensible, so these exercises of mind were of short duration. God soon appeared for her, and turned her heart from enmity to love, from fear to hope, and from distress to joy. Next to those views and feelings, a happy calmness and tranquillity of mind succeeded, and generally continued, until her strength failed, and she hopefully fell asleep in Jesus. Her husband saw these marks of divine power and grace upon her heart, which are now suited to pour the balm of consolation into his wounded breast. He has abundant reason to be satisfied with every step God has taken, to separate lover and friend, and lay his acquaintance in the dust. Let him, with an eye of faith and hope, follow her into eternity, and view her as resting from all the labors, pains, infirmities and imperfections of mortality, as reaching the perfection of her nature, and as completely blessed in all the enjoyments of heaven; and these views of her joys will assuage his sorrows, and melt his heart into gratitude and submission. Since she honored God and religion by dying in the Lord, her example calls upon him to honor both, by walking softly before God, and manifesting a patient, quiet, filial spirit, under his correcting hand. And may the God of all grace and consolation give him that peace, which the world cannot give, and which the world cannot
The particular relatives and friends of the deceased will notice the goodness as well as severity of God, in her early death. Though they may think there is some severity in his calling her so soon from the stage of life, yet they must acknowledge there is great apparent goodness in preparing her to depart in peace. They cannot sorrow as those who have no hope. And their hope that she is gone to rest may well suppress their tears, and soften their hearts to receive the instructions of providence. Whether they have hitherto improved or misimproved the day of grace, this bereavement bids them to be ready also. And 0, that they may be wise, that they may understand this, that they may consider their latter end!
The church and congregation in this place are especially called upon to lay this instance of mortality to heart. Mrs. Fisk was placed in a conspicuous and important situation. Her dissolution was long expected, and in the course of her lingering and fatal disorder, she gave a peculiarly striking public evidence of the great change she experienced. She did every thing her state would permit, to manifest her love to God, to Christ, to his cause, and to his friends. She has left her dying
lingerie, i fotel discuter
testimony in favor of the reality, the comfort, and the importance of religion. And she being dead, now speaketh to this people, with whom she was nearly connected, in a solemn though silent voice, and calls upon them to prepare to follow her not only into the grave, but into the kingdom of glory. Her voice is the voice of God, which it concerns the secure and the awakened, the young and the old, and the friends as well as enemies of Christ, to hear and obey. Since all must die, it is of infinite importance to all to prepare to die in the Lord. Now they have the opportunity to prepare; but to-morrow may be too late. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. And if ye will hear the voice of God in his word and providence, harden not your hearts.