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in which case all argument would be useless-that the wicked inan is a curse to himself. The curse of God is pronounced upon him, and he is preparing for himself all the instruments of eternal vengeance. But the influence of this wickedness extends, not only to the culprit himself, but to the neighbourhood in which he lives, to the country which he inhabits. If we could only ascertain the sum total of misery which has been created directly and indirectly by the sayings and doings of one ungodly man, it would not be more astonishing than appalling. The vicious man must have associates and partners in his guilt. Where do we find a solitary drunkard? The very name implies association. His object is by every artifice to place the cup of intoxication before his friend and neighbour. Take the licentious libertine: his very breath is pestilential; he seems to contaminate every thing within his reach ; the poison of asps is under his lips; the ruin of souls and bodies is his delight. To corrupt unsuspecting innocence is the object for which he seems to live; he glories in the number of his victims, and with fiendish triumph, points them out as the trophies of his successful villainy. He makes it his sport to raise a senseless laugh against religion; to ridicule every thing that is serious and sacred; and thinks it a mark of superior wisdom boldly to avow his impiety, to pronounce the Bible a fable of cunning device. Such a man is a demon upon the earth ; he caters for hell. He is a curse upon the neighbourhood: but he is more, he is a curse to his country. In the same proportion that the righteous man is the preservation of his country, so is the unrighteous man its destruction. He is using all his influence to demoralize the inhabitants, to undermine their religious principles, to unchristianize the land, thus contributing to complete the measure of its iniquity: when that is effected, judgment will inevitably follow. It is a common observation respecting a certain class of ungodly persons that they are no one's enemies but their own. This, however, is not true. They are enemies to society; they are enemies to their country; they are enemies to their God.
How fearful, then, is this consideration—there lives not a man upon the earth, who, in some shape or other, is not a blessing or a curse ; not a child who now hears me, who is not a blessing or curse to its parents ; not a parent who is not a blessing or curse to his children. How anxiously should we all inquire what position we hold in society: whether by our example we are contributing to augment the armies of the living God, or are multiplying the number of those who are confederate against Him! To stand neuter is impossible. “ He who is not with me,” says Christ, “ is against me.” “ Who is on the Lord's side?" Let him display his banners ; put on the armour of God, and fight under the cross. O, how anxious should we all be to become a blessing !
But before this can be effected, we ourselves must be blessed by God; this is the grand principle of becoming a blessing to others. Who then are the characters, the subjects of the divine benediction? The Psalmist has thus described them : “ Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord will not impute sin.” Being then reconciled to God, through faith in the atoning blood of his dear Son Jesus Christ, the effects of the curse will entirely be removed from our guilty heads; a new creation will take place in our souls; the love of God which, in consequence, will be shed abroad in our own hearts, will operate as a constraining motive to love our fellow creatures. Having so freely and fully experienced the blessings of providence and of grace, we shall labour to impart them to
others. Having felt the burden of sin removed from our own shoulders, and “ laid on Him who has borne the iniquity of us all,” we shall earnestly desire to introduce others to the same Redeemer, who alone can set at liberty the sinbound captive. Cheered and animated by the Sun of Righteousness shining into our own bosoms, we shall endeavour, as from a mirror, to reflect its rays on all around us; to bring all within the circumference of its hallowed beams. “ Come thou with us and we will do thee good," will be the language of our invitation. Freely having received, we shall endeavour as freely to givewhether from the stores of our pecuniary or spiritual treasury; we shall rejoice in every opportunity of promoting the glory of God, and the benefit of man.
Thus it is that from having been watered by the dew of God's blessing, we shall seek to water others also; like the moisture in Gideon's fleece, while all was dry around it, we shall endeavour to become the refreshing source of life to our perishing neighbours. And in this luxurious employment we shall be stimulated to more huly and renewed exertions, by the example of the gracious Redeemer, in whom was centred the perfection of blessedness. See himn incessantly occupied in perambulating the cities and villages, diffusing out of his fulness, to all who were willing to receive him, some token of his divine authority. See disease flying before his touch. See the devils trembling at his approach ; see the dead springing into life. See him preaching the Gospel tidings to the perishing poor: see him everywhere enforcing his precepts by his practice, going about doing good. Gaze upon this picture until you imbibe something of the spirit of Christ, and feel your hearts glowing with an ardent desire to go forth and do likewise, as far as imitation of this bright example is permitted to man.
Behold, then, this day, I have set before you a blessing and a curse: life and (leath. One or the other you must choose-neutrality is impracticable. When I cast my eyes around this congregation, and see of how much good it may be productive, from the least of its members to the greatest; that the parent may be a blessing to the child, and the child to the parent; the master to the servant, and the servant to the master; the minister to his hearers, and the hearers to the minister; that all of us may contribute, in some degree, to promote the welfare of the neighbourhood in which we reside, I would propose to enter*into this solemn compact—that when we retire from these walls, we should each of us resolve to do something more than we have hitherto done, for the service of our fellow-creatures, and the glory of God; remeinbering that the
poor we have always with us, and whensoever we will we may do them good.” We desire nothing more ardently than that it may be recorded of us, of this chapel, of this people—that they are a blessing to the vicinity in which they are placed ; that here, as from a fountain, may flow the waters of consolation and salvation, which are to make glad this part of our city ; that here, too, the bread of life may be broken and distributed to the famishing multitude ; so that it may
be apparent to all “ that this is none other than the house of God, and the gate of heaven.” “ Therefore now,” in the words of David, with which we conclude, “ let it please thee, O Lord, to bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue for ever before thee; and with thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed for ever."
THE DEATH OF THE CHRISTIAN COMPARED TO SLEEP.
REV. J. PARSONS.
SURREY CHAPEL, FEBRUARY 8, 1835.
“ Concerning them that are asleep.”—1 THESSALONIANS, iv. 13.
“ One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh." Such, my brethren," is the comprehensive and emphatical annunciation of the law under which the whole of our species is placed, and in the execution of which its entire destiny is fulfilled. The tenants of the globe are occupied in one incessant and regular course of change; some advance, and some retire; some are invigorated, and some decay; some are created, and some perish : and in this striking and regular alternation do human affairs proceed, until there shall arrive the period which has been appointed in the divine councils, when the universal Ruler will consummate all things, and distribute on those who have lived the unalteral.le allotments of eternity.
Who, my brethren, can look and deeply ponder upon the various mutations which have occurred in past ages, and which are occurring now, but with surpassing interest, and with solemnity of heart? To be indifferent and reckless amidst the contemplation of scenes like these, is unnatural and monstrous indeed. The longer it pleases God to continue any individual being in the present world, the more, of course, he becomes a personal witness of the various mutations which transpire amongst the species to which we belong. Whilst minor changes are constantly wrought upon, and observed in those who are perunitted to exist, the number is continually augmenting upon whom takes place the performance of the last great and final change of death. He finds that gradually he is surrounded by the monuments of departed generations : and if he render to his contemplations their proper range, and if he impart to his emotions their proper exercise, he soon makes the discovery that the spirit is made to dwell more in communion with the dead than with the living. My brethren, how touching the contemplation! and who can engage in it without deducing the salutary lessons which will prepare him for the time when he himself must die?
My brethren, it is to be observed, there are some of the departed around whom there gathers a peculiar interest and beauty : I mean, the departed upon whom the allotment of death comes in its form of mildness and gentleness, the Jast infliction being overcome by the energies of the divine kindness and grace. This, you observe, was the state of those persons to whom the Apostle has been now referring, when he addressed the Thessalonian believers : “ Concerning them that are asleep;" persons whom they had once known in the flesh, and in the Lord, who had gone to their graves, and with regard to whom it was one
of the most animating déclarations which the whole of the Inspired Writings contain. Not a few, my brethren, of those who are now in this assembly—and he who speaks is among the number-have, more recently or more remotely, been affected by those visitations; which have bereft us of persons whom, on the highest principles, we have revered and loved. If we are spared a little longer within the sphere of the present life, we must expect these bereavements to be continued and increased. The Church of Christ has recently lost many of its brightest lights: the champion of India, and the champion of China, have been called away to receive their eternal reward. Believing that that course of feeling cannot but be naturally and properly excited, both by relative and public events, it cannot but be profitable for us to engage to-night in some contemplations“ concerning them that are asleep ;" knowing that just in proportion as we embrace and receive the truths which are contained in the illustration of the Apostle, our own interests shall be secured, and we shall be happy for ever.
Let me request your patient and silent attention while we occupy your regards in attending to the three following inquiries. First: For whom is death so softened that it may be represented as a state of sleep? Secondly: What illustrations does the representation of death as a state of sleep afford with regard to the condition of the departed ? Thirdly: What influence ought the representation of death as a state of sleep, to produce upon the minds of the living? “ Concerning them that are asleep.”
First, we propose to inquire, por WHOM DEATH 18 80 sofTENED AND MITIGATED AS JUSTLY TO BE REPRESENTED AS A STATE OP sleep?
We will observe, my brethren, that the phrase by which death is here represented is, unquestionably, intended to import, and to state to us, that it is so softened and mitigated, and that to a considerable extent it is deprived and stripped of the terrors by which, on usual occasions, it is surrounded. We are aware that comparisons between death and sleep frequently signify nothing more than that there is a resemblance between the two in external and physical circumstances ; but when the comparison is applied as it is in the language of the text, and also in other portions of divine revelation, we cannot but observe that it signifies the fact of an extraordinary relief in the infliction of the final penalty: and the text announces with regard to those persons, that death has undergone a change so great and complete, that it is no longer worthy of being designated by its proper and original name. The question, my friends, therefore, becomes important, and is now to be attended to, Who are those persons on whose behalf the change has been made, and for whose welfare the relief has been afforded ?
And, my hearers, none amongst you for a moment will suppose that the representation of mitigation and softening which is now brought before us, is to be considered as the indiscriminate and universal allotwent of all mankind. It is for those--and, my hearers, it is for those alone-who, by the Spirit of God, have been able to repent towards him ; who, by the same Spirit, have believed upon the naine of the Lord Jesus Christ; and who, in consequence of the appointed instrumentality of their faith, have received the imputation of his righteousness, and a personal interest in those various blessings which his mediation was intended to secure. You will, therefore, observe that, in the
following verse, the Apostle speaks of those who “sleep in Jesus ;" those who believed in him, and those who were vitally and spiritually united to him. And the same truth is distinctly and powerfully expressed in other portions of the Sacred Writings, as you must recollect. Let me remind you, that the only warrant and assurance that our own prospects for death and eternity shall be cheered by the light and the gladness of mercy and grace, is to be found in the fact, that we “ count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord; and do count them but dung, that we may win Christ, and be found in him, not having our own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” It is “he that believeth," my brethren, that is entitled to the enjoyment of the blessing; and he who relies not upon Christ Jesus, has no part and has no lot in the matter.
We must now explain further, that the precise order by which, to those who rely on the merits of the Lord and Saviour, death undergoes that softening influence which is placed before us, is, by the influence of the Saviour's death, and by the influence of the Saviour's resurrection. The whole of these two great events is applied to the welfare of those who believe; and in them is the security of their final joy. We speak, my brethren, for example, of the Saviour's death. T'hat death was strictly an atonement, a propitiatory sacrifice for the transgressions of the world, intended to bear away the guilt of sin on behalf of all those who should believe upon His name, and absolve them from the penal consequences and final punishment which sin has richly deserved. We, therefore, find it stated that “ He bare our sins in his own body on the tree :" that “ Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us : for it is written, Cursed is, every one that hangeth on a tree.” Now, my hearers, the terrors of death to man arise entirely from man's liability to the
“ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law." If, then, the guilt of sin, which alone invites and incurs the malediction of the law, be removed and borne away by the sacrifice of Christ, by the same sacrifice the sting of death must also be borne away; and there must be an influence exerted over it, so that it shall torment and injure no more. It is, therefore, a beautiful record of the Apostle, with regard to the influence of the Saviour's sacrifice, that
as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage."
Again, my brethren, while we speak of the Saviour's death, we must also speak of the Saviour's resurrection. On the third day he broke the bars of death, and came forth “ declared to be the Son of God with power.” The resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead, was his own personal conquest over death: it was the solemn testimony of the all-sufficiency and acceptance in heaven of the sacrifice which was offered for his people: and it was also a public proof that, on the part of his people, he had triumphed over and spoiled the principalities and powers of darkness; who hold their domination no more for the curse and malediction of mankind : and it was his preparation for that state of mediatorial empire, and that work of mediatorial intercession, which is to continue till the appointed period, when all his saints are to be assimilated