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and mocked the messengers of the Lord, contemned his word and ordinances. Pious hearers can witness to the same things, and in this way the mutual testimony of godly ministers and people will be strengthened and supported, and Divine proceedings against impenitent sinners vindicated. Thus the church will be a crown of joy to her faithful pastor.
1. We may infer from this subject that the gospel ministry is of God, and that we ought to seek its welfare, and use suitable exertions for its support.
Doth Scripture and reason dictate that it is of so much importance, especially as it relates to a judgment day, we may conclude that God would not do without it, and we may see Divine wisdom and goodness in the institution. Nothing more conducive of Divine glory, and salutary to men, than the preaching of the gospel. Without these glad tidings are proclaimed, the incarnation of Christ is vain. Nothing but opposition to God, and disregard to his glory, will make men indifferent to the preaching of the gospel. A rejection of Christ and his ministers has commonly vice and open profanity for its inseparable companions. The opposition that the impenitent part of mankind have made to the servants of Christ, has doubtless in some measure had its rise from a consciousness that they must meet them at the bar of Christ, to their disadvantage.
We may conclude, that, since the gospel ministry is eo very useful, it will be continued to the end of the world.
2. When a faithful minister is taken away, it ought seriously to be regarded. But few ways perhaps that God shows greater displeasure against a people than in calling his ambassadors home. By this he threatens to put an end to his treaty of peace, and become irreconcilable. It may sometimes be the case that God has no more chosen or elect ones among them. When Paul and Barnabas were preaching at Antioch, as many as were ordained to eternal life believed, then they departed, Acts xiii. All the encouragement for a minister to preach among a people, so far as the salvation of souls ought to be a motive, is the doctrine of election. After the death of a faithful minister there is less hope of a people.
We may further observe, when it is considered that we are to meet them no more in the house of God, to hear them declare unto us the words of reconciliation; but our next interview will be at the tribunal of Christ, to hear them testify for or against us, how affecting the consideration! It is more solemn to die than if we had never been favoured with the gospel ministry. People, whether they hear or forbear, shall know, to their joy or sorrow, that there hath been a prophet among them, Ezek. ii., 5.
3. The subject affords direction how ministers should preach, and how a people ought to hear, viz., with death and judgment in view. It is this that makes preaching and hearing a serious matter, and renders the house of God so very solemn. We must soon meet before the bar of Christ, and perhaps before the next Sabbath, to have our sermons and our hearing examined by Him who is infinite in knowledge, and is present in every congregation. Did we always consider these things, it would tend to abolish that coldness, drowsiness, and indifference, that too often attend the ministers of the gospel, and that formal spirit which is too apparent among hearers. How would it check that levity of mind and disorderly behaviour that presumptuous creatures often indulge in the house of God. How dreadful is this place!—is a reflection suitable on all occasions, and more especially when we meet for public devotion.
4. The surviving widow and children will for a moment suffer the word of exhortation. Are not you in some sense his hope and joy? Was it not a reflection that tended to smooth the rugged road through death, that he should meet you before the bar of Christ, and that you would be a crown of rejoicing in that day? If ministers and people arc to meet each other before the tribunal of Christ, as having special business together, then we may conclude that this will be the case with particular families, such as husbands and wives, parents and children; you can say much about each other upon that occasion, having for so long a time composed one family on earth.
You, who are this day called to mourn, must give an account how you have improved his public and more private admonitions; and especially this providence. The present occasion, however solemn, will appear more so at the great day. Consider, that although he is gone to return no more, yet God, the source of consolation, ever lives. His promises are always new to the widow and fatherless. That God who gave has taken him away. But still he lives in another state, and is more useful to the universe than he could be in this world. God's people always die in the best time, manner, and place. You have only time to take up the body and bury it, set your houses in order, and follow him. Manifest your love to the deceased by preparing to meet him, and make his heart glad in the day of the Lord Jesus. Contemplate the rectitude of divine government, and a future world, and be still.
Let the children remember, that to have a pious faithful parent taken away is an unspeakable loss. Your father has done much for your bodies, but we trust more for your souls; never, never forget his prayers and, admonitions. Can you, dare you meet him at the bar of Christ in impenitence? Should this be the case, instead of those endearing and parental caresses that you have received from him in this life, he will join with the Judge of all in saying, Depart! He will declare what he has done for you, and condemn you. Let your mother experience that tender regard and kind assistance, during her short continuance with you, as becomes dutiful, obedient children. Make her heart glad by a holy life, and let your father live daily before her eyes in your pious examples.
Let me say a word to the church and congregation in this place. Dear friends, I am not a stranger to those mournful sensations that the present melancholy providence tends to inspire. I trust I am a hearty mourner with you, and am a sharer in your loss.
By the foregoing observations you have reason to conclude that you have lost a faithful minister.
You can't forget those solemn and affectionate warnings that he has given you from the desk, nor those pious examples he has set before you. He has preached his last sermon. Your next meeting must be before the tribunal of Christ, where those sermons you have heard him deliver in this life will come to view, and the improvement you have made of them. Will you, my brethren, be his crown of rejoicing in that day? If you were his hope and joy in this life, you doubtless are still. It is with satisfaction we trust that he this moment looks forward to that day, when he expects to see this the dear people once committed to his charge; and doubtless he hopes to meet some of you as crowns of rejoicing. Oh! do not disappoint the hope and expectations of your reverend pastor. Manifest your love to him by imitating his holy examples, and "by having those heavenly instructions that he Bo often inculcated always in remembrance; and by preparing to give him joy in the day of the Lord Jesus. Examine what improvement you have made of the gospel ministry while you had it; and whether too great inattention has not had influence in its being removed. Have you ever experienced the power and efficacy of the gospel upon your own souls? Have you by the Holy Spirit been formed into the moral likeness of the blessed God, and into the image of his son Jesus? Or have you been contented with the mere form of godliness? Have you not, through sloth and unbelief, neglected attending on the preaching of the gospel during the residence of your pastor among you? Oh! what account will such gospel despisers have to give another day! Consider, I entreat you, how dreadful it will be to have these things brought into view when you come to meet your minister, who was once, and perhaps is now, an eyewitness of your conduct, and will testify against you to your everlasting condemnation!
Your minister, though dead, now speaketh. He preaches a most solemn lecture to us all this day on mortality.
You will, as it were, hear his voice when you look on the place of public worship, where he and you so often attended—when you look on his grave, which is here among you—and when you look to the second coming of Christ. Think often of that day. Let the Sabbath, and worship of God, be still dear unto you; and remember him who has spoken unto you the word of God, whose faith follow.