« AnteriorContinuar »
the parting hand; but let us all remember that a very solemn meeting awaits us at that day suggested in my text, when we shall all have finished our course.
Our meeting at that day will greatly differ from what it has been in this house: I have often been here and found but few within these walls; some trifling excuse has detained you; but at that day it will not be optional with people whether they attend or not; all will be there; the congregation will be full, not one in a town, state, or in the world, but what will appear. Sometimes you have manifested great stupidity, and I have witnessed drowsiness and carelessness while I have been speaking; but at that day you will be awake and be all attention. You will believe, realize, and feel interested in the things exhibited. Often through the de pravity of the human heart, and the prejudice that sinners have to the truth, and to the servants of Christ, they will turn their backs on divine worship, and leave the house of God: But when ministers and people meet before the tribunal of Christ, there will be no deserting or quitting the assembly; there they must hear, however disagreeable their preaching will be, and tormenting to their consciences. In this house our meeting has been promiscuous or indiscriminate; saints and sinners sit on the same seat, around the same table; we cannot certainly say who has and who has not on the wedding garment; but at the day of judgment there will be an exact separation; Christ will separate the sheep from the goats.
In this house we have often met, not less than four thousand times; we go and we come: Although we see no fruit of our labour, we do not wholly despair; we hope God may yet bless his word; but when ministers and people meet before the bar of God, it will be the last interview, none to follow it: The case of sinners will then be for ever hopeless and helpless.
One great design of our meeting together in this world is to offer salvation to sinners, to entreat and to beseech them to be reconciled to God; but at the day of judgment an irreversible sentence will be pronounced
on the righteous and on the wicked; the saints will be rewarded, and sinners condemned, and sent to endless perdition.
When the ambassadors of Christ have finished their course, and meet their people, a critical examination will take place: I must give an account concerning the motives which influenced me to come among you, and how I have conducted during my thirty years residence in this place the doctrines I have inculcated: whether I have designedly kept back any thing that might be profitable to you, or have, through fear of man, or any other criminal cause, shunned to declare the whole counsel of God. Also, as to the manner of my preaching, whether I have delivered my discourses in a cold, formal manner; and of my external deportment. You, who have been the people of my charge, must give an account what improvement you have made of my ministry; whether you have attended as you ought; whether your excuses for withdrawing from public worship at any time were sufficient. God will attend to them, and they will be weighed in a just balance; not a single neglect will escape divine notice. We have a thousand excuses, which, when put in the scale of the sanctuary, will be lighter than a feather.
You must give a strict account as to the manner of your attending in this house: whether you have received the word with joy, and obeyed its precepts. Parents must render an account, whether they have taught their children, by precept and example, to reverence the word of God, and respect the servants of Christ. Whether they have endeavoured to maintain or support the influence of their minister among the youth or rising generation, and so been workers together with him. Whether the servants of Christ do not fall into contempt in a measure through their instrumentality. People will be examined whether they have contributed to the temporal support of the ministers of Christ; it will not be left with men how much they ought to impart; but God will be the judge how much was suitable, and whether it was agreeable to the word of God, and the exigences of the preacher.
On the separation of a minister from his people, there are often very criminal causes existing, either on the part of the minister or people, or both. There may be pretended reasons, while the truth may be kept out of sight, to escape censure. Ecclesiastical councils may think it inexpedient to make any inquiry into the matter; but they will have a plain, candid, and thorough investigation before the tribunal of Christ. No deception, no hypocrisy will be concealed under religious pretences; but it will all be detected and exposed before the assembled universe, and the hearts of all men be revealed.
"Nothing but truth before his throne,
The painted hypocrites are known,
The accusations brought against the ministers of Christ will be examined. Ministers will fare no better for the name they sustain; their wickedness will be exposed; they condemned or exonerated, not according to popular noise and clamour, but coincident to truth and equity. These are scenes, my brethren, that are just opening before us, and to which we are hastening with the utmost rapidity. These are things that should move us, and call up our attention. It is a small, very small thing to be judged of man's judgment. Oh! let us labour to be found of God in peace. This day to me in some respects is very solemn and interesting, on which I am called to give you the parting hand; but its importance is eclipsed when contrasted with that awful period when we are to meet before Him who is to judge the quick and the dead.
There you and I must shortly appear. Much has been said on the subject of my dismission-that it has been in consequence of my request. I think I have been sufficiently explicit on the matter; but I am willing to repeat it in this public manner, that, had the people been united, wholesome discipline properly exercised, a firm and unshaken attachment to the cause of God manifested among all the professors of religion,
I should have chosen to continue with you at the ex pense of temporal emolument; but, considering the divisions existing, and the uncommon stupidity prevalent, I have been fully satisfied that it was my duty to be dismissed, and have requested my friends not to oppose it. I am persuaded that it will appear another day that unfaithfulness in the minister did not originate the event, to the exclusion of criminal causes in this society; but this matter is laid over to the day of final decision. I trust I feel in a degree reconciled, knowing that God's way is in the sea and in the deep waters, and his footsteps are unknown.
I find my strength in a degree inadequate to itinerant labours, and that I am shortly to put off this my tabernacle; but I purpose, so long as life and health continue, to preach the same gospel that I have been publishing to you for more than thirty years, and on which, I humbly hope, I have ventured my eternal salvation. Oh that I may be enabled to discharge the duty with greater zeal and fidelity! And now I am called to go, not to Jerusalem, but from place to place, not knowing the things that shall befall me, saving what the Holy Ghost and the providence of God witnesseth in every city, that trials await me; but I hope I can in some small degree say, "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God."
My dear brethren and friends, I did not realize my attachment to you before the parting time came. Many disagreeable things have taken place; but still I feel my heart going out towards this people. How many pleasant days have I spent with you in this house! How many hours under your roofs, and delightful visits in your families! I will not except a single door that has not been hospitably opened for my reception. Many kindnesses have I received from you, both in sickness and in health. You will accept my warmest gratitude for the many instances of kindness shown
me. I hope, my dear brethren and sisters in the Lord, that will still remember me at the throne of grace; that God would support me under every trial, and that he would render the evening of my life useful to the church of God: that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel.
May the Great Head of the church send you a pastor after his own heart, vastly superior in gifts and grace to him who is giving you his farewell address. 'Tis a distressing thought to think that I am about to leave any of you in an unconverted state,—that my labour among you will prove to your heavier condemnation. Particularly let me call on you that are young: this house and your own consciences are witnesses that I have repeatedly called on you to attend to the important concerns of your never, never dying souls, and I fear too many of you in vain. Have you not turned a deaf ear to the calls and invitations of the gospel, and to the solemn warnings of God in his providence? I fear you are going down to eternal destruction, under the intolerable weight of aggravated sins. I will now, perhaps for the last time, invite you to Jesus, the God-man Mediator. Some of your parents, on a death-bed, have charged me with their dying breath to be faithful to you; should it appear at our meeting at the day of judgment that I have in any good measure answered their request, must I re-echo to the tremendous sentence of the judge, "Depart," Amen! Amen? Oh! how dreadful!-how heart-rending the anticipation! Must this be the case? Nothing but a speedy and thorough repentance and turning unto God can prevent it. Dear youth, your souls were once committed to me; I would now commit them to him who is able to keep you from falling, and present you faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy.
In general, you have treated me with respect; I do not remember ever receiving an insult from a single youth. Many of your parents sleep in dust, where I must shortly be; should I be so happy as to sit down