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St. Paul was caught up into paradise ? You have been told: it was when engaged in prayer, While I prayed in the temple, says he, I was in a trance, Acts xxi. 17. The word trance or extasy is of no indeterminate meaning. A man in an extasy is one whose soul is 50 entirely devoted to an object, that he is, in some sense, out of his own body, and no longer perceives what passes in it. Persons addicted to scientific research, have been known so entirely absorbed in thought, as to be in a manner insensible during those moments of intense application. Extasy, in religion, is that undivided attention which attaches the mind to heavenly objects. If any thing is capable of producing this effect, it is prayer. It is by no means astonishing that a man who has entered into his closet, and shut the door, Mat. vi. 6. who has excluded the world, who has lost sight of every terrestrial object, whose soul is concentrated, and lost in God, if I may use the expression, that such a man should be so penetrated with admiration, with love, with hope, with joy, as to become like one rapt in an exstasy.
But farther. It is in the exercise of prayer that God is pleased to communicate himself to us in the most intimate manner. It is in the exercise of prayer, that he unites himself to us in the tenderest manner. It is in the exercise of prayer, that distinguished saints obtain those signal marks of favour, which are the object of our most ardent desire. A man who prays : a man whose prayer is employed about detachment from sensible things: a man who blushes, in secret, at the thought of being so swallowed
up of sensible things, and so little enamoured of divine excellencies: a man who asks of God, to be blessed with a glimpse of his glory, with a foretaste of the felicity laid up in store for him, and that he would fortify his soul against the difficulties and dangers of his career : such a man may expect to be, as it were, rapt in an extasy, either by the natural effect of prayer, or by the extraordinary communications which God is pleased to vouchsafe to those who call upon his name.
From this source proceeds that earnest longing to depart, such as Paul expressed : hence that delightful recollection of the pleasure enjoyed in those de, vout exercises, pleasure that has reudered the soul insensible to the empty delights of this world ; hence the idea of those blessed moments which occupy the mind for fourteen years together, and which produces, at the hour of death, a fervour not liable to suspicion: for, my brethren, there is a fervour which I am disposed to suspect. I acknowledge, that when I see a man who has all his life long stagnated in the world, affecting, at the hour of death, to assume the language of eminent saints, and to say, I have a desire to depart : my soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; becoming all at once a seraph, burning with zeal; I acknowledge myself to be always under an apprehension, that this zeal derives its birth from some mechanical play, or to the unaccountable duty wbich the sick impose upon themselves, even such of them as are most steadily attached to the earth, of declaring that they feel an earnest desire to leave it. But a man who, through life, has been busied about
eternity, whose leading aim was to secure a happy eternity, who has, as it were, anticipated the plea sures of eternity, by habits of devotion; a man who bas been absorbed of those ideas, who has fed upon them; a man who, having devoted a whole life to those sacred employments, observes the approach of death with joy, meets it with ardent desire, zeal, transport, such a man displays nothing to excite suspicion.
And is not such a state worthy of being envied ? This is the manner of death which I ask of thee, O my God, when, after having served thee in the sanctuary, like the high priest of old, thou shalt be pleased, of thy great mercy, to admit me into the holy of holies. This is the manner of death which I wish to all of you, my beloved hearers. God grant that each of you may be enabled powerfully to inculcate upon his own mind, this great principle of religion, that there is a third heaven, a paradise, a world of bliss over our heads! God grant that each of you may attain the lively persuasion, that this is the only desirable felicity, the only felicity worthy of God to bestow, and of man to receive! God grant that each of you, in ineditation, in prayer, in those happy moments of the Christian life in which God communicates himself so intimately to his creatures, may enjoy the foretastes of that felicity; and thus, instead of fearing that death which is to put you in possession of so many blessings, you may contemplate it with holy joy, and say, “This is the auspicious moment which I have so long wished for, which my soul has been panting after, which has been the
burden of so many fervent prayers : Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” May Ged in mercy grant it to us all. To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
On Numbering our Days.*
PSALM XC. 12.
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our
hearts unto wisdom.
THROUGH what favour of indulgent heaven does this church nourish in its bosom members sufficient to furnish out the solemnity of this day, and to compose an assembly so numerous and respectable ? Through what distinguishing goodness is it, that you find yourselves with your children, with your friends, with your fellow citizens ; no, not all of them, for the mourning weeds in which some of you are clothed plainly indicate, that death has robbed us, in part, of them, in the course of the year which is just terminated.: But through what distinguishing goodness is it, that you find yourselves with your children, with your friends, with your fellow-citizens, collected together in this sacred place?
The preachers who filled the spot which I have now the honour to occupy, and whose voice resounded through this temple at the commencement of the last year, derived, from the inexhaustable fund of
* Delivered in the church of Rotterdam, on New-Year's day,