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"Arise, let us go hence." — John, xiv. 31.
I CA easily perceive, by the aspect of the congregation this afternoon, that many of you have been led here on account of the peculiarity of our circumKtauces ; that you have come to listen to the last sermon, and to mingle in the last Sabbath-day meeting in this place of worship. On this account, therefore, brethren, instead of an introduction, I will begin with an application. There is another last sermon, and another last meeting: the opportunity will come in which you will be sitting and listening to the last sermon that you M'ill ever hear on earth ; the moment will come when the voice of some preacher will be addressing the Gospel to your ear, and to your heart, for the last time^ Aye, and there is another meeting in which you will mingle, the last meeting, in which the wicked and the righteous will be mingled together on earth, and %vhen they will be separated, and when " every eye shall see him,"' and when you shall be there. ow, brethren, do you ever think of this ? You come to listen to the last sermon, and you come to meet in this last assembly ; but do you ever think of this other assembly in which you will assuredly stand? That voice which once shook Sinai, will be heard again, and you will hear it : the lips that are now pronouncing mercy, and offering salvation, and ready to pronounce pardon, will pronounce a blessed welcome to his disciples, and will pronounce the sentence of condemnation to those who refuse it ; and you Mill hear it. Oh, let us think of this, bi-ethren ; and let us lay to heart this serious recollection: and may God in his mercy grant, tliat the few observations I mav suggest from the passage I have just read, may fall in with this great end, which you ought ever to keep in view — the preparation for that last meeting between you and God. You can easily perceive, that I shall merely attempt to shew, in a few different applications, some of the various illustrations of which these words are capable ; passing rapidly over them to bring them to bear on our own peculiar circumstances, and then adverting a little on their application to ourselves. Of course, brethren, in meditating on tliis passage, the very first application of which any of you would think, would be that in which they irere primarily used : you would apply them to the Son of God in the solemn moment when they were uttered, and you would bring before your mind (he circumstances that have combined to give interest and impression to them. " Arise, 1^ us go hence."
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562 REFLECTIO S O DEPARTURE. And wliere was lie going ? He was going to the garden, to agony, to the baptism of blood, to the meeting with the prince of the power of the air, to that great and awful conflict in wliich the prophecy was to be fulfilled, that he should present his soul an ottering for sin, and bear the burden of the world's atonement. 'I'his was the last night of the Redeemer's life. He had been eating the passover with his discijjles ; he had been delighting them with his calm and blessed instruction, with his holy promises and consolatory statements : and then, at the close of his discourse, he said, " Arise, let us go hence." He could use these words with ideas, and with anticipations, and with impressions, of M'hich they knew nothing. Tiiey had been sitting listening to his voice ; lie knew that in a little time they would be scattered, and that all would forsake him and flee. The traitor had gone, and made his arrangements, which arrangements were rising to their completion ; and our Lord saw this, and felt the moment advancing and approaciiing: yet there was nothing, either like fainting under tlie prospect, or rashness, or precipitancy, or passion ; but all was calm and tranquil : there was the grandeur, and sublimity, and iiiao-nanimity, which ever appeared in his character and conduct ; and he calmly said, "Arise, let us go hence." He felt whither he was going: " I will not talk much to you hereafter: for the prince of this world cometh, nevertheless he hath nothing in me ; but he cometh that the world may know that I love the Father ; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so do I. Arise, let us go hence." That moment was approaching on which the eye of God had dwelt from all eternity: for, I apprehend, that tlie ott'ering of the Son of God in our nature, for the sin of the world, as it was a manifestation of the perfections of God which had never been surpassed, and which never can be repeated, so it was something to draw down the attention of angelic society to comprehend the lessons they were to learn there of the grandeur and perfections of the divine nature. It was something on which tiie eye of God was fi.xed ; in which th^re was to be a manifestation to tiie whole intelligent universe, of lessons which they could learn nowhere besides : and there was now just approaching all that particular work which Christ came into the world to perform, and now was approaching the time in which it was to be accomplished. " Arise, let us go hence." But we may make another application of the passage : we may bring it down into contact with our own feelings, and may apply it to several circumstances of Providence ;is they occur to ourselves. Yon might meditate upon the words in their aii])lication to several circumsfances in life. It would not be improper to apply them to the very lowest ai)p!ication of which they Mill admit ; to local removals of place and of habitation, when the voice of Providence and
of God calls US from scenes and from situations where we have been surrounded by kindred and congenial society. We may be called away from our father's house, from all the society, and the endearing recollections that are there. Or we may be called from a particular habitation which we may have long occupied, where we niJiy have felt and experienced much of the blessing of God ; where we may have passed through many afflictions; the walls of which, so to speak, Uave listened to our prayers, and seen the wrestlings of our spirit, and listened to the manifestation of the divine goodness : and when the voice of Providence has said, " Arise, let ns go hence," and we feel we must say to ourselves, "Let us go lience," there are many emotions which come upon the heart ; and I should never envy that man his feelings, who had never experienced such emotions.
nEPLECTIO S O DEPARTUflE. 563 We may apply it to moral circumstances, -when we may be called to depart from peculiar circumstances of enjoyment, comfort, and tranquillity, and to enter upon scenes of adversity and misfortune, when we are called to experience what is painful and distressing to our mind and heart. You may give it a higher application still — to wliat is spiritual. I never like to he mystical in the application of Scripture; but I cannot help thinking, M'hen I look at a passage like this, and tlie human heart and human history, I cannot help thinking of tlie language of Moses, " Comt with us, and we will do thee good :" I cannot help thinking of the resolutions which have often been made, when these M'ords have been uttered and carried home to the heart of a man by the Spirit of God ; when he has determined to arise and go to his Father, when he has heard the voice of God saying, " Arise, and depart ; this i^ot your rest ;" and he has broken from his fears, and he has arisen, and gone forth in the freedom of his spirit, rejoicing in that mercy which he receives by faith. It may be applied in another way ; it may be applied to the matter of death. Death is frequently spoken of as departure. Did you ever dwell upon the import of that word, departure? It conveys a grand truth : it is not extinction, but departure — the positive removal, the going, the passing from one place to another ; the continuance of consciousness, the continuance of every capacitv, and every faculty, and of every feeling ; and the passing, the departure of the intelligent spirit, of the mind, with all that makes it what it is, into another place, and another state. The whole of our philosophy, (justly understood,) the whole of the representations of Scripture, sustain this view of the circumstances of death — that the mind does continue its consciousness, and does pass into a state (and what a state to pass into !) where it is to experience, and to experience for ever, the results and consequences of what had been its moral principles and its moral habits ; what has been its moral tastes and likings here, are to continue throughout all eternity, and to be the source of its torment,
or of its beatitude. Oh, brethren, we feebly think, we must feebly speak, and feebly conceive, of the circumstances of death. You dwell upon it very little ; many of you seldom think of it; you do not try to realize it: and if you were to try with ever such intensity, you could do it very imperfectly. But if our time permitted, and we could take up several different characters, we might, perhaps, get a strong and intense impression of what a revelation there must be made to the conscious spirits of different individuals, who pass into eternity. If you were to take a man distinguished in this world, whose name is universally known, and who had been just satisfied with tliat, who had made that his god, his heaven, and his happiness, and had existed in his present distinction, and in what we may designate (though there is a contradiction in the terms) his atmosphere of earthly immortality, and never thought of any thing else ; what a revelation is made to that man when he departs, arises, and goes hence, and finds that, to all virtuous nnd holy intelligences, he is an t,bject of contempt and disgust ! Yet that is what every godless soul must be, and what every mind must be which passes hence in a state of thoughtlessness, of disregard, opposition, impenitence, and rebellion against God. They feel conscious in a moment, as soon as they pass into that world, in which nothing bu."" truth is felt in all its clearness and in all its fulness — the man who had been something like a god here, in the view of mortals, feels hims" f, in a moment, to all that is like God, and to all whose praise and applause are 2 o 2'
564 REFLECTIO S O DEPARTURE. worth having, that he is an object of ineffable contempt. That U death to tliat man ; that is " going hence." Or, if you take tiie man wiio has reasoned himself, or been driven bv liis passions, into the belief, or the profession of the belief, that there is no Gort, when God stands revealed before that man, and when he finds the existence, and perfections, and government of God, proved by an evidence which he cannot deny, by a light which comes direct from God himself upon his spirit, and comes with all the intensity of a revelation of wrath, what a revelation is made to that man then ! You may take the man who is dying under the influence of false hope, who has formed erroneous and mistaken conceptions of the groiaid on which a sinner ought to come to God; who has done this in the midst of light, and opportunities of knowledge, and who therefore stands before God accused 4f liimself, because of that very ignorance : when that man, Mith the joy, the confidence, and the composure with which lie anticipates eternity, awakes, and finds to his inevitable and eternal disappointment, that he has been pursuing a
shadow and depending on a broken reed, that has pursued, and will pursue him for ever; that is " going hence;" that is " departing;" to be disabused of all his errors. So you may take up the case of other individuals of a different character. You may take up the true believer, with whom and with w^hose state, nobody is acquainted but himself. We may conceive of him dying under darkness, fear, and distress, waking up in the divine likeness, and satisfied with that perfection. We take tlie individual who died rejoicing in the hope and prospect of the glory that is to be revealed ; and even in his case the impression which is made on his mind at the first moment, will be the representations given in Scripture of what " eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man to conceive." We pass on to notice, in the last place, that we may apply language like this to our own personal circumstances and situation this day ; and in t/iis service as a Chnrcli of Jesns Christ. If we are permitted to see another Sabbath, we hope to be worshipping in another sanctuary; a sanctuary the erection of which liatn heen occasioned, not by foolish and contemptible ambition, but rendered necessary by the Providence of God; and that Providence has been clearly and distil. ctly saying to ourselves, under its intlueuce, " Arise, let us go hence. It would be impossiltle to do this without a variety of recollections. We look around, and we consider whence we are going. We are going from a place interesting to our minds, hallowed to our remembrances, by the purposes to which it hath been devoted — a place, erected and devoted to God, where his praise hath sounded, where praver hath been offered, where his word hath been expounaed, with which the idea of God and eternity, all that is solemn and sublime in truth, has been associated. " Tliou shall reverence my sanctuary." I envy not the man who, upon entering into a place of worship, does not feel an awe and solemnity on his spirit. I envy not the man who can feel, and look about him, in a place of worship, a place devoted to God, as if he were in a conunon habitation, devoted merely to the purposes of man. 1 have always felt, on entering a church, or a chapel, or a meetinghouse, or any place which associates itself in my mind with the solemnities and truth of God, an awe and a reverence on mv spirit; and 1 am ready to feel some respect for, and to pav some respect to, the very place, which is associated with the name and being,
REFLECTIO S O riilARTI'R R. 56 and the. worship, of the Eterna. Jehovah. JFe are called to quit a place which hath these associations, and hath been thus devoted. Again ; I tliink we may say with propriety, guided by the representations of Scripture, M-e are quitting a place hallowed, we firmly believe, by events which
have transpired vnthin it. Some of the greatest events in the history of Gods government have taken place, in common with every place where his Gospel hath been preached in sincerity, and with the Spirit from on high. The greatest possible transitions have taken place here in the history of human minds : impressions have been made, knowledge communicated, the heart affected, the conscience arrested ; and the results of all that are passing on, and will pass on, and expand and increase in magnitude and magnificence, for ever and ever. Here souls have been born to God. Over this scene, as over every other, where God's truth hath been preached in faithfulness and with effect, I believe that angels have lingered, and that angels have rejoiced over sinners that have repented. And I should envy not any man who should look around on a place devoted to destruction, sacred by associations, and hallowed by events like this, without something like emotion ; and especially those who have here met and mingled in the worship of God, and wiiose prayers have been answered by the putting forth of his Spirit. We leave a place, sacred to many of you by relative recollections of interest and importance. I mean, that here many of you have the recollection of a pious ancestry : here you have looked on the forms and the countenances of parents whom you now see no more; here you have been led by them, to the house of God : here perhaps you were dedicated in the holy ordinance of baptism to the God of your fathers: and here your parents h?v^ve borne you upon their hearts; and when the man of God hath prayed for the young, they ha^« thought of the little ones sitting at their side, and they have sympathized with the feelings of the man and the minister, and they have offered up their prayers and their supplications for you. You have recollections of this nature, and you look back upon those with wliom you have thus come to the house of God in company : they have departed ; but the place is here, and the place is sacred and dear to the recollection. Again ; the place is sacred to many of you by personal recollections, as well as relative. Here you yourselves have been moulded and impressed by the truth which you have heard: here God hath come to you in connexion with the preaching of the word, and the various services of the Church : here you believe you have received into your own minds the incorruptible seed of the kingdom, which liveth and abiueth for ever; and you rejoice, and give God thanks, that you were led here to hearken to the voice of the man of God, in exhibiting that truth by which you trust you were saved and sanctified. Aye, and many of you have peculiar recollections of seasons and of sacraments, in which the truth that had been dwelt u])on, hath been peculiarly appropriate to your personal circumstances; in which prayers that have been offered have just met your state of feeling; in which you have received recollections which vou treasure to this day; and you look upon some of the scenes and circunstances in which you have mingled with devout thankfulness, and will do so for ever. There are other views, brethren, besides these. You have to look back upon
painful recollections, as well as such as those to which I have referred. Many of you have often engaged in the ordinances of God's house, and many have
566 REFLECTIO S O DEPARTURE. receired spiritual benefits from them ; yet you have to look back upon services and sermons neglected, and Sabbaths misimproved ; when you have heard with .ndolence, or a critical and improper feeling ; when you have conversed on what you have heard with flippancy, instead of retiring with it to pray. You nave to look back to various circumstances and occasions in wliich you have not endeavoured to extract the benefit and the blessing which was intended ; and, you feel, that while you rejoice in what you have received, andwh.it benefit vou trust you have enjoyed; oh, there are deep feelings of penitence to mingle with the expression of the joy. Some of you have deeper and more painful feelings than these still. Some of you are conscious that you have sat here under the sound of the Gospel from your infancy, and you have sat here only to be hardened — hardened by the very Gospel which was intended to soften and to bless. For you have hitherto resisted every application, and every appeal, and every exhortation, and you are living, though the children of pious parents, and parents that may have passed into the skies, though you were the object of many prayers and supplications, though the Gospel has been preached faithfully and effectually, and urged on your mind and conscience — you still live without God and without Christ in the M'orld. All the Sabbaths and the services you have enjoyed here, 1 was going to say they are nothing, but I dare not say that ; they are so)net/iiiig, they are 7niich ; and though they have been hitherto nothing in the production of any spiritual effect on your consciences, they are recollected by God, and they will increase and aggravate your criminality and your punishment, if you still resist and put away from you his mercy, and die impenitent after all. Brethren, I need not dilate upon the peculiar feelings with which we ought, and must, leave a place like this, after the observations which I have made. I might mention, witliout enlarging upon the subject, that you leave, and we expect you to leave, with regret, even though there may be other considerations to excite other feelings. We admit, that by many of you, who have associations with no other place but this — who have the recollections of your infancy clinging around the very building, there is sometliing like a delicate regret to be indulged as to a place, so sacred to your feelings, which is about to be destroyed. We may easily imagine, that there may be feelings of this nature, in looking about upon a place which is to be annihilated, no longer to exist, though dear and sacred to the imaginations of your heart. You will indulge regret from the little you have benefitted, and you should regret the inefliciency of the service in the preaching of God's word here ; its general inefficiency, because, that may have been caused by your neglect of prayer, your
forge fulness to bear the man of God, or the men of God, upon your hearts in your supplications: for, brethren, it should never be forgotten by you, itsiiould never be forgotten by the Church, that the success of the preaching of the Gospel depends as much on the prayers of the people, and the faith of tiie people, as upon the prayers and faithfulness of the preacher. If the minister is nut so successful and efficient as he might desire, and as others might desire, the fault should be laid to his people as well as to him. They forget the exhortation of the Apostle, "Pray for us, that the word of God may have free course, and be glorified." The prayers of the Church are as necessary for the preaching of the Gospel, as faithfulness, affection, and faith, on the part of him that preache . You cannot but have gratitude at a moment like this : gratitude for all the
REFLECTIO S O DEPARTURE. 567 personal benefits you have received ; gratitude, tliat tliough we depart, and though the place is to be destroyed, it is not because the Church of God is to be extinguished ; it is not because the Church of God, that has existed here so many years has ceased to be. o ; we trust we live : we trust that tlie Word of God liveth in us and among us, and we have reason, therefore, to be grateful and to rejoice, that, though we depart from this place, where our fathers and where we have worshipped, we trust, we have before us a sphere of larger activity, where the truth of God will be still maintained, the Gospel of God preached, and the glory of God promoted ; and, therefore, we desire tu go on with hope and with prayer, that He would go with us, whose blessing maketh rich, and who, when Paul planteth, and Apollos watereth, giveth efficiently the increase. Let me conclude with one or two observations to different classes. There are some, though not many, persons present, who must have very peculiar feelings at this moment ; some of my venerable, and aged, and respected friends, who witnessed the erection of this building, who were present at the preaching of the first sermon, and are now present at the preaching of the last. Though there has been on this spot a house for God, a house in which the Church now worshipping in it hath continued to worship for nearly one hundred and forty years, yet this building itself has been erected but forty years: and there are some present who recollect all the circumstances and all the transactions, who had a part and duty in connexion with that erection. To such, it seems appropriate to say, that in the course of nature, very soon the voice of Providence will be to them to arise and to depart hence : very soon, with respect to them, the earthly house of their tabernacle will be dissolved; and we trust, that by faith in the atoning sacrifice, and by the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, we trust, that they are prepared to enter upon the building of God, a building not made with hands, but which is eternal in the heavens. May
grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, rest upon them by the influence of the Holy Spirit ! May such persons marifest the maturity and mellowness of aged disciples ; and may they long be continued to those that are young in years and in the Church, to be before them, and to manifest before them, all the Christian graces and virtues, by which those are to be exercised who come unto Christ, and are devoted to his service ! I would address myself for a moment to the young and active ; the young that ought to be active; for there is that class of persons as well as others: I mean those connected with the Church. My dear young friends, and 1 do not mean in that very young persons, but I mean, persons that are in the vigour and enjoyment of all their full health, and the powers of their mind and body; who feel that they are in the midst of all the many occupations of life, and with all their vigour and their strength attaching to them ; who ought,, therefore, to feel, that it is the time for their being active for God : if you have been zealous and active, and if you have hitherto been desiring in the various ways, and in connexion with the various societies with which opportunity is given, by which you can glorify God, we are about to remove into a larger sphere, where we shall have ampler opportunities, with a desire to have enlarged zeal, and to manifest greater devotedness and greater activity ; if you have hitherto been not so active and so zealous as the power and grace of God, operating upon your heart, ought to have made you, then with your desire tu go hence,
5G8 REFLECTIO S O DEPARTURE. and in the new sphere on which you are entering, endeavour to have new principles and new feelings, and seek to have large opportunities by which God may be glorified by your zealous desire to promote his cause. Oh, brethren, there is round about us ignorance to be removed, affliction to be mitigated, poverty to be alleviated, and a variety of modes by which good can be done : and the motive which we should gather from the occurrence, ought to be a constant moving and impelling power to work while it is called to-day, for the night cometh when no man can labour. One word to the impenitent and the negligent, who are still living in their sins, in spite of all that they have heard, and all the privileges and blessings which they have enjoyed here. My brethren, you are about to remove with us; you go with us: you attach yourself to the place and the congregation, from various circumstances of old associations and connexions. Observe, where you are going the Gospel goes with you, the mercy of God goes with you, opportunities for repentance go with you, the cross of Christ goes with you, the ministry of reconciliation goes with you: these things will all still be enjoyed and urged upon you. But there is another removal, when you will leave all these behind you : when you are called to arise and to go hence, not merely to change your
locality on earth, but to change them for eternity. You must leave the Gospel behind you, the ministry of reconciliation behind you, the Sabbath behind you, the opportunity of repentance behind you : all the instructions which God hatlr appointed for your conversion and your sanctification, all must be left ; and you must enter into that world where the Gospel will never be heard, the call to faith never heard, the offer of mercy never heard ; but where your moral and spiritual nature must bear the results and consequences of your sins and your impenitence for ever and ever. And how soon that removal may be, you know not, I know not; none know. We should, therefore, live, with a perpetual impression on our hearts of the uncertainty of the moment, that it may come at any moment : and, therefore, brethren, let me close by affectionately entreating and exhorting you, that to-day, this day, if you will hear God's voice, harden cot your hearts. " ow, then, we beseech you, to be reconciled unto God; as though God did beseech you, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled unto God ; for he hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that M'e might be made the righteousness of God in him." May God grant his blessing to these few observations ; and so far as they have been appropriate and accordant with your feelings and your sentiments, may they be sanctified and blessed to your religious improvement. Amen.
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