THE CHRISTIA CO TEMPLATI G DEATH. REV. RICHARD CECIL, A.

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For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.— 2 Tim. iv. 6. [1807. J Every true Christian is a martyr : the word martyr signifies a witness. St. Paul was such, both living and dying. He spoke these words in allusion to the death he was about to suffer : but the text indicates to us that the mind of a true Christian is prepared for every event. Death is a common topic, and we are apt to speak of it without consideration. Let us endeavor to

THE CHRISTIA CO TEMPLATI G DEATH. 75 obtain something of St. Paul's state of mind, while we I. Consider, that it is the part of a wise man TO STA D READY FOR HIS DEPARTURE I I. 6. to be prepared for death. II. Inquire, wherein this readiness for departure CO SISTS. I. Consider that it is the part of a wise man to STA D ready, because, 1st, our departure is an inevitable thing : — " It is appointed unto all men once to die :" our life is but as an hand's breadth : " Man in his best estate is altogether vanity." There are some declarations of Scripture which we can only receive by faith : but the subject of the text is a fact of every day's observation ; and that it is often a most piercing and heart-rending fact, is a truth which no thinking man can deny. We should consider our departure as a humiliating event. ot only must we be taken from our relatives, friends, and possessions, — but the body — now so much the object of thought and attention, must soon become mere lifeless clay — be laid low, and mingle with its

primitive dust. A wise man, while he reflects upon the death of others, will take a prospective view of his own ; he will endeavor to reahze his own corpse : as it will be a spectacle to others after his departure, so he will regard it now. 2ndly. Because it is also an infinitely momentous event. Some look at it with indifference, as a thing of course : but the wise man sees he is going to an eternal state — to an awful tribunal. He sees a kingdom of glory preparing for him : he sees also an alternative, a place of eternal punishment. " Yes," says one, " death is coming on ; every one

76 ORIGI AL THOUGHTS. must die !" If a brute could speak, it would only speak thus. An enlightened man finds he is going into an eternal and unchangeable state : the question therefore is, To what place is the departed gone ? This is a most important and solemn inquiry. "Man," says Job, "giveth up the ghost, and where is he ?" This is one of the grand subjects our Saviour dwelt on. Christ spake more on the subject of the eternal world than any who went before him. ow, says the enlightened man, I learn from my Divine Master, that when a rich man dies he not only leaves his pomp and state behind him, but that if he departs like Dives, he lifts up his eyes in hell, being in torments ! How infinitely momentous therefore, and how important is it, to be prepared and fitted for a future state ! How should we work out our salvation with fear and trembling ! The man that neglects this is like a madman ! For, should he not reflect, that the change which takes place in his departure will be an eternal one ? that the tribunal, to which he must be brought, will pronounce an irreversible sentence ? that the most important of all alternatives is suspended upon it — eternal happiness, or eternal misery ? But I proceed to consider, 11. Wherein this readiness for our departure consists. Let us consider it, 1st, negatively. This readiness

for departure certainly does not consist in a man's being weary of life, and therefore wishing to die. If this were readiness for death, then every poor wretch who commits suicide, might be accounted ready to die ; not considering that all the miseries and anxieties of life are better than the alternative of rushing unprepared into an endless eternity ! or, 2ndly, does it consist in a thoughtless acquies-

, THE CHRISTIA CO TEMPLATI G DEATH. 77 cence with Providevce ; saying, with a cold, careless acquiescence in that which cannot be avoided — "Why, everybody must die :" "We must all die :" — language thoughtlessly used, without any seriousness or sensibility of mind. I have been astonished to hear some intelligent, though unconverted men, talk of death as though it were nothing more than the laying themselves down in their beds to sleep ! They seemed not to be at all aware that they had an account to render up ; and that God has said, " The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God !'* Psalm ix. 17. or, Srdly, is a disposition to change to another scene of things — a vague desire to enter into another place of existence — the state of mind required. If a beggar were suddenly to be made a king, how mad would it be not to prepare for so great a change of circumstances ! or is the idea which some have, that when they come to die, they shall be made ready for it, enough. or is it enough to be found living among them that are ready. Do not build upon profession, — like the man without the wedding garment : his conscience told him he was wrong : " he was speechless." Young persons, who have godly parents, I now particularly address myself to you ! Yours is an inestimable privilege : but you must beware of thinking that because your parents are ready for their departure, you yourselves are ready to follow them : that because, as a family, you have been united together in Time, you will therefore, as a matter of course, be united together in Eternity. The place where we shall dwell

hereafter will be determined, not by our relation to our fellow-creatures, but by our relation to God. Therefore,

78 ORIGI AL THOUGHTS. 2ndly. Let us consider positively wherein this readiness for our departure does consist. The Scripture not only gives us a true account of the " change," the great event which must take place with regard to all, but it also clearly describes the proper frame of mind, the position in which a man should be found waiting for his departure. This is a state of mind the reverse of indifference, carelessness, or presumption : it is rather that of him who says, I will act as one who has every thing at stake ! — I have great interests to secure ! To be " ready to depart," we must have been awakened to a sense of our guilt and danger ; and been led to see that we need to be redeemed. We must have fled for refuge to Christ, and committed our souls, by faith and love, into the hands of this Saviour, as St. Paul did. We find him saying, " I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which 1 have committed unto him against that day.'* q. d. I have committed to him my soul to be redeemed — my body to be raised — my character to be justified : I have committed to him all I have, and all I am ; and now, I have nothing to do but " to depart." There is but one way of travelling to heaven : every Christian goes the way which St. Paul did : and if we have been united to Christ, by faith, we may come this day to the table of the Lord, to commemorate the great atonement wherein we place all our hopes ; trusting only in his sacrifice, made once for all. Being ready for death, is positively receiving the whole counsel of God : not only receiving the atonement, but being renewed by the Holy Ghost ; having the mind that was in Christ ; having the spirit and temper of heaven ; being made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. The two verses which follow the text comprehend the whole

THE CHRISTIA CO TEMPLATI G DEATH. 79 of this. St. Paul says, " I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith ; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day : and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." However enthusiasts or hypocrites may bring disgrace on religious assurance, yet the Scriptures say there is such a thing; and they show this not only by precept, but example. They show the earnestness of heart, in seeking spiritual blessings which leads to this. The Scriptures mark the earnestness of a true character. See it exemplified, not only in St. Paul, but in Zaccheus, the jailer of Philippi, and Lydia. On the other hand, the Scriptures teach us the mistake of the foolish virgins, saying, " Lord, open to us !" to whom, w^ith all their profession, the Lord says, " I know you not." But there is a state of assured faith, which is the privilege of every true believer. He may say — I am ready to depart ; God has revealed to me the* scheme of redemption, and I have closed in with it. Therefore, " who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect ? It is God that justifieth : who is he that condemneth ?" And I can therefore commit every thing to him ; for he has said, " I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." But without this earnestness of heart, there can be no true readiness for our departure. I shall conclude by addressing myself. First, to many as he is sinking into the grave : Secondly, to man, as he is taught to rise above it. 1st. Every man may adopt the language of one part of the text — and say, " The time of my departure is at hand." But how insensible, how ignorant of the consequences, are most men ! How disregardful of the way and means of safety ! I have been shocked to

80 ORIGI AL THOUGHTS. hear the ignorance of persons on their dying beds, saying, I have made my peace with God : when, alas !

they have had no idea what that peace means, nor any knowledge of the Peace-maker ! But what has struck me more is, that some of those persons have been my hearers for a great number of years ; and I ask myself — ' How can this be ? I certainly do not make known the whole counsel of God ! — or I do not urge it on the heart and conscience as I ought ! Surely, I am. idle ! — I have sometimes been rendered very uneasy on this account : but, at the same time, I have' recollected that others, who certainly did make known the whole counsel of God, had the same thing to lament. Did not Christ preach the Gospel aright ? Did he not declare the whole counsel of God to sinners ? And yet he wept over Jerusalem : " Oh that thou hadst known, at least in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace !" See also Mark iii. 5. St. Paul certainly preached the Gospel : and yet he speaks of it as '* a savor of death unto death," as well as '* a savor of life unto life/' Man is the same inconsiderate creature still. It must, therefore, be the alone work of the Spirit of God. He alone can give life to the dry bones. See Ezek. xxxvii. Vanity is stamped on every thing here: nevertheless, earthly good is commonly regarded by its possessor — as the enthusiast regards his dream — as if it were something solid ; till experience has convinced him of his error. "I have no comfoirt" — said a great man who had built himself a splendid mansion, and laid out his grounds — " because I meet death in every walk : I may soon be removed, and I know not who may follow me." We must have victory over death : but what is this victory ? Surely ignorance is no victory : careless

THE CHRISTIA CO TEMPLATI G DEATH. 81 indifference is no victory ! Victory is taking away a man's fears — his distresses — his temptations : it is being supported under, or carried through them, and in the end, made more than a conqueror through him who loved us. This victory is given : it must be received : we glorify God by receiving the word of promise. The word of Christ, the work of Christ, and the Spirit

of Christ effect this victory: then, there will be praise: there will be devotedness. Where there is victory, it will be in exercise ; in health, in sickness, in life, and in death ! Turn to the alone method of victory, Job xxxiii. 24, " I have found a ransom." Oh, pray to the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of 3^our understanding, that you may know both your disease, and also your remedy ! 2ndly. I would address such as are rising above the grave. The man who sees an inundation sweeping every thing away, is led to ask — Where must I stand ? He naturally looks out for the highest object. Such a standing is proposed to us in the friendship of God. When any one makes a friend of a great character, he is said to be "a made man." But what is all this? Man is vain, and turning to dust! look at the favorites of princes, Wolsey, and others ! But if I am warranted to depend on the friendship of God, and to believe that " all the promises are yea, and amen, in Christ Jesus," — that the price of my redemption is paid, — my privilege is this, that " death is gain :" my present losses, under Providence, are gain. I may be shut up in a dungeon ; but the union, and communion, which belongs to this friendship, cannot be cut off. I can call, and he shall answer me ; — and that, with an earthquake ! as in the case of Paul and Silas. And if this is my portion, then I may say, with the prophet Hab4*

82 ORIGI AL THOUGHTS. akkuk, "Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines ; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat ; yet, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." — One firm friend is enough : a covenant God, in Christ Jesus, is that friend. Here is a remedy for your dying state — " Because I live, ye shall live also ;" I live as your responsible friend : I ever live to make intercession : I will provide a pillow for your dying

head : you shall be enabled to rest it on the pillow of Omnipotence ! Come, then, this day to the supper of your Lord and Master, confessing that you are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under his table ; and yet, rejoicing, that there is a way of redemption — a narrow path — but safe. Come to honor a crucified Saviour,. by accepting the pledge granted ; and in order that you may be strengthened and established by receiving the sacred elements of bread and wine. Come, that having received spiritual life, you may receive it more abundantly ; and that when called hence, you may be enabled to adopt the words of the text, *' For I am now ready to be oflfered :" — and though " the time of my departure is at hand," I go where I shall no longer walk by faith, but have a clear vision — an uninterrupted enjoyment of God ! where I shall no longer need means and ordinances, and hold communion with God in the Church below, but join the Church of the Redeemed above, who see his face, and sing his praise for evermore !

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