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vey to you an idea of those which I have en- | every thing terrestrial, friends, relations, enjoyed, than it is to give the deaf an idea of gagements; “Lord, it is good for us to be sounds, or the blind man of colours."
here; if thou wilt, let us make here three taYou must be sensible then, my brethren, bernacles,” Matt. xvii
. 4; and to the extremity that defect in respect of faculties, prevents our of old age he retains the impression of that conception of the sensible pleasures which the heavenly vision, and exults in the recollection blessed above enjoy, as want of taste and want of it: “He received from God the Father hoof genius prevent our comprehending what are nour and glory, when there came such a voice their inclinations, and what is their illumination. to him from the excellent glory. This is my Accordingly, the principal reason of St. Paul's beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And silence, and of the silence of scripture in gene- this voice which came from heaven we heard, ral, respecting the nature of the heavenly when we were with him in the holy mount," felicity, present nothing that ought to relax 2 Pet. i. 17, 18. our ardour in the pursuit of it; they are proofs The idea of the celestial felicity has made a of its inconceivable greatness, and so far from similarly indelible impression on the mind of sinking its value in our eyes, they manifestly St. Paul. More than fourteen years have enhance and aggrandize it. This is what we elapsed since he was blessed with the vision of undertook to demonstrate.
it. Nay, for fourteen years he has kept silence.
This object, nevertheless, accompanies him SERMON LXXVII.
wherever he goes, and, in every situation, his soul iş panting after the restoration of it. And
! in what way was he to look for that restoraTHE RAPTURE OF ST. PAUL.
tion? Not in the way of ecstacy, not in a rapture. He was not to be translated to heaven,
as Elijah, in a chariot of fire. Necessity was 2 Cor. xii. 24-4.
laid upon him of submitting to the law impos
ed on every child of Adam: “It is appointed I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, to all men once to die,” Heb. ix. 27. But no
(whether in the body I cannot tell; or whether matter; to that death, the object of terror to all out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) mankind, he looks forward with fond desire. such an one caught up to the third heaven. But what do I say, that death simply was And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, the path which St. Paul must tread, to arrive or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) at the heavenly rest? No, not the ordinary how that he was caught up into paradise, and death of most men; but death violent, premaheard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful ture, death arrayed in all its terror. Nero, the for a man to utter.
barbarous Nero, was then upon the throne, and We have endeavoured to elucidate the ex- the blood of a Christian so renowned as our pressions of our apostle in the text, and to de- apostle, must not escape so determined a foe to monstrate that the silence of Scripture, on the Christianity. No matter still. “Let loose all subject of a state of celestial felicity, suggests thy fury against me, ferocious tiger, longing to nothing that has a tendency to cool our ardour glut thyself with Christian blood; I defy thy in the pursuit of it, but rather, on the contrary, worst. Come, executioner of the sanguinary that this very veil which conceals the paradise commands of that monster; I will mount the of God from our eyes is, above all things, scaffold with undaunted resolution; I will subcalculated to convey the most exalted ideas of mit my head to the fatal blow with intrepidity it. We now proceed,
and joy.” We said, in the opening of this disIII. To conclude our discourse, by making course, Paul, ever since his rapture, talks only some application of the subject.
of dying, only of being absent from the body, Now, if the testimony of an apostle, if the only of finishing his course, only of departing. decisions of Scripture, if the arguments which “We that are in this tabernacle do groan, behave been used, if all this is deemed insuffi- ing burdened: willing rather to be abcient, and if, notwithstanding our acknowledg- sent from the body, and to be present with the ed inability to describe the heavenly felicity, Lord,” 2 Cor. v. 4. 8. “ Neither count I my you should still insist on our attempting to life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my convey some idea of it, it is in our power to course with joy, and the ministry which I have present you with one trait of it, a trait of a received of the Lord Jesus,” Acts xx. 24, singular kind, and which well deserves your having a desire to depart, and to be with most serious attention. It is a trait which im- Christ, which is far better,” Phil. i. 23. We mediately refers to the subject under discus- often find men braving death when at a dission: I. mean the ardent desire expressed by tance, but shrinking from the nearer approach St. Paul to return to that felicity, from which of the king of terrors. But the earnestness of the order of Providence forced him away, to our apostle's wishes is heightened in proportion replace him in the world.
as they draw nigh to their centre: when he is Nothing can convey to us a more exalted arrived at the departing moment, he triumphs, idea of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished than the effects which it produced on the soul my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth of St. Peter. That apostle bad scarcely en-is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, joyed a glimpse of the Redeemer's glory on the which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give holy mount, when, behold, he is transported me at that day,” 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8. at the sight. He has no longer a desire to de- My brethren, you are well acquainted with scend from that mountain; he has no longer a St. Paul. He was a truly great character. desire to return to Jerusalem; he has forgotten | Were we not informed by a special revelation,
that he was inspired by the Spirit of God, we, he is admitted into the bosom of glory; or, to must ever entertain high ideas of a man, who say somewhat which has a still nearer relation had derived his extensive knowledge from the to the idea which we ought to conceive of St. pure sources of the Jewish dispensation; who Paul, represent to yourself a man "bearing in had ennobled his enlarged and capacious mind his body the marks of the Lord Jesus,” Gal. by all that is more sublime in Christianity; of vi. 17, and beholding that Jesus in the bosom a man, whose heart had always obeyed the dic- of the Father: represent to yourself that man tates of his understanding; who opposed Chris- giving way to unrestrained effusions of love, tianity with zeal, so long as he believed Chris- embracing his Saviour, clinging to his feet, tianity to be false, and who bent the full cur- passing, in such sacred transports of delight, a rent of his zeal to the support of Christianity, time which glides away, undoubtedly, with rafrom the moment he became persuaded that it pidity of which we have no conception, and was an emanation from God.
which enables the soul to comprehend how, St. Paul was a man possessed of strong rea- in the enjoyment of perfect bliss, a thousand soning powers, and we have in his writings years fly away with the velocity of one day: many monuments which will convey down to represent to yourself that man suddenly recallthe end of the world the knowledge of his in- ed to this valley of tears, beholding that “third tellectual superiority. Nevertheless this man heaven,” those archangels, that God, that so enlightened, so sage, so rational; this man Jesus, all, all disappearing; Ah, my brethren, who knew the pleasures of heaven by experi- what regret must such a man have felt! What ence, no longer beholds any thing on the earth holy impatience to recover the vision of all once to be compared with them, or that could those magnificent objects! What is become of for a moment retard his wishes. He concludes so much felicity, of so much glory! Was I made that celestial joys ought not to be considered to possess them, then, only to have the pain of as too dearly purchased, at whatever price it losing them again! Did God indulge me with may have pleased God to rate them, and what the beatific vision only to give me a deeper ever it may cost to attain them. I reckon, says sense of my misery! O moment too fleeting and he, I reckon what I suffer, and what I may still transitory, and have you fled never to be recalt be called to suffer, on the one side; and I reckon, ed! Raptures, transports, ecstacies, have ye on the other, the glory of which I have been left me for ever! “My father, my father, the a witness, and which I am still to enjoy; “I chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof,” 2 reckon, that the sufferings of this present time Kings ii. 12. “As the hart panteth after the are not worthy to be compared with the glory water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O which shall be revealed
18. God: my soul thirsteth for God, for the living “Having a desire to depart, and to be with God: when shall I come and appear before Christ,” Phil. i. 23.
God?" Ps. xlii. 1, 2. “ How amiable are thy But who is capable of giving an adequate tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, representation of his transports, so as to make yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: you feel them with greater energy, and were it my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living possible, to transfuse them into your hearts? God. . Blessed are they that dwell in thy Represent to yourself a man, who has actually house; they will be still praising thee! thine seen that glory, of which we can give you only altars, thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, borrowed ideas. Represent to yourself a man, and my God!” Ps. Ixxxiv. 1, &c. who has visited those sacred mansions which My God, wherefore enjoy we not at this day are “in the house of the Father,” John xiv. 2; such privileges, that we also might be filled a man who has seen the palace of the Sove with such sentiments! Boundless abysses, which reign of the universe, and those "thousands," separate between heaven and earth, why are ye those “thousand thousands,” which surround not, for a season, filled up to us, as ye were to his throne, Dan. vii. 10; a man who has been this apostle! Ye torrents of endless delight, in that “new Jerusalem, which cometh down wherefore roll ye not to us, some of your preout of heaven," Rev. iii. 12; in that “new cious rills, that they may teach us a holy conheaven,” and that “new earth,” Rev. xxi. 1. tempt for those treacherous joys which deceive The inhabitants of which are angels, archan- and ensnare us! gels, the seraphim; of which the lamb is the sun My brethren, if ceasing from the desire of and the temple, Rev. xxi. 22, 23, and where manifestations which we have not, we could “God is all in all," I Cor. xv. 28. Represent learn to avail ourselves of those which God to yourself a man, who has heard those harmo- has been pleased to bestow! were we but disnious concerts, those triumphant choirs which posed to listen to the information which the sing aloud day and night: “Holy, holy, holy is Scriptures communicate, respecting the heathe Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his venly felicity: If we would but examine the glory,”. Isa. vi. 3; a man who has heard those proofs, the demonstrations which we have of celestial multitudes which cry out, saying, eternal blessedness! If we but knew how to “ Alleluia: salvation, and glory, and honour, feed on those ideas, and frequently to oppose and power, unto the Lord our God. . . . . and them to those voids, to those nothings, which the four-and-twenty elders reply, saying, Amen; are the great object of our pursuit! If we Alleluia. . . . . let us be glad and rejoice, for would but compare them with the excellent the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his nature of our souls, and with the dignity of our wife hath made herself ready,” Rev. xix. 1. 4. origin! then we should become likė St. Paul. 7. Represent to yourself a man who has been Then nothing would be able to damp our zeal. received into heaven by those angels who “re- The end of the course would then employ every joice over one sinner that repenteth,” Luke xv. wish, every desire of the heart. Then no dex7, and who redouble their acclamations when I terity of management would be needful to in
troduce a discourse on the subject of death. eminent saints, and to say, "I have a desire to Then we should rejoice in those who might say depart: my soul thirsteth for God, for the living to us, “Let us go up to Jerusalem.” Then we God;" becoming all at once a seraph, burning should reply, "our feet shall stand within thy with zeal; I acknowledge myself to be always gates, O Jerusalem!” Ps. cxxii. 2. Then we under an apprehension, that this zeal derives its should see that fervour, that zeal, that trans- birth from some mechanical play, or to the unports, are the virtues, and the attainment of accountable duty which the sick impose upon the dying.
themselves, even such of them as are most You would wish to be partakers of St. Paul's steadily attached to the earth, of declaring that rapture to the third heaven, but if this privilege they feel an earnest desire to leave it. But a be denied you to its full extent, nothing forbids man who, through life, has been busied about your aspiring after one part of it at least. eternity, whose leading aim was to secure a When was it that St. Paul was caught up into happy eternity, who has, as it were, anticipated paradise? You have been told; it was when en- the pleasures of eternity, by habits of devotion; gaged in prayer. “While I prayed in the tem- a man who has been absorbed of those ideas, ple," says he, “I was in a trance,” Acts xxii. who has fed upon them; a man who having de17. The word trance or ecstacy is of indeter- voted a whole life to those sacred employments, minate meaning. A man in an ecstacy is one observes the approach of death with joy, meets whose soul is so entirely devoted to an object, it with ardent desire, zeal, transport, such a that he is, in some sense, out of his own body, man displays nothing to excite suspicion. and no longer res what passes in it. Per- And is not such a state worthy of being ensons addicted to scientific research, have been vied? This is the manner of death which I known so entirely absorbed in thought, as to be ask thee, O my God, when, after having in a manner insensible during those moments served thee in the sanctuary, like the high of intense application. Ecstacy in religion, is priest of old, thou shalt be pleased, of thy great that undivided attention which attaches the mercy, to admit me into the holy of holies. mind to heavenly objects. If any thing is ca- This is the manner of death which I wish to pable of producing this effect, it is prayer. It all of you, my beloved hearers.
God grant is by no means astonishing that a man who has that each of you may be enabled powerfully “entered into his closet, and shut the door,” to inculcate upon his own mind, this great Matt. vi. 6, who has excluded the world, has lost principle of religion, that there is a third heasight of every terrestrial object, whose soul is ven, a paradise, a world of bliss over our heads! concentrated and lost in God, if I may use the God grant that each of you may attain the expression, that such man should be so pene- lively persuasion, that this is the only desirable trated with admiration, with love, with hope, felicity, the only felicity worthy of God to bewith joy,as to become like one rapt in an ecstacy stow, and of man to receive! God grant that
But farther. It is in the exercise of prayer each of you, in meditation, in prayer, in those that God is pleased to communicate himself to happy moments of the Christian life in which us in the most intimate manner. It is in the God communicates himself so intimately to exercise of prayer, that he unites himself to his creatures, may enjoy the foretastes of us in the tenderest manner. It is in the ex- that felicity; and thus, instead of fearing that ercise of prayer, that distinguished saints ob- death which is to put you in possession of so tain those signal marks of favour, which are many blessings, you may contemplate it with the object of our most ardent desire. A man holy joy and say, “this is the auspicious mowho prays; a man whose prayer is employed ment which I have so long wished for, which about detachment from sensible things; a man my soul has been panting after, which has who blushes, in secret, at the thought of
been the burden of so many fervent prayers: 80 swallowed up of sensible things, and so little Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in enamoured of divine excellencies; a man who peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." asks of God, to be blessed with a glimpse of May God in mercy grant it to us all. To him his glory, with a foretaste of the felicity laid be honour and glory for ever.
Amen. up in store for him, and that he would fortify his soul against the difficulties and dangers of SERMON LXXVII. his career; such a man may expect to be, as it were, rapt in an ecstacy, either by the natural effect of prayer, or by the extraordinary com
ON NUMBERING OUR DAYS.* munications which God is pleased to vouchsafe to those who call upon his name.
PART I. From this source proceeds that earnest longing “to depart,” such as Paul expressed: hence
PSALM XC. 12. that delightful recollection of the pleasure en. So teach us to number our days, that we may apjoyed in those devout exercises, pleasure that has rendered the soul insensible to the empty
ply our hearts unto wisdom. delights of this world; hence the idea of those does this church nourish in its bosom members
THROUGH what favour of indulgent heaven blessed moments which occupy the mind for fourteen years together, and which produces, sufficient to furnish out the solemnity of this at the hour of death, a fervour not liable to day, and to compose an assembly so numerous suspicion: for, my brethren, there is a fervour and respectable Through what distinguishwhich I am disposed to suspect. I acknow-ing goodness is it, that you find yourselves ledge, that when I see a man who has all his with your children, with your friends, with life long stagnated in the world, affecting in * Delivered in the church of Rotterdam, on Now the hour of death, to assume the language of | Year's day, 1727.
ON NUMBERING OUR DAYS.
the enjoyment of so many blessings: by those
hearts of all this assembly, that they may yield After having filled their mouths with argu- to the entreaties which we address to them in ments drawn from the stores of nature, they thy name, as thou hast been thyself propitious had recourse to those of religion. They spake to the prayers which they have presented to to you of the limited extent of the patience thee. Thou hast reduced "the measure of and long suffering of God. They told you, our days to an hand breadth:” Ps. xxxix. 5, that to each of us is assigned only a certain and the meanest of our natural faculties is number of days of visitation. They thundered sufficient to make the enumeration of them: in your ears such warnings as these: "Gather but “so to number our days, as that we may yourselves together, yea gather together, O na- apply our hearts unto wisdom,” we cannot suction not desired; before the decree bring forth cessfully attempt without thy all-powerful aid
before the fierce anger of the Lord -“Lord, so teach us to number our days, come upon you,” Zeph. ii. 1, 2. “I will set that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." a plumb line in the midst of my people: I will Amen. not again pass by them any more,” Amos vii. In order to a clear comprehension of the 8.
Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be words of my text, it would be necessary for overthrown: yet forty days and Nineveh shall me to have it in my power precisely to indibe overthrown,” Jonah iii. 4.
cate who is the author of them, and on what How is it possible that we should have es- occasion they were composed. The psalm, caped, at the same time, the miseries of nature, from which they are taken, bears this inscripand the fearful threatenings of religion? And tion, “ A prayer of Moses, the man of God.” to repeat my question once more, through But who was this Moses And on the supwhat favour of indulgent heaven does this position that the great legislator of the Jews church nourish in its bosom members sufficient is the person meant, did he actually compose to furnish out the solemnity of this day, and it or do the words of the superscription, "A to compose an assembly so numerous and re-prayer of Moses, the man of God,” amount spectable?
only to this, that some one has imitated his It is to be presumed, my brethren, that the style, and, in some measure, caught his spirit, principle which has prevented our improve- in this composition? This is a point not easily ment of the innumerable benefits with which to be decided, and which indeed does not admit a gracious Providence is loading us, prevents of complete demonstration. The opinion most not our knowledge of the source from which venerable from its antiquity, and the most gethey flow. It is to be presumed, that the first nerally adopted, is, that this psalm was comemotions of our hearts, when we, this morning, posed by the Jewish lawgiver, at one of the opened our eyes to behold the light, have been most melancholy conjunctures of his life; when such as formerly animated holy men of God, after the murmuring of the Israelites, on occawhen they cried aloud, amidst the residue of sion of the report of the spies, God pronouncthose whom the love of God had delivered ed this tremendous decree: “As truly as I live, from the plagues inflicted by his justice, in the all the earth shall be filled with the glory of days of vengeance: “It is of the Lord's mer- the Lord . . . . your carcasses shall fail in cies that we are not consumed, because his this wilderness; and all that were numbered of compassions fail not: they are new every morn- you, according to your whole number. ing,” Lam. iii. 22, 23. "Except the Lord of shall not come into the land, concerning which hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, I sware to make you dwell therein," Num. we should have been as Sodom, and we should xiv. 21. 29, 30. have been like unto Gomorrah,” Isa. i. 9. If this conjecture be as well founded as it
Wo! wo! Anathema upon anathema! be to l is probable, the prayer under review is the pro
211 duction of a heart as deeply affected with grief, | Lord, so teach us to number our days, that as it is possible to be without sinking into des- we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” pair. Never did Moses feel himself reduced This is a general idea of the end which our to such a dreadful extremity, as at this fatal text has in view. But let us enter somewhat period. It appeared as if there had been a more deeply into this interesting subject. Let concert between God and Israel to put his us make application of it to our own life, which constancy to the last trial. On the one hand, bears a resemblance so striking to that which the Israelites wanted to make him responsible the children of Israel were doomed to pass in for all that was rough and displeasing in the the wilderness. We are to inquire, paths through which God was pleased to lead I. What is implied in numbering our days. them; and it seemed as if God, on the other II. What are the conclusions which wisdom hand, would likewise hold him responsible for deduces from that enumeration. the complicated rebellions of Israel.
I. In order to make a just estimate of our Moses opposes to this just displeasure of days, let us reckon, 1. Those days, or divisions God a buckler which he had often employed of time, in which we feel neither good nor with success, namely, prayer. That which he evil, neither joy nor grief, and in which we put up on this occasion, was one of the most practise neither virtue nor vice, and which, fervent that can be imagined. But there are for this reason, I call days of nothingness; let situations in which all the fervour, of even the us reckon these, and compare them with the most powerful intercessor, is wholly unavail-days of reality. 2. Let us reckon the days of ing. There are seasons, when, “though Moses adversity, and compare them with the days of and Samuel stood up before God,” Jer. xvi. 1, prosperity. 3. Let us reckon the days of lanto request him to spare a nation, the measure guor and weariness, and compare them with of whose iniquity was come to the full, they the days of delight and pleasure. 4. Let us would request in vain. In such a situation reckon the days which we have devoted to the was Moses now placed. Represent to your world, and compare them with the days which selves the deplorable condition of the Israelites, we have devoted to religion. 5. Finally, let and the feelings of that man, whose leading us calculate the amount of the whole, that we character was meekness; and who, if we may may discover how long the duration is of a life be allowed the expression, carried that rebel consisting of days of nothingness and of reality; lious people in the tenderest and most sensible of days of prosperity and of adversity; of days part of his soul: to be excluded from all hope of pleasure and of languor; of days devoted to beyond thirty or forty years of life, and to be the world, and to the salvation of the soul. condemned to pass these in a desert; what a 1. Let us reckon the days of nothingness, fearful destiny!
and compare them with the days of reality. What course does Moses take? Dismissed, I give the appellation of days of nothingness to so to speak, banished from the throne of grace, all that portion of our life in which, as I said, does he however give all up for lost: No, we feel neither good nor evil, neither joy nor my brethren. He was unable by entreaty to grief; in which we practise neither virtue nor procure a revocation of the sentence pronoun- vice, and which is a mere nothing with respect ced against persons so very dear to him, he to us. limits himself to imploring, in their behalf, In this class must be ranked, all those hours wisdom to make a proper use of it. “Thou which human infirmity lays us under the nehast sworn it, great God; and the oath, which cessity of passing in sleep, and which run away thy adorable lips have pronounced against us, with the third part of our life: time, during can never be recalled. Thou hast sworn that which we are stretched in a species of tomb, none of us, who came out of Egypt, shall enter and undergo, as it were, an anticipated death. into that land, the object of all our hopes and Happy at the same time in being able, in a prayers. Thou hast sworn that die we must, death not immediately followed by the judgafter having lingered out for forty years, a ment of God, to bury, in some measure, our miserable existence in this wilderness, a habita- troubles, together with our life! tion fitter for ferocious beasts of prey, than for In this class must be farther ranked, those reasonable creatures, than for men whom thou seasons of inaction, and of distraction, in which hast chosen, and called thy people. The sighs all the faculties of our souls are suspended, which my soul has breathed to heaven for a during which we propose no kind of object to remission are unavailing; the tears which I thought, during which we cease, in some sense, have shed in thy bosom, have been shed in to be thinking beings; seasons which afford an vain; these hands, once powerful to the combat, objection of no easy solution, to the opinion these hands which were stronger than thee in of those who maintain that actual thought battle, these hands against which thou couldst is essential to mind; and that from this very not hold out, which made thee say, "let me consideration, that it subsists, it must actually alone, that my wrath may wax hot against think. them, and that I may consume them,” Exod. In this class must be farther ranked, all those xxxii
. 10; these hands have lost the blessed art portions of time which are a burden to us; not of prevailing with God in the conflict! Well, because we are under the pressure of some cabe it so. Let us die, great God, seeing it is lamity, for this will fall to be considered under thy sovereign will
! Let us serve as victims to another head, but because they form, if I may thy too just indignation; reduce our life to the say so, a wall between us and certain events, shortest standard. But at least, since we had which we ardently wish to attain. Such as not the wisdom to avail ourselves of the pro- when we are in a state of uncertainty respect mises of a long and happy life, teach us to ing certain questions, in which we feel our live as becomes persons who are to die so soon. selves deeply interested, but which must re