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is contributing, in the same proportion, to promote the national prosperity. If he be a man of commanding influence, holding an exalted station either at the bar, the pulpit, or the senate; by the force of example, and the power of his eloquence, he may do much to effect a change in the moral and religious character of his country. He may diffuse throughout society a higher tone of Christianity; he may raise the standard of elevation, and procure for his countrymen the appellation of a “nation that fears God and worketh righteousness.” Should he, on the other hand, tread only the humble walks of life, it is true that, in a national point of view, he can hope to contribute but a little to his country's welfare; but if only one talent has been comunitted to his custody, he is careful to improve it to the best advantage. Knowing tha: national religion is only an accumulation of individual piety, he endeavours, in the sphere in which he moves, to “adorn the doctrine of God his Saviour in every thing." Thus he becomes a patriot in the best of senses ; and desires to enrol his name among the list of those who, while they cultivate personal holiness, are contributing, at the same moment, to secure the foundation of their country. National prosperity can only be based on national religion; and national religion can only be created, as we have just observed, by individual piety. The Christian rejoices in thinking that, though small and of no reputation, he may, nevertheless, be made instrumental in delivering his country from the effects of divine indignation, justly provoked by our multiplied and magnified iniquities; for he rightly argues, that if God would have spared, in olden days, licentious Sodom, had it contained within its walls only ten righteous persons, why may not, in the present day, the salvation of his native land be made dependant on the same grounds ? If God, for the elect's sake, will shorten the days of final tribulation, why may he not, for the same cause, shorten, or altogether avert, the days of present tribulation? Indeed, such is the tenor of God's reasoning with the sons of men. By the mouth of his prophet Jeremiah he says, “ At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingilom to pluck it up; if that nation against whom I have pronounced turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them." Who can say that the preservation of this country nay not be owing to the existence of so much piety within its borders ? For notwithstanding the abounding of iniquity, and the overflowings of ungodliness which make us afraid, still there are not wanting those who “ cry and sigh for the abominations of the land;" who are entreating the Lord to stay his avenging arm, and to sheath the sword of divine vengeance in the scabbard of his infinite love. If we can benefit our country in no other way, still we may pray for it. Whether, then, in his public or private capacity; at home or abroad; as a parent or citizen; whether he be poor, or whether he be rich ; in his going out and coming in, the righteous man is a blessing.
Who, then, does not ardently desire to be thus happy in himself, thus serviceable to his fellow-creatures, thus honoured of God? Methinks I hear some person exclaim, “ Hast thou but one blessing? bless me, even me also, O my Father.” God grant that it may be so; for my text involves one important consideration, that if we are not a blessing, we must be a curse to ourselves, to our neighbours, and to our country.
It requires no argument to prove-unless, indeed, we disbelieve the Scriptures,
in which case all argument would be useless-that the wicked man is a curse to himself. The curse of God is pronounced upon him, and he is preparing for himself all the instruments of eternal vengeance. But the influence of this wickedness extends, not only to the culprit himself, but to the neighbourhood in which he lives, to the country which he inhabits. If we could only ascertain the sum total of misery which has been created directly and indirectly by the sayings and doings of one ungodly man, it would not be more astonishing than appalling. The vicious man must have associates and partners in his guilt. Where do we find a solitary drunkard? The very name implies association. His object is by every artifice to place the cup of intoxication before his friend and neighbour. Take the licentious libertine: his very breath is pestilential; he seems to contaminate every thing within his reach; the poison of asps is under his lips; the ruin of souls and bodies is his delight. To corrupt unsuspecting innocence is the object for which he seems to live; he glories in the number of his victims, and with fiendish triumph, points them out as the trophies of his successful villainy. He makes it his sport to raise a senseless laugh against religion; to ridicule every thing that is serious and sacred; and thinks it a mark of superior wisdom boldly to avow his impiety, to pronounce the Bible a fable of cunning device. Such a man is a demon upon the earth; he caters for hell. He is a curse upon the neighbourhood: but he is more, he is a curse to his country. In the same proportion that the righteous man is the preservation of his country, so is the unrighteous man its destruction. He is using all his influence to demoralize the inhabitants, to undermine their religious principles, to uachristianize the land, thus contributing to complete the measure of its iniquity when that is effected, judgment will inevitably follow. It is a common observation respecting a certain class of ungodly persons that they are no one's enemies but their own. This, however, is not true. They are enemies to society; they are enemies to their country; they are enemies to their God.
How fearful, then, is this consideration-there lives not a man upon the earth, who, in some shape or other, is not a blessing or a curse; not a child who now hears me, who is not a blessing or curse to its parents; not a parent who is not a blessing or curse to his children. How anxiously should we all inquire what position we hold in society: whether by our example we are contributing to augment the armies of the living God or are multiplying the number of those who are confederate against Him! To stand neuter is impossible. "He who is not with me," says Christ," is against me." "Who is on the Lord's side?" Let him display his banners; put on the armour of God, and fight under the cross. O, how anxious should we all be to become a blessing!
But before this can be effected, we ourselves must be blessed by God; this is the grand principle of becoming a blessing to others. Who then are the characters, the subjects of the divine benediction? The Psalmist has thus described them: "Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord will not impute sin." Being then reconciled to God, through faith in the atoning blood of his dear Son Jesus Christ, the effects of the curse will entirely be removed from our guilty heads; a new creation will take place in our souls; the love of God which, in consequence, will be shed abroad in our own hearts, will operate as a constraining motive to love our fellow creatures. Having so freely and fully experienced the blessings of providence and of grace, we shall labour to impart them to
others. Having felt the burden of sin removed from our own shoulders, and “ laid on Him who has borne the iniquity of us all,” we shall earnestly desire to introduce others to the same Redeemer, who alone can set at liberty the sinbound captive. Cheered and animated by the Sun of Righteousness shining into our own bosoms, we shall endeavour, as from a mirror, to reflect its rays on all around us; to bring all within the circumference of its hallowed beams. “Come thou with us and we will do thee good," will be the language of our Invitation. Freely having received, we shall endeavour as freely to givewhether from the stores of our pecuniary or spiritual treasury; we shall rejoice in every opportunity of promoting the glory of God, and the benefit of man.
Thus it is that from having been watered by the dew of God's blessing, we shall seek to water others also ; like the moisture in Gideon's fleece, while all was dry around it, we shall endeavour to become the refreshing source of life to our perishing neighbours. And in this luxurious employment we shall be stimulated to more holy and renewed exertions, by the example of the gracious Redeemer, in whom was centred the perfection of blessedness. See him incessantly occupied in perambulating the cities and villages, diffusing out of his fulness, to all who were willing to receive him, some token of his divine authority. See disease flying before his touch. See the devils trembling at his approach ; see the dead springing into life. See him preaching the Gospel tidings to the perishing poor: see him everywhere enforcing liis precepts by his practice, going about doing good. Gaze upon this picture until you imbibe something of the spirit of Christ, and feel your hearts glowing with an ardent desire to go forth and do likewise, as far as imitation of this bright example is permitted to man.
Behold, then, this day, I have set before you a blessing and a curse: life and death. One or the other you must choose-neutrality is impracticable. When J cast my eyes around this congregation, and see of how much good it may be productive, from the least of its members to the greatest; that the parent may be a blessing to the child, and the child to the parent; the master to the servant, and the servant to the master; the minister to his hearers, and the bearers to the minister; that all of us may contribute, in some degree, to promote the welfare of the neighbourhood in which we reside, I would propose to enter into this solemn compact—that when we retire from these walls, we should each of us resolve to do something more than we have hitherto done, for the service of our fellow-creatures, and the glory of God; remembering that the “
poor we have always with us, and whensoever we will we may do them good.” We desire nothing more ardently than that it may be recorded of us, of this chapel, of this people—that they are a blessing to the vicinity in which they are placed ; that here, as from a fountain, may flow the waters of consolation and salvation, which are to make glad this part of our city, that here, too, the bread of iife may be broken and distributed to the famishing multitude; so that it may be apparent to all “ that this is none other than the house of God, and the gate of heaven." “ Therefore now," in the words of David, with which we conclude, “ let it please thee, O Lord, to bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue for ever before thee; and with thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed for erer."
THE DEATH OF THE CHRISTIAN COMPARED TO SLEEP',
REV. J. PARSONS.
SURREY CHAPEL, FEBRUARY 8, 1835.
“ Concerning them that are asleep.”—1 THESSALONIANS, iv. 13.
“ One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh." Such, my brethren, is the comprehensive and emphatical annunciation of the law under which the whole of our species is placed, and in the execution of which its entire destiny is fulfilled. The tenants of the globe are occupied in one incessant and regular course of change; some advance, and some retire; some are invigorated, and some decay; some are created, and some perish : and in this striking and regular alternation do human affairs proceed, until there shall arrive the period which has been appointed in the divine councils, when the universal Ruler will consummate all things, and distribute on those who have lived the unalterable allotments of eternity.
Who, my brethren, can look and deeply ponder upon the various mutations which have occurred in past ages, and which are occurring now, but with surpassing interest, and with solemnity of heart? To be indifferent and reckless amidst the contemplation of scenes like these, is unnatural and monstrous indeed. The longer it pleases God to continue any individual being in the present world, the more, of course, he becomes a personal witness of the various mutations which transpire amongst the species to which we belong. Whilst minor changes are constantly wrought upon, and observed in those who are permitted to exist, the number is continually augmenting upon whom takes place the performance of the last great and final change of death. He finds that gradually he is surrounded by the monuments of departed generations : and if he render to his contemplations their proper range, and if he impart to his emotions their proper exercise, he soon makes the discovery that the spirit is made to dwell more in communion with the dead than with the living. My brethren, how touching the contemplation ! and who can engage in it without deducing the salutary lessons which will prepare him for the time when he himself must die?
Mv brethren, it is to be observed, there are some of the departed around whom there gathers a peculiar interest and beauty : I mean, the departed upon whom the allotment of death comes in its form of mildness and gentleness, the Jate infliction being overcome by the energies of the divine kindness and grace. This, you observe, was the state of those persons to whom the Apostle has been now referring, when he addressed the Thessalonian believers : “ Concerning them that are asleep;" persons whom they had once known in the flesh, and in the Lord, who had gone to their graves, and with regard to whom it was ore
of the most animating declarations which the whole of the Inspired Writings contain. Not a few, my brethren, of those who are now in this assembly-and ne who speaks is among the number-have, more recently or more remotely, been affected by those visitations; which have bereft us of persons whom, ou the highest principles, we have revered and loved. If we are spared a little longer within the sphere of the present life, we must expect these bereavements to be continued and increased. The Church of Christ has recently lost many of its brightest lights: the champion of India, and the champion of China, have been called away to receive their eternal reward. Believing that that course of feeling cannot but be naturally and properly excited, both by relative and public events, it cannot but be profitable for us to engage to-night in some contempiations concerning them that are asleep ;" knowing that just in proportion as we embrace and receive the truths which are contained in the illustration of the Apostle, our own interests shall be secured, and we shall be happy for ever.
Let me request your patient and silent attention while we occupy your regards in attending to the three following inquiries. First: For whom is death so softened that it may be represented as a state of sleep? Secondly: What illustrations does the representation of death as a state of sleep afford with regard to the condition of the departed? Thirdly: What influence ought the representation of death as a state of sleep, to produce upon the minds of the living?" Concerning them that are asleep."
First, we propose to inquire, FOR WHOM DEATH IS SO SOFTENED AND MITIGATED AS JUSTLY TO BE REPRESENTED AS A STATE OF SLEEP?
We will observe, my brethren, that the phrase by which death is here represented is, unquestionably, intended to import, and to state to us, that it is so softened and mitigated, and that to a considerable extent it is deprived and stripped of the terrors by which, on usual occasions, it is surrounded. We are aware that comparisons between death and sleep frequently signify nothing more than that there is a resemblance between the two in external and physical circumstances; but when the comparison is applied as it is in the language of the text, and also in other portions of divine revelation, we cannot but observe that it signifies the fact of an extraordinary relief in the infliction of the final penalty and the text announces with regard to those persons, that death has undergone a change so great and complete, that it is no longer worthy of being designated by its proper and original name. The question, my friends, therefore, becomes important, and is now to be attended to, Who are those persons on whose behalf the change has been made, and for whose welfare the relief has been afforded?
And, my hearers, none amongst you for a moment will suppose that the representation of mitigation and softening which is now brought before us, is to be considered as the indiscriminate and universal allotment of all mankind. It is for those-and, my hearers, it is for those alone-who, by the Spirit of God, have been able to repent towards him; who, by the same Spirit, have believed upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; and who, in consequence of the appointed instrumentality of their faith, have received the imputation of his righteousness, and a personal interest in those various blessings which his mediation was intended to secure. You will, therefore, observe that, in the