The circumstances of Mr. Weaver's death should be mentioned in explanation of the sermon. On the day on which it occurred, he appeared in his usual health. Having attended a meeting, to make arrangements for the first public service of the Evangelical Alliance in Shrewsbury, at which he had shown great cheerfulness and animation, he went on the same business to the house of Mr. Wightman. He was there shown into a room alone, and Mr. Wightman, after a little time, returning home and going to him, found him lying perfectly dead beside the chair on which he had been sitting.
It will not be denied that Mr. Weaver was, at the time of his death, from his sterling virtues, and the unbending consistency of his long and blameless life, of all ministers of religion in Shropshire, the one most esteemed and venerated by all parties. And this testimony to the worth of a Nonconformist those who know the county best will best appreciate.
I need not inform the large and deeply affected audience now before me, what event has brought me into this pulpit on the present occasion. Mr. Weaver, the respected inhabitant of this town, the holy minister of religion, and the beloved pastor of this church for more than half a century—is no more. Three years ago I was here to celebrate his jubilee—I am now here to commemorate his death. That was a season of unmixed joy—this of general lamentation. We then rejoiced with him in his joy—but he does not now weep with us who weep. His tears ceased forever to flow when those of his friends, on his account, commenced. He is gone—but is he forgotten? No! nor ever will be as long as anyone that knew and loved him (and who that knew him did not love him?) shall remain. When I consented to preach his funeral discourse, a passage of Holy Scripture occurred to my recollection, which, by general opinion, will be considered even more descriptive of his character than it is of his removal.
"And Enoch walked with God—and he was not; for God took him." Genesis 5:24
I. We will first look at the HISTORY of Enoch. The name of Enoch appears upon the skies of Scripture as a star of the first magnitude, the rays of which, the brighter for their contrast with the surrounding darkness, have guided many, we believe, to that blessed world to which he himself was so mysteriously taken. His history is a short and beautiful episode in the midst of a dry list of antediluvian names, and of a mournful record of the ravages of mortality. We know little more of him than that, in an age of general and abounding depravity—he was an eminent example of earnest and consistent piety. The apostle Jude informs us that he was not only a believer in God—but an inspired prophet. This was probably the case with all the patriarchs in the line of Seth, commemorated in this chapter. There was then no written revelation, and the knowledge granted originally to Adam, and subsequently to others, was continued, before the flood, by tradition. To preserve this uncorrupted, was perhaps the design of the extreme longevity recorded of the antediluvians, a distinction possibly conferred only on those illustrious men, and not upon the inhabitants of the world in general.
"And Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied about them: Look! The Lord comes with thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment on all, and to convict them of all their ungodly deeds that they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things ungodly sinners have said against Him." (Jude 1:14-15). There is a detail in this quotation which is worthy of a passing remark. The very number of Enoch's generation is mentioned, and he is called "the seventh from Adam." There seems to be no importance in this particular, except to distinguish him from another of the same name who was a descendant of Cain, with whom, however, it was not likely he would be confounded. But it seems to show us the honor God puts upon his servants, and the importance he attaches to his cause, when though nearly the whole of Cain's posterity were passed over in neglectful silence, and though the kings and empires of the old world were consigned to eternal oblivion as not worthy of notice, this little circumstance connected with Enoch's pedigree should obtain a place in the inspired chronicle.
The Bible was not granted for the gratification of our curiosity—but for the salvation of our souls; and while there is infinitely too little to satisfy the one, there is abundantly enough to accomplish the other. How scanty is our knowledge of the antediluvian world—its whole history, though extending through a period of nearly two thousand years, is shut up within the compass of the first five chapters of Genesis, and yet that small fragment of the Bible contains more important information on many momentous particulars connected with man's physical, moral, geographical, and social history, and God's purposes and plans towards him, than can be collected from all the volumes ever written by the pen of man. Of the inhabitants of the antediluvian world we know very little but the fact of their abominable wickedness, which consisted, perhaps, not of idolatry—but of atheism, and its attendant consequence, unbridled violence towards each other.
Among this abandoned race Enoch lived as a believer in God and a preacher of His righteous law; and while he presented to them an illustration of its purity in his holy life, he predicted the infliction, at the judgment day, of its penalty upon all who transgressed its precepts. But they knew not the day of their visitation, and turned a deaf ear to his warnings; and God, at length, removed the blessing which they had so little valued, and so little improved. Noah followed, who was a preacher of righteousness, and by his ark, seemed to hold up to them a type of God's willingness to save all who would repent, believe, and reform, and of the method of their salvation—but all was in vain, and at last, having filled up the measure of their iniquities, and become ripe for destruction, they were swept away by the waters of the deluge.
II. Let us now contemplate the CHARACTER and CONDUCT of Enoch. We find another record of him in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where it is said, "By faith, Enoch was taken away so that he did not experience death, and he was not to be found because God took him away. For prior to his transformation he was approved, having pleased God." It is here distinctly declared that the principle on which his whole character was founded and his conduct directed, was faith. The apostle did not intend to limit the exercise of his faith to his translation—but to inform us what was the one great moving cause of all he did, and what it was that was crowned by this remarkable interposition of God. There are three guides of human conduct—sense, reason, and faith. These are diverse but not opposed. Sense is not opposed to reason, nor sense and reason together, to faith. By sense we act in common with brute animals; by sense and reason, as men, in reference to the affairs of this life; and by faith, as Christians, in reference to the life to come. Our whole conduct in reference to religion is a course of faith. We see nothing—but believe everything. Neither the God whom we worship, nor the Savior in whom we trust, nor the heaven to which we are tending, are the objects of vision; we believe in all upon the testimony of God, and our whole character and conduct must be formed under the guidance of this one principle—our belief in the accredited testimony of God—and he who cannot thus live cannot be saved.
In an atheistic age Enoch "believed that God is, and that he is the rewarder of all who diligently seek him," and he opposed his faith to the infidelity that surrounded him. Such also must be our course. With an immeasurably fuller revelation of the Divine will than he possessed, we ought to have a still stronger and more influential belief of spiritual and eternal realities. It is a difficult—but it is an indispensably necessary thing, to subordinate both sense and reason to the dominion of faith. It is, in fact, the very nature of true godliness—it is the sublime of human conduct.
We now turn to the description of his character and conduct given by the writer of the Book of Genesis—"Enoch walked with God." Nothing can be more beautiful, comprehensive, or expressive than these few words. They contain a figure of speech—and what a figure! The allusion is to two people voluntarily and pleasantly walking together, and conversing confidentially with each other. They are friends, for "how can two walk together except they are agreed." They are conscious of each other's presence, as two people in such a situation necessarily must be. They are engaged in actual fellowship; there is communion and interchange of thought by speech. They are going the same way and engaged upon the same subject. Thus did Enoch walk with God. He was, like Abraham afterwards, the friend of God, having, as a sinner, come into a state of reconciliation with God by repentance and faith in the promised "Seed of the woman." He loved God as the effect of God's love to him, they were friends, and the patriarch knew and rejoiced in it. He lived as in the presence of God—he endured as seeing Him that is invisible, he acted "as ever in the great Taskmaster's eye," and was checked in temptation, stimulated in duty, and comforted in affliction, with Hagar's appeal, "O God, You see me." His private, domestic, and social life was ever regulated by the assured belief that he was always and everywhere in the presence and under the notice, even to the state of his heart, of an observant God. He maintained habitual communion with God, not only by those public acts of worship and sacrificial rites, which doubtless, he celebrated before the eyes of the scoffing generation amidst which he lived, not only at the domestic altar around which he gathered his household, nor even in the usual acts of his own private and personal devotion—but also in the constant frame and tenor of his devout and holy mind. His soul was in habitual communion with God, by its thoughts, its aspirations, and its unutterable breathings of confidence, affection, and intense desires. He exercised a divine friendship, a confidential, yet reverential familiarity, and talked with God as a man talks with his friend.
On the other hand, he listened with awe, and veneration, and delight to those communications which God made to him by dream, by vision, or audible revelation. He also sought the same object as God did, he walked the same way, and was one with him, as regarded the chief end of his existence, the glory of Jehovah. To honor him before the ungodly was his object, purpose, and aim. Such was the manner in which Enoch walked with God. Others denied God; he confessed him. They forgot God—he habitually remembered him. They dishonored him; he delighted to glorify him.
The conduct of this antediluvian saint was the piety of intelligence; he understood God's claim, and his own obligations, and it was not a mere custom. It was the piety of deliberate design and choice—he was not, so to speak, thrown accidentally into God's company—but chose to go to him, and with fixed, determinate purpose, sought His friendship. It was the piety of a great and public man, for he was, probably, a chief, the head of a tribe, at any rate a patriarch, and yet made public duties no excuse for the neglect of personal religion. It was the piety also of a minister of religion—and what is any minister of religion, without personal godliness—but an actor in the most dreadful tragedy ever performed on the stage of this world, since it ends not in the pretended—but the real, death and destruction of the performer? It was the piety of one who had few of those helps and advantages of divine revelation and religious ordinances which we enjoy, and therefore shows how God can and will help those in the divine life, who are, by Providence, deprived of the assistance which others possess. It was the piety of one who faithful stood amidst the faithless, and who held fast his integrity against the torrent of evil example which continually assailed him, demonstrating not only that God has always some chosen ones in the worst of times—but that He can and will support them in their determination not to follow the multitude who run to do evil. It was piety maintained during a long period of severe trial, a profession consistently upheld amidst all conceivable opposition, for nearly four centuries, thus exhibiting a sublime instance of endurance, perseverance, and victorious faith.
Such was the character of Enoch; how splendid in itself, and how bright a pattern for us! We, too, are called to walk with God. This is the duty to which we also are summoned; the privilege to which we also are invited. This must constitute our religion. What an honor is thus placed within our reach. There is in the very language something every way calculated to astonish us. To walk with God. It seems as if this were a distinction too lofty to be conferred on the highest seraph that lives and worships in the temple above, that it were too great a condescension for the Divine Majesty to confer on Gabriel or Michael, to walk with him in the gold-paved streets of the New Jerusalem. How much more astonishing is it that this honor should be bestowed on every saint of the Most High on earth, however young, illiterate, or obscure!
Where or when do we ever read of an earthly sovereign thus familiarly and habitually walking with the most exalted of his subjects? When the great officers of state, and others, who have the privilege of the entree come into the presence of royalty, they approach humbly, conduct themselves with the greatest reverence while there, and having finished their business, retire. Of none of them can it be said they habitually walk with the monarch. Yet thus does the King of kings, in infinite condescension and kindness, conduct himself towards the basest of his subjects, to whom he grants the privilege of walking with Him. And then what felicity, as well as honor, is implied in this mode of life. Friendship is among the purest, wisest, and most ennobling of all earthly pleasures. What then shall be said of this divine fellowship, this holy and reverent familiarity with Him, before whom angels veil their faces—this friendship with God? Such honor have all the saints, such exceeding great and precious bliss does true religion bring with it.
III. Let us now contemplate the TRANSLATION of Enoch. "He was not; for God took him." Had we nothing but this expression to guide us, we might not probably have been able to determine positively, whether or not the patriarch passed to heaven without dying. Yet the variation in his case from the simple expression, "and he died," applied to the other patriarchs, would, of itself, lead to the supposition that there was something peculiar in his mode of exit from our world. Critics tell us that the Greek term in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament implies that he was translated. And certain it is that this was the opinion of the Jewish Teachers in their paraphrase of the passage, and also of Josephus and Philo. And some of the fables of the Greek and Hindu mythology may probably have been borrowed from it. The apostle Paul, however, settles the question and places it beyond all doubt, where he explicitly says, "he was translated that he should not see death." Enoch then, adds a second instance to that of Elijah, of one of our race who passed to glory, honor, and immortality by another road than that of "the dark valley of the shadow of death."
There are many things which, to a reflective mind, will suggest themselves in connection with, and arising out of, this extraordinary event. As "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and corruption cannot inherit incorruption," the body of the patriarch, and of Elijah, in like manner, must have undergone a sudden and entire transmutation, analogous to that which will pass upon those who shall be alive at the second advent of our Lord, and to which the apostle alludes, where he says, "We shall not all sleep—but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." Indeed, the same change passed upon the humanity of Christ on his ascending to glory. How the human body will be constituted in its celestial state is one of the things to which the expression may be applied, "it does not yet appear what we shall be," but this we know that what is sown in corruption shall be raised in incorruption; what is sown in dishonor, shall be raised in glory; what is sown in weakness, shall be raised in honor; and what is sown a natural body, shall be raised a spiritual body.
A question will arise in most minds, whether the translation of Enoch took place in private or in public. There is one expression used by the apostle Paul, which would almost imply it was a secret exit; it is said "he was not found." This looks as if he had been sought for, which would not have been the case, it is supposed, had it been known he was translated. But the expression might intend nothing more than that he was missed. Such a man could not but be missed. His removal made a chasm which every eye must notice. Missed he must have been by the upright who had now lost the benefit of his example, his counsels, and his prayers; and who sensibly felt how much they had been impoverished by the removal of such a man. "Ah," they would mournfully say to each other, "the Patriarch is gone, our father is taken from us, the holy and intrepid preacher is no more with us. We feel his loss on our own account—but still more for the public for whose welfare he so zealously labored. Help, Lord, for the godly man fails." Missed he would be by the bad, some of whom would rejoice that they were no more rebuked by his reproaches, wounded by his cutting reproofs, or troubled by his faithful warnings. Yet, some there are, even among the wicked, who feel a kind of sorrowful and respectful grief when a servant of God is removed. "Yes," they say, "we thought him too severe, morose, and stern, too uncompliant and strict—but he did it out of love to our souls, and he was a good man after all, and his death is a public loss." A faithful minister thus leaves his testimonial and defense, not only in the hearts of holy men—but in the consciences of the unrighteous.
Enoch was missed—would we be missed? How much, and by whom? For what, and how long? Without intentionally aiming at posthumous fame—ought we not all to wish, and seek, so to live, as to be missed and lamented, when we are gone? The generality of men are each like a pebble on the shore, which, if thrown into the sea, is neither missed from the land, nor sensibly a gain to the ocean's bed. Should we be of this character? Who besides our own immediate friends would feel impoverished if we were to die tomorrow? What institutions set up for the relief of suffering humanity would be mourners at our funeral? How much poorer would be our world—for our departure from it? Would the sick miss our visits at their bedside? Would the sorrowful our sympathy in their grief? Would the poor our alms in their scenes of squalid poverty? Would the ignorant our instructions in their abodes of darkness? What are we doing, how are we living, to secure over our grave the lamentation, "Alas, my brother, my friend, my benefactor?"
And would not some be missed, not indeed as benefactors—but as nuisances? not as blessings but as curses? For how many does the tear of regret fall, not that they are at length dead—but that they had not died sooner! "Oh," says some one, "that he had departed before he had corrupted my son, ruined my daughter, beggared my friends, or led myself astray!" Be missed then, and let search be made for you, when you are dead, and be mourned for with the lamentation attending the death of a friend to humanity and true religion, and not the lament that you have lived so long. "When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices; and when the wicked perish there is shouting."
The probability, however, with regard to the translation of Enoch is, that it was so far public as to take place before witnesses—how else would it have been known what had become of him? It might have been supposed he had met with an untimely end, or that he had been murdered by some whose hostility he had excited by his fidelity, and whose malignity had goaded on their revenge to a deed of blood. When Elijah was translated, Elisha, and perhaps the sons of the prophets, saw him borne off in his chariot of fire. When Jesus Christ ascended to his glory, he led out his disciples "as far as Bethany, and lifted up his hands and blessed them, and it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and was carried up into heaven." In neither of the two former cases was there entire publicity—but a selection of witnesses, competent, both from qualifications and numbers, to bear credible testimony. It is not unlikely that some of the venerable people mentioned in this chapter were present on this occasion, to witness and testify the extraordinary event. Adam was dead, and Noah was not yet born—but most of the rest might have been living and present. What an assemblage does such a supposition present to our imagination—and on what an occasion were they brought together!
As this event was to answer important religious ends and purposes, we can the more readily suppose the circumstances of it were thus ordered. We may conclude that all God's dispensations, whether ordinary or extraordinary, which are intended to instruct, to warn, and to rebuke the generation to which they are granted, are well adapted to accomplish their contemplated design. This of Enoch's translation was so in an eminent degree. It was designed to bear God's testimony to the excellence and importance of real godliness. Piety was scoffed at, and they who practiced it ridiculed and persecuted, by the race of infidels which then everywhere prevailed. The tradition of the murder of righteous Abel by his wicked brother, had come down to them, and uniting its influence with the tyrannical power of the descendants of Cain over the posterity of Seth, who were the professors of true religion, encouraged the atheistic idea in the minds of the multitude, that there either was no God at all, or if there were, that he was an Epicurean deity who had retired from all concern with the affairs of this world, and left all things to be governed by chance. But here was proof beyond all contradiction that "verily there is a God who judges in the earth, who discerns between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serves God and him that serves him not." Here was a testimony of God's approval of the righteous, which was calculated and intended to be a severe rebuke to those who had ridiculed all religion in the person of Enoch; and at the same time an encouragement to those who still held fast their integrity and remained faithful in their profession of true religion.
But this was not all the purpose of Enoch's translation, for it furnished and was designed, no doubt, to afford a sensible and striking proof, yes, demonstration of the invisible world. We do not read that miracles were wrought by the antediluvian patriarchs and prophets; and we know they had no written revelation. It was not unsuitable to such a state of things, nor unlikely that some such event as this should occur, to furnish an evidence both of the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body; for Enoch's whole humanity, the body as well as the soul, was taken up to heaven. The portals of the unseen world were thus partially opened, and that atheistic race furnished with a proof of the wondrous truth, that there is a state of existence beyond the grave. That it produced little effect, is too true; but what greater effect was produced by the miracles of Christ and his apostles upon the multitudes of his time, or upon the minds of millions since?
If, however, the removal of Enoch from earth produced but little impression upon its wretched population, his arrival in heaven, we may conceive without any extraordinary or unauthorized stretch of imagination, occasioned new surprise and delight among the angels of God. When the soul of righteous Abel rose from its gory tabernacle to its celestial abode, a new wonder was exhibited to the blessed inhabitants of Paradise. There was the entrance of the first human soul into the heavenly world; the gathering of the first fruits of the mighty harvest that was to follow; the first trophy of redeeming mercy. Upon the arrival of this 'stranger spirit' from the apostate earth we can well imagine that every seraph around the throne of God would burst into new acclamations of praise, and rise into new raptures of delight as the plan of redeeming love thus opened upon their astonished and wondering view. And when Enoch reached that happy world, a still further development of this plan took place; for there was our whole humanity, body and soul, represented by him. There was a foreshadowing of the resurrection of the dead, upon beholding which the principalities and powers of the heavenly places would make one step onward in learning "by the church the manifold wisdom of God."
Are any disposed to ask why the saints, instead of being thus translated like Enoch and Elijah—are doomed to travel to immortality by the gloomy and dreadful passage of death; we reply that this was, no doubt, within the compass of God's power—but not of his wisdom or justice. Reasons abundant are at hand to satisfy the questioner. Translation for all the saints, instead of death, would be an entire counteraction of the order of things brought in by sin, and an annulling of the original penalty pronounced upon the human race for the fall. This sentence must pass upon all, with two exceptions, for all have sinned; and thus, as in other cases, the exceptions confirm the rule. Death must remain, even to the righteous, as a comment upon the evil of sin. And how emphatically does it teach this. Every dying groan, every tolling death-bell, every funeral procession, every opened grave, proclaims the evil of sin, and is a warning against it. "But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die!" "For the wages of sin is death."
So that in one respect, there is mercy as well as justice in this solemn arrangement. Translation would require a constant miracle, and a constant miracle would be no miracle at all. It would also deprive Christianity of some of the brightest displays of its power, excellence, and glory. For if ever our holy religion appears in unusual splendor, it is when it enables its professors to subdue the last enemy in his own territory—and to be more than conquerors by faith over the King of Terrors. We had never had the battles and the victories of the noble army of martyrs, nor the death-bed triumphs of the saints, had they been translated that they should not see death. The unruffled patience, the calm resignation, the joy unspeakable and full of glory of the dying believer, as he gathered up his strength for his last effort, and exclaimed "O death, where is your sting, O grave, where is your victory," have extorted from many the response, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my latter end be like his." What multitudes have been converted to God by witnessing, or hearing, the expressions of the dying Christian. Translation would change the whole economy of redemption, and instead of walking by faith—we would then walk by sight. It would constitute a visible system of discipline and probation. The future and invisible world would, by such an arrangement, be brought within the realm of sense; the decisions of the day of judgment would be known, and the whole course of human affairs be disturbed. No. There must be no other, no brighter, nor more palpable form in which immortality must be brought before us than by an accredited revelation made to our faith instead of our senses. Death must be the dreadful gate, the dark passage to life and incorruption; and Christianity must be seen enabling its true believers to pass through this solemn scene uttering the song of triumph, "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
But supposing translation were common, what moral advantage would be gained by it to men? Even its singularity failed to impress the inhabitants of the old world; and would it do more for us if it were an every-day occurrence? Men may speculate how much more they would be influenced by Christianity if its evidences were more common, and its great facts more palpable. It is a delusion, for it is not for lack of stronger proof that men are infidels—but for lack of disposition candidly to consider and examine that which they have. Those who will not believe the testimony of prophets and apostles would not credit that of messengers from the grave and the unseen world. This was declared by our Lord in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
We may, in connection with this part of our discourse, speak with propriety on the subject of SUDDEN DEATH which is suggested by the event that has called us together, and in this case, as well as in every other of a real Christian, is as near an approach to a translation as can be made by any one who really dies. To such a one can it be otherwise than a favor to be spared the languors of sickness, the racking pain, the anguish sometimes almost intolerable, and all the other terrible harbingers of death protracted through wearisome nights and months of vanity? To be exempt from the heart-rending pangs of separation at the last faltering adieu—and the solicitude produced by the prospect of leaving some but ill-provided for, as regards the present world—to be saved from those gloomy apprehensions which sometimes arise in the minds of the strongest and holiest of believers when contemplating the portals of the tomb—to be carried through the iron gates of death before we knew we were drawing near to them—to wake up in a moment, as from a dream, at the sound of the seraphim's song, and exchange in an instant of time the sights of earthly objects for the glorious realities of heaven, and the society of friends below for the innumerable company of angels and the spirits of just men made perfect; to find ourselves suddenly in the presence of God and the Lamb, and see the smile of welcome upon the countenance of the Savior, and with a burst of astonishment and gratitude to exclaim,
"And is this heaven? and am I there?
Oh wonderful, ineffable, inconceivable exchange!
But then, on the other hand, what a shock is the sudden death of a friend to survivors! To have the dear object of affection so abruptly snatched from our embrace, and all the tender ties which bound us together severed in a moment! To have no note of preparation sounded in our ears, nor any warning symptoms presented to our sight! To have no time allowed to gather up our strength for the scene of separation! To see no last, longing, lingering look of affection shed back upon us by the retiring saint! To hear no parting words of counsel or consolation, no holy prayer, and to receive no benediction! Is not this sad and sorrowful? Yes! But even this is less painful, after all, than to occupy for days, and weeks, and months, "the dreadful post of observation, darker every hour," and with death hovering in the distance, to see the 'dreadful form' growing broader and clearer, and approaching continually nearer, and have nothing left but the calculation how long it will be before the dart of the last enemy will be hurled!
Who would say, which, even by survivors, is most to be dreaded or desired? What an unutterable mercy it is we are not left to choose which it shall be, either for ourselves or for our friends. It is in the hands of God—can it be in better? There let us leave it, being concerned only how we live; and referring it without anxiety to him—to determine how we shall die.
There is yet one more particular connected with the antediluvian patriarch, and that is the honor that was put upon him, apart from his translation. "He obtained," said the apostle, "this testimony, that he pleased God." This, no doubt, referred to the record of him in the Old Testament, "that he walked with God." Who can please God that does not walk with Him, or who can fail to please Him that does? Enoch's translation was a testimony to that generation of which he was a member, and to the whole world from that time to this—of God's approval of his conduct. And with what other and still more delightful testimonies all this was followed, when he reached the presence of his Lord, we can scarcely imagine. And such testimony awaits everyone who lives as Enoch did, especially every holy and devoted minister of Christ. To him will the great Master say, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord! You have served me well, and now I will serve you well. You have found grace in my sight—and as you have shared with me the labor and care of my cause in yonder world, come and be one with me in the joy of this!"
Oh, to hear such words, from such lips, at such a time! Conceive the warrior of a hundred battles, returning from the field of conflict crowned with the laurels of a hundred victories, to receive his king's personal and public approval, the thanks of the senate, the applause of his country, and the admiration of the world; what an object of congratulation is such a man! But how dim, and low, and beggarly is all this, compared with the testimony of God, borne before assembled worlds, to the faithful servant of our Lord Jesus Christ—an honor, the beginning and pledge of which has already lighted on the brow of our departed friend. All the watching, praying, mortification, and self-denial of the Christian life, all the anxiety, labor, and trials of the Christian minister or missionary, yes, all the sufferings of martyrdom in its most protracted or awful form, are to this but the light afflictions of a moment, compared with the exceeding great and eternal weight of glory! To be told by Jesus from his own lips, and with ineffable affection beaming in his eye, and smiling in his countenance, that we have pleased Him! Oh, who would not live through a life long as Methuselah's and afflicted as Paul's—and find at last in that one testimony, an ample reward for all?
This subject is so replete with INSTRUCTION that the only difficulty is to select such inferences as are most in point.
With such a fact before us is it not impossible to separate the idea of locality from heaven? However difficult it may be for us to associate spirits with space, we cannot avoid doing so with bodies—and those of Enoch, Elijah, and our Lord must be in some place; and so will the bodies of all the saints at the resurrection. Yet it is very clear that it is the design of the Holy Spirit in the records of Scripture, to confine our attention chiefly to the idea of state and condition. We are there told what heaven is—but not where. Curiosity is repressed—but the judgment is informed on all substantial points.
"In vain our fancy strives to paint
"Thus much, and this is all we know—
And is not this enough to know? More would gratify our curiosity—but would it sanctify the heart? We walk by faith! No matter where we shall be; when we know what we shall be—perfectly holy and perfectly happy; and with whom we shall be—even with the Lord Jesus to behold His glory. The general and moral aspect of heaven as given in the Bible is its glory. How chaste, dignified, majestic, are the descriptions of our Paradise, compared with that of Mohammed, with the Roman elysium, or the fantastic representations of the Hindus, and other Pagan nations.
Can we help being struck with the abundant evidence of the glorious doctrines of a future state, the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection of the body—with which we are furnished in the Word of God? This is no speculation of man's judgment, no dream of philosophy, no mere vision of excited hope—but the revelation of God! "Jesus Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light by the gospel." "We know in whom we have believed." "We know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle were dissolved we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
In the translation of Enoch and Elijah, as well as in the resurrection and ascension of Christ, we have, in addition to all God's promises, the evidence of facts. And what facts! How sublime in themselves, and how chastely and simply told! Let any one read the wild, extravagant, and monstrous stories of the Koran, or the earthly, though tasteful, and often lewd fables of the classic mythology, and compare with them the facts of divine revelation. When such an extraordinary event was to be related as the translation of an eminent saint, it is simply said, "He was not—for God took him." Had this been human invention, how many details of strange and astounding matters would have been narrated; and what particulars of a marvelous story would have been related. How much of the pomp and parade of circumstance would have been introduced, and what a complicated and decorated web of glory would have been wrought. How different the case before us. This brevity and chaste simplicity are the evidence of authenticity and inspiration.
Who would not desire to belong to that community of which Enoch was a member—and to follow him to that world to which he ascended? The saints before the flood and after, of the old covenant and the Christian covenant—all meet in Christ, and form but one church, under one glorious head. To that belong the illustrious band of the patriarchs, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the glorious company of the apostles, the noble army of martyrs, and all who ever have lived in the faith and fear of God, and all that ever will. Who that has a spark of holy ambition, a particle of lofty aspiration, a single grand or noble thought, would not wish, and long, and pray, and labor, to be numbered with that holy community? What are men's highest social relations, distinctions, and privileges, compared with this? Let us all choose to cast in our lot with these distinguished and eternally happy people!
Can we help wondering at the condescension of God in granting to his people, even on earth, so vast an honor, as to walk with him in habits of holy friendship? That we should reverence and obey him as servants, is what belongs to our nature, relation and duty; but that we should walk with him as friends, is, on his part, an act of surpassing grace; as it is on ours of no less surpassing honor and felicity! To what aggrandizement has our religion elevated us! The privileges of the believers, by their vastness generate a kind of scepticism. It seems as if it were impossible that such distinction should, or could belong to us!
Nor ought we to omit to suggest to the surviving friends of pious departed relatives—the happiness of those they have lost. They have not gone by the same road as Enoch—but they have arrived at the same home! God has taken them to himself, though he took them not in the same way. And so much more important is the end than the way—that, compared with the idea of reaching heaven at last—it is scarcely worthy a thought, whether they ascended, like Elijah, in a chariot of fire, or traveled along the dark valley of the shadow of death. How would Enoch, had he been permitted to speak to them from the skies, have reproved the excessive grief and immoderate tears of the friends who mourned and wept over his departure—and how, if our godly friends could speak to us from heaven, would they also reprove us in the language of our Lord to his disciples, and say, "If you loved me, you would rejoice that I say unto you, I go unto my Father."
Is this our religion? Does this aptly set forth our life? It makes no difference to which church we belong, nor what creed we adopt, nor what ceremonies we profess, nor what zeal for eternal things connected with religion we manifest—if we are not walking with God. Reconciliation with him through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, a habitual acting as in his sight and with a view to his approbation, and a life of devotional communion with him—is true religion—in whomever or wherever found. Is this religion ours? Do we intelligently, experimentally, know the meaning of that phrase—walking with God? Let us set it down before us, look at it, ponder it, and never cease to study it, until we know its meaning, and feel its force. None are walking to heaven—but those who are walking with God! All others are walking to perdition! We hear a great deal about other things that are connected with religion, its doctrines, its forms, its professions—but walking with God is true religion. If we know nothing of this, we know nothing of true piety. Men may walk with God in any form of church government, and they may also in anyone, walk contrary to Him. It is this, and not any external matter, that distinguishes the real from the nominal Christian, and it is this which also distinguishes the earnest real Christian from the comparatively lukewarm one; the former walks closely with God, presses, so to speak, to his very side; while the other, like Peter, during his season of cowardice, follows afar off. Let us all be admonished by the death of friends to come into closer communion with our Heavenly Father. We all need more, far more, of that divine life which is the beginning of our eternal life. Let us not only sing and sigh out the wish—but act upon it,
"Oh, for a closer walk with God,
was born in London, where he was educated in the
principles and forms of the Church of England; and where he received the
rite of confirmation from the hands of that excellent prelate, Bishop
Porteous. By what means or at what time, his soul was converted to God, and
his religious character formed, I have not learned—nor do I know what
particular circumstances gave rise to his separation from the religious
communion in which he had been brought up, or, subsequently, from secular
concerns to the duties of the sacred office.
He obtained his ministerial education at Hoxton College, in London—and upon receiving a cordial invitation from the church assembling in this place, he settled among them as their pastor in the year 1798—not, however, until after some hesitation about such a step, arising from the depressed state of the congregation, and the somewhat repulsive aspect, spiritually viewed, of some of its members. His decision seems to have been made under the advice of a ministerial friend, who, in reference to some of those who were least attractive to him, quaintly and quietly said, "Death will soon help you there."
His ministry, commenced under such disadvantageous circumstances, proved, by the blessing of God, successful; and by his diligence, devotedness, and eminent prudence and piety, he soon raised the congregation to very considerable prosperity, both as regards numbers and respectability. His history proves to our young ministers what may be done by entire ministerial devotedness in raising up a sunken congregation; and also that they should not be in haste either to refuse or leave a situation, because first appearances are unfavorable. It was Mr. Weaver's privilege in the subsequent years of his pastorate, to be blessed and aided by men in the deacon's office, who held up his hands and encouraged his heart in the oversight of the church; especially one* to whom, not only this society—but the denomination to which it belongs, is deeply indebted for his numerous biographical and apologetical works in commemoration of our most distinguished nonconformist predecessors, whose names are the boast of Christendom, and in exposition of our simple, scriptural, and spiritual polity.
* Sir John Bickerton Williams. The Editor cannot pass this name without commemorating his old master's two peculiar talents, both equally rare. A power of giving advice in matters of religion, with just that mixture of authority and kindness, and so much in the way of suggestive hint, that every word commended itself to the person advised, and sank deep into his heart, and instead of provoking his resentment by the interference, secured his gratitude. The other required pretty much the same constitution of mind. He could always talk to a client, whatever the matters treated of, so that he left the room in a better mood than he entered it, as regarded both himself and his case, and of course in good humor with his adviser. He had also the way of getting rid of anybody without offence as soon as he pleased.
I have known our deceased friend for many years and though our fellowship was not habitual, it was frequent. To give an extended delineation of his character; a perfect portraiture, I shall not attempt. Is it necessary? What? after his fifty-three years' residence among you? Who needs to be told what manner of man he was, and how good? Has he not during all this time been presenting his bright and beautiful example before you, and commending himself to your judgment as one of the holiest of men, the kindest of friends, the most affectionate of pastors, and the most faithful and evangelical of preachers? He has written his own history, not in words—but in actions, not in books—but in your hearts, and has left the likeness of his character suspended in your memory, on which you will ever delight to gaze, with more fondness than you do even upon the picture of his outer man which adorns your dwellings. Can I not appeal to you on his behalf, as did the apostle Paul to the Thessalonians, and say "You are witnesses, and so is God, of how devoutly, righteously, and blamelessly we conducted ourselves with you believers. As you know, like a father with his own children, we encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to walk worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory." (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12)
In an age, and such indeed is every age, when ministerial delinquencies are by no means unknown, and even common, is it nothing, yes, is it not a great thing to have spent three and fifty years, without even the shadow of a shade of suspicion having ever passed over the bright surface of his spotless reputation! How impressive is the admonition of the apostle, where he says "Giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed." The sins of ministers affect, disparage, and disgrace the whole ministry. The offences of individuals involve the order in disrepute. But in what instance was the honor of the Christian ministry ever compromised by him. On the contrary, was there not that beauty of character, that moral respectability, I may even add, that simple grandeur of spiritual excellency about him which might have made, not only any church thankful to have had him for its pastor—but any denomination to have had him for one of its ministers. He has left nothing to be explained, defended, or excused. No posthumous dishonor averted during his life, will attach to his name after his death. He has gone down to his grave in the renown of unblemished piety, and no finger of scorn will ever point to his sepulcher, or tongue of scandal ever blur the epitaph that will record his virtues.
It was not only the beauties of holiness, which, like a heavenly luster, suffused his external deportment, and caused his light to shine before men—but the fire of devotion was ever burning on the altar of his heart, on which he offered up himself a whole burnt offering unto God. Will anyone dispute the applicability of the text to him, or question whether he walked with God? He carried devoutness in his habits, and yet it was seriousness without gloom, and spirituality without grimace. For there was an innocent cheerfulness about him, as far from unseemly levity on the one hand as it was from moroseness on the other. You felt when you were in his company, as everyone should feel in the society of a Christian minister, yes, and a Christian man, too—that you were in an atmosphere of piety untainted with the offensive odors of hypocrisy, insincerity, or of assumed sanctity.
It is not pretended that Mr. Weaver was distinguished by what is called genius, whatever that means, by brilliant talents, or striking originality, which may prompt and impel to eloquent speech; though, at the same time, none will deny that his mental faculties were highly respectable, and such as made his pulpit services always acceptable to those, however cultivated their minds, who prefer the truths of the gospel in their own simplicity and power, to that abstract intellectualism and philosophised Christianity, by which, it may be feared, too many, in this day, are supplanting the doctrines of the cross. He aspired not to a higher—but would not be contented with a less honor, than to be a satellite, revolving within the attraction and reflecting the splendor, of the Sun of Righteousness. He ended as he began his ministry with a determination "to know nothing among men save Jesus Christ and him crucified." His first sermon and his last agreed in doctrine, however they might differ in power of intellect and depth of thought. He loved the old gospel, and wanted not a new one—and if he belonged to the old school, as regards the method of preaching it, we may ask whether, if the salvation of souls be the end of preaching, the men of modern ideas can do with the enchantments of their philosophy—what he did, and others are doing, by the attractions of the cross. Let us have as much improvement as possible in logic, criticism, exegesis, rhetoric, sound philosophy, and elocution, the more the better; but God in his great mercy save us from the impiety and folly of seeking after a new gospel. May the pulpits occupied by the descendants of Owen, Howe, Baxter, and the Henrys, never send forth other doctrine than such as were preached by these illustrious men.
Mr. Weaver, I need not say, was an intelligent and consistent Nonconformist—and, like some of his forefathers, would have allowed himself to be immured in yonder jail rather than give up his principles. But a martyr need not be a bigot, and rarely is; and he who could die for one set of principles, can very consistently live in love with those who hold another. Truth and charity may dwell in the same heart, yes, always should, for they are both the offspring of that wisdom which comes from above, "which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated." Our dear friend had a large and loving heart which one denomination of Christians was too small to fill; and therefore he made room for the good men of all denominations, with whom it was his delight to dwell in peace, and work in love. With what organization of holy enterprise, which embraced Christians of all sections of the Christian church, was it not his honor and his happiness to be associated? Was he not a member of that greatest of all institutions, the British and Foreign Bible Society? Did he not welcome that noble scheme, formed with the design and hope of uniting in the bonds of Christian fellowship all denominations of professing Christians, the Evangelical Alliance? And did not death find him engaged in the blessed work of associating all the friends of Protestant truth against all the abettors of Popish error?
But, apart from this, he was pre-eminently a son of peace. He loved and followed the things that make for peace; and knowing how much contention and disunion are promoted by the employment of careless, crude, and uncandid speech, he weighed his words before he uttered them. And in this way his prudence was as conspicuous as his love of peace. There is a wide difference, I know, between imprudence and immorality, as to their degree of criminality—but I believe that some men's imprudences do more mischief than other men's sins. Families and neighborhoods are embroiled more by this than by any other cause.
As one proof and display of his loving, peaceable, and prudent conduct, I may refer to the undisturbed harmony in which he has lived with his estimable colleague. Co-pastorships have so often proved disastrous and unhappy, as to make almost all aged ministers somewhat afraid to engage in them. But here was an instance, (and it is not a solitary one,) in which the aged and the young have lived and loved and worked together, without envy or jealousy; but with the reverent esteem of a son on the one part, and the tender affections of a father on the other, and reciprocal confidence on both. It cannot be denied that Mr. Weaver himself, at one time, was actuated by a dread of a second pastor, and perhaps carried it too far, as many others besides him have done.
There were two or three characteristics of our friend, which were so obvious to all, as scarcely to need enumeration, and which, when mentioned, will be recognized at once as having belonged to him in an eminent degree. Who will question his kindness? a quality of mind upon which so much of the comfort of families, churches, and society depends. How much happiness he must have diffused by that one virtue during a pastorate of fifty-three years. What multitudes must have been soothed in their sorrows, gladdened in their adversity, or comforted in their poverty by the smiles of his graciousness, or the words of his sympathy. There are few general excellences which a minister of religion should seek more assiduously to cultivate than this. It is one of the brightest ornaments of, and most useful qualifications for, the pastorate, a department of ministerial action in which Mr. Weaver greatly excelled—but a department which, I am sorry to say, is, in our day, not only neglected—but disregarded; the 'eloquent preacher' is everything, the 'caring pastor' nothing.
Akin to his kindness was his humble simplicity. Greatly have I mistaken his character, if to him might not be applied the eulogy of our Lord upon Nathaniel—"Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit." There was nothing puzzling about him; all was transparent. He was a man known at once, and always to be trusted; and if in anything, or at any time, he erred (and it is not pretended that he never did), it was not from intention—but from misapprehension, and perhaps more under the guidance of others than the impulses of his own honest heart.
Gentleness and meekness were also conspicuous traits in his character, and yet he was manly as well as saintly, and could be firm when inflexibility was required, and as some would perhaps say, almost to a fault. And what was that larger branch of his Christian character from whence his meekness, gentleness, and simplicity shot forth? His profound humility. With the conscious dignity of an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ, which every believer ought to carry about with him in order to raise his deportment to the elevation of his relationship, he united such a deep sense of unworthiness and imperfection as gave a visible manifestation of unaffected humility to his character, which showed how well he had remembered those words of his Master, "Learn of me, for I am meek and humble in heart."
In his conduct, as a man, there was no Pharisaic spiritual pride, and in his bearing as a minister of religion, no artificial religious demeanor, no official importance, nor jealousy for his pastoral rights. He was a brother among brothers when with other ministers, and claimed no deference from the youngest of them on account of his age.
He did not pass through life without his trials, and if under them he ever evinced the smallest lack of magnanimity or forbearance, let that be set down to the sharpness and unexpectedness of them. It was permitted by God that one dark cloud should rise in the evening of his life and throw its shadows on his closing scenes; but that, if it never passed entirely away, became so attenuated as not materially to obstruct the rays of the sun of prosperity which through so long a course had shone so brightly upon him. He lived, if not to rejoice in the event, yet to acquiesce in it, as that which had happened for the furtherance of the gospel. To the credit of all parties concerned, it must be stated that this division has issued in as much harmony between the two congregations as could be expected in this world of imperfection, a result, which, under God's blessing, is to be traced up to the prudent and peaceable disposition of our venerable friend, and the truly fraternal affection of the two younger ministers. In reference to whom, I would say with something of paternal regard, may the God of love and peace abundantly bless them both, and may the two churches be connected more and more closely in the bonds of Christian love.
But by this time I can imagine I hear his own voice speaking to me in almost reproving tones from the excellent glory, and saying, "Enough, more than enough. If there was anything in me as a man or a Christian worth mentioning or imitating, remind them of your text at my jubilee, and tell them that I now more intelligently and emphatically repeat it than I did then—by the grace of God I was what I was, and what I am; and have a far clearer view and deeper sense of my many faults and failings than I ever had then!"
In ordinary cases the minister who performs the office which I am now discharging, would have to disclose the holy and glorious secrets of the saint's dying chamber, to echo the closing testimony of the departing pastor, and to bring messages of affection and solemn warning from lips that had been vocal for Christ to the verge of life. This is denied to me. Upon those lips from which you would have fondly desired to hear some utterances of a love faithful unto death, the hand of God suddenly affixed the seal of silence. I have nothing to say—but that "Enoch walked with God—and God took him." I must refer you to his holy life for instruction—and to his sudden death for solemn warning. And surely the testimony borne for God, so consistently and so perseveringly, might suffice for all the purposes of ministerial instruction without the closing sermon delivered from the bed of death. And yet do we not all feel a kind of regret, that after such a life as that of our departed friend, we have not been favored with a deathbed scene which would have been in beautiful harmony with all that went before, and served as a graceful finish of his holy career? What would he not have said to us of the love of Christ; of the power, grace, and faithfulness of God? How he would have charged all who approached his bed of sickness and his scene of death—to serve the Lord, and to be earnest in the salvation of their souls. How clear, and emphatic, and solemn, would have been his testimony to those truths which it had been the delight of his life to preach. We do feel a pensive wish (forgive it, O God, if it is sinful), that instead of the sudden extinction of the luminary, and our looking up with astonishment at the heavens from which it had so unexpectedly disappeared, we had been permitted to watch the slowly setting sun, and to have stood in the mild soft radiance, which, on its late summer's evening, it would have thrown over the landscape from which it was retiring in majesty and glory.
And yet how befitting himself was his death. Did he not love his Master's work? Yes—and the Master loved the workman, and so well pleased was he with his workmanship that he kept him at his labors to the last moment of conscious existence. Death found him at his post. He was no deserter to ministerial obligations. He asked for no early discharge. He wanted no dignified leisure, no premature obsolescence. Some, no doubt, hang on upon the church too long, and not only terminate their own usefulness before God ends their lives—but hinder the usefulness of a younger man who might more than fill their place. He might sometimes have sighed for repose as some others do—but he gallantly said to the Captain of his salvation, "I hold my post until discharged by you." And in what work was he employed when he fell? As an aged veteran in the cause of Protestantism, he was buckling on his armor to fight its battles. If, as a believer, he died at the foot of the cross; as a Protestant, he died at the shrine of Luther.
And then the very place of his death was remarkable. How striking that, though a dissenter, he should breathe out his unsectarian, catholic spirit in the house of a clergyman of the Church of England; and that his last converse upon earth should have been with another clergyman of the same communion. Bigots of all denominations, there may be nothing in this to excite your admiration; you have no eye for the beautiful, nor for the lovely—but it will appear something beautiful in the eyes of the sons and daughters of Christian charity. Will not that excellent clergyman feel as if a new sanctity had been given to his dwelling by its having been made the place of ascension to glory for one of God's servants? Will he not feel as if the departed spirit sometimes visited the room to converse with its possessor, and to commune with him on the subject of that love which made them one on earth, and which will unite them in everlasting bonds in heaven.
What remains—but that I express my sympathy, first of all, with that now solitary representative of his family whom your late pastor has left in the midst of you, and who, under the deep sorrow of her desolation, will ever be soothed with the recollection, that it was her lot to be the light of her father's dwelling, and not only the companion—but the comforter, of his old age. May the God of the orphan, and the father of the fatherless be with her. It will be her sorrowful delight never to hear her venerable parent's name repeated—but with affection, respect, and gratitude.
Next I offer my condolence to you, my much esteemed friend and brother now left with the unshared weight of the pastorate of this church. The elder prophet has ascended, and the younger is left alone, exclaiming in surprise, in grief, and in lamentation, "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof!" and inquiring with a mixture of hope and fear, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" May the mantle of your glorified colleague be found by you, and with a double portion of his spirit, may you enter on the undivided labors of the ministry in this place, for which you have been well prepared by the beautiful example of your venerable friend, and the wise counsels which it has been your privilege to receive from him.*
* In five particulars the Author eventually resembled Mr.
Weaver, and the passages relating to these may be taken as descriptive of
Can I do otherwise than sympathize with this church on the loss of such a pastor, one who, if he had lost the ardor of youth and the matured vigor of middle life, was permitted, and by grace enabled, to exhibit among them the rich and hoary experience of old age? But may I not also call upon you for gratitude that you not only had such a pastor—but that you had him so long? Nor does the demand upon your thankfulness stop here. Though deprived of your senior pastor, you are not as sheep without a shepherd. You are not left destitute. You are not involved suddenly in the perplexity of choosing another minister. Give your confidence under Christ, the head of the church, to him who remains with you, and whose talents, piety, and devotedness, are worthy of it.
Ministers of this town and county with whom our departed friend was associated in the bonds of friendship and in Christian cooperation, you need not to be informed how affectionate a father in Christ you have lost, or how bright a pattern of ministerial excellence has been withdrawn from you. Be followers of him as far as he followed Christ, and that was very far and very closely. Oh, let us hear the voice which comes to us all, both from his life and from his sudden death; and not from his only, for by an impressive coincidence, another aged servant of Christ ascended to glory the same day as Mr. Weaver—almost as suddenly—and who had been pastor of his church precisely the same number of years. I mean the Rev. Stephen Morrell, of Little Baddow, in the county of Essex. And since then, another friend of mine, the Rev. Christopher Anderson, of Edinburgh, the author of the "Annals of the English Bible," himself also aged, has been called to his rest and his reward. God is gathering home the aged laborers to himself, may those upon whom grey hairs are fast collecting hear the admonition which says, "Work while it is called today! The night comes when no man can work."
Nor should the younger brethren be unmindful of these things. Upon them must soon devolve the whole management of the affairs of the kingdom of Christ as far as instrumentality is concerned; to them will come the pastorate of our churches, the care of our colleges, the guidance of our institutions—when our aged heads will be beneath the clods of the valley. Oh, my young brethren, be in the fullest, richest sense of the expression, gospel ministers, preachers of the gospel. Hear, on this subject, the dying testimony of that seraphic man, Algernon Wells—the words of dying men have weight, of dying saints have more, and most of all the words of dying ministers. Speaking to a friend of a tract he wished and intended to dictate, he said, "I am anxious to record the thoughts gathered together while lying here. It will be on the Glorious Gospel, and if it pleases God, I hope to preach that gospel to you as I have never yet done. Not that I reproach myself for having concealed or forgotten it. No—but more than ever I would fain speak of it as I have thought and felt here. I would make it the first thing, the pre-eminent thing. All gathered knowledge, all history, all poetry, all pleasant and happy things, all that I am, and have, and know, and think, shall be ranged around and illustrate—but be subordinate to this—the 'Glorious Gospel.' The more I think of it in my long and quiet pondering, the more precious and needful it becomes to me. Yes, I will have the tract printed—but I long to preach it, and if it please God, I will preach it as I never did yet. This is, after all, the one thing, 'The Glorious Gospel.'"
May we not imagine that this is just the very testimony that would have been borne by our venerable friend, had he been permitted to speak to us from a sick chamber and a death bed. Yes, and it is borne by all others who love the gospel, and has been borne by some upon their death bed, who had been deficient on this theme in their ministry. Talk they of intellectualism, of philosophy, of rationalism, the best intellectualism, philosophy, and rationalism are all contained in this glorious gospel. Do not, my young brethren, allow yourselves to be seduced by the false lights of modern speculation, from those great truths which, in every age and every section of the church, have proved themselves to be the power of God unto salvation. Place yourselves often in imagination, where, unless your death be as sudden as that of our departed friend, you soon will be in reality—in a sick chamber, and upon a death bed; imagine yourself looking backward upon your ministry, and forward to your appearance before the tribunal of your Master, and ask what strain of preaching, and what manner of life it will most please you to review in these solemn moments of ministerial retrospect and anticipation.
I, too, am growing old. I have seen and heard much of preachers, young and old, and of theological systems too, ancient and modern. I have had no small share in the doings of the age and of the denomination in which my lot has been cast. I have not been unobservant, or altogether idle, and I am entirely convinced that however new modes of thinking and preaching, by substituting intellectualism, philosophy, or man's intuitional consciousness, for the gospel of Christ, may attract a certain order of mind, and procure for the preacher the approbation of many who are far more eager to have their intellects gratified than their hearts renovated and sanctified—it is nothing but the doctrine of the cross that will convert the soul to God! And though I have not, as the sainted man already alluded to affirmed of himself, either concealed or forgotten that great theme, yet, during whatever may still remain of the term of my ministerial life, it is my determination that this shall be more than ever the study, not only of my mind—but of my heart, and the theme of both my public and my private teaching. And we have all attended the funeral of our patriarchal friend in vain, if, at his grave and around the pulpit where he for so long a period knew nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified, we do not, by God's grace, consecrate ourselves afresh to this great work of praising Christ, loving Christ, glorifying Christ.
And now what, in conclusion, shall I say to this deeply affected congregation? He, who for so many years preached to you the word of life from the pulpit I now occupy, will preach to you no more, except by the remembrance of his holy life, faithful ministry, and sudden removal, by all which, he being dead, yet speaks. He has delivered his last sermon, and you have heard and had his last prayer.
Oh let his death, if you have not profited by his life—be the means of awakening you to a solemn, and practical, and immediate consideration of death, judgment, and eternity. You, too, may die as suddenly as he did. Are you as well prepared as he was? Sudden death to a real Christian is one mighty bound from earth to heaven; to an unconverted sinner, one dreadful stumble into hell. Oh, unutterable horror, to be surprised, overwhelmed, confounded in a moment, by exchanging the pleasures, the friends, the possessions, the prospects of earth for those doleful shades, where peace and hope can never dwell. Are you ready, quite prepared by repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and a holy life, for death; for speedy death; for sudden death?
Your faithful minister of so many years standing, I repeat, is gone. But I seem to see his venerable form lingering yet in this place, hovering over this assembly. He speaks as from the unseen world, and with the accent and emphasis of eternity—"My once beloved hearers, listen to this my warning from the world into which I have now entered. It is all true, and infinitely more, that I have told you of the momentous nature of God, Christ, Salvation, and Eternity—and though I have watched for your souls as one that must give account, yet, were I again upon earth, I should do so with infinitely more solicitude and earnestness. Oh, hear my voice, by which, though unseen, I speak to you. Prepare to meet your God! Prepare for death, for judgment and eternity! Prepare! Prepare! Until you meet me at the tribunal of Christ—Farewell."