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in the triumph of Christian faith, to mansions of glory, and honour, and immortality? And when they whose office it was to watch for my soul, and that with the fearful responsibility of those who must give account, admonished me of my danger, when they proclaimed continually in my ears, that I was only a pilgrim and a probationer on earth, that soon I must enter on an eternal state, why did I not perceive that the one thing needful, the only thing of any account, was to live to God, by entering in at the strait gate, and diligently pursuing the narrow path of a holy and religious life?
My brethren, lot it not bo supposed there is here any thing over-drawn or exaggerated. I have only set before you scenes which are often exhibited to the eye of those whose melancholy office it is to witness the agonies and the fears of dissolving nature. These are the inquiries and reflections, and the sad regrets, which, when consciousness and thought are permitted to exert their power, continually suggest themselves to the irreligious on their bed of death.
And could you who are thoughtless and indifferent, stand by that bed side where late repentance pours forth its confessions, and tells its despair; could you see the pride of manhood bowed down and humbled, the pomp and pleasure of earth despised, the world estimated as nothing, all things disregarded in comparison of the Chris
tian hope ; could you hear the self-reproach, the bitter sigh of anguish, produced by the too late perception of that irreparable mistake which placed time before eternity, and the world before God; the exclamation of Scripture would be extorted from your lips, “ Oh that men were wise, " that they understood this, that they would con4 sider their latter end !"
I pray God that these reflections, these despairing thoughts, may never enter into the experience of any of you; and that they may not, I beseech you now to supplicate the grace of him, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, that amid all the temptations and allurements, the anxieties and cares, the pleasures and distracting influences, by which we are surrounded here on earth, and which are even ready to draw us aside from the path of obedience, we may live under the deep conviction of that sentiment which the admonition of our Saviour would impress upon us—that to secure our eternal happiness by an unreserved devotion to the service of God is, above all other things, our duty and our interest ; that it is the purpose, the end, and the reward, of our probation ; that it should be the object of all our solicitude and concern, the supreme desire of our hearts, the “one thing needful.”
Christ's Presence with the dying Christian.
ST. JOHN xiv. 3.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and
receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
THE consideration of this passage will bring to our view many reasons to reconcile the pious to that great change which, in a few days or years, we must all undergo. The appearing of Christ
. to his people at the hour of their death, is the great topic which I propose to set before you, founding its certainty and truth upon this declaration of our Saviour, “I will come again and re“ceive you unto myself.”
The purpose and end of this coming of Christ, , being now to be considered, as it is fraught with advantage and full of glory, I need scarcely say it is a theme only for Christian bosoms, that the benefits of which we are to speak, are extended only to as many as have received Jesus Christ in
their souls by faith; for to them only has he given power to become the sons of God.
It is therefore of the utmost importance to us all, my brethren, before we venture to apply to ourselves the declaration and promise of our Saviour, to examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith; to prove our own selves; to know whether Jesus Christ be spiritually born in us; whether we are renewed in the image of God.
In the chapter before us, our Saviour refers to the advantage which believers will realize in death, as a reason to overcome the fear of it, and shows that the interruption of existence, which seems to be caused by that event, is such, merely in appearance; that our relation to him who is the source of life is unchanged by our passage through that dark valley; that our restoration to him will be permanent and everlasting.
It was on that malancholy night when Judas Iscariot had gone out to betray his Master and his Lord, and when the remaining disciples were already saddened by the declaration, “ He that “eateth bread with me, hath lifted up his heel “ against me,” that the Saviour addressed them in these words, “ Little children, yet a little while “ I am with you. Ye shall seek me, and as I « said unto the Jews, whither I go ye cannot
come, so now I say to you."
We need not wonder, my brethren, that a declaration like this penetrated the disciples with
grief and surprise. They had left all at his command, and followed him; and now, when they had derived nothing but contempt and worldly tribulation for the sacrifices they had made, when all their unfulfilled hopes rested in him, and when their affection towards him was such that they were ready to lay down their lives for his sake, he was about to go away and leave them; to abandon them to the ridicule and contempt of the world, whose hatred they had incurred; and to deprive them of all the prospects of advantage which had attached them to his service. But they were not to be left comfortless. The time had now arrived when he could speak plainly to them of the Father; and when, raising their views from earth to heaven, he could declare to them the nature of that “ kingdom” which “is not of this " world.” Having plainly spoken of his own decease, he endeavours to compose their hearts by placing before them the happiness of those seats to which they were to be admitted at their death; and confirms their hopes of attaining to them by the assurance, that though no longer visible to their bodily eyes, nor present to their bodily senses, he who had hitherto supported and upheld them, would come again to conduct them to himself, and be still, as he ever had been, to his faithful followers, “the way, and the truth, and " the life.”