« PreviousContinue »
But farther. It is in the exercise of prayer that God is pleased to communicate himself to us in the most intimate manner. It is in the exercise of prayer that he unites himself to us in the tenderest manver. It is in the exercise of prayer, that distinguished saints obtain those signal marks of favor, which are the object of our most ardent desire. A man who prays: a man whose prayer is employed about detachment from sensible things: a man who blushes, in secret, at the thought of being so swallowed up of sensible things, and so little enamored of divine excellencies: a man who asks of God, to be blessed with a glimpse of his glory, and with a foretaste of the felicity laid up in store for him, and that he would fortify his soul against the difficulties and dangers of his career : such a man may expect to be, as it were, rapt in an extasy, either by the natural effect of prayer, or by the extraordinary communications which God is pleased to vouchsafe to those who call upon his
From this source proceeds that earnest longing to depart, such as Paul expressed ; hence that delightful recollection of the pleasure enjoyed in those devout exercises; pleasure that has rendered the soul insensible to the empty delights of this world : hence the idea of those blessed moments which occupy the mind for fourteen years together, and which produces, at the hour of death, a fervor not liable to suspicion : for, my brethren, there is a fervor which I am disposed to suspect. 1 acknowledge that when I see a man who has, all his life long, stagnated in the world, affecting, at the hour of death, to assume the language of eminent saints, and to say, I have a desire to depart: my soul thirsteth for God, for the living God;
becoming, all at once, a seraph, burning with zeal, I acknowledge myself to be always under an apprehension, that this zeal derives its birth from some mechanical play, or to the unaccountable duty which the sick impose upon themselves, even such of them as are most steadily attached to the earth, of declaring that they feel an earnest desire to leave it. But a man who through life has been busied about eternity, whose leading aim was to secure a happy eternity; who has, as it were, anticipated the pleasures of eternity, by habits of devotion ; a man who has been absorbed of those ideas, who has fed upon them; a man who, having devoted a whole life to those sacred employments, observes the approach of death with joy, meets it with ardent desire, zeal, transport, such a man displays nothing to excite suspicion.
And is not such a state worthy of being envied ? This is the manner of death which I ask of thee, O my God, when, after having served thee in the sanctuary, like the high priest of old, thou shalt be pleased, of thy great mercy, to admit me into the holy of holies. This is the manner of death which I wish to all of you, my beloved hearers. God grant that each of you may be enabled powerfully to inculcate upon his own mind, this great principle of religion, that there is a third heaven, a Paradise, a world of bliss over our heads! God grant that each of you may attain the lively persuasion, that this is the only desirable felicity, the only felicity worthy of God to bestow, and of man to receive! God grant that each of you, in meditation, in prayer, in those happy moments of the Christian life, in which God communicates himself so intimately to his creatures, may enjoy the foretastes of that felicity; and thus, instead of
fearing that death, which is to put you in possession of so many blessings, you may contemplate it with holy joy, and say,
“ This is the auspicious moment which I have so long wished for, which my soul has been panting after, which has been the burden of so many fervent prayers: Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” May God in mercy grant it to us all. To him be honor and glory for ever. Amen.
ON NUMBERING OUR DAYS. *
PSALM Xc. 12.
So teach us to number our Days, that we may apply our hearts unto
HROUGH what favor of indulgent heaven,
does this church nourish in its bosom members sufficient to furnish out the solemnity of this day, and to compose an assembly so numerous and respectable? Through what distinguished goodness is it, that you find yourselves with your children, with your friends, with your fellow-citizens; no, not all of them, for the mourning weeds with which some of you are cloathed, plainly indicate, that death has robbed us, in part, of some of them, in the course of the year which is just terminated. But through what distinguishing goodness is it, that you find yourselves with your children, with your friends, with your fellow-citizens, collected together in this sacred place?
The preachers who filled the spot which I have
* Delivered in the church of Rotterdam, on New-Year's