Page images

Amidst this general mourning, of which all are partakers, the Bible Society of Cbarleston, formed for the purpose' of giving a more extensive diffusion to the word of life, and of shedding upon the cheerless mansion of poverty, the light of salvation ; of which Socie. ty, the deceased was an active, zealous, and highly respected officer, cannot remain indifferent. Feeling its full proportion of sorrow, and “bearing its badges of wo," it presents itself before these altars to day, trembling under this awful stroke of the Almighty. In having commanded me to speak of departed worth, it has only made me the humble organ of giving expression to the anguish, which it feels, on this melancholy occasion. I approach the task assigned me with diffidence. Standing in the place where this minister of God has so often stood ; in presence of a bereaved and afflicted people, I feel able to do little more than lift up my voice,

On such an occasion, and under such circumstances, the pathetic exclamation of the ancient church, which has been pronounced in your hearing, seems natural and proper. “Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth ; for the faithful fail from among the children of men !" In these words the Psalmist describes a character, and assumes a principle. The two leading features in the character described, are. godliness and faithfulness. The principle assumed seems to be this : that the removal by death, of men eminent for their piety and usefulness, is to the living a sore calamity.

In preparing the subject for an application suited to the afflicting circumstances, under which we are now assembled, I will follow this natural order of the text.

and weep.

[merged small][ocr errors]

I. I will endeavour to present you with a just view of the character described, by illustrating the two prominent features of it, which are specified in the text ; godliness and faithfulness,

II. I will establish the principle which the text assumes, viz. that the removal, by death, of men eminent for piety and usefulness, is, to the living, a sore calamity. This is the plan of our discourse. And now, may that Jesus, who sits as King upon the holy hill of Zion; who covers, with a cloud, the face of his throne ; who has sorely afflicted us, and has given us “ the wine of astonishment to drink," be with us on this occasion ! May the light of his countenance gild the glooms, which have settled upon this assembly. I. I am then, in the first place, to present you

with a just view of the character here described, by illustrating the two prominent features of it, which are specified in the text; godliness and faithfulness.

These expressive terms have reference to, and ema brace the duties enjoined, both by the first and second tables of the law. Godliness is a relative term, and is most extensive in its signification. It refers to God, and consists in being like him ; in having the true fear of God in the heart, leading to purity and fervor in his worship

It is, perhaps, impossible, as a celebrated divine justly observes, to bring within the scope of what is called a definition, an adequate idea of the term godliness. It is evident, from a declaration of St. Paul to Timo. thy, that it embraces the whole of practical religion :

godliness," says he, “ is profitable to all things, hav. ing the promise of the life that now is, and of that which

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

is to come.Saurin reduces it to these four ideas, “ knowledge in the mind, by which it is distinguished from the visions of the superstitious; rectitude in the conscience, by which it is distinguished from hypocrisy ; self-denial in the life, by which it is distinguished from the unmeaning obedience of him who goes' as a happy constitution leads him; and lastly, zeal in the heart, by which it is distinguished from the languishing emotions of the lukewarın."

If godliness consists in a conformity with the image, and obedience to the laws of God, which will not be questioned, it necessarily implies a saving knowledge of the divine character ; a correct knowledge of his laws, and a hearty approbatiou of his statutes. No man can rationally conform to rules, of which he knows pothing ; nor can he yield an acceptable obedience to laws, with which he is not acquainted, or which he does not approve. His obedience, in this case, even could it be made to meet the letter of the law, would he essentially deficient in principle; for God acknowledges no obedience, which does not flow from a principle of love. Now, since the sacred oracles are the great repository of divine truth, and are stampt with divine authority ; since the image of God is there delineated; his laws and statutes there recorded, it follows, that godliness supposes a knowledge of the Holy Volume, together with a conformity of heart and life, to the doctrines, and precepts therein contained. It is thus that the godly man, deducing the rules of his duty, and the maxims of his life, froin the fountain of truth, and the stores of divine knowledge, differs from the child of superstition, whose rules are visionary, and whose maxims are the fictions of a bewildered mind.


[ocr errors]

Sincerity of soul is another essential property of true godliness. The godly man, is a man of simplicity. To purify his heart from guile, is the great business of his life.

No hypocritical professions of affection, which he never felt, or obedience, which he never yielded, are permitted to enter into his character. In simplicity of heart, and sincerity of soul, as in every other virtue, he feels bound to resemble God, who is infinitely sincere in all the professions which he makes, of affection for his creatures. The constant endeavour of the pious man is to act in such a way, as will enable him to carry his appeal, with Peter, to the omniscience of Jesus. “ Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.” Afraid lest hypocrisy should Jurk in his bosom, he sends up his cries to Him, who trieth the reins, “ Search me, O God! and know my heart : try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. "

A third property of true godliness, is self-denial in the life ; a steady opposition of soul to every evil propensity. The question with the pious man is not, what will be most agreeable to the current of the carnal heart? What will be most conducive to my worldly interest, or temporal honor ? But what will be most pleasing to God, most agreeable to the revelation of his will, or most conducive to the honor of his name? Liv. ing “ the life which he lives in the flesh, by the faith of the Son of God;" pressing “ towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God, in Christ Jesus :'' urging his passage on, in pursuit of “a better country," with “ holiness to the Lord” as his motto, written upon the palm of bis right hand, he willingly “ denies all ungodliness, and every worldly. Just, and lives sa


berly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world.” Finally, supreme love to God, and zeal for the honor of Emmanuel, burning in his heart, imparting light, life, and vigor to all his other virtues, crown the character of the godly man.

Born from above, created anew in Christ Jesus; having the principles of holiness implanted in bis heart, and the features of the divine image retraced upon his soul; his mind stored with heavenly knowledge ; warmed, and animated with sincere love to God, the pious man is found faithful in the discharge of his duty to men. This faithfulness displays itself in a proper attention to the rights, and to the wants of men. The rights of men, for I here use the word in its proper sense, are such as are founded upon the relations in which they are placed, as creatures of God, or as members of domestic, social, civil, or religious society. The wants of men, which the faithful servant of Jesus Christ regards, equally with their perfect rights, are such as are occasioned by the scanty possession, or painful bereavement, of the blessings of Providence, by the pains, and sicknesses, the agonies, sorrows and ills, “ that flesh is heir to." To all the various classes, of which the great human family is composed, the servant of God feels that he sustains a particular, and important relation. The nature of this relation points him to his duty, in the conscientious discharge of which, his fidel. ity consists. The cardinal virtues of justice, charity and ruth, shed their lustre round his character. Upon his heart is engraved the rule of life, which his Sav. iour has given; “ Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even the same to them.” Influenced by this, he is just to the property, and to the feelings of others. He is the faithful guardian of his neigh

« PreviousContinue »