Page images
PDF
EPUB

the purchase of thy blood. Never, never had I beheld it, otherwise than at an unapproachable distance, as an aggravation of my misery and despair, hadst not thou worn another crown, a crown of infamy, and of thorns. The-gems which must for ever adorn my temples, were formed from those precious drops, that once trickled down thine ; and all the splendor of my Robes of triumph is owing to their being washed in the blood of the Lamb *.” With what pleasing wonder may we pursue the thought! And while it employs our mind,

(2.) How justly may this awaken a generous ambition to secure this crown to ourselves !

Dearly as it was purchased by our blessed Redeemer, it is most freely offered to us, to the youngest, to the meanest, to the most unworthy. It is not prepared, merely for those that have worn an earthly diadem or coronet: Would to God it were not despised by most of them, as a thing less worthy of their thoughts, than the most trifling amusement, by which they unbend their minds from the weighty cares attending their station ! But it is prepared for you; even for every one, who thinks it worth pursuing, and accepting, upon the terms of the gospel covenant; for every one, who believing in Christ, and loving bim, is humbly determined through his grace to be faithful unto death. And shall this glorious proposal be made to you in vain? Were it an earthly crown that could lawfully be obtained, are there not many of us, notwithstanding all its weight of anxieties, and all the piercing thorns with which we might know it to be lined, that would be ready eagerly to seize it, and perhaps to contend and quarrel with each other for it? But here is no foundation for contention. Here is a crown for each; and such a crown, that all the royal ornaments of all the princes upon earth, when compared with it, are lighter than a feather, and viler than dust. And shall we neglect it? shall we refuse it, from such a hand too, as that by which it is offered? Shall we so Judge ourselves unworthy of eternal lifet, as thereby indeed to make ourselves worthy of eternal death? For there is no other alternative. But blessed be God, it is not universally neglected. There are, I doubt not, among you, many who pursue it, many who shall assuredly obtain it. For their sakes let us reflect,

(3.) How courageously may the heads which are to wear such a crown, be lifted up to face all the trials of life and death!

Those trials may be various, and perhaps extreme; but if borne aright, far from depriving us of this crown, they will only ds, who hay die reprosat, u

* Rev. vii. 14.

f Acts xiji. 46.

serve to increase its lustre. It is the apostle Paul's express assertion; and he speaks, as transported with the thought : For this cause we faint not, but though the outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day: For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more erceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen ; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal *. Surely with this support, we may not only live, but triumph, in poverty, in reproach, in weakness, in pain : And with this we may die, not only serenely, but joyfully. Oh my friends, where are our hearts? Where is our faith? Nay I will add, where is our reason? Why are not our eyes, our desires, and our hopes, more frequently directed upward ? Surely one ray from that resplendent diadem might be sufficient to confound all the false charms of these transitory vanities, which indeed owe all their lustre to the darkness in which they are placed. Surely when our spirits are overwhelmed within us, one glance of it might be sufficient to animate and elevate them ; and might teach us to say, in the midst of dangers, sorrows, and death, In all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us f. Thus have some triumphed in the last extremities of nature ; and both the subject, aud the occasion also, loudly calls us to reflect,

(4.) What reason we have to congratulate these happy souls, that have already received the crown of life!

When we are weeping over the cold, yea, the bleeding remains of such, surely it is for ourselves, and not for them, that the stream flows. The thought of their condition, far from moving our compassion, may rather inspire us with joy, and with praise. Look not on their pale countenance, nor on the wide and deep wounds, through which perhaps the soul rushed out to seize the great prize of its faith and hope ; though even those wounds appear beautiful, when earned by distinguished virtue, by piety to their country, and their God. Look not on the eyes closed in death, or the once honoured and beloved head, now covered with the dust of the grave : But view, by an internal believing eye, that different form which the exalted tri. umphant spirit already wears, the earnest of a yet brighter glory. Their great leader, whose care of them we are fondly ready to suspect, or secretly to complain of as deficient in such circumstances as these, points, as it were, to the white robes, and

* 2 Cor, iv, 16, 17, 18,

† Rom. viii. 37.

the flourishing palms, which he has given them; and calls for our regard to the crowns of life which he has set on their heads, and to the songs of joy and praise to which he has formed their exulting tongues. And do we sully and dishonour their triumphs with our tears? Do we think so meanly of heaven, and of them, as to wish them with us again : That they might eat and drink at our tables; that they might talk with us in our low language ; that they might travel with us from stage to stage in this wilderness; and take their share with us in those vanities of life, of which we ourselves are so often weary, that there is hardly a week, or a day, in which we are not lifting up our eyes, and saying with a deep inward groan, Oh that we had wings like a dove! Then would we flee away, and be at rest *.

Surely with relation to these faithful soldiers of Jesus Christ, who have already fallen, it is a matter of no small joy to reflect, that their Warfare is accomplishedt; that they have at length passed through every scene in which their fidelity could be endangered ; so that now, they are inviolably secure. How much more then should we rejoice, that they are entered, not only into the rest, but into the joy of their Lord ; that they conquered, even when they fell, and are now reaping the fruits, the celestial and immortal fruits, of that last great victory?

A sense of honour often taught the heathens, when attending those friends to the funeral pile, who had died honourably in their country's cause, to use some ceremonies expressive of their joy for their glory; though that glory was an empty name, and all the reward of it a wreath of Jaurel, which was soon to crackle in the flame, and vanish into smoak. And shall not the joy and glory of the living spirit affect us, much more than they could be affected with the honours paid to the mangled corpse?

Let us then think with reverence, and with joy, on the pious dead ; and especially on those, whom God honoured with any special opportunities of approving their fidelity, in life, or in death : And if we mourn, as who, in some circumstances, can forbear it ? let it be as christians, with that mixture of high congratulation, with that erect countenance, and that undaunted heart, which become those that see by faith their exaltation and felicity; and burning with a strong and sacred eagerness to join their triumphant company, let us be ready to share in the most painful of their trials, that we may also share in their glories.

And surely, if I have ever known a life, and a death, capable of inspiring us with these sentiments in their sublimest elevations, it was the life and the death of that illustrious christian hero, Colonel Gardiner ; whose character was too well known to many of you, by some months residence here, to need your being informed of it from me ; and whose history was too remarkable, to be confined within those few remaining moments, which must be allotted to the finishing of this discourse. Yet there was something so uncommon in both, that I think it of high importance to the honour of the gospel and grace of Christ, that they should be delivered down to posterity, in a distinct and particular view. And therefore, as the providence of God, in concurrence with that most intimate and familiar friendship with which this great and good man was pleased to honour me, gives me an opportunity of speaking of many important things, especially relating to his religious experiences, with greater exactness and certainty than most others might be capable of doing; and as he gave me his full permission, in case I should have the affliction to survive him, to declare freely whatever I knew of him, which I might apprehend conducive to the glory of God, and the advancement of religion ; I purpose publishing, in a distinct tract, some remarkable passages of his life, illustrated by extracts from his own letters, which speak in the most forcible manner the genuine sentiments of his heart. But as I promise myself considerable assistance in this work from some valuable persons in the northern part of our island, and possibly from some of his own papers, to which our present confusions forbid my access, I must delay the execution of this design at least for a few months; and must likewise take heed, that I do not too much anticipate what I may then offer to the public view, by what it might otherwise be very proper to mention now.

* Psal. lv. 6.

+ Isai. xl. 2.

Let it therefore suffice for the present to remind you, that Colonel Gardiner was one of the most illustrious instances of the energy, and indeed I must also add, of the sovereignty of divine grace, which I have heard or read of in modern history. He was in the most amazing and miraculous manner, without any divine ordinance, without any religious opportunity, or peculiar advantage, deliverance, or affliction, reclaimed on a sudden, in the vigour of life and health, from the most licentious and abandoned sensuality, not only to a steady course of regularity and virtue, but to high devotion, and strict, though unaffected sanctity of manners : A course, in which he persisted for more than twenty-six years, that is, to the close of life, so remarkably eminent for piety towards God, diffusive hu.

mergy and exter, that he urtunity of' illusope, if God

manity and christian charity, lively faith, deep humility, strict temperance, active diligence in improving time, meek resignation to the will of God, steady patience in enduring afflictions, unaffected contempt of secular interest, and resolute and courageous zeal in maintaining truth, as well as in reproving, and, where his authority might take place, restraining vice and wickedness of every kind ; that I must deliberately declare, that when I consider all these particulars together, it is hard for me to say where, but in the book of God, he found his example, or where he has left his equal. Every one of these articles, with many more, I hope, if God spare my life, to have an opportunity of illustrating, in such a manner as to shew, that he was a living demonstration of the energy and excellency of the christian religion ; nor can I imagine how I can serve its interests better, than by recording what I have seen and known upon this head, known to my edification, as well as my joy.

But oh, how shall I lead back your thoughts, and my own, to what we once enjoyed in him, without too deep and tender a sense of what we have lost! To have poured out his soul in blood; to have fallen by the savage and rebellious hands of his own countrymen, at the wall of his own house ; deserted by those, who were under the highest obligations that can be imagined to have defended his life with their own; and above all, to have seen with his dying eyes the enemies of our religion and liberties triumphant, and to have heard in his latest moments the horrid noise of their insulting shouts ;is a scene, in the view of which we are almost tempted to say, Where were the shields of angels? Where the eye of providence? Where the remembrance of those numberless prayers which had been offered to God for the preservation of such a man, at such a time as this? But let faith assure us, that he was never more dear and precious in the eye of his divine leader, than in these dreadful moments, when if sense were to judge, he might seem most neglected.

That is of all others the happiest death, which may most sensibly approve our fidelity to God, and our zeal for his glory. To stand singly in the combat with the fiercest enemies, in the best of causes, when the whole regiment he commanded, fled ; to throw himself with so noble an ardor to defend those on foot, whom the whole body which he headed were appointed to support, when he saw that the fall of the nearest commander exposed those brave men to the extremity of danger, were circumstances that evidently shewed, how much he held honour.

« PreviousContinue »