« PreviousContinue »
afraid I should hurt myself, but it never hurted me.”
One time, when I was taking my last leave of him (as we both thought), he said, “ I long to tell you the goodness of the Lord, ---but I have no breath ;---when we meet again, I shall have longer breath, and a better tongue.”
At another time, when he lay gasping for life, and seemed to be in his last struggles, he exerted himself just enough to bid us read the conclusion of the third book of Dr. Young's Night Thoughts, as best expressive of his situation and sentiments :--
• And feel I, Death! no joy from thought of thee?
,-a curse without it!
This king of terrors is the prince of peace.
A few hours before he died, he said: “ My life hath been full of toil and pain, but I am going to an eternity of glory: I am within sight of glory. I have a great deal to tell you, if I could but speak :
“O glorious hour! O blest abode!
1 shall be near, and like, my God;
A little after, stretching out his arms as if he saw the angelic convoy that was come for him, he cried out with uncommon eagerness, and repeated it again and again, “ I'm coming, I'm coming---you go too fast for me; I can't keep up with ye---stay a moment-coming, coming". His lips continued
moving, but not so as to be understood; he lay so for some little time, and then, making a sign to have his head supported, he looked up-and smiled ---and died.---Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.
You cannot suppose that he said all this at one time, or exactly in the order I have now repeated it: they were broken sentences ; some of which I picked up myself, as they dropped like honey from his mouth; and the rest I had from those who were about him. However, this you may be assured of, that the sentiments, and (as nearly as could possibly be recollected), the very words, are all his own.
And here I am tempted to sit down; for what can I say more? This is a clearer and fuller illustration of the text than any words of mine can be. I am persuaded, if I were now to dismiss the assembly you would all go away with your hearts and mouths full of this triumphant exclamation ; “ O Death! where is thy sting ?”
If you will have me say something, I will endea, vour to show as briefly as I can,
1. How death came by a sting. II. How he lost it.
We are, First, to inquire how Death came by a sting.
What this sting is, the verse following our text informs us : “ The sting of death is sin.” All that is painful and grievous in it, proceeds from this root of all bitterness; nay, the very being of death, and the power it hath over mankind, is owing to sin: “ Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Rom. v. 12.)
Had man continued innocent, he had been immortal : the tree of life would have preserved his body from decay: but eating the forbidden fruit proved a deadly poison, and became the source of fevers, gout, stone, cholic, dropsy, consumptions, and all the other numerous, almost numberless, diseases by which the human frame is racked and ruined.
There is something awful in death, even to those who are best prepared ; as in the case before us. To be arrested in the midst of his career, or rather just as he was setting out in life, with high spirits and hopeful prospects, and forming a thousand pleasing schemes; to be suddenly arrested by a messenger of death, and forced to retire from business ;-to go through a long course of self-denial and nauseous medicine, if possible to kill the worm before it began to prey upon the vitals; but, after many efforts, to find them all ineffectual ;- to be shut up a prisoner at home, the air being too sharp, and the most gentle exercise too laborious, for him to venture abroad any more ;-to have the range of the whole house for a little while; then to be confined to a single room; then to a chair; at last to take refuge in the bed, being too weak to walk by himself, and his flesh too tender to bear the assistance of others;--and, after languishing out many a tedious day, and wearisome night, to take a last look at weeping relations and weeping friends, and dislodge once for all, and leave the body, which he hath long lived in and loved, and yield it a prey to worms and putrefaction ;—there is something extremely affecting and awful in this; and we cannot wonder, to hear a good man in the near views of it, pray, as David doth; spare me, that. I may
recover strength, before I go hence and be no more.” (Ps. xxxix. 13.) And yet, in all this, if this were all, there is no sting. What can be more desirable to a poor, tortured, worn out body, than to be laid in the grave to rest ? With what pleasure may we suppose the newly-escaped spirit hovering over the grave during the interment of this vile body, in which it had suffered such excruciating pains ! how cheerfully does it join in the solemn dirge, “ Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust!” I say, if this were all, death, though it be awful, yet would be comparatively harmless: it kills the body, and after that there is no more that it can do. But this is not all. Sin hath quite altered the nature of death. Instead of being the end of all troubles, it is to thousands the beginning of sor
So far from sinking into a state of utter insensibility, it is then that a sinner begins to feel most exquisitely. We have not only the death of the body, but the destruction of the soul to fear. We need not mind the ghastly visage riding on the pale horse, if it were not that hell followed. That is it which makes death so deadly: that is the sting of death; and a sting it is the most venomous and malignant that ever can be fastened in the soul of man: it is sin, the worst of evils, infinitely hateful to God, and hurtful to the creature. The guilt, power, and pollution of sin, all combine to make death dreadful; and as if this were not enough, it receives additional strength and poignancy from the curse of a broken law, the honour of which Divine Justice is concerned to support. • Cursed is
every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them."
(Gal. iii. 10.) A killing letter this, where it hangs over the head of an awakened sinner! " For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” (Rom. vii. 9.)
The sinner may find means to avoid reflection when he is in full health : he may keep himself in a constant hurry of business: or he may drink so often, and drink so deep, of pleasure's enchanting cup, as to be in a state of almost perpetual intoxication; and so bar out all sober serious thoughts for a while. But sickness and death will bring him to his senses; and then, what a scene of tumult and distraction ensues ! Then all the sins of his past life are reckoned up, and set in order before him. Death seizes each one as it comes up, and with it gives a mortal stab to the conscience of the sinner, which throws him into agonies which he never, never gets out of. Did you never see a sinner die? I mean, a sinner with all his sins and his senses about him. If you have, I need not describe it.
But perhaps many of you never did ; and because you have seen some, and heard of more, that you knew were far enough from being saints in their lives, who yet died like lambs, you may think that all do so; and that all that is said about the sting of death, is mere invention and fancy.
I will therefore venture to give you an instance of one: it may serve as a contrast to that mild and placid scene we have just now been surveying. A very striking description of such a scene is ready drawn to my hands, and to prevent needless repetition, I shall give it you in the words of the justly celebrated clergyman who drew it:
• The sad evening before the death of that noble