A Funeral SERMON On the Reverend Mr. Nathanael Williams, Who Deceased Tuesday January 10. 1737, 8. Aetatis 63.

Delivered At the South-Church in BOSTON, on the Lord's Day after.

By Thomas Prince, M. A. And One of the Pastors of the same Church.

Eccl. xii.7.

Then shall the DUST return to the EARTH as it was; and the SPIRIT shall return unto GOD who gave it.

Psal. xxxi.5

Into thine Hand I commit my SPIRIT: Thou hast redeemed me, O LORD GOD of Truth.

Psal lxxiii.24

Receive me to thy Glory.

BOSTON: Printed by S. Kneeland & T. Green, MDCCXXXVIII.

[Page 1]

A Funeral SERMON.

ACTS vii.59.

Calling upon and saying, LORD JESUS, Receive my Spirit.

AS this was the expiring Prayer of STE­PHEN; not a settled Pastor, but an eminent Evangelist in the Apostles Time: so it was the dying, earnest and last Expression I heard proceeding from the Mouth of our Reverend and highly esteemed BROTHER; who was an eminent Preacher of the Gospel in our Day, and whose Body we late­ly attended to the Grave with Sorrow.

In the growing Prevalence of Death and small Remains of Life, as I took my final Farewell of Him; He seem'd to put forth all his fainting Powers, and lifting up his Eyes, one Hand being Dead, He stretched forth his other towards Hea­ven, and call'd as strongly as his feeble Breath was able,— LORD JESUS, Receive my Spirit!

[Page 2]And as the Hour is hastening on every one a­mong us, when we shall be in extream Necessity of the great Favour here so earnestly implored: I have on this Occasion chosen these Words for the present Subject of our Entertainment; that we may form some lively Apprehension of this most important and comprehensive Prayer; and may conceive more clearly what a Blessedness this is, for our DIVINE REDEEMER to Receive our ex­piring Spirits, and what it is to resign them rightly to him, that He may so receive them.

How happy we, if we gain these Ends! May the GOD of Light and Grace assist us! And in order to it, let us now consider these three Things,

  • 1. The Case of a true Christian ready to expire, as Stephen was, when He made this Prayer.
  • 2. The peculiar Object of our believing View and Application at such a Season, which is CHRIST Himself.
  • 3. The great and comprehensive Favour we are then to implore of Him, viz. to Receive our Spirits.

I. The Case of a true Christian ready to expire, as Stephen was, when he made this Prayer.

By the History, it is most evident, He was then a Dying: And then he was in a special Manner sensible, He had a SPIRIT in him different from his earthy Body: that his Spirit would presently expire; not to vanish with the animal Life, or cease to live as the material Part, nor be carried with it to the mouldering Grave, to be resolved into the various Elements or Particles which com­pos'd the corporeal Frame; but his Spirit was that vital Substance, which indeed animated his dissolving Body, wou'd quickly seperate & leave it lifeless, but would continue still distinct, and [Page 3] retain its vital Nature and perceptive Powers in its State and Interval of Separation: that his Spirit was the Agent in him which not only per­ceived, tho't and understood, remembred, lov'd and hated; but also had a spontaneous and consci­ous Power of reflecting on it self, of recollecting its Ideas, of viewing and comparing them, of considering, reasoning, judging, determining, designing, and of putting forth its various Reso­lutions into Action.

And then he was also sensible that this Spirit in some measure knew the Being and Perfections of its Supream CREATOR, his Preceptive Will and Law, its Obligations to observe them; and was therefore Subject to his moral Government: that his Spirit was sent into the present Life as into a State of Probation for the future; but was now to be dispos'd of, and must sensibly return to GOD who gave it; to whom it was accountable, and to whom it therefore must return as to a Sovereign Judge, from whom no Appeal was possible, to be ex­actly try'd, & receive a righteous Recompence: In fine, that his Spirit had been guilty of innumera­ble and heinous Sins, for the least of which he could never atone; was also defiled with many sinful Inclinations, from which he was utterly un­able to cleanse it: and yet must instantly appear before that Omniscient and Almighty BEING, most glorious in Holiness and Justice; to whom no Sin is hidden, with whom none is forgotten, and who cannot allow of the least Iniquity.

For this departing Spirit therefore, He must needs be most movingly concerned; as his calling upon CHRIST the Saviour, to Receive it now, implies.

And, as this was the Case of this eminent Saint; so it will be sooner or later the certain Case, even [Page 4] of the best among us, if we have the Power of thinking seriously, when we come to Dye.

As for the unrenewed, unbelieving or impenitent, who are all the same; it is most evident, they are neither in any measure fitted for the Recep­tion here desired, nor intitled to it For as they have no degree of Holiness or true Repentance; the very Sight of CHRIST Himself, that most Holy One, wou'd be abhorrent to them. Nor while they remain impenitent can they have any well grounded Faith of his receiving them to Fa­vour: No! but on the contrary, of treating them as the great Administrator of Divine Justice, and ordering them to the infernal Prison against the Judgment of the Great Day: And there are An­gels enough to seize them and execute his Orders.

They are the truly Penitents only, that are Real Christians: who have some Degree of Sanctity; and therefore have their Spirits fitted for this Re­ception: who by the Gospel Promise have a Ti­tle to it, and who can rightly make this believing Prayer. They are such alone that can make this Prayer in a well grounded Hope of being ac­cepted. And these true Penitents are for the most Part those who have for some time at least, before, repented of all their Sins, embrac'd the Saviour in all his Offices, and liv'd a Life of Piety. They have prov'd to others, if not themselves, the trueness of their Faith and Penitence by a Course agreable: they have brought forth Fruits answerable to true Repentance in the general Tenor of their Conversations, and in some Degree have shin'd as Lights in the World.

And yet even such as these, when they come to die, are often in the Dark, are jealous of them­selves, can see no Evidence of the Grace within them, are fearful least even their religious Life [Page 5] and pious Actions should proceed from hypocriti­cal or carnal Motives, and not from sanctify­ing Grace within them.

And this Darkness seems to rise from various Causes, and for various Ends or Reasons.

Sometimes the DIVINE SPIRIT is pleased to withhold his inlightening Influence from the Souls of the Sanctified, that they cannot see the Graces He has planted in them. Sometimes He may permit the evil Angels to disturb and darken their feeble Minds, either by physical Impressions, or with troublesome and terrible Suggestions. Some­times the Darkness rises from our own mistaken Apprehensions, either of the Word of GOD, of the Tenor or Intention of his Covenant of Grace, of the Nature of his Graces or Operations in us, yea of our own Infirmities and Corruptions, or of the Purport of his Dispensations towards us. Yea such is the present Union and Constitution of our Souls and Bodies, that they have a mutual Influ­ence on each other; that they affect each other with their mutual Infirmities & Disorders: And hence it often comes to pass, that some peculiar bodily Disorders will fill the Minds, even of the best of Men, with dark and fearful Apprehensions, that no kind of Arguments or Reasonings, of themselves can possibly remove.

And the Ends or Reasons of this Divine Pro­cedure, either by Influence or Permission, may be such as these—To show us our present Weak­ness and Dependance on the Sovereign Power and Grace of GOD, our utter unworthiness of the Light of his Countenance, the hurtful Conse­quence of Sin and Influence of Satan, even in the best of Men, with their remaining Imper­fection and Unhappiness; To increase their hum­ble Apprehensions of themselves; to make their [Page 6] present State on Earth more burdensome, or less desireable; to raise their Aspirations after the World of perfect Light and Purity; and to lead them out from all Dependance on themselves to CHRIST the Mediator, for Strength and Righte­ousness, for Light and Grace, for Peace and Comfort, and intire Salvation.

Or however, whether these true Penitents when they come to dye, are under a Cloud or no; yet if then they have the Power of Thinking, they will have lively Views of that Eternity just be­fore them. It will awaken their Minds with an awful Sense of their need of a merciful & mighty SAVIOUR, to forgive and purify and receive their Spirits into his Hands. Even the holiest of Men will then clearly see the glorious Holiness of that SUPREAM MAJESTY with whom they prin­cipally have to do; and in comparison with whom the Heavens are impure, and the wisest Angels are charg'd with Foolishness: They will then clearly see the Perfection of his holy Law, the remaining Vileness of their own Nature, their horrid Contrariety to His, their innumerable Sins against Him, as well as Failings in their Duties to Him, with their transcendent Aggravations: that they'l abhor themselves before Him; their own Righteousness or Services will appear as no­thing in comparison with their many and heinous Omissions and Iniquities; they'l loath themselves for the great Impurity both of their Souls and Bodies; they'l long to be delivered from it: and as their earthy Part is soon to resolve to Dust, it is for their expiring Spirits they are chiefly and anxiously concerned; that these may be purified and fitted for the immediate Presence of their righteous Judge.

[Page 7]And now what shall they do but learn of this bright Example; that is, earnestly look to CHRIST the Saviour, and resign their Spirits to Him? For if the holy Evangelist, flaming with Love and Zeal for CHRIST, and even then dying in his Cause, had yet need of this Redeemer to re­ceive his departing Spirit; how much more have others? And what safer Method can they take, than to follow his enlightened Pattern?

We therefore come to consider,

II. The peculiar Object of our believing View and Application at such a Time as this, which is the LORD JESUS.

For tho' in our English Bibles, Stephen is repre­sented as calling upon [GOD] saying, LORD JESUS receive my Spirit; yet every one acquainted with the Original knows, that the Word [GOD] is here inserted by our Translators, and that in the Greek the Words are only—calling upon and saying, LORD JESUS receive my Spirit: And thus they are rendred in all the other Versions I know of, both ancient and modern. *

Nothing then is plainer, than that this Prayer was made peculiarly to CHRIST by his expiring Follower. And that which led him to this peculiar Resig­nation, seems to have been the transporting Vision he had just before received, and of which we read in the preceeding Verses. For while the Specta­tors then before him were looking on him stedfastly, and saw his Face as it had been the Face of an An­gel; He being full of the HOLY GHOST, looked up stedfastly to Heaven, and saw the GLORY of GOD, and JESUS standing at the Right Hand of GOD; [Page 8] and said, Behold I see the Heavens opened, and the SON OF MAN standing on the Right Hand of GOD.

The HOLY GHOST that fill'd him, both made his Face to shine with an angelick Lustre, and also opened to him the View of the heavenly World: And among the illustrious Objects there, he saw the GLORY of GOD, and JESUS standing at the Right Hand of GOD.

What was this GLORY of GOD, and how it then appeared to the inspired Saint; whether a transcendent Brightness in any particular Space or Form, in which the DEITY reveal'd amazing and unutterable Beauties to the admiring Eye and Mind together, of which the GLORY on the Mercy-seat of the Ark between the Cherubims in the Holy of Holies, both of the ancient Tabernacle and of Solomon's Temple, might be some faint Re­semblance; and JESUS being nearest to it of all the illustrious Company of Spirits, and Angels; —is not explained.

Possibly the View might be somewhat like EZEKIEL's at the River Chebar; when he says, the Heavens were opened, and he saw the Visions of GOD, —Chap. I.; or somewhat like those of DANIEL, Chap. VII. and X; or somewhat like those of JOHN, Rev. I, IV, and V; in the latter of which he says, he saw a Door in Heaven opened: or with a Mixture of them all; tho' with a View agrea­ble to the peculiar State of the heavenly World, upon our Saviour's Assention thither in our exal­ted Nature, and in a Manner inconceivable to us now, unless our Minds could be enlightened with the same Vision.

But by JESUS being at the Right Hand of GOD, doubtless signifies, his being in the highest Place [Page 9] of Dignity of every Creature in the Realms a­bove; all the glorious Armies there being subject to him, as well as plac'd beneath him. And yet his being described as the Son of Man, and standing at the Right Hand of GOD, seems plainly to point out his humane Nature appearing there in the Form and Character of our constant active Medi­ator; which the DEITY admits as nearest to himself in Dignity and Intimacy, and as most ac­ceptable to him, both in his Person and Office.

The Impression made on the Mind of Stephen, by this raised View of CHRIST in his mediatorial Character, seems to lead him therefore to this pe­culiar Resignation of his Spirit to him: And this preceeding Vision seems to be as a Line of Light to lead us also to the Meaning of his following and dying Prayer.

The SON OF GOD as appearing in humane Na­ture in the heavenly World, and in the special Quality of our MEDIATOR, is then the Object of this Resignation: And to him it is we are more immediately to yeild our departing Spirits.

And in this Respect our dying View and Prayer are to be somewhat different from the dying View and Prayer of CHRIST our Mediator. For of him expiring on the Cross, we read in Luk. xxiii.46. And when JESUS had cried with a loud Voice, he said, FATHER, INTO THY HANDS I COMMAND MY SPIRIT: And having said thus, he gave up the Ghost.

Even CHRIST himself, THE SON OF GOD, had also an expiring Spirit, even an humane Soul to re­sign. But a Spirit perfectly [...]re and holy, that had yeilded an entire Obedience to the Will of his FATHER, had compleatly finished the Work he was sent into the World to do, and had no such need as we of a Mediator to answer for any [Page 10] Fault, or procure a Reconcilement to the holy GOD: It therefore seems most proper he should commend his spotless and most righteous Soul di­rectly into the Hands of the FATHER: And as he had just now said, It is finished; the Purport of this final Action seems to be—Most righteous & holy ‘FATHER! I have compleatly accomplished the Work thou gavest me to do in my State of Hu­miliation, & I have perfectly endur'd the Punish­ment thou didst order me to bare, all but the closing Act and suffering of Death! Into thy Hands I therefore commend my Spirit, to receive it into Paradise, and be entertained with the Joys and Glories there, 'till my Resur­rection! And now I bow my dying Head, and yeild my Spirit to thee!’

Thus this perfect MEDIATOR resign'd his Spirit immediately into the Hands of the FATHER. And so far in Conformity to him as was proper, his Desciple Stephen resigned also his departing Spirit, but this into the Hands of CHRIST the Mediator. And in this dying Act of Faith and Trust, shou'd all Believers imitate this inspired Example.

And that which makes this Resignation proper, is, that he is the LORD JESUS standing as the Son of Man, in our humane but exalted Nature, nea­rest in Interest, Affection, and Dignity to the GLORY of GOD in the heavenly World, and in the needful Character of our MEDIATOR.

For JESUS we know signifies the Saviour; i. e. the Saviour of Sinners of the Race of Men, e­specially of those who believe and follow him: And LORD prefixed to it signifies his Exaltation and Dominion as our Saviour, over every Crea­ture, both in Heaven and Earth; that he may entirely over-rule them, to carry on the Affairs of his universal Kingdom, and accomplish his wise [Page 11] Designs in this lower World, 'till the Number of his People are compleatly saved, and he presents them in one triumphant Church or Company in the heavenly Places. But then he saves us by be­ing and acting as our MEDIATOR: And as our Mediator he rules the World.

In the certain Prospect of our Apostacy he un­dertook the Office: Upon our first Transgression he interceeded for us, and gave an early Intima­tion of his most gracious Purpose: He revealed it gradually in the preceeding Ages to his Incar­nation: In the fulness of Time predicted and most suitable, he came, assum'd our Nature in spotless Innocence, born of Woman, made under the Law: He grew up and liv'd in perfect Purity and Wisdom, in consummate Piety and Obedi­ence to GOD, in abounding Love and Benefi­cence to Men, and without the least Iniquity.

He also appeared in our Room as well as Na­ture; as our most proper Representative, to obey and suffer for us, to answer all our Obligations and endure our Punishment. For us he liv'd a most humble, difficult, and laborious Life, set a most excellent Example, suffered most exquisite Pains of Body with Distress of Soul, and died a most ignominious and cursed Death: For us he rose again in our humane Nature, ascended into Heaven, continually interceedeth there, presents himself as the Lamb of GOD once slain a Sacrifice for the Sins of Men: And for us in our Nature still he reigns over all created Powers in Heaven and Earth.

For us he purchased a compleat Salvation, as also perfect and eternal Life and Blessedness, with a full Authority or Right to give them: Yea for us he purchased the Gift of the HOLY GHOST himself, to sanctify, enlighten, and comfort us; [Page 12] to produce every Grace within us, both in their Principle, Exercise, Increase, and Consummation. For us he is ready to obtain this Gift, of GOD; most free to interceed and reconcile us to him; yea, to offer his own most perfect Righteousness, both to justify our Persons, and secure our Title to eternal Blessedness.

With us he in his Divine Nature is always present: Yea, in his Humane Nature, thro' the most intimate and perpetual Agency of his Divine, he always views us, intirely knows our Cases, and therefore with his People bears a wondrous Sym­pathy in all their Troubles.

In particular, He views them in the Approach of Death, and in all its advancing Agonies: He sees and pities them while labouring under the oppressing Loads of Sin, both in the afflicting Consciousness and Punishment: He views them and is pleased with their pious Sorrow and Con­trition, their low Abasement, their Self-Abhor­rence, their earnest Aspirations after perfect Pu­rity and Holiness, their humble Applications to him for them: and he will surely and in the fit­test Season give them.

By his MIGHTY SPIRIT he has begun to purify their Souls in their initial and progressive Sancti­fication: He has determin'd the fittest Time for their Dissolution: And then he is most ready to take them naked into his saving Hands; first to cleanse them thro'ly from every remaining stain of Sin, and then present them without Spot to GOD in that glorious World, whereinto nothing but what is perfectly pure and holy shall ever enter.

This all-sufficient Mediator then is the peculiar Person to whom it is most proper, more immedi­ately to yeild our expiring Spirits: Or if, being reconcil'd to GOD, we resign them to HIM, we [Page 13] must resign them to Him in and through this only Mediator, who is to accomplish their Salvation, and present them perfect at the Throne of GOD.

This therefore brings us to consider,

III. The great and comprehensive Favour we are then to implore of him, viz. To receive our Spirits.

Now this must needs be comprehensive of all the Blessedness the Spirit can receive in its State of Separation, 'till it returns and resumes the Body at the Resurrection. For as Stephen's Spirit was just then entring that amazing State, which was then opening to him and he look'd into, and this is all he asks for in that most important Interval; he sums up his Desires in this, as virtually com­prizing all he wanted in it, that the LORD JESUS would receive his Spirit.

Or at least whatever Blessedness or Priviledge the Souls of the Saints enjoy in their separate State, whether he mention'd it or no; he knew, that if the LORD JESUS wou'd receive his Spirit, this great Favour wou'd most surely introduce him into all the other Blessedness possessed by the Spirits of the Saints in Light, throughout the In­terval of their Separation.

For the LORD JESUS to receive the Spirit, is to receive it then, in general, as our Lord and Savi­our, standing at the Right Hand of GOD in Hea­ven, as our exalted Mediator.

In particular, as our Mediator, to take it into his special, gracious, safe, and faithful Care, at the very Moment of its Separation: Interceeding effectually with the Father for it; applying the meritorious Virtue of his most precious Blood, by the Agency of his almighty Spirit, to purify it perfectly from every Remain of Sin, and make it [Page 14] perfect like himself in Holiness. At that very Moment, he by the same Agent fills it with a Perfection of Life and Power: He makes it glo­rious like the holy Angels its new Companions: He makes it fit for their exalted Company: He opens its latent Powers to see its own Glory and the Glory of those illustrious Substances, as he once opened the Powers of Elijah's Servant: He in a Moment learns it their perfect Language: He commits it to their glad Embraces, their delight­ful Converse, their safe Protection (tho' all are comprehended in his own) and their certain and most speedy Conduct and Transportation, as his mighty and ready Instruments, to the heavenly World.

Their Spirits doubtless fly as swiftly as the in­conceivably grosser Rays of Light, which in a Minute pass above ten million Miles: And the Joy and ravishing Desire of all the Company to reach the celestial Regions, will needs be as most active Wings to speed them thither.

Yea when he receives the separate Spirit, he no doubt receives it (as he did that of Stephen, even before its Separation) to the opening Prospect of that blessed World to which 'tis going: Tho' the higher it ascends, the brighter may the Glory still appear, the more distinct and clear the surprizing Objects open to the View, and the more capacia­ted may the Spirit grow for the more immediate Vision and Enjoyment of them.

If you ask me, Where is this World of Glory? I wou'd only answer, Do we not with our bare Eyes behold innumerable Multitudes of dazling Worlds about us, enlighten'd with perpetual Day; some of which are found a Million times greater than the Earth we live on? And how much greater may others be we cannot yet discover. Or if [Page 15] these will not suffice; you may every clear Night by the Help of Glasses, look up and see several wondrous Openings in the Heavens over us; where immeasureable Spaces of Light appear, underived from any visible Bodies, and that seem to be be­yond the starry Regions.

May not the GOD of Heaven allow us, from his Earth, to look unto the outmost Borders of his upper World? May not the Light appearing in those amazing Chasms, remote immensly from us, be the distant Rays of the heavenly Glory? Does not every one acquainted with the Laws of Opticks know, that these Rays may be so di­rected as to make those Chasms appear vastly nearer; yea, to open as large as Half the Fir­mament above us, and even represent the glori­ous Objects from whence they flow? And may not this be the surprizing Vision of the separate Spirit, when its visive Powers are freed, perfected and opened; whither as a Rebel to behold its awful Judge above, or as an Heir to be advan­ced to its design'd Inheritance?

But O! when the Spirit arrives within the Confines of those caelestial Regions; with what mutual Exultations and joyous Welcomes is it re­ceiv'd among the happy Angels and Spirits there! And as every Spirit bro't up [...]her is an Addi­tion to the Triumphs of the GREAT REDEEMER; what Shouts of Praises ring thro' the heavenly Hosts, with what triumphant Gladness do they conduct it to him, with what transcendent Plea­sure does he first receive it, and then present it filled and cloathed with his own most amiable and perfect Righteousness and Likeness, in his own Name and as a Member of his own Body to the DIVINE FATHER; present it spotless & faultless be­fore the Presence of his Glory with exceeding Joy!

[Page 16]And how will the happy Spirit join with all the celestial Choirs, in the adoring Songs of which we have a Hint in Rev. V.8—e. where the four living Creatures and the four and twenty Elders, are represented as falling down before the LAMB, and singing a new Song, saying, ‘THOU wast slain, and hast redeemed us to GOD, by thy Blood, out of every Kindred, and Tongue, and Peo­ple, & Nation; and hast made us unto our GOD, Kings & Priests, and we shall reign on the Earth': And I beheld and heard the Voice of many Angels round about the Throne, and the living Creatures and the Elders; and the Number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands: saying with a loud Voice,' "Worthy is the LAMB that was slain, to receive Power, and Riches, & Wisdom, and Strength, and Honour, and Glory, and Blessing": ' And e­very Creature heard I saying, "Blessing, and Honour, and Glory, and Power, be unto HIM that sitteth upon the Throne, and unto the LAMB, for e­ver and ever"; And the four living Creatures said AMEN: And the four & twenty Elders fell down and worshipped HIM that liveth for ever and ever.’

Yea, What new and surprizing Scenes of Visions and Enjoyments will continually open to delight us there! What Discoveries of the divine Per­fections, Designs and Works; both in the Crea­tion of Heaven and Earth, with innumerable o­ther Worlds, of different Constitutions and In­habitants; the various Trains of Dispensations in them, with their admirable Harmony and Wis­dom the astonishing Redemption of an amazing Multitude of Sinners of the Race of Men, from their first Apostacy, thro' out all their various and successive Generations, in every Nation, Age, and [Page 17] Country, to the entire Accomplishment at the joyous Resurrection.

And, O! how perfect and perpetual the Blessed­ness which CHRIST receives the Spirit to in those exalted Regions!

For there is no Degree of Darkness or Blind­ness; but perfect and perpetual Light and clear Decernment: No Death, Pain, Infirmity, or Faintness; but perfect and perpetual Life, Plea­sure, Strength and Vigour: No Degree of Er­ror or Mistake; but always a right Concep­tion of every Thing exhibited: No Ha­tred, Envy, Ill-Will, or Enmity; but perfect and perpetual Love, Complacency in each other's Blessedness, Benevolence, and Friendship: No Contention, Discord, or disturbed Passions; but perfect and perpetual Peace, Serenity, and Har­mony: No Sorrow, Doubt, or Fear; but perfect and perpetual Joy, and full Assurance of the Continuance of this Felicity to the Resurrection, and for ever after.

Yea, What growing Delights will spring, from our conversing with those holy Angels who have successively remain'd in Heaven, and can tell us of the admirable History of that UPPER WORLD, in its almost infinitely numerous and spacious Regi­ons, from their Creation! From our conversing with those Angels also, who have successively re­turned thither from every Quarter of the WORLDS BELOW! And from our conversing with those o­ther numberless Spirits, whither in or without their perfect Bodies, who from sojourning in those lower Worlds, have happily passed thro' their Varieties of Trial, and are continually as­cending, to contribute all their Sanctity, Joy, and Knowledge to that highest & perpetually grow­ing World of Glory! And how gladly will they all [Page 18] conspire successively to tell their surprizing His­tory, and increase our Views and Admirations of the Perfections of GOD appearing in every World from their Formation.

But above all this, what higher Delights will rise from our immediate Vision of THE SON OF GOD himself! From our wondrous Likeness to him in Holiness! From his transporting Con­verse with us! From his perpetual Revelations of the divine Perfections, where the highest Angels all together are unable to display them! And from his opening the Book of the Divine Purpo­ses, which no meer Creature is able to open: Tho' the full Discovery both of the Designs and Works of GOD, with the Wisdom in his Manage­ment of every lower World, remains to be made at their respective Consummations, when their seve­ral Schemes are perfected But in the mean while, we see, there is infinitely more than enough to entertain us in the World above, with perpetual Transports.

This is some faint View of the sublime Bles­sedness which CHRIST receives the Spirits of his People to at their Expiration: And in this they shall continue, 'till all his hidden and intermixt Designs of Grace and Justice in the present Con­stitution of our Earth are finished; and then he comes to open them, to the ineffable Astonish­ment of Men and Angels.

With his illustrious Train of those seraphick Hosts, who by Turns have supervis'd these Terrestial Regi­ons, & of those perfect Spirits who sojourn'd in them, He descends from Heaven, among other Ends, to raise the ancient Partners of those separate Substan­ces, and assume them to their social Happiness His Glory enlightens the World, and makes the Sun to vanish. With his almighty Voice and Power, [Page 19] he refines, he brightens, and he animates their Dust; He makes it move and form into most pure and perfect Bodies: To These he re-unites their welcome Spirits: and they wake, they rise, they shine, with immortal Life and Power: they appear even like that most glorious Body of HIS, from which they receive their Lustre; tho' HIS being full of DEITY, must inconceivably transcend in Glory: And now He puts an eternal Period to their transient Separation; and they jointly enter into new and endless Scenes of yet higher Joy and Blessedness. But these, our present Sub­ject allows us not to look into.

And thus have we in brief considered the com­prehensive Import of this dying Prayer. We now pass on to some


And here,

I. What a lovely and rais'd Idea does all this give us of this admirable SAVIOUR!

It is HE who had a Divine Glory with THE FATHER before the World began. In that Eter­nity preceeding, He was the SON OF GOD ap­pearing with every possible Perfection. The FA­THER perfectly delighted in HIM; delighted with the Views of his own Perfections reflecting in Him. Both for and by Him, HE made all the glorious and numberless Worlds around us. And as the Angels, the first-born of the Creation, were bro't forth into Being, He appeared the express and o­pen Image of the unseen Deity: They in the void Expanse with Wonder saw him; they saw none but HIM, they saw the Glories of the GOD­HEAD in HIM, and they immediately ador'd Him. Anon they saw the rest of the Creation produc'd [Page 20] and multiplied by him: And they sang for Joy, and sang his Praises.

It is HE that has so lowly condescended to as­sume our Nature, for our Redemption: That has purchas'd all this Life and Blessedness for us the vilest Sinners, by the most astonishing Abase­ments and most bitter Agonies: And his humane Nature having passed thro' his Sufferings, and en­tred into his Glory; all Angels and created Prin­cipalities and Powers throughout the Universe, are subjected to him. Even our exalted Nature is now at the Head of the whole Creation: And therein we have a Specimen of what Capacities and Blessedness it may be raised to.

HE is therein the visible Admiration and De­light of Heaven. In him the divine Perfections appear and shine, and display themselves with a­mazing Glories. And yet he continues our com­passionate and prevailing Advocate at the Throne of GOD!

Being exalted to be a PRINCE AND SAVIOUR, to give Repentance and Remission of Sins to Men; he has the Power and Grace, the utmost Willingness and Readiness, first to give them to those who seek him, and reconcile them to the HOLY GOD: And then he is their Mediator, their Representa­tive, their Surety; that manages their Cause in Heaven; that makes his Angels Ministers, to promote their Blessedness; that rules the World for their Advantage; that has prepared Mansions for them in the heavenly Places; that guides them by his perfect Counsel to the Hour of Death, and then intirely purifies their Spirits, and receives them to his Glory: who has done these Offices for Multitudes innumerable, even for all expiring Saints already: in his DIVINE PERSON, from the Death of Abel to the Ascention of his Humane [Page 21] Nature; and thence in the same Person as ap­pearing in that exalted Nature: who is thus re­ceiving them continually every Moment: and if he has made us truly Penitent, is as ready to re­ceive us also, tho' we are the chief and most vile of Sinners.

What an admirable Saviour is He! How do all the Celestial Hosts adore Him! How exceed­ing happy in his immediate View and Company! And if we had the least Degree of their sacred Relish; we need only know Him, in order to admire Him with the highest Rapture, to prefer Him above a million Worlds: and even one be­lieving Prospect of Him, would make every Thing on Earth, even all its Crowns and Empires, ap­pear as Trifles in comparison with Him; that we may win Him, and be as like Him as possi­ble, enjoy his Company, and view his Glories.

II. How wretchedly do They deceive them­selves, who in their Time of Health take no seri­ous Care for this happy Reception of their immortal Spirits!

And indeed the most of the Race of Men are openly Guilty of this most gross and ruinous De­lusion. For in our Season of Health, our Minds are full of earthly Views, Delights, Desires, Cares or Businesses: we mind nothing of that ETERNAL WORLD our Spirits are hastning to, and into which they must quickly enter: we give our selves no Time to look into it: and indeed the Prospect is offensive to the unrenewed and earthly Mind: It seems a great way off, if not meerly imaginary: when the serious Apprehension strikes us, we turn it away: and because the View is disagreable, and hinders us in our earthly Pursuits and Plea­sures; we are ready to entertain every seeming [Page 22] Objection to its Reality; and from doubting, by Degrees may come to perswade our selves, that there is no such ETERNAL WORLD or separate State before us; that our Spirits, whatever they are, were only made for the present momentany Ex­istence, are not accountable to GOD who gave them, and will intirely end with the Life of the Body.

But when DEATH comes on with its evident and near Approaches, and we clearly see we have intirely done with all the Views, Affairs & Plea­sures of this little Point of Time, with this sen­sual, mean, corrupt and sinful State, and when our momentary Appearance here is just expiring; Then, if our Powers of Thinking are continued to us, and if we have not so deprav'd our selves as to bar or dull our Minds against all Conviction; Then, they will open and see the Dawn of ETER­NITY rising on us, and there will be no resisting its awakning Influence: Then, every specious Argument against it will entirely vanish, like the nightly Shadows before the opening Day: Then our meer earthly Schemes, Pursuits and Pleasures, will all appear as vain Amusements; inexpressibly beneath and most unworthy of these intellectual and noble Substances within us: Then these earthy Bodies in their present State will appear incom­parably meaner than those vital and intellectual Powers that inliven and govern them, that most earnestly aspire to a farther Existence, and that are capable of infinitely nobler Enjoyments than this Earth can give us.

In fine, then we shall clearly see, we have Spi­rits in us, that are moral Agents; that have been capable of knowing much of the Preceptive Will of their CREATOR, have been obliged to obey Him, and are therefore accountable to Him: [Page 23] but as they have never yet been called to an Ac­count before Him; they must now appear at the Tribunal of that supream, omniscient, holy, righ­teous and ALMIGHTY BEING, from whom no Sin was ever covered, to whom every one is infinitely contrary and offensive, and in whose Memory they all remain as fresh as tho' now committed: And Then, as the Appearance of all earthly Ob­jects will lessen to nothing, the Appearance of GOD, and of our Sins against HIM, will amazingly greaten in the dying Mind.

And what shall we now do with these sinful and immortal Spirits, in such an Hour as this; at the final closing of all the past guilty Scenes of Life; and their entering that ETERNAL WORLD, where they must immediately appear before their Divine and righteous JUDGE, and have their State forth­with fix'd by Him immutable for ever!

The impenitent and unrenewed Spirit, must then, if duly sensible, be seiz'd with increasing Horror. It's Season of Probation is now gone and over: It's hypocritical and delusive Hopes now intirely fail and fly away: and there remains now nothing but a fearful looking for of Judgment and fiery Indignation for it's future Recompence. All the Arguments, and all the Gospel Invitations, can make no Impression: the Mind is so full of cons­cious Guilt & Terror, that it can't receive them: the rejected SPIRIT of Grace, of Light and Comfort, is now wholly withdrawn: the wretched Soul is left to that judicial Hardness, Blindness, Dark­ness and Desertion, it has a long while chosen, or would not fear: and as 'tis hovering over the dark Abyss, and the DIVINE SPIRIT intirely leaves it; the inveterate Spirits of Devils now possess and seize it: First they drag it out of the Body into the open View of the Bar of GOD, when they [Page 24] become its ready Accusers; and being soon de­livered into their Hands, they wrap it in their Chains of Darkness, and then continue it's Tor­mentors to the Judgment of the GREAT DAY.

But if in such a Season we are full of Penitence, Self-abasement and Self-abhorrence for all our Sins and Sinfulness, both of Heart and Life; if we are begun to be purified with the Hatred of them, and with a thorough Sorrow for all the Dishonours we have done to GOD, and for all our habitual Contrariety and actual Opposition to Him; if we see his transcendent Excellence and Loveliness, as He appears in CHRIST; if we descern the admirable Beauty of Holiness or Con­formity to his Will and Nature; if we prefer his Favour, with the Appearance of it, above Life it self; and if we aspire after all these as our only Happiness: Then we are to look to the All-suffi­cient SAVIOUR, to hear his gracious Invitations, to embrace Him in all his Offices, to lay hold on and plead his precious Promises, to confide in Him for the Fulfilment of them; and then, we are like Stephen, in the Exercise of Faith, to Resign our Spirits to HIM.

But very few, alass, who have liv'd a sensual or irreligious Life, do ever come into such a truly penitent and believing Frame as this, when ETER­NITY opens before them. They are either usually bereaved of the Exercise of their Understandings; or left to a stupid Frame; or to damnable Delu­sions, deceitful Hopes, or presumptuous Faith; till at once they find themselves in the ETERNAL WORLD, their deluding Dreams intirely vanish'd, and their sinful Spirits trembling & self condemn­ed at the Bar of GOD. But,

[Page 25]III. What unspeakable Comfort have we in the Death of our religious Friends, who have so re­sign'd their Spirits to this lovely MEDIATOR, as we have Reason to think He has thus received them.

How solacing to see them with their dying Breath, and in the earnest Exercise of Faith, look up and yeild their separating Spirits to Him? And how reviving to consider his receiving them in the happy Manner above described? By Faith to view them leaving a Body and World of Dark­ness, Sin and Trouble, receiv'd into the gracious Hands of their mighty SAVIOUR; in a moment compleatly purified, enlightened and transported with surprizing Joy; and then raised up with blessed Angels to that World of Glory they aspired after; where HE appears, and where they are all perpetually entertain'd and fill'd with the highest Satisfactions:—It should make us have a Fellow-feeling with them in their exalted Happiness, and long to follow them in their Translation thither.

And this brings us to the Occasion of our pre­sent Meditations— the much lamented Death of our dear BROTHER of this Communion: whereby we suffer a most heavy Loss, and sow in Tears; tho' he has gain'd immortal Life, and reaps in Joy. And for our Help to improve this affecting Providence, let us take a brief Review of the Person removed from us.

Being born of pious Parents, * his Father a Dea­con of this Church, and Mother a Sister of the late Honourable Daniel Oliver, Esq He received their gracious Spirit; He improved under their religious Influence, and the happy Ministry and [Page 26] Life of the Reverend Mr. Willard, for whom he had the highest Veneration; and he aspired to be like them.

In his early Days he gave up himself to his CREATOR: at fourteen Years of Age He entred the School of the Prophets : and as he advanc'd in Knowledge, He grew in Wisdom and in Favour with GOD and Man.

Being well accomplish'd for the Work of the Ministry, He was ordained an EVANGELIST in the College-Hall, for one of the West India Islands : But the Climate not agreeing with his Constitu­tion, He soon returned to this his native City. Where he was first employ'd by several Gentlemen to instruct their Sons in Learning; and soon after introduced into the Government of the then only Publick and Free Grammar School of this Great Town * ; the Principal School of the British Colo­nies, if not of all America.

Here he display'd his singular Talents for this laborious and important Service: being very di­ligent and faithful; applying himself to bring on the Children both to Vertue, Learning and good Manners; Praying with them every Morning and Evening, instructing them in religious Principles, especially on Saturdays, and affectionately recom­mending the Practice to them. By an agreeable mixture of Majesty and Sweetness, both in his Voice and Countenance, with a wise and steady Conduct, He happily rul'd them; and was gene­rally both reverenc'd and belov'd among them. Here He spent the Strength and Vigour of his [Page 27] Life, was a great and publick Blessing, and there­in continued for about thirty Years; till his bodily Infirmities increasing, He, to the Sorrow of many, laid it down.

Nor did this hinder him from employing his Intervals of Time, all along, in the Study and Practice of Physick; wherein He also excelled, and was greatly useful. He not only read the most valued Authors on this Branch of Science, but carefully compar'd them with his own Obser­vations, made many Extracts from them, and wrote down the Circumstances of his own Expe­rience in difficult Cases, for his future Guidance. He was much concerned for all his Patients, ten­der of them, careful in attending them, made up his more important Medicines with his own Hands; gave those whom he tho't proper, wise and pious Counsels; and at their Desire often added his suitable and gracious Prayers in their dying Sick­nesses. He help'd the Families of his Pastors, and the Poor Gratis; and yet as careful of them, as if he had his Fees. And how encouraging his lively Voice and Countenance when he came in­to our Chambers! They did good like a Medicine, reviv'd our Spirits, and lighten'd our Maladies.

Nor did both these Businesses take off his Heart from the Ministerial Work. To this he seemed chiefly to incline: rising early and devoting the Prime of the Day in religious Reading, Meditati­on and Compositions. And how experimental, grave and savoury were his occasional Prayers and Sermons from the Pulpit? The most serious and judicious lov'd to hear Him.

[Page 28]In his Conversation there was an agreable Mix­ture of Gravity and Chearfulness: yet cautious and much guarded when he spake of others. In one Thing indeed he was disagreable to some; and this was his freely, but privately telling them of their obvious Faults: For He was a faithful Friend; and in this Part of Conduct, much like his Uncle Oliver before Him, and till six Years since contemporary with Him.

He greatly admir'd and lov'd the ancient Reli­gious Principles and Ways of NEW ENGLAND: He had seen them in some of their departed Glory! He delighted in the Doctrines of Grace, and of the Person and Offices of CHRIST: For he vitally felt the Efficacy and tasted the Sweetness of them in his own Heart: and he was greatly affected with our quick Declensions in the Power of Religion. He kept up a close and constant Walk with GOD: and for a long Course of Years, tho' in Characters, not easy to decipher, he has describ'd the Frame of his Heart and pious Experiences every Day.

He was always much concerned for the Purity, Peace and Welfare of this Church; and careful to preserve them. We were dear to Him; and he was watchful over us.

In short, the Graces of CHRIST seem'd much to shine in his Countenance and Conversation. He was one of the most useful Men of the Town and Land. He has exceedingly filled up his Time with Diligence and Service. And on all Accounts, as a Scholar, School-Master, Physician, Preacher and Christian, so many Characters united in one Per­son and in such a Degree, I can't expect to see another like Him.

[Page 29]And yet when he comes to the End of this la­borious and useful Life; how deeply humble? Renouncing all Dependance on his own Righte­ousness; — full of Self-Condemnation for his Deficiencies, and jealous of his own Heart; He placed all his Trust on the infinite Merits & Grace of CHRIST, on his prevailing Intercession, & faith­ful Promises: on these he cast himself for Eter­nity, and to this admir'd REDEEMER earnestly re­sign'd his Spirit.

Thus liv'd and dyed this Beloved Physician. And with respect to Him, we have the greatest Reason to be comforted: whom by Faith we may now view as happy, as full of Joy and Triumph in the World above, as bearing a Part in the Songs of the Heavenly Hosts before the Throne; behold­ing the SON OF GOD in all his Glories, feeling their transforming Influence, and ravish'd in his advancing Likeness to Him.

But with respect to our Selves; a great Part of our Strength and Beauty are gone with Him! His Place among us shall see Him no more! and for this repeated Loss, we have growing Reason both to mourn and tremble!

When we consider the many shining Lights we used to view with Pleasure in the principal Seats of this Assembly, but now withdrawn for ever; what an awful Gloominess seems to follow, and what Decays and Darkness are we declining to! Are not the Righteous taken away from the Evil to come! Or to use another Similitude, are they not removed from the widening Gap, to let in a prevailing Torrent of Apostacy; till it over­whelms the Remains of our Religion, and we [Page 30] come to have nothing but the outward Form, and the Power and Spirit be intirely lost to us and our Posterity! Are not our Breaches great & dread­ful, like those of the Sea! and who can heal them!

However, let this excite our more earnest Pray­ers and Labours, that our PURE AND VITAL PIETY, may neither Dye with us nor our immediate Off­spring, but be continued down to them; that they may transmit the same to theirs, and they to theirs thro' every Generation: that our DIVINE REDEEMER may have here a Pure & Pious Church to adore and serve Him, till his second Coming: and in this Place may be a perpetual Succession of Pious Lights to shine and rise to the Heavenly World; till He descends from thence to gather all his Saints into one glorious & vast Assembly; that they may shine with Him together as the Brightness of the Firmament; HE as the SUN, and They as Millions of Stars about Him for ever and ever.



Page. Line. Read.

2 4 — the Words

3 36 — then the Case

4 17 — true Penitents

19 7 — from whom

22 28 — spontaneous Powers.

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