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Α Ν Ο R Α Τ Ι Ο Ν
DELIVERED AT THE INTERMENT
REV. MR. JOHN MACGOWAN,
IN BUNHILL-FIELDS, DEC. Ist, 1780.
AN ORATION, &c.
Thus have we committed to the cold and silent grave the remains of our brother, whose decease is so much lamented by his family, his friends, and the church over which he presided. It will not be expected that I should enter particularly into his character, abilities, and usefulness: of these honourable men'tion will no doubt be made on another occasion. In the mean time it must be observed, that having by the grace of God maintained a worthy character, ' allowing for the imperfections to which all good men are liable, he died in faith, declaring that the gospel he had preached, not his having preached it, (for so he expressed himself) was the only foundation of his hope. And we have the happiness of being persuaded, that he is now the partaker of the blessed fruits of this hope in the realms of light and glory above.
My présent business is to exhort you and myself to a right improvement of this awakening providence : an object to which, could our brother speak from his grave, he would wish me to urge your attention by every possible consideration.
Death is a very serious and solemn event. It is the king of terrors, and stands foremost in the list of human evils. It is tremendous in the apprehension of nature, but more so in that of conscience. It dissolves the union between soul and body, puts an end to all our businesses, interests, and concerns on earth, and hurries us into an unknown and eternal world. It is the common lot of all mankind, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, good and bad, men of every character, rank, and 'condition. There is no discharge in this war. Indeed, as to the exact time of our departure hence, that is only known to God. For wise purposes he has thrown an impenetrable veil over futurity, so that we can none of us tell the day of our death. But, when the moment fixed in the counsels of heaven comes, no consideration whatever can prevail on the last enemy to suspend the execution of the sentence; not the aid of the most skilful physician; not the tears of the most affectionate friends; nor the prayers of the most eminent believer.
Since, therefore, death is so tremendous, the event itself so certain, and the time when it shall happen to us so doubtful, of how great importance is it that we are prepared for it? The general inattention of mankind to this matter affords a striking evidence of the miserable depravity of human nature. But, thoughtless as men in common are about death, methinks it is impossible for them, when they walk among the tombs of the dead, follow their friends to the grave, and see those with whom they had intimately conversed, amidst all the solemnity of funeral rites, committed to the silent dust, it is, I say, scarce possible for them, on such occasions, to suppress all emotion, and shut up every avenue to reflection and consideration. When the grave is open, it may be presumed the heart is open : and when we hear the sure prediction of our own approaching dissolution, from the dying lips of our friends, it would be strange indeed if we were to pay no serious attention to it.
Such circumstances of disgrace and misery accompany death, as put it beyond a reasonable doubt, that the great governor of the world hath inflicted it upon mankind as a punish
The conscience of every man testifies that he hath sinned: and death hath passed on all men, for that all have sinned. But what is the consequence of dying? Do we cease to exist ? Are we no more ? If so, whence that vehement desire we all feel in our breasts of immortality ? Whence that consciousness that we are accountable creatures? And whence is it that good and evil are so promiscuously dispensed to the children of men? It should seem a natural inference from these facts, that there is a state wherein the ways of Providence shall be satisfactorily explained, and the honours of the divine justice and goodness fully vindicated. But we do not address ourselves to those, who have only the dim light of nature and reason to direct their enquiries. You have the Scriptures in your hands, and you admit their divine authority. .
And they expressly assure us, that as at death the body returns to the dust whence it was taken, so the spirit returns to God who gave it, to be disposed of by him in a state either of happiness or misery. And are we to exist in one or other of these states? Of what infinite moment is it to us, that we are prepared to meet the last solemn sentence, which will consigu us over to the joys of heaven, or the miseries of hell!
It is not to be doubted, that there is a difference subsisting between God and man. Mankind are up in arms against their Creator. He is offended, and innumerable are the expressions of his displeasure against our world, amidst all the proofs he gives us of his patience and forbearance. Nor is it to be questioned, that men are depraved as well as guilty; that in their present vitiated state they are incapable of enjoying the refined pleasures of heaven, as well as that their sins have rendered them deserving of the pains of hell. The corruption of human nature, even though there were no Bible, would be capable of the clearest proof. In order, therefore, to our being happy after death, our sins must be forgiven, and our nature renewed.
And,--for ever magnified be the riches of divine grace !the chief of sinners, who are truly sensible of their condition, have the noblest encouragement to hope, that they shall become the happy partakers of both these blessings. This encouragement arises, not only from the express assurances of Scripture, that God is placable; but from that wise and generous provision he hath made, by the mediation of Christ, for the remission of our sins upon the most equitable considerations, and for the renovation of our natures, by an influence the most effectual, and at the same time suited to our character as reasonable creatures.
This divine Saviour, the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person, was made flesh, and dwelt among us; he obeyed the law we had broken, bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows; and having, amidst inexpressible torments, become a victim to supreme justice on the cross, descended into the grave, and continued awhile under the dishonours of death. From the mansions of the dead he arose,