A Funeral Sermon
THE REV. JOSEPH KINGHORN,
ST. MARY’S MEETING-HOUSE, NORWICH,
SUNDAY AFTERNOON, SEPTEMBER 9TH, 1832.
BY JOHN ALEXANDER.
“THE MEMORY OF THE JUST IS BLESSED.”
PUBLISHED BY WILKIN AND FLETCHER, UPPER HAYMARKET; AND
BY SIMPKIN AND MARSHALL, AND G. WIGHTMAN, LONDON.
II Peter, chap, i, verses 12–15.
“Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover, I will endeavour that ye may be able, after my decease, to have these things always in remembrance.”
These words, my brethren, are impressively suitable to the present solemnity; especially when you consider that, if the life and health of your beloved pastor had been prolonged till to-day, he would probably have made them the subject of his own discourse. Having been engaged, for some time past, in preaching a course of sermons on some of the Epistles, he had proceeded in his expositions as far as the eighth verse of this chapter; and, by this time, perhaps, he would have addressed you on the following verses, including those of our text. He would, in that case, have enforced upon you the duty “to give diligence to make your calling and election sure;” and he would have encouraged you to do so by the promise, that “if ye do p. 2these things ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” But whatever intentions or expectations he might have formed respecting future sermons, they have all been frustrated by the stroke of death. Instead of urging upon you the performance of this duty by his living voice, he now admonishes you from the grave. Instead of animating your minds by this “exceeding great and precious promise,” he now enjoys the fulfilment of it himself, in all its richness and perpetuity; and instead of attempting, with mortal lips, to describe to you the glories of that “everlasting kingdom,” he has had ministered unto himself “an abundant entrance” into its celestial palaces, where all the inhabitants are made “kings and priests unto God.”
The duty and the promise, to which I have referred, are immediately followed by the words of our text, which, on this occasion, we may, without impropriety, adopt as his own language. They were indeed practically the language of his life and ministry; and on this, or on some early sabbath, had his life been spared, they would have been made the subject of his discourse to you in this place of worship. They were evidently the motto which he adopted at the commencement of his ministry; and during the whole course of his labours among you, it was his endeavour that the doctrines which he preached might be retained in your remembrance, not only during his lifetime, but also after his decease. And often has he said to you, verbally in his discourses, and virtually by the conduct which he pursued in his life and ministry, p. 3“I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover, I will endeavour that ye may be able, after my decease, to have these things always in remembrance.” His own remarks on this passage would probably have included the language of determination and anticipation; ours alas! must include principally the language of reflection and remembrance. Let us therefore consider the work in which he was engaged, the decease by which it has been terminated, and the remembrance of it which it now becomes you to cherish. Let us consider,
I. The work in which, as a minister of the gospel, he was engaged during his life.
The work of a minister of the gospel, as intimated by the apostle, is to remind his hearers of the various and important truths which the gospel of Christ contains; for he determines to put them “always in remembrance of these things,” and “to stir them up by putting them in remembrance.”
The “THINGS” to which the apostle here refers are evidently the various doctrines, and exhortations, and blessings, which he has recorded in the preceding parts of this chapter; and which, in the third verse, are emphatically called “all things that pertain unto life and godliness.” They are the “grace and peace,” which is multiplied to all the partakers of “precious faith”—the “promises,” which are “exceeding great and precious”—the p. 4influences by which we become “partakers of the divine nature”—the Christian graces, which include “faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity”—the admonitions by which we are warned lest we lack any of these things, and exhorted to give all diligence to secure them—and the motives and prospects which are presented to us, full of constraining and inspiring energy, “for if ye do these things ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
Such, my brethren, is the beautiful and comprehensive view, which the apostle gives us, of the doctrines, and promises, and influences of the gospel of Christ, and such is the evidence which he affords that it contains “all things which pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue,” and by whose precious blood and efficacious grace we are redeemed, and sanctified, and saved. To make these things known, for the conversion and salvation of the guilty and depraved, is the great work of the Christian preacher, to whom is committed the word of reconciliation, and who beseeches men to be reconciled to God. And to “stir up” the minds of those who know these things already, and are established in the present truth, in order that they may have them always in remembrance, is the peculiar work of the Christian pastor, whose office it is “to feed the church of God which he has purchased with his own blood.”
In the verses before us, the apostle directs our p. 5attention, however, more particularly to the manner in which, as a minister of the gospel, he endeavoured to discharge this work; and the several statements which he has made are so strikingly descriptive of the ministerial labours of your own pastor and teacher, that I proceed at once to connect them with the work in which he was engaged.
In the first place, he endeavoured to discharge his work DILIGENTLY. “I will not be negligent,” says the apostle—and the man who undertakes to watch for the souls of others, and yet neglects them, is of all men the most criminal in his conduct now, and will be of all men the most miserable in his condition hereafter, when their blood is required at his hand. How mercifully clear from this awful charge is the character and conduct of your lamented pastor. “I will not be negligent,” was his motto and his determination every day of his life. It is true that he was endowed with intellectual capacities of a superior order, which enabled him, with considerable facility, to acquire languages and to collect stores of general knowledge; but he was always endeavouring to accumulate and improve; and, distinguished as he was by natural talents, he was equally distinguished by his aversion to negligence, and by his laborious and conscientious diligence. His habits, in this respect, had become so matured and confirmed, that he was as diligent in the fortieth year of his ministry, as he was in the first; and was pursuing, with all his heart, his inquiries into the great subjects connected with the gospel ministry, till he was smitten by the stroke of death. “In common life,” says he, in one of his printed sermons, “we p. 6consider it a shame to a man not to understand his business, and surely it is a shame to a man, who appears as a minister of Christ, not to be well versed in that knowledge which is intimately connected with the whole of his ministerial labour.” Influenced by these considerations, as a Christian he “gave diligence to make his calling and election sure;” living by faith on the Son of God, adding to his faith every Christian grace, wrestling with God in prayer, and crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts, lest, having professed and preached the gospel to others, he himself should be cast away. As a student, he meditated on these things, and gave himself wholly to them; daily searching the Scriptures in their original languages, and always having before him some object of inquiry and pursuit, which he investigated with a degree of devotedness and curiosity which remained as diligent and as prying in his age, as it had ever been in his youth. And, as a minister, he was diligent to know the state of his flock, and in making such studious preparations for the pulpit as enabled him always to feed you with knowledge and understanding. It was this diligence, which gave to all his social conversations, and especially to all his public discourses, a peculiarly instructive character; so that you might “know these things, and become established in the present truth.” You, my beloved friends, have not been accustomed to receive from your minister that which cost him nothing to procure. His sermons on the Lord’s day, were not the extemporaneous effusions of the moment, nor the hasty accumulations of the Saturday evening, which when delivered were “full of sound and p. 7fury, signifying nothing.” They were fraught with instruction, because they had been previously prepared with diligence and prayer: and you have listened to many of his expositions on the epistles, and to many of his courses of sermons on particular subjects, which shewed that he was “a scribe well instructed in the kingdom of heaven, who brought forth from his treasure things new and old.” These discourses had been previously written with great neatness and care, most of them too at considerable length: and he once acknowledged to a friend that, to the constant practice of writing his sermons, he owed what degree of accuracy they might possess when delivered. And it was this diligence that doubled his life: for if life is to be measured, not merely by years, but by labours and acquirements, it will appear that he lived twice the sixty-six years of some persons, and thereby enjoyed the fulfilment of the promise, “it shall be well with thee, and thou shalt live long upon the earth.”
Secondly, he endeavoured to discharge his work IMPRESSIVELY. The apostle says that he repeated the things which pertained to life and godliness, in order to “stir up” the minds of those whom he addressed, and thus to excite and to persuade them to cherish every christian grace, and to perform every christian duty. It is of essential importance that the doctrines which a minister addresses to his hearers, should be “the truth as it is in Jesus”—the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But even truth itself may be presented to the mind in such a way as make no “stir” in its energies or emotions. The matter may be good, but the manner may be so destitute of p. 8spirit and life, as to render every sermon an illustration of the scripture maxim, “the body without the spirit is dead, being alone.” This, you are aware, my brethren, was not the character of Mr. Kinghorn’s preaching. It was deeply impressive. It was full of “thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.” It exhibited all the force of his intellect, combined with all the fervour of his heart, so that every sermon which he preached resembled “the sea of glass which was mingled with fire.” The impressive and spirit-stirring influence which his preaching was calculated to produce, may however be traced to a variety of circumstances. For instance, he endeavoured to stir up your minds, by the plain and practical character of his discourses. Persons who live at a distance, and who judge of Mr. Kinghorn merely by his literary fame, or by his controversial writings, may perhaps suppose that his sermons were learned disquisitions and doubtful disputations. This was by no means the case—and though he could appear, and on suitable occasions did appear, as the profound scholar, and the skilful reasoner,—yet, however he may be estimated elsewhere, by those who knew him not, those who have been accustomed to associate with him in this city, and to sit under his ministry, knew him as the plain and practical preacher of the gospel, whose dress, and domestic economy, and manners in the parlour and in the pulpit, were simple and unostentatious, and whose one object it was to win souls to Jesus Christ. “It is the duty of the Christian minister,” and I am quoting his own words, “to exert himself, as far as he is able, that what he says may be intelligible and plain; and that, from the manner in p. 9which he delivers it, it may be impressive.”  He endeavoured to stir up your minds also, by the point and force with which he directed his appeals to your consciences and hearts; so that he met you at every turn, he compassed your path at every step, he pursued you into every avenue, and it seemed impossible to escape from his close and searching admonitions. His object was, not to polish his style so as to gain your admiration and applause, (he had no taste for that), but to point every sentence till it became like a two-edged sword, quick and powerful, which pierced to the dividing asunder of soul and body, and discerned the very thoughts and intents of your hearts. He endeavoured also to stir up your minds, by the earnestness and impressiveness of his manner. Though he was with you during a longer time than Moses was with the Israelites in the wilderness, yet “his eye was not dim, nor was his natural force abated.” He retained even to old age, much of the vigour and vivacity of his youth; and those who have had the opportunity of comparing together the earlier and the later periods of his ministry, are of opinion that the sermons of the last few years were more earnestly and impressively delivered, even than those which preceded. He no doubt felt increasingly the value of the gospel, as a source of holiness and happiness on earth, and as revealing and bestowing a life of eternal blessedness in heaven; and therefore, in proclaiming that gospel to you, he became increasingly earnest and fervent both in p. 10his feelings and in his manner. His heart was anointed with a holy unction which diffused its fragrance over all his feelings and his words, and his eyes often became “fountains of tears” when he spoke of the hopes which the gospel inspires, and when he told the enemies of the cross that their end was destruction. And when, on such occasions, his voice broke, (and it sometimes did with tremulous impressiveness,) a burst of holy eloquence was sure to follow, which thrilled, and subdued, and overwhelmed. But we must not omit to notice, that he endeavoured to stir up your minds, by the simplicity and piety of his life. And without this, his talents, his literature, and his eloquence, would have been of but little avail, for all his public labours would have been neutralized by his practical inconsistencies. But we all knew him and venerated him as a man of God. The doctrines which he preached in the pulpit were written in his life; and he was not only a preacher of Christ to his own congregation, but also “an epistle of Christ known and read of all men.” In the course of his religious experience, he had indeed passed through paths of darkness, and had contended with doubts and difficulties, such as but few Christians are called to endure. But, through the mercy of God, they served ultimately only to strengthen his faith and to confirm his hope—they gave him “the tongue of the learned, so that he knew how to speak a word in season to him that was weary”—and they chastened and humbled his mind under a deep conviction of human ignorance and imperfection, and of the necessity and value of that grace without which we are nothing, and can do nothing. Under the influence of that p. 11all-sufficient grace, his own character was formed and his own mind was excited, so that he was enabled to stir you up by his holy example, as well as by the simplicity, and point, and impressiveness of his preaching, that you might have these things always in your remembrance.
Thirdly, He endeavoured to discharge his work PERSEVERINGLY. The apostle determined to put them “always in remembrance of these things”—he thought it meet to stir up their minds as long as he was in this tabernacle,—“yea!” says he, “I will endeavour that ye may be able, after my decease, to have these things always in remembrance.” And this part of the apostle’s language is equally descriptive as the former of the determination and the conduct of our departed friend. Though his mind was highly speculative, though his curiosity was as young and prying at sixty as at twenty, and though, “through desire, he sought and intermeddled with all wisdom,” yet how steady, and straight forward, and persevering, was the course which he pursued. Whilst many by whom he was surrounded have diverged, some to the right hand, and others to the left, he kept on the even tenor of his way—professing neither to be a dreamer nor an interpreter of dreams, neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, but a disciple and a minister of Jesus Christ, whose duty it was to give himself wholly to the great things of the gospel, and to endeavour to pluck sinners as brands from the burning.
This, my brethren, is not to be considered as a full delineation of your beloved pastor’s general character. I have not attempted that, but merely to give you a brief sketch of the work in which p. 12he was engaged, and of the manner in which he endeavoured to discharge it. Still it may be sufficient to remind you of the diligence, the impressiveness, and the perseverance by which you knew him to be distinguished, and of your obligations to that power and grace which endowed him with these mental and moral qualities, and which induced and enabled him to consecrate them all to your service in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was from first to last, a sinner saved by grace. It was Christ alone who inspired his intellect, and formed his character, and redeemed his soul—and I honour the servant for the sake of the Master who made him what he was. For if such was the character of the minister, what must be the character of the Master! If such was the workmanship, what must be the skill and power of the architect himself! “Not unto us, O Lord, but unto thy name be the glory for what thy servants are. They have no glory in this respect by reason of the glory that excelleth in thee—for of thee, and through thee, and to thee are all things, and unto thee be glory for ever.”
Having thus considered the work in which, as a minister of the gospel, he was engaged during his life, let us now proceed to the second part of our subject, and consider,
II. The decease by which his work has been terminated.
The apostle Peter, whilst engaged in his labours, and whilst declaring the manner in which he would endeavour to pursue them, says, “Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me”—and by so saying, he probably refers to the prediction p. 13which had been addressed to him by Christ, and which John has recorded in the last chapter of his gospel. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, when thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thine hands and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.” The decease which was thus foretold, and which the apostle anticipated in our text, was soon afterwards realized. The earthly house of his tabernacle was dissolved amidst the pains of martyrdom, and he entered a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. A similar event has now befallen your beloved pastor. The putting off his tabernacle had long been the subject of his anticipation; it is now become the subject of his experience. His body has returned to the dust whence it was taken, and his spirit is gone to God who gave it.
His decease had been mercifully preceded by a long life of health and labour, and more than sixty-six years had elapsed from his birth to his departure. Some of the former of those years were connected with occasional attacks of sickness, which sometimes led him to expect an early grave; so that at the time of his ordination, upwards of forty years ago, he said to his father, “you are come to ordain a dying man”—and subsequently to that period, he was once visited with a severe and alarming illness. Nor is it improbable that these occasional admonitions of his mortality were the means, under the blessing of God, of producing much of that seriousness of spirit by which his p. 14mind was pervaded. Still, his was a life of comparative health, and when I visited him during the week in which he died, he told me that, till then, he had not been kept out of his pulpit by illness for a single sabbath, during a period of twenty-eight years. His last illness, as you are aware, was confined to one short week. It commenced on the evening of Saturday, August 25th, and concluded in his death, on the evening of the Saturday following—yet it is probable that the fever which at last consumed him, had, for some time previously, been accumulating its exhausting fires. His illness was so short, and of such a nature, as to afford scarcely any opportunities of conversation with him in order to ascertain the state of his mind—indeed those around him little expected that death was so near at hand. This, however, is a circumstance on which we reflect with no feelings of anxiety. His soul, and all its eternal interests, had long been committed to the Saviour. For him to live had been Christ; for him to die was gain. During nearly twelve hours before his departure, he was apparently inattentive to every surrounding object. His body and his mind seemed to be in a state of perfect peace. Not a word was spoken—not a limb stirred—not a symptom of pain appeared. The tide of life gently and silently ebbed away, till at length his breathing ceased, and his countenance faded into the paleness of death,
Calm and unruffled as a summer’s sea,
When not a breath of wind flies o’er its surface.
To himself—“thanks be to God who gave him the victory”—death was preceded by no terrors, and accompanied by no sting. Its bitterness was p. 15past before it was tasted, and he felt “the bliss” without “the pain of dying.” It has indeed terminated his labours, which he pursued with deep and increasing interest and delight. It has terminated his accustomed intercourse with earthly scenes and earthly friends. It has terminated a life to which he naturally and instinctively clung. But it has not terminated the existence of his spirit, nor its communion with God, nor its conformity to his image, nor its joy in the light of his countenance. Oh, no! He is absent from the body, but he is present with the Lord. He is gone to the spirits of the just made perfect. He has renewed his communion with many of the members of his church, which death had for a while suspended. He is with Watts, and Doddridge, and Fuller, and Ward, and Hall, and “the general assembly and church of the first born” in those celestial mansions, where all is perfection, and harmony, and love. He is in the pursuit of knowledge with ampler capacities and ampler means than any he possessed on earth. And, above all, he is with Christ—surrounded by the light and glory of his presence—sitting at his feet to receive knowledge and joy from his instructions, and deriving, from the fountain of his mercy, degrees of happiness as large as his desires, and as lasting as his immortality.
But whilst his decease has thus been productive of perfect and eternal blessedness to himself, it has been productive of mourning and bitterness to you. The voice which has often instructed, and admonished, and comforted you, is now silent in the dust. The heart which was so full of kindness, and which yearned over you with such paternal p. 16anxiety and love, has ceased its beatings. The eyes which beamed upon you, and wept over you with unutterable tenderness, are extinguished in the grave—and you are “sorrowing most of all that you shall see his face no more.” Some of you have lost the companion of your youth, with whom, for more than forty years, you have taken sweet counsel, and walked to the house of God in company. Some of you have lost a father in Christ, whose instrumentality first awakened you to a conviction of your guilt and danger, and then calmed your fears and soothed your agitations, by directing you to the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. All of you have lost a wise and affectionate friend, who was able to advise you in difficulty, to sympathize with you in sorrow, and to comfort you with the consolations with which he was comforted of God. And, by this sad stroke, I too have lost a father and a brother, with whom, for more than fifteen years, I have associated in this city, and to whose example and kindness I owe much as a minister of Jesus Christ. We have often conversed together freely on many subjects, even on those in which we differed in opinion—and all my intercourse with him has only served to increase my admiration of his talents, my veneration of his piety, and my desire to be like him in diligence, and impressiveness, and perseverance. May I die the death of the righteous! May my last end be like his!
As it is probably expected that I should give you a brief history of the deceased, I present you with the following sketch before I proceed to the concluding part of the discourse:—
The Rev. Joseph Kinghorn, the youngest child p. 17of David and Elizabeth Kinghorn, appears to have been born in Newcastle, Northumberland, on the 17th January, 1766. His father was, from about four years after the birth of his son, pastor of a small congregation of baptists in Bishop Burton, in Yorkshire, where he remained till he and his venerable partner came to reside with him in this city. Their son was in early life engaged in the employ of Messrs. Walker, Fishwick, and Co., of Newcastle, manufacturers of white lead; and whilst there he became a member of the baptist church. His qualifications for public usefulness were soon recognized by his brethren, with whose concurrence he was sent, at the joint expense of Mr. Ward and Mr. Fishwick, to enter on a course of study in the Bristol Academy, under the care of Dr. Caleb Evans, the divinity tutor, and of the Rev. Mr. Newton, the classical tutor, who was succeeded in that office by the Rev. Robert Hall, a short time before Mr. Kinghorn left the academy.
At the close of his studies Mr. Kinghorn visited Fairford, in Gloucestershire, and preached there for some time as a candidate for the pastoral office, but was prevented from settling among them by an unwarrantable suspicion, entertained by some of the people, respecting his orthodoxy, which appears to have harassed his mind and injured his health. At that time his friend, Mr. Fishwick, happened to be in Norwich on business; and, having been informed that the church here was destitute of a pastor, he warmly recommended his young friend as a candidate; in consequence of which, an invitation was sent from the church to Mr. Kinghorn, requesting his services for a few weeks; and he arrived in Norwich on the 28th March, 1789, and p. 18preached his first sermon here on the following Lord’s day, March 29th, from Romans v. 10.—“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”
Mr. Kinghorn’s immediate predecessor in this church, was the Rev. Rees David, who served it with fidelity and usefulness for eleven years, when he was cut off by a fever, in the February of 1788. The high degree of regard which Mr. David enjoyed, from the integrity of his character, his zeal for the cause of religion and of civil and religious liberty, and from the energy and power of his preaching, rendered it no small difficulty to obtain a successor acceptable to the destitute church; and though a minister of considerable talents had been supplying the vacant pulpit for some months after Mr. David’s death, yet opinions respecting him were so much divided, as to bring the congregation into a very uncomfortable state. It was at this crisis that Mr. Kinghorn arrived; and though much enfeebled and distressed when he came, yet in the society of the late Mr. and Mrs. William Wilkin, he found the consolations of a sincere and delicate friendship, and by frequent visits to their country residence, he soon regained the tone both of his body and mind. In after life he testified his sense of obligation to their kindness, by accepting the charge of their young and orphan children, over whom, as you well know, he watched with affectionate and parental care.
After having preached in Norwich for several sabbaths, he received an invitation from the church to become its pastor, which he accepted in January, 1790. On the 20th of the following May, he p. 19was ordained to the pastoral office; on which occasion the Rev. Zenas Trivett commenced the service; his father, the Rev. David Kinghorn, gave the charge, from 1 Timothy, iv, 13.—“Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine;” and the Rev. Mr. Richards, of Lynn, preached the sermon to the church and congregation.
Under his ministry, the congregation having increased in numbers and respectability, it was determined to pull down the old meeting house; and sums of money, sufficient for the erection of a new place, having been liberally subscribed by the people, the present place of worship was erected, and opened for divine worship, on Thursday, June the 25th, 1812; on which interesting occasion, Mr. Kinghorn preached in the morning from Psalm xc. 17; and the Rev. William Hull, in the evening, from Psalm xcv, 1, 2, 3.
In the later period of his life, he had the happiness of being again united to his aged parents, and of comforting their declining years; for when circumstances rendered it necessary for his father to resign his pastoral charge, the venerable pilgrims came to this city, as Jacob journeyed to Egypt, to see the prosperity of that son from whom they had been separated for so many years. You know how tenderly he fulfilled towards them every filial duty, how anxiously he watched over them, and how carefully he supplied their necessities. And when he had closed their eyes, and had given directions concerning their remains, you well remember how he addressed to you the affecting declaration, “I am now loosened from every earthly tie, and have no other care but you. Henceforth p. 20you, the members of this church, shall be my brother and my sister, my father and my mother.”
Having given you this brief detail, we now proceed to consider,
III. The remembrance of his work which it now behoves you to cherish.
Your own minister’s anxiety and endeavour during his life, like that of the apostle’s, was, that after his decease, you might have these things always in your remembrance. Still, it is not merely an intellectual remembrance of these things which it becomes you to cherish. You may remember every text from which he preached, and every sermon he has delivered, and yet neither be sanctified nor saved by their influence. Nor can you be saved by keeping in memory the things which you have heard, unless you remember them with faith, and experience, and practice; “for if ye know these things happy are ye if ye do them.” Permit me, therefore, earnestly and affectionately to address to you the following exhortations.
In the first place, you should cherish the remembrance of these things by BELIEVING the gospel which he preached. There are some of you, my beloved friends, whose minds I fear still need to be stirred up to the remembrance of the things that belong to your peace. The endeavours of your departed minister, diligent, and impressive, and persevering, as they were, have failed to awaken in your hearts the feelings of penitence and faith. Some of you have, perhaps, for many years, sat under the sound of that gospel which during every year has been to you “the savour of death unto death.” Throughout the whole course of his ministry you are the persons who occasioned p. 21his keenest anxieties and his bitterest disappointments; for so far as you were concerned he seemed to labour in vain, and to spend his strength for nought. Yet he warned, and exhorted, and admonished you to the last; and it should be to you, day and night, an awful and awakening remembrance, that the very last text from which he preached,  was the subject of a sermon emphatically addressed to you; for its language was, “Notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking, yet ye would not hearken unto me.” And these words, the last which he addressed to you on earth, were, perhaps, the first which he repeated concerning you at the bar of God. Ah! my brethren, were it possible for any thought to disturb his peaceful breast in heaven, it would be the recollection of the state of guilt and impenitence in which he has left you on earth—it would be the thought that now perhaps you and he are separated for ever. And shall this be the case? Can any of you—can you, my dear young friends, bear the thought that you may have bidden an eternal farewell to your faithful and paternal minister? Will you, who have procrastinated till his death, not have these things in your remembrance now, after his decease? When there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, shall he never be told that angels are rejoicing over you? And will you not from this time, and from the grave of your deceased instructor cry unto God, “My Father, thou art the guide of my youth?” My dear brethren, whether you be young or old, “behold now is the accepted time, behold now is the day p. 22of salvation.” To-morrow may be too late for ever; and if you delay, the remembrance of these things may be stirred up in your minds by the worm that dieth not, and by the fire that never shall be quenched. But if you wish to have these things in your remembrance now, go, by faith and prayer, to that Redeemer, whose gospel and whose minister you have hitherto neglected. Go to him with all the guilt and condemnation which that neglect has contracted. Go, as the prodigal went, with the feeling of penitence in your heart, and the confession of penitence on your lip—and whilst you are yet afar off, he will behold you with compassion, and run, and fall on your neck, and embrace you, and exclaim, “This my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found!”
Secondly, You should cherish the remembrance of these things by ADHERING to the gospel which he preached. For as it respects you who have, through grace, believed the gospel which he preached, his endeavour was that, after his decease, you might have these things ALWAYS in remembrance—and the Lord grant that his joy concerning you may be fulfilled. There are, I doubt not, many persons, once blessed with the ministry of our beloved friend on earth, who are now his companions in the skies; and of whom he has said already, “Behold here am I, and the children thou hast given me.” And there are, I trust, many now present who will be “his hope, and his joy, and his crown of rejoicing in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming.” You, my dear brethren in the Lord, can no longer enjoy the living instructions of your revered pastor, but it becomes you, as members of his church, to p. 23have the things which he once taught you always in remembrance. Adhere steadfastly and perseveringly to the doctrines, and to the spirit, and to the practice of the gospel of Jesus Christ, “by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned.” Imitate your deceased minister’s excellencies, and avoid his imperfections. Endeavour to equal him—endeavour to surpass him in all that is holy, and just, and good. Above all, let the same mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus; and repose, with unshaken confidence, on that grace which is sufficient for you, and on that strength which is made perfect in your weakness. You are now in circumstances such as require all the sympathy and consolation that the gospel can supply. Your minister is a corpse—the house of God in which he has been accustomed to meet you is become his sepulchre—and all your future meetings will be held around his grave. May the God of mercy be your comforter. May all the grace and tenderness which fills and flows from HIS heart who wept at the grave of Lazarus, flow into your own. And when you begin to look out for a successor to your deceased pastor, may you be directed to one who shall appear among you clothed with his mantle, and blessed with a double portion of his spirit. In all your future intercourse with each other, and in all your social meetings for devotion or for the business of the church, I beseech you, by the mercies of God, to adhere always to the gospel of Christ. Never lose the praise which you have in other churches of the saints, by destroying peace among yourselves. Let brotherly love continue. Let each individual among you determine, p. 24for the sake of Christ and of his people, to cherish it in his own heart and to exhibit it in his own conduct, and then its fragrance will perfume and bless the church. “It will be like the precious ointment on the head of Aaron, which went down to the skirts of his garments; and like the dew which descended on the mountains of Zion, where the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” “Jehovah bless you and keep you. Jehovah cause his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. Jehovah lift upon you the light of his countenance, and give you peace.”
Finally, You should cherish the remembrance of these things by CIRCULATING the gospel which he preached. This also, my brethren, was one of the things which your minister endeavoured that you should have in your remembrance after his decease—for the ready and efficient assistance which he gave to many of the religious institutions in this city—the efforts which he made to extend the gospel in the county—and the laborious zeal with which he endeavoured to promote the interests of the Baptist Missionary Society—all shew how desirous he was to advance the kingdom of Christ in the world. Go you, my brethren, and do likewise. Never become weary of labouring in the cause of Christ. And remember, for your encouragement, that though the priests are not suffered to continue by reason of death, though ministers of the gospel are as mortal as their hearers, and though all flesh is grass, there is, nevertheless, one thing stable and eternal in the midst of this moving and this dying world—and this one thing is, “the word of the Lord, that endureth for ever.” The church lives, though the pastor dies. The church must increase, p. 25though he has decreased. One generation shall pass away and another generation shall succeed, “till time and nature dies.” But during all this mortality and change, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,” and his word shall have free course and be glorified, till it cover and crown the world, and till the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever. “Then cometh the end, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule, and authority, and power. For he must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the lord.”
A COURSE OF
SHORT SERMONS FOR FAMILIES,
TO BE PUBLISHED IN
WEEKLY NUMBERS, AT A PENNY EACH.
PRINTED BY WILKIN AND FLETCHER, UPPER HAYMARKET, NORWICH.
October 5th, 1832.