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DELIVERED BY THE REV. J. TOPHAM,
AT ST. ANDREWS, DROITWICH, ON WEDNESDAY, OCT. 17, 1832. The day voluntarily set apart by the inhabitants as a Day of Thanksgiving to Almighty Gon, for removing from among them the Cholera Morbus.
Psalm cxvi. 2. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long at I live."
WE, have this day, met together, in the courts of the Lord's house, publicly to testify to him the gratitude we feel for the mercy and lovingkindness shown to us, in sparing our lives, and preserving our health during the late heavy and alarming visitation of pestilence, with which the inhabitants of this place have been generally afflicted. We still read of the progress of the malady, and of its deadly character, in every region where it has made, or is making, its sojournment. We also hear of its re-appearance in places over which it had formerly blown its lifeblasting breath; and we are told that the nature of the disease is as little understood, as at its first recognition in the world, seventeen years ago. It becomes us, therefore, to be thankful for the favour we have received, and to remember the professions we made in the season of danger and apprehended destruction. No doubt many of you were called to a lively sense of religion by the alarming situation in which you were placed. No doubt many who had hitherto been negligent of the worship of God, and had previously walked in the broad way of sin and death, when they saw the strong and powerful among their acquaintance, writhing and tortured on the bed of sickness, or hurried to the dark region of the tomb, with scarcely
any warning of the awful destiny that awaited them, began to look into their hearts, and to canvas their past lives, and to reflect, whether they were in a condition, if also attacked, to meet the investigation of their Lord, or to abide his second coming, to judge the world in righteousness. The sinner then felt the insecurity of his position. He was conscious of his unworthiness, and looked round for some means of deliverance, from the weight of compunction, which, bowed down his spirit and racked his soul. He recollected that he had done many things he ought not to have done, and left undone many he ought to have done— and wished that his conduct had been more holy and regular; more godly and less worldly. In the poignancy of his affliction he turned to GODhe earnestly resolved, if spared from destruction, to reform his life, and cleanse and purify his heart; and straitway his soul was refreshed and his hope of deliverance strengthened. In this happy moment of renewed confidence in his GOD, he pronounced the vow of obedience in the language similar in import to that of the Psalmist, "Because, O Lord, thou hast inclined thine ear unto me, therefore, will I call upon thee, as long as I live."
The hand of the Destroying Angel hath now been stayed, "and man
goeth forth again to his labour until the evening," with his accustomed hilarity; seemingly forgetful of the dangerous path he has lately trod through the valley and shadow of death. He returns insensibly to his old habits of thought and of action, and will fall into his former condition, without a continual communion is kept up by prayer, with the Holy Spirit of GOD. The heart must be constantly guarded, or it will soon be defiled with wicked thoughts and lusts: the remembrance of which, lately so heavily disturbed and disquieted it. A tight rein must, therefore, be kept over the passions, and a watch set before the door of his lips, lest he relapse into his former unfruitful or wicked courses, and he become tenfold more a child of Satan than before.
During the prevalence of the disease we were made sensible, that vain was the help of man, when once the human system was thoroughly contaminated by its poison; and more particularly, that persons in advanced years and weakly constitutions, or vicious habits, were speedily made its victims. It becomes all, therefore, to seriously consider the state and condition of their spiritual affairs; to investigate the nature and excellence of the religious system which the Providence of GOD has blessed them with; and to make provision for "the one thing needful," should suddenly danger again burst upon them and overwhelm them by its violence.
The Holy Scriptures should frequently form the contemplation of every redeemed child of Adam. The state of the world previous to the coming of the Just One, will show us, how utterly unable we are to pursue the road that leadeth to happiness without aid from above; and that the unregenerate mind is at enmity with holiness, and eager to follow uncleanness with greediness. In the Gospel we learn how the soul may be puri
fied and enlightened, may be blessed and sanctified. We there find the peace we had lost. We behold, the hand-writing that was against our species, nailed to the cross, and obliterated by the sacred blood of Jesus. We see the just, offering himself as an atonement of the sins of the unjust, and GOD reconciled to the world by the greatness of the sacrifice-and in the wonderful plan of salvation therein revealed, we are made fellowworkers with the great Captain of our redemption, by being called to pursue a similar line of duty and of trial to that which was once practised by the eternal Son of GOD. He came to seek and to save that which was lost, by obedience to the decrees and appointments of his heavenly Father; and we are not only to make our calling and election sure, by working out our own salvation, but also to save others, by disseminating and making known the glad tidings of the Gospel among our brethren at home by every means in our power, and by spreading abroad the great truths of the Bible through every nation, people, and language, that cover the face of the world. The principles of our faith ought to be thoroughly incorporated with our constitutions, and made the moving power of every thought, and word, and action; the touch-stone of our character; and the bright beacon of our conduct, so that men seeing our good works may be induced to turn from wickedness to holiness; and together with us, glorify by their lives, our Father who is in Heaven.
With us who have experienced the special protection of Heaven, and seen the power of GOD exerted amidst our habitations, there is the strongest inducement, nay, the most imperative compulsion, to observe and follow the commands of GOD our Saviour in all things during the remainder of our lives. We have renewed our covenant with him. We have solemnly pro
mised henceforward to be his willing servants. We have acknowledged his protecting Providence; and our duty is clear and obvious; "Because he hath inclined his ear unto us, therefore, should we call upon him as long as we live."
health, we scarcely could reconcile with our reason. Having ourselves experienced the chastisements of the Lord, we learn to feel for our fellowChristians, when suffering under similar circumstances; we see the necessity of bestowing relief speedily, in order to insure recovery to the patient. We are forcibly reminded how dependent we are upon each other for comfort and support; and we confess "that it is better to go to the house of mourning," than to the house of
Consider well, my brethren, the change of heart and conduct which these words imply. You have been brought by the fear of danger or by the life-consuming energy of disease, to the footstool of the Almighty-you have beheld the mercy of GoD ex-feasting, in order to learn properly our tended in a wonderful manner to yourselves and families, when every mortal hope was disappearing; and you have felt that the consolation arising from the doctrines and promises of the Bible, are the only sure support in the day of trouble, the only well whence the waters of comfort can be drawn in the hour of affliction and disease. In health, forget not the mercies you have experienced, the promises you have made, and the resolutions you have engaged to fulfil. Let not business occupy all your thoughts; blend your duty to your family and to the world, with the duties of your religion; and let every transaction be grounded on the principles of the Gospel. This will instruct you how to behave in every branch of your conduct :whether high or low, rich or poor, the word of GOD will be found adapted to all circumstances and conditions of
In times of general distress and alarm arising from the visitations of disease, we are made sensible of the feebleness of our condition, and readily perceive the force of many of those passages in Holy Writ which in the gay run of prosperity and
duty to our neighbour, ourselves, and our God, which we have hitherto looked upon as a scene above all others to be avoided. We also see the use of affliction in proving the soundness of our religious principles. By it our faith is tried; and our humility and resignation to the will of GoD exemplified. Job was fed with the bread of pain, and his body scarified with putrid and tormenting sores, yet he suffered not the violence of the calamities that oppressed him to shake his confidence in the wisdom and just providence of GOD. And his history is written for our learning; his conduct is a model for the future imitation of suffering mortality, whenever it shall please the Almighty "to plague us with divers diseases and sundry kinds of death." Daniel and David were both men of sorrow and acquainted with grief, and the outpourings of a wounded and humbled spirit are to be found in many of the most sublime effusions of the sweet singer of Israel. These, indeed, have furnished balm for mourners, and modes of expression for the afflicted in every age of the world since the time that he sojourned upon earth. In the murkiest moments of despondency, the contrite sinner may derive comfort from the perusal of the Book of Psalms—an oil may be drawn from this divine fount, which, if sprinkled on the most troubled waters, will calm their tumult
and still their raging; and though the soul be cast down when the work of perusal is but commenced, yet before many pages shall have been read and digested," hope in GoD" will have refreshed and consoled the heart.
You, therefore, my brethren, who know what the terrors of the Lord are —you who have experienced the mercy of GOD when numbers were falling around your dwellings-you who have been brought to the confines of the grave and then set at liberty from the galling chain which had nearly weighed down your body to the dust-remember what were the feelings of your minds when the press of suffering was apon you-remember what were the resolutions of your hearts, what the professions of your lips, when the danger was receding, and the dart of Death averted. Were not your knees bent, and your eyes raised to Heaven for the mercy then happily displayed? Did you not resolve on recovery to call upon the Lord as long as you might live, because he had inclined his ear unto you, and snatched you from the jaws of the grave, which to your affrighted imaginations appeared opening to receive you? Do you now observe your vows? My brethren, the good resolutions then formed must faithfully be practised. The dark shades in your Christian character must be wiped out. The graces of a child of GOD must be substituted in the place of many frivolous and trifling qualifications, which previously to your illness or alarm, you looked upon with complacency, but in the season of sickness and severe scrutiny you felt their insignificance and vanity. You must be clothed with humility;
animated by love towards the brethren; stimulated to well-doing by faith in Christ; active in charity; fervent in prayer; steady in your religious duties, and have a conscience void of offence towards GoD and towards
Then, whether the Almighty shall allow you to enjoy many years, or this shall be the last which now the sun marks by his waning ray, as drawing near to its close; whether your path through life be overcast with storm and darkness, or smooth and bright; enlivened by success and happiness, or depressed by misfortune and poverty, you may still rest on that anchor which will moor you securely in the haven of eternal bliss; and when the days of your pilgrimage shall have passed, and your years drawn to an end as a tale that is told, you shall live for ever in that kingdom which Christ came to prepare for all that love him and keep his commandments, safe under the protection of the Almighty, and happy in his presence throughout the ages of eternity. Which God grant may be the determination and the lot of all who have lately experienced the mercy of Heaven; who are here this day met to praise their great and good preserver for the kindness and favour they have received, and who are henceforward resolved to make religion their study and rule of conduct; to repose on the merits of their Redeemer for pardon; to imitate him, and worship him, and call upon him, as long as they live, "Because in their distress he inclined his ear unto them, and helped them." Amen.
On the arrival of "the latter day," the bodies of believers will be raised in a state refined and glorified. Notwithstanding the dissolution that awaited him," in my flesh," exclaimed the patriarch, I shall see GOD:" and it is now plain that he recognised and delighted in the mystery of the resurrection of the body, to which we have already averted-that grand truth, on which Christianity has shed the light of its full disclosure. -Here was, moreover, an anticipation, not only of a resurrection, but of that glorious resurrection, that resurrection unto life," which is to be the exclusive portion and privilege of the redeemed people of GoD. It is the subject of emphatic promise, that at the sounding of the trumpet which shall announce the second coming of Jesus, "the dead in Christ shall rise," beautiful and lovely from their graves, and assume a perfected nature before the throne. As to the mode, and many of the circumstances, of that blessed restoration, there is an impenetrable mystery; yet we know that wonderful will be the change. With what ecstatic delight must our bosoms glow, when we meditate on the record that proclaims it! Listen, believer, and rejoice! "It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. As we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." "The Saviour shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to
the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."And is it not indeed animating to the soul, when it can look forward to the arrival of the day to be signalized, for all the saints of the Lord, by an exaltation like this? Multitudes have already gone from the abodes of the living; the worm has preyed upon them, and their bones have mouldered. Generation after generation yet shall pass away. Some may sleep in the graves of their fathers, and in an assemblage of holy dust; some may have their tombs dug by foreign hands, in foreign climes, where is no friend to mourn; some may have their ashes scattered to the winds of heaor perhaps the unfathomed ocean may be made their funeral-bed, and there they may lie beneath the heaving billow,“ unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown." But what matters it where lie the Christian's remains? and what matters it how he may be tenanted in the regions of death? That vast variety of disposal shall all be over, at the shout of him who is the "Resurrection and the Life." Not one then shall be left in the desolate slumber. All, from every clime and period, shall be clothed afresh, and arise, and gather, bright and splendid in heavenly radiance, into one vast assembly, the inheritors of everlasting joy. What inspiration is in the prospect! Who feels not already a triumph over death? and whose spirit, eager and panting for the destined majesty, does not unite in the cry of the ransomed church,— "We wait for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body?"—J. PARSONS.