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CHRISTIAN WARRIOR ANIMATED AND CROWNED: A Sermon occasioned by the Heroic Death of the Honourable Col. James
Gardiner, who was slain in the Battle at Preston-Fans, September 21, 1745. Preached at Northampton, October 13.
RIGHT HON. THE LADY FRANCES GARDINER.
MADAM, The intimate knowledge which I had of Colonel Gardiner's private as well as public character, and of that endeared friendship which so long subsisted between him and your Ladyship, makes me more sensible than most others can be, both of the inexpressible loss you have sustained, and of the exquisite sense you have of it. I might, in some degree, argue what you felt, from the agony with which my own heart was torn by that ever to be lamented stroke, which deprived the nation, and the church, of so great an ornament and blessing: And indeed, Madam, I was so sensible of your calamity, as to be ready in my first thoughts to congratulate you, when I heard the report which at first prevailed, that you died under the shock. Yet cooler reflection teaches me, on many accounts, to rejoice that your Ladyship has survived that dearest part of yourself; though after having been so lovely and pleasant in your lives, it would have been matter of personal rejoicing, in death not to have been divided. The numerous and promising offspring with which God hath blessed your marriage, had evidently the highest interest in the continued life of so pious and affectionate a mother : And I hope, and assuredly believe, there was a more important, and to you a much dearer interest concerned, as God may be, and is, signally honoured, by the manner in which you bear this heaviest and most terrible stroke of his paternal rod.
God hath been pleased, Madam, to make you both eminent for a variety of graces; and he has proportionably distinguished you both, in the opportunity he has given you of exercising those, wbich suit the most painful scenes that can attend a pious and an honourable life. But when I consider, what it is, to have lost such a man, at such a time, and in such circumstances, I must needs declare, that brave and heroic as the death of the Colonel was, your Ladyship's part is beyond all comparison the hardest. Yet even here bas the grace of Christ been sufficient for you; and I join with your Ladyship in adoring the power and faithfulness of hin, who has here 80 remarkably shewn, that he forgets not his promise to all his people of a strength proportionable to their day ; that they may be enabled to glorify bim in the hottest furnace, into which it is possible they should be cast.
To hear, as I have heard from several persons of distinguished character, who have lately had the happiness of being near your Ladyship, of that meek resignation to the divine will, of that calm patience, of that christian courage, with which, in so weak a state of health and spirits, you have supported under tlris awful providence, has given me great pleasure, but no surprise, So near a relation to so brave a man might have taught some degree of fortitude, to a soul less susceptible of it than your Ladyship’s. Nor is there any doubt, but that the prayers he has so long been laying up in store for you, especially since the decay of his constitution gave him reason to expect a speedy remove, will assuredly at such a season come into remembrance before God. And above all, the sublime principles of the christian religion, so deeply imbibed into your own heart as well as his, will not fail to exert their energy on such an occasion. These, Madam, will teach you to view the hand of a wise, a righteous, and a gracious God in this event; and will shew you, that a friendship founded on such a basis, so very endearing, and so closely cemented, as that which has been here for many years a blessing to you both, can know only a very short interruption, and will soon grow up into an union infinitely nobler and more delightful, which never shall be liable to any separation. • In the mean time, Madam, it may comfort us not a little under the sense of our present loss, to think what religious improvement we may gain by it, if we are not wanting to ourselves: And happy shall we be indeed, if we so hear the rod, as to receive the instructions it so naturally suggests and enforces. Persons of any serious reflection will learn from this awful event, how little we can judge of the divine favour by the visible dispensations of providence here: They will learn, and it may be of great importance to consider it, just in such a crisis as this, that no distinguished degree of piety can secure the very best of men from the sword of a cominon enemy: And they will see, written, alas, in characters of the most precious blood, that war ever spilt in our island, the vanity of the surest protectors and comforters which mortality can afford, at a time when they are most needed.
These are general instructions, which, I hope, thousands will receive, on this universally lamented occasion : But to you, Madam, and to me, and to all that were honoured with the most intimate friendship of this christian hero, his death has a peculiar voice. Whilst it leads us back into so many past scenes of delight, in the remembrance of whiich we now pour out our souls within us, it calls aloud, amidst all this tender distress, for a tribute of humble thankfulness to God, that ever we enjoyed such a triend, and especially in such an intimacy of mutual affection; and that we had an opportunity of observing, in so many instances, the secret recesses of a heart, which God had enriched, adorned, and ennobled with so much of his own image, and such abundant communications of his grace: It calls for our redoubled diligence and resolution, in imitating that bright assemblage of virtues, which shone so resplendent in our illustrious friend: And surely it must, by a kind of irresistible influence, mortify our affections to this impoverished world; and must cause nature to concur with grace, in raising our hearts upwards to that glorious abode, where he dwells triumphant and immortal, and waits our arrival with an ardor of pure and elevated love, which it was impossible for death to quench.
Next to these 'views, nothing can give your Ladyship greater satisfaction, than to reflect, how happy you made the amiable consort you have lost, in that intimate relation you so long bore to each other; in which, I well know, that growing years ripened and increased your mutual esteem and friendship. Nor will your generous heart be insensible of that pleasure, which may arise from reflecting, that the manner of his death, though in itself so terrible, that we dare not trust imagination with the particular review, was to him, in those circumstances, most glorious; to religion highly ornamental; and to his country, great as his loss is, on various accounts beneficial, Far, very far, be it from us to think, that Colonel Gardiner, though fallen by the weapons of rebellion and treason, has fought and died in vain, I trust in God, that so heroic a behaviour will inspire our warriors with augmented courage, now they are called to exert it in a cause, the most noble and important that can ever be in question, the cause of our laws, our liberty, and religion. I trust, that all who keep up a correspondence with hea. ven by prayer, will renew their intercession for this bleeding land with increasing fervour, now we have lost one who stood in the breach with such un wearied importunity. And I am well assured, that of the multitudes whia lay up his memory in their inmost hearts with veneration and love, not a few will be often joining their most affectionate prayers to God, for your Ladyship, and the dear rising branches of your family, with those which you may, in consequence of a thousand obligations, always expect from
Rev. ii. 10. latter Part.
Be thou faithful unto Death, and I will give thee a Crown of Life.
IT is a glory peculiar to the christian religion, that it is capable of yielding joy and triumph to the mind, amidst calamities, in which the strength of nature, and of a philosophy that has no higher a support, can hardly give it serenity, or even patience. Those boasted aids are but like a candle in some tempestuonis night, which how artificially soever it may be fenced in, is often extinguished amidst the storm, in which it should guide and cheer the traveller, or the mariner; whom it leaves on a sudden, in darkness, horror and fear: While the consolation of the gospel, like the sun, makes a sure day even when behind the thickest cloud, and soon emerges from it with an accession of more sensible lustre.
The observation is verified in these words, considered in connection with that awful providence, which has this day determined my thoughts to fix upon them, as the subject of my discourse; the fall of that truly great and good man, Colonel Gardiner: The endearing tenderness of whose friendship would have rendered his death an unspeakable calamity to me, had his character been only of the common standard; as on the other hand, the esalted excellency of his character makes his death to be lamented by thousands, who were not happy in any peculiar intimacy or personal acquaintance with him,
While we mourn the brave warrior, the exemplary christian, and the affectionate friend; lost to ourselves and our country, to the church and the world, at a time when we most needed all the defence of his bravery, all the edification of his example, all the comfort of his converse: Struck with the various and aggravated sorrow of so sudden, and so terrible a blow, methinks there is but one voice that can cheer us, which is this of the great Captain of our salvation, so lately addressing him, and still addressing us, in these comprehensive and animated words; Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
With regard to the connection of them, it may be sufficient to observe, that our Lord in all these seven epistles to the Asiatic churches represents the christian life as a warfare, and the blessings of the future state as rewards to be bestowed on conquerors. To him that overcometh will I give such and such royal donatives. Pursuing the same allegory, he warns the church of Smyrna of an approaching coinbat, which should be attended with some severe circumstances. Some of them were to become captives; the devil shall cast some of you into prison: And though the power of the enemy was to be limited, in its extent, as well as its duration, to the tribulation of ten days, it seems to be implied, that while many were harrassed and distressed during that time, some of them should before the close of it be called to resist unto blood. But their great leader furnishes them with suitable armour, and proportionable courage, by this gracious assurance, which it is our present business farther to contemplate: Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
In which words you naturally observe a charge,~-~and a promise by which it is enforced. I shall briefly illustrate each, and then conclude with some reflections upon the whole.
First, I am to open the charge here given: Be thou faithful unto death.
Concerning which I would observe, that though it is immediately addressed to the church at Smyrna, yet the nature of the thing and numberless passages of the divine word concur to prove, that it is common in its obligation, to all christians, and indeed to all men.
I shall not be large in explaining the nature of faithfulness in general; concerning which I might shew you, that the word here rendered faithful, has sometimes a relation to the testimony which God has given us, and sometimes to some trust that he has reposed in us. In the former sense, it is properly rendered believing, and opposed to infidelity: Be not faithless, but believing * In the latter, it is opposed to injustice: He that is faithJul in that which is least, is faithful also in much; whereas he that is unjust in the least, is unjust also in mucht. And it is in reference to this sense of it, that our Lord represents himself as saying to the man who had improved his talents aright, Well done, good and faithful servant I! Our deceased friend was so remarkably faithful in both these senses ; so ready to admit, and so zealous to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; and so