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SERMON BY THE REV. T. DALE, M. A.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 1832.
A Thanksgiving Sermon, DELIVERED BY THE REV. THOMAS DALE, M. A. AT ST. MATTHEW'S CHAPEL, DENMARK HILL, ON THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 1832,
RECOMMENDING THE FORMATION OF A DISTRICT VISITING SOCIETY.
Deut. iv. 4.--" But ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God, are alive every one of
you this day." A year has now revolved, an anxious, | him by a stoke. Few then affected, threatening, and eventful year, since and fewer felt indifference, for even we first began to assemble weekly in those who neither acknowledged nor this place, in order to deprecate the manifested any open solicitude to judgment which we could not but others, were, there is little room to confess that we had deserved ; and to doubt, inwardly apprehensive for implore protection against an enemy, themselves. Of the panic which the from which no human foresight could first alarm excited, and the precaudeliver, no skill of man could save. tions which were wisely employed The blasting of the breath of divine to guard against the dreaded enemy, displeasure had already been felt this village and neighbourhood is within the limit of our ocean shores, an example and an evidence ;-this though impregnable to human foes; place, where a munificence withand every face gathered blackness, out precedent and almost without and every man's heart shrunk within parallel, provided for the immediate him from fear; for we presaged our succour of the indigent, and the breakown destiny from that of our brethren ing off of iniquities, was at least so on the continent, and anticipated, as far evinced, as it could be by shewing we had merited, a wide and sweep- pity to the poor. But the God of all ing desolation. Already the trem- mercy–He whose very judgments are bling parent in imagination saw the tempered by this his favoured and commissioned destroyer entering into peculiar attribute, was better to us the sanctuary of his peaceful home, than our fears; the dark cloud imand sweeping away the fairest and pended over us, but it did not descend the dearest of his offspring ; the in blood; and when in this vicinity wife trembled for the husband of her the visitation was at the worst, the youth, and the husband looked with living were still counted as thousands, anxious and dreary forebodings on and the dead were reckoned but by the faithful partner of all his joys and tens — while, of the congregation Sorrows, as though the desire of his which I am wont to address in this eyes were about to be severed from place, scarcely one member, so far
as my knowledge extends, has been vile material as the perishable body, even slightly smitten by the destroy- and were equally involved in the sening scourge; not one has been swept tence, “Dust thou art, and unto dust by it from the land of the living. Yes, shalt thou return”-it would be combrethren, a year has elapsed, and the paratively of little moment by what number of deaths from this cause instrumentality we were swept from alone has swelled beyond the fearful the face of this earth, and the sharp aggregate of five-and-twenty thou- yet brief agony of the rapid and fearsand; and yet we, that did cleave unto ful epidemic would perhaps be no the Lord, are alive every one of us this more formidable, than a less painful day-this day,when the official reports indeed, but greatly more protracted are once again discontinued, and the struggle ; or even the slow and wearidisease, which has been so long some process of the gradual extinction abating, seems at last on the eve of of the taper of life, when it has burned extinction. And ought we not then through its longest interval of fourto ask, each of his own heart, “What score years, and is glimmering dimly shall I render to the Lord for all his over the slowly opening grave. All benefits that he hath done unto me!"- considerations of comparative and and ought we not all to reply_each present suffering obviously fade into from his inmost soul_“I will receive utter insignificance, before the estithe cup of salvation—I will call upon mate which we spiritually form conthe name of the Lord.”
cerning that portion of man, in which But benefits forgotten or misapplicd alone he resembles the Divinity; and it
- far worse - in their would be an imbecility descending beeventual and abiding result than cala- low that of the idiot, and a frenzy outmities apprehended or endured. Tri- raving that of the madman, seriously to bulation worketh patience--and pa- weigh the respective interests of the tience experience - and experience body and the soul, believing, that is, in hope — but what doth ingratitude the existence and reality of the latter. work? Shall we go, for an answer, to Ifthen we attempt to estimate the benethe dreary regions of fearful expecta- fit conferred on the only proper princition, in which impenitent sinners are ples of the influence it may exercise reserved under darkness to the judg- over eternity, it will appear, that some ment of the great day ?—No, beloved of us are still cumbering the ground, brethren;
may the Spirit attune but with hope of bearing fruit, who our hearts to gratitude, and draw us to might otherwise have been cut down our God by the cords of love, while and cast into the unquenchable fire;we consider
some are becoming heirs of immortaFirst, THE BENEFIT CONFERRED. lity, who would otherwise have been Secondly, THE RETURN EXPECTED. fixed for ever inheritors of the curse
Thirdly, THE DUTY TO BE PER- some are being made meet through FORMED.
grace for the inheritance of the saints THE BENEFIT CONFERRED varies in in light, who would otherwise by unredegree with the circumstances of pented corruptions and an unregeneevery individual, at least when con- rate heart, have been suited only to the templated in his highest and most congenial fellowship, of the devil and durable relation as an heir of immor- his angels. Some are preparing for tality. If, indeed, it were to be regard- a higher degree, who would otherwise ed only in a temporal sense, and the have been scarcely saved, even so as soul were compounded of the same by fire. Some are spared to exhibit the beauty and extend the influence of a undiscriminating edge. The Christian truly Christian example, perhaps to the parent then, who would not have conviction, conversion, and salvation shrunk from a personal encounter of others, whom it may be the Lord's with the King of Terrors, covered as gracious pleasure to save by their he is with the shield of God, and proinstrumentality alone and even those tected by the Captain of Salvation, who are at once mature of years, and and strong in the Spirit to wield the ripe for glory, and who would have weapon of all prayer and supplicadescended to the grave as a shock of tion—would he not tremble for his corn cometh in its season, and would child, the object of so many sleepless have found it gain to die—even these anxieties, so many fervent prayers ; may yet find it Christ to live—may who is, perhaps, all that could be find work to do, ere they receive their desired, as to his temporal relations, promised and purchased inheritance, and of all that he could possess, lacks which will add another leaf to their only the one thing needful! Would undying wreath, another jewel to it not be a wound, especially bitter their immortal crown; and should and enduringly painful and poignantHow cause them heartily to coincide ly acute — ever rankling - throbin the confidence of the Apostle, “I bing - festering - into which grace know that to abide in the flesh is more alone could pour the soothing balm, Deedful to you.” To all, however ad- and which grace itself would not vaneed in grace, and matured for glory, wholly heal on this side the grave, to the prolongation of life is, or may be, think that some endeared relative, made a blessing. O may we then be some beloved friend, some of those taught not only gratefully to acknow- whose image is treasured in the inledge the past, but be thus stimulated most soul, and can be obliterated by to the more active discharge of duty no hand save that of death-might be by considering the object, where- severed from all possibility of reFORE We are spared ?
pentance without a single remaining The benefit, moreover, will be en- hope of pardon, and thus could only in hanced by another consideration. future recur to our remembrance as Temporally and spiritually, it is alike one suffering the vengeance of etertrue, that none of us liveth to him- nal fire-would it not be dreadful, to self, and no man dieth to himself. It take up the Volume, within which our is not only the righteous who are own eternal hopes are comprehended swept away by pestilential disease and comprised, and to find in it the the hurricane that desolates the earth seal and the signet to the irremediable does not carry before it only the full ruin—it might be of the object most ripe ears, which, mightily and mar- beloved—so that we could never read vellously controlled, it would waft to our own title sure to mansions in the the granary of the Great Husbandman. skies, without reading also the record When a scourge of this character en- of their imperishable, unchangeable ters into a neighbourhood, it destroys woe. Ah brethren-however calmly and depopulates without respect of oreyenjoyfully you may have contempersons—moral and spiritual worth is plated for yourselves putting off the as little heeded by the Avenger as is mortal tabernacle, be thankful for the thick clay of perishable wealth— those to whom life prolonged may be whateverencounters the scythe--weed, the soul preserved, and the day that flower, or grain-is alike mown down is lengthened may be a day of grace, by its merciless, and unsparing, and a time of salvation. And you, who
are such-who feel that you are- attributes of the unsearchable God who look back upon the danger you himself? Beings infinitely superior have been spared with an inward, to our feeble and perishable nature though involuntary, conviction, that are awed and abashed in his presence had it come suddenly upon you, it | -the very heavens are not pure in would have been the wreck of your His sight, and he charges his angels eternal hope, the seal of your ever- with folly-how much less then man, lasting ruin-oh, close not your eyes who is a worm, and the son of man, to the mercy by which you have been that is a worm! All, therefore, that reprieved--and let a grateful remem- we can do to express our sense of brance of it be one motive among unexpected, unmerited, and unexmany to render the expected return. ampled mercy, is not by rendering, Surely we are not to receive all, and but by receiving—not by returning, render none-not only does the cor- but by imparting-not, as some errorupt human heart itself rise up against neously imagine, by multiplying peso monstrous a supposition, but the nances, by wearing sackcloth, and Psalmist asks “What shall I render dwelling among ashes, and feeding to the Lord ;" and if even you who on bitter bread and bowing down the did not cleave to him are yet alive, head as a bulrush, and living in a every one of you this day--do you dungeon and sleeping in a coffin-but not owe a double return of grati- by exhibiting the mercy which we tude, in that he did not even smite have received, by commending the the body, when he might justly have love which we have avowed, by recondemned the soul? Consider, there-joicing in the Lord, and causing others fore, one and all,
to rejoice with us, and proclaiming Secondly—THE RETURN REQUIRED. to all within the range of our influ
The question here is, simply, how ence,“O taste and see that the Lord is since Gop has done so much for us, gracious. Come, and I will tell you what should we do for God? We can- what he hath done for my soul.” The not ascend into heaven, and lay at his debt is one which we can never pay, feet the inadequate tribute of our im- and which we must be contented still perfect adoration and faltering praise to owe; but O how delightful to owe -we cannot dive into the depth of to such a Giver! how delightful to acocean, and bring up the precious pearl knowledge our obligation to such a that is yet unpolluted by human gaze, Benefactor! What can more kindle and present it to him, in token of our the affections and more expand the gratitude-we cannot offer the beasts heart than to recognize and realise of the forest, or immolate the cattle our individual mercies; to feel that upon a thousand hills — and if we God takes care of us—not generally, could, all would be in vain, for our not promiscuously, not as part and goodness extendeth not to God, and parcel of the great human family, before we can add a spark to his glory but separately, and distinctly, and -his essential and eternal and un- personally, and individually, so that varying glory, incapable of increase each is known, and distinguished, and as of estimate—we may try our puny discriminated before Him. powers to enhance the lustre of the God, seest me—my name is written meridian sun, or to make the illimit- in thy book of life”-to think that each able ocean overflow. If, then, the of us is as vividly and as distinctly works of God laugh our diminutive impressed on the capacious and comefforts to scorn, how much more the prehensive heart of Jesus, as if he
had died for none beside ourselves ; | ledgment, while it begins in the house and that the Holy Spirit takes up his of God, must extend its influence to abode as decidedly and as peculiarly the duties of active life ; like Euwith us, as if he had not another living phrates, its source may be lost amid temple upon earth! We all look upon the invisible and inaccessible groves of the same sun, and it shines to all with Eden; but it must go forth to water undiminished lustre; and its light the earth. The river of life must irriwould be equally necessary to life and gate and refresh the thirsty and barjoy-equally quickening and reviving, ren soil of the wilderness, that it if none beheld it but ourselves, while may cause the dreary waste to bud yet it is not the less so to all that do forth, and blossom as the rose. We bebold it. So is God to the believer must be willing to exert ourselves - He is a sun and he is a shield, and in the service of God, and we ought his protection, beneath the recent to do it actively and cheerfully ;danger, is signally manifested to each not forcibly driven to it, like slaves of his people, as if he or she had chained to the oar, by the soundbeen the only one preserved. Surely ing lash of conscience sounding in I am not the less indebted to God
our ears; not goaded to it, like solfor his gracious deliverance, be- diers of the craven heart and nervecause he has sheltered my neigh-less arm, who only advance to the bour also beneath the shadow of his enemy before, because a forest of wing? Surely the benefit loses nothing lances frowns upon him from behind. of its virtne by being communicated Much is lost to the cause of religion to others? How should it when the and of the church, because the provalue of the life is not thus affected, fessing people of God will not sponpor the capacity of the soul impaired ? taneously arouse and exert themHowever widely the benefit may ex- selves-will not seek after and seize tend, whatever number may par- upon opportunities of doing good, take it with ourselves, the enquiry which require a moderate portion of should ever recur, and it should be in self-denial, much less make such for all cases a personal one,“What shall themselves—will confer with flesh and I reader to the Lord, for all the bene- blood, instead of asking, “What can I fits that he hath done to me? I will do this day for my Saviour—for my receive the cup of salvation, and call God—what can I render to the Lord for on the name of the Lord.”
all the benefits that he hath done unto The return required therefore con- me? Can I in any way advance the sists primarily in acknowledgment. interests of pure and undefiled reliWboso offereth praise, he honoureth gion? Can I impress the irreligious me. It is essential, that we solemnly of my own family-promote the diffuand gratefully avow our obligations, sion of Christian knowledge through whenever we call on the name of the my neighbourhood, or take an active Lord, in the domestic circle, and in part in the superintendence of the the sanctuary of secret prayer, in the Christian education of the poor, and courts of the Lord's house, where our
bear with me to the dwelling of the vows are paid in the presence of all indigent and ignorant, relief for the his people, and at the altar of his love, perishing body, and heavenly supwhere the cup of salvation is literally port and sustenance for the imperishreceived, where the cup of blessing able soul?" O how would the asthat we bless is the communion of the pect of the church be changed blood of Christ. But this acknow- how much would be effected for the