A. Wylie.

The blessedness of the pious dead : a sermon preached April 12th, 1829, on the occasion of the death of Mrs. Elizabeth Brady online

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Online LibraryA. WylieThe blessedness of the pious dead : a sermon preached April 12th, 1829, on the occasion of the death of Mrs. Elizabeth Brady → online text (page 1 of 2)
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; - And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, write, blessed are the dead which
die in the Lord from henceforth ; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their
labors, and their works do follow them."

Death is an event which ought to be regarded, with
deep and serious interest, by all the living. None, indeed,
can contemplate it without concern. For it breaks up, at
once and forever, all our earthly schemes. It dissolves all
earthly ties. It takes us away from all our enjoyments here.
It tears us from the embraces of those who love us. It
consigns our bodies to the enclosure of " the house appointed
for all living," there to moulder till awaked at the sound of
the Archangel's trumpet. It introduces the immortal spirit
into a world unknown. It levels all artificial distinctions ;
and sends the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the
master and his slave to their last account — to receive ac-
cording to the deeds done in the body, whether they be
good or whether they be evil.

As it respects the impenitent and unbelieving, death i*
connected with every thing that is terrible. To them it
may well be considered "the king of terrors." And, if I
might indulge for a moment in the use of this personifica-
tion, I would represent him, after the manner of an eastern
monarch, when on a military expedition, occupying his posi-

lion in the centre of his troops. Before him march pesti-
lence and famine and war, pains and diseases, accidents
and plagues of every frightful shape, and the haggard
forms of paleness and emaciation ; and behind him, the
darkness and solitude and oblivion — the corruption and
putrefaction of the grave — the solemnities of the judgment
— the worm that never dies, and hell's unquenchable, ever-
lasting fires. His banner floats on the sighs of millions ;
and, as he " stalks in ghastly triumph" over the earth, he
tramples down into the grave the loveliness of beauty, the
pride and power of manhood, the hopes of the young and
the props and solace of declining age. His course is as
constant as that of time itself, and not a day passes but we
meet some one or other of those harbingers whom he sends
in advance to terrify poor mortals with the tidings of his
approach. Meet him we must. We can turn aside into no
path by which to avoid the dreaded rencounter ; we can
entrench ourselves behind no fortifications which can so
much as retard his progress. Come he will : and when he
shall arrive he will plant his victorious standard on the ruins
of every thing that is perishable in our possessions, or our

But, blessed be God, the gospel informs us of One who
has conquered death and him that had the power of death,
and who promises his followers a victory over all his terrors.
The voice from heaven proclaims, in our text, that they are
blessed who die in the Lord.

There are, in the text, a word and a phrase which need
to be explained.

" Labors." This word sometimes means such a degree
of bodily exertion as induces fatigue. Here, as in many
other places, it signifies such exercises both of mind and
body as are attended with anxiety, vexation, pain and diffi-
culty. Thus, for instance, " the labor of love," an expres-

sion which frequently occurs in the New Testament, means
such an earnest endeavor to do good to those whom we love
as is necessarily attended with much care and pains. When
Christ vindicated the conduct of the woman who poured
precious ointment on his feet as he reclined at table, he
said to his disciples, who had unjustly reproved her on that
occasion: "Why trouble ye the woman" — literally, Why-
do ye afford " labors" to the woman. That is to say, why
do ye create vexation in the mind of the woman, by casting
upon her such unkind reflections ; why do ye give pain to
her generous spirit by your unmerited censures r The
word has a similar meaning in our text ; and very exactly
indicates the nature of those sufferings which are peculiar to
the pious in this world.

"In the Lord." This phrase points out the relation oi
believers to Christ as their covenant-head or representative.
In the fifteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians,
it is said that "in Adam all die, and in Christ shall all be
made alive :" that is, those whom Adam represented in the
covenant of works all experience natural death in conse-
quence of his transgression, and those whom Christ repre-
sented in the covenant of grace shall all enjoy eternal life in
virtue of his obedience ; or, as the same apostle elsewhere
expresses it, "as (Rom. v. 19.) by one man's disobedience
many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall
many be made righteous." To be " in Christ," then, sig-
nifies to be represented by him, so that all which he did and
suffered, his incarnation, his obedience, his death, his resur-
rection, his ascension to glory and his intercession at the
right hand of Power, shall avail for the benefit of those
whom he represented in these transactions, as though they
had been done by them in their own proper persons.
Hence they are said to be crucified with Christ — to be bu-
ried with him — to be risen with him — to be seated with him


in heavenly places. All these and similar expressions are
to be referred to the principle of representation, on which
the whole economy of our salvation is constructed — a
principle which needs the less illustration among us, because
it runs through the structure of our political institutions and
is rendered familiar to us by the occurrences of every day.

In the prosecution of the subject before us we shall at-

I. To the character of those who are pronounced blessed
in our text :

II. To the date of their felicity, and

III. To its nature and extent.

I. We are to attend to the character of those who are
pronounced blessed in the text. They are those who are
represented by Christ. And all, my hearers, are actually
represented by Christ who are really and cordially willing
so to be. We are naturally self-righteous, and slow to ad-
mit the conviction that our guilt and pollution are such as
to render salvation impossible in any other way than by free
grace, through the merits of that atoning sacrifice which
Christ accomplished on the cross. So long as we cling to
the hope, which every natural man cherishes, of recommend-
ing ourselves to the divine acceptance, we will not apply to
Christ to recommend us. We must see and feel that God's
law has demands against us as transgressors, which we can-
not answer ; that our guilt and depravity, like the black-
ness of the Ethiopean's skin, cannot be removed by any
means of our own devising ; that the question of our salva-
tion is one of all-absorbing interest ; and that there is salva-
tion in Christ for the chief of sinners, before we will apply
to him, as our last and only refuge. When such an appli-
cation is made, it is made with a proper regard to the au-
thority of God as exercised in the person of the Divine

Redeemer. Hence, they who are in him, we notice in the
2d place, are in him as their " Lord."

Self, in some form or other, is the idol which all men
naturally worship. Their own will is their supreme law ;
their own glory their ultimate end. They wish to prescribe
and choose for themselves. They whom the text charac-
terizes, have given themselves up, unreservedly to the Lord,
to be his, and at his disposal. He made and redeemed
them. They feel it right, therefore, that he should have do-
minion over them. They do not esteem his service a hard
service. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. They
love him for what he is, and for what he has done and suf-
fered in their behalf. They are pleased with his command-
ments, as holy and just and good. For these reasons, they
are determined to live not unto themselves, but unto Him
that loved them and gave himself for them, considering his
service their best employment here, and the everlasting en-
joyment of his favor and presence their most desirable reward

3. They are characterized, thirdly, by their labors, that
is, sufferings in this world. They are said, at death, to
cease from their sufferings. Life, therefore, is to them a
scene of suffering. The truly pious, have more sufferings
here, generally speaking, than those of an opposite charac-
ter. They have their share in the natural evils of this life,
and over and above this they have to endure sufferings pe-
culiar to themselves. There are painful sensations which
none but a virtuous mind can feel. Many of these arise
from within. " The flesh lusteth against the spirit and the
spirit against the flesh." " O wretched man that I am" ex-
claimed the apostle, sorely pained with this inward conflict,
" who shall deliver me from the body of this death !" Who-
ever will honestly try to maintain a conscience void of of-
fence before God and man — to find out. and steadily pursue


the path of duty, not only as to his outward deportment, but
the motives and intimate movements of his heart, will find
himself engaged in a difficult and painful employment. He
will be constantly detecting within himself elements of de-
praved desire, atheism, unbelief, pride, and a thousand un-
hallowed affections and propensities, of which the outside
moralist and the hypocritical professor are, seemingly, and per-
haps really, unconscious, because their attention is occupied
wholly with externals. With these inward troubles are
often intimately connected others originating in the mani-
festation of depraved dispositions in other men. " I beheld
transgressors and was grieved." — " Rivers of water run
down mine eyes because they keep not thy law." — " I moan
in my complaint and make a noise ; because of the voice
of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked : for
they cast iniquity upon me and in wrath they hate me. My
heart is sore pained within me ; and the terrors of death are
fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon
me and horror hath overwhelmed me. And I said O that I
had wings like a dove ; then would I fly away and be at
rest. Lo then would I wander afar off and remain in the
wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy
storm and tempest." Psalm 55. The course of this world
is in opposition to religion, and the current of the corrupt
passions and evil doings of the wicked has ever set in with
the greatest force and violence against those of " whom the
world was not worthy." He who aims at the accomplish-
ment of base and selfish ends easily finds occasions, means
and co-operators. He is under no necessity of selecting.
They offer spontaneously and in abundance. To operate
upon the evil passions and propensities of mankind, is easy.
It requires no talent, and but little cunning. A man may
be wise to do evil, and to do good have no knowledge. A
bad man is seldom at a stand, because he makes no nice


distinctions and is regardless of consequences. It is not so
with the good. They tremble for the ark of God and fear
to give it a wrong touch. They cannot be at ease in Zion,
because they are concerned for Zion's safety, peace,
purity, and prosperity. They cannot see without con-
cern the vices that abound in society ; for they are not
indifferent to the interests of society. They cannot con-
template, without painful emotions, sinners going on in their
evil courses ; for they see that " their day is coming."
Wicked men may, indeed, occasion grief to each other, but
it is on different principles. The malicious and revengeful
may suffer from others as malicious and revengeful as them-
selves ; but it is their own injuries which give them pain.
The godly are more troubled for the wickedness which they
meet with in the world, than for the evil treatment which
they receive. Nay, they often feel more for those who in-
flict injury upon them, than from the injury itself; and are
frequently melted into compassion when others would be
carried away with resentment. The highest exemplifica-
tion of this trait of character which could possibly be given
was that which Jesus Christ exhibited on the cross — when
he prayed, with his dying breath for his crucifiers : " Father
forgive them for they know not what they do !" " Daugh-
ters of Jerusalem" said he to those, women who followed
him to Calvary and lamented the cruel treatment which he
endured " weep not for me, but rather weep for yourselves
and for your children." The moral sensibilities of those
who are of the same spirit with Christ, and who, therefore,
are really entitled to bear his name, cannot but be painfully
affected in this world of pollution. They resemble Lot in
Sodom, whose righteous soul was daily vexed with the filthy
conversation of the wicked. The sufferings of the pious,
arising from the contemplation of moral evil as existing
within themselves, and as manifested in the conduct of
others, are. both together, affectinglv and beautifully sos


forth in the complaint of Isaiah, upon obtaining that im-
pressive vision of the majesty and holiness of God which is
reported to us in the sixth chapter of his prophecies : " Woe
is me, for I am undone ! For I am a man of unclean lips,
and I dwell among a people of unclean lips. For mine
eyes have seen the King the Lord of hosts. Those who
are pronounced blessed in the text are characterized in the
4th place by their good works.

Good works, my hearers, afford the best and most unequi-
vocal evidence of true religion. In these, indeed, it very
much consists. Whenever you find an account of true reli-
gion given in the Bible, no matter how brief, you always
find these constitute a principal part. " True religion and
undefiled before God even the Father is this, to visit the
widows and fatherless in their affliction, and to keep one's
self unspotted from the world." " The Lord hath showed
thee O man what is good and what doth the Lord require
of thee but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly
with thy God." We must show our faith by our works,
and that experience, however highly it may be esteemed by
the deluded visionary, which does not improve the temper,
amend the heart, and lead directly to acts of kindness and
benevolence — especially when no requital can be expected
• — is a fallacy. A selfish and unsanctified temper usually
seeks to cloak itself under the guise of zeal for something
about religion. Sometimes it is a zeal for outward forms
and ceremonial observances. This was the case with the
pharisees. Sometimes it is a zeal for particular tenets,
which serve as badges to distinguish a party. This is the
case with those bigots of all times and places, who seek, on
the strength of party, to raise themselves. Sometimes it is
a zeal for augmenting the permanent revenues and resources
of the church. This made Rome the mother of harlots.
Sometimes it is a zeal for I know not what reveries, and feel-

ings, and impulses, by which some profess to have access to
the mind and purposes of God, without the medium of his
written word. This constitutes a species of spiritual kna-
very, which has always been too successful with the multi-

O that the time were come when these false fires shall be
forever extinguished in the church, and when heaven-born
charity shall kindle a pure and holy flame on every altar,
and in every heart ! Then should the church stand forth
arrayed in her " beautiful garments," characterized, in deed
and in truth, as that church of Christ for whom he gave
himself, " that he might purify it from all iniquity — a pecu-
liar people zealous of good ivwks."

Do any ask, what are good works ?

They consist in administering to the wants and relieving
the miseries of mankind — in being " eyes to the blind, and
feet to the lame," — in feeding the hungry and clothing the
naked ; instructing the ignorant, and reforming the vicious —
in delivering the poor that crieth, the fatherless, and him that
hath none to help him — in obtaining the blessing of him
that is ready to perish, and causing the widow's heart to sing
for joy — in breaking the jaws of the wicked, and plucking
the spoil out of his teeth. See Job 29th chap.

Thus, have I endeavored, as briefly as I could, to follow
the suggestions of the text, in giving the character of those
whom it pronounces " blessed." Those who desire to have
Christ to represent and to rule them, whose moral sensibilities
have been so renewed and refined by grace as to render sin
in themselves and others a source of grief and trouble, and
whose course of life is distinguished by good works.

We proceed to notice in the

II. Place, the date of their felicity. It commences at
their death, and not till that event. When we attempt to
make this world the sphere of our happiness, we act in op-

position to the lixed purposes of Heaven. Man is born to
trouble, as the sparks fly upward. The righteous are stran-
gers and pilgrims on the earth. This is not theii* rest, for
it is polluted. To settle down amidst the interests and plea-
sures of this life, would be to forfeit their immortal hopes.
For to enjoy their " good things" here, is incompatible with
the enjoyment of them hereafter. " Many are the troubles
that afflict the just" in this world. They are more, usually,
in number and weight, than fall to the lot of the wicked.
It cannot be otherwise. The pollutions of this world can-
not but be disgusting to the " pure in spirit." The disci-
ples of Christ are as " sheep in the midst of wolves." Yet
it must not be inferred from all this, that their condition is,
upon the whole, less happy than that of the irreligious. If
they have sufferings, they have strength also, and consola-
tions, peculiar to themselves. And their consolations ex-
ceed those of the irreligious, by many degrees more than
their sorrows. So that their state even in this world, is pre-
ferable. " Godliness hath the promise of the life that now

Paul said, respecting himself and his companions, that;
but for their hope in Christ, they should be " of all men the
most miserable." This one ingredient sweetened the whole
cup of his sufferings, and converted what were calamities
in themselves, into occasions of joy and exultation : " We
glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh pa-
tience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and
hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed
abroad in our hearts abundantly, by the Holy Ghost given
unto us."

They that are in the Lord may always be considered hap-
py compared with those of an opposite character ; yet, if
their state be considered absolutely in itself, and still more
if it be considered comparatively with respect to the happi-


ness which awaits them hereafter, they cannot be pronoun-
ced " blessed" till they die.

We proceed, in the

III. Place, to consider the nature of their felicity. It is
mentioned in the text, under a two fold aspect. First, nega-
tively : " they rest from their sufferings."

This is a situation — to be exempt from all suffering of
every kind — which no one ever experienced in this world,
and one, consequently, of which it is difficult to form an
exact conception. Anxiety for the future, regret and grief
for the past, have always disturbed our tranquillity, even
when we were free from all cause of uneasiness from the
present. But they who have died in the Lord, have entered
upon a state of being where they shall never more experi-
ence the inconveniences of hunger, or thirst, or heat, or
cold, or weariness, or sickness, or weakness, or depression
of spirits — where they will never more have to complain of
one irregular passion, or unlawful desire, nor of any of all
those plagues of a heart but partially sanctified, which occa-
sioned to them, while here, so much pain and trouble — where
perfect love casteth out fear, and the vision of God drives
away ignorance and doubt — where storms of temptation
will never blow — where the wicked cease from troubling and
the weary are at rest — where in a word, " God shall wipe
away all tears from their eyes."

Their happiness is also intimated positively : " Their
works do follow them." " Eternal life" is in every case
" the gift of God," and therefore, not bestowed as a reward
merited by good works. But the enjoyment of the blessed
in heaven will be in proportion to the good done or endea-
vored to be done, and the sufferings endured, in this life.
The " righteous," shall all shine " as the brightness of the
firmament, and like the stars for ever and ever in the king-
dom of their Father." But there will be a gradation in their


bliss, as " one star differs from another star in glory." No-
thing of good done by the saints here will be lost. Even
a " cup of cold water" given to a disciple, in the name of
a disciple, shall not lose its reward.

The descriptions given in the word of God, of the glory
and felicity awaiting the pious after death are, indeed, taken
as they necessarily must be, from scenes with which we are
here conversant ; but they are of the most magnificent kind,
and calculated to convey into our minds the most lively and
exalted conceptions of the state and employments of the
glorified in heaven. Their state is represented under the
image of a city, whose streets are paved with gold, whose
gates are massy pearls, whose inhabitants have no need of
the light of the sun, nor of the moon, " for the glory of the
Lord shall lighten it, and the Lamb shall be the light there-
of — and are said to be made kings and priests unto God and
they shall reign with him forever and ever. The represen-
tations of their employment in the heavenly world, are bor-
rowed from the most joyous occasions ever known in this.
They hold in their hands "palms," the emblems of victory,
and sing to their golden harps songs of triumph, and chant
anthems of praise to Him that loved them, and washed them
from their sins in his own blood.

Leaving, however, these metaphorical representations
which were intended to give us no more than vague and
general conceptions of the glory and felicity of the heavenly
state, let us endeavor to derive from the oracles of truth some
information on this subject, which shall be more distinct and

First then, we observe that heaven is a state of perfect
knowledge. Here we know in part, and we prophesy in
part ; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is
in part shall be done away. Now we see through a glass
darkly, but then, face to face. There is no pleasure of which

our nature is susceptible, which can be compared, in point
of dignity and importance, with that which arises from the
discovery of truth. The desire of knowledge is one of the
noblest characteristics of an immortal soul, and the gratifi-
cation of it affords an exquisite delight even in the present
state, where the advantages and opportunities for gaining
information are so exceedingly limited, and when the process
of acquiring it is so painful and tedious as often to become
" a weariness to the flesh." What, then, will be the delight
with which the capacity for knowledge will be filled, when
the powers of the soul shall be enlarged, when it shall be
raised to a more exalted sphere, and the intellectual eye shall
contemplate truth in the light of immortality ! What inter-
esting discoveries of God — of his works of creation, pro-
vidence, and redemption, may we not suppose, shall burst


Online LibraryA. WylieThe blessedness of the pious dead : a sermon preached April 12th, 1829, on the occasion of the death of Mrs. Elizabeth Brady → online text (page 1 of 2)