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Joseph Stennett.

The Works of the late Reverend and Learned Mr. Joseph Stennett : in five volumes ; to which is prefix'd some account of his life (Volume 1) online

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fuppofed that they all unanimoufly wifh, if
fuch a wifh be confiftent with that perfedl
ftate of blifs, that they had improved every
minute of that little time which their creator
allotted them in this world, to his glory ?
It is not to be doubted, that the holy angels
and faints in heaven do inceffantly wordilp
and ferve their maker with the greateft ala-
crity imaginable, becaufe they conftantly
behold his face, and ai'e always enamoured
of his glory ; they are under a continual im-
preffion of the reafonablenefs and goodnefs
of his will, and know perfectly well that
their own excellency and happinefs confifts
in their exad conformity to it j and accord-
ingly they find unexprelTible delights in do-
ing his pleafure. And if they count not an
eternity too much for the fervice of their
creator, can you think the flaort time of
your fojourning here below, too large an
offering for him ?

feeing then the law of your creation, and

the did:ates of reafon j the importunity of

the divine word, and the warnings of the

L 3 lioly



I Jo The reafonahlencfs and advantages, &c,

holy Spirit ; the command of your maker,
and tiie example of your redeemer j the ex^
perience of the faints on earth, and the una^
nimous fenfe of the faints and angels too in
heaven ; together with your own higheft
intereft both in time and eternity, all con-
fpire to oblige you to devote the firll and beft
of your time to the great author of your
being ; how can you any longer refufe to
give up your youth to be tied by thefe many
facred bonds, as a facrifice to the horns of his
altar "^ ?

Behold now is the accepted time ; behold now
is the day of fahation ^. Therefore to day,
if you will hear his i:oice^ harden not your
hearts ^

« Pfal. ii8. i7. I ^ Pfal. 95.7,8. Heb.3.7,8.

y 2 Cor. ^. 2. I




"The



( 151 )




The groans of a faint, under
the burden of a mortal body.

A fermon preached at the funeral of
Mr. John "Bchher, late minifter of
the gofpel. April i, 1695.

SERMON IV.

2 Cor. V. 4.

For we that are in this tabernacle do groan,
being burdened: not for that "jdc would
be unclothed^ but clothed upon, that mor-
tality might be f wallowed up of life.

HE wifeft of men tells us, that
the end of a thing is better than
^ the beginning of it \ and that the
^ day of ones death is better than the
^ day of ones birth '°. To whatever
other fenfe thefe fayings may be accommo-
dated, they are eminently true of a righteous

*Eccl.7. 8. pEccl.7.1.

L 4 f?^^




152 A fermon at the funeral

man. What a vaft difference is there be-
tween the ft^te in which he comes into the
world, and that wherein he pafTes out of it !
and iiow much better 5s his exit than his en-
trance on tiie ft ige of this tranfitory hfe !
1 he is born in fin % but dies in faith ^ : he
comes into the world a child of icrath ", goes
out of it an heir of blifs ^. When he begins
to live, he begins to go ajlray from God ^ ;
■when he comes to die, he makes the laft and
largefl ftcp towards him ^ : when he draws
his firfl breath, he is without God in the
tvorld ' ; when he breathes his laft, it is to be
ever with the Lord ^. He enters the world
naked, defiled, and helplefs \ in a moral as
well as in a natural fenfe ; he palTes out of it
clothed with the righteoufnefs of Chrift,
beautified with the graces of the holy Spirit,
Jirong in the Lord, and in the power of his
jnight ^ : and all this in order to be invefted
with eternal glory.

It is true, there is ufually fome joy on
earth when a man is born into the world ", not-
withftanding all thofe deplorable circumftan-
ces that accompany his birth : but how much
greater joy may we reafonably fuppofe there
is in heaven, when a f dnt is removed from



« Pfal. 51. ^.
^ Heb. II. 15.
• Eph. r. J.
' Rom. 8. 17.
t Pfal. 58. 3.
** 2 Cor. 5. 8.



» Eph. 2. 12.
•t 1 Their. 4. 17.
' Ezek. 16. 4, ^.
" Eph. 6. 10.
" John 16. 21.



this



Serm. IV. of Mr, John Belcher. 153

this lower world, feeing fo many glorious
advantages attend his death !

And it is no wonder then if holy men do
often look without any amazing fears, nay
fometimes with earneft defires of their change,
into the dark region of death, while with the
piercing eye of faith they can difcover the
glorious mount of God beyond the fhadows
of that gloomy vale. It is no furprifing
thing, if, when, vnih. our apoftle, they com-
pare their paft and prefent with their future
ftate, what they have been, and what they
are, while here, with what they ihall be
hereafter, they mix their fighs and wifhes
with his, and with one common voice ex-
prefs their fenfe after the fame manner 5 We
that are in this tabernacle do groan, being bur-
denedy &c.

The apoftle had in the former chapter de-
clared with how much faithfulnefs and dili-
gence both himfelf, and his companions in
the miniftration of the gofpel, had laboured
in that bleffed work, tho they had many
hardfhips to encounter in the difcharge of
their duty, which yet they were enabled to
endure with great firmnefs of mind, by the
hope they had of an happy refurred:ion with
other faints, refembling that of their Lord
and mafter : Knowingy fays he, that he who
raifed up the Lord "jejus, jhall raife us up alfo
h J^fi^i and Jhall prefent us with you °.
I Ver. 14.

That



154 -^ fi'tmon at the funeral

That which farther tended to mitigate
their fufFerings, was the fervent love they
bare to the church on whofe account they
fuffered, as is plainly enough fuggefled in
the following words, for all thhigs are for
your fakes p : but principally the ardent zeal
they had for the honour of the name of God,
which they knew would be highly advanced
in the world by the praifes of thofe who ob-
ferved with admiration, and with joy par-
took of the abounding grace that was com-
municated by their dodrine, and exemplified
in their fufferings. Therefore he mentions
it as their common defire and hope, that this
might be the ilTue of their labours and fuffer-
ings, in the fame verfe, ^hat the abundant
grace might thro the tha^ikfgiv'mg of many re-
dound to the glory of God '^. For ^ichich caufe
we faint not ^

After which he oppofes their prefent tri-
bulations, to both their prefent and future
enjoyments j and compares the afflitftions they
endured with the fupplies of grace they had
received, and with the ftate of glory they
exped:ed. He fhews how they weighed vili-
ble and fenfible againft invifible and fpiritual
things, and temporal things againft eternal j
the former of which proved very light, and
the latter exceeding weighty, while the fted-p
dy hand of fliith held the ballance. Which
prudent comparifon he mentions as a main



P Ver. 15. 1 f Ver. li.

"^ Ibid. I



fupport



Serm. IV. of Mr, John Belcher. 1 5 y

fupport and occalion of comfort to them un-
der the greatefl of their trials : for when he
had to the former reafon of their comfort
fubjoin'd thele v/ords, for which caufe we
faint not^ he immediately adds, But tho our
outward ma?i periJJ?^ yet the inward man is re-
newed day by day. For our light afiiBion which
is but for a moment^ worketh for us a far
more exceedi?tg and eternal weight of glory :
while we look not at the things which are feen,
but at the things which are not feen j for the
things which are feen are temporal^ but the
things which are iiot feen are eternal ^.

The beginning of the fifth chapter expref-
fes the firmnefs of their belief and hope for
this blelTed flate, and the eagernefs of their
defires after it, tho not to be obtained with-
out the previous dlfTolution of their bodies.

The flrength of their faith is expreffed,
'Dcr. I . For we know that if our earthly houfe
of this tabernacle were dijfohedj we have a
building of God, an houfe not made with hands^
eternal in the heavens. The earneftnefs of
their delires, in ver. 2. For in this we groan
earnefily, defring to be clothed upon with our
houfe which is from heaven.

And ver. 3. he adds. If fo be that being
clothed^ we fhall not be foimd naked. Which
fome interpret as a caution, intimating the
neceflity of their being clothed with the righ-
teoufnefs and grace of Chrifl % as the condi-

^ Ver, 16, 17, 18, 1 • See Mat. 22. ii. and Rev.

tion



156 A fermon at the funeral

tion of, and preparation to their being clothed
with his glory : and that the apoftle by this
expreflion intimates the reafon why he had
in the foregoing verfe fpoken of the faints be-
ing clothed upon^ namely, that he fpeaks there
of glory as an upper garment, becaufe none
fliall obtain it but they that are firft found
clothed with grace.

Others refer thefe words to the clothing of
glor)\ fpoken of before : and fome interpret
them as an ardent wifh, which the words in
the original will bear, Atid O that we being
clothed^ may not he found naked''. As the
words of Chrift when he wept over Jeru-
falem, may be interpreted, //' thou hadjl
kno^ivn, q. d. O that thou hadjl htozvn^ even
thou, at leaf in this thy day, the things that
belong to thy peace ", &c.

In the words of our text, the apoftle re-
peats and explains what he had faid betore
concerning their flate in this life, and that
which they hop'd for in the life to come : For
ive that are in this tabernacle do groan, &c.

And tho thefe words are here eminently
and diredlly applied to the miniilers of the
gofpel, yet they very well may, and ought
to be extended to all true chriftians in gene-
ral, who, when in a ferious and confiderate
frame of mind, and under the influence of
the lively exercife of faith, have the fime
fentiments, and fpeak the fame language.

« El 54 *^ tvJ'v Job 19. 25, 26. I ^ Vcr. I.

«^ Ifa. jS. 12. I

them



Serm. IV. of Mr. John Belcher. \6\

them from trees but by their motion ^ : he
fees fome things diftant in futurity, but it is
as thro a glafi and darkly j he really fees
and knows, but it is very imperfedly,^ and
but in part ^ ; tho he knows the only true God^y
yet he cannoty^f him as he is in this life^, for
no man ca?i thus fee God and live '\

'Tis true, indeed, notwithftanding the
meannefs of the accommodations of tents,
yet neceffity has often conftrained the grearcft
princes to make ufe of them ; but they are
by no means to be compared to thofe magni-
ficent manfions, where their choice leads
them to refide : for who would fet the fordid
tents of the wild Arabs in competition with
the fumptuous palaces of kings ? No more
is the prefent vile and defpicable condition of
the bodies of the faints, to be compared to
that ftate of beauty and honour wherewith
thofe of our firfl parents were originally a-
dorned, much lefs to that ftate of immortal
glory and perfedion, with which themfelves
{hall hereafter be attired : for whereas they
are now as the tents of Kedar, fquallid and de-
form'd, they {hall then be bright and comely
as the curtains of Solomon ^.

But farther, as the bodies of believers are
like common tabernacles, for their frailty and
meannefs by nature, fo they may be likened
to the facred tabernacle, which was framed



H



« Mark 8. 24.


>> 1 John J. 2.


f I Cor. 13. 12.


' Exod. 53. zo,


« John 17., i«


^ Cant, I. 5.


Vol. I,


M



1 52 A fermon at the funeral

by the fpecial appointment of God, in refpecS
of the life and fervice they are devoted to,
and of the honour they receive by grace.
They are tabernacles as they are the tene-
ments of their own fpirits, and facred ones
as they are the habitations of the fpirit of
God ; for their bodies are confecrated to his
fervice as well as their fouls : the members of
their bodies are inftruments and fervants of
right eoufnefs ', vejfels which their fouls pojfeji
in fanBification and honour ^. Some of them
are peculiarly dignified in the fervice of God,
like thofe utenfils which were both of fpecial
ufe and ornament in the fanftuary. The
head of a faint, like the candlefticks of the
tabernacle, holds a conftant light of divine
truth and wifdom ; while his heart, like the
facred altar, retains a never-to-be-extinguifh-
ed fire of divine love and zeal : his organs of
fpeech are like the filver trumpets, and other
mufical inftruments of the fanifluary devoted
to the glory of God, and employed to praife
him in the beauty of holinefs °; while the foul
that refides in this tabernacle, like the anoint-
ed prieft *", continually officiates before God,
and devotes her nobleft powers to him for a
fpiritual facrifice. Nay, the bodies of chrLP
tians are fometimes called temples : What,
know you not, fays the apoftle, that your body
is the temple of the Holy Ghoji 'which is iftyoti^'i

* Rom. 6. 13. and 18. I • 2 Chron. 20. ai:
«" 1 Thc(r. 4. 4. I P 1 Cor. 6. 19.

• I Chron. i^. ij. I

And



Serm. IV. of Mr. John Belcher. 153

And a'^ain — Te are the temple of the living
Gcdy as God hath fatd^ I will dwell in them
and walk in them "i, &c. They are temples
now in comparifon of what they formerly
were before converfion, when they were ca-
ges of every unclean and hateful bird ^ j but
tabernacles compared with what they {hall be
when modell'd according to the pattern in the
mount ^, I mean the temple of our Lord's fa-
cred body % the prefent glory of which was
formerly reprefented in his transfiguration on
mount Tabor.

The fecond thing we are to confider. Is,

II. The uneafy fituatlon of a believer's
foul, while {he dwells in this earthly taber-
nacle, exprefs'd by her being burdened.

How flight and fickle foever thefe taberna-
cles are in refpedl of their natural frailty and
mutability; yet they are heavy burdens to
the fouls that inhabit them, in regard of the
troubles they expofe them to : and tho they
are honour'd in the fervice of God in fome
degree together with their fouls, yet in their
prefent imperfed flate they are rather incum-
brances than helps to them, and occafion
them much more aiBidion than comfort ; in-
fomuch that experienc'd chriilians, tho they
find it reafonable to rejoice, as the younger
Jews did at the building of the fecond tem-
ple, that their bodies are made facred taber-

1 2 Cor. «. ia» I f Heb. 8. 5.

* Rev. 18. z» I s John 2. 21,

M z nacles.



1 64 A fermon at the funeral

nacles, and render'd fit in fome meafure for
the fervice of God in the ftate of grace ; yet
they fee much more caufe to bewail their un-
happinefs, when they confider how much
lefs capable thev are either of ferving or en-
joying him in their prefent condition, than
they iliall be in their future ftate of glory ;
as the old inhabitants of Zion could not re-
frain weeping, while the view of the foun-
dation of the new temple brought to mind
the greater beauty and glory of their antient
one \

Both the word of God and experience af-
fure us, that the affii5lions of the righteous are
many ", while their fouls fojourn in thefe in-
commodious tenements : and therefore our
apoftle feems rather to call them tabernacles,
in allufion to thofe of common, than to that
of facred ufe j tho we have not thought meet
to omit comparing them to the latter, as
fome alleviation to the difcouraging weight
chriftians groan under from thofe inconve-
niences and evils occalion'd by their frail bo-
dies, which give them a far greater refem-
blance to the former. For,

1. Our bodies occafion much of the igno-
rance and error of our fouls, and much ob-
ftrucft their advances in knowledge and truth.

2. They caufe us to fin, and hinder our
progrefs in holinefs.

3. I'hey procure us much forrow and mi-
fery, and prevent us of much comfort and joy.

« Ezra J, 12, ig. I *» Pfal. 34. 19.

I. They



Serm. IV. of Mr, John Be/cher. \e%

I. They occafion much ignorance and er-
ror in our fouls, and hinder our proficiency
in knowledge and truth ; and this many
ways.

(i.) The neceffities of our bodies lay claim
to a confiderable part of our time, and to a
great fhare of our thoughts -, and thereby hin-
der us from meditating on fpiritual objedls
with that conftant application of mind which
is requifite for the advancement of our know-
ledge, and for the enlargement of our expe-
rience to any great degree. Since men were
condemned to toil and labour, and to eat
their bread in the fweat of their brows ", they
are all more or lefs incumber'd with worldly
cares ; and fpend no fmall part of their time
either in projediing and providing what they
fhali eat and drink, and what they {hall put
on J or in refrefhing their bodies with food
and fleep, and other neceflary recreations,
efpecially when they are very weak and cra-
zy : fo that the opportunities of meditation
but feldom occur, and when they do, are
often abridged by many unth ought of avoca-
tions. Thus while we are bufied about the
confervation of our bodies, our fouls muft
needs v%^ant that cultivation and improvement
they are capable of.

And this time were the lefs to be regretted,
if we kept within the due limits affign'd us by
the divine will, in providing for our bodies,
and did not foolifhly embarafs ourfelves with

" Gen. ;. 17, 18, 19.

M 3 many



1 66 A fermon at the funeral

many fruitlefs employments and iinnecefTary
cares. Nature, elpecially when intruded
by grace, would be fatisfied with mean things,
which much lefs time would procure than
what is ufually fpent in over-delicate pam-
pering, and in over-curious attiring thele
mortal bodies ; in endeavouring to make a
fplendid appearance in the world ourfelves at
prcient, and to furnifh our pofterity with
means of tilling up a great figure in fucceed-
ing times. We are fo very prone to debafe
our fouls to an inordinate purfuit of the plea-
fures of fenfe, the regular and moderate ufe
of which was wifely ordain'd for the prefer-
vation of our bodies, that the moft mortified
perfons find it no eafy task to keep a due
ceqinlibriiim^ in providing for the neceffities
of the foul and body j fo as to give the one
convenient recruits, without much difturbing
the operations of the other ; to entertain the
body with food and raiment, and fuch like
cc:-v?niences, without taindng the foul with
earth'y-mindednefs and fenfuaiitv.

Nor Joco the v;viiety of worldly cares and
labours only wafte our precious time, but
ftrangely dillipate and unfettle our thoughts,
and accuftom our minds to an habit of un-
lleddincfs and wavering : fo that when we
would ftridly fet ourfelves to ferious medita-
tion, the traces of thofe many other objecfts
we have lately converfed with, llart up in
our fancies before we are aware, and defeat

our



Serm. IV. of Mr, John Belcher. 167

our purpofes of contemplating thofe fpiritual
things we had before us.

And we are the more apt to be thus amu-
fed by fenfible things, becaufe in our prefent
ftate we are more intimately acquainted with
thefe than with fpiritual objed:s. x^nd things
that are within the ken of our fenfes often


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Online LibraryJoseph StennettThe Works of the late Reverend and Learned Mr. Joseph Stennett : in five volumes ; to which is prefix'd some account of his life (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 28)