Peter Thacher.

A sermon preached June 12, 1799, before His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., lieutenant governor and commander in chief : the honorable Council, Senate and House of Representatives of the commonwealth of Massachusetts at the interment of His Excellency Increase Sumner, esq., who died June 7, 1799, aet. 53 online

. (page 16 of 51)
Online LibraryPeter ThacherA sermon preached June 12, 1799, before His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., lieutenant governor and commander in chief : the honorable Council, Senate and House of Representatives of the commonwealth of Massachusetts at the interment of His Excellency Increase Sumner, esq., who died June 7, 1799, aet. 53 → online text (page 16 of 51)
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with natural relations and dependencies, in accordance with
the laws divinely instituted. It is as impossible for anyone,
severed from his moral and spiritual relations, to maintain the
laws of his being, and attain the exalted station and dignity
of the sons of God, as for a planet separated from the solar
system, to retain its orbit, and be sustained by the attraction
and illumination of the sun.

"Laws are essential emanations, from the self- poised character of God,
And they radiate from that sun, to the circling edges of creation."
"God is the origin of order, and the first exemplar of his precept."

"Throughout the universe of matter, the substance of visi-
ble creation, there is not an atom out of place, nor a par-
ticle that yieldeth not obedience." Thrones, dominions, prin-
cipalities and powers, angels and arch-angels, flaming minis-
ters and breathing chariots, and various degrees and ranks
in approximation toward perfection, are subject to the con-
trol of law, and the chain of order "is unbroken down to
man, and beyoud him the links are perfect,"

"But he standeth solitary sin, a marvel of permitted chaos"

To correct this "seeming error in the scale of due subor-
dination," to restore man to his proper place in the divine
order, and maintain the authority and supremacy of law, is
the ultimate design of God, in all the dispensations of Provi-
dence and grace.

'•Love hath a power and a longing to raise a gathered world.
And rescue universal man from the consequences of his doings."

Could we lift "the sable curtain that hideth the mystery of
Providence," we should doubtless perceive most striking il-
lustrations of the mercy and faithfulness of God, in our af-



flictions ; for under the control of him who maketh the
wrath of man to praise him —

'Tain and sin are convicts, and toil in their fetters for good,

The weapons of evil are turned against itself, fighting under better banners,"

Often while writhing in agony, we are in the reception,
subjectively of the richest blessings, for the good of one
meek thought produced thereby, should outweigh years of

4. The experience of evil developes the qualities of the
mind and heart, that are requisite to resist and overcome
them. — The loss of property and the failure of our plans in-
duce industry, circumspection, self-reliance and dependence
on God, blessings far transcending any temporal inheritance.
The loss of reputation and friends affords a test of character
enabling us to ascertain whether we love God for what he is,
or for what he does, and surely it. is better to lose the gift, than
to be deprived of the Giver. Trials and afflictions often
check us in our selfish career, and forcibly remind us of the
existence and claims of that Government, whose authority
we have disregarded. They teach us the relative value of
the seen and the unseen the temporal and the eternal, and sev-
ering the ties which bind our hearts to earth, induce us to
seek an interest in an incorruptible inheritance. They are
merciful visitations of Heaven, to enable us to form and per-
fect our characters, after the image of Him who created us.
Good qualities are of slow growth, and like the products of a
rugged climate, and barren soil, partake of the characteristics
of the circumstances by which they are produced.

Were there no trials, there could be no greatness nor em-
inent goodness. The faith of Abraham, the meekness of
Moses, the patience of Job, the zeal and energy of Paul, and
the philanthropy of Howard, were the legitimate results of
the trials and providential visitations to which they were sub-
jected. "Despise not then the chastening of the Lord; nor
faint when thou art rebuked of Him, for whom the Lord lov-
eth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiv-
eth." Be not therefore impatient nor in haste to remove the


afflictive stroke. Nay more, though it seem a paradox;
"Count it all joy, when you fall into divers temptations i. e.
trials, knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh
patience — but let patience have her perfect wolk, that ve
may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." It has been
forcibly remarked that afflictions fall upon the Christian, not
as the lightning upon the scathed oak, blasting it more and
more, but rather as the strokes of the sculptor upon the mar-
ble block, fashioning it into the image of life and loveliness.

It is a beautiful thought, that the furnace of affliction is to
the believer, as the fire to the gold, refining and purifying it
from its dross, that it may shine with unalloyed lustre; and it
is a consolatory one, that the Saviour goes with his people in-
to the midst of the fire, assuaging its violence, and restrain-
ing its power; for when Moses looked upon the bush that
burned, behold it was not consumed; and when the three
brethren were by the wrath of men, but by divine permiss-
ion cast into the burning fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezer the
King, was astonished and rose up in haste and said : "Lo I see
four men, loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have
no hurt, and the form of the fourth, is like to the Son of God."

5. The cross is the symbol of the Christian's life. The
first lesson on entering the school of Christ, and the last on
leaving it, is to take the yoke and bear the cross. It is the
only mode of holy living, compatible with a sinful state.
Life is a school of goodness, teaching us the value of light
by darkness, of harmony by discord, of rest by anxiety, of
joy by suffering, and of every blessing by experimental trial ;
and while from the smoking mount of human experience, we
receive upon our hearts the principles of the divine law, our
heavenly Father encourages us by the affectionate inquiiy,
"What son is he, whom the father chasteneth not ?" Set-
tle it then as a fundamental principle, that the present is a
life of suffering. The Saviour himself in assuming our na-
ture, was not exempt from this universal law of humanity.
"The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above
his Lord." In his baptism of suffering the Christian must


participate, at least in some degree, as the banks of the river
are watered and refreshed by the mist and spray of that flood
of waters, which, at Niagara, pours forth its eternal anthem
of praise to the Creator. But assured, that if we suffer we
shall also reign with him, and knowing that our afflictions
are mercifully adapted to our necessities, let us go forth and
look upon the gathering clouds, and approaching storm,
without an emotion of fear; for in the lightning's flash is re-
vealed a Father's face, on every dark clould are inscribed
the symbols of his love, and in the very hailstones of afflic-
tion are conveyed the choicest mercies, w T hich infinite loye
can confer.

And while the sun is eclipsed and the stars blotted out,
HE cheers our drooping spirits and enlivens life's weary pil-
grimage, by permitting us to behold as our light, the bright
and morning star, the harbinger of eternal day. In the
darkest and most disastrous hour, faith assures us, we are
safe in the mighty keeping of our Father in heaven — "For I
reckon that the sufferings of this present time, are not worthy
to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in
us." "The life which we now live, we live by faith in the
Son of God." Were we permitted to walk in the field of
open vision, and in the sun-light of sensible manifestations,
faith could never attain that high degree of invigoration,
which our circumstances demand. — In the consummation of
the mysteries of Providence and Redemption, it is necessary
that God should sometimes wrap himself in the majesty of
darkness, that we may learn the lesson of following him who
is invisible, whether revealing himself to us, in the pillar of
fire, or of cloud.

The soul, in all its wanderings, retains its natural relation to
God, as> its centre, and can find no rest, until it returns to
him. All objects of affection, except the Father of spirits,
draw it below itself. There is a relative adaptation, which
every creature seeks, and in which it is at rest. The soul
descended from heaven, can be happy, only in a higher good.
"The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain togeth-



er until now." AH things strive to ascend, and ascend in
striving. — An ancient Pagan Philosopher thanked God, that
his soul was not tied to an immortal body. All lower na-
tures find their highest good in the semblance of that which
is higher and better, and each class as it ascends in the scale of
being, leaves death behind it. "The metal at its height of
being, is a mute phophecy of coming vegetation, into a mim-
ic semblance of which it crystalizes. The blossom and flow-
er, the acme of vegetable life, divides into correspondent or-
gans, with reciprocal functions, and by instinctive motions
and approximations, seems impatient of that fixure, by which
it is differenced in kind, from the flower shaped psyche that
flutters with free wing above it."

The distance between the two distinct worlds of being,
the natural and the spiritual, is impassable. We cannot even
conceive of them, as parts of the same system, or subjects of
the same laws. The most etherial portions of matter, are
as destitute of original causative power, and as subject to
the dominion of the necessary laws of nature, as a stone or
mass of lead. In all the movements of the material system,
we feel that there must be an originating will somewhere,
however many impulsive forces may have intervened. — The
spirit, possessing duality of being, resolves itself into subject
and object. Its characteristic is self motion, or voluntary
action. It alone possesses true individuality, a free will, its
law within itself, and its motive in the law, bound to origin-
ate its own acts, in harmony with the law of the Infinite
Spirit, not only without external aids, but even against op-
posing influences.

Such was the condition of Angels in Heaven, and, of man
in Paradise, but having fallen into the bondage of nature,
we perceive in the present state, only a dawning of that spir-
itual light.

"I see another law in my members warring against the law
of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin,
which is in my members." To be delivered from this false posi-
tion, and restored to harmony with God, requires a consecra-
tion so minutely explorative, and so thoroughly destructive


of all selfish influences, and a process so painful, as to be justly
termed the crucifixion of self, the death of nature, the new
creation, the baptism with fire and the resurrection of the
life of Christ in the soul. With reference to it, the Apostle
Paul, cheerfully endured a life of labor and of suffering, if
by any means he might attain unto the resurrection of the
dead. To secure such a result, he suffered the loss of all
things. The great husbandman looking for fruit in his
vineyard, subjects the unfruitful vine to a severe and trying
discipline. He drives from the heart every idol, that has en-
throned itself in his temple. — Property, health and friends,
melt away successively, severing every tie that binds the af-
fections to the world. The fountains of inward consolation
ministering to self love, are dried up ; and the victim "smit-
ten within and without — scathed and peeled with the light-
nings of Heaven, to the extremity of human endurance,"
learns by this dreadful baptism, that God's will is imperative
and supreme.

Having all things in God, he commences the truly apostol-
ic life, having nothing, yet possessing all things; and winning
souls to Christ by the attractive influence of a holy exam-
ple, and by the power of the word of God. Having enter-
ed into his rest, he finds his happiness complete in God.
From this death of nature springs eternal life and immortal
power. — Christ liveth in him. Within the sphere of divine
co-operation, his will is operative precisely as God requires.
"What a blessed thing it is, says Dr. Payson, to lose one's
will. Since I have lost my will, I have found happiness.' —
There can be no such thing as disappointments, for I have
no desire but that God's will may be accomplished."
6. The last and severest of the afflictions of the present life,
is death itself, which though it supervened in consequence
of the offence, is a regular step in the economy of the moral
world, demanded by our constitution and character, as one of
the series of events in the remedial system of the covenant
of grace. We have reason to believe that an earthly im-
mortality, would be fatal to our highest interests and sub-


stantial happiness. Well may we rejoice in the present con-
stitution as devised by infinite wisdom, with special reference
to our moral character and eternal destiny. Following with
the eye of faith, the track of the departed saint, we may
name among the blessings of affliction, the release of the
imprisoned spirit, and its freedom and exaltation among prin-
cipalities and powers in heavenly places. Though the break-
ing up of the animal machinery, is attended with appalling
circumstances, in severe physical sufferings, in the violent
disruption of social ties, and in distressing spiritual forebo-
dings, it is necessary to the perfect development of char-
acter, and may be the occasion of progress, advancement,
augmentation of power, and enhancement of happiness, to
a degree that at present, transcends our powers of concep-
tion. It does not arrest, nor intercept the process of life, but
changes its mode, preparatory to a more rapid and perfect
development. It is the means of evolving higher princi-
ples, with a view to the ultimate advancement of our na-
ture, to its proper station with the kings and priests of
the Most-High. It is the breaking up of the bondage of
nature, in order to a new constitution of the elements of
life, to greater advantage, and in a more perfect form, that
the spirit may have complete ascendency over its corporeal
instruments and appendages. It is a temporary separation
of the flesh and the spirit, that the powers and habits most
enfeebled and restrained in this earth-realm of bondage,
may be brought to maturity, and that with a new balance of
the powers of human nature, there may be no conflict be-
tween the elements of life, no disharmony in the play of the
affections, and no contrariety in the objects of pursuit.

The spirit, separated from the body, or adorned with a
form of celestial mould, with spiritual intuition and unre-
stricted freedom, surrounded by objects of stupendous mag-
nitude, sensible principally of moral qualities, and enjoying
an intense consciousness of its spiritual relations, like an
iEolian Harp moved by every breath of Heaven, will vibrate
in delightful harmony, or in harsh discord, according to its


relations to the divine mind. In that state, where the spheres
of the holy and the unholy, draw to themselves respect-
ively all of kindred quality, the rule of relationship, or the
law of attraction, is not a balance of merits, but moral quali-
ty. All those whose affections are quickened toward the mor-
al perfections of the Supreme Being, and who feel the con-
straint of the attractive love of Christ, shall be exalted as
kings and priests unto God.

Sin, the element of separation, being removed, the soul re-
turns instinctively to its proper centre, assuming the natural
relations in accordance with its moral character. Holiness
cannot be separated from God, any more than a ray of light
can be cut off from its intercourse with the sun. "God is
love, and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God
in him." To such an one, death is but a transition from the
light of the moon and stars through the twilight and fogs of
an Autumn morning, to the light and brightness of a glorious
day. "To die is to burst upon the blaze of uncreated
light, and to be sensitive to its beams, and to nothing else ;"
and to commence the eras of eternity, in learning all that is
comprised in the felicity of Heaven.

Within the veil is a glory, which imagination in its most
lofty flights has never conceived. The transformation, per-
fect in kind, but not in degree, will admit of progress, with
vast accessions of knowledge and power, and clear percep-
tion of the amazing scenes of the interior and spiritual
world, and intimate communion with substances and causes,
and eternal realities, with continual approximation toward
the Supreme Being ; who is essentially and necessarily, in
his natural perfections, infinitely, above the highest possible
elevation of any finite being.

Man shall be equal with the Angels, moving among the
highest, with susceptibilities as acute, capacities as vast, ob-
jects of pursuit as elevated, joys as pure and ecstatic, and
energies as untiring, and shall wear a crown which he would
not exchange for that of any higher order of beings, since it


is the symbol of his intimate relationship to the divine mind,
though the person of Jesus Christ, who binds together all
orders of the heavenly hierarchy.

"He shall have wings of glory, and shall soar
To tlie remoter firmaments, &n& read

The order and the harmony of stars ;
And in the might of knowledge, lie shall bow

In the deep pauses of Arch-angel harps,
And huinhle as the Seraphim, shall cry

Who by his searching, finds thee out, Oh God !"

"I knew a man in Christ, whether in the body or out of
the bod} T , I cannot tell," who "caught up into the third
Heaven, heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for
a man to utter."

"Who shall imaaine immortality, or picture its illimitable prospect ?
How feebly can a faltering tongue express the vast idea ?"

"For since the beginning of the world, men have not
heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen,
O God ! besides thee what he hath prepared for him that
waiteth for him."

7. In giving utterance to these consolatory truths, I feel no
restraint nor hesitation on the present occasion. One of the
most painful duties, connected with a pastor's life, is to min-
ister a tithe funeral obsequies of one who gave no satisfacto-
ry evidence of preparation for another life ; but when a
Christian dies, apart from personal sympathies and an aching
heart, there is nothing painful, in exhorting survivors and
friends to imitate him, wherein he imitated Christ, and to
prepare to participate with him in the Christian's triumph.
When a friend has successfully made the voyage of life, hav-
ing escaped the storms and perils of the ocean, and reached
the haven of rest, though we mourn on account of our loss,
faith bids us rejoice in view of the ultimate result.

(She whose conflict and triumph, we commemorate in this
cliseourse, was emphatically a child of the covenant, and the
subject of many prayers. Her grand-father was the Rev.
Elizur Goodrich, D. D., of Norfolk, Connecticut. She was
the daughter of Hon. Elizur Goodrich, and Anne Willard


Allen, of New-Haven, by whom she was consecrated to
God, in the ordinance of his house, and trained for his ser-
vice and glory. Brought up in the midst of a highly cultiva-
ted and literary society, and educated with the greatest
possible care, with a mind originally active and suggestive,
she made extraordinary proficiency, not only in the ordina-
ry branches of learning, but in many of the higher depart-
ments of a liberal education. — With a retentive memory, and
a highly discriminative taste, she laid the foundation in
youth, for those extensive and varied attainments, which on
all proper occasions, have been laid under contribution, for
the benefit and gratification of her family — her associates
and friends. To the instruction and example of her mother,
she was greatl) indebted for those habits of order, industry
and economy, and the various domestic qualities, which were
pre-eminently characteristic of her life, and which perhaps are
rarely so perfectly combined, with high intellectual endow-
ments and keen relish for literary pursuits.

Her religious education being blessed to her conversion, at
an early period of life, she made a public profession of relig-
ion, about the seventeenth year of her age, in connection
with the College Church at New-Haven, under the care of
her pastor and friend, Rev. President Dwight. Her early
religious experience was of a most interesting character, at-
tended with strict self examination, a spirit of earnest enqui-
ry, and personal consecration to God, and the whole tenor
of her life, and her triumph in deathj tend to prove that she
had built upon the rock of ages.

She was married by Dr, Dwight, to Mr. H. L. Ellsworth on
the 22d of June, 1813, and during a period of thirty three
years, successively at Windsor, Hartford, Washington City,,
and Lafayette, adorned the various relations of life. . Tried
in prosperity and adversity, in joy and in sorrow, among^
friends and in a land of strangers, she proved herself equal
to every emergency, and magnified the grace of God, by a
life adorning the Christian profession.

In a personal interview with two of her former pastors, last


summer, I distinctly remember that they spoke of her, not
only with tenderness and affection, but in terms of the high-
est commendation. To those who knew her best, she was
most endeared, and among her personal friends and cor-
respondents were many, of the finest intelects and purest
hearts. With personal endowments of a high order, and
advantages rarely surpassed, and carefully improved — she
made high personal attainments, and exhibited a rare com-
bination, of those intellectual, moral and social qualities, that
constitute the perfection of the female character. To the
stranger she was affable, and courteous, to her guests hospi-
table, to the poor a friend, to the afflicted a minister of mer-
cy, and to every philanthropic and Christian effort, for the
amelioration of human suffering, she uniformly tendered her
sympathy and co-operation. The law of kindness was upon
her lips, and she rarely spoke of the faults of others, ex-
cept in extenuation. She had "a heart formed for pity, and
a hand open as day to melting charity." — With her it was
a principle, and habit of life, to minister to the comfort and
gratification of others, endeavoring as she herself expressed
it, "to exemplify the principles of the law of love," a trait of
character which shone out so conspicuously, even in the
midst of her sufferings, on the fatal night, when she receiv-
ed the injury, as to attract the attention and excite the ad-
miration of her attendants and friends. This was I appre-
hend, a prominent characteristic in her life, and may per-
haps sometimes have induced excessive deference to the
opinions and customs of others, and detracted something
from that calm self-reliance, which is the crowning virtue of
mind ; or at least, may have diminished her sources of hap-
piness, by rendering her unduly sensitive, to praise and

She drew the line of distinction, accurately, between the
courtesies and proprieties of Christian life, and the frivo-
lous customs and maxims, of the fashionable world, and was
ever ready, to relinquish even innocent amusements, when
they were the occasion of "offence" to others. With an

- —


elevated standard of Christian character, she "followed after,
if by any means she might apprehend that, for which also,
she was apprehended of Christ." As a Christian she was
humble, entertaining low views of herself, and exalted con-
ceptions of the glory of God. To her the Saviour was inex-
pressibly precious, and his mercy and grace, was the theme
of delightful, and habitual meditation. Her faith was de-
cidedly evangelical, partaking largely of the spirit of the
theology of Dr. Dwight, whose memory she revered, and
with whose published writings, she was intimately acquaint-
ed. She conscientiously subjected herself, to the most scru-
tinizing self examination, and scarcely dared to rely upon
the evidences of her acceptance, even when her pastor and
friends, entertained the most perfect confidence, that she was
a child of God. Often, even in health, she said, I am so un-
worthy; may I rely on the promises of God? are they de-
signed for one whose religious character is so imperfect ?
She longed, during the last few months of her life, especially,
for higher attainment, and for clearer evidences of her adop-
tion. Her confession of sin, was sincere and explicit, not in the
abstract only, but in the specifications, not with reference to

Online LibraryPeter ThacherA sermon preached June 12, 1799, before His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., lieutenant governor and commander in chief : the honorable Council, Senate and House of Representatives of the commonwealth of Massachusetts at the interment of His Excellency Increase Sumner, esq., who died June 7, 1799, aet. 53 → online text (page 16 of 51)