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 48 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 48 of 51)
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3. It is a sorrow mingled with Christian hope. When the husband
grasps the hand of his wife to bid her an affectionate adieu, as her
soul is about to pass into eternity, he has a well founded hope, that
he shall grasp that hand again when they joyfully pass together
through the boundless domain of the redeemed. When he looks into
her eyes, over which death is spreading its dark covering, and his
heart is depressed with grief as " those that look out of the windows
are darkened," he hopes to see those eyes brightened with a purer
love and a holier joy than ever beautified them on earth. When he
imprints upon the cold and closed lips the last affectionate kiss, it is
with the hope of seeing them opened in the celebration of the praises
of God in the New Jerusalem. When he follows the remains to their
■last resting place, and hears the sickening sound of the " clods of
the valley" falling upon the coffin, his grief is alleviated by the as-
sured hope, that the "grave shall give up its dead." Hope lifts the
sorrow from the heart of believing parents when children are sudden-
ly removed. They make a proper application of the words of the
prophet, "Thus saith the Lord, Refrain thy voice from weeping, and
thine eyes from tears ; for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the
Lord ; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And
there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall
come again to their own border." Jer. xxxi. 16. Martha's grief was
mingled with hope when the soothing sentence fell upon her ears
from the lips of Jesus, " Thy brother shall rise again." The thought
of eternal separation is intolerable. The believer, mourning for the
pious dead, is not subjected to the saddening effect of such* a thought.
The consolation imparted to the disciples by the Lord Jesus Christ
is as fresh and appropriate to the sorrowful now, as it was to the sor-
rowing disciples on the eve of their bereavement. "And ye now
therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall
rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." John xvi. 22. It is
the hope of meeting again in the presence of a reconciled God that
alleviates our sorrows. Did the present state terminate the existence
and the happiness of man, we might well dread the approach of death
and mourn over the sudden removal of those who were useful in the
family and in the church. If all their intellectual acquirements and
all their moral excellence were to perish, then our sorrow would not
be lighted by a ray of hope. But ." no mental acquirement shall be
lost." The moral excellence that shone so brightly amidst many im-
perfections, and that was sometimes clouded by the darkness around,
will shine in dazzling perfection in another world. The cultivated
mind will lose nothing of its polish by passing in angelic company
from earth to heaven. The elevated thoughts, the refined feelings,
the meekness and humility of the believer will lose nothing of their
attraction in the heavenly country. As you stand around the death-
bed to watch the last conflict of a believing friend, your sorrow will
be diminished by the assurance, that death is but the last stroke in
the sanctifying process, and prepares the person for the study of the
■divine character and government in heaven. You have the hope that

neither mental power, nor moral excellence, nor spiritual delight,
shall perish. "In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand
there are pleasures for evermore." Ps. xvi. 11.

II. Death is not an eternal sleep, but rest to the believer.

1. "The soul neither sleeps nor dies." This doctrine was taught
by the Westminster Divines. In the Westminster Confession of Faith
the following declaration is found : " The bodies of men after death
return to dust and see corruption; but their souls, (which neither die
nor sleep,) having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God
who gave them. The souls of the righteous, being then made perfect
in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold
the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of
their bodies." Conf., chap, xxxii. These words are supported by
the declaration of the Bible: " Then shall the dust return to the earth
as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." Eccles.
xii. 7. If death were an eternal sleep, or the soul should die, then
the words of our Lord Jesus to the penitent thief would be void of
meaning. His consoling answer to the prayer of the thief was, "To-
day shalt thou be with me in paradise." How empty would the state-
ment have been, had the soul of the thief died the moment that na-
tural life became extinct ! The words of our Lord are sufficient to
destroy the false foundation on which some have been building an
argument for the eternal sleep or death of the soul. The soul is an
"indivisible unit," and cannot be dissolved like the body. It is not,
as some materialists have supposed, " a compound of thought and
speech or other sign." There must be a difference between thought
and that which originates it, and between speech and that which
frames it. The soul does not consist of a series of material particles,
that may be separated at pleasure and subjected to a process of che-
mical analysis. Nor can it undergo dissolution by being brought
into contact with the earth. It did not spring from the earth, and
cannot return to it like the body, or become the food of worms.
Man cannot kill the soul. "Fear not them which kill the body, and
are not able to kill the soul ; but rather fear him which is able to de-
stroy both soul and body in hell." Mark x. 28. The souls of Abra-
ham, Isaac and Jacob must be alive, or else our Lord's statements
are unmeaning. When he opposed the Sadducean heresy that there
is no resurrection, he said, " But as touching the resurrection of the
dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, say-
ing, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God
of Jacob ? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." Matt,
xxii. 31, 32.

Nor does the soul sleep. It is not our intention to discuss sleep
in a purely philosophical manner. It is said to be "a suspension of
the sensory and motor functions which appears to alternate in all ani-
mals with the active condition of those functions, and which may be
made to give place to it by the agency of appropriate impressions
upon the sensory nerves." But while there is "a suspension of the
sensory and motor functions " of the body in sleep, the soul is active.


How often in sleep do we revisit the home of youth, walk over the
fields where we often played in childhood, and stand by the side of
endeared friends in foreign lands. Those exercises of the mind prove
that it does not sleep. If it be true, as all Christians admit it to be,
that there is uninterrupted and active communion with God in heaven,
it cannot be possible that the soul is asleep. There cannot be com-
munion between a person asleep and one awake. We are assured on
infallible authority, that "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slum-
ber nor sleep." Ps. cxxi. 4. Neither sleep nor death can exclude
the soul from the delightful fellowship which it enjoys with the Father,
Son and Holy Ghost for ever.

2. The sleep mentioned in the text is bodily rest in the grave.
The grave is a sweet resting-place for the toil-worn bodies of believers.
"There the weary be at rest." In the grave no pain shoots athwart
the breast, or keeps the head from resting securely. The eyes are
not suffused with the bitter tears of sorrow. The hands roughened
and the shoulders bowed with toil under the scorching heat of sum-
mer, or the cold of winter, are freed from their labors. No new fur-
row is raised upon the brow by corroding disappointment or painful
anxiety. It is true, the body decays; but there is no pain in the de-
caying process. Laid in the tomb, the believer's body is beyond the
reach of Satanic influence. The arch-fiend cannot inflame the animal
passions, which he had often raised into a tempest by his foul temp-
tations. The persecutor may exultingly trample over the head of
those he had murdered for the " testimony of Jesus;" but neither his
footfall nor his blasphemy can disturb the bodily rest of slaughtered
saints. " There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice
of the oppressor. The small and great are there, and the servant is
free from his master," Job iii. 17. It is true, the believer naturally
shrinks from death. He dislikes its cold touch, and, to a certain ex-
tent, fears its stealthy approach. He shrinks from the consequences
of its stroke in this life ; namely, separation from his family and fel-
low-members in the church, the frustrating of his plans for church
extension, elevation of society, and defending the truth. He prays
for life, that in its varied exercises he may honor God and do good
to men. But his heaven born principles overcoming his natural in-
firmities, he is enabled as death approaches to say with the apostle,
"I am now ready to be offered." He is assured, that with his death
there comes a termination of sorrows. Death ended Abraham's wan-
derings, and Jacob's disappointments, and David's persecutions, and
Paul's exhausting labors. The grave to them was a place of rest.
Nor is the body forgotten by the ransomed spirit enjoying undisturbed
pleasure in heaven. The body is yet to be the habitation of the soul
when it is raised a spiritual body and fully prepared for its heavenly
exercises. It is not forgotten while it rests preparatory to its glo-
rification. " Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth;
my flesh also shall rest in hope." Ps. xvi. 9. The soul of the be-
liever will rejoice to re-enter the risen body, that may have rested
for thousands of years, in the cold ground, or in the waters of ocean.


3. The sleep mentioned in the text is rest in Jesus. " Them which
sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.'' This is the rest of covenant
security. Bodies of believers, as well as their souls, are the objects
of God's covenant care. It matters not where the remains of the
righteous rest, they are united to him. Tbey are the objects of his
special protection. Christ died for the bodies, as well as the souls,
of his people. As certainly as the hundred, forty and four thousand
are sealed with their Father's name in their foreheads, so certainly
does God take care of redeemed dust. It seems, that God has planted
a law in the mind which leads men to take care of the body. In pro-
portion as the mind is enlightened, do we find men guarding the body
with peculiar care. It is only amid the havoc of cruel war, or when
man is found in his most degraded condition, that the bodies of men
are left to become the food of wild animals, or their bones to bleach
upon the mountains. From the earliest period of the world's history
pious persons have found a burying place for th*e dead, and have re-
spectfully followed the remains of friends to the tomb. In all this,
we see God's covenant care for precious dust. The whole man is the
object of saving favor. God buried the body of Moses. It was not
left to beasts of prey, nor exposed to the unsanctified gaze of the
wicked. By his actions and declarations, — by the feelings of his
people and their attention to the dead, he has attested the blessed
truth, that the bodies of believers are united to Christ in their graves.
Apart from Jesus, there can be no true rest and no certain protection.
With him, there is safety in life, peace in death, protection in the
judgment, and pleasure unalloyed in heaven. There may be no
sculptured monument to mark their graves, and no epitaphs to tell of
their birth-place and their acts of kindness ; but He who has their
names engraven on the palms of his hands will not forget their rest-
ing places, though they be far off in the trackless wilderness or un-
noticed in the Potter's Field. If he clothe the lilies of the field with
such beauty, and notice the falling of a sparrow to the ground, how
much more will he keep guard by the lonely tombs of the righteous
dead. There is covenant safety for the believer at death and after
it. He need not fear death, nor need his friends despair when he is
gone. Though they may not be able to watch by the grave constant-
ly, yet there is One who guards and defends with unwavering con-
stancy and paternal care the bodies of his servants.

III. Their resurrection to eternal life is certain.

1. This is secured by the resurrection of Christ. This is the glo-
rious "Magna Charta" of their freedom from the power of the grave.
"If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, them also
that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." If he rose from the
dead, then will his people arise. Who can doubt his resurrection?
It was attested by the angel who kept watch in the grave, on the
first morning of the week, and said to the women, "He is not here,
for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay."
That angelic declaration should drive doubts from every mind on this
subject. Additional proof of it maybe drawn from all that was writ-


ten respecting it. "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt
thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." Long before the
resurrection took place it was a source of consolation to the believer.
Job could say, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall
stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin
worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; whom I
shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold and not another,
though my reins be consumed within me." Job xix. 25-27. That
declaration establishes the doctrine of Christ's resurrection. The tes-
timony of the eye-witnesses of the empty tomb cannot be denied.
Mary Magdalene, in the earnestness and simplicity of her heart,
when she went to the grave and saw the stone removed, and the grave
untenanted, ran back to Peter and John and said, "They have taken
away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they
have laid him." John xx. 2. That Christ rose from the dead is
sufficiently established by the angel, the pious women who first saw
the empty grave, and the faithful men who heard and saw the Lord
after he arose. His whole body arose. It was not a portion of it,
nor an elimination from it having the appearance of the body. It
was the self-same body. Not a particle of it was left behind. The
grave did not feed upon the body of Jesus. He, the Holy One, saw
no corruption. Surely we are warranted to conclude, that no part
of the body of the believer will be lost. Christ had head, and hands,
and feet after he arose. So we have reason to believe, that the body
of believers, "fashioned like unto his glorious body," will have bodily
parts, and the upright form in which they now appear. God has
formed the body of man distinct from the bodies of the lower animals.
The thought that man's body may be transformed into some other
shape is repugnant to nature, and contrary to Scripture. The Apos-
tle teaches most clearly the doctrine that it will be the self-same
body that will come forth from the grave, though neither subject to
hunger nor thirst, nor the impressions of heat and cold. He over-
throws the false theory that the body of man will pass into other bo-
dies and be lost. He draws the distinction between the various
seeds, and the bodies whioh spring up from them. "God giveth it a
body, and to every seed his oivn body." "All flesh is not the same
flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts,
another of fishes, and another of birds." 1 Cor. xv. 30-34. The
flesh of man is distinct from that of any other animal ; and it would
be just as reasonable to expect Indian corn to grow out of wheat,
or an oak out of a grain of corn, as to expect the body of man
to be raised up in the form of a beast, or of a flying fowl, or fish
of the sea. He who made the distinction in flesh will not allow the
redeemed bodies of his servants to disappear by amalgamation eter-
nally, to be annihilated, or deprived of their parts, though they
moulder in the grave for a time. "If we believe that Jesus rose
again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with

2. Their resurrection will be effected by the power of Immanuel


God with us. Resurrection is not the result of what is popularly-
termed the law of nature. The dead shall not rise by their own
power. It requires the special exercise of the outstretched arm of
the Omnipotent, to lift from the bosom of the earth, or the depths
of the sea, the bodies therein deposited. Lazarus did not arise until
he was awaked by the life- giving voice of Immanuel. There was the
exercise of divine power in the words, "Lazarus, come forth." The
daughter of Jairus arose when Jesus uttered the irresistible com-
mand, "Talitha, cumi; Damsel, I say unto thee, Arise." Mark v. 41.
Divine power is alone adequate to the task of giving life to the dead.
The heat of the sun, the refreshing shower of rain, the latent warmth
of the earth, combined with the most skilful application of chemicals,
will not re-animate the bodies of the departed. Let the language of
the text be inscribed upon the tablet of every heart, — "Them which
sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." They shall awake on the
morning of the resurrection by the voice of the arch-angel and the
trump, of God. The same hand that formed the body of the dust of
the ground, will lift its parts, however widely separated, bring them
together, re-unite and re-animate them. If it were possible to form
the body of the dust, it is surely possible for the same power to re-
animate it. It is not only possible, but certain. The power exercised
in creation is neither weakened nor destroyed. We may well ask the
question propounded by the Apostle, "Why should it be thought a
thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" Acts
xxvi. 8. He who spoke the world into existence can as easily call
out his servants from their graves. Upon the Mediator, however, is
conferred the honor of raising the dead. He will assert his power
over the grave, as it had been predicted before his incarnation or re-
surrection. "0, grave, I will be thy destruction." Hosea xiii. 14.
"For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son
to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judg-
ment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this, for the
hour is coming in which all that are in their graves shall hear His
voice, and shall come forth: they that have done good unto the resur-
rection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of
damnation." John v. 26-29. It is not merely creative power that
will be exercised, but Mediatorial power that will raise the dead.
This is part of the Mediatorial honor. To "Christ, who is our life,"
belongs the glory of gathering his people into one company, when he
comes to "make up his jewels." The believer's consolation may be
increased by remembering that one who felt the stroke of death, and
tenanted the tomb, will neither forget the resting places of his ser-
vants, nor fail to put forth his power for their resurrection. It is by
the power of Jesus that the dead shall rise. Who, that committed
into his hands the eternal interests of the immortal spirit, would not
commit to his Mediatorial care the tenement of the soul? We can
put confidence in his own comforting announcement, "I am he that
liveth and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen; and
have the keys of hell and of death." Rev. i. 18.


3. They will come forth in the most glorious company. God will
bring them with him. Many of them may have wandered in the soli-
tary desert without a companion, or earthly relative to cheer them.
They may have passed through society scarcely known, retiring in
habits, meek and quiet in their spirit, and hidden from public view
by the veil of poverty. At the resurrection their poverty will dis-
appear, and at the judgment they will be openly acknowledged and
acquitted. They will be publicly recognized as the honorable among
men, though they were despised while on earth by the wicked. He
who accompanied them through the fire, and through the water, will
lead them to everlasting glory. He was not ashamed of them when
they were testifying to his truth amidst insuU and injury, nor will he
be ashamed of them before his Father in heaven. God the Saviour
will bring them with him to the mansions prepared for them. Oh,
what delightful company! To be in it is to be safe, honored, and
happy. Never was a journey performed in such delightful company
as that will be. From the dark chambers of the tomb they will ascend
into the indescribable light and peace of heaven. In company with
Jesus will redeemed souls come forth with delight, to re-enter their
bodies, raised incorruptible. When the permanent re-union of the two
parts of man shall be effected, heaven shall throw wide its gates for
the entrance of the Captain of Salvation, in company with his count-
less followers. The angelic escort will rejoice to recognize them as
the brethren of Christ. There is no danger of the loss of any for
whom atonement was made. The company in which they will travel
from earth to heaven will neither injure their bodies nor stain their
morals. There will be no conflict in their views of the way heaven-
ward, nor of the nature and amount of their employment. It will be
the glory of Christ to lead and command, and the glory and delight
of his people to follow and obey. They will never grow weary
with him, nor he with them. Let this thought cheer the bereaved.
The body entombed during the past week rests quietly in the grave,
but it will yet be led forth to honor and immortality by the Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ. The soul is separated from it, but the separa-
tion is not eternal. The congregation have lost a peaceful and en-
deared member, but the Church triumphant has been increased by her
entrance upon the unalloyed pleasures of the glorified. Our departed
friend is already in the company of her beloved Redeemer. Believers
who have parted with believing friends have no reason to "sorrow as
others who have no hope."

Mrs. Margaret (Lowrie) Moorhead was born in Smithborough,
County Monaghan, Ireland. Her father was a ruling elder in the
Presbyterian Church. A distinguished editor thus wrote of him:
"He was upright and honorable in all his dealings; steady in his at-
tachments; pious without ostentation, and charitable in every sense of
the word. As he lived, &o he died the death of the righteous: his
latter end was peace." What was said of her father, may properly


be applied to Mrs. Moorhead. Her meek and quiet behavior adorned
her Christian profession. She loved the house of God, and was never
absent from the ordinances unless detained by sickness. She never
stirred up strife by unguarded expressions. Sensible of her own
weakness, she sympathized with others, and kept silent when others
would have blamed.

Her husband, John Moorhead, M. D., and her son, Robert Lowrie
Moorhead, M. D., L.R.C.S.E., who graduated with honors in Queen's
College, Belfast, Ireland, together with eminent physicians in Brooklyn
and New York, did all that medical skill could accomplish to arrest
disease. Their efforts proved fruitless. The impartial hand of death
came and cut down one who was the light of her home, the friend of the
poor, and the favorite of her fellow church members. She loved the
Psalms, and frequently, on her death-bed, repeated long portions of
them. About an hour before she died, she was asked if she remem-
bered the words of the 23d Psalm. She said, Yes. Half an hour
afterwards she said, "I commend my spirit to God." These were her
last words. She seemed to be engaged in silent prayer. She fixed
her eyes upon her youngest son, and looked at him affectionately and
steadily for some time. That look was a sermon, not soon to be for-
gotten. The family stood around her death bed, and so peaceful was
her death, that it was difficult to tell the moment when her soul passed
into the heavens. She died in the 59th year of her age, enjoying the
full privileges of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, surrounded by
a respected family, and rejoicing in the Lord her Saviovr. She left
behind a husband, four sons, and two daughters, whom she desired to
meet at the right hand of God. Her memory is blessed. "Blessed
are the dead that died in the Lord,"


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 48 of 51)