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 8 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 8 of 51)
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encircled by his friends, who might have heard his latest testimony.



misconstrued by those who love not the Lord Jesus Christ;
and they may represent it as a bad omen, in a cause they
do not esteem good; and probably there- may be beiogs

received his dying instructions, and obtained directions how to
proceed in the work of this great Mission ; but these advantages
were not enjoyed, and we are now left to lament the departure of
our Elijah, and to tremble for the cause of God. Be is gone ! and
he is gone to receive a crown of righteousness that fadeth not
away. His death, though a very great loss to us and to the cause
of God, to himself is infinite gain. Though sudden, his death
was glorious : he died in the work of God, with his soul fired with
an ardent desire and zeal for the enlargement of his church, and
the Divine glory. For some time before his death, it appeared
that he had no desire to live, but to see the Gospel established in
Asia. He frequently observed, that he had given up his life to
Asia? and it is astonishing with what assiduity he pursued his
object. Though near 67 years of age, in a short time he acquired
so competent a knowledge of the Portuguese language, that he
had written many sermous in it, and translated many hymns into
it : this work he was engaged in but yesterday, and is now enjoying
liis roward. Thus did he

' His body with his charge lay down,
And cease at once to work and live.'

•' About 6 o'clock this morning, the captain sent for brother
Ciough, and communicated to him information of the death of
Ur. Coke, which had been first discovered by the servant, upon
his entering to call the Doctor, at half past five, which was his
usual practice. He found him lying upon the floor in a lifeless
slate. Brother Ciough immediately opened the melancholy subject
to br°ther Harvard in a prudent way. Upon the first mention of
the distressing circumstance, brother Harvard could scarcely
receive the information ; but at length being prevailed upon te>


that are called Infidels, that may rejoice in the affliction*
But we have this consolation, that though a very principal
servant is called away, our Master still exists; and how-

believe it, he hasted to the cabin of the late Doctor, when, alas!
he found the fact to be mournfully certain. The corpse of the
Doctor, which had been moved from the floor, was laid upon the
bed: it appeared discomposed but little: a placidity rested upon
his countenance : his head appeared turned on one side. The
surgeon, after examining the body, gave it as his opinion, from
the Doctor's habit of body, that his death might have been
produced by an attack of apopiexy. It is supposed, that he rose
in the night to reach something that he wanted ; and, the stroke
coming upon him, he fell in the posture in which he was found
by the servant: this must have been about midnight, as, when
discovered, the body was quite cold and stiff. It is evident that
the Doctor must have had an easy death? since neither Captain
Birch nor Mr. Harvard heard any struggling-or noise, which they
would undoubtedly have done had there been any, as each of their
cabins immediately joined with the Doctor's, and were only divided
from it by a very thin wainscjot partition.

" Captain Birch very kindly offered a boat to proceed to the
Melville, and brother Harvard wrote a note to the brethren on
board that vessel, to prepare their minds for the scene which
awaited them. When the note was read, all were as though
thunderstruck ; the brethren felt as if they were electrified even
to stupidity, and could scarcely believe what they read. While
thus exercised, sometimes gazing on the note, and then speechless
looking at each other, the surgeon of the Lady Melville entered
their cabin, with a letter from captain Birch to captain Lochner,
stating that Dr. Coke Avas dead. All their fears were now realized,
and they hastened to their brethren on board the Cabalva; our
meeting on this occasion may be more easily conceived than
expressed. After consulting together, it was resolved to apply to


ever severe the wound may be in our Zion, the God of
Zion can easily heal it. In reference to our dear departed
friend I would assert, that though this unexpected stroke

captain Birch, for the preservation of the mortal remains of our
departed father in the Lord. Brothers Ault and dough waited
upon the captain; he heard them with great attention, but stated
difficulties so many and so insuperable, that after maturely weigh-
ing the subject, we all concluded that it was most proper to desist.
Captain Birch wished us to pursue our own plan, with respect to
the interment of our venerable friend, and politely sent a note,
desiring to know how we intended to proceed, stating his desire
to shew evert/ respect to the memory of so worthy and excellent
a man.

" At five o'clock in the evening, the corpse was committed to
the deep ; this was a very solemn and affecting time ; the captain,
the passengers, and the whole of the ship's company, shewed him
every respect ; the deck was crowded on the occasion ; a large
thick deal coffin had been made, and holes left in the bottom.
The body was placed therein, and being nailed up, was laid on the
leeward gang-way starboard side, respectfully covered with signal
flags. The awning was spread, the soldiers drawn up in a rank on
deck, the ship's bell called together the passengers and crew, and
all seemed struck with silent awe. Four cannon balls had been
placed in the coffin, decently tied up in as many bags, and placed
two at the head and two at the feet of the corpse. Brother Har-
vard read the burial service ; brother Ault then delivered an address
suited to the subject, in which he spoke of the character, respec-
tability, and general usefulness of the Doctor, and of the happiness
of the righteous dead ; and from the sudden and unexpected
dissolution of one who was but yesterday in life, took occasion t©
shew the necessity that lay on each individual to make a speedy
preparation, and stand in constant readiness for death. Brother
Lvnch then read the 51st hymn, on the 63d page, Hark, a voice


is mysterious, it is not doubtful. The most holy men are
not exempt from those fierce diseases that kill at a stroke,
nor from unforeseen accidents that terminate their exist-
ence. Here they are liable to the common lot of man.
Death makes no distinction between the prince and the
peasant. The young and the old, the good and the bad,
the wise and the ignorant, the minister and the private
Christian. " All things, in this sense, come alike to all."
But though sudden the stroke, he was not unprepared for
it. His remarkable and constant devotedness to God,
testified his readiness and preparation to meet the summons.
To him would apply the observation of the eminent George
Whitefield, " Sudden death, sudden glory." The un-
expected nature of his death, deprived him of human aid
in his last moments : but the faithful promise of God
insured divine, " 1 will never leave thee nor forsake thee."
Though there was no human friend to witness his last
expiring groan, the angel of the Lord, that encompasseth
round about them that fear him, could not be absent.

His death was mysterious, but it was merciful. He had
long indulged in his mind a wish to go and preach the
Gospel iri the East Indies. The interesting researches of

divides the sky, &c. and concluded with an appropriate prayer.
The whole of the service was interesting and impressive, and the
solemnity of the occasion appeared to be felt by all present; some
were visibly affected : may the impressions issue in their salvation !
The corpse of the Doctor was committed to the deep, South Lat.
2 deg. 20 min. East long. 59 deg. 29 min. to wait the resurrection
of the just."


Dr. Buchanan increased his desires. The description of
the horrible idol Juggernaut aroused his spirit : he pre-
pared to attack this grand work of the devil. The Inqui-
sition at Goa affected his heart ; he longed to bear a public
testimony against this engine of cruelty. The abomi-
nations of India were calculated to grieve his righteous
soul from day to day. He was delivered from this evil.
His death was attended with mercy ; nay, it was more
than mercy, it was an invaluable blessing. He had longed
indeed to be a witness of the purity of the Syrian church,
which Dr. B. mentions ; but he was called away to drink
of the fountain that maketh glad the city of our God. He
anticipated the pleasure of embracing with the right hand
of fellowship, the venerable bishop of Syria; but he was
invited to meet the " Shepherd and Bishop of souls."
Hence for him to die, was to triumph, to enter into glory,
to join the general assembly and church of the first-born,
to mingle with the " spirits of just men made perfect."

His death was mysterious, but not irreparable. He had
finished the work that was given him to do, and, as I just
now hinted, his Master called him away, even he " who
works all things after the counsel of his own will." He
can use whatever instrument lie thinks proper to accom-
plish his purposes, and he requires not the interposition of
mortals to effect his designs ; but he has condescended to
honour them with his commission, and to accept of their
services. Nevertheless, the removal of the most eminent
cannot derange his plan. His works are perfect, and his
ways past finding out ; and, blessed be his holy name, he
has not forsaken his servants. Though deprived of their


leader, father, and friend, the Lord hath given them more
than ordinary favour in the sight of strangers. I have no
doubt that the absent place of our departed friend, will be
filled with an instrument of God's choice.

It is probable that, if we take the Doctor in every point
of view, in his extensive range of Missionary exertions, in
his success in raising sums of money for Missionary uses,
and if we consider the tens of thousands brought to God
in his day, through the labours of those Missionaries, of
which he was so distinguished a leader; we may say, that
he has seldom, if ever, been exceeded as a Missionary.
Probably his zeal provoked the great Missionary spirit
that now prevails, among different denominations of Chris-
tians. The late very pious Mr. Pearce, a Baptist Minister
of Birmingham, observes in his Journal, that hearing
a sermon from Dr. Coke, " Ethiopia shall soon stretch out
her hands unto God," aroused in him a Missionary spirit.

The importance of this subject prevents my apologizing
for intruding on your time; I shall therefore close the
subject, by intreating you to improve by what you have
heard. Consider, it is no small affliction when God
removes his ministers. Compare your own zeal, and
love, and exertion for God, with that of this holy man, and
mourn over your deficiencies. Remember, death is no
respecter of persons. Recollect, we all may be the subjects
of fierce diseases, or cut off at a stroke. Then prepare
for this momentous hour. And may I not expect that
many, in this large assembly, are seriously and deeply
affected with the very important and awful truths that


have this night been delivered ? May 1 not indulge a hope
that many are secretly praying, Oh ! " Let me die the
death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his? ?
May t not conclude that you are forming resolutions to
live to and for God, and to " glorify God in your bodies
and spirits that are his."

Many of you, I know, live the life of the righteous, and
enjoy the blessing of the righteous, and with pleasing
delight anticipate the death of the righteous. You feel
more than a common interest in this very afflictive dispen-
sation. You have been favoured a few times with his
ministry in this place-, then you listened to his voice with
delight. You were charmed with the striking representa-
tions he gave of his Divine Mas(er. You sung for joy of
heart, when he proclaimed good tidings of salvation to
perishing sinners. You participated largely in the blessings
that he administered. You now recollect those seasons
with gratitude, and are affected with the mournful thought,
you shall hear his voice no more. From the wonders that
God wrought by him and his colleagues, and those Mis-
sionaries he superintended, in the Webt-Indies, in the
conversion of so many thousands of poor African and West-"
Indian Negroes, no doubt you had formed large calculations,
of the immense good Ceylon, and other parts of the East-
Indies, should receive, from his active zeal, and burning-
love for souls. Your estimations, in reference to him,
have failed. He had completed his measure of honour as
an ambassador for Christ, and his labours were finished,
which, in a comparative view, like the apostle Paul, were
" more abundant." His Master called him to enjoy an


infinitely higher degree of honour, without labour or toil.
Nevertheless, your expectations and prayers shall not be
disappointed. Though the dispensations of God are in-
scrutable, and his ways are not as our ways, and his
thoughts as our thoughts ; the fruitful shower shall not
fail. Hear the prophet: " For as the rain coraeth down,
and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but
watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that
it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; so
shall my word be that goelh forth out of my mouth ; it
shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that
which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto
J sent it." Then be strong in faith, giving glory to God.
Your prayers shall not fail ; his promises cannot fail. We
have no ground for despair. We may still exercise hope,
that even idolatrous Jndia shall be regenerated, and
" become an eternal excellency." He that will perform
this, is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.

Hence, my dear friends, go on in the name of the Lord
Jesus from grace to grace and strength to strength. Per-
severe to the end ; then death shall not be a summons to
you, but an invitation, and you shall hail the messenger as
the deputy of your Master, and " so an entrance shall be
ministered unto you abundantly, into the everlasting king-
dom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Amen, and

-Oiidcn : Printed at the Conference-Office, 14. Gitj'=Rce£,





FEB. 16th, 1816; AGED 66.









And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear,
(for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there
hath been a prophet among them.

The death of an able Minister of Jesus Christ, is an
event which calls us to considerations of eternal
moment. It is not, that in a single instance the
sentence is fulfilled — Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt
thou return : it is not merely that one of our fellow-
mortals has put off his house of clay, and departed
to the world of spirits ; and that his wife is left a
widow, and his children fatherless : No, these would
be truly afflicting events, and excite the tear of sym-
pathy, and the sigh of affection : the death of an in-
dividual may indeed break the tenderest ties of
friendship, and clothe in mourning a circle of rela-
tives : — But the death of a faithful pastor of a flock
of Christ, calls both " young men and maidens, old
men and children," all the families of a congrega-
tion, not only to mourning, but to the most solemn
pause of consideration on spiritual and eternal things.


An ambassador of God, sent to a Church and con-
gregation with a message, involving the highest in-
terests of the life or death, of the body and the soul ?
has no ordinary work to perform, no indifferent trust
committed to his charge, and no inferior reward of
joy or sorrow annexed to the result of his labours.
A representative of the King of Zion, and a watch-
man on the walls of his visible Church, if he lift not
up his voice, and give the warning to sinners to flee
from the wrath to come, the blood of souls will be
required at his hand.

In the commission of the prophet Ezekiel, to go
to the captives of Babylon, he was charged to be
faithful and vigilant in delivering the message of
God, and under no pressure of rebuke, from no
threats of death, or hopes of worldly gain, was he to
yield any diluted and temporizing terms of deliver-
ance to that rebellious house. What, in substance,
was then the restrictive message of God, in the
mouth of his prophets, is now, in the mouth of his
ministers. These also, commissioned of God, speak
in his name, deliver his testimony; and to those to
whom they are sent, whether they will hear, or
whether they will forbear, will be either a savour
of life unto life, or of death unto death.

Such a watchman God has been pleased to send
with a messag-e to this Church and cono-reg-ation :
he has been continued many years, in active labours,,
but his Lord has now recalled him ; his course is fi-

nished, his mouth is shut in death, and he is gone,
to resign up his commission, and to give an account
of his ministry, to Him who sent him. And you, the
dear people of his charge, whether you have heard
or forborne to hear the word at his mouth, shall
know that there has been a minister of God among

Permit me, then, my brethren and friends, while
the remains of your beloved pastor are still before
you, in the name of Jesus, to call your attention to
the import of the text, under the following parti-
culars : —

I. The ministerial character of your pastor, and
the doctrines and duties which he taught you from

II. The character of those hearers who have re-
ceived, and of those who have not received, the
word at his mouth.

III. That both shall know that there has been a
minister of Christ among them.

I. You will please to attend to the ministerial
character of your deceased pastor, and the doctrines
and duties which he taught from God. I shall but
briefly sketch his birth, education, and settlement
among you, and the services which he rendered to,
and the honours which he received from, the universi-
ty of Yale-College.

Dr. Ely was born at Lyme, July 7th, 1749, O. S.
He was graduated at Yale-College, 1769; and li-


censed to preach the Gospel, October 1st, 1771-
On the 27th of October, 1773, he was ordained
over this Church and congregation, colleague pastor
with the Rev. Jedidiah Mills, the first minister of
this parish, who died January, 1776 ; and in 1788, he
was chosen a member of the Corporation of Yale-
College. For many years he was one of the Pru-
dential Committee of that Board, for the manage-
ment of the secular concerns of the Institution ; and
in 1810 that body conferred on him the degree of
Doctor of Divinity. The following extract from
President D wight's letter to one of the afflicted fa-
mily, bears testimony to the high estimation in which
he was held by the Board of Trustees. " In your
excellent father, I lose one of my best friends ; the
College, one of its best patrons; and the Church,
one of its best ministers." Dr. Ely kept the records
of this Church, including admissions, baptisms, mar-
riages, and deaths, with that accuracy and punctua-
ality which distinguished him in the discharge of all
his official duties. He continued his public labours
until the third Sabbath before his death ; being ani-
mated with the hope of a harvest in a revival among
his people: and died February 16, 1816, aged 66
years and 7 months, in the 43d year of his ministry.
Dr. Ely united those natural and acquired abili-
ties, that activity and habitual diligence, which qua-
lified him for usefulness in the sphere of life which
was assigned him by Providence. Being, as he be-

lieved himself to have been in early life, the subject
of a work of grace in the heart, his soul was hum-
bled and enlarged with complacent views of the
majesty of God, the purity of his law, the perfection
of his government, and the wisdom of the plan of re-
demption. The Bible was his chosen volume. He
loved and treasured up its precious truths in its own
language. In this he saw himself, as in a glass, and
did not forget that he was a sinner of the apostate
race of Adam. In this volume he was taught to glo-
ry in the cross of Christ ; and from it he was furnish-
ed with the noblest objects of pursuit, the best prin-
ciples of direction, and the strongest motives of
action, in the conduct of human life. He was a
scribe well instructed in the mysteries of the king-
dom ; and the Articles of Faith, sanctioned by the
Fathers of New-England, in the Westminster Confes-
sion and the Assembly's Catechism, were cordially re-
ceived and unwaveringly held by him, as a concise
and luminous summary of the doctrines, duties, and
means of grace. He was a Cahinist of the old
school; and well understood, from personal ac-
quaintance with the Institutes of Calvin, the genuine
principles and systematic views of the doctrines of
religion, maintained by that illustrious Reformer.
He often expressed his deep concern for the purity
of the faith of the Churches, in view of those specu-
lative and practical errors which he apprehended
were prevailing among those who held the two ex-


tremes of metaphysical and heretical theology, as
being alike adapted to propagate the prejudices and
the poison of each other.

In his public performances, Dr. Ely made no pre-
tensions to refined elocution, or the ornaments of po-
lished style; but he aimed at usefulness : and, pos-
sessing a happy talent of communicating the precious
truths of the Bible, in a plain and affectionate man-
ner, and by very apt allusions, he would more strong-
ly impress those truths upon the memory, than all
the studied eloquence of language could have done.
He laboured not to preach himself, but Christ Jesus,
to the edification of his hearers, and the deliverance
of his own soul.

- In prayer, he had a fervency, an appropriateness of
expression, and such a facility of reference to the lan-
guage and allusions of Scripture, adapted to the im-
mediate occasion, as have been equalled by few, and
excelled by none. How often have your hearts, in this
house, melted under the unction and spirit of his devo-
tion, before the throne of grace ! How has he led your
affections up to Jesus the Mediator, within the vail of
the heavenly sanctuary, and there wrestled with
God, through Him who offers much incense with the
prayers of all the saints, for the pardon and accept-
ance of your souls, and for the out-pouring of the
Holy Spirit, especially on the hearts of this people !
And has he not left you an earnest that his prayers
shall be heard and answered ? How has he mourn-

ed over you, in public and private, that his labours
appeared so much in vain ! Many were the groans
which he uttered ; many the tears he has shed for
you, the beloved people of his charge ! I have been
witness to some of them ; you have been witness to
more, and God has been witness to them all. In
truth, your pastor was a good Bishop of Jesus Christ ;
a lover of hospitality ; a lover of good men ; sober,
just, holy, temperate, holding fast the faithful word, as
he had been taught, and able by sound doctrine both to
exhort and convince the gainsayers. Tit. i. 8, 9.

He taught you, with emphasis, the fall and cor-
ruption of our race, by the apostacy of Adam : That
by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin,
and so death passed upon all men ; for that all have sin-
ned. Rom. v. 12. He taught you, that Jesus Christ,
who took upon him the seed of Abraham, was God
over all, blessed for ever. And say ye, who heard
him, how fervently did he dwell on the heavenly
theme of redeeming love ; upon the Person, the
Priesthood, the atonement, the power, the wisdom,
and the grace of Christ !

With no less ardour, he enforced the divinity of
the Holy Spirit, and his exclusive agency to con-
vince the world of sin and misery, to enlighten the
mind in the knowledge of Christ, to renew the will,
and to persuade and enable the guilty and helpless
soul to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to him in
the Gospel. And again, let your hearts answer*



how he testified to you, in the imperishable words of
his Lord and his God, Ye must be bom again — that

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 8 of 51)