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OCCASIONED BY THE DEATH OF
THE LATE REV. WILLIAM HARRIS, D. D.
WHO DIED MAY 25, 1740, aged LXV.
To the congregation of Protestant Dissenters, meeting in Crouched Friars, London, this sermon, occasioned by the death of their late honoured and worthy pastor, the Rev. Dr. William Harris, and published at their request, is inscribed by their humble servant,
When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe. 2 Thess. i. 10.
WHEN our Lord comes again, he comes to judge the world, and to reward every man according to his works; as the apostle writes in his context to the christians at Thessalonica, who suffered persecution for the gospel: "It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us: when the Lord shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power: when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe:" that is, when he shall come to be glorified, in the eye of the whole world, in the punishments inflicted on the final and irreconcileable enemies of God and religion, and in the glo
rious and happy circumstances of those who have sincerely embraced the truth, and have been under the power and influence of it.
We may improve these words, by observing and enlarging somewhat upon these three propositions:
I. Christ will come again.
II. When he comes, he will be glorified in the happy and advantageous circumstances of his people.
III. He will be admired by all who have believed in him, and continued faithful to the end.
Prop. I. Christ will come again. This is no less certain, than that he once dwelt on this earth. The time is still a secret to us, and perhaps to all orders of intelligent creatures: but the thing itself is undoubted. He will come again at the time appointed of the Father, as St. Peter observes in one of his first sermons after the descent of the spirit: "whom the heavens must receive, till the time of the restitution of all things," Acts iii. 21. At the very instant of his ascension, his disciples were expressly assured of it by two angels: "This same Jesus," say they," which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner, as ye have seen him go into heaven," Acts i. 11. Our Lord himself often spoke of it to his disciples, and with the fullest assurance of the certainty of the event. "I go to prepare a place for you: and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also," John xiv. 2, 3. But he never acquaints them with the time: and because, for wise reasons, that is kept secret, he frequently exhorts them to watchfulness and circumspection. "Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day, nor the hour, when the Son of man cometh."
But though the time is unknown, the second coming of their Lord is no less the object of the faith of God's people now, than his first coming was of the saints under former dispensations: and the fulfilment of ancient predictions, in his first coming, confirms the hope of his appearing again. Nor is the great design of his coming into this world as yet accomplished. He will therefore certainly come once more, to complete the work he has begun.
We also know some of the circumstances of his expected coming, which are very different from those of the first. Then he was in the form of a servant. Hereafter he will appear in the character of the universal Lord and Judge:
"he will be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire: he will come in the glory of the Father, and all the holy angels with him: he will sit on the throne of his glory, and before him will be gathered all nations.'
Prop. II. When Christ comes again, he will be glorified in the happy and advantageous circumstances of his people. Here we may observe two things: first, what there will be, at that time, in their circumstances, which will reflect honour upon him. Secondly, what perfections in him will then be glorified and appear illustrious.
1. First, what there will be, at that time, in the circumstances of his people, that will reflect honour and lustre him. There will be such things as these; the perfection of their holiness, their external glory, and their great number.
1.) One thing in Christ's people, which will then reflect honour upon him, is the perfection of their holiness. They, who then appear among his people, and are owned by him, are such as had believed in him, and served him faithfully in this world. The virtue of these, which here had some alloys and imperfections, will then be completed. "The church, which he loved, and for which he gave himself, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, will" then "be presented to him a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, being holy and without blemish," Eph. v. 25—27.
2.) Another thing in his people that will reflect honour upon him is their external glory, or the lustre of their persons; their bodies being then raised up immortal, and no more liable to death, or diseases. Soul and body are reunited, freed from all the infirmities of sinful and mortal flesh. They have enlarged capacities, fitted for the noblest services; celestial minds, and celestial bodies; bodies no longer clogs to the soul in its divine employments, but made fit for a partnership with it in uninterrupted, endless praise and happiness. The representations, which the scripture gives us of this glory of the saints, are to this purpose: "So also is the resurrection of the dead: it is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body-The first man is of the earth earthy, the second man is the Lord from heaven. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly," 1 Cor. xv. 42-49. "We look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change
our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body," Phil. iii. 21. So St. Paul. And, says another apostle: "It does not yet appear, what we shall be: but this we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is," 1 John iii. 2.
3.) In the day of his second coming, Christ will be glorified in the number and great multitude of his saints. He himself once spoke of his disciples and people, as a "little flock," Luke xii. 32. It was so then indeed. Few there were that believed in him; fewer still, who had the courage to own him publicly, and before the world. Most men were then ignorant of him, or offended at him: and oftentimes his professed visible people have made but a small and inconsiderable appearance, in comparison of the rest of the world: but in that day, the number of his redeemed ones will appear to be a great multitude; when all who have held the faith of Jesus, or died in the hope and expectation of him, in any age, shall be gathered together from all the ends of the earth, and shall come from the east and the west to meet their triumphant Lord. Says St. John in the Revelation: "After this I beheld, and lo a great multitude, which no man could number, out of all nations and kindreds, and people and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands. And they cried with a loud voice, saying: salvation unto our God, which sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb," Rev. vii. 9, 10.
If Christ's people and followers should not then appear to be so numerous, as those who have not known him, or not obeyed him; yet they may, as they certainly will, be a great number, exceeding what the contracted charity, or the melancholy apprehensions of some now admit of and suppose. There may be many among his saints, not only out of all nations and people, but also out of all sects and parties; some of which were far from being very conspicuous or renowned on this earth.
There will be many of all ranks, of different gifts and attainments: some, of great learning, and the most exalted capacity; who preferred the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and him crucified, above all other science, as best suited to secure the practice of virtue, and advance it to the greatest perfection; and to support the mind under the afflictions of this life. Others there will be, of meaner capacities, unable by the exercise of their own reason, to trace out the principles and obligations of religion and virtue, or to comprehend the abstruse speculations, and pro
found reasonings of the philosophers; who from the doctrine, miraculous works, great example, conspicuous and well-attested death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, have learned the nature and obligation of true religion, as consisting in the love of God and our neighbour, and the certainty of future recompenses; and have been engaged thereby to perfect holiness in the fear of God. Some there will be in this number, who had gone far from God, and been greatly entangled in the snares of an evil world, and were in the utmost danger of everlasting perdition; who having been pierced with a sense of sin, and drawn by the gracious invitations of the gospel, became sincere penitents, and eminent saints. Others, who having been educated in the principles of the christian doctrine, and having been from the beginning under the impressions of them, continued to walk with Christ in white, and kept their garments clean, unspotted from the world. There will be here a glorious appearance of such as bought the truth, and would not sell it; who took the kingdom of heaven by violence, and chose the narrow path of virtue that leads to the sight of God and the heavenly life: when they, who should have animated and encouraged them by their counsel and example, laid obstacles in their way, and would have persuaded them rather to seek the ease, riches, honours and preferments of this present world. Some there will be of large minds, who studied the principles of reason and revelation, and were well acquainted with the mind of Christ; who here earnestly recommended general benevolence, promoted peace and friendship among men, and happily prevented contentions and divisions. These will have distinguished honour in that day: and some others, possibly, shall not miss of the divine favour, who from false apprehensions, and a mistaken zeal, had been here too apt to reject some, whom they should have received as brethren in Christ, and heirs of the heavenly inheritance. There will be some, who in this state of trial had done honour to religion, by a cheerful, as well as steady obedience. They had a comfortable persuasion of the divine favour and acceptance, and they rejoiced in hope of the glory of God. They could say: "The life, which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me," Gal. ii. 20. They will triumph and exult, when Christ, the judge of all, shall confirm the testimony they had in their minds, that they were the children of God. Others there will be, men of true simplicity and integrity, but dejected and low-spirited. They hoped, but