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2 TIMOTHY, iv. 6-8.
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge will give me at that day and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Ir all are interested in the death of a Minister of Christ who have esteemed his character and been instructed by his labours, seldom has an occasion occurred which is likely to excite a deeper or more wide-spread attention than the present. For it is not too much to say, that there is scarcely a country where the English language is known, to which the name and writings of the venerable man, whose death it is
the purpose of my present address to consider, have not reached. Nor do I conceive there are many passages of Scripture more applicable to his long and most useful life, and his holy and instructive death, than my text; in which the blessed Apostle St. Paul, now on the eve of martyrdom', animates his son Timothy to redoubled ardour in the discharge of his ministry, by the consideration of his own approaching departure, and the eternal reward which awaited him. Watch thou in all things, saith the Apostle, endure afflictions, do the work of an Evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry; and then in the striking language of the text, he assigns the reason for this earnest admonition, For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. St. Paul here appears like an aged combatant, discharged from his long and honourable toil, who is anxious to encourage those whom he shall leave behind, to fresh effort and vigour in the same struggle. His own services were on the point of termination. He could do
1 See Note A, in the Appendix.
no more. Others must now enter into his labours, must occupy the vacancy which his removal was to make, and must fill up his place in addition to their own. Nothing can be imagined more sublime, or more appropriate, than this triumphant exhortation at such a time and under such circumstances. The imprisoned Apostle, after two-and-thirty years of incessant exertion, and having the sword of the executioner already suspended over his head, thinks not of his own sufferings, but is solicitous only to soothe the mind of Timothy under the grief and perturbation which he might feel from the loss of a beloved friend and venerated counsellor, and to animate him to supply, by increased personal earnestness and diligence, the void which the event would occasion in the Church. To this end the Apostle assures him of the blessedness of his own situation, of the joy with which he looked back on all his labours and afflictions, and of the exultation with which he contemplated his allotted crown.
And such, I think, every adequate judge of his character will allow would be the temper and language of our departed friend, so far as the necessary interval between apostolical inspiration and authority, and the ordinary functions of the Christian ministry, would permit. I feel persuaded, that in looking back upon his labours of forty-five years in the service of his
Saviour, amidst many sorrows and afflictions, he would wish entirely to disregard himself, and would be only desirous to excite his younger brethren to new zeal and devotedness in that service, that they might fill up his vacant post, might partake of the peace and satisfaction which he had found in the discharge of its duties, and might at length receive that crown of righteousness which is reserved for the faithful.
In the considerations, then, which I shall offer on this occasion, it will be my aim to enter, if possible, into the spirit of this fine passage, and employ the animating testimony,
I. OF THE APOSTLE HIMSELF; and then, II. OF THE BELOVED AND VENERATED SUBJECT OF THE PRESENT DISCOURSE; for the purpose,
III. Of urging you, my Christian brethren, to RENEWED EARNESTNESS in occupying the station of those who are removed from us, by running the same race, and wrestling in the same combat. It will, to this end, be my sincere desire, not to panegyrize the dead, but to edify the living; not to seek the gratification of a fleeting curiosity, but to aim at the advancement, in some humble measure, of the glory of our Saviour Christ. May that Saviour, by his most blessed Spirit, direct us aright! May
he so assist us by his grace, that we may ourselves become followers of the holy Apostle, and of the excellent person whose death we are more immediately to notice; yea, of all those who through faith and patience inherit the pro
I. The language of the Apostle, as it regards himself, expresses the calmness with which he contemplates his approaching death; the grateful exultation with which he reviews the whole period of his labours; and the holy triumph with which he anticipates the crown of glory which was laid up for him. As to the present, he awaited his death with composure; as to the past, he reflected on his course with joy; as to the future, he looked forward to heaven with ardent expectation.
1. He speaks of his death with calmness.I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. This is the language of a composed and tranquil mind. The Apostle does not even name his dissolution by its proper term. He calls it not death; no; it is not so much that terrible and fearful stroke which sin inflicts on our fallen nature, as that transmission to the presence of God which faith reveals. If, therefore, he regards its sacredness,
2 Heb. vi. 12.