AT EPSOM, NEW HAMPSHIRE,
DIED DEC. 13, 1821
THE AGE OF THIRTY-SIX YEARS
JONATHAN CURTIS, A.M.
OF THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH IN EPSOM
is presumed, that but few at the present time, who may read this discourse,
will need to be informed of the circumstances of the death, which occasioned
it. For the information of any, who may not know the circumstances,
it may be well briefly to state - that he, whose death is here mentioned,
was engaged with others in assisting a neighbor in the raising of a
small frame. A considerable fall of snow during the afternoon, which,
towards evening increased to a violent storm, doubtless very much tended
to increase the danger of the undertaking. After the two broadsides
had been raised, and the beams were about being placed, the whole fell,
and produced the instant death, which occasioned this discourse.
BE YE ALSO READY; FOR IN SUCH AN HOUR AS YE THINK NOT, THE SON OF MAN
Not a higher, nobler object can be gained by
immortal man, than a preparedness to meet the scenes, which are to open
before him. From the time, when we first enter the threshold of life,
till we find ourselves beholding the realities of an immeasurable eternity,
more and more momentous are the scenes, which open before us. Though,
in the world, we may find many blessings; still, on the whole, we are
taught rather to expect tribulation from it. Sometimes we hear the Almighty
speaking to us, and warning us to prepare to meet him as it were from
behind the hills, which conceal his insupportable glory from our view,
and in accents mild and tender as a father. At other times, his warning
voice seems breaking over our heads in sounds as overwhelming, as if
"seven thunders uttered their voices." One day the prospect
before us may be a most pleasant one; but when the next day shows us
the scene, that was behind it, our eyes grow dim at the sight; our grief
is unutterable; our hearts fail within us. Afflictions in the present
world, a dying hour, and a judgment scene, all must experience. If so,
how important must be a readiness, a preparation to meet such scenes?
Our blessed Lord in the context had been speaking to his disciples upon
the trying, momentous scenes, which were before them. The beautiful,
wealthy, but wicked city of Jerusalem must be destroyed. The destruction
would come suddenly. It would resemble the coming of Christ at the last
day for judgment. "As the lightning cometh out of the east, and
shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man
be." Christ would not only admonish his hearers to be ready to
flee from the destruction, which should come upon Jerusalem; but he
seems also by his language desirous of directing their minds to a contemplation
of his coming for judgment, and of his coming at death; for, as that
would fix their character and state, it would be the same in its results,
as if he then came for judgment. As a man would watch against the nightly
depredations of a thief, so would he have all to be in readiness to
meet his messenger death, who would often come at the most unexpected
hour. "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think
not, the Son of man cometh."
I shall endeavor,
I. To show what constitutes a readiness, or preparation for
II. That we are urged to such a readiness from the consideration,
that our Lord may come at such an hour as we think not.
I. What constitutes a readiness, or preparation for death.
I know there are those, who think all are ready, or in a state of preparation
for death; who suppose, that all are happy, when they die. But do such
regard the plain import of God's Word? That sacred Volume certainly teaches
a sentiment directly the opposite of this. That teaches through the whole
train of it that mankind are not naturally in a state of preparation for
heaven; and therefore surely not in a state of readiness for death in
the sense intended in the text. That teaches, that preparation such, as
is therein plainly described, must be made in this life, or else 'where
Christ has gone, thither we cannot come;* we shall not see life; but the
wrath of God must abide upon us.' To say, that all are prepared for death
and judgment, is to make a solemn farce of our Lord's description of the
great separating day in the 25th of Matthew, when the righteous and wicked
shall enter their different worlds. Such a course is virtually to renounce
the Bible. And who is he, who can calmly and deliberately renounce the
Bible? or, which is the same thing, set up his own perverted reason in
opposition to it? Let it be remembered, that, if we discard the scriptures
as our guide, we have no guide. Yes, we are on a dark, boisterous ocean,
and have no guide; and is such a state desirable? But, if we profess to
receive the Scriptures as our guide, we certainly ought to be directed
both in our belief and practice by their plain instructions. If we would
be directed in this great and important concern of preparation for death
by the scriptures; we shall find them teaching us, that a great change
must be previously effected in any and every heart. If you ask where such
a change in the disposition of the heart is required, I would direct you
to the words of our Lord in the 3d chapter of John. "Verily, verily
I say unto thee, Except a man, (not man in distinction form woman or child,
but man for the whole species;) except a man be born again, he cannot
see the kingdom of God." Christ explained this birth to be a spiritual
change. It is being born of the spirit. The spirit of God is described
as the great Agent in the change in disposing the creature voluntarily
and cheerfully to take off his supreme love from the world, where it is
naturally placed, and fix it on God, with this supreme love to God will
always be connected a true repentance for sin, and a firm, operative faith
in our Lord Jesus Christ; a faith which produces a Christian life. For
"faith," we are expressly told,** "without works is dead."
It is good for nothing.
This readiness spoken of in the text seems to imply, that we should aim
at a deep and lively exercise of Christian feeling; that we should contemplate
death not merely as certainly before us, but that we should strive to
make ourselves familiar with it; that we should feel ourselves to be truly
"strangers and pilgrims on the earth;" that we should feel so
strong a love for our God and Savior and for heavenly and divine things,
that death may be rather a welcome messenger than otherwise. He, who would
always be ready for his departure, will not only see to it, that his soul
rests on Christ by faith, and is kept habitually in a heavenly frame;
but he will aim as much as possible to view himself a pilgrim on the earth,
and will consequently strive so to manage and arrange his temporal concerns,
that, if he shall be suddenly called away, no one shall experience injustice,
or be made a sufferer by his departure. But, though some Christians may
be in a state of more perfect readiness to depart than others; yet all
are truly ready, that is, their great interest for eternity is secured,
who have chosen Christ for the everlasting portion of their souls.
II. We are urged to be in such readiness from the consideration,
that our Lord may come at such an hour as we think not.
This is the very reason given in the text, why we should be in readiness
to meet our Lord, when he comes to call for us, viz. 'because in such
an hour as we think, not, the Son of man cometh.' In the context also
the sudden, unexpected time of our Lord's coming to call for us is described
by the nightly approach of a thief; "But know this, that if the good
man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would
have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up."
If the householder knew the particular hour of the thief's approach, he
might with more propriety neglect to watch and prepare to resist him till
the time of his coming. But, as he knew not the time, the only way to
be safe was to watch all night. So in reference to our Lord's coming to
call us away by death; the only way to meet him safely and happily is
to be always ready.
The sudden and unexpected time of our Lord's coming to call for us is
taught by the parable of the ten virgins.*** At midnight, the most unexpected
season, the cry was made "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out
and meet him." They that were ready, you know, could go in with him
to the marriage; but against the unprepared "the door was shut."
Vain was their cry, "Lord, Lord, open to us." "Watch therefore,"
says our Lord, "for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein
the Son of man cometh." James says, "Ye know not what shall
be on the morrow: for what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth
for a little time, and then vanisheth away." But need I multiply
Scripture testimony to prove to you, that death is liable to come upon
us at an unexpected hour?
I appeal to the testimony of what your own eyes have seen; to the suddenly
expiring groans, which your own ears have heard; and to the grief, which
your own hearts have felt, when beloved friends have suddenly bid you
adieu. Have bid you adieu? O no. Often they have not even time for that.
While engaged with us in the busy cares of life, they seem to hear the
sudden cry, "The bridegroom cometh!" and in a moment they pass
away from us.
To prove to your plainest senses, that death may come at an unexpected
hour, I appeal to what this day represents to you. -- Why this assembly
here today? The solemn shroud before you tells the cause. -- "And
may it not be, that some one lies slumbering there, who was borne down
by the infirmities and decay of three score years and ten?" It is
not the case. He, that lies there in the sleep of death, had been but
thiry-six. It is M'Clary, M'Clary the younger. It is the strength and
vigor of manhood, that lies there. "And can it be," you ask,
"that this is his funeral? that he is dead?" Look and see for
yourselves. "But the countenance," you say "is the same
as ever." Ah true; but your hand will tell you the spirit is not
there. The lately animated clay is now cold. He no longer accosts you
in the language of friendship. The lips are sealed in death. Had any one
the last week told him or you, that that was his last week, who could
have believed him? No one indeed could have told this without a sight
at the book of God's decrees. Last Thursday, he was in perfect health;
and, last Thursday, he was such as you now see him. One moment, he was
in perfect health, and, the next, he was such as you now see him. Is anything
more necessary, my hearers, to show you, that "in such an hour as
ye think not, the Son of man cometh?"
Now let reason say whether the consideration, that our Lord may call for
us unexpectedly, should not excite us to be immediately and always ready.
Were you about to take a voyage to some distant country, and knew, that
the ship might sail away at any hour, what would be your conduct? Why
you would say, "I must be immediately and constantly ready."
Suppose the wretched murderer,**** now awaiting the execution of his sentence
at Amherst, had been condemned, but informed of no particular time for
his execution;--the officer might call him to the gallows at any hour;
and what would be your advice to him? You would say to him, "Be in
immediate readiness to meet your God; for you know not but that the next
hour may be your last. Flee for your life, your immortal life; flee for
your soul's sake to the only Savior of sinners. At the footstool of mercy
humbly and earnestly seek for the pardon of your sins. Bring your guilty
soul to the fountain of a Savior's blood, that it may there be cleansed
and purified. This immediately prepare to meet your God, for you know
not the time, when he cometh."--Now is not such exactly the condition
of all mankind? For sin all must die a temporal death; and we know not
the time when. But the future consequences of sin may be avoided by embracing
the provisions of the gospel; by faith in the atonement of Christ. But
these must be embraced before the hour of death; for then 'as the tree
falleth, so it lieth.'***** Then 'he, that is filthy, will be filthy still;
and the righteous, righteous still.' What more powerful reason can be
given, why we should be ready for the coming of our Lord, than because
we know not the time when?
Though my business is not so much with the dead as with the living; still
there were traits of character in him, who is gone, which may well be
recalled and imitated by the living--As a son and brother, he was dutiful,
kind, and affectionate;--as a friend and acquaintance, (and he formed
acquaintances probably in almost every state in the union.) he was courteous,
affable, and unassuming.--I may undoubtly affirm, that he was one, who
much regarded what proceeded from his lips. He was one, who held a sacred
regard to truth in all his conversation. I never knew that he abused the
use of speech, as many do, in profane language.--Though, for one of his
years, he had been much engaged in public business; yet he was very far
from wishing to climb to honorable stations, as many do, over the defamed
characters of the more deserving than themselves. Modest and unassuming
himself, he appeared to be willing, that all should possess that respect,
which properly belongs to them; which talents and worth deserve. Slander
and detraction were entirely foreign from his feelings. Amidst all the
contentions, which exist in society, (and he witnessed too many of them.)
I never heard that John M'Clary ever said anything to the disadvantage
of any one. "Yes," lately observed a judicious man to me, "though
I have heard slander and abuse carried to the highest pitch in his presence;
yet I never heard a word of the kind from him; but it appeared to affect
him disagreeably." I have no doubt, that discord and contention were
very abhorrent to his feelings. He was benevolent and pitiful to the poor
and afflicted. He could sympathize in the sufferings of others.--These
agreeable traits of his character may well be remembered and imitated.
But neither friendship, nor wealth, nor honors, nor firm health, could
preserve him from the arrest of death, a sudden death; for God gave the
summons, which must be obeyed. It becomes me not to dwell upon the dead.
He has gone; he has done with the world; a wise, holy, and sovereign God
called him away; and in the hands of God let us leave him, while we, who
survive, endeavor to receive profit from his sudden, distressing removal.
We may well conceive that the trial of the parents and family, of which
the deceased was so lately a member, must be very great. To lose a son
in the vigor of manhood, an only son, to whom the parents were looking
for aid and comfort in their declining years, when they wish to be retiring
from the business and cares of the world, must be no ordinary trial. How
unexpected is the scene, afflicted parents, which God's providence had
now opened before you! Your calculations had doubtless been, that this
your son would continue more and more to relieve you from the care and
perplexity of business, as your advancing age should bring infirmities
and decrepitude upon you; --that he should attend your calls around your
bed, and shorten the wearisome hours of your last sickness; and finally
attend a parent's remains to the grave. But how changed the scene! How
liable to disappointment are all human calculations! The parents yet live;
and the son is gone. The feeble stock remains still to bleed, where an
important limb has been cut off.
The children had also certainly expected that their brother would attend
them long in life to rejoice in their joys, and sympathize in their sorrows.
But he has been suddenly taken, and you are left. How far above, and different
from, our ways are the ways of the Almighty! He does show, that our calculations
are in vain, unless they agree with his. God has shown you, my friend,
and he does show us all, that he is a holy sovereign. He will do what
he will with his own. God has done no wrong, though he has called you
to a great trial. I can well conceive, that the burden of grief for all
the bereaved family and friends must be very great. But, my friends, there
is solid comfort, which may be felt in the midst of grief. There is support
and consolation for parents in their old age, better than the kindest
son could ever give. O, afflicted parents, let that support and consolation
be sought by you. It is not beneath the angels of light to hover around
the throne of their Father God, and from him receive their highest satisfaction.
How suitable then for his humbler, less deserving children on the earth
to hover around their Father's throne, and to seek protection and comfort
thence, when the billows of trouble roar around them?
Let the children, in their affliction, remember that the Friend, that
is nearer than a brother; that can console them, when a brother's counsel
and friendship fail. Bereaved friends, all of you, be instructed by this
event to look far away from this world for durable peace and happiness.
Another such event your family may probably never witness. A warning so
loud and solemn as this you will probably never again will hear. O shall
not, must not this be improved your saying, your everlasting benefit?
If this event does not lead your minds to another and a better world,
to a readiness to meet your Lord at his coming; pray what can you expect
will? What effect this event will finally produce upon you, I know not;
but the all-wise Jehovah knows, and eternity will show. My earnest desire
is, that you may find a blessing connected with this trying dispensation;
and that you may have abundant reason to say hereafter with the holy man,
"It is good for me, that I have been afflicted." ****** To a
merciful God, afflicted friends, I commend you, and in his hands I leave
As I am admonished by this sudden death, that I may never have another
opportunity, --you or I may be in eternity before it arrives; I must address
a few words to those, who were engaged with the deceased in the undertaking
of that fatal, solemn afternoon; an afternoon, when even the storm itself
could almost howl in sounds of woe. --When one in battle sees his fellow
fall by his side, while his own life is spared, the providence is very
impressive and solemn. But there you thought of no great danger. Where,
O where can you then be, my friends, where you are out of danger? Was
he singled out, because the greatest sinner there? It is not for me to
answer. But hear what our Savior says in a similar case. "Those eighteen
upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they
were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, nay: but,
except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."******** You may
not die by a sudden death. You may live a life of worldly pleasure, and
gradually sink into the grave; but expect you repent, you must perish
hereafter. You have seen one taken in a moment from your side; and you
are left. And why he taken and you left? God only knows. It may be, that
some of you may be excited by this solemn event to a preparation to meet
your God. I say some of you; will not, must not all of you be thus prepared?
A most solemn scene, my fellow travelers for eternity, has been before
you. I do not expect that those, who were there, will easily forget it;
but my great desire is, that they might profit from it. My friends, if
you do not profit from this, can you hardly expect to profit from any
thing? Would one from the dead persuade you to repentance? Could those
sealed lips be once more opened, would they not preach repentance to you?
Would not the language be, "Prepare, friends, to meet your God? Be
ready, for you know not when the son of man cometh?"
It is hoped that all this people, and all acquainted with the deceased,
will see from this event what life is; what the world is; may make it
their great concern to see what true religion is, and to be possessed
of it, --not merely twenty years hence, but now.
This sudden and solemn event should be improved by all present this day.
I am reminded by it, that I may never have, and probably shall not have,
another opportunity of warning all present, till the Son of man shall
come not only at death, but for judgment. As though it were the last time,
let me then, brethren, warn each and all of you "to flee from the
wrath to come." This very expression of Scripture shows, that there
is wrath to be fled from; and that it will certainly come upon those to
the uttermost, who do not timely flee to Christ, the only refuge, the
only hiding place from the storm and the tempest. Flee this day to the
city of refuge. Flee this day from a land of famine, a land of distress
and dangers, as did the humble prodigal, to your heavenly Father's arms,
that there you may be safe. Flee, I say, this day, for tomorrow may be
eternity to you. Flee, this day, for you may never hear the warning again.
* John vii.34, and iii.36
** Ja. ii.20
***Matthew xxv, Ja iv.14
****Daniel D. Farmer.
*****Eccl. xi.3. Rev. xxii. 11.
****** Ps. cxix. 71.
********Luke xiii. 4 and 5
Printed by Hill and Moore 1821, Concord, NH