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A Sermon preached in St. Thomas's Church, New-York,
at the Funeral of the Rev. Cornelius Duffie, A.M.
Rector of Said Church.

By the Rev. Benjamin T. Onderdonk, D.D.

Published at the Request of the Vestry of St. Thomas's Church.

New-York: Sold by T. and J. Swords, 1827.

2 ST. PETER i. 13, 14, 15.

I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up, by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me. Moreover, I will endeavour that ye may be able, after my decease, to have these things always in remembrance.

THERE are few characters on sacred record which we contemplate with greater interest than that of the writer of this epistle. Of warm feelings, an ardent temper, and a bold and enterprising mind, we see him, when pursuing the unrestrained dictates of his fallen nature, rash, impetuous, and self-confident; but when under the renewing and sanctifying influences of divine grace, zealous, faithful, undaunted, and persevering, in the discharge of duty. The labours of this eminent Apostle in the Church of Christ, were such as might have been expected from one of his character and qualifications. He was anxious that his exertions should end but with his life. " As long as" he was "in" the "tabernacle" of the flesh, he resolved to use every effort to "stir up" the Christians whom he taught, "by putting" them "in" constant "remembrance" of the "things" which concerned their everlasting peace; that they should "add to their" faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity;" and that they should "give diligence to make" their "calling and election sure." Upon himself, too, he would urge that most powerful motive to constant exertion, "Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle.'''' And his affectionate anxiety for the good of his spiritual children was far from being bounded by his short and uncertain continuance among them. "Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able, after my decease, to have these things always in remembrance."

And what motive, my brethren, to the discharge of duty—although, alas! its influence is too often weakened by the frequency with which it is presented—what motive to the diligent and faithful discharge of duty can possibly be stronger, than "that shortly" we "must put off this" our mortal "tabernacle," and leave that body for the deeds done in which we shall be judged, and in which only, therefore, can be made our preparation for the great account! No motive, especially, can come more powerfully home to the Christian pastor's heart, or should command a more due appreciation of his anxieties and solicitudes, than that he "must shortly put off" that "earthly tabernacle," in which must be completed the ministry that involves so momentous a responsibility. The infinite importance, too, of the embassy on which he comes, requires that he look far beyond mere present effects, and that his services be so faithfully rendered, and so duly received and improved, that the benefits thereof may extend beyond the short limit of his power of acting; and that "after''' his "decease" they among whom he laboured "may have always in remembrance" the "things" that belong to their everlasting welfare.

And surely, my brethren, the importance of this mutual fidelity of pastors and people, can never be more strongly brought to mind, than when all connexion between them, in this world, is at an end for ever, by the dissolution of the " earthly house of this tabernacle." And at the present moment of peculiarly afflicting bereavement, the subject commends itself to our most serious and affectionate regards, with an interest and particularity which we ought to pray God may, in no case, fail to produce a lasting beneficial effect. It is, indeed, a mournful occasion which has called us together. It is one of those dark and mysterious dealings of the Great Ruler of events, whereby he would bid us, in humble consciousness of our utter incapacity to fathom his counsels or his deeds, be still, and know that he is God. There lie before us the remains—of whom? Of the worthless, bringing nothing but dishonour to God, and ill to man? Of the useless, living to no good end? Of the superannuated, who has past his day of exertion for the glory of his Maker, and the welfare of his fellow-men? Of the insulated being, who has left behind him none to feel his loss, and mourn their sad bereavement? O no! The suffused eyes of relatives and friends—relatives and friends than whom none could ever have more cause to weep—say, No! The little orphans, whose only remaining parent is soon to find his final resting place by her side who gave them birth, say, No! A heart-rent congregation, gathered by his labours, and nourished by his short but faithful ministry, and some of them—God grant that there may be many more!—the happy subjects of that renewing and sanctifying grace which, bringing them to all the joys, and consolations, and bright hopes, of true evangelical experience, has flowed from the divine blessing on the worship, word, and ordinances, which he so faithfully dispensed, say, No! The Church, which he loved as he loved his own soul, and the pure and precious religion of the Gospel, on account of which he so loved the Church, which ever found in him the active, faithful, unwearied, and thank God! successful friend, say, No! And could voices now be heard from the abode of the happy spirits of the departed, there would be those who would delight to bear the testimony of their own blest personal experience, and say, O no! And could a voice be heard from a still higher source—from the throne of the Great Eternal, he, too, would say, No! It is not such an one that I have removed. I have deprived you, indeed, of your parent, your son, your brother, your friend; but I have called to myself one of my own blessed children. I have left you to weep a little while; but I have taken him to everlasting joy. I have bereaved you of him here; but yet a little while, and you may join him again, never again to part, in the regions of eternal day. I have removed your pastor; but J have called him to infinitely higher and more happy ministrations. I have deprived indeed my religion and church, in the prime of his life, in the vigour of his exertions, and in the full and successful career of his services, well pleasing in my sight, of one of their most devoted friends; but that religion and that church are still my charge, and in my own time, and my own way, they shall yet flourish and succeed. Be still, then, and know that I am God, I have not done for nought all this that I have done.

No, brethren, God never acts for nought. There is wisdom in his every dispensation, however intricate to us. There is clearly seen by him a wise and good end in his darkest dealings. There is exalted mercy mingled with his every judgment. Let us, then, not murmur, but bowing in humble submission, strive to improve this day of our calamity.

To you, especially, my beloved and respected brethren of this parish, the affliction which swells every heart, and moistens every eye, speaks with an interest and an emphasis, which should not prove—O! let it never prove—ineffectual.

He whose beloved remains now lie before you, was your father, your monitor, and your spiritual guide. He was sent to you by God for your good. And you all are witnesses with what faithfulness, affection, and assiduity, he manifested that like the inspired penman of the text, he thought "it meet, as long as" he was "in this tabernacle, to stir you up, by putting you in remembrance" of what it most concerned you to bear in mind. You all are witnesses that to this he faithfully devoted himself, until the hand of God put a sudden stop for ever to his ministrations in the Church on earth. His anxiety, too, like that of the great Apostle, was, that "after" his "decease," you should "have these things always in remembrance."

And here, let me digress, for a moment, to advert to one of the most interesting and affecting circumstances in the life of my old and valued friend. He was habituated to think much, and talk much, of death. From the period of the melancholy bereavement, which, a few days more than six years before his own decease, deprived him of one of the best of women, and best of wives, [1] his mind seemed to have been of a more than ordinarily serious and pensive cast. He loved to dwell on the hope of meeting the objects of his affection in a better world. He often spake of his own decease. In reference to this beautiful temple, a splendid and lasting monument of his ability, assiduity, and success in the ministry; [2] he would often speak of its conveniences and decent ornaments, as soon to be enjoyed and prized by his successor. He loved, when "came still evening on," to enter within its consecrated walls, and indulge the flow of meditation and devotion, which their peculiarly solemn and sacred appearance are so eminently calculated to inspire. And here the tomb of the wife and the son [3] of his affections, brought his thoughts into melancholy harmony with his wonted disposition to consider his latter end.

Connected with this digression, is the farther particular, throwing no small light on his character and predominant frame of mind, that when, during his last illness, the day returned on which, six years before, his beloved partner entered the world of spirits, he adverted to the circumstance, and begged that he might hear the hymn which she chose as the most expressive delineation of the state of her mind, on the eve of her departure. It was Addison's delightful effusion of "Gratitude to God;" was read to him; and spake also the sincere emotions of his own heart.

You will pardon this digression, my brethren. It was not an unnatural attendant on the consideration of the anxiety felt by your late excellent pastor, that the effect of his labours might continue long "after" his "decease"

And now that by the wise permission of God, that decease has been effected, how can your grateful remembrance of his worth, zeal, and devotion to your best interests, be more properly evinced, than by your determined resolution, and vigorous endeavours, through God's grace, that the effect of his labours on you shall not descend with him to the tomb!

Those labours were zealous, uniform, affectionate, and constant. In every function of his ministry, he manifested his anxiety "to stir you up, by putting you in remembrance" of those "things" which most concerned you in time, and through eternity.

In the services of the sanctuary, he led your devotions with fervour, with feeling, and with earnestness. He read in your ears the lively oracles, recited their instructions, presented their consolations, and held up their threatenings, with deep and impressive solemnity. In his pulpit exercises, he urged these instructions, consolations, and threatenings, with all the effect which extensive information, an accurate knowledge of their true character and nature, and a deep practical sense of their value and importance, give, through the divine blessing, to the ministry of the word. Some of you, and many of your children, were received by him into the Christian Church, by the washing of regeneration. Many have been the young subjects of his peculiarly faithful and happy exercises in catechetical instruction. Often—and on the very last Sunday on which he was able to officiate within these walls—has he, at the holy altar, dispensed to you the bread of life, and the cup of salvation—the symbols of that precious body and blood which purchased your redemption, and which only can preserve your bodies and souls unto everlasting life.

But not only in these public duties, did your venerated pastor labour "to stir you up, by putting you in remembrance" of the "things" that belong unto your peace. In situations, if possible, more affecting and interesting, and not less conducive to spiritual good, he prosecuted his work and labour of love.

When affliction was upon you, and nothing in this world could give you comfort and support, he was by you, to cheer, animate, and enliven you with the consolations of the Gospel, to intercede for you with the Father of mercies, to pray for the divine blessing upon the trying dispensation, and to fulfil that office, so congenial with his native benevolence and sympathy, of directing you to the blessed Saviour, who so kindly invites the weary and heavy laden to come unto him, and receive rest.

When you were laid upon the bed of sickness, he was there, to administer the consolations of religion, to direct you to the due improvement of the divine visitation, to pray for you to the God of all mercies, and lead you to the use of those means to which that gracious God has promised his blessing.

When "restored to health of body, vigour of mind, and cheerfulness of spirits," you would "go to God's house to offer an oblation with great gladness," he was there, to be your minister with God.

When, with affectionate anxiety, you watched the fast moments of a pious relative or friend, he was there, to cheer the departing spirit, and commend it to the hands of God who gave it.

When you would commit to their parent earth the beloved remains of that relative or friend, he was there, to point out an hereafter, to direct the tearful eye to Jesus the Resurrection and the Life, and even over the sad memorial of mortality, to draw down a ray of immortal bliss and glory.

Thus, my brethren, did this faithful man of God labour to "stir you up, by putting you in remembrance" of spiritual and eternal "things." Nor less did he strive, by all means promising success, to warn the wicked of the error of their ways, and to turn them from iniquity to serve the living God. His aim was, not merely to produce a present and momentary effect, but one which, long "after" his "decease" should continue to bring glory to God, and promote the good of souls.

His main anxiety, in all these labours, was to effect in you, through the divine blessing, those two essential constituent parts of the Christian life, the cherishing of the true faith, and the maintenance of consistent practice.

He wished to build you up in the true faith of the Gospel—that faith which acknowledges and reverences the One Eternal God, and sees his hand, owns his power, and recognizes his sovereign control, in all things—that faith, which, fully convinced of man's depravity and guilt, and then raising the view to the infinite holiness, purity, and justice of God, clings to mediation and atonement, as the only source of hope; and seeing in the divine Son of God, made man, and as man, suffering and dying, a sufficient and all-prevailing Mediator, reposes on him as alone able to procure pardon, favour, and salvation—that faith, which, deeply sensible of man's inherent weakness, and inability to perform the conditions on which are suspended the full benefits of the Mediator's mercy, gratefully seeks, humbly depends upon, and faithfully improves, the direction and aid of the Divine Spirit—and that faith which looks for the acceptance of even the best of services, for which grace has conferred ability, only to the all-sufficient merits of the Advocate and Intercessor at God's right hand.

To the Gospel faith, my brethren, of which these are the leading principles, it was the object of your deceased pastor, in all his ministrations, affectionately and warmly to urge you. And most delightfully did he, as his departure drew nigh, illustrate the strong hold which this evangelical faith had on his own heart. If God will accept me, said he to him who now addresses you, as a poor sinner, covered with imperfections and sins, I come to him. If he demands any thing in me as a reason why he should be merciful, I have none to offer, and then have no hope. It is only Christ can save me. It is only the mercy of God through him that can accept me. By various and often repeated expressions of the same sentiments, he over and over again declared, that it was only in the Divine Saviour he presumed to hope, or could hope. He was told of the long continued piety of his life, how humbly he had tried to seek his God, and how faithfully he had given himself to his ministerial duties. He expressed the devout wish that he could be better entitled to such recollections, and that they had a less predominant alloy of human failings, imperfections, and remissnesses. But nothing, nothing in himself, could for a moment, fix his attention, as possessing aught of merit. In the sublime communion service of our Church, and its deeply impressive and interesting office for the visitation of the sick, he united with the warmest and most understanding fervour, manifesting a peculiar application to himself of those many parts of them which so deeply humble the sinner, and so gloriously exalt the Saviour. For a while he expressed a strong anxiety to have a clearer view of his personal interest in the grace and mercy of Christ. Though strong in his faith, and firm in his hope, he would rejoice in more of that blessed satisfaction of mind, which some good people so richly enjoy, but which, it must be allowed, is also denied to many as good. Soon, however, the desired blessing was vouchsafed. He gave the most delightful and cheering evidences of the Christian's joy and triumph in the near and certain approach of the king of terrors. He seemed already to participate in the felicities of the Church triumphant. The glowing description of the New Jerusalem in the Revelation, was the chosen theme to which he wished his meditations directed, by having read to him that portion of Holy Scripture. All he said—and he said much that will never be forgotten—gave perpetually stronger proof, that rejoicing in the Lord, and joying in the God of his salvation, he was patiently but anxiously waiting for his release.

Brethren, who have been the constant hearers of this dear departed servant of the Lord, you recognize in the pure evangelical faith thus illustrated in his happy end, that which, in all his teachings, he has commended to your regard, and urged upon your operative adoption. And to this faith, he ever exhorted that you should add the maintenance of consistent practice; and by his example, admirably and beautifully illustrated and enforced his precept. Both by his life and doctrine, he set forth the true and lively word of the Gospel. The fear of God, the love of God, submission to the will of God, faithful application to the conditions on which salvation through the Redeemer is suspended, the religious services of the temple, the altar, the family, and the closet, the faithful discharge of domestic, social, and civil duty, commiseration for the distressed, and active beneficence in their relief, a constant care to guard against the dangerous principles and unhallowed practices of a world lying in wickedness, and a course uniformly marked by the simplicity, sincerity, and humility, of the Gospel, are those fruits of faith, and those good works, without which faith is dead, to which it is the object of the Gospel ministry to excite us, and to which you were, with the greatest constancy, and in the most affectionate and earnest manner, urged by the precept and example of the faithful spiritual guide who has just been gathered to his fathers.

I know of nothing that can better complete the view of the pastoral fidelity of the deceased, than to inform you, that one of his last prayers was in behalf of his beloved parish. You will recognize, however, an additional instance of his characteristic true Christian humility, when you know the subject of that prayer. It was, that you might have a better and a more faithful pastor. [4] How can this be? I know you are ready to exclaim; and it is a reasonable question. But it shows how ardently he loved you, and how devoutly he wished for your best interests. Your best interests were the subject of his dying wish; and as moral agents in the hands of the God of grace, you may do much for the fulfilment of it. And may God excite and bless your faithful endeavours! Your beloved pastor expressed the most lively joy in the hope that he might meet in heaven those whom he had been God's blest instrument of directing thither, and aiding in their progress. Though dead, he now speaketh, and prays you, disappoint him not.—I will wave all farther appeals to you on the duty of improving the rich blessing which you have had, and the great ingratitude to God, and consequent magnitude of the guilt, of being indifferent to it, or neglecting or abusing it. If you can resist the appeal that comes from that coffin, it is little, indeed, that I can hope to do. For your own sake, and for God's sake, let him not be a witness against you at the last day.

My reverend and beloved brethren of the clergy, our hearts are softened, and our sensibilities excited. May the blessing of God descend upon our grief! We have much to learn from this truly afflictive dispensation. If all should see in the suddenness of our beloved brother's call into eternity, a most serious warning, much more serious should it be to us. We have not only our own souls, but the souls of others too, with f regard to whose future eternal destiny much depends on the due improvement of the short and uncertain time in which we may be in this tabernacle. And if such an one as the honoured and beloved brother who now lies before us, could, as he did, in the humility of his heart, regret his failings in pastoral fidelity, and pastoral activity, which of us can boast? I am sure we all regarded him as a pattern most worthy of imitation. We know not only the faithful application of time and labour, but the anxieties and solicitudes of mind, which he gave to the .one great work of his choice and of his devotion. O! let us never have out of view that awful dying hour, to which we too are fast hastening, and which, in its strict, holy, and impartial judgment, even filled him with the consciousness that he should, and might, have done much more.

Nor let us forget, in this hour of our distress, our beloved absent father in the Lord. [5] Deeply will he feel the loss with which God has been pleased to visit him. He cherished for our brother the warmest affection, and the most entire confidence. He looked on him as an important auxiliary in his own pious and zealous efforts for the good of the Church of the Redeemer. Let our affectionate sympathies be with him in an official bereavement, greater than any of us can realize; and our devout prayers be raised to heaven, for the consolation which is so much needed by both him and us.

For the church and religion of the Gospel, let us pray, that as their devoted, faithful, and efficient servants are removed, others, and a more abundant supply, may be added, and the great and good cause still go on, and promote the glory of God, and the spiritual and eternal welfare of men.

And finally, my brethren all—for I trust that I address not one, whatever, or however general, may have been his connexion with the good man whose remains are now to be committed to the tomb, who does not mingle his grief with our's—let us all be humbled in the dust before the incomprehensible Being who has visited us with this affliction. From the depth of our grief under this chastisement, and the depth of our humiliation for the corruption and guilt which call for such severe discipline from the hand of our heavenly Father, let us look up to his bright throne of glory. Let us make to him the bounden offering of ourselves, our souls, and bodies. Let us seek his grace, that all things, prosperity and adversity,

joy and sorrow, sickness and death, may be to his glory; and that we may so pass through the changes and chances of this mortal life, as finally to attain, through the merits of the great atonement, to glory, honour, and immortality. And it surely cannot be an improper collateral motive, that there we shall meet those from whom we wept to be separated on earth, and with whom we shall be eternally united in heaven.

[1] Mrs. Helena Duffie, died August 17, 1821.

[2] St. Thomas's Church, one of the largest and most elegant edifices in this city, was erected by the congregation, which was formed by Mr. Duffie, and which, a little more than two years before the completion and consecration of the Church, consisted of but a few families, worshipping in a room hired and fitted for the purpose.

[3] Charles William Duffie, died June, 1824.

[4] There was something peculiarly striking in the language of this prayer. It was, that his parish might be blessed with a better, and a better, and a still better pastor. Language designed, as was evident to those who heard the prayer, to express his deep anxiety for the interest of his parish through the whole future period of its existence—that it might go on improving, and still improving, under a succession of more and still more faithful pastors. This was a very beautiful and interesting evidence of his participating in the anxiety of the Apostle, manifested in the text, for the spiritual welfare of his people after his decease.

[5] Bishop Hobart was then on a tour of Episcopal duty.

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