Sunday, January 01, 2006

A New Year's Sermon

Ever hear the expression "preaching your own funeral"? Try this.

On the first day of January in 1770, Baptist pastor Morgan Edwards preached a New Year's sermon. He chose these words from Jeremiah 28:16: "This year thou shalt die." He did not expound the text. Rather he believed that he would die within the year and was in effect preaching his own funeral sermon. However, as Martha Mitchell writes, "The year expired, but Morgan did not, thereby diminishing his credibility." In fact, he lived twenty-five years after this event. Morgan Edwards' boondoggle became, as one Quaker minister said, not Edwards' death, but the death of his ministry. Edwards resigned his pastorate and never pastored again.

Morgan Edwards was born in Wales in 1722. He received a thorough education, studying under such Baptist notables as Samuel Stennett and John Gill. He read the Old and New Testaments in Hebrew and Greek. He led in founding Brown University in Rhode Island. He pastored the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia, and served as both Moderator and Clerk of the historic Philadelphia Baptist Association. His Materials toward a History of the Baptists is an important document about Baptists of his era. He died in Delaware in 1795.

Perhaps Edwards' ministry ended because of his carelessness in exposing a premonition that turned out to be wrong. On the other hand, perhaps his carelessness was ordered to end his ministry. Regardless, let us learn to carefully weigh our impulses and impressions, and be careful to value God's meaning of God’s word above our own.

However, this year someone will die. It might be someone I know. It might be you; it might be me. It is appointed unto men once to die and after this the judgment. All have sinned and the wages of sin is death. There is a time to die. Jesus has the keys of hell and death. He opens and no man shuts. He shuts and no man opens. Yes, this year someone will die.

We do not know the day or the hour our time shall come. We ought to learn to say, "If the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that." Let us not be as the rich fool, for one day we shall hear the summons, "This night thy soul shall be required of thee!" Then shouldn't we live each new day and begin every new year in the light of that knowledge?

And am I born to die,
To lay this body down?
And must this trembling spirit fly,
Into a world unknown? - Charles Wesley


Anonymous said...

In my early days, when we announced a meeting or some such event, we always included the letters "D.V>." at the end. It simply meant God willing. We always achknowledged that all events must be in God's good time, and not ours.


R. L. Vaughn said...

I really like that! I think I'll put that into practice.

Shame of it, though, is that most people today won't know what it means (they could always look it up). I made it a point to learn the Latin abbrevations when I was younger, and still try to use many of them in order to keep them in memory. But "D.V., Deo volente, God willing" is one I have not used and had to look up.

Thanks for the lesson. God bless.

Please come back and comment again. D.V.