October 6: “There is much to do, and the time is short.”

A Funeral Sermon for Rev. T. Charlton Henry [1790-1827]

It was on this day, October 6, 1827, that the Rev. Benjamin Gildersleeve brought “A Sermon, preached in the Second Presbyterian Church, Charleston, at the Funeral of the Rev. T. Charlton Henry, D.D., Late Pastor of said Church.”

Rev. Gildersleeve is remembered as the editor of The Charleston Observer, a noteworthy Presbyterian newspaper of the times. Rev. T. Charlton Henry [1790-1827], the deceased, had been the pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church just four years before the Lord took him. A popular preacher and a friend of missions, particularly to the American Indians, under his ministry the church was built up and membership increased.

The following is a short excerpt from the funeral sermon delivered that day by the Rev. Gildersleeve. To read the entire message, click here.

 

Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for his end is peace.” – Psalm 37:37.

And now what improvement shall we make, from this afflictive dispensation? Though all here be dark, there is light above. If we may trace the correspondencies between our departed brother and the first Christian Martyr into the future, we may yet see that God will overrule this affliction to the glory of His name.–And He will do it, whether we see it or not. The persecutions that followed upon the death of Stephen scattered abroad the disciples of Christ. And they preached every where, fearlessly, salvation through the blood of the Cross. Their words were accompanied with the demonstration of the spirit and of power, for many became obedient to the faith. As they witnessed the triumphant death of Stephen, so you have seen your brother, your pastor, your friend grapple with the King of Terrors and gain the victory. Has it nerved your souls? Ah, you weep! But can you week in submission to the will of your God? I will not attempt now to check the flood of your grief–weep on. It is sad to say, O Christian, that he will counsel you no more. You have heard for the last time his voice of prayer. He never will break to you again the bread of life; nor will you ever be comforted again by his parochial visitations. You may therefore weep; for he is gone. But prepare to meet him, lest he prove a swift witness against you in the day of reckoning.

And, Sinner, he has given you his last warning. He will pray for you no more. That tongue is mute which has so often charged you to flee from the wrath to come. That hand is stiff and cold that has been extended to pluck you as a brand from the burning. Look at that lifeless corpse, and remember that you must also die–you must. You must also stand at the bar of God. He will be there. And I leave it for your conscience to say, whether you are prepared to meet him.

An afflicted family now calls for our sympathies and our prayers. It has lost–ah, I cannot describe it,–for it is irreparable. As our departed friend left his widow and his fatherless ones with God, they have, in His blessing, a rich inheritance. This is a mercy with which their cup of affliction is mingled.

We, brethren in the ministry, have lost a faithful friend–an eminent co-worker in the vineyard of Christ. But would we bring back the sainted spirit to earth again? No, no.–He fought a good fight–he finished his course–he kept the faith, and he now wears the crown of righteousness which was laid up for him above. He has gone–oh, let him go. Let him rise, and sing, and shine, and bow, and worship in the presence chamber of God Most High. While we deposit his precious remains in death’s receptacle, let us remember how frail we are–number our days, and apply our hearts unto wisdom. There is much to do, and the time is short. With more diligence and faithfulness than ever, and with a firmer reliance on the mercy of God, let us press onward to the closing scene, and prepare for the day when each of us must render an exact account of our stewardship. That our hold on Heaven may be as firm as his, our hope as bright, our life as useful and our death as calm, let us drink deeper of the Spirit of Christ, and live more devoted to the glory of His holy name. Amen.

Several works by Rev. T. Charlton Henry, as well as the funeral sermon by Rev. Gildersleeve, are found in the volume, A Plea for the West: A Sermon preached before the Missionary Society of the Synod of South Carolina and Georgia, in Augusta, November 21. (1824). To view this work, click here.

Words to Live By:
For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14b)

“Some of you may have seen how short life is in those around you. “Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?” How many friends have you lying in the grave! Some of you have more friends in the grave than in this world. They were carried away “as with a flood,” and we are fast hastening after them.

In a little while the church where you sit will be filled with new worshipers, a new voice will lead the psalm, a new man of God fill the pulpit. It is an absolute certainty that, in a few years, all of you who read this will be lying in the grave. Oh, what need, then, to fly to Christ without delay! How great a work you have to do! How short the time you have to do it in! You have to flee from wrath, to come to Christ, to be born again, to receive the Holy Spirit, to be made meet for glory. It is high time that you seek the Lord. The longest lifetime is short enough. Seek conviction of sin and an interest in Christ. “Oh, satisfy me early with thy mercy, that I may rejoice and be glad all my days.””

– Robert Murray McCheyne (1813 – 1843)

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  1. James T. O'Brien’s avatar

    Henry T. Charlton wrote an important book entitled, “Letters to an Anxious Inquirer, Designed to Relieve the Difficulties of a Friend Under Serious Impressions. It is available on googlebooks at the following link:

    http://books.google.com/books?
    id=ZBFZAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=intitle:letters+intitle:to+intitle:an+intitle:anxious+intitle:inquirer+inauthor:charlton&hl=en&sa=X&ei=7ldRUsPrH6-r4APt34HIBw&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

    There is also an edition available on googlebooks with the key terms “anxious inquirer” and “friend” reversed: “Letters to a Friend Intended to Relieve the Difficulties of an Anxious Inquirer Under Serious Impressions” which is the 2nd edition of 1829. The one to which I posted the link is a third edition from 1840.

    If we wish to be Biblical/Reformed in our evangelism we need to listen to these Presbyterian fathers so that we can learn how they addressed the unconverted both in terms of message and method.

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