The masterful sermons of what American preacher profoundly influenced Patrick Henry to become a great orator and patriot? Second question, what American minister succeeded Jonathan Edwards as President of Princeton University? The answer to both questions is Samuel Davies. Well, Samuel Davies preached this classic message at Princeton College on New Year’s day (January 1, 1761) and died shortly there after, on February 4–at the age of 37! Thus in a way—he preached his own funeral sermon! Follow the text taken from Jeremiah 28:6 and may it be a wake up call for every sinner (and I am the chief of sinners) who reads or listens to it:
“Thus says the Lord—I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This very year you are going to die!” Jeremiah 28:16 While we are entering upon the threshold of a new year, it may be proper for us to stand, and pause, and take a serious view of the occurrences thatmay happen to us this year—that we may be prepared to meet them. Future contingencies are indeed unknown to us; and thisig noranc e is as agreeable to our present state, and as conducive to our improvement and happiness—as our knowledge of the things which it concerns us to know. But though we cannot predict to ourselves the particular events that may befall us—yet the events of life in general, in a vague indeterminate view, are not so contingent and unknowable as to leave no room for rational suppositions, and probable expectations.
There are certain events whichreg ularly happen to us every year, and therefore we may expect them this year. There are others whichsom etim es occur in the compass of a year, and sometimes do not; such are many of the blessings and afflictions of life; of these we should be apprehensive, and prepare for them. And there are events which we know are before us, and we are sure they will occur; but at what particular time they will happen, whether this year or next, whether this day or tomorrow—is to us an utter uncertainty.
Such is that most solemn event—the close of the present life, and our entrance into eternity. That we must die—is as certain as that we now live; but the hour or year when we die—is kindly and wisely concealed from us, that we may be always ready, and stand in the posture of constant vigilant expectation; that we may not be surprised. But certainly it befits us to reflect seriously upon the mere possibility of
this event happeningthis year, and realize to ourselves those important consequences that result from this supposition. The mere possibility of this may justly affect us more than the certain expectation of any other futurity. And it is not only possible—but highly probable, death may meets ome of us within the compass of this year! Yes, it is highly probable, that if some prophet, like Jeremiah, should open to us the book of the divine decrees, one or another of us would there see ours entenc e, and the time of its execution fixed! “Thus says the Lord—This very year you are going to die!”
There some of us would find it written, “This year you shall enjoy a series of prosperity—to try if the goodness of God will lead you to repentance.” Others might read this melancholy line, “This year shall be to you a series of afflictions: this year you shall lose your dearest earthly support and comfort; this year you shall pine away with sickness, or agonize with torturing pain—to try if the kind severities of a father’s rod will reduce you to your duty.” Others, I hope, would read the gracious decree, “This year, your stubborn spirit, after long resistance, shall be sweetly constrained to bow to the despised gospel of Christ. This year shall you be born a child of God, and an heir of happiness, which the revolution of years shall never, never, terminate.” Oh happy and glorious event! May we hope this mercy is reserved among the secrets of heaven, for any thoughtless impenitent sinner among us!
Others perhaps would read this tremendous doom, “This year my Spirit so long resisted, shall cease to strive with you; this year I will give you up to your own heart’s lusts, and swear in my wrath that you shall not enter into my rest.” Oh! dismal sentence! None can equal it in terror but one, and that is, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into everlasting fire!” And the former is an infallible presage of the latter.
Others (Oh! let our souls dwell upon the thought!) would probably find the doom of the false prophet Hananiah pronounced against them:
“Thus says the Lord—I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This very year you are going to die!”
This year youmay die—for your life is the greatest uncertainty in the world. You have no assurance of another year, another day, or even another moment! This year you may die—because thousands have died since the last new year’s day; and this year will be of the same kind with the last—a time to die for many mortals. The causes of death, both in the human constitution and in the world without, will exist and operate in this year as well as in the last.
This year you may die—for thousands of others will die: it is certain they will—and why may not you? What peculiar security have you to confide in?