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Title: The Blessed Hope - A Sermon on the death of Mrs. Francis Cunningham
Author: Hoare, Edward N., 1842-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1855 John Colbran edition by David Price, email

                           “THE BLESSED HOPE.”

                                * * * * *

                                 A SERMON

                            ON OCCASION OF THE


                                * * * * *

                                  BY THE
                           REV. E. HOARE, M.A.,
            _Incumbent of Trinity Church_, _Tunbridge Wells_.

                                * * * * *

                             Tunbridge Wells:


The substance of the following Sermon was preached at St. Peter’s,
LOWESTOFT, on Sunday, the 19th of August, 1855, after the death and
funeral of MRS. FRANCIS CUNNINGHAM, the beloved wife of the beloved Vicar
of the Parish.

With great animation of spirit, and remarkable energy of natural
character; with an unwearied watchfulness over the young, and a no less
laborious care for their parents; with a fervent missionary spirit, only
equalled by her zeal in the work at home; with real natural eloquence,
and an admirable tact in her intercourse with all kinds of character;
with a tender sympathy for the afflicted, and a most friendly kindness to
all who needed friendship; and above all, with an unceasing spirit of
believing prayer, she laboured for forty years in the parishes of
Pakefield, Kirkly, and Lowestoft, in the happy service of the Saviour
whom she loved; till at length after meekly receiving at her Lord’s hand
the gradual decay of voice and strength, she peacefully fell asleep in
Him on August the 12th, 1855.

“The path of the just is as a shining light, which shineth more and more
unto the perfect day.”

                                * * * * *

                        1 THESSALONIANS, 4. xiii.

    “_But I would not have you to be ignorant brethren_, _concerning them
    which are asleep_, _that ye sorrow not_, _even as others which have
    no hope_.”

                                * * * * *

This world is full of sorrow, for the simple reason that it is full of
sin, and wherever sin is, separation and sorrow are certain, sooner or
later, to follow in its train.  So have they followed at this present
time, for the event that has brought us together is a separation that has
called forth a general sorrow throughout the place.  It has not been
merely respect that has led to so kind and almost universal an exhibition
of feeling throughout your town, for respect is, after all, but a cold
thing, and there has been nothing cold on this occasion.  There has been
a deep and tender sympathy, the mournful sense of real bereavement in
very many affectionate hearts.

Now let us none suppose that real, true, heartfelt, and sympathizing
sorrow is inconsistent with the christian character, for if such a
thought could be for a moment entertained, it would be removed at once by
the one simple statement, “Jesus wept.”  The tears of true sorrow,
therefore, are in perfect harmony with the character of Christ.  Sorrow
is not eradicated by the Gospel, but has its character changed by it.
The Holy Spirit does not harden the heart against grief, but comforts the
mourner in the midst of it.  The deep waters are not frozen, so that the
child of God can coldly walk across dry footed; but they retain their
character, and are deep waters still; and the believer is held up in
passing through them, so that, though deep, they cannot overflow him.
The effect is much the same as that of the coloured glass upon the light;
the light shines still, but a new hue is given to it.  Just so is it with
sorrow.  Like the light it remains within the soul, and is not
extinguished by the power of grace; but like the light passing through
the coloured glass, it acquires a new colouring, and is beautifully
softened by the sacred hope presented to us in Christ Jesus.  Thus the
passage does not simply say “that ye sorrow not,” for if it did, it would
imply that grief was sinful, but it says “that ye sorrow not even as
others that have no hope,” so teaching us that through still felt, sorrow
may be softened within the heart.

The passage also teaches what is the principle by which this change is to
be effected, viz: hope; for when there is no hope, there is nothing left
but the sorrow of the world.  I feel therefore that I cannot select a
safer subject for our careful study on this solemn day.  The Spirit
indeed appears especially to have stamped it with his own authority as
peculiarly suitable for such a season, for He has said in v. 18,
“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”  May He grant then his
own blessing on the words which shall be now spoken!  May He raise our
thoughts to things above!  May he teach us to realize the blessed hope!
And may He so make use of the present sorrow as to prepare our souls for
a tearless re-union before the throne of Jesus!

I.  The first thing to be noticed in the passage, is the light which it
incidentally throws on the _present state of departed believers_.

The prominent point of hope presented to our view is very clearly the
glorious coming of our blessed Lord, with the accompanying resurrection
and reunion of his saints.  But the present position of the soul is three
times incidentally mentioned, and each of these times is described under
the beautiful figure of sleep.  Twice are our dear brethren described as
those “which are asleep,” and once as those “which sleep in Jesus.”

What then are we to understand by this expression?  Are we to regard it
as proving their present state to be one of unconsciousness or stupor?
God forbid! for then how could such a spirit as hers that has now left
us, say, “To me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”  She could truly say
during her life time, “I delight to do thy will O Lord,” and it could be
no gain to such an one to sink down into stupor and inactivity.

But still they are said to sleep in Christ, and the beautiful suitability
of the expression may be seen from two points of view.

In the first place, death is the separation of the immortal spirit from
the mortal body, and the body alone now lies sleeping in the grave.  When
we assembled around that opened grave on Friday, it was to leave there
the body.  We committed her body to the grave, “earth to earth, dust to
dust, ashes to ashes.”

And this body may be justly said to sleep.  It sleeps, for it is without
feeling.  There is no pain or languor now, no advancing illness, or
exhaustion from decaying strength.  This is all over now, and the poor
body sleeps in Jesus.

Then again it is a sleep, for the time of labour has now passed.  That
beautiful and cheerful activity which for twenty-five years has been such
a blessing and example to this place, is now over.  The night is come
when she cannot work, and let us who remain learn the lesson that while
the day lasts, we must be, like her, most vigorously employed for God.

And lastly it is a sleep, for it is not permanent, but only for a time.
The night is quickly passing; already we see the streaks of morning; and
when the Son of Righteousness appears, the sleeping body shall spring
from the couch of its slumber, and take its place in the great company
before the throne of a risen Lord.

Thus the body may be well said to sleep in the tomb.  But the immortal
spirit who shall fetter, who shall entomb it?  The immortal spirit never
sleeps, it needs no sleep, for it knows no fatigue, and the language of
the Scripture is, “They rest not day and night, saying Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”  Rev. iv, 8.

But again, with reference to the soul itself, the present state is well
represented by the figure of sleep, and for this reason: that sleep is
the season of repose, and the repose of those we love above is perfect.
You remember the voice heard from heaven, the voice of the Holy Ghost
bearing testimony on this peaceful subject, “I heard a voice from heaven
saying unto me, ‘Write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from
henceforth: Yea saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours.”
They rest, therefore, in sweet repose, but repose is not insensibility.
It involves no want of consciousness, and accordingly you have two
passages apparently conflicting, but really in perfect harmony, the one
saying that they rest, the other that they rest not, for the one refers
to labours, the other to thanksgiving; the one describes the perfection
of repose, the other the equal perfection of joyous, unceasing, and
unfatigued activity.

Thus as to all that shall harass, distress, and grieve, there is repose
or sleep.  The world may be distracted by war and all its horrors, but
the soul above is undisturbed by the tumult, for no storm can ruffle the
calm surface of the sea of glass.  There may be bitter sorrow filling
many a broken heart, but it is unknown there, for as God himself has
undertaken to wipe away all tears from their eyes.  No fears or doubts
are known there, for they are all allayed and scattered by the actual
presence and perceptible love of their Saviour himself in the very midst
of them.  Above all there is no sin there.  While sin lasts there can be
no repose; but there, sin never enters; it may be sought for, but cannot
be found, for it is all blotted out by the blood of the Lamb, and is
remembered no more before the throne of God.  And so it is with the
beloved spirit now departed.  She has wept, and those who knew her best
remember well what a true mourner she was, and how deep was her feeling
of heartfelt grief when it pleased God to remove from her the dear
relatives whom she tenderly loved.  But she weeps no more; every tear is
dry, and every sorrow passed for eternity.  She has had her fears, her
doubts, her conflicts of soul, but there are none now; her race is run,
she rests in her Lord, she sleeps in Jesus.  She has struggled against
sin, she has wrestled with God for holiness, as many of you know well,
who have had the privilege of uniting with her in the outpourings of her
soul before the throne.  But it is all past now.  There is not a spot in
the white robe: she reposes a spotless conqueror before God.

As to all that may distress, therefore, there is repose.  But as to the
sinless emotions of a living soul, we have the clearest evidence of
Scripture that there is all the joy of activity without fatigue.  No!
there is no stupor, nor any want of consciousness to that light and
lovely spirit.  It is all life now, and life unfettered by the clogs and
hindrances of decaying flesh.  Memory is not dormant, for remember the
vivid glow of gratitude with which the living ones before the throne
adore the Lamb for having redeemed them by his blood from the various
nations of mankind.  Nor hope, for in that same song we find the joyful
anticipation of their future reign.  Nor praise, for the language of
heaven is full of praise; and wherever the ransomed spirits speak it is
in praise.  Think not that the love is lost or deadened, for these sweet
hymns in which so many amongst you have so often rejoiced to join with
the departed.  It is dangerous in such a matter to attempt to draw aside
the veil, and we must not venture to let go imagination; but yet it seems
as though we could almost perceive the new joy at the new song; the deep
emotion, the elevated expression, and the hallowed animation with which
she has already taken her place in the blessed chorus before the throne
of her Lord.

When, therefore, we speak of sleeping in Christ, we must not understand a
state of insensibility, or any want of consciousness; but of sacred rest,
of conscious, intelligent rest, in the peaceful enjoyment of the presence
of the Lord.  But as stated already, this rest, however glorious, is only
the intermediate state, and it is mentioned as it were, incidentally,
while drawing your thoughts to the crowning point—the grand expectation
of the church of Christ.

II.  Let us consider then, secondly, _The bright hope of the whole

By the whole family, we mean the whole vast multitude of the children of
God, “the whole family in heaven and earth;” now divided for awhile into
two classes, the living and the departed; but really one in Christ, and
about to be one in their common enjoyment of the blessings of his advent.
Of these two portions neither has reached beyond the range of hope.  The
blessedness of the departed is unbounded now, but there are greater
things in store for them; their cup seems full, but it shall be fuller
still when Christ comes.  The resurrection, not the death-bed, is the
hope of the believer.  We look not so much to the day when we enter the
grave, and dear friends in bitter weeping part with us, as to the happy
hour when we shall quit it, and those same friends rejoicing rise with

To this long expected hour the passage clearly refers, “For if we believe
that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus
will God bring with him.  For this we say unto you by the word of the
Lord, that we which are alive and remain, shall not prevent them which
are asleep.  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout,
with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead
in Christ shall rise first.”

The first point to be here noticed is clearly _the resurrection_.  Death
has been already said to be but a sleep, for it is not permanent.  “She
is not dead but sleepeth,” may be applied to her whom we left in the
grave on Friday.  That grave shall shortly give up its tenant, and very
body, that tendering beloved body, shall arise again in fresh life and
beauty.  As the springs from the acorn, and the butterfly from the
chrysalis, so shall that animated form rise forth with a fresh and
heavenly animation; that very hand shall hold the palm, and that very
voice unite once more in the praises of her Lord.

But though the same, it will be infinitely more glorious.  You have seen
lately a beautiful planet shedding its soft light over the ocean, and,
evening after evening, it has appeared very lovely, but yet how far does
it fall short in splendour of a summer’s sun in a cloudless sky!  Just
such we are taught in 1 Cor. xv, 41, is the wonderful difference between
the dying and rising body.  It was a bright and beautiful star that has
been shedding forth its lovely light these many years in the midst of
you; but, though beautiful, it is not to be compared to what we are about
to behold in the resurrection.  It was sown in corruption, little by
little laying her low; but it shall be raised in incorruption, no more to
be silenced by disease, or to give up through decay of strength.  It was
sown in dishonour and though dearly loved must be buried from the view;
but it shall be raised in glory, to form a part of the triumphant retinue
of the King of Kings.  It was sown in weakness, and perhaps it was one of
the most beautiful features of her character that that weakness was so
meekly met, and so cheerfully submitted to; but it shall be raised in
power, the power of undying strength, and everlasting life from God.  It
was sown a natural body, subject to the multiplied infirmities of a
ruined, fallen, sin-stricken humanity: and none felt their hindrances
more than she did; but it shall rise a spiritual body, fully fitted for
spiritual work, without impediment and without decay.  Can we wonder then
that with such a prospect full in view, the Apostle should write to the
bereaved Thessalonians, and remind them “concerning those which are
asleep, that they sorrow not even as others which have no hope?”

But this is not all.  There is another blessing promised, and that is

The great sorrow of this day is separation.  It is a sense of separation,
of loss, and bereavement, that has drawn forth so many tears.  Indeed
there is little besides to cause a tear.  As far as she is concerned
there is no cause for sorrow.  If ever there was one of whom it might be
said “she fought a good fight, she has finished her course, she has kept
the faith,” it was of her.  She was one who walked before God faithfully,
who loved affectionately, who laboured cheerfully, who trusted simply,
who rejoiced unfeignedly, and now she has sunk gently into the arms of
her Lord, to repose there in perfect peace till the time comes when she
shall be called forth to accompany His advent.  Can we say there is
sorrow in all this?  Can we exclude the thoughts of even joy at such a
conclusion of such a course?  Yes, there is sorrow, and that because
there is separation, and wherever there is true affection, the
separation, however peaceful, must leave a void which nothing else upon
earth can fill.  The home is left desolate after all, and however sweet
the assurance for the departed above, the heart still aches when left
alone to tread a solitary path below.  How beautifully then is this met
in the passage!  There is to be a reunion as well as a resurrection.  We
shall not rise separately, but as a reunited body in Christ.  There is
one beautiful clause that clearly teaches this,—“Then we which are alive
and remain, shall be caught up, _together with them_, in the clouds.”  So
that our blessed Lord when he comes against will not merely restore life,
but companionship.  He will undo all that death is doing.  Death kills,
He raises; death divides, He unites; death keeps us at a distance from
those who are gone before, He brings us once more together, so that with
them we should have the joy of one common life and glory.  Nor will the
ties of life be lost or forgotten in that new and sacred fellowship.  The
strong affections which God has planted will not be obliterated in the
grave; for you remember that remarkable passage in this very epistle, in
which the Apostle anticipates the joy of meeting these very Thessalonians
at that blessed hour.  In chap. ii, 19, he says “What is our hope, or
joy, or crown of rejoicing?  Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord
Jesus Christ at his coming?”  He clearly then expected to meet and
recognize these converts at that day.  For nearly 1800 years both he and
they have slept in their graves, but the close and intimate tie that then
united them shall appear with undiminished strength in their
resurrection, and the risen Apostle shall rejoice in his risen converts
before the Lord.  Then will be the day for the regathering of broken
families, and the healing of broken hearts.  Then will be the reunion of
the minister with the people, of the parent with the child, of the
brother with the sister, of the husband with the wife; a reunion without
the possibility of separation, for there shall be no more death, and the
promise is that together with them we shall ever be with the Lord.

But the passage carries us one step higher still, viz: to _the
uninterrupted enjoyment of the presence of our Lord himself_.

There is first the resurrection, then the reunion, but the crowning
promise of the whole is an everlasting fellowship with Christ himself.
“So shall we ever be with the Lord.”  Now this must ever be the longing
desire of the child of God.  Nothing created can ever satisfy the soul
that is born again of the Spirit.  Friends may cheer, and counsel, and
animate, and sympathize, but they cannot really satisfy, and a union with
Christ is the only thing that can give abiding peace.  You, whose
privilege it was to kneel beside the loved and departed one in prayer,
and to unite in the outpouring of the soul before her God, you can well
remember how ardently she thirsted for Him; not merely for his gifts but
for himself, that we might be satisfied with his love and filled with his
Spirit.  It was this ardent desire that led to her early rising in winter
and summer, in order that she might make use of the blessed privilege of
communion with God.  It was this that made the Lord’s day a delight to
her soul, for she could rejoice in it as one altogether separated unto
him.  She thirsted to have her soul filled with the love of Christ, and
when we reflect on such a character, what a power is there in the
promise, “So shall we ever be with the Lord”!  Then all thoughts will be
absorbed in him, all hearts satisfied in him; and whether we be found
among the living to be changed, or the dead to be raised, all will be one
in him, to behold his glory, to hear his voice, to wonder at his love,
and though faintly, yet sinlessly, to reflect his character.  “Beloved
now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be,
but we know,” we do not merely think, or hope, but we _know_, “that when
he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

Such then is the blessed hope with which our God has directed us to
comfort each other in the day of sorrow; and though our perception of it
be but imperfect, we must all admit that it is sufficient.  If this be
not enough what more can we require?  But before we close it is important
that we all bear in mind that there is a limitation to the promise; not
indeed as to the excellence of its rich gifts, but as to the persons by
whom these gifts will be enjoyed; and there are two short clauses in the
passage, which though short are very full, and mark with the utmost
clearness who those are that shall be partakers of this blessed life.
They are those who “sleep in Jesus”; or in other words those who are
“dead in Christ.”  The whole work is the simple result of the great and
perfect redemption wrought out by our Blessed Lord.  If it had not been
for the atonement there could have been no forgiveness, and no fellowship
with God; and without his resurrection there could be none to follow for
his people.  All springs from redeeming Love, and all is enjoyed simply
though Christ.  Those that are without Christ must be given up to
hopeless sorrow, for to them the passage is without its joy.  But to
those who are in him; not merely in his church, but in him; forgiven
through his blood, justified through his righteousness, baptized by his
Spirit into his body, to them the words are full of inexpressible
consolation, and present a prospect so brilliant that it may well raise
the heart above the sorrow of the intervening separation.

The great, grand, lesson for the day is therefore this, that we each one
seek, and that without delay, for this unchanging union with Christ.  You
have seen amongst you the fruits of such a union, you have had residing
in your midst for the last twenty-five years one who was without a doubt
in Christ; who, I would rather say, is in Christ, who is with Christ, and
who will rise in Him at his appearing.  You have seen the character
formed on such a union.  You have witnessed the holy peace, the warm
affection, the brightness of Christian joy, the tender and ever ready
sympathy, the untiring zeal for souls, the patient labour, and the
earnest endeavour to bring poor sinners to their Saviour.  All this you
have seen yourselves.  Nor must we lay it down simply to natural
character or inborn qualifications.  We do not exclude these, for there
was undoubtedly a beautiful character as the basis; but it was the union
with Christ that gave to all its true beauty.  It was the gift of the
Holy Spirit earnestly sought in unceasing supplication before God.  There
never yet was one more ready to confess her own utter nothingness, or who
felt more deeply that Christ Jesus, and Christ Jesus alone, was her every
and only hope.  And we must enjoy the same union if we would glorify God.
Do we wish to walk in the steps of those that are gone before, or rather
to follow Him whom they followed?  We must seek the strength to do so in
this union with Christ.  Do we want to overcome sin, to fight manfully
against the corruption of a depraved and fallen nature?  Our only hope,
and, thanks be to God! it is sufficient, is in this union with Christ.
Do we desire to labour for God, and like her that is gone, to spend the
powers which He has given in the delightful effort to gather in poor
sinners to his kingdom?  As the work must be for Christ, so the power
must be in Christ, and the whole blessing granted through a union with
Him.  Do we wish to be able to meet the day of sorrow, and when the heart
is overwhelmed to repose peacefully in the sure fidelity and tender
sympathy of a gracious God who has loved us with an everlasting love?
Again are we driven to the necessity of the same union, for through Him
it is that the Holy Comforter descends into the soul.  And do we desire
to pass peacefully through the valley of the shadow of death, to be kept
at peace when all around us fails, when the outward man decays, when the
voice becomes silent, and the eye dim?  Do we wish then to fall asleep in
perfect safety?  Our hope must be in that same blessed union with that
same blessed Saviour; for not merely in the present may we then look up
and say “I will fear no evil for thou art with me,” but we may look
beyond the valley and add “Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with

Let this then be the deep impression produced by the day.  Let us go home
to consider well the nature and evidence of our own union with Christ.
You, dear children in the schools, for whom it may be well said, that she
“travailed in birth till Christ be formed in you.”  You young persons
that have grown up under her care, and over whom she has watched with
almost a maternal interest, since the day that you first crossed the
threshold of the infant school.  Take good heed every one of you to this
great subject, and God grant that when Christ comes, like her, you may be
found in Him.  You that have been members of her different classes, and
have had the privilege of uniting with her in the sweet communion of
prayer and Christian intercourse, let the savour of those sacred hours
long remain with you, and let the recollection ever rouse you to fresh
and vigorous watchfulness as to your own union and abiding fellowship
with Christ.  Ye that are mourners here this day: ye that have come to
this house of God with bleeding hearts.  Dear Brethren, let your hearts
be comforted.  Think of her union with Christ.  Remember well her past
fellowship with him.  Think of her now as sleeping with him, and soon
about to return with Him.  See what He has already done for her, and let
the thought serve to raise your own heart heavenwards.  Let it tend to
satisfy your own soul in Him.  Let it lead you to say, “All my fresh
springs are in _thee_,” and may He “supply all you need according to his
riches in glory by Chris Jesus!”

And, lastly, you that are still strangers to that blessed Saviour; still
unconverted persons, with the burden of sin still on you; with no hope in
the advent, and quite unprepared to die; let the death speak to your
heart now if the life has failed to reach it.  Perhaps you may be young
persons trained in the schools, and under her influence from your very
childhood, but still strangers to Christ.  Remember then the earnestness
of her exhortations, and the fervour of her prayers.  Remember how she
longed for your souls, and let this be the last day either of hardness or
indifference.  Could that voice speak from the grave how earnestly would
it now appeal to you, and let the recollection of that voice now silenced
move each stubborn heart to turn to God.  The offer is now made to you,
and none can say he is excluded.  The atonement was made for all, and the
offer is made freely to each individual.  “Hear, and your soul shall
live.”  It is impossible that any offer more magnificent could be made to
the sinner.  Here is pardon, peace, joy, union, resurrection, and
everlasting fellowship with God, all offered to the most guilty sinner,
and all without money and without price.  Shall men remain hardened?
Shall the sinner remain indifferent?  Shall there be none this day
resolved to cast themselves at his feet, that all sin may be blotted out
through his blood, that when they depart hence, they may sleep in Him;
and that when the trumpet shall sound, they may rise at his bidding, and
spend eternity in the full enjoyment of his everlasting love?

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

           John Colbran, Printer, High Street, Tunbridge Wells.

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