Editor's note: John Taylor wrote a longer essay on Bullittsburg Baptist Church than on any other church in his A History of Ten Baptist Churches in 1823. He came out with a second edition just four years after the initial publication and included several additional biographies in that edition. He had been asked to preach, along with James Suggett, at the funeral of Absalom Graves in 1826. He used nearly three pages of his "second edition" to explain the meaning of his sermon, which is recorded below.
It is significant that Absalom Graves was the most influential promoter of missions among Baptists in northern Kentucky. If his family sincerely believed that John Taylor was opposed to missions as is often alleged, it seems they would not have chosen him to have such a siginficant part in the funeral. - Jim Duvall
My Sermon at Absalom Graves' Funeral
By John Taylor
At the funeral of Absalom Graves though there were many good preachers there, James Suggett and myself, living at a greater distance, were requested by the family to address the people. When Mr. Suggett was done, I named a text of Scripture and gave some ideas that are precious to myself. And finding that some good people differ from my views, I will now state a few of them.
The text that I named was in Isaiah 57 c. 1-2 v. "The righteous perisheth and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considereth that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness."
By "the righteous perishing" I understood their death, and as other men their bodies mouldered to their mother dust. By "no man layeth it to heart" I understood that the value of the righteous on the earth was not appreciated as it ought to be, for they were the salt of the earth, the lights of the world [Matt. 5. 13-14], and as salt and light were valuable articles among men, so were the righteous in this dark world. By "merciful men being taken from the earth" they were called off by death. And that none was truly merciful among men but the righteous; that their tender feelings towards their poor fellow sinners much imitated their Divine Master, who died for poor sinners; and by that circumstance they were known to be righteous. They were "taken away from the evil to come" that this is a world of evils or troubles always here and always coming with sorrow upon sorrow, but from them all the good man was taken away forever.
They "shall enter into peace" the day the soul leaves the body it enters into Heaven; that it does not die with the body, neither does it sleep. "They shall rest in their beds" their graves the peaceable resting place for the body, where the servant is free from his master and the oppressor's voice is no more heard where kings and slaves are on a perfect equality, and though they rest in their beds each is "walking in his own uprightness." It is not in this world they now walk, but in the place Christ went to prepare for his disciples -- some times called Paradise or, in other words, Heaven itself.
That departed spirits do converse we will not doubt, for the souls of them who were beheaded did enquire under the alter [sic], "How long?" and was kindly answered by the angels [Revelation 6.9-11]. Moses and Elijah did converse with Christ on the mount concerning His sufferings, which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem [Luke 9. 30-31]. Some think that the messenger conversing with John was the departed spirit of a saint, as he called himself John's fellow servant [Revelation 19. 10]. We know to a certainty that departed spirits do converse in Hell and cry for mercy [Luke 16. 23-24]. A departed spirit can lose nothing of its rationality or sensibility in the world to come but much enlarge in both, for then says Paul, we shall see face to face and know as we are known. [I Corinthians 13. 12].
After remarking to this effect, I took up the four near neighbors that had so lately left this world, had so long and happy acquaintance, having been members of the same church so very long together. I did not doubt at all but they were that evening in Heaven together, that they knew each other full as well as they ever did when they met together to worship at Bullitsburg, and at that moment recounting all the troubles through which they came. Graves had only left his painful tenemenf of clay about twenty-four hours [earlier], but, quick as thought, some kind ministering spirit, as in case of Lazarus [Luke 16. 22], bear him away announce[d] his arrival at Heaven's gate, while the Saviour says, "Enter into rest, my laborious servant."
The Lord Jesus is as kind and sympathizing now, as when He was on earth, as He is the same yesterday today and forever [Hebrews 13. 8]. His Disciples once returned from a laborious tour of preaching, and the throng was so great they had not leisure to eat bread; He then directed them to withdraw into the desert and rest a while [Mark 6. 7, 12]. So when their labour of love is done on earth, He calls them to Heaven to rest forever.
I closed my short subject by stating that I knew no rational ground on which punishments and rewards can be administered in the world to come but by knowing each other and calling up into recollection what had transpired in life. The Lord told Zechariah 11 c. 8 v. that He had or would cut off three shepherds in one month. Three shepherds or preachers, the Lord has cut off from Bullittsburg in a month or two. With those in Zechariah, God had a controversy and cut them off for their wickedness [Zechariah 11. 15-16], but I cannot think thus of the Bullittsburg shepherds. That it is a scourge on the church I have no doubt, and God's rod causeless does not come. Let each one examine closely, "Why is it we are thus chastised?" Perhaps duty to the preachers some way was neglected, either in not reasonably communicating to them or in failing to pray for their prosperity, or neglecting their ministry in some way. ==============
[From John Taylor, A History of Ten Baptist Churches, Second edition, 1827, pp. 167-169. The title is supplied by the editor. - jrd]
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