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Rev. Ebenzer Kellogg's 1798 Sermon

Kellogg preached here for 55 years.

Rev. Ebenezer Kellogg (1787-1817) (See bio) was the first minister of the North Bolton Parish, later the First Congregationa Church of Vernon. He served as our minister from 1763-1817. During that period he must have written and delivered over 2,000 sermons.

George Brooks in his "Cascades and Courage" history book says of Rev. Kellogg and his sermons, "The saintly Ebenezer Kellogg always read his lengthy sermons. They were serious discourses, carefully setting forth the most important doctrines and duties of religion. The theology of the First Church was stern in theory and strict in practice."

In 2020 we were fortunate to find one of his sermons on Ebay and return it to Vernon. It was an opportunity to see how he wrote and delivered his sermons, as well as get a taste of what his parishioners heard every Sunday for over 50 years.

Finding the sermon

Click to read A. S. Kellogg's
letter to George Talcott.

This 1798 sermon includes near the end a brief reference to the recent death of the wife of Captain McLean. Rev. Kellogg's great grandson Allyn Stanley Kellogg (See bio) was Vernon's first historian and the Clerk of the Vernon Congregational Church. As such he had access to many of Rev. Kellogg's old sermons.

In reviewing the old documents in 1882 he noticed the reference to Captain McLean's wife and sent the original to a descendant, George Talcott in Rockville, saying, "I thought you would be interested in this testimony to her Christian faith and hope, and therefore send you the sermon. It may be valued by your descendants in coming years."

He also notes that the sermon was originally delivered in 1798 referencing Anna King, widow of Hezekiah King, and the last page was rewritten for McLean's wife and reused on April 7, 1811.

Perhaps Talcott's descendants valued the document for a time, but as generations passed it apparently came into the hands of some not interested in their family history.

The sermon, and Allyn S.Kellogg's letter, were sold to a dealer in Michigan who posted them for auction on Ebay in May 2020. We saw the posting and were the only bidder returning the letter and sermon to Vernon, where it is archived at the Vernon Historical Society.

The sermon

The sermon is written in cursive on both sides of eight sheets. The sheets are small - just 6 1/2 by 4 inches. The 16 pages are not numbered and Rev. Kellogg seems to have used his own shorthand. There are about 3,600 words. He would have first read the sermon at the meeting house on the hill to his congregation on Sunday, July 22, 1798.

Rev. Kellogg took his theme for this sermon from the Bible's Philippians 1, 21, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." I might call it the 'Better off dead' sermon and I wonder how often he used this sermon at the death of other parishioners.

We don't know if there were earlier drafts. There are corrections and additions penned in to this final copy. He may also have included notes that intended to be cues when reading the sermon. Transcribing the sermon was a challenge and there are certainly errors, but it gives us a sense of what congregants heard each week at the time. There is nothing in the sermon, such as stories of local events, that otherwise add to our local history.

» Read the sermon as it is written in pdf form.

Transcription of the sermon

First page of the sermon.
Click for full 16 page sermon.

Page numbers are noted.

page 1

Sunday, July 22, 1798

Philippians 1, 21. "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

It is suitable for living mortal men, to frequently contemplate on the subject of death, and on future and eternal things.

The short term of time, at longest, which any of the human race are suffered to continue in the world, and the certainty of your speedy removal by death, together with the fixed unalterable state in happiness or misery you will enter upon at the dissolution of your bodies, are weighty reasons to excite the solicitude of all the living to familiarize death to your minds and give diligence to prepare for the solemn event, yet it may turn to your gain and highest felicity. The great end of the life of man in the world is to train him for a better life in the world to come – to live devoted to the religious fear and service of his Maker here, yet hereafter he may live with and enjoy him forever.

page 2

Such a manner of life and conversation only can afford comfort to the soul in the oren? and prospect of future scenes?. Tis the testimony of a good conscience, yet in simplicity and godly sincerity we have had our conversation in the world, yet will reconcile us to the thought of dying and God enabled us to view death as an entrance into life.

To assist your meditation on a subject of such serious and weighty concern to us all and excite our diligence in preparing for our great and last change, yet death may not harm, but turn to our real advantage and gain, I have chosen these words of St. Paul, in the text for the ground of the ensuing discourse. To die is gain.

To know the particular occasion of the Apostle expressing himself on your wise we may see by looking to the proceeding context. The holy Apostle which in body and under suffering for preaching of the gospel of Christ, by which his life was endangered; and the Christian church at Phillipi being much concerned for his safety and deliverance. To comfort them under the trial and . . .

page 3

. . . establish and confirm ?? more ?? in the Christian faith, he gave them to understand that he was fully determined to constantly adhere to Christ and his cause and spend his life in his service; that he is fully persuaded, though his zeal for Christ would cost him his life; yet that death in which a cause would turn to his gain. From a foretaste of the love of God in Heaven, he was full in the belief that for him to depart and be with Christ would be better for him than to continue in the body. Nevertheless, considering that the cause of the Redeemer needed his service and that in the hands of providence he might be instrumental in spreading, building and establishing the Church, he was willing to continue in life that he might serve God and his generation. Hence he says in the passage of our text, ‘For me to live in Christ, and to die in gain.'

The last clause? of the Christ is what I purpose to speak to at this time. For me to die is gain. And in discoursing upon it, I purpose to point out in some few particulars how and wherein it appears that death will turn to the advantage and gain of all real sincere Christians.

When the Apostle said that death would be gain to him, we are to understand that it will . . .

page 4

. . . also be gain to all who die in the Lord; to all sincere Christians whose peace is made with God, and who are entitled to the blessings of the heavenly world.

When the Apostle says that death is gain, ??? that for him to die would be his gain; we are not to receive it that death can be gain to any man considered simply for what it is in itself. In your view only, it is a dreadful evil and calamity which sin has introduced into the world, and subjected all mankind to. ‘The wages of sin is death' (Romans 6, 23). The holy Apostle himself did not, he could not desire death, considered only as an extinction of his bodily life. In that view of it only death is shocking to human nature, and what all men fear and dread. Death is the being of terror, and men shudder at the thought of dying. Tis then a hard lesson for men to learn that death will be gain to them. When they view the great tyrant, the all devouring monster in all its hideous and ghastly form, how can you be reconciled to its cold and fatal embraces? What agonies and distress does it cause when it ?eires upon its . . .

page 5

. . . prey! Nature trembles, agonizes and dies.

Death destroys the bodies of men, though fearfully and wonderfully made - turning the glory of the lower creation into an offensive moldering carcass. How then can death be gain to any man when it ?? to a final period to every bodily motion and sensation, and closes his eyes in midnight darkness. In then he that brings gain to man, who leads his body into the dust and lays it under the cold clod of the valley to be food for devouring worms? Can that relentless insatiable devourer, who breaks up whole families, separates most intimate and dear connection rending them from the friendly embrace of each other; yet pays no distinction to rich or poor, age or sex, but amests? all in your turn alike without exception? Can then I say death be gain to man? Yes, death is gain to every sincere believer in Christ your Savior.

And the dying Christian has a divine warrant to sing the triumphant song, O death where is they sting? O grave where is they victory? Thanks be to God who giveth me the victory, through our God in Heaven.

But let us briefly attend to a few particulars, by which it will appear that death is gain to the believer, or sincere Christian.

page 6

And here we may observe, that it will turn to his gain and advantage, both as it frees him from manifold evil and calamities which he is liable to while here in the body, and also brings him into the possession and enjoyment of great and unspeakable gold.

I will in the first place speak of the evil and troubles which death delivers or frees good men from by which it will appear to be gain to them. And it frees them from many natural evils and troubles which you are liable to and ofttimes are afflicted with while here in the body.

Ever since sin entered into the world it has become a scene of changes and sorrows; and you are but few or no persons? who have existed on earth, but have in a less or greater degree experienced days of affliction. Job 14, 1 says, ‘Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.' And Job 5, 6, ‘Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground; yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.'

The miseries of that life which the human races are subject to, are too many to be enumerated at this time, if capable of being numbered at all.

page 7

Natural evils appear to be almost constant attendants on mankind. We are at all times liable to sickness, pain and distresses, ??? and ofttimes experience them. The Saints of the Lord, as well as the wicked and ungodly, have their share in these things and ofttimes the greatest portion.

The Psalm says ‘The wicked are not in trouble as other men;' yet they prosper in the world and increase in riches; but as for himself, he was plagued all the day long and chastened every morning.' Psalm 73, 14.

But death, when it comes, puts an end to all these evils, and the Righteous sorrow no more. Rev, 21, 4: ‘And God shall wipe away all tears from your eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.'

1. Death is gain to good men, as it into? a period to the probationary state, and forces them from those manifold trials, opposition and conflicts with which you are excreised while in the body. A Christian life in the world is as that of warfare; you have many and potent enemies who assault and disquiet them in the journey through life. They are assaulted with many temptations and trials; with much opposition and difficulty which arise from the unsubdued lust and corruption of your own hearts . . .

page 8

. . . from the flattering delusive objects of the world and from the wiliest suggestions of Satan God's? implacable adversary, who continuously goeth about seeking whom he may devour. On that account I say, a Christian life is a scene of opposition and difficulty. The flesh says ye Galatians 5, 17: ‘lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.' The best of men while in the body, have to maintain and carry on the sore conflict; and ofttimes have mh?ads to sweep? under the disorderly appetites and passions. St. Paul himself, that champion in Christian warfare, though he fought ‘not as one that beateth the air, but kept under his body and bring it into subjection.' 1 Corinthians 9,26. But death puts an end to the sore? conflict and all troubles and sorrows which arise from the world, from the flesh and from the devil; on which account also it is gain to all sincere Christians.

But I pass on Secondly, to show that to die is gain to believers, not only as it frees them from manifold evils and calamities, which you are liable to and suffer while here in the body; but also as it brings them to the possession and enjoyment of that and unspeakable good.

It liberates the Soul from its confinement to the cumbering clay of the body and gives it admittance into mansions of rest and glory in its Father's house in heaven. The spirit of the departed Saint is no sooner . . .

page 9

. . . released from the body by death than it soars aloft those pure and blest abodes where sin and sorrows are no more ??, but where are joys that are unspeakable and full of glory. The soul of a godly Lazarus as soon as separated from his body by death, ‘was carried by attending angels into Abraham's bosom,' the paradise of God. Luke 16,22. This is by far a more desirable state and condition than to be groaning under the weight and burden of sin, and encountering many difficulties and sorrows, which is the special allotment of the children of God here on earth.

2. Tis gain to them as it brings them to the possession and enjoyment of that glorious inheritance which, while in the body, you had no more than a title to, and has it gives them vision and fruition of that, which at best while in the body, you saw only by faith and enjoyed only in hope. The best of Christ in your present imperfect state, is but through a glass darkly, but then ye will see face to face; now ye know but in part, but then you will know as you are known and be forever with your God.

3. Happiness, as at death all the holy graces are perfected and are wholly conformed to the moral image of the creator and the redeemer. While in the body you are sanctified but in part; but when death puts an end to the present life, you are made perfectly holy, and consequently, . . .

page 10

. . . perfectly happy. Therefore, if a state of perfection in purity and holiness be better than a state of sin and imperfection; and if a state of rest and peace be preferable to a state of labor and sorrow, then death is gain to the believer.

4. It further appears the happiness of the Saints beyond the grave is everlasting. It is not only unspeakably that sh? as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard of, neither hath entered into the heart of man to conceive; but it will be perpetual and without end. In God's preference, where his Saints will be admitted, we read, is fulness of joy, and at his right hand flow rivers of pleasure forevermore. The joys of heaven are not fleeting and momentary like the pleasures of your world; but they are permanent and will continue even as the days of life itself. They who once obtain possession of the crown of life, which God has promised to all believers in his Son, are not subject to lose, or even be dispossessed of it again. Agreeable to which we read Rev. 3, 12. ‘Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the Temple of my God and he shall go no more out.' The highest pleasures of the life that are lawful, are but momentary and for the most part are attended or followed with a mixture of pain. We are in no situation in life perfectly happy; . . .

page 11

. . . much contributes to your mutual joy and felicity. While here in the world, good men though of an humble birth, are mixed with the herd of sinners, and ofttimes ye company and conversation, as well as your general conduct, are offensive and grievous to em??. Tis painful and grievous to good men to hear ye profanity and indignant conversation of ye who; to see ye laws of often violated, his gospel neglected and despised; and his authority and honor vilified and trampled under foot as often is the case. I beheld vagupious? David, ye transgressors and ?? grieved; because they accept not thy word, but beyond the grave you are freed from all afflictions and sorrows of ye kind. The inhabitants of ye heavenly world have none y??? society, but what are holy, to whose conversation and conduct will contribute to the happiness of each other. Without ??? dogs and sorcerers, whore mongers and adulterers and what forever loveth and maketh a lie. They will have none among ?? but who are of a holy temper and disposition ?? holy angels and holy ?? of just men ?? perfect; who sing in concert ye wonder of redeeming love and grace in songs of sweetest harmony and with heart felt joy ??? those ye will be ye delightful employ ?? out an endless eternity. Certainly then, if it be better to triumph above in glory than sigh and sorrow here below . . . .

page 12

. . . nor is it possible under ye present constitution of things for us to be ?? Our capacities for receiving pleasure are clogged with ??? depravity ?? ye will not ??? ??? of it; but it is not so with the inhabitants of ye holy world; the enjoyments that will be accompanied with no alloy. Here the nature of man may be ?ussited in the enjoyment, and then his pleasure becomes his pain. The full soul as Solomon observes, loathe? the honeycomb. but yet is not the case with the inhabitants of the heavenly world; they feel nothing of your depravity and imperfection of nature; but perfect satisfaction in all your enjoyment. Well then may it be said of all sincere Christians, that to die is gain.

I add one more.

5. Happiness, as at that time you are introduced and joined to your happy society of blessed angels and spirits of just men made perfect. Man is a sociable creature and much of our happiness consists in the society and fellowship with those whose temper and disposition of soul are congenial with our own. In the holy world all you inhabitants agree, being of one ?? and mind. They all are holy, and consequently love a holy God and one another, with a pure love fervently; and are harmoniously joyful in celebrating his ??? which . . .

page 13

Certainly then, it if be better to triumph above in glory, where is fulness of joy, than to sigh and groan here below under the weight and pressure of manifold trial and calamities, then death is and will be gain to the believer.

It now pas? to a close? by way of inference and application. And,

1. Since death will be to your advantage and gain of believers in Christ and to those only; hence we may infer that those persons who abide in a state of unbelief, impenitence and would ? have no good ground to expect a state of peace, rest and happiness beyond the grave. The future prospects of the who? and ungodly, must needs be dark and gloomy. They who live estranged from God and serve diverse lusts and pleasures in your life must expect to abide at an awful moral distance from him in the world to come, and be the miserable objects of his eternal indignation and wrath. The impenitent who receive all the good things in life; but hereafter will be afflicted and tormented. Let those who are of unholy and ungodly character, timely and seriously consider of the solemn and momentous concern, and delay not to acquaint themselves with God, and be at peace with him. Tis now an accepted . . .

page 14

. . . time and day of salvation; but it will not be long before the things which belong to your peace will be forever hid from your eyes.

2. What has been observed on the subject may administer support and comfort to the godly in Christ against the fears and terrors of death. Death you cannot hope to escape since it's appointed to all men once to die. There is no discharge in the war. But since God of his grace in Christ can, and has promised, to make it turn to your real gain; you need not be distressingly afraid of your last enemy.

What in special is incumbent on you is to give diligence to make your calling and election sure. To clear up to yourselves the evidence of the interest in the atoning merits of Christ by your faith in him and repentance towards God and your right and title to the promises he has graciously made to his chosen and sanctified people. When you do you have access into the grace wherein you will stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. The death of your body will not be your destruction, but only the opening of the way through which you may enter into life everlasting.

3. We may further infer from the subject the blessed and happy state of those who have . . .

page 15

. . . departed in Christ. Who were united to him by faith an love and interested in the saving benefits of his redemption.

To ??, death has turned greatly to their gain. Revelation 14, 13. "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto to me, Write, Blessed are ye dead which die in ye Lord, for henceforth; yea, saith ye Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works who do follow them."

The late death of the wife of Capt. McLean, which occasioned our present meditations on the subject, is one of those instances which affords ground for a charitable belief that death has turned to her gain. For some few years past she entertained a comforting hope, that through grace, she had been brought to embrace and rest on ye ??? only the ????? And through the course of her last lingering sickness, (which she endured with Christian patience and resignation to the will of God). Though sensible the prospect of her recovery to health was but small; she appeared not to be alarmed with fear at approaching death; but was consoled under ye gloomy ??? from believing app?? and views of the mercy of God in Christ the ?? sufficiency of the atonement of ye ?? her interest ?? in by faith. That all . . .

page 16

. . . promises of God in Christ are ye? and in him amen, to the glory of the Father. This appeared to be the only ground of her hope, which strengthened, till she closed her eyes on all mortal things, and opened them in the eternal world; where, as we charitably suppose, she now sees as she as ??? as she is known, and will be forever with the Lord.

4. In a few words. This subject also affords a use of consolation to the mourners. Although by the providence of God, you are called to mourning; yet you mourn not as those who mourn without hope. Your loss, you have reason to hope, has turned to her gain. Her soul is dismissed from the encumbering clay of a mortal body; freed from sin and the cares and afflictions of the evil world, enjoys ye blest society of perfect Spirits? above, where are joys unspeakable, and full of glory. This thought, is matter for your support and consolation in the day of your trial and affliction. Let it be your desire and care, to improve the dispensation of ?? for your own good; to realize to your spiritual and eternal ??? concerning and excite a heedful diligence to prepare for death which ??? that you may be found at peace in God, in that approaching and solemn day.

To conclude in a word. Let us all live as dying and accountable creatures, yet when summoned ?? way by death we may be enabled to give up our acounts? to God with joy and not with grief.

Amen.

Notes

Kellogg seems to have had his own shorthand. End of line hyphens are an underscore ‘_'. He leaves out the ‘e' on some short words. There are no regular paragraph breaks.

Here are some translations:

Θ = world
Ap = Apostle
Fancy H = heaven
u with line over it = shall
wd = would
wh = which
wn = when
X = Christ or Christians
y = th as in: yse = these and yt = that
ye = usually ‘the'
yr = your

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