Preaching from the Coffin

Not only was Hercules Collins a faithful pastor in his life and doctrine, he also faithfully fulfilled his pastoral role of the oversight of souls. Of the discharge of this duty Piggott called the Wapping congregation to bear testimony: “And how well he discharged the other Branches of his Pastoral Function, this Church is a Witness, whom he has watched over and visited above five and twenty Years.”[1] One part of his pastoral faithfulness was his evangelistic fervor. Piggott described the evangelistic zeal of Hercules Collins by saying that “no Man could preach with a more affectionate Regard to the Salvation of Souls.”[2] He later called upon the regular attenders of the Wapping Church who remained unsaved as witnesses to the gospel fervor of Hercules Collins: “You are Witnesses with what Zeal and Fervour, with what Constancy and Seriousness he us’d to warn and persuade you.”[3] At this point Piggott began to plead with those present who were present by crying out, “Tho you have been deaf to his former Preaching, yet listen to the Voice of this Providence, lest you continue in your Slumber till you sleep the Sleep of Death.”  He then closed his sermon with a strong evangelistic appeal which must have been intensified by the presence of Collins’ lifeless body which lay before them.

You cannot but see, unless you will close your Eyes, that this World and the Fashion of it is passing away. O what a Change will a few Months or Years make in this numerous Assembly! Yea, what a sad Change has little more than a Fortnight made in this Congregation! He that was so lately preaching in this Pulpit, is now wrapt in his Shroud, and confin’d to his Coffin; and the Lips that so often dispers’d Knowledg amongst you, are seal’d up till the Resurrection. 
        Here’s the Body of your late Minister; but his Soul is enter’d into the Joy of his Lord. O that those of you that would not be persuaded by him living, might be wrought upon by his Death! for tho he is dead, he yet speaketh; and what doth he say both to Ministers and People, but Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man cometh?[4]

In a sense, these final words by Piggott allowed Collins to preach one final time to the unconverted who had sat under his ministry. After the funeral sermon at the Wapping meeting house on October 9, 1702, Collins’ body was taken the approximately two miles to Bunhill Fields where he was interred in this burial ground of dissenters.

[1] Piggott, Eleven Sermons, 236.

[2] Piggott, Eleven Sermons, 236.

[3] Piggott, Eleven Sermons, 240.

[4] Piggott, Eleven Sermons, 240.

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