« ZurückWeiter »
hilated. For, (and this is the severest part of his slavery, and the height of his misery,) as he is forced to die, when he hath so many reasons to fear death, so he is obliged to live, when he hath numberless reasons to wish to die; he is not master of his own existence. The superior power that constrains him to exist, excites in him sentiments, which in scripture style are called, seeking death, and not finding it, Rev. ix. 6. cursing the day of birth, saying to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us, Jer. xx. 14. expressing despair in these miserable requests, Mountains ! fall on us; rocks ! hide us from the face of him, that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand ? Rev. vi. 16, 17.
But what can rocks and mountains do against the command of him, of whom it is said, the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft as wax before the fire, and as the waters, that are poured down a steep place, before the Lord of the whole earth, Micah. i. 4. and iv. 13.
Time-server! thou must live to expiate the guilt of abjuring the truth, of denying the name of the Lord, of bowing thy knee before the altar of an idol, of neglecting the exterior of religious worship, of despising the sacraments, of sacrificing thy whole family to superstition and error.
Thou grandee of this world! whether thy grandeur be real or imaginary, thou must live to expiate the guilt of that pride and arrogance, which has so often rendered thee deaf, or inaccessible to the solicitations of those thine inferiors, for whose protection providence and society have elevated thee to a rank, which thou art unworthy to hold.
Magistrate ! thou must live to expiate the guilt of thine unrighteous decrees, of thy perversion of justice for the sake of bribes, of thy ruining widows and orphans to gratify that sordid avarice, which animates all thine actions.
Pastor ! thou must live to expiate the guilt of accommodating thy ministry to the passions of the great, of holding the truth in unrighteousness, Rom. i. 18. of shunning to declare the whole counsel of God, Acts xx. 27. of opening the kingdom of heaven to those, whom thou oughtest to have pulled out of the fire, and to have saved with fear, Jude 23. in whose ears thou shouldst have thundered these terrible words, Depart, depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
And thou prostitute, the disgrace and distress of thy family! thou must live to expiate the guilt of defiling thy bed, the criminality of thine infidelity, and of thy baneful example.
Barbarous parent ! thou must live. Thou, who hast sacrificed those children to the world, who were dedicated to God in baptism, thou must live to expiate the guilt of a cruel treachery, which the sharpest language is too gentle to reprove, and the most dismal colors too faint to describe.
Disobedient child! thou must live. Wicked heart! in which a good education seemed to have precluded the contagion of the whole world, thou must live to expiate the guilt of despising the example of thy pious father, and of forgetting the tender persuasive instructions of thy holy mother.
Who will terminate this slavery? O wretched man, that I am ! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, Rom. vii. 24, 1 Cor. xv. 57. Jesus Christ re-established the order that sin hath subverted. Is death
the object of our fears ? Jesus Christ is the object of our desires. Is annihilation after death the object of our desires ? Jesus Christ is the object of our fears, or rather, he makes that eternal existence, which we shall enjoy after this life, a ground of the most transporting pleasure.
We do not exceed'the truth in speaking thus. How inconsiderable soever the number of true christians may be, the number would be less considerable still, if an entire freedom from the fear of death were essential to the christian character. Death is always an evil, an exceeding great evil, even to saints of the first class. Let not this proposition offend you. Each privilege of redemption is perfectly acquired for us; however, in the present economy we are not put into the full enjoyment of any one. One privilege, that redemption has procured for us, is a knowledge of the mysteries of God: but who of us knows them thoroughly? Another privilege of redemption is holiness : but who of us is perfectly holy? One of the privileges of redemption is a most close and tender union to God: but where is the christian, who does not find this communion interrupted? All the other privileges of redemption are like these. It is the same with death. Death is vanquished, and we are delivered from its dominion : but the perfect enjoyment of this freedom will not be in this present economy. Hence St. Paul says, The last enemy, that shall be destroyed, is death, 1 Cor. xv. 26. Death will not entirely be destroyed till after the resurrection, because, although before this great event the souls of those, who die in the Lord, enjoy an ineffable happiness, yet they are in a state of separation from the bodies to which the Creator at first united them ; while this separation continues, death is not entirely conquered, this separation is one of the trophies of death. The time of triumphing over the enemy is not yet come: but it will arrive in due time, and when soul and body are again re-united, we shall exclaim with joy, death! where is thy sting? O grave ! where is thy victory? ver. 55.
Let not the infidel insult the believer here, let him not treat us as visionaries, because we pretend to vanquish death, while we are vanquished by it. Our prerogatives are real, they are infinitely substantial, and there is an immense difference between those fears, which an idea of death excites in a man, whom sin hath enslaved, and those, which it excites in the soul of a christian. The one, the man, I mean, whom sin enslaves, fears death, because he considers it as the end of all his felicity, and the beginning of those punishments, to which the justice of God condemns him. The other, I mean the christian, fears death, because it is an evil: but he desires it, because it is the last of those evils, which he is under a necessity of suffering before he arrives at his chief good. He fears death; he fears the remedies, sometimes less supportable than the maladies, to which they are opposed; he dreads last adieus : violent struggles : dying agonies; and all the other forerunners of death. Sometimes he recoils at the first approaches of an enemy so formidable, and sometimes he is tempted to say, 0 my Father ! if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, Matt. xxvi. 39. But presently, penetrating through all the terrible circumstances of dying, and discovering what follows, he remembers, that death is the fixed point, where all the promises of the gospel meet, the centre of all the hopes of the children of God. Filled with faith in these
promises, the soul desires what it just now feared, and flies to meet the enemy that approaches it.
But Jesus Christ renders annihilation, which was the object of our sinful desires, the object of our fears, or rather, as I said before, he makes that eternal existence, which we must enjoy after death, the ground of our transport and triumph. The happier the condition of the glorified saints should be, the more miserable would it be to apprehend an end of it. Shortness of duration is one grand character of vanity inseparable from the blessings of this life. They will make thee happy, thou ! whose portion is in this life, they will make thee happy, I grant: but thy happiness will be only for a short time, and this is the character that imbitters them. Forget thyself, idolatrous mother! forget thyself, with that infant in thine arms, who is thine idol: but death will shortly tear thee from the child, or the child, from thee. Slave to voluptuousness! intoxicate thy soul with pleasure: but presently death will destroy the senses, that transmit it to thy beart.
But to feel ourselves supremely happy, and to know that we shall be for ever so; to enjoy the company of angels, and to know that we shall for ever enjoy it; to see the Redeemer of mankind, and to know that we shall behold him for ever; to enjoy the presence of God, and to be sure that we shall ever enjoy it; to incorporate our existence with that of the being, who necessarily exists, and our life with that of the immortal God; to anticipate thus, in every indivisible moment of eternity, the felicity, that shall be enjoyed in every instant of an eternal duration, (if we may consider eternal duration as consisting of a succession of moments) this is supreme felicity, this is one of the greatest privileges of that liberty, which Jesus Christ bestows
The different ideas, that we have given, áre, I