صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

ing in a Christian to lull himself to sleep in the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was the arins of indolence, to addict himself to the sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done depleasures of sense, to suffer himself to be en-spite unto the spirit of grace?" Heb. x. 29. chanted by the charms of voluptuousness, to Here, sinner, here read thy sentence! The breathe after nothing but ease, but convenience, voice of the blood of the Son of God will cry but repose, but abundance? "If the world from earth to heaven for vengeance against hate you, ye know that it hated me before it thee. God will one day call thee to give an hated you. Remember the word that I said account of the blood of a Son so dear to him. unto you, the servant is not greater than his He will say unto thee as St. Peter did to those Lord," Jonn xv. 18. 20. who shed it; "Thou hast denied the Holy One and the just and killed the Prince of Life," Acts iii. 14, 15. He will pursue thee with all his plagues, as if thou hadst imbrued thy hands in that blood, and as he has pursued those who were actually guilty of that crime.

If we consider the cross of Christ, in relation to the sacrifice which is there offered up to divine justice, it has a powerful tendency to produce in us the dispositions expressed by St. Paul, so as to be able to say with him, "The world is crucified unto me, and I am crucified unto the world." That worldly life, those dissipations, those accumulated rebellions against the commands of heaven; that cupidity which engrosses us, and constitutes all our delight, in what is all this to terminate? Observe the tempests which it gathers around the head of those who give themselves up to criminal indulgence. Jesus Christ was perfectly exempt from sin, but he took ours upon himself, "he bare them in his own body on the tree," 1 Pet. ii. 24, and it was for this end that he underwent, on that accursed tree, all those torments which his divinity and his innocence enabled him to support, without sinking under the load. Pehold in this, O sinner, the fearful doom which awaits thee. Yes, unless thou art crucified with Christ by faith, thou shalt be by the justice of God. And then all the fury of that justice shall be levelled at thy head, as it was at his. Then thou shalt be exposed on a dying bed to the dreadful conflicts which he endured in Gethsemane. Thou shalt shudder at the idea of that punishment which an avenging Deity is preparing for thee. Thou shalt sweat as it were great drops of blood, when the eye is directed to the tribunal of justice whither thou art going to be dragged. Nay more, thou shalt then be condemned to compensate, by the duration of thy punishment, what the weakness of thy nature renders thee incapable of supporting in respect to weight. Ages accumulated upon ages shall set no bounds to thy torments. Thou shalt be accursed of God through eternity, as Jesus Christ was in time: and that cross which thou refusedst to bear for a time, thou must bear for ever and ever.

If we consider the cross of Jesus Christ, with relation to the atrocious guilt of those who despise a sacrifice of such high value, we shall feel a powerful tendency to adopt the dispositions of St. Paul, and to say with him, "the world is crucified unto me, and I am crucified unto the world." The image which I would here trace for your inspection, is still that of St. Paul. This apostle depicts to us the love of the world, as a contempt of the cross of Christ, and as a renewal of the punishment which he suffered. The idea of what such a crime deserves, absorbs and confounds his spirit; he cannot find colours strong enough to paint it; and he satisfies himself with asking, after he had mentioned the punishment inflicted on those who had violated the law of Moses: "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted

But less us press motives more gentle, and more congenial to the dignity of the redeemed of the Lord. If we consider the cross of Christ, in relation to the proofs which he there displays to us of his love, is it possible we should find any thing too painful in the sacrifices which he demands of us? Is it possible for us to do too much for that Jesus who has done so much for us? When the heart feels a disposition to revolt against the morality of the gospel; when you are tempted to say, "This is a hard saying, who can hear it?" John vi. 60: When the gate of heaven seems too strait for you; when the flesh would exaggerate the difficulties of working out your salvation; when it seems as if we were tearing the heart from your bosom, in charging you to curb the impetuosity of your temperament, to resist the torrent of irregular desire, to give a portion of your goods to the poor, to sacrifice a Delilah or a Drusilla: follow your Saviour to Calvary: behold him passing the brook Kidron, ascending the fatal Mount on which his sacrifice was to be accomplished; behold that concourse of woes which constrain him to cry out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Matt. xxvii. 46. If ye can, hold out against objects like these!

If we consider the cross of Jesus Christ, relatively to the proofs which it supplies in support of the doctrine of him who there finished his life, it will be a powerful inducement to adopt the sentiments of St. Paul. It is natural, I allow, for reasonable beings, of whom sacrifices are exacted, so costly as those which Christianity prescribes, to expect full assurance of the truth of that religion. It is impossible to employ too much precaution, when the point in question is, whether or not we are to surrender victims so beloved. The slightest doubt on this head is of essential importance. But is this article susceptible of the slightest doubt? Jesus Christ sealed with his blood the doctrine which he taught; he was not only the hero of the religion which we preach, but likewise the martyr of it.

If we consider the cross of Christ, relatively to the aid necessary to form us to the sentiments expressed by St. Paul, it still powerfully presses us to adopt them. It assures, on the part of God, of every support we can need, in maintaining the conflicts to which we are called. It lays the foundation of this reasoning, the justest, the most conclusive, which intelligence ever formed: "If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not


his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Rom. viii. 31, 32.

Thus it is that the cross of Christ forms us to the sentiments of our apostle; thus it is that we are enabled to say, The world is crucified unto us, and we are crucified unto the world:" thus it is that the cross conducts us to the true glory. O glorious cross! thou shalt ever be the object of my study, and of my meditation! I will propose to myself to know nothing, save Jesus Christ and him crucified! God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world!" May God grant us this grace! Amen.

And, to conclude this discourse by representing the same images which we traced in the beginning of it, if we consider the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, relatively to the glory which followed, it still presses us to adopt the sentiments of St. Paul in the text. The idea of that glory carried Jesus Christ through all that was most painful in his sacrifice. On the eve of consummating it, he thus addresses his heavenly Father: "The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified. Father, glorify thy name. Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee. I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do: and now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was," John xii. 23. 28; xvii. 1. 4, 5. This expectation was not disappointed. The conflict was long, it was severe, but it came to a period; but heavenly messengers descended to receive him as he issued from the tomb; but a cloud came to raise him from the earth; but the gates of heaven opened, with the acclamations of the church triumphant, celebrating his victories, and hailing his exaltation in these strains: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in," Ps. xxiv. 7.

To know what death is, without being terrified at it, is the highest degree of perfection attainable by the human mind; it is the highest point of felicity which a man can reach, while in this valley of tears. I say, to know death without fearing it; and it is in the union of these two things we are to look for that effort of genius so worthy of emulation, and that perfection of felicity so much calculated to kindle ardent desire. For to brave death without knowing what it is; to shut our eyes against all that is hideous in its aspect, in order to combat it with success, this is so far from indicating a superior excellency of disposition, that it must be considered rather as a mental derangement; so far from being the height of felicity, it is the extreme of misery.

Christians! let our eyes settle on this object. To suffer with Jesus Christ, is to have full assurance of reigning with him. We do not mean to conceal from you the pains which await you in the career prescribed to the followers of the Redeemer. It is a hard thing to renounce all that flatters, all that pleases, all that charms. It is hard to be told incessantly of difficulties to be surmounted, of enemies to be encountered, of a cross to be borne, of crucifixion to be endured. It is hard for a man to mortify himself, while all around him are rejoicing; while they are refining on pleasure; while they are employing their utmost ingenuity to procure new amusements; while they We have seen philosophers shaking off (if are distilling their brain to diversify their de- after all they did so in reality, and if that inlights; while they are spending life in sports, trepid outside did not conceal a trembling in feasting, in gayety, in spectacle on spec- heart,) we have seen philosophers shaking off tacle. The conflict is long, it is violent, I ac- the fear of death; but they did not know it. knowledge it; but it draws to a period; but They viewed it only under borrowed aspects. your cross shall be followed by the same tri- They figured it to themselves, as either reumph which that of your Saviour was: "Fa-ducing the nature of man to a state of annihither, the hour is come, glorify thy Son:" but lation, or as summoning him before chimerical you, in expiring on your cross; you shall with tribunals, or as followed by a certain imaginaholy joy and confidence commend your soul ry felicity. to God, as he commended his, and, closing your eyes in death, say, Father! into thy hands I commend my spirit," Luke xxiii. 46; but the angels shall descend to receive that departing spirit, to convey it to the bosom of your God; and after having rejoiced in your conversion, they shall rejoice together in your beatitude, as they rejoiced in his; but in the great day of the restitution of all things, you shall ascend on the clouds of heaven, as Jesus Christ did; you shall be exalted, like him, far above all heavens; and you shall assume, together with him, a seat on the throne of the majesty of God.


VOL. II.-29



HEBREWS ii. 14, 15.

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage.

We have seen heroes, as the world calls them, pretending to brave the terrors of death; but they did not know it: they represented it to themselves as crowned with laurels, as decorated with trophies, as figuring on the page of the historian.

We have seen, and still see every day, libertines pretending to brave the terrors of death, but they know it not. Their indolence is the cause of that assumed firmness; and they are incapable of enjoying tranquillity, but by banishing the idea of a period, the horror of which they are unable to overcome. But not to disguise this formidable object; to view it in its

true light; to fix the eye steadily on every feature; to have a perception of all its terrors; in a word, to know what death is, without being terrified at it, to repeat it once more, is the highest degree of perfection attainable by the human mind; it is the highest point of felicity which a man can reach while in this valley of


Sovereign wisdom, my brethren, forms his children to true heroism. That wisdom effects what neither philosophers by their false maxims, nor the heroes of the world by their affected intrepidity, nor the libertine by his insensibility and indolence; that wisdom effects what all the powers in the universe could not have produced, and alone bestows on the Christian the privilege of knowing death without fearing it. All this is contained in the words which I have read as the subject of the present discourse: "through fear of death, men were all their life-time subject to bondage:" there is the power of death; there his empire; there his triumph. Jesus Christ, "through his death, has destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and delivers them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage:" Behold death vanquished! there are his spoils; there is the triumph over him: salutary ideas! which will present themselves in succession to our thoughts in the sequel of this exercise. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil: and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage."


With respect to the first words, "forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same,' I shall only remark, that by the children referred to, we are to understand men in general, and believers in particular: and by that flesh and blood we are not to understand corruption, as in some other passages of Scripture, but human nature; so that when it is said, "as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, Jesus Christ likewise took part of the same," the meaning is, he assumed a body such as

ours is.

Having made these few short remarks on the first words, we shall confine ourselves to the two ideas which have been indicated, and shall employ what remains of our time, in proving this fundamental truth, that Jesus Christ, "by his death, has destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, in order that he might deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage."

ever, cannot be called in question; this great enemy of our salvation unquestionably exercises a sort of empire over the universe. Though the Scriptures speak sparingly of the nature and functions of this malignant spirit, they say enough of them to convey a striking idea of his power, and to render it formidable to us. The Scripture tells us, I. That he tempts men to sin; witness the wiles which he practised on our first parents; witness that which St. Paul says of him in chap. ii. of the Epistle to the Ephesians, "the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience;" witness the name of Tempter given to him in the gospel history, Matt. iv. 3. The Scripture informs us, II. That he accuses men before God of those very crimes which he solicited them to commit; witness the prophet Zechariah, who was "showed Joshua the high-priest, standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him;" or, as it might have been rendered, to be his adversary or accuser: witness the descriptive appellation of calumniator or accuser given him by St. John in the Apocalypse. The Scripture tells us, III. That he sometimes torments men; witness the history of Job; witness what St. Paul says of his "delivering up unto Satan" the incestuous person at Corinth. This power of delivering up to Satan, to mention it by the way, was a part of the miraculous gifts conferred on the apostle; gifts transmitted to the immediately succeeding ages of the church, at least if Pauliness is to be credited on this subject, who relates that an abandoned wretch was, by St. Ambrosius, delivered up to Satan, who tore him in pieces. Finally, IV. We find the devil designated in Scripture, "the god of the world," 2 Cor. iv. 4, and "the prince of the power of the air," Eph. ii. 2. You likewise see him represented as acting on the waters of the sea, as raising tempests, and as smiting the children of men with various kinds of plagues.

But if the devil be represented as ex exercising an influence over the ills of human life, he is still more especially represented as exerting his power over our death, the last and the most formidable of all our woes. The Jews were impressed with ideas of this kind. Nay, they did not satisfy themselves with general notions on this subject. They entered into the detail (for, my brethren, it has been an infirmity incident to man in every age, to assert confidently on subjects the most mysterious and concealed,) they said that the devil, to whom they gave the name of Samuel,† had the empire of death:" that his power extended so far as to prevent the resurrection of the wicked. St. Paul, in the words of our text, adopts their mode of expression, as his custom is, without propagating their error: he describes the evil spirit as the person who possesses the empire of death, and who, "through the fear of death, subjects men all their life-time to bondage."

But Christians, be not dismayed at beholding this fearful image. Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel," Numb. xxiii. 23.

The terrors of death are expressed in terms powerfully energetical, in this text. It represents to us a mighty tyrant causing death to march at his command, and subjecting the whole universe to his dominion. This tyrant is the devil. He is the personage here decribed, and who, "through the fear of death, subjects men to bondage."

You stand aghast, no doubt, on beholding the whole human race reduced to subjection under a master so detestable. The fact, how

Paulin. de Vit. Ambros. Thalm. in Libo. Capht.

[ocr errors]

"Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb," Rev. xii. 10, 11. Let us, however, reduce our reflections on the subject to method. Three considerations render death formidable to man; three considerations disarm death in the apprehension of the Christian; 1. The veil which conceals from the eyes of the dying person, the state on which he is about to enter: 2. The remorse of conscience which the recollection of his guilt excites: 3. The loss of titles, honours, and every other earthly possession. In these respects chiefly, "he who has the power of death subjects men to bondage:" these are the things which render death formidable.

In opposition to this, the death of Jesus Christ, 1. Removes the veil which concealed futurity from us, and constitutes an authentic proof of the immortality of the soul: 2. The death of Jesus Christ is a sacrifice presented to divine justice for the remission of our sins: 3. The death of Jesus Christ gives us complete assurance of a blessed eternity. These are the three considerations which disarm death in the apprehension of the dying believer. And this is a brief abstract of the important truths delivered in this text.

The devil renders death formidable, through uncertainty respecting the nature of our souls; the death of Christ dispels that terror, by demonstrating to us that the soul is immortal. The devil renders death formidable by awakening the recollection of past guilt; the death of Jesus Christ restores confidence and joy, for it is the expiation of all our sins. The devil clothes death with terror, by rendering us sensible to the loss of those possessions of which death is going to deprive us; the death of Jesus Christ tranquillizes the mind, because it is a pledge to us of an eternal felicity. The first of these ideas represents Jesus Christ to us as a martyr, who has sealed with his own blood a doctrine which rests entirely on the immortality of the soul. The second represents him as a victim, offering himself in our stead, to divine justice. And the third represents him as a conqueror, who has, by his death, acquired for us a kingdom of everlasting bliss.

Had we nothing farther in view, than to present you with vague ideas of the sentiments of the sacred authors, on this subject, here our discourse might be concluded. But these truths, treated thus generally, could make but a slight impression. It is of importance to press them one by one, and, opposing in every particular, the triumph of the Redeemer, to the empire of the wicked one, to place in its clearest point of light, the interesting truth contained in our text, namely, that Jesus Christ, "through his own death, has destroyed him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; that he might deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage."


is the fear of falling back into nothing, which the prospect of death awakens. The greatest of all the advantages which we possess, and that which indeed is the foundation of all the rest, is existence. We accordingly observe that old people, though all their faculties are much impaired, always enjoy a certain nameless superiority over young persons. The reflection that there was a time when they existed, while as yet the young did not exist, constitutes this superiority; and young persons, in their turn, feel a superiority suggested to them by the thought, that a time is coming when they shall exist, whereas the others shall be no more. Death terminates, to appearance, an advantage which is the foundation of every other. And is it any wonder that the heart of man should sink under such a consideration?

I. The first consideration which renders death formidable: the first yoke imposed on the necks of the children of men, by that tremendous prince who " has the power of death,"

In vain will we flee for refuge from this depressing reflection, to the arguments which reason, even a well-directed reason, supplies. If they are satisfying of themselves, and calculated to impress the philosophic mind, they are far beyond the reach of a vulgar understanding, to which the very terms spirituality and existence are barbarous and unintelligible. To no purpose will we have recourse to what has been said on this subject, by the most enlightened of the pagan world, and to what, in particular, Tacitus relates of Seneca,* on his going into the bath which was to receive the blood, as it streamed from his opened veins: he besprinkled the bystanders with the fluid in which his limbs were immerged, with this memorable expression, that he presented those drops of water as a libation to Jupiter the Deliverer. In order to secure us against terrors so formidable, we must have a guide more safe than our own reason. In order to obtain a persuasion of the immortality of the soul, we must have a security less suspicious than that of a Socrates or a Plato. Now that guide, my brethren, is the cross of Jesus Christ: that security is an expiring Redeemer. Two principles concur in the demonstration of all-important truth.

1. The doctrine of Jesus Christ establishes the immortality of the soul.

2. The death of Jesus Christ is an irresistible proof of the truth of his doctrine.

1. That the doctrine of Jesus Christ establishes the immortality of the soul is a point which no one pretends to dispute with us. A man has but to open his eyes in order to be convinced of it. We shall, accordingly, make but a single remark on this head. It is this, that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul ought not to be considered merely as a particular point of the religion of Jesus Christ, independent of which it may subsist as a complete whole. It is a point without which Christianity cannot exist at all, and separated from which the religion of Jesus Christ, the fullest, the most complete, and the most consistent that ever was presented to the world, becomes the most imperfect, barren, and inconsistent. The whole fabric of the gospel rests on this foundation, that the soul is immortal. Wherefore was it that Jesus Christ, the Lord of universal nature, had a manger for his cradle, and a sta

*Annal. Lib. xv.

[ocr errors]

ble for his palace? because nis "kingdom was not of this world," John xviii. 16. This supposes the immortality of the soul. Wherefore is the Christian encouraged to bid defiance to tyrants, who may drag him from a prison, from a dungeon, who may nail him to a cross, who may mangle his body on a wheel? It is because their power extends no farther than to the "killing of the body," Matt. x. 28, while the soul is placed far beyond their reach. This supposes immortality. Wherefore must the Christian deem himself miserable, were he to achieve the conquest of the whole world, at the expense of a good conscience? Because it will "profit a man nothing to gain the whole world, if he lose his own soul," Matt. xvi. 26. This supposes immortality. Wherefore are we not the most miserable of all creatures? Because "we have hope in Christ not for this life only," 1 Cor. xv. 19. This supposes immortality. The doctrine of Jesus Christ, therefore, establishes the truth of the immortality of the soul.

2. But we said, in the second place, that the death of Jesus Christ is a proof of his doctrine. He referred the world to his death, as a sign by which it might be ascertained whether or not he came from God. By this he proposed to stop the mouth of incredulity. Neither the purity of his life, nor the sanctity of his deportment, nor the lustre of his miracles had as yet prevailed so far as to convince an unbelieving world of the truth of his mission. They must have sign upon sign, prodigy upon prodigy. Jesus Christ restricts himself to one: "Destroy this temple, and within three days I will build it up again," Mark xiv. 58. "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas," Matt. xii. 39. This sign could not labour under any ambiguity. And this sign was accomplished. There is no longer room to doubt of a truth demonstrated in a manner so illustrious.

Our ancestors devised,* with greater simplicity, it must be allowed, than strength of reasoning, a very singular proof of the innocence of persons accused. They presented to them a bar of hot iron. If the person under trial had the firmness to grasp it, and received no injury from the action of the burning metal, he was acquitted of the charge. This proof was, as we have said, devised with more simplicity than strength of reasoning: no one having a right to suppose that God will perform a miracle, to evince his innocence to the conviction of his judges. I acknowledge at the same time, that had I been an eye-witness of such an experiment; had I beheld that element which dissolves, which devours bodies the most obdurate, respecting the hand of a person accused of a crime, I should certainly have been very much struck at the sight of such a spectacle.

But what shall we say of the Saviour of the world, after the proof to which he was put He "walked through the fire without being burnt," Isa. xliii. 2. He descended into the bosom of the grave: the grave respected him, and those other insatiables which never say "it is enough," Prov. xxx. 16, opened a passage

* Rasquier Recher. de la France, liv. iv. 2.

for his return to the light. You feel the force of this argument. Jesus Christ, having died in support of the truth of a doctrine entirely founded on the supposition of the immortality of the soul, there is no longer room to doubt whether the soul be immortal.

Let us here pause for a few moments, and before we enter on the second branch of our subject, let us consider how far this position, so clearly proved, so firmly established, has a tendency to fortify us against the fears of death.

Suppose for an instant that we knew nothing respecting the state of souls, after this life is closed, and respecting the economy on which we must then enter; supposing God to have granted us no revelation whatever on this interesting article, but simply this, that our souls are immortal, a slight degree of meditation on the case, as thus stated, ought to operate as an inducement rather to wish for death, than to fear it. It appears probable that the soul, when disengaged from the senses, in which it is now enveloped, will subsist in a manner infinitely more noble than it could do here below, during its union with matter. We are perfectly convinced that the body will, one day, contribute greatly to our felicity; it is an essential part of our being, without which our happiness must be incomplete. But this necessity, which fetters down the functions of the soul, on this earth, to the irregular movements of ill-assorted matter, is a real bondage. The soul is a prisoner in this body. A prisoner is a man susceptible of a thousand delights, but who can enjoy, however, only such pleasures as are compatible with the extent of the place in which he is shut up: his scope is limited to the capacity of his dungeon: he beholds the light only through the aperture of that dungeon: all his intercourse is confined to the persons who approach his dungeon. But let his prison-doors be thrown open; from that moment, behold him in a state of much higher felicity. Thenceforward he can maintain social intercourse with all the men in the world; thenceforward he can contemplate an unbounded body of light; thenceforward he is able to expatiate over the spacious universe.

This exhibits a portrait of the soul. A prisoner to the senses, it can enjoy those delights only which have a reference to sense. It can see only by means of the cuticles and the fibres of its eyes: it can hear only by means of the action of the nerves and tympanum of its ears: it can think only in conformity to certain modifications of its brain. The soul is susceptible of a thousand pleasures, of which it has not so much as the idea. A blind man has a soul capable of admitting the sensation of light; if he be deprived of it, the reason is, his senses are defective, or improperly disposed. Our souls are susceptible of a thousand unknown sensations; but they receive them not, in this economy of imperfection and wretchedness, because it is the will of God that they should perceive only through the medium of those organs, and that those organs, from their limited nature, should be capable of admitting only limited sensations.

But permit the soul to expatiate at large, let it take its natural flight, let these prison walls be broken down, O, then! the soul becomes

« السابقةمتابعة »