« السابقةمتابعة »
capable of ten thousand inconceivable new delights. Wherefore do you point to that ghastly corpse? Wherefore deplore those eyes closed to the light, those spirits evaporated, that blood frozen in the veins, that motionless, lifeless mass of corruption? Why do you say to me, "My friend, my father, my spouse is no more; he sees, he hears, he acts no longer." He sees no longer, do you say? He sees no longer, I grant, by means of those visual rays which were formed in the retina of the eye; but he sees as do those pure intelligences which never were clothed with mortal flesh and blood. He hears no more through the medium of the action of the ethereal fluid, but he hears as a pure spirit. He thinks no longer through the intervention of the fibres of his brain; but he thinks from his own essence, because, being a spirit, the faculty of thought is essential to him, and inseparable from his nature.
ON THE FEAR OF DEATH.
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. IN discoursing from these words, we observed, that death is rendered formidable to man, by a threefold consideration, and that three considerations of an opposite nature strip him of all his terrors, in the eye of the believer in Christ Jesus. Death is formidable, 1. Because of the veil which conceals from the eyes of the dying person, that state on which he is about to enter. 2. From remorse of conscience, which the recollection of past guilt excites. 3. From the loss of titles, honours, and all other earthly possessions.
II. In the second place, to dissipate the dreadful apprehension which a guilty conscience awakens in the prospect of judgment to come. Having considered Jesus Christ as a martyr, who sealed with his own blood the doctrine which he preached, and his death as an argument in support of the immortality of the soul taught in that doctrine; let us contemplate our divine Saviour as a victim, which God has substituted in our place, and his death as a sacrifice offered up to divine justice, for the expiation of our offences.
One of the principal dangers to be avoided in controversies, and particularly in that which we are going to handle, is to imagine that all arguments are of equal force. Extreme care must be taken to assign to each its true limits, and to say, this argument proves thus far, that other goes so much farther. We must thus advance step by step up to truth, and form, of those arguments united, a demonstration so much the more satisfactory, in proportion as we have granted to those who dispute it, all that they could in reason ask. On this principle we divide our arguments into two classes. The first we propose only as presumptions in favour of the doctrine of the satisfaction. To the second we ascribe the solidity and weight of demonstration. Of the first class are the following:
I. We allege human reason as a presumptive argument in support of the doctrine which we maintain. We do not mean to affirm, that human reason derives from the stores of her own illumination the truth of this doctrine. So far from that we confidently affirm, that this is one of the mysteries which are infinitely beyond the reach of human understanding. It is one of "the things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man," 1 Cor. ii. 9. But we say that this mystery presents nothing that shocks human reason, or that implies a shadow of contradiction. What do we believe? That God has united the human nature to the divine, in the person of Jesus Christ, in a manner somewhat resembling that in which he has united the body to the soul, in the person of man. In opposition to these, the death of Christ, We say that this composition (pardon the ex1. Removes the veil which conceals futurity, pression,) this composition of Humanity and and constitutes an authentic proof of the im- of Deity suffered in what was human of it; and mortality of the soul. 2. It is a sacrifice pre- that what was divine gave value to the suffersented to divine justice for the remission of sin.ings of the man, somewhat after the manner 3. It gives us complete assurance of a blessed in which we put respect on a human body, not eternity. These are the considerations which as a material substance, but as united to an disarm death of his terrors to the dying believer. intelligent soul. We have finished what was proposed on the first particular, and have shown, 1. That the doctrine of Jesus Christ fully establishes the soul's immortality; and, 2. That the death of Jesus Christ is an irresistible proof of the truth of his doctrine.
These are the terms in which we propose our mystery. And there is nothing in this which involves a contradiction. If we had said that the Divinity and Humanity were confounded or common; if we had said that Deity, who is impassible, suffered; if we had said that Jesus Christ as God made satisfaction to Jesus Christ as God, reason might have justly reclaimed; but we say that Jesus Christ suffered as man; we say that the two natures in his person were distinct; we say that Jesus Christ, suffering as a man, made satisfaction to God maintaining the rights of Deity. This is the first step we advance in this career. Our first argument we carry thus far, and no farther.
But to no purpose would it be to fortify the mind against the apprehension of ceasing to exist, unless we are delivered from the terror of being for ever miserable. In vain is it to have demonstrated that our souls are immortal, if we are haunted with the well-grounded apprehension of their falling into the hands of that God who " is a consuming fire." In this case, what constitutes a man's greatness would constitute his misery. Let us endeavour,
II. Our second argument is taken from the divine justice. We say that the idea which we have of the divine justice presents nothing inconsistent with the doctrine we are endeavouring to establish, but on the contrary leads us directly to adopt it. The divine justice would be in opposition to our doctrine, did we affirm that the innocent Jesus suffered as an innocent person; but we say that he suffered, as loaded with the guilt of the whole human race. The divine justice would be in opposition to our doctrine, did we affirm that Jesus Christ had "the iniquity of us all laid upon him," whether he would or not; but we say that he took this heavy load upon himself voluntarily. The divine justice would be in opposition to our doctrine, did we affirm that Jesus Christ took on himself the load of human guilt, to encourage men in the practice of sin; but we say that he acted thus in the view of sanctifying them, by procuring their pardon. The divine justice would be in opposition to our doctrine did we affirm that Jesus Christ, in assuming the load of our guilt, sunk under the weight of it, so that the universe, for the sake of a few guilty wretches, was deprived of the most distinguished being that could possibly exist; but we say that Jesus Christ, in dying for us, came off victorious over death and the grave. The divine justice, therefore, presents nothing inconsistent with the doctrine of the satisfaction.
But we go much farther, and affirm, that the idea of divine justice leads directly to the doctrine. The atonement corresponds to the demands of justice. We shall not here presume to determine the question, whether it is possible for God, consistently with his perfections, to pardon sin without exacting a satisfaction. Whatever advantage we might have over those who deny our thesis, we shall not press it on the present occasion. But, in any case, they must be disposed to make this concession, that if the wisdom of God has devised the means of obtaining a signal satisfaction to justice, in unison with the most illustrious display of goodness; if he can give to the universe an unequivocal proof of his abhorrence of sin, in the very act of pardoning the sinner; if there be a method to keep offenders in awe, even while mercy is extended to them, it must undoubtedly be more proper to employ such a method than to omit it. This is the second step we advance towards our conclusion. Our second argument we carry thus far, and no farther.
hence those hecatombs; hence those human victims; hence that blood which streamed on the altars, and so many other rites of religious worship, the existence of which no one is disposed to call in question. What consequence do we deduce from this position? The truth of the doctrine of the atonement? No: we do not carry our inference so far. We only conclude, that there is no room to run down the Christian religion, if it instructs us that God demanded satisfaction to his justice, by an expiatory sacrifice, before he could give an unrestrained course to his goodness. This third argument we carry thus far, and no farther. 4. A fourth reflection hinges on the correspondence of our belief, respecting this particular, with that of every age of the Christian church, in uninterrupted succession, from Jesus Christ down to our own times. All the ages of the Christian world have, as we do, spoken of this sacrifice. But we must not enlarge. Whoever wishes for complete information on this particular, will find a very accurate collection of the testimonies of the fathers, at the end of the treatise on the satisfaction, composed by the celebrated Grotius. The doctrine of the atonement, therefore, is not a doctrine of yesterday, but has been transmitted from age to age, from Jesus Christ down to our own times. This argument we carry thus far and no farther.
3. Our third consideration is taken from the suggestions of conscience, and from the practice of all nations. Look at the most polished, and at the most barbarous tribes of the human race; at nations the most idolatrous, and at those which have discovered the purest ideas on the subject of religion. Consult authors of the remotest antiquity, and authors the most recent: transport yourself to the ancient Egyptians, to the Phenicians, to the Gauls, to the Carthaginians, and you will find that, in all ages, and in every part of the globe, men have expressed a belief that the Deity expected sacrifices should be offered up to him: nay, not only sacrifices, but such as had, as far as it was possible, something like a proportion to his greatness. Hence those magnificent temples;
Here then we have a class of arguments which, after all, we would have you to consider only as so many presumptions in favour of the doctrine of the atonement. But surely we are warranted to proceed thus far, at least, in concluding; a doctrine in which human reason finds nothing contradictory: a doctrine which presents nothing repugnant to the divine attributes, nay, to which the divine attributes directly lead us; a doctrine perfectly conformable to the suggestions of conscience, and to the practice of mankind in every age, and of every nation; a doctrine received in the Christian church from the beginning till now; a doctrine which, in all its parts, presents nothing but what is entirely worthy of God, when we examine it at the tribunal of our own understanding: such a doctrine contains nothing to excite our resentment, nothing that we ought not to be disposed to admit, if we find it clearly laid down in the Scriptures.
Now, my brethren, we have only to open the Bible in order to find express testimonies to this purpose; and not only do we meet with an infinite number of passages in which the doctrine is clearly taught, but a multitude of classes of such passages.
1. In the first class, we must rank all those passages which declare that Jesus Christ died for us. It would be no easy matter to enumerate them; "I delivered unto you first of all," says St. Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians, xv. 3, "that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures." "Christ also hath once suffered for sins," says St. Peter, in his first epistle general, iii. 18, "the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God."
2. In a second class must be ranked those passages which represent Jesus Christ as suf
The fifty-third chapter of the prophet Isaiah turns entirely on this subject; and the apostles hold the self-same language. They say expressly that Christ "was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin," 2 Cor. v. 21, that he was "made a curse for us," Gal. iii. 13, that he "bare our sins in his own body on the tree," 1 Pet. ii. 24.
fering the punishment which we had deserved. | fice of Jesus Christ, which the Jews, to no purpose, sought for in those which Moses prescribed. Now what did the Jews look for in their sacrifices? Was it not the means of appeasing the Deity? If, therefore, the sacrifices of the Jews were the expiation of sin, only in figure and in a shadow, if the sacrifice of Jesus Christ be their body and reality, does it not follow that Jesus Christ has really and literally expiated our transgressions? To pretend that the Levitical sacrifices were not offered up for the expiation of great offences, but only for certain external indecencies, which rather polluted the flesh, than wounded the conscience, is an attempt to maintain one error by another; for a man has only to open his eyes, to be convinced that the Levitical sacrifices were offered up for offences the most atrocious; it is needless to adduce any other evidence than the annual sacrifice prescribed, Lev. xvi. 21, 22, in the offering of which, Aaron "laid both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confessed over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins . . . . and the goat did bear upon him all their iniquities."
3. In a third class must be ranked all those passages in which our salvation is represented as being the fruit of Christ's death. The persons, whose opinions we are combating, maintain themselves on a ground which we established in a former branch of this discourse, namely, that the death of Jesus Christ was a demonstration of the truth of his doctrine. They say that this is the reason for which our salvation is considered as the effect of that death. But if we are saved by the death of Jesus Christ, merely because it has sealed a doctrine which leads to salvation, how comes it then, that our salvation is nowhere ascribed to the other parts of his ministry, which contributed, no less than his death, to the confirmation of his doctrine? Were not the miracles of Jesus Christ, for example, proofs equally authentic as his death was, of the truth of his doctrine? Whence comes it, that our salvation is nowhere ascribed to them? This is the very thing we are maintaining. The resurrection, the ascension, the miracles were absolutely necessary to give us assurance, that the wrath of God was appeased; but Christ's death alone was capable of producing that effect. You will more sensibly feel the force of this argument, if you attend to the connexion which our text has with what follows in the 17th verse, "Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren; that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest .... to make reconciliation for the sins of the people."
5. In a fifth class must be ranked the circumstances of the passion of Jesus Christ, and of his agony in the garden; that sorrow, those fears, those agitations, those cries, those tears, that bloody sweat, those bitter complaints: "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Matt. xxvi. 46. The argument derived from this will appear of still greater weight, if you support it by thus reflecting, that no person in the universe ought to have met death with so much joy as Jesus Christ, had he suffered a mere ordinary death. Christ died with a perfect submission to the will of his father, and with a fervent love to mankind. Christ died in the full assurance of the justice of his cause, and of the innocency of his life. Christ died completely persuaded of the immortality of the soul, and of the certainty of a life to come. Christ died under a complete assurance of the exalted felicity which he was to enjoy after death. He had come from God. He was returning to God. Nay, there ought to have been something more particular in his triumph, than in that of the generality of believers. Because he had "made himself of no reputation;" God was about "to give him a name which is above every name." A cloud was going to serve him as a triumphal car, and the church triumphant was preparing to receive him with acclamations of joy, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in," Ps. xxiv. 7.
If we are saved by the death of Jesus Christ, merely because that event sealed the truth of his doctrine, wherefore should it have been necessary for him to assume our flesh? Had he descended from heaven in the effulgence of his glory; had he appeared upon Mount Zion, such as he was upon Mount Sinai, in flashes of lightning, with the voice of thunder, with a retinue of angels; would not the truth of the gospel have been established infinitely better than by the death of a man? Wherefore, then, was it necessary that Christ should die? It was because the victim of our transgressions must be put to death. This is St. Paul's reasoning. And for this reason it is that our salvation is nowhere ascribed to the death of the martyrs, though the death of the martyrs was, like that of Jesus Christ, a proof of the truth of the gospel.
What then, are we to expect that Jesus Christ shall do? Shall we behold him advancing to meet death with joy? Shall he not say 4. In a fourth class, must be ranked all with St. Paul, "My desire is to depart? Shall those passages which represent the death of he not in rapture exclaim, "This day crowns Jesus Christ as the body and the reality, of are to be distributed, and I go to receive my which all the sacrifices prescribed by the law share?" No, Jesus Christ trembles, he turns were but the figure and the shadow. We pale, he fears, he sweats great drops of blood: shall select a single one out of a multitude. whereas the martyrs, with inferior illuminaThe greatest part of the Epistle to the He- tion, with feebler motives, have braved death, brews may be quoted to this effect. It is evi- have bidden defiance to the most horrid tordent that the great object of its author is to ments, have filled their tormentors with astonengage Christians to look for that in the sacri-ishment. Whence comes this difference? From
the very point which we are endeavouring to establish. The death of Jesus Christ is widely different from that of the martyrs. The martyrs found death already disarmed: Jesus Christ died to disarm this king of terrors. The martyrs presented themselves before the throne of grace; Jesus Christ presented himself at the tribunal of Justice. The martyrs pleaded the merits of Christ's death: Jesus Christ interceded in behalf of the martyrs.
Let the great adversary, then, do his worst to terrify me with the image of the crimes which I have committed; let him trace them before my eyes in the blackest characters which his malignity can employ; let him collect into one dark point, all that is hideous and hateful in my life; let him attempt to overwhelm me with dismay, by rousing the idea of that tremendous tribunal, before which all the actions of men are to be scrutinized, so that like "Joshua the high-priest," I find myself standing in the presence of God, "clothed with filthy garments," Zech. iii. 1, &c. and Satan standing at his right hand to expose my turpitude; I hear, at the same time, the voice of one pleading in my behalf: I hear these reviving words: "is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Take away the filthy Let them set a and I will
garments from him
ON THE FEAR OF DEATH.
and proportions; nature, with her overflowing treasures; society, with its enchanting delights; the church, with its triumphs; eternity, with its unfathomable abysses of joy. Of all these ingredients blended, we compose a faint representation of the celestial blessedness.
The soul of man constitutes one ingredient, and we say, In heaven your soul shall arrive at its highest pitch of attainable perfection: it shall acquire expansive illumination, it shall reach sublime heights of virtue, it shall “behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and shall be changed into the same image, from glory to glory," 2 Cor. iii. 18.
The body furnishes a second ingredient, and we say, In heaven your body shall be exempted from all the defects by which it is at present disfigured, from those diseases which now prey upon and waste it, from that death which destroys the fabric.
WE now come in the III. Third and last place, to consider death rendered formidable, from its being attended with the loss of titles, honours, and every other earthly possession, and in opposition to this, we are to view the death of Jesus Christ as removing that terror, by giving us complete assurance of a blessed eternity. We are going to contemplate death as a universal shipwreck, swallowing up all our worldly fortunes and prospects. We are going to contemplate Jesus Christ as a conqueror, and his death as the pledge and security of a boundless and everlasting felicity, which shall amply compensate to us the loss of all those possessions, of which we are about to be stripped by the unsparing hand of death.
When we attempt to stammer out a few words from the pulpit, respecting the felicity which God has laid up for his people in another world, we borrow the images of every thing that is capable of touching the heart, and of communicating delight. We call in to our assistance the soul of man, with all its exalted faculties; the body, with all its beautiful forms
Nature supplies a third ingredient, and we say, In heaven all the stores of Nature shall be displayed in rich profusion: "the foundations of the holy city are of jasper, its gates are of pearl, its walls are of pure gold," Rev. xxi. 21.
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
Eternity supplies a sixth ingredient, and we say, In heaven you shall enjoy a felicity infinite in its duration, and immeasurable in its degree; years accumulated upon years, ages upon ages, shall effect no diminution of its length: and so of the rest.
This day, Christians, in which we are representing death to you as a universal wreck
of death were all their life-time subject to bond-which swallows up all your possessions, your
titles, your greatness, your riches, your social
View the death of Christ relatively to the types which prefigured it; relatively to the shadows by which it was adumbrated; relatively to the ceremonies by which it was represented; relatively to the oracles which predicted it.
Society supplies a fourth ingredient, and we say, In heaven shall be united, in the tenderest social bonds, kindred spirits the most exalted; souls the most refined; hearts the most generous and enlarged.
The church supplies a fifth ingredient, and we say, In heaven shall be exhibited the triumph of the faithful over tyrants confounded, the saints shall be enthroned, the martyrs shall appear with palms in their hands, and with crowns upon their heads.
View the death of Christ relatively to the tempests and thunderbolts which were levelled at the head of the Redeemer. Behold his soul overwhelmed with sorrow; behold that blood falling down to the ground; that cup of bitterness which was given him to drink; hearken to that insulting language, to those calumnies, to those false accusations, to that unjust sentence of condemnation; behold those hands and feet pierced with nails, that sacred body speedily reduced to one ghastly wound; behold that licentious rabble clamorously demanding the punishment of the cross, and increasing the horror of it by every indignity which malice could invent; look up to heaven itself, and behold the eternal Father abandoning the Son of his love to so many woes; behold hell in concert with heaven, and heaven with the earth.
View the death of Christ relatively to the dreadful signs by which it was accompanied; relatively to that earth seized with trembling, to that sun shrouded in darkness, to those rocks rent asunder, to those opening graves, to those departed saints returning to the light of day.
View the death of Christ relatively to the greatness of God, and to the littleness of man, in whose behalf all this bloody scene was transacted.
Collect all these various particulars, and still say to yourself, The death of Jesus Christ is all this. The death of Jesus Christ is the body of the figures, the original of the types, the reality of the shadows, the accomplishment of the prophecies. The death of Jesus Christ is that great event which darkened the sun, which opened the tombs, which rent asunder the rocks, which made the earth to tremble, which turned nature and the elements upside down. Follow up these reflections, and on these let your imagination settle.
The death of Jesus Christ conceived thus, apply it to the subject which we are treating. The death of Jesus Christ conceived thus, let it serve to assist you forming an idea of the heavenly blessedness. Still build on this foundation of St. Paul; say with that apostle, '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?" You regret the world; you who are advancing on your way heavenward. And what is heaven? It is the purchase of Christ's death. "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?" If the means be thus great, what must the end be! If the preparatives be thus magnificent, what must be the issue! If the conflict be thus sharp, what must be the victory! If the price be thus costly, what, what, shall be the bliss which this price is intended to purchase.
sent illusion to the eye? Will you still maintain your ground against those solid blessings which the death of Jesus Christ has purchased for us? Ah! "broken cisterns," will you still preserve a preference in our esteem to "the fountain of living waters?" Ah! great High Priest of the new covenant, shall we still find it painfully difficult to follow thee, whilst thou art conducting us to heavenly places, by the bloody traces of thy cross and martyrdom. Jesus Christ is a conqueror," who has acquired for us a kingdom of glory and felicity; his death is an invaluable pledge of a triumphant eternity.
After that, my brethren, return to the world. What is it you regret? Are you regretting the loss of palaces, of sceptres, of crowns? It is to regret the humble crook in your hand, the cottage which covers your head. Do you regret the loss of society, a society whose defects and whose delights are frequently an equal source of misery to you? Ah! phantom of vain desire, will you still preVOL. II.-30
Death, then, has nothing, henceforward, that is formidable to the Christian. In the tomb of Jesus Christ are dissipated all the terrors which the tomb of nature presents. In the tomb of nature I perceive a gloomy night, which the eye is unable to penetrate; in the tomb of Jesus Christ I behold light and life. In the tomb of nature the punishment of sin stares me in the face; in the tomb of Jesus Christ I find the expiation of it. In the tomb of nature I read the fearful doom pronounced upon Adam, and upon all his miserable posterity: "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return," Gen. iii. 19; but in the tomb of Jesus Christ my tongue is loosed into this triumphant song of praise, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Cor. xv. 55. 57.
Through death he has destroyed him that 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."
But if these be our privileges, is it not matter of reproach to us, my brethren, that brought up in the knowledge and profession of a religion which furnishes arms so powerful for combating the terrors of death, we should still, for the most part, view it only with fear and trembling? The fact is too evident to be denied. From the slightest study of by far the greatest part of professing Christians, it is clearly apparent that they consider death as the greatest of all calamities. And with a very slender experience of the state of dying persons, it will be found that there are few, very few indeed, who die without regret, few but who have need to exercise all their submission, at a season when it might be expected they should give themselves up to transports of joy. A vapour in the head disconcerts us; we are alarmed if the artery happens to beat a little faster than usual; the least apprehenOsion of death inspires us with an unaccountable melancholy, and oppressive dejection.
But those apprehensions and terrors, my brethren, surprising as they may appear to us, have nothing which ought really to fill us with surprise. If to apply to a man's self the fruits of the death of Jesus Christ were a simple act of the understanding, a simple movement of the heart, a simple acknowledgment of the tongue; if to apply to a man's self the fruits of the death of Christ were nothing more than what a hardened sinner is capable of