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ON THE FEAR OF DEATH.
the very point which we are endeavouring to
Let the great adversary, then, do his worst
fair mitre upon his head
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
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.
and we say, In heaven your soul shall arrive at its highest pitch of attainable perfection: it The soul of man constitutes one ingredient, reach sublime heights of virtue, it shall "behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and shall acquire expansive illumination, it shall shall be changed into the same image, from glory to glory," 2 Cor. iii. 18.
we say, In heaven your body shall be exempted from all the defects by which it is at present The body furnishes a second ingredient, and disfigured, from those diseases which now prey upon and waste it, from that death which destroys the fabric.
say, In heaven all the stores of Nature shall
say, In heaven shall be united, in the tender-
The church supplies a fifth ingredient, and
Eternity supplies a sixth ingredient, and we
resenting death to you as a universal wreck
types which prefigured it; relatively to the sha-
ON THE FEAR OF DEATH.
View the death of Christ relatively to the tempests and thunderbolts which were levelled Behold his at the head of the Redeemer. 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
The death of Jesus Christ conceived thus,
After that, my brethren, return to the
sent illusion to the eye? Will you still main-
Death, then, has nothing, henceforward,
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 will be found that there are few, the greatest of all calamities. And with a very slender experience of the state of dying persons, 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 apprehension of death inspires us with an unaccountaBut those apprehensions and terrors, my ble melancholy, and oppressive dejection. 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 simment of the heart, a simple acknowledgment ple act of the understanding, a simple moveof 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
ON THE FEAR OF DEATH.
figuring to himself, or than what is prescribed | ception upon ourselves; the grand conclusion [SER. LXXX. to him by an accommodating casuist, you to be deduced from these reflections is this: If would not see a single Christian afraid of death. we wish to die like Christians, we must live But you know it well, the gospel assures you like Christians. If we would wish to behold of it, and the dictates of your own conscience with firmness the dissolution of this body, we confirm the truth, to make application of the must study the proofs which establish the fruits of Christ's death is a complication of du- truth of the immortality of the soul, so as to ties, which require attention, time, labour, in- be able to say with St. Paul, "I know whom tenseness of exertion, and must be the business I have believed, and I am persuaded he is able of a whole life. The greatest part of those to keep that which I have committed unto who bear the Christian name, neglect this him against that day," 2 Tim. i. 12. Would work while in health; is it any wonder that we wish to have a security against fear at that they should tremble when overtaken by the tremendous tribunal, before which we must hour of death? into the conditions of the covenant of grace, that we may be able to say with the same appear to receive judgment, we must enter apostle, "I am the chief of sinners, a blasphe
Call to remembrance the three ways in which Christ has disarmed death. He has spoiled the king of terrors, by demonstrating to us the immortality of the soul, by making | mer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I atonement for our transgressions, by acquiring for us an eternal felicity.
But what effect will the death of Christ have upon us, as a proof of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, unless we study those proofs, unless we seriously meditate upon them, unless we endeavour to feel their force, unless we guard against the difficulties which the unhappy age we live in opposes to those great principles?
What effect can the death of Christ have upon us, as a sacrifice offered up to divine justice for our sins, unless we feel the plenitude of that sacrifice, unless we make application of it to the conscience, unless we present it to God in the exercises of a living faith; above all, unless by the constant study of ourselves, unless by unremitting, by persevering exertion, we place ourselves under the terms, and invest ourselves with the characters of those who have a right to apply to themselves the fruits of this sacrifice?
What effect can the death of Christ produce upon us, considered as the pledge of a blessed eternity, unless the soul be powerfully impressed with that eternity, unless the heart be penetrated with a sense of what it is; if we are at pains to efface the impression which those interesting objects may have made upon us; if hardly moved by those great truths which ought to take entire possession of the mind, we instantly plunge ourselves into the vortex of worldly pursuits, without taking time to avail ourselves of that happy disposition, and, as it were, purposely to withdraw from those gracious emotions which seemed to have laid hold of us? Ah! my brethren, if such be the conduct of the generality of professing Christians, as we are under the necessity of admitting, when, not satisfied with observing their deportment in the house of God, and from a pulpit, we follow them into life, and look through those flimsy veils of piety and devotion which they had assumed for an hour in a worshipping assembly; if such, I say, be the conduct of the generality of professing Christians, their terror at the approach of death exhibits nothing to excite astonishment.
The grand conclusion to be deduced, my brethren, from all these reflections, is not an abstract conclusion and of difficult comprehension: it is a conclusion easy, natural, and which would spontaneously present itself to the mind, were we not disposed to practise de
tory. Many of your pastors, Christians, have been the joyful spectators of such a triumph.
liever, who from his bed of languishing stretches | bed of death is transformed into a field of vicout his arms towards him, who entreats him to sanctify the sufferings which he endures, who implores his support in the agonies of death, who cries out from the centre of a soul transported with holy confidence, "Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth," Ps. xxxi. 5. Receive it, O my God. Remove from me those phantoms which disturb my repose. Raise me up, take me to thyself. "Teach my hands to war, and my fingers to fight. Draw me, I shall run after thee." Kindle my devotion; and let my inflamed desires serve as a chariot of fire to transport me to heaven. The clouds, thickened around me by "Him who had the power of death," are scattering; the veil which covered eternity insensibly withdraws; the understanding is convinced; the heart melts; the flame of love burns bright; the return of holy meditations, which formerly occupied the soul, disclose the grand object of religion, and the
May all who hear me this day be partakers of these divine consolations! May that invaluable sacrifice which Jesus Christ offered up to his father in our behalf, by cleansing us from all our guilt, deliver us from all our fears! May this great High Priest of the new covenant bear engraven on his breast all these mystical Israelites, now that he is entered into the holiest of all! And when these foundations of sand, on which this clay tabernacle rests, shall crumble away from under our feet, may we all be enabled to raise our departing spirits out of the ruins of the world, that they may repose in the mansions of immortality! Happy, beyond expression, beyond conception happy, to die in such sentiments as these! God of his infinite mercy grant it may be our blessed attainment! To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.