« السابقةمتابعة »
following verse, the Apostle speaks of those who “sleep in Jesus ;" those who believed in him, and those who were vitally and spiritually united to him. And the same truth is distinctly and powerfully expressed in other portions of the Sacred Writings, as you must recollect. Let me remind you, that the only warrant and assurance that our own prospects for death and eternity shall be cheered by the light and the gladness of mercy and grace, is to be found in the fact, that we “ count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord; and do count them but dung, that we may win Christ, and be found in him, not having our own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” It is “he that believeth," my brethren, that is entitled to the enjoyment of the blessing; and he who relies not upon Christ Jesus, has no part, and has no lot in the matter.
We must now explain further, that the precise order by which, to those who rely on the merits of the Lord and Saviour, death undergoes that softening influence which is placed before us, is, by the influence of the Saviour's death, and by the influence of the Saviour's resurrection. The whole of these two great events is applied to the welfare of those who believe; and in them is the security of their final joy. We speak, my brethren, for example, of the Saviour's death. That death was strictly an atonement, a propitiatory sacrifice for the transgressions of the world, intended to bear away the guilt of sin on behalf of all those who should believe upon His name, and absolve them from the penal consequences and final punishment which sin has richly deserved. We, therefore, find it stated that “ He bare our sins in his own body on the tree :" that “ Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that bangeth on a tree.” Now, my hearers, the terrors of death to man arise entirely from inan's liability to the
“ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” If, then, the guilt of sin, which alone invites and incurs the malediction of the law, be removed and borne away by the sacrifice of Christ, by the same sacrifice the sting of death must also be borne away; and there must be an influence exerted over it, so that it shall torment and injure no more. It is, therefore, a beautiful record of the Apostle, with regard to the influence of the Saviour's sacrifice, that “ 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 who 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."
Again, my brethren, while we speak of the Saviour's death, we must also speak of the Saviour's resurrection. On the third day he broke the bars of death, and came forth “ declared to be the Son of God with power." The resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead, was his own personal conquest over death : it was the solemn testimony of the all-sufficiency and acceptance iu heaven of the sacrifice which was offered for his people: and it was also a public proof that, on the part of his people, he had triumphed over and spoiled the principalities and powers of darkness ; who hold their domination no more for the curse and malediction of mankind : and it was his preparation for that state of mediatorial empire, and that work of mediatorial intercession, which is to continue till the appointed period, when all his saints are to be assimilated
to his own image, and brought to the perfection of heaven. The resurrection of the Saviour must be regarded as exercising a most important influence in securing the well-being of millions, and the final happiness of those who are redeemed. Thus, therefore, says the Apostle—“ Who is lie that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”
I shall not, my friends, attempt to detain your attention at greater length in reference to these two great events, the Saviour's death, and the Saviour's resurrection. I will only observe, that when you regard their influence as they are presented to you in the Book of God, and as we have thus endeavoured to explain them, you will see how it is death may become softened to those who are interested in them, and how the hour of Christian dissolution can be nothing but the hour of Christian security, and the hour of Christian joy. Yes, my brethren; for those who have believed in the work of the Saviour, the glorious work has been done: for them he has grappled with the King of Terrors ; he has plucked the crown from his brow ; he has levelled and prostrated the towering elevation of his throne ; he has snapped his sceptre in sunder; with his own blood he has washed away the poison from his dart; and, binding him at his feet as a captive, he has exposed him now as the wreck of what he once was ; now a most benign servant, now a messenger of good for the purposes of sovereign mercy; and, in due time, at the bidding of final determination, death itself shall be no more ; it shall be crushed, annihilated for ever. “ The last enemy which is destroyed is death ;” and then shall “ mortality be swallowed up of life.”
We have employed your attention thus far on what may be regarded as the preliminary part of the subject, in order to understand who those persons—and to examine whether you yourselves be numbered amongst those persons-who those persons are for whom a mitigating influence is exercised over the energies of death : those who believe upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; and those to whom, through faith, the merit of his atoning death and his triumphant resurrection are applied. Let us now proceed to the second part of our subject, and inquire, WHAT ILLUSTRATIONS DOES THIS REPRESENTATION OF DEATH AS SLEEP AFPORD, AS TO THE CONDITION OP THE DEPARTED?
It is very important for us, my brethren, at the outset, to remind you with carefulness, that when believers who are dead are represented as being in a state of sleep, it is not because they should be represented as being in a state of unconsciousness. I am aware that not a few affirm such to be the fact, and that many, professing to admit the immortality of the soul, yet state their belief that there is a perfect suspension of all thought and of all feeling, until the arrival of the last resurrection of the dead. The refutation of this opinion appears to us necessarily to arise from all just and philosophical investigations as to the nature, the laws, and the mutual relation of mind and of matter. And when we refer to the Sacred Writings, we find they render their most beautiful and decisive testimony to the fact, that although death does putrefy, and separate, and decompose, and pulverize the body, yet it leaves the soul in a state of actual and conscious being, capable of exercising its high mental faculties, and susceptible both of retributive pleasure and of retributive pain, into the enjoyment and endurance of which it is at once and instantly introduced.
Were I to give you a brief reference to the testimony of the Sacred Writing's on this important subject, I would remind you of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus ; with regard to which it must be evident that, even admitting the characters are fictitious, yet the doctrines taught with regard to those characters must, of necessity, be true. We find it stated that the beggar died, and was carried by angels into Abraham's bosoin · that the rich man died, and was buried, and in hell lifted up his eyes, being in torment. And this is to be regarded as the instantaneous effect of their dissolution, because we find the intercession of the rich man in behalf of his brethren who were yet living on earth, to whom he desired a messenger from the dead might be sent “ lest they also should come into this place of torment.” If that testimony stood alone, it would be perfectly decisive and clear. We remind you again of the promise of our Redeemer to the thief upon the cross : “Verily, I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise." We remind you of the anticipation of the Apostle Paul : “ Therefore we are always confident, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord : (for we walk by faith, not by sight :) we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” We remind you again of his own statement with regard to himself, where he expresses his “ earnest expectation and his hopes, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, 80 now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death." “ For me," says he,“ to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not, for," says he, “ I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better : nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” We remind you again of his reference to the spirits of just men that are made perfect. And the book of Revelations also gives to us a beautiful statement of the separate state of enjoyment: as it does also a solemn statement of the condition of misery, long before the sounding of the trumpet, and the calling of the bodies of the dead to judgment.
Assuming, my brethren, the truth and justice of the various representations which have now been presented, we must then ask for some other illustration of the figure of sleep, as applied to the state of departed believers; and we shall request your attention to three illustrations, by which you will perceive their state elucidated with extraordinary and exquisite beauty.
First, we represent the figure of sleep, as applied to departed believers, to illustrate their repose.
We know of corporeal sleep, “ tired nature's calm restorer," that wondrous and merciful ordination of Him whom we call the God of nature, that it is a season of quiet repose, when thc faculties that have been wearied by exertion are at ease and rest. Now, my brethren, death, to the believer, through the medium of Jesus, is as the beginning of repose after the labour of the day; for life to him is as a day of toil. You will remember how beautifully the idea of repose is connected with the idea of death, in the language of Christ, in the conversation with his disciples respecting the departure of Lazarus . “ Jesus saith unto them," when he said he should go into Judea again,
“ Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth because there is no light in him. These
things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth ; but I go, that I may awake him out of his sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” My brethren, all the demands and all the characteristics which attach to Christians in the present state of existence, are those of toil and labour. For example: we are to walk, we are to run, we are to plant, we are to sow, we are to reap, we are to build, we are to watch, we are to wrestle, we are to fight, we are to climb, we are to press forward. Whether we occupy the more public and honourable stations which belong to the Church of Christ, or whether we exist in more ordinary and less responsible positions, we all know that our's is a hard toilsome course. The task of resisting the propensities of our own indwelling sin--the task of enduring the various afflictive dispensations which are imposed upon us by divine providencethe task of bearing the obloquy, the scorn, the persecution, in various forms, of ungodly men—the task of contending against the rulers of darkness—the task of acquiring the higher ultimate attainments of Christian knowledge, of Christian holiness—and the task of attempting to persevere against the depravity of man, and advancing the kingdom of our Redeemer, even unto the ends of the earth; this, my brethren, constitutes our work-work that we are to do with all our might; and except we do it we cannot work out our own salvation, nor rightly honour the Redeemer whom we profess to serve. But when we have finished, as hirelings, our day, when we die, or when we “sleep,” in Jesus, it is as going to our rest: the body rests in its grave; the soul rests in the paradise of the Lord, surrounded by the elements of a sweet and balmy tranquillity, that cannot be ruffled or disturbed. Are we labourers ? Then we leave the field and lay down the implements of our husbandry. Are we travellers ? Then we terminate our long and wearisome journey, and cross the threshold of our Father's mansion. Are we soldiers? Then we take off the helmet, and the corslet, and the entire panoply, and lay down the weapons of defence or of assault, the spear, and the shield, and the sword. Are we mariners? Then we heave over the last ocean-billow, and enter the desired haven. The sleep of the labouring man is sweet; and O how sweet is the slumber and last repose of those who have believed in Jesus, and who have wrought for God! No sufferings, no cares, no uneasy recollections, or boding anticipations disturb. There is no affrighting dream, no unearthly night-mare, to spoil or mar that placid rest: every jarring noise is hushed; the winds are still; no heavy tread, no loud tumults, no alarm cry, no trumpet sounds startle; all nature pays a deference and a tribute of silence whilst the Christian sleeps. “ They enter into peace, and they sleep in their beds, each one who has walked in uprightness." “ There remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God.” “ I heard a voice from heaven, saying, Write, Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from henceforth ; Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them." How happy, my brethren, for you and for me, if as Christians we labour, that as Christians we shall rest, wlien we shall have fallen asleep
Secondly: this figure of sleep also illustrates their security. The season of slumber is assumed to be a season of security. No man, in ordinary cases
would commit himself to the one, except he was assured that he could also calculate on the other. The Christian would not be the possessor of rest, if he were not the possessor of security. And we need scarcely remind you, that when the time has come for his spirit to enter into a state of immortality, it is secure and it is safe for ever. Security, my brethren, is that which, in invulnerable power, ever surrounds all who believe upon the name of the Son of God. Never would I, for a single moment, attempt to qualify, or to equivocate upon, the doctrine of that perfect security with which they are environed who are the called according to the purpose of God, both in this life, and in the life that is to come. Saith the Redeemer, as you remember, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of iny Father's hand. I and my Father are one.” And, again, saith the Saviour's servant: “Who shall separate us from the love Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that hath loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The departure of believers is a transition to the chosen mansions, and to the immediate presence of their Lord. And what storm can disturb there? And what sorrow can harass there? And what foe can endanger there? You might as well think of the insecurity of Christ as think of the insecurity of his people : if He be safe, so are they ; if He be dignified, so are they ; if He be happy so are they. The same allotments, the same residence, the same honour, are the property of both : “Because I live, ye shall live also.”
But, my brethren, in speaking of the security in which they are involved who live and who die in the Lord, we must not omit to notice, that while there is security to their spirits in the paradise of their Redeemer, there is also a security to their bodies in their graves. Peradventure, my brethren, we pay too little attention to the recollection of this great fact-as to the security of the corporeal frame of those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. My hearers, not only has the soul been redeemed, but the body has been redeemed also. For what else is the import of the Apostle's language when he says, that “We who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body ?" And again, the passage where he says, “ Ye are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession "—the “purchased possession " being the body—“unto the praise of his glory." Yes, my brethren, the dust of every Christian is sacred : it matters not where that dust shall be laid. It matters not if it repose not in ancestral dwellings, and in ancestral sepulchres. It matters not that it be buried in foreign and far-distant climes, amidst strangers and aliens, where there is no friend to close the eye, or to mourn by the bier. It matters not that it be down in the abyss of the deep and unfathomed ocean, unknelled,