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once surmounted if we view the words as descriptive of the believer's spiritual state. A new principle of action has been implanted within him by the agency of the Holy Spirit which cannot be injured by the dissolution of the body, but shall be vastly strengthened and improved by that solemn event. But although this is obviously implied in our Saviour's words, yet this is not their direct import. They plainly convey the idea that nothing which deserves the name of death can ever happen to the Christian. He is not, indeed, to expect a permanent residence upon the earth, or to be wafted, like Elijah, to the skies in a fiery chariot. He must experience the languor of disease and the pangs of dissolution ; he must bid farewell to all terrestrial scenes, and say to corruption, “ Thou art my father.” And yet the change which takes place when he leaves this world does not deserve the frightful name of death. Every thing has been taken from the king of terrors which makes him formidable to the Christian. To him death is upstinged the curse removed—the passage through his dark valley is irradiated with the Saviour's presence, and the grave is converted into a bed of peaceful rest. The very language in which the Scriptures describe the believer's departure indicates that death to him is very different from what it is to the ungodly. The Christian falls asleep in Jesus-returns home-departs--goes away, and commends his departing spirit, in the confidence of faith, into the hands of his compassionate Saviour. To outward appearance indeed, the followers of Christ bave often to meet the last foe in a more terrific shape than the wicked. The ingenuity of godless men has been exhausted in inventing tortures to drive them to apostacy. They have been chained to the stake, amid the suffocating smoke and scorching flames of the burning pile ; their bones have been broken on the rack, the wild beasts bave torn them in pieces, and they have had to mount the scaffold of martyrdom in their way to the heavenly crown. But in the dungeon, at the stake, and on the rack, the Christian has re
mained unmoved, and even exulted in the thought of dying for the sake of Jesus. Divine influence so nerved bis soul that it triumphed over the fiendish malignity of his remorseless persecutors, and all the cruelties which they could indict.
It is also true that genuine Christians sometimes depart, in much uncertainty, as to their future prospects. Their departare, like that of the sun, is amid clouds and storms, while the wicked have no bands in their death. But even in such cases, the believer is perfectly safe, and Jesus is near to keep him from utter despondency. His frail bark may be ready to founder amid the billows, like that of the disciples in the dark Galileean sea, but He who walked on its boisterous waves will keep him from sinking. He may not know that he is safe from the weakness of bis faith or the agitation of his mental struggle, but his eternal interests are
The death which is most to be dreaded can never touch him. He cannot be separated from his covenant God. He shall never meet bis frown, nor endure bis hot displea
This is, indeed, the second death, but of this be shall never taste. His sins are pardoned and his person justified. For him there is the promise of a reconciled God and an Almighty Saviour, that death shall not detain him for ever in bis dark domain. To him there is a complete victory over this foe through the blood of the Lamb. And did he know his safety, the last moment of time would be to him the period of highest rapture. He would die shouting, did his strength permit, “O death, where is thy sting; O grave, where is thy victory !"
But not only is death unstinged and converted into a blessing to every Christian, but also made the instrument of liberating his sanctified spirit from all the fetters of mortality, and of introducing it into a condition of ineffable joy. The soul is at present linked to the body by the strongest and closest ties; but neither its existence nor its well-being depends on the vitality of the material part of
our constitution. A house may be taken down, and the inhabitants not only survive, but find a better and more convenient dwelling. In like manner the body may dissolve in dust, and yet the deathless spirit may survive, and experience an enlargement of its felicity. There is nothing in the nature of the human soul which renders its consciousness dependent on the body. Unless, therefore, it be the will of its Creator that it should slumber with it till the morning of the resurrection, we have no reason, from the nature of the case, to snppose, that this shall be the fact. But we have announcements in the Word of God which assure us, that the soul of the believer after death shall not only exist, but have its happiness vastly increased. It was formerly clogged to a little spot of earth—it now soars to heaven. It had previously sinful men as its companions—it now mingles in delightful fellowship with the angelic hosts. It worshipped imperfectly below, and had its perceptions of truth obscured by the darkness of the medium through which it was beheld-it adores above, amid the shining ranks of redeemed spirits, and contemplates, with ecstatic rapture, the unveiled glories of the Godhead.
It is not necessary to prove to those who know and cherish a becoming respect for the doctrines of the Bible, that the idea of the sleep of the soul, from the dissolution of the body till its resurrection, is utterly repugnant to its blessed discoveries. It is but the dream of a few speculatists, and rejected with becoming contempt by all sober-minded Christians. When the soul leaves the body, it is present with the Lord. When its clayey tabernacle is dissolved, it enters into the house nut made with hands, eternal in the heavens. It is with Christ in paradise. These expressions not merely demonstrate its conscious existence, but its improved condition. The faithful win the crown of life at death, and commence a career of progressive improvement, which shall continue while the endless cycles of eternity revolve. How gloriously significant, then, is the language of the Saviour, that the believer « shall never die.”
III. We shall now attend to the manner in which we may secure these blessed immunities.
It is by faith in Christ. 6 He that believeth in me." Faith holds a very prominent place in the Christian system. Without faith it is impossible to please God or obtain eternal life. And this circumstance does not arise from an arbitrary arrangement of the Creator, but springs from the moral constitution of man. There is no way in which truth can operate on the mind till it be believed. It becomes, then, a most important question, What is faith? It is much easier for
? any one who attends to the process of his own mind in performing this act, to understand it, than to give a definition of it satisfactory to others. The Apostle defines it to be a “ belief of the truth," that is, the truth of God's word. The act of faith is very simple in itself, but it is frequently accompanied with a variety of complex emotions, with which it is in danger of being confounded, and these depend much on the character of the truth believed. There are many truths so clear, and well supported by evidence, that a distinct perception of them is all that is requisite to secure our hearty assent to them. It is, however, very different with the truths of the Gospel. No amount of evidence, and no force of demonstration can secure for them a cordial reception, till the heart is brought into a proper state. This circumstance fully accounts for the obstinacy with which unregenerate men reject the peculiar doctrines of revelation, and for the perverted ingenuity with which they attempt to fashion them in a mould of their own, that they may be brought to accord with their depraved tastes. Were the discoveries of the Bible perfectly agreeable to the natural likings of men, there would be no more difficulty in believing them, nor any greater mystery connected with the faith of
the Gospel, than with that of the commonest truth. It is the deep-seated depravity of the human soul, and the awful aversion wbich it cherishes to God and the things of eternity, which shut up
avenues through which serious convictions can reach the heart. Hence the judgment may be won, and the assent of the understanding be gained to the doctrines of the Gospel, while the beart revolts against them, and refuses to give its approval. And till this is obtained, the spring of action is untouched—no moral impression produced, and nothing deserving the name of faith can exist in the soul.
The faith with which our Saviour connects the enjoyment of eternal life, includes not only an accurate knowledge of the great leading truths of the Gospel, and that they are worthy of all acceptation, but a cordial reception of them, as suited to the moral necessities of the soul. We must believe with the whole soul. And this can never take place till the heart is renewed. Hence faith is one of the fruits of regeneration, and this again is the work of the Holy Spirit. Faith, on this account, is styled a Christian grace, both because it produces those fruits which adorn the character, and is the result of a divine operation within. But let it be remembered, that while faith is a grace for which we must snpplicate, it is also a duty, to the discharge of which we are under the most powerful obligations. It is promised as a gift, and enjoined as a duty. While we hunably implore this grace, we must use the means which have been divinely instituted for its attainment. And we are not to urge our inability as an apology for neglect. There is no truth which requires to be more frequently and earnestly pressed on our attention, than that that which is called our inability to comply with all the divine requisitions, consists in the aversion of the heart to God and his authority, and so far from forming any excuse for neglecting duty, constitutes one of the blackest features of our aggravated guilt. Were this fact once