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and looks out for a new habitation with God. "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” The soul knows itself to be more noble than the corruptible body, which it is now to leave in the dust : it understands its relation to the Father of spirits, and from him expects protection and provision in its disembodied state; and therefore commits itself into his hands. If it vanished, and did not survive the body; if it were annihilated at death, it were but mocking God to say, when we die, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."
2. It implies the soul's true rest to be in God. See which way its motions and tendencies are, not only in life, but in death. "Father, into thy hands.” God is the centre of all gracious spirits. While they tabernacle here, they have no rest but in the bosom of their God: when they go hence, their expectation and carnest desires are to be with him. It had been working after God by gracious desires before: it had cast many a longing look heaven-ward ; but when the gracious soul comes near its God, (as it doth in a dying hour,) " then it even throws itself into his arms ;” as a river that, after many turnings and windings, pours itself into the ocean. "Nothing but God can please it in this world, and nothing but God can satisfy it when it goes hence.” Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none on earth that I desire in comparison of thee. Ps. 73:25.
3. It also implies the great value believers place upon the soul. This is the precious treasure; and their main solicitude and chief care is to see it secured in a safe hand: "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit." These words express the believer's care for his soul, that it may be safe, whatever becomes of the vile body. A believer, when he comes nigh to death, spends but few thoughts about his body, where it shall be laid, or how it shall be disposed of; he trusts that in the hands of friends : but as his great care all along was for his soul, so he expresses it in these his very last breathings, in which he commends it into the hands of God. It is not, Lord Jesus, receive my body, take care of my dust; but, "Receive my spirit;" Lord, secure the jewel, when the casket is broken.
4. These words imply the deep sense that dying believers have of the great change that is coming upon them by death; when all visible and sensible things are shrinking away from them, and failing. They feel the world and the best comforts of it failing; and the soul cleaves more closely than ever to God: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Not that the soul cleaves to God, merely because it has then no other support. No; it chose God for its portion when it was in the midst of all its outward enjoyments, and had as good security as other men have for the long enjoyment of them. True, though gracious souls have chosen God for their portion, and do truly prefer him to the best of their comforts; yet, in this imperfect state, they live not wholly upon God, but partly by faith, and partly by sense; partly upon things seen, and partly upon things not seen. Earthly objects had some interest in their hearts; alas, too much: but now all these are vanish. ing. "I shall behold man no more, with the inhabitants of the world,” said sick Hezekiah: the soul now turns itself from them all, and casts itself upon God, expecting now to live upon its God entirely, like the blessed angels.
5. It implies faith in the atonement of God, and his full reconciliation to believers, by the blood of the great Sacrifice ; else they durst never commit their souls into his hands: "For it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," Heb. 10:31; that is, of God unappeased by the offering up of Christ. The soul dare no more cast itself into the hands of God, without such
an atoning sacrifice, than it dare approach consuming fire. And, indeed, the reconciliation of God by Jesus Christ, as it is the ground of all acceptance with God; for we are "made accepted in the Beloved ;" so it is plainly implied in the order or manner of the reconciled soul's committing itself to him : it first casts itself into the hands of Christ, and then into the hands of God by him. So Stephen cried, when dying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
6. It implies both the efficacy and excellency of faith, in supporting and relieving the soul at a time when nothing else can. Faith is its conductor, when in the greatest perplexity and distress : it secures the soul when it is turned out of the body; when heart and flesh fail, this leads it to the Rock that fails not; it remains by the soul till it sees it safe through all the territories of Satan, and safe landed upon the shore of glory; and then is swallowed up in vision. Many a favor hath faith conferred upon the soul while in the body. The great service it did was in the time of its espousals to Christ. This is the marriage-knot, the blessed bond of union between the soul and Christ. Many a relieving sight and sweet support hath faith afforded since the soul's espousals; but, surely, its first and last work are its most glorious works. By faith it first ventured itself upon Christ; threw itself upon him in the deepest sense of its own vileness and utter unworthiness, when sense, reason, and multitudes of temptations stood by, contradicting and discouraging ; by faith it now casts itself into his arms, when it is launching out into vast eternity. They are both noble acts of faith; but the first, no doubt, is the greatest and most difficult; for, when once the soul is interested in Christ, it is easy still to commit itself into his hands. It is easier for a child to cast himself into the arms of his own father in distress, than for one that hath been both a stranger and an enemy to him, to cast itself upon him, that he may be a Father and a Friend to it. But,
II. What warrant or encouragement have gracious souls to commit themselves at death into the hands of God? I answer, Much every way; all things encourage and warrant their so doing : for,
1. The God, to whom the believing soul commits itself at death, is its Creator, the Father of its being : he created and inspired it, and so it hath the relation of a creature to a Creator; yea, of a creature now in distress, to a faithful Creator: "Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as to a faithful Creator." 1 Pet. 4:19. True, this single relation, in itself, gives no encouragement to a creature that has sinned : " It is a people of no understanding, therefore he that made them, will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them, will show them no favor.” Isa. 27:11. But now, grace brings that relation into repute : holiness ingratiates us again, and revives the remembrance of this relation ; so that believers only can plead this.
2. Again, as the gracious soul is his creature, so it is his redeemed creature ; one that he hath bought, and that with a great price, even the precious blood of Jesus Christ. 1 Pet. 1: 18, 19. This greatly encourages the departing soul to commit itself into the hands of God. " Into thy hand I commit my spirit ; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” Ps. 31:5. Lord, I am not only thy creature, but thy redeemed creature; one that thou hast bought with a great price: for my sake Christ came from thy bosom, and at the expense of his precious blood redeemed me, and wilt thou at last exclude me? Shall the ends both of the creation and redemption of this soul be lost together? Will God form such a soal, in which are so many wonders of the wisdom and power of its Creator; will he, when sin has marred the frame and defaced the glory of it, recover it to himself again, by the death of his own dear Son; and after all this, cast it away? "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit:" I know thou wilt have respect to the work of thy hands; especially to a redeemed creature, upon which thou hast expended so great love.
3. Nay, this is not all; the gracious soul is his renewed creature. This lays a firm ground for the believer's confidence and acceptance; not that it is the proper cause, or reason of its acceptance, but is the soul's best evidence that it is accepted with God, and shall not be refused by him, when it comes to him at death : for, in such a soul there is a double workmanship of God, both glorious, though the last exceeds in glory. A natural workmanship, in the excellent frame of that noble creature, the soul; and a gracious workmanship upon that again ; a new creation upon the old; glory upon glory." We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” Eph. 2: 10. The Holy Ghost came down from heaven on purpose to create this new workmanship, to frame this new creature; and indeed it is the chief of all God's works of wonder in this world, and must give the believer abundant encouragement to commit himself to God. By this "we are made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” Col. 1 : 12. It is also the design and end of Him that wrought it: "Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God.” 2 Cor. 5:5. Had he not designed thy soul for glory, the Spirit would never have come down to sanctify it: surely it shall not fail of a reception into glory, when it is cast out of this tabernacle : such a work was not wrought in vain, neither can it ever perish. Sanctification so roots itself in the soul, that where the soul goes, it goes: gifts indeed die; all natural excellency and beauty depart at death, Job, 4 : 21; out grace ascends with the soul; it is a sanctified when