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become more commodious habitations, or more suitable Companions for the Spirits of just Men made perfect ; might be changed from natural Bodies to Spiritual: And if such Change be neceffary (as we are taught to believe by the best Authority“) it seems to be but of small conse, quence when, or in what manner it be made ; whether we are to sleep first, or be found like those of the last Generation ; fince the times of our dying and rising again are in reality coinci, dent w; and our Change therefore alike momentary; nor will this Sleep be any more to us than the twinkling of an Eye ; neither shall those who remain unto the coming of the Lord prevent us who were fallen asleep, nor enter into the Joy of their Lord before us; but both we and they shall at the Sound of the last Trump be caught up together to meet the Lord in the Air, and so be ever with him
But how many uses soever of this fort may be assigned for Death we are still to remember that it must be a most imperfect Sketch, a faint discovery of some few of the various Ends of Providence in this immense Plan, whereof so very small a part at present lies before us; a more complete display of which will
probably constitute no inconsiderable portion of our future Happiness, when we shall know, even as we ourselves are known; when our whole Spirit, Soul, and Body Mall be presented blameless at the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Which brings me to consider,
u I Cor. 15. 50.
w See Mr. Taylor on Rom. p. 354: ? i Cer. 15:51, 52. 1 Thef. 4.15, 96.
IIIdly, What Notions of Death are now proper and agreeable to the Christian State.
Now this results from, and has been in a good Degree anticipated under the foregoing Heads. For if among the Heathen, whom the Apostle points out in the latter part of the Text, the great dread of Death, and that perpetual Bondage consequent upon it, arose from their surveying it as the last Evil, which put a period to their whole Existence, (which many of them contended that it did y, and none, as we have seen, had ground sufficient to convince them of the contrary;] we who are taught to look upon it in quite another Light, ought to be affected with it in another manner. To them indeed Death had a terrible, Sound, and could not but be attended with a train of the most melancholy Sentiments, whenever they were forced (as they were frequently) to entertain that Thought. It would unavoidably be mixing with their Entertainments of all kinds, and when it did so, would as unavoidably allay and spoil their relish ; which we find some of them confessing and complaining of'. This was the Sword continually hanging over their Heads by a single Hair ; the Spectre always haunting their abode; which, whatever some professed Libertines might pretend, would caft a sudden damp on every Joy;, it would leave no present Grati
1 Æf. Eumen, v. 655. Eurip. Troad. v.631, &c. Can tull. 5.6. Lucret. 3.842, &c. 987, &c. Lucan. L.7. V.470, 471. L. 8. v.395,396. Sen. Trag. Tro. A. 2. Chor. Cæf. in Sal. C. si. Cic. pro Clu. C.61. Comp. Id. Sup. p. 111, Plin. N.H. L.7. C.55.. Sen. Ep.54.71.
Comp. Cleric. in Eccl. 4.2, 3. . Campbell
. of Rev. S.4. 7. Cic. Tusc. Q. 1.11.13. - de Fin. 1. 38.
fication free from pain and uneasiness; and as to any future Prospects, through what a Gloom must each considerate Person view thefe, which were all to be cut off so very soon, and either close in absolute Extinction, or if he should be called to Life again, that Life commence a State of Punishment and Suffering ; to which he must be conscious he was but too liable ! In this case, how could Man, even a comparatively wise and good Man, contemplate himself any otherwise then as walking all his Life time in a vain Shadow, and at last lying down in forrow and despair !
But how entirely is this Scene changed under the Christian Dispensation! What a different
a apprehension must we have of Death, when we know that it is so far from injuring any of our noblest Pleasures, or destroying our best Pursuits, that it rather puts us into a Capacity of enjoying them more perfectly, and opens a way to our more free, full
, uninterrupted prosecution of them to Eternity! A way, which though, for reasons intimated above, it must be in some measure gloomy still, yet is there little left to terrify, much to support and comfort us, when we come into the Shadow of this Vale of Death; enough to brighten up its Horrors, and convert them into a Crown of Glory ; to make us even rejoice that we are got so near it, from whence we may fafely view those blissful Seats of Paradise, that are prepared to receive us, and to which it conducts us. The Heathen had at best but feeble Arguments for, or rather some faint Guesses at, and Wishes of an Hereafter ; and in the mean time were tossed to and fro in uncertainty among
their several Systems, fluctuating in perpetual Doubts, and on each disappointment, ready to give all up, and fly even to the most miserable of all comforts, Insensibility, for refuge? How vastly different is our Case, who have fo firm a ground of Expectation to rely on, and that strong Consolation which results from it in all Difficulties! Who can at all times lay hold on the Hope that is set before us, as an Anchor of the Soul both Jure and fedfast; God himself having given us not only most express Promises, in which it is impoffible for him to lye, but also
infallible Proofs, and actual Instances of what the Generality of them were used to think impoflible, ba Resurrection from the Dead. And though, as being partakers of Flesh and Blood, we are still naturally Mortal; nor was it Christ's intent to alter the whole frame of our Nature instantly, by tranflating us into some different Order of Beings, as he must have done, had he freed us from all natural Corruption, and which (as we have seen above) would have been improper so long as there were the Seeds of moral Corruption yet remaining in us; but he chose rather to improve it gradually, and procure a proportional enlargement of its Privileges ; as he did in the most effectual manner, by laying hold of the same Nature himself, and lifting it up first from Sin by his Doctrine and Example, and then purchasing for it a release froin its present Sorrow, Pain, and Diffolution, by his own meritorious Sufferings and Death.
a v. Cic. in Considerat. n. e. p.III.
+ Cellap. Orig. 5. p.240. M. Anton. 12.5. See Whitby on 1 Thell: 4.13. and Hallet's Discourses, V. 1. p. 298.
And thus by the Mediation of the second Adam are we delivered from the worst and most dreadful
part of the Sentence on the first, that which denounced Death absolutely and indeterminately; and thereby left Man in a State of unlimited Subjection to it : or rather is this Death, which though in one Sense it still preserves its Power over the World, and will and ought (as we have seen) to preserve it during the whole of this
probationary State, and likewise on account of that Sin whereof it is the great Corrective, has still the Appearance and the Name of an Enemy (the last Enemy that shall be destroyed is Deatb;) yet is it, I say, to us become a very different thing to what it was to our first Parents and the generality of their Offspring, before the dawning of that Prospect which our Lord has opened by his coming in the Flesh. 'Tis now so far from the Extinction of our Being, that it becomes the great Improvement and the Exaltation of it: 'tis no more than a passage from a mixed, imperfect, to a pure and perfect Portion of Felicity; the End of all our Labours in one State, and the beginning of our Recompence in another. In which View, God will not appear either to have made all Men for nought, or subjected them to Vanity even here: the present Life, however frail and transitory, if thus taken in relation to, and as connected with another, is very far from being an useless or contemptible Gift: Much may be done in this bad World, if we but make a proper use of it, towards rendering ourseļves meet to be partakers of a better: the Ground of the Heart
inay pared, the Seeds of Virtue fown, the Heavenly