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a man during his life, becomes a burthen to him in his death: pain and anguish will then cause him to lament bitterly; he beholds death as a king of terrours; his long smothered sins and hushed conscience begin to bestir themselves, and fill the soul with terrour, and the fear of eternal destruction causeth him to cry out for anguish of heart. And how many fears possess even believers on their death beds is known to those, whose office it is to visit the sick. And therefore the instructor hath weighty reasons to inquire concerning our comfort in death.
What shall quiet a person amidst so many distresses? It must be an only comfort. The heart of man hath many and insatiable desires, and his evils are manifold: and therefore he hath need of many consolations. There is nothing in the world that can fully satisfy him though he should have ever so much, there will always be something besides what he hath already, after which he will pant. The round world can not fill the triangular heart: there is surely nothing of all that he seeth, that can support and quiet him against the fear of death and God's insupportable wrath. Therefore he must endeavour to obtain an only comfort, which alone is sufficient for the mind under every affliction, and at all times, and which will thus be "a strong consolation," Heb. vi. 18. This is called but "one thing" by David and Christ, Psalm xxvii. 4. Luke x. 41, 42.
The instructor doth not choose to fight at random, and merely to beat the air, but he asks with application to the man himself, what is "thy" only comfort? and he asks the believer in particular this question, that he may learn of him, for the information of others, what is the true comfort: the believer knows it best: "Evil men understand not judgment; but they that seek the Lord understand all things," Prov. xxviii. 5. We must not therefore ask simply with the captious Papists and Remonstrants, what is the only comfort, or what is the only comfort of a believer; for every man must believe for himself: "the righteous must live by his faith," Hab. ii. 4. Every man must be examined with respect to what he himself believes, and whether "he is faithful to the Lord," Acts xvi. 15. Of what profit is it to know what the comfort of others is, if we ourselves do not partake of it?
What account doth the believer now give of this comfort of his ? doth he say with the men of this world, and with the old philoso
* The author hath respect to a custom of the Dutch Church in Holland, of appointing a certain person in the congregation a stated Visitor of the sick, whose business it is to instruct, admonish and comfort the sick, as their ease. may require.
phers, "who becam evain in their imaginations, and whose foolish hearts were darkened, and who, professing themselves to be wise, became fools," Rom. i. 21, 22. that I possess great riches, that I take my fill of the pleasures of this world, that I am laden with honours, that I harden myself against adverse occurrences, or that I delight myself with contemplating the mysteries of nature? No; all this is too low for such an elevated mind: he knows that the least blast of adversity can dissipate such idle consolations. He hath a higher revelation, accompanied with a heart ravishing experience, which teacheth him that his "only comfort in life and death is, that he is with body and soul, not his own, but belongs to his faithful Saviour Jesus Christ."
"To be ones own with body and soul, both in life and death," is the condition of one, who is not subject to, nor a slave of another; but who is his own lord and master, as the Jews pretended that they were, when they said to our Saviour, John viii. 33. "We are Abra ham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou then, Ye shall be made free?" Man was, in consequence of his creation, the property of God, and was his servant; but by means of sin he hath broken the yoke and bursten the bonds: he hath apostatized from God to himself, and hath thus set himself free from his Maker, and is become a servant to himself; he is a man of Belial, without yoke, "sliding back, as a backsliding heifer," Hosea iv. 16. Therefore his heart and actions proclaim, if he do not say it with his mouth, "Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?" Psalm xii. 4. "He strengthens himself against the Almighty," and speaks proudly with the Jews, Jer. ii. 31. "We are lords, we will not come unto thee." He aims at and pursues also solely that which is his own, and not that which is the Lord's, Philip. ii. 21. "His belly is his God," Philip. iii. 19. Yea, he is so proud, and so puffed up with a conceit of himself, that he admires none so much as himself, and with the prince of Tyre," he sets his heart as God's heart." Ezek. xxviii. 1, 6.
But though this freedom, that a person is his own, may appear exceedingly pleasant and agreeable to the sinner, it doth not nevertheless contain a sufficient consolation. For he hath nothing in and of himself, that can afford him satisfaction. He cannot expect it Deither of God, against whom he hath rebelled. He is obnoxious also to the most grievous judgment of God, of being abandoned to himself, to every abomination, and to every distress, with the Israelites and with the Gentiles, Psalm lxxxi. 11, 12. Rom. i. 26, 27, 28. There is not a more arrant slave than he, who belongs to himself,
for he is a servant of sin." John viii. 3, 4, Rom. vi. 20, "a child of the devil," John viii. 44, and "a captive in his snare at his will,” 2 Tim. ii. 26. Filled with self love, he doth not perceive this, but slights and disregards it; yet in the hour of his death, he will expe rience it to his terrour, and with the rich man he will not obtain even" a drop of water to cool his scorching tongue," Luke xvi. 24.
The true Christian conducts therefore more prudently, inasmuch as he seeks his comfort "in belonging to Christ Jesus, his faithful Saviour, with body and soul, both in life and death," like an entire servant and bondman, who is not his own, but belongs wholly to his master. "He that is called, being free, is Christ's servant," saith Paul, 1 Cor. vii. 22. Jesus claims him for "his inheritance and possession," Psalm ii. 8. He is "the peculiar treasure" of the Lord above other men, Exod. xix. 5. his segullah, " property," which word is also translated "the peculiar treasure of kings," Eccl. ii. 8. Bondservants were in ancient times deemed a person's riches, see Gen. xxiv. 35. Thus also the Christian is the riches, "the portion and the lot of the inheritance" of Christ. Deut. xxxii. 9. and that not in part, but entirely "with body and soul, with which he must glorify God," because "he is not his own, but bought with a price," 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20. Yea, he belongs to Christ for ever, both "in life and death, as the apostle also teacheth in the text. His Lord Jesus Christ is his faithful Saviour, "a God of perfect salvation, and to whom be long the issues from death," Psalm lxviii. 20.
As this is truly an excellent condition, of which glorious things are spoken, therefore our catechism explains it at large in four par ticulars, showing, first, how a believer is made the property of Christ, secondly, how he is preserved as his property, thirdly, how assured, and fourthly, sanctified.
1. The believing Christian was God's property formerly, but by sin he withdrew himself in a treacherous manner from God; and rendered himself his own property; but by grace he is become the property of Jesus Christ, his faithful Saviour: for the Father, who had chosen him for himself, gave him to his Son in the eternal covenant of redemption: "They were thine, and thou gavest them me," saith the Saviour to his Eather, John xvii. 6. The Son also owns and claims the elect sinner as his by a marriage covenant, Ezek. xvi. 8. Hesea ii. 18, 19. Whereby, being "brought under the bond of the covenant, he joins himself to him to be his servant,” Isaiah Ivi. 6, and "says and subscribes with his hand, I am the Lord's,” Isaiah xliv. 5. But to abide with the instructor by the expression of belonging to a person, we must say that the believer belongs to
Christ by virtue of a purchase. Among Abraham's servants, who belonged to him, there were those also, whom he had "bought with money," Gen. xvii. 12. Therefore the believer saith, that "his faithful Saviour hath perfectly satisfied with his precious blood for all his sins." He had rendered himself guilty before God by his sins, and was therefore, as God's prisoner, kept and shut up under the law, that he might, when the Judge saw fit, be led forth to punishment, and satisfy for his guilt; but the Saviour his surety, took his guilt upon him, and satisfied for it by his suffering and obedience, that he might claim the elect sinner for himself, according to the prophecy, Isaiah liii. 10. "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed." Therefore his satisfaction is also considered as "the ransom" and price of redemption, Matt. xx. 28. 1 Tim. ii. 6. Whereby the elect sinner is also delivered from his guilt: "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins," saith Paul, Eph. i. 7. For he paid, not the half, or a part, but the whole price for all the sins of his people: "The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanseth us from all sins," I John i. 7. "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified," Heb. x. 14. Which blood, or bloody suffering is "precious," accor ding to the declaration of the catechism from 1 Peter i. 18, 19. For the Person, his suffering, the deliverance from evil, and the purchase of good by his blood, manifest that it is exceedingly precious. Therefore he,, for whom the Son of God paid the price of redemp tion, doth properly belong to his Redeemer. "He hath purchased his church with his own blood," Acts xx. 28. and he hath "bought ber with a price," 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20.
Moreover, the believer is Christ's property by conquest. It was a custom in ancient times, as it is still among many nations, to reduce conquered enemies to servitude. The faithful Saviour delivers the elect sinner from the power of the devil, who held him "a cap five in his snare at his will," 2 Tim. ii. 20. The righteous judg ment of God subjects the sinner, as a capital offender, to the power of the devil: "The devil had the power of death," Heb. ii. 14. And therefore the devil, according to the opinion of some expositors, is called "a lawful possessor, whose captives should be taken away from him and escape," Isaiah xlix. 24, 25. Inasmuch now as the faithful Saviour hath paid the full price of redemption, the devil ought to release and discharge the sinner; but the tyrant refuseth: therefore the Saviour employs strength and power, in order to wrest bis purchased property by his Spirit from him through an effectual calling and conversion: "He binds the strong man, and spoils his
goods," Mark iii. 27. The sinner himself resists, he delights in his cruel bondage: "he will not come to Jesus, that he may have life everlasting," John v. 40. But this great and mighty Hero "girds his sword on his thigh, and he makes his arrows sharp, so that peo ple fall under him," Psalm xliv. 3, 4, 5. For this "he ascended on high, and led captivity captive: he received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also that he might dwell among them,” Psalm lxviii. 18. And thus he appropriates to himself those whom he hath delivered: "Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine," Isaiah xliii. 1.
2. If the person who is delivered were left to his own care, he would soon, (yea, sooner than Adam before the fall) be over-mastered by the devil, who seeks continually to wrest him from his Lord: but his "faithful Lord establishes and keeps him from the evil one," 2 Thess. iii. 3. "He is kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation," 1 Peter 1, 5. "Having loved his own, he loveth them unto the end," John xiii. 1." For the Lord will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance," Psalm xliv. 14. He could not shed his precious blood in vain. Yea, "he preserves him so, that without the will of his heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from his head," according to his promise, Matt. x. 30. Luke xxi. 18. How then should he suffer the body and soul of him whom he hath purchased, delivered and owns, to be subject to the power of his principal enemy, the devil?
The believer, oppressed by many afflictions, saith indeed sometimes with Gideon, " If the Lord be with us, why then hath all this evil befallen us?" Judges vi. 13. But he considers not that "all things must work together for good to him," according to the apostle, Rom. viii. 28. For his adversities are only "chastisements for his profit, that he may be a partaker of God's holiness," Heb. xii. 10. Yea, God preserves him by this discipline, "that his soul may not depart from him, and that he may not be condemned with the world,” Jer. vi. 8. 1 Cor. xi. 32. It is true, sin is the most grievous of all evils, to the people of God, and causeth them to fear that they will one day fall by the hand of the infernal Saul: but their wise and faithful Saviour knows how to direct sin contrary to its nature, for the good of the believer, in order that he may humble his soul by it, render him more eariest, watchful and dependent upon him; that his wonderful wisdom, faithfulness, unchangeable love and power may be glorified the more, in the admirable way, in which he