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people, Rom. viii. 28. By death he puts an end to the body of sin, and frees the soul from all those ruftling passions, those inquietudes of the blood, and disorders of nature, those strong and perverse appetites that cost the Christian so much toil to subdue, and brought him so often under guilt, darkness, and. sorrow. By death he delivers the believer from the pains and infirmities of the 'hody, the perpetual languishings of a weakly constitution, and the anguish of acute diseases. He constrains death to give the weary saint release from all the miseries of the present state, and to hide him from the fury of the oppressor. The grave is God's hiding-place from the storms and tumults of the world ; There the weary are at rest, and the wicked cease from troubling ;” and instead of consigning us over to the full malice of the devil, death is made a means to convey us away from all his assaults, and translate us into that country, where he has no power to enter. And when the soul is dismissed into the bosom of a reconciled God by the ministry of death, the body is put to rest in the grave; the grave, which is sanctified into a bed of rest for all the followers of Christ, since their Lord and Master has lain there.
In the gospel of Christ, the name of death is altered into sleep. Christ, who has subdued it, seems to have given it this new name, that it might not have a frightful sound in the ears of his beloved. Though it was sometimes called sleep in the Old Testament, yet that chiefly regarded the silence, and darkness, and inactivity of the state ; whereas in the New Testament, and in the twelfth of Daniel, it is called sleep, to denote that there is an awaking time. The antient Christians, 'upon this account, called the church-yard where they buried the dead, koimetérion, a sleeping-place. And though the grave may be termed the prison of death, yet death
is not lord of the prison ; he can detain the captives there but during the pleasure of Christ, for he wlio is alive for evermore, has the keys of death and bell, that is, of the separate state, Rev. i. 18.
Now this is the true reason why Christians have spoken so many kind things of death, which is the king of terrors to a natural man. They call it a release from pain and sin, a messenger of peace, the desired hour, and the happy moment. All this is spoken while they behold it with an eye of faith in the hands of Christ, who has subdued it to himself, and constrained it to serve the designs of his love to them.
3. When it has done all Christ's work, it shall be
erly destroyed. After the resurrection, there shall be no more dying. The saints shall rise immortal, and dwell in heaven for ever, in the complete enjoyment of all that is included in the name of Life. As the angel in prophecy lifts up his hand, and swears by him that lives for ever and ever, that “ Time shall be no longer,” Rev. x. 6. so Christ Jesus, the Lord of angels, shall, as it were, pronounce with a sovereign voice, that “ Death shall be no more.” He shall send the great archangel with the trumpet of God; it shall sound through the deepest caverns of the grave, and shall summon death from its in most recesses. The tyrant shall hear and obey, and restore all his captives out of prison; " The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and live," John v. 25, 28, 29. “They that have done good to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation.” After this our Lord has no employment for death, bis slave; the bodies of men shall die no more ; there shall be no more any state of separation between the flesh and spirit, Rev. xx. 14. “ And death and hell [or hades) were cast into the lake of fire ;" that is, there shall be no more death, no grave, no separate
state of souls, all these shall be for ever destroyed.
REFLECTION I. We may infer from this third general head, the great power and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ ; we may learn the honour that is due to him from mortals; it is he that has subdued death, and that by his own dying. A wondrous method of victory! a surprising conquest ! and he lives for ever to destroy it in his appointed time. How great and honourable must he be in the eyes of all mankind, who has vanquished so universal a conqueror ! How desirable is his person, and how delightful the sound of his name to every believer! For he suppresses all their enemies, and shall destroy then even to the Jast. How well does he fulfil the great engagement ! Hosea xiii. 14. I will ransom them from the powst of the grave : I will redeem them from death : 0 death, I will be thy plague! O grave, I will be thy destruction ! Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.
Let us salute him the Prince of life, Acts iii. 15. and adore him under that character. He dispossesses death of all its dominions. He approves himself a complete Saviour of all his saints, and a Redeemer of his captive friends.
REFLECTION 2. We may learn also from this head of discourse, the power and excellency of the gospel of Christ, for it discovers to us how this great enemy is vanquished, and when it shall be destroyed; and thus it lays a foundation for courage at death, and gives us assurance of a joyful rising-day. Death being abolished by the mediation of Christ, iinmortality and life are brought to light by his gospel, 2 Tim. i. 10. that is, there is a brighter discovery of the future state, and of everlasting happiness, than ever before was given to the world.
Here in the name of Christ, and of his gnspel, we may give a challenge to all other religions, and say, which of them has borne up the spirit of mau so high above the fears of death as this has done ? or has given us so fair, so rational, and so divine an account how death has been overcome by one man, and how by faith in his name we may all be made overcomers ? How vain are the trifles with wbich the heathen priests and their prophets amused the credulous multitude ! What silly and insipid fables do they tell us of souls passing over in a ferry-boat to the other world, and describe the fields of pleasure, and the prisons of pain in that country of ghosts and shadows, in so ridiculous a manner, that the wise men of their own nations despised the romance, and few were stupid enough to believe it all. If we consult the religion of their philosophers, they give us but a poor, lame, and miserable account of the state after death. Some of them denied it utterly, and others rave at random in meer conjectures, and float in endless uncertainties. The courage which some of their heroes professed at the point of death, was rather a stubborn indolence, than a rational and well-founded valour ; and not many arrived at this hardiness of mind, except those that supposed their existence ended with their life, and thought they should be dissolved into their first atoms. Aristotle, one of the greatest men amongst them, tells us that futurity is uncertain, and calls death the most terrible of all terribles.
If we search into the religion of the Jews, which was a scheme of God's own contrivance and revelation to men, we find the affairs of a future world lay much in the dark ; their consciences were not so thoroughly purged from the guilt of sin, but that some terrors hung about them, as appears from Heb. x. 1, 2, 3. and having so faint and obscure notices of the separate state of souls, and of the resurrection, these were the persons who in a special manner, through the fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage, Heb. ii. 15.
But Christianity lays a fair and rational foun
dation for our confidence and triumph in the dying hour. It sliews how guilt is removed by an allsufficient sacrifice; and makes it evident that no hell, no vengeance, no shadows of misery await the believer in that invisible world. This makes the Christian venture into it with a certain boldness, and a becoming presence of mind. The doctrine of Christ shews us how the sting of death is taken away, and calls us to fight with a vanquished enemy, a serpent without a sting; it gives us assurance that we shall rise again from the dust with bodies fresher and fairer, glorious in their frame, and their constitution immortal, for death shall be no more. Exalted by so subli'ne a hope, what is there in death sufficient to depress our spirits, if our faith were but equal to this admirable doctrine ? The holy apostles are witnesses, the noble army of martyrs are witnesses, and many a saint in our day is a witness to this truth, and gives honour to this gospel. How many thousands have met death, and all its frightful attendants, with a steady soul, and a serene countenance, and have departed to heaven with songs of praise upon their lips, a smile upon their face, and
triumph in their eyes ! And this was not owing to .any extravagant flights of enthusiasm, nor the fires of an inflamed fancy, but it has been performed often, and may be done daily by the force of a regular faith, on the most solid and reasonable principles ; for such are the principles of the gospel of Christ.
Blessings gained by the destruction of death.
The fourth and last general head of discourse, is an inquiry into the advantages which the saints receive by the destruction of this last enemy.