« PreviousContinue »
the debts due to Divine justice. “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law;" but sin has been fully expiated, and the law has been completely satisfied, by the great sacrifice of Calvary. And in proof that His satisfaction was perfect, and His work of atonement complete, Jesus rose from the grave the third day. God sent His angel to roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre, and to set our Surety free. This was God's testimony to the truth that He is well pleased for Christ's righteousness' sake, because He magnified the law and made it honourable. Therefore, believing in Christ, our sins will be taken away from us, and reckoned to His account. And if sin is taken away, then all is taken away that can make death terrible to us.
Thus, then, Christ, as a Priest, has, “through His death, destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” And in proof of His being the Resurrection and the Life, it is recorded that, when He died, “ the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints who slept arose, and came out of the graves, after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." Not only, therefore, has Christ, by His atoning death, procured for us the full forgiveness of sin, but He has also obtained the right and power to deliver us from all the consequences of sin—from death temporal, spiritual, and eternal. Yes, He“ tasted death for every man" who believes on Him, and therefore the believer shall never taste of death; that is, he shall never know that bitter taste of it which consists in a sense of unpardoned guilt, in the racking reproaches of an evil conscience, and in the harassing dread of eternal punishment. No; for death comes to a believer, not as the executioner of the broken law, but as the messenger of heavenly peace; not as a formidable foe, but as a welcome friend. To him, the valley of the shadow of death is not a passage of terror and gloom, but it is the entrance to paradise ; it is the vestibule of heaven; it is the gate to glory. Therefore, Jesus says in our text, “Whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.” To the believer, all the terrors of death are taken away; and it is not death at all, but a calm, gentle, and peaceful sleep for a little while. Have we not all seen proofs of this at the Christian's death-bed ? Standing there, as I have often done, I have seen the calm smile on the cold, marble countenance, so marked and manifest that, but for the deadly paleness, I could scarcely have believed that the spirit had departed; and I almost felt as if I might hear
again, from those closed lips, the same expressions of unwavering trust and humble hope, as I had often heard before. True,-in one sense, death comes alike to all; the believer, like every one else, must go down into the narrow house appointed for all living; he must have no more connection with this world; his mortal body must be reduced to dust, and become the prey of corruption. But still, he shall never die; that is, he shall not die like the wicked and impenitent sinner, pierced with the stings of unavailing remorse, or trembling at the prospect of a judgment to come. Nay, verily; for his death is like an infant's peaceful slumber in its mother's bosom. He falls asleep in Jesus ; and he lies down to rest at night, like the toil-worn labourer after the burden and heat of the day. Yes; even though his body may be covered with disease, or drowned in the deep sea, or consumed in the flames of martyrdom, or beaten to death like Stephen, still it is but a sleep_the sleep of one who commends his departing spirit to Him who is able to keep what is committed to Him against that day. He shall never die; because the sins which alone make death terrible are all washed away in the blood of the Lamb, that blood which cleanseth from all sin.
III. Christ, as a King, by His mediatorial power and grace, gives His people the victory over death, and brings them at last into the actual possession of eternal life.
His own victory over death and the grave is the proof and pledge of their victory. As the representative of His people, He Himself entered the narrow house, and encountered the King of Terrors in his own dark domain; and though He continued under the power of death for a time, yet He saw no corruption, and He came forth on the third day, as a mighty conqueror, from the conflict with the last enemy; because it was not possible that the Prince of Life could be holden of death. He is the Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle, who, as a conqueror, has entered for us the everlasting gates of heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God, leaving the gates open for us to follow Him within the vail. In this victory, all His people are destined to share, by their living union to Him; and therefore, in their coming conflict with death, they can say, " Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And the reason of it is, not only because He died and and rose again, but also because He is alive for evermore, and not
merely alive, but invested with all power in heaven and on earth. This power belongs to Him, not merely as God over all, but also as Mediator, as God-man; for, because "He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, therefore, God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name.” He is possessed of irresistible power, clothed with universal sovereignty, and invested with everlasting dominion; for “He must reign until He hath put all enemies under His feet;” and therefore “death, the last enemy, shall be destroyed,” like all the rest.
Have not some of us seen instances in which the dying Christian has been enabled to meet death, not merely with holy tranquillity, but even with exulting triumph ? Calm and patient, amid intense suffering, in the blessed consciousness of a present Saviour, and not only patient, but even joyful in the prospect of being for ever with Him, the Christian is not afraid to die; but he counts it better to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord. Yes, we have seen such instances, both in old and young Christians, where the fear of death was overcome, and the sure hope of immortality poured a heavenly light into the dark valley. And as we looked upon the calm and smiling countenance, from which every trace of suffering and sorrow had vanished, we could scarcely believe that the immortal spirit had fled, and we almost felt as if we might hear again, from these sealed lips, that triumphant song, which is one of the first that a child learns, and one of the last that the aged saint sings :
“Yea, though I walk in death's dark vale,
Yet will I fear none ill :
And staff me comfort still."
And when all the saints shall meet above, to dwell in the house of the Lord for ever, what a happy meeting will it be! What joy they will feel in welcoming there those with whom they took sweet counsel here! The joy of this mutual recognition above is beautifully expressed in the words of the poet, supposed to be uttered by a glorified saint, when he shall meet and recognise his friends in heaven :
“ We may believe that shining head,
Circled with rainbow wreath,
Damp with the dews of death.
“ Those eyes, that now with glory beam,
We oft have seen to weep;
In dust we saw it sleep.
When, weeping o'er thy grave,
Though Christ was near to save.”
And Christ is still near to save all who put their whole trust in Him. He is near now to every one of us, to quicken the dead soul, to rouse the torpid conscience, to give the troubled heart that peace of God which passeth understanding, to inspire the hope which is full of immortality, to create us anew after the image of God, and to make us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. May Christ be near to all of us this day, in the power of His grace; and thus, knowing Him now as the Life of our souls, we shall also know Him in due time as the Resurrection of our bodies to an endless and glorious Life, in the mansions of His Father's house.
THE HEART KNOWING ITS BITTERNESS.
REV. J. M. ROBERTSON, M. A.,
"The heart knoweth his own bitterness, and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.”—Prov. xiv. 10.
THE first half of this verse is the counterpart of the second, but it is far more commonly realised. That the heart knoweth its own bitterness has been, at some time or other, the mental confession, the inward sigh of every one whose experience has taught him life's true character. It is a mere truism, requiring no proof beyond an appeal to well-known facts, to say that our sorrows exceed our joys, and that each of us bears a burden of care for which our occasional moods and moments of gladness offer but poor compensation. In the balance between mourning and mirth, the sad side of the scale outweighs the other, and it is therefore well that ours is a Religion of Sorrow; for, were it not so, human nature would find its most ordinary features and conditions unprovided for. The book before me is a Revelation of Good News, not to the gay who cover their inherent unhappiness with a mask of artificial levity, and who smother their sighs under forced laughter, but to the grave and sorrowful, who, true to themselves, have examined with faithfulness their inward and outward state, and been compelled to confess that they are in darkness and under the shadow of death.
To the hearts who thus know their own bitterness, the voice of God, as expressed in the Gospel, is addressed. How many are they! How varied their misfortunes! How much in need of divine consolation! Sometimes their incommunicable grief arises out of hopes secretly cherished, long deferred, and ending