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On the Fear of Death.
HEB. ii. 14, 15.
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh
and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage.
WE now come in the
III. Third and last place, to consider death rendered formidable, from its being attended with the loss of titles, honours, and every other earthly possession, and, in opposition to this, we are to view the death of Jesus Christ as removing that terror, by giving us complete assurance of a blessed eternity. We are going to contemplate death as an universal shipwreck, swallowing up all our worldly fortunes and prospects. We are going to contemplate Jesus Christ as a conqueror, and his death as the pledge and security of a boundless and everlasting felicity, which shall amply compensate to us the loss of all those possessions, of which we arı about to be stripped by the unsparing hand of death.
When we attempt to stammer out a few words from the pulpit, respecting the felicity which God has laid up for his people in another world, we borrow the images of every thing that is capable of touching the heart, and of communicating delight. We call in to our assistance the soul of man, with all its exalted faculties; the body, with all its beautiful forms and proportions; Nature, with her overflowing treasures; society, with its enchanting delights; the church, with its triumphs ; eternity, with its unfathomable abysses of joy. Of all these ingredients blended we compose a faint representation of the celestial blessedness.
The soul of man constitutes one ingredient, and we say, In heaven your soul shall arrive at its highest pitch of attainable perfection: it shall acquire expansive illumination, it shall reach sublime heights of virtue, it shall “behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and shall be changed into the same image, from glory to glory,” 2 Cor. iii. 18.
The body furnishes a second ingredient, and we say, In heaven your body shall be exempted from all the defects by which it is at present disfigured, from those diseases which now prey upon and waste it, from that death which destroys the fabric.
Nature supplies a third ingredient, and we say, In heaven all the stores of Nature shall be displayed in rich profusion: “the foundations of the holy city are of jasper, its gates are of pearl, its walls are of pure gold,” Rev. xxi. 21.
Society supplies a fourth ingredient, and we say, In heaven shall be united in the tenderest social
bonds, kindred spirits the most exalted; souls the most refined: hearts the most generous and enlarged.
The church supplies a fifth ingredient, and we say, In heaven shall be exhibited the triumph of the faithful over tyrants confounded, the saints shall be enthroned, the martyrs shall appear with palms in their hands, and with crowns upon their heads.
Eternity supplies a sixth ingredient, and we say, In heaven you shall enjoy a felicity infinite in its duration, and immeasurable in its degree, years accumulated upon years, ages upon ages shall effect no dimunition of its length: and so of the rest.
This day, Christians, in which we are representing death to you as an universal wreck which swallows
your possessions, your titles, your greatness, your riches, your social connections, all that you were, and all that you hoped to be; this day, while we are attempting to convey to you an idea of the celestial felicity, capable of strengthening you to behold, without dismay, this universal wreck, in which you are going to be involved; this day we could wish you to conceive the heavenly world, and the blessedness which God is there preparing for you under another idea. We mean to trace another view of it, the lustre of which effaces all the rest. We build upon this foundation of St. Paul : He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, hon shall he not with him also freely give us all things ? Rom. viii. 32. The heavenly blessedness is the purchase of the deash of Jesus Christ. Here collect, my brethren, 'every thing that is capable of enhancing to
your apprehension the unspeakable greatness and importance of that death.
View the death of Christ relatively to the types which prefigured it; relatively to the shadows by which it was adumbrated ; relatively to the ceremonies by which it was represented ; relatively to the oracles which predicted it.
View the death of Christ relatively to the tempests and thunderbolts which were levelled at the head of the Redeemer. Behold his soul overwhelined with sorrow; behold that blood falling down to the ground; that cup of bitterness which was given him to drink; hearken to that insulting language, to those calumnies, to those false accusations, to that unjust sentence of condemnation ; behold those hands and feet pierced with nails, that sacred body speedily reduced to one ghastly wound; behold that licentious rabble clamorously demanding the punishment of the cross, and increasing the horror of it by every indignity which malice could invent ; look up to heaven itself, and behold the eternal Father abandoning the son of his love to so many woes ; behold hell in concert with heaven, and heaven with the earth.
View the death of Christ relatively to the dreadful signs by which it was accompanied ; relatively to that earth seized with trembling, to that sun shrouded in darkness, to those rocks rent asunder, to those opening graves, to those departed saints returning to the light of day.
View the death of Christ relatively to the greatness of God, and to the littleness of man, in whose behalf all this bloody scene was transacted.
Collect all these various particulars, and still say to yourself, The death of Jesus Christ is all this. The death of Jesus Christ is the body of the figures, the original of the types, the reality of the shadows, the accomplishment of the prophecies. The death of Jesus Christ is that great event which darkened the sun, which opened the tombs, which rent asunder the rocks, which made the earth to tremble, which turned nature and the elements upside down. Follow up these reflections, and on these let your imagination settle.
The death of Jesus Christ conceived thus, apply it to the subject which we are treating. The death of Jesus Christ conceived thus, let it serve to assist you in forming an idea of the heavenly blessedness. Still build on this foundation of St. Paul; say with that apostle, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” You regret the world: you who are advancing on your way heavenward. And what is heaven? It is the purchase of Christ's death. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” If the means be thus great, what must the end be! If the preparatives be thus magnificent, what must be the issue! li the conflict be thus sharp, what must be the victory! If the price be thus costly, what, O what, shall be the bliss which this price is intended to purchase!
After that, my brethren, return to the world. What is it you regret? Are you regretting the loss