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combat between grace and sin, either the man is wholly nal, “ dead in sins and trespasses ;” or wholly spiritual, reigning in heaven. And there is nothing more works on the tender affections of a saint, than to find in himself what is displeasing to God; that still he is under a sad necessity of sinning. What is said coneerning an old man wasted and decayed in his drooping years, that “the grasshopper is a burden to him," is true of the new man in a christian ; the sins that are counted light in the valuation of the world, are a heavy weight to him.
Vain thoughts, idle words, irregular passions, unprofitable actions are motives of heart-breaking sorrow. Now death is to a believer an universal remedy against all the evils of this life: it frees him from all injuries and sufferings, and from sin in all its degrees, from all inclinations and temptations to it. “ He that is dead, ceaseth from sin.” Death is the passage from this wilderness to the true Canaan, the rest above, that flows with better milk and honey, with innocence and happiness for ever. There is nothing can disturb the peace, or corrupt the purity of the blessed.
4. Besides the privative advantage, the freedom from all the effects of God's displeasure, and the resentments of it, there is the highest positive good obtained by death; “ The spirits of just men are made perfect in heaven." The soul is the glory of man, and grace is the glory of the soul, and both are then in their exaltation. All the faculties of the soul are raised to the highest degrees of natural and divine perfection. In this life grace renews the faculties, but does not elevate them to their highest pitch: it does not make a mean understanding pregnant, nor a frail memory strong, nor a slow tongue eloquent, but sanctifies them as they are. But when the soul is released from this dark body of earth, the understanding is clear and quick, the memory firm, the will and affections ardent and vigorous. And they are enriched with divine light and love, and power, that makes them fit for the most noble and heavenly operations. The lineaments of God's image on the soul are first drawn here, but then it receives his last hand. All the celestial colours are
Omnes homines aut sunt penitus caro & nihil habent spiritus, ii sunt in. fideles sine regeneratione. Ant sunt tantum spiritus sine carne, ii sunt sancti; qui jam io cælo æterna fruuntur pace sine pugna. Aut sunt partim spi. ritus, partim caro, li sunt omnes renati per spiritum sanctum in Christo, Aug, cont. Jul.
added, to give the utmost life and lustre to it. Here we are advancing, but by death we arrive at perfection.
We shall in heaven be joined to the assembly of saints and angels, our best friends. Love is the law of that kingdom, and perfectly obeyed there. Now how charming is the conversation of one that is wise and holy, especially if the sweetness of affability be in his temper? How pleasantly does time slide away in the company of our beloved friends ? We are not sensible of its flight. But what dear satisfaction is it to be united to that chosen consecrated society above, “who love one another as themselves ?" Though the angels and saints have different degrees of glory, yet every one is perfectly happy and pleased. As the strings of an instrument differ in the size and sound: some are sharp and high, some grave and deep, others a mean; and from that variety results the harmony of music, so that if every string had judgment and election, it would choose to be what it is : so from the different degrees of glory in heaven, the most admirable and equal order of the divine wisdom appears, that satisfies every one.
We shall be in the glorious presence of God and Christ, s where is fulness of joy, and infinite pleasures for ever.” It is said of Abraham, “he rejoiced to see the day of Christ,” two thousand years before his coming. When by faith he saw the incarnation of the Son of God, in order to the redemption of men, it put him into an ecstacy. Yet then our Saviour was born to sorrows and miseries. But how ravishing is the sight of our Redeemer, “set down on the right hand of the majesty on high, having purged our sins by himself," and accomplished our salvation ? Now we are “absent from God," yet in believing his infallible promise, we “ rejoice with a joy unspeakable and glorious :" but how much more joyful is the fruition of them? Here the divine goodness is derived to us throngh secondary means, that weaken its efficacy; but in heaven the consolations of the Creator are most purely dispensed, and his immediate excellencies are made known.
This blessedness exceeds all our thoughts and explicit desires, and requires the eloquence and experience of an angel to set it forth. The bright sum of it is this, we shall see God in his glory, “face to face," I Cor. 13. in the most perfect manner: the sight of his glory shall transform us into his likeness; “ we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3. This shall produce in us the most pure and ardent love; and love shall be attended with inexpressible joy, and that with the highest praises of the blessed God, whose influxive presence is the heaven of heavens.
And that which crowns all is, that the life above is eternal. This satisfies all our desires, and excludes all our fears : for unchangeableness is an inseparahle attribute of perfect felicity. The blessed are in full communion with God, “the fountain of life, and Christ the Prince of life.” “Because I live,” saith our Saviour, “ye shall live also.” What can interrupt, much less put an end to the happiness of the saints? The love of God is immutably fixed upon them, and their love upon him. Here their love is subject to decays and gradual alienations; as the needle in the compass, though it always has a tendency to the north pole, yet sometimes it declines and has its variations. But in heaven the love of the saints is directly and constantly set upon God. The light of his countenance governs all their affections. It is as impossible to divert their desires from him, as to cause one that is inflamed vith thirst, to leave a clear flowing spring for a noisome puddle. In short, heaven is filled with eternal hallelujahs : for there is no appearance of sin, no shadow of death there : all miseries are vanished, and all that is desirable is possessed by the saints: the circle of their employment is to enjoy and praise the divine goodness for ever.
Now is not the blessed exchange a christian makes of the present life, for that which is infinitely better, sufficient to make death not fearful, nay desirable to him? The regular wellgrounded hope of this will compose the thoughts in the nearest approach and apprehension of death : no other principles or resolutions are able to vanquish the terrors of our last enemy. And this happiness was purchased for us by the everlasting treasure of our Saviour's blood. The satisfaction of his sufferings was meritorious, as the merit of his active obedience was satisfying.
The reason why believers die, and are in the state of death for a time, dot
withstanding the sting of death is taken away. Sin is abolished by death. Their graces are eminently exercised in the encounter with the last enemy. The natural body is not capable of the celestial life. The resurrection of the saints is delayed till the coming of Christ. The resurrection proved from revelation; and the possibility of it by reason. How the resurrection of Christ is an assurance of the happy resurrection of the saiņts.
I shall now resolve an interesting question ; how comes it to pass, since believers are freed from the sting of death, that they die, and remain in the state of death for a time?
For this there are several reasons.
1. By this means all the sinful frailties that cleave to the saints in this life, are abolished. “ The body is dead because of sin:" Rom. 8. And what is more becoming the wise and holy providence of God, than that as by sin man was at first made subject to death, so by death sin. dies entirely for ever. Thus, as in Samson's riddle, out of the devourer comes meat; and our worst enemy is conquered by his own weapons.
2. Death is continued to the saints, for the more eminent exercise and illustration of their graces, for the glory of God, and in order to their future reward. * Faith and love, and patience, are declared in their most powerful operations in our encounter with death. If every saint were visibly and entirely translated to heaven, after a short course of holy obedience; if the wicked did visibly drop down quick into hell, faith would be resigned to sight here. This would confound the militant state of the church with the triumphant. Therefore now " death
* Poterat autem Christus etiam hoc donare eredentibus, ut nec istius ex. perirentur corporis mortem : sed si hoc fecisset carni quædam fælicitas adderetur, minueretur fidei fortitudo. Quid enim magnum erat vivendo eos non mori qui crederent se non morituros ? Quanto est majus quanto fortius quanto laudabilius ita credere, ut se speret moriturus sine fine victurum? Aug. de pecc. Mort, Lib. 2.
happens to the good as well as to the wicked.” In the next state they shall be separated by a vast gulph, and an amazing difference. Now faith, whatever the kind of death be that a christian suffers, sees through the thickest clouds of disgrace and misery, the glorious issue. As the illustrious confessor, who was crucified with our Saviour, proclaimed his eternal kingdom in the midst of insulting infidels. And our love to God then appears in its radiancy and vigour, when we are ready for the testimony of his truth, and advancing his glory, to suffer a violent death: or when it comes in a gentler manner, for it is even then terrible to nature, we are willingly subject to dissolution, that we may be united to God in heaven. And our patience has never its perfect work, and is truly victorious, till this last enemy be subdued. Death is the seal of our constancy and perseverance. Now the righteous Rewarder will crown none but those “ that strive lawfully," and are complete conquerors. *
* And how wise and sweet is the economy of the divine providence in this, that the frailty of our nature should afford us a means of glorifying God, and of entitling ourselves by his most gracious promises to a blessed reward ?
3. Our Saviour by his invaluable obedience and sufferings, has procured for believers a celestial divine life, of which the natural body is not capable. The apostle saith, “ Aesh and blood cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The exigencies and decays of the sensitive nature require a continual relief by food and sleep and other material supplies : but the life above is wholly spiritual, and equal to that of the angels. Therefore till this earthly animal body be reformed and purified, it is not capable of the glory reserved in heaven. This is so absolutely requisite, that those believers, who are found alive at the last day, shall “ in the twinkling of an eye be changed,” that the may be qualified for it. Now herein the wisdom of God is wonderful, that death, which by the covenant of works was the deserved penalty of sin, by the covenant of grace should be the instrument of immortality: that as Joseph by a surprising circuit was brought from the prison to the principality; so a believer by the grave ascends to heaven. This the apostle, in his divine
Exercitia nobis sunt non funera, dant animo fortitudinis gloriam; contemptu mortis præparant ad coronam, Cypr. de mortal.