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Nevertheless through “ the law of sin that is in “ his members he doth not the things that he « would." With a view to the destruction of sin it is appointed unto believers once to die; for though death is not absolutely necessary for this purpose, as the cases of Enoch and Elijah prove, yet God has chosen it as the most eligible method. “Our earthly house of this tais bernacle," being defiled with the leprosy of sin, must be dissolved.
That the destruction of sin in the faithful by the dissolution of their bodies is calculated most highly to promote the glory of Christ, and is not repugnant to Divine justice, appears from the Divine appointment. If all the faithful were to be translated to glory as Enoch and Elijah were, the triumphs of Divine grace over sin would be greatly abridged, and the doctrine of the resurrection expunged from the Christian creed. The condemnation of sin in the flesh illustrates to the uttermost the Divine wisdom, power, holiness, and justice, and at the same time promotes the final happiness of the redeemed. Were conversion aud glorification contemporaneous, how little should we know by experience of the evil of sin, of the riches of grace, of the value of Christ, of the power of God! But the knowledge of these things which we acquire by the painful process through which we pass, will sweeten the enjoyment of heaven, and swell our songs of praise.
We may hence infer, that the death of a believer is to be considered, not as the penalty of the covenant of works, but as one fruit of the death of Christ and a blessing derived from the covenant of redemption.*
« Death is ours, for “ we are Christ's, and Christ is God's.” Death is one gradation of that life which Christ hath procured for us. It is the destruction of that moral disease which now impedes the sensibilities and actings of that life which we have received by regeneration.
“ A true Christian man,” (says the homily against the fear of death) “who is the very “ member of Christ, the temple of the Holy “Ghost,” (1 Cor. iii.) “the son of God, and “ the very inheritor of the kingdom of heaven, conceiveth great and many canses undoubtedly grounded upon the infallible and everlasting truth of the word of God, which moveth him not only to put away the fear of bodily death, but also for the manifold benefits and singular commodities which ensue unto every faithful person by reason of the same, to wish, desire, and long heartily for it. For death shall be to him no death at all, but a very deliverance from death, from all pains, cares, and sorrows, miseries and wretchedness of this world, and the very entry into rest, and a beginning of everlasting joy, a tasting of heavenly pleasures, so great that neither tongue is able to express, neither eye to see, nor ear to hear them, no nor any earthly man's heart to conceive them. So exceeding great benefits they be, which God our heavenly Father by His mere mercy and for the love of His Son Jesus Christ hath laid
* « Est ergo mors nostra beneficium, quod nobis juste præstatur ex sententiâ Dei justâ propter mortem Christi ad illius effectus nobis applicandos. Deus judicavit proper mortem Filii sui nos debere mori. Hanc vero esse sententiam verborum, Gen. iii. 19. quæ Deus Adamo et Evæ prolocutus est post revelatam jam promissionem, quibus ordinario putatur describi pæna, peccatoribus omnibus propter peccatum imminens, ponit Cl. Cocceius Com. in Rom. ad caput vi. $ 19. Nolim dissimulare id mihi valde placere. Nihil determino tamen. Perpendendum est consideratius.” Vitringa Observationes Sacra. Lib. secundus, p. 138~where the learned reader may see the thesis, Cur fidelibus sit moriendum? largely discussed,
in store, and prepared for them that humbly submit themselves to God's will, and evermore unfeignedly love Him from the bottom of their hearts. And we ought to believe that death, being slain by Christ cannot keep any man that stedfastly trusteth in Christ, under bis perpetual tyranny and subjection, but that he shall rise again from death to glory at the last day appointed by Almighty God, like as Christ our head did rise again according to God's appointment the third day. For St. Augustin saith, “ The head going before, the members trust to “ follow and come after.” And St. Paul saith, “if Christ be risen from the dead, we shall rise
also from the same." And to comfort all Christian persons herein, Holy Scripture calleth this bodily death a sleep, wherein man's senses be, as it were, taken from him for a season, and yet when he awaketh he is more fresh than he was when he went to bed. So, although we have our souls separated from our bodies for a season, yet at the general resurrection we shall be more fresh, beautiful, and perfect than we be now. For now we be mortal, then we shall be immortal: now infected with divers infirmities, then clearly void of all mortal infirmities. Now we be subject to all carnal desires, then we shall be all spiritual, desiring nothing but God's glory and things eternal. - Thus is this bodily death a door of entering into life, and therefore not so much dreadful, if it be rightly considered, as it is comfortable; not a mischief, but a remedy for all mischief; no enemy, but a friend; not a cruel tyrant, but a gentle guide, leading us not to mortality but to immortality; not to sorrow and pain, but to joy and pleasure, and that to endure for ever; if it be thankfully taken and accepted as God's messenger, and patiently borne of us for Christ's love, that suffered most painful death for our love, to redeem us from death eternal."
From this digression, confessedly of an interesting nature, if not immediately connected with the assertion of our collect, we return to a further consideration of the preface under our review. The victory over death which God hath obtained “ through His only begotten Son Jesus Christ," secures to us not only life in death, but also life from death; for in consequence thereof the bodies of the saints shall rise from the grave, and be made like unto Christ's glorious body. Then death and all its concomitants shall for ever be abolished. For that which “is sown in corrup“ tion, shall be raised in incorruption : what is “ sown in dishonour, shall be raised in glory: “ what is sown in weakness, shall be raised in “ power.” (1 Cor. xv. 42, 43.) The victory which is obtained is indeed a gradual work, but a final triumph is secured. In the person of Christ, as the covenant-head and representative of His people, it was complete when He arose. It is begun in His people during the present life, and consists partly in those joyful hopes and prospects which animate their souls. But it will not be perfected in them till that day when the earth and sea shall give up their dead.
Through His only begotten Son Jesus Christ.. “God hath opened unto us the gate of everlasting
life." By the sin of the first Adam the passage to immortal happiness was closed up; and no finite understanding could have devised, no finite power have executed, a plan for the removal of those obstructions which threatened the exclusion of all the posterity of Adam from eternal bliss. Independently of the mediation of the only begotten Son of God, every human soul must have perished eternally. But, blessed be God, the
gate of everlasting life is re-opened. The bars have been burst asunder by our victorious Leader, and the massive gates unfolded so as to present an unobstructed passage to all who believe in His name. No shadow of an impediment remains. Christ, as the representative of His redeemed, has entered triumphantly into everlasting life by virtue of His own obedience unto death: and through His merit, a new and living way, all believers enter with Him. They enter into everlasting life by several gradations. They are now justified by His blood, and sanctified by His grace; at death their souls will be glorified together' with Him; and in the morning of the resurrection, their souls and bodies being re-united will enter together into a state of felicity to which all the preceding gradations have been preparatory,
« Who can behold what thou hast suffered and we have escaped, and not be ravished with thy love, O blessed Jesus! The way to heaven was ever open to innocence; but we all had sinned and come short of the glory of God. Heaven's gates were shut against us, and hell's mouth open to receive us. And in this estate our life had been worse than death by the dreadful expectations of deserved vengeance, and our death had certainly delivered us up to feel what we feared, Do we live with any comfort? It is thou that