« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
(Gal. iii. 10.) A killing letter this, where it hangs over the head of an awakened sinner ! " For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” (Rom. vii. 9.)
The sinner may find means to avoid reflection when he is in full health : he may keep himself in a constant hurry of business: or he may drink so often, and drink so deep, of pleasure's enchanting cup, as to be in a state of almost perpetual intoxication ; and so bar out all sober serious thoughts for a while. But sickness and death will bring him to his senses; and then, what a scene of tumult and distraction ensues ! Then all the sins of his past life are reckoned up, and set in order before him. Death seizes each one as it comes up, and with it gives a mortal stab to the conscience of the sinner, which throws him into agonies which he never, never gets out of. Did you never see a sinner die? I mean, a sinner with all his sins and his senses about him. If you have, I need not describe it. But perhaps many of you never did ; and because you have seen some, and heard of more, that you knew were far enough from being saints in their lives, who yet died like lambs, you may think that all do so; and that all that is said about the sting of death, is mere invention and fancy.
I will therefore venture to give you an instance of one: it may serve as a contrast to that mild and placid scene we have just now been surveying. A very striking description of such a scene is ready drawn to my hands, and to prevent needless repetition, I shall give it you in the words of the justly celebrated clergyman who drew it:
• The sad evening before the death of that noble
* youth whose last hours suggested these thoughts, · I was with him. No one was there, but his phy
sician, and an intimate whom he loved, and whom • he had ruined. At my coming in, he said ;
« “ You and the physician are come too late. I have neither life nor hope. You both aim at • miracles. You would raise the dead.”
"“ Heaven” (I said) “was merciful”
"" Or I could not have been thus guilty. What . hath it not done, to bless and save me! I have been too strong for Omnipotence; I plucked down ruin.”
• I said, - The Redeemer"
““ Hold, hold! you wound me. That is the rock 'on which I split. I denied his name.'
Refusing to hear any thing from me, or take any thing from the physician, he lay silent, as far
sudden darts of pain would permit, till the 'clock struck: then, with vehemence; “O time! "time! it is fit thou shouldst thus strike thy mur* derer to the heart! How art thou fled for ever! A 'month! O for a single week! I ask not for years, " though an age were too little for the much I have 'to do.”
• On my saying we could not do too much; that • heaven was a blessed place :
666 So much the worse: 'tis lost! 'tis lost! Hea' yen is to me the severest part of hell.”
Soon after I proposed prayer.
Pray, you that can ; I never prayed, I cannot pray.” My much injured friend, my soul, as 'my body, lies in ruins; in scattered fragments of 'broken thought. Remorse for the past throws my thought on the future; worse dread of the future
strikes it back on the past. I turn, and turn, and • find no ray.—Didst thou feel half the mountain " that is on me, thou wouldst struggle with the mar
tyr for his stake, and bless heaven for the flames. • That is not an everlasting flame; that is not unquenchable fire."
• How were we struck! yet soon after still more. • With what an eye of distraction, what a face of
despair, he cried out, “My principles have poi• soned my friend: my extravagance has beggared
my boy: my unkindness has murdered my wife ; and is there another hell? O thou blasphemed, yet 'most indulgent Lord God! Hell itself is a refuge, 'if it hides me from thy frown.”
• Soon after, his understanding failed; his terrified imagipation uttered horrors not to be repeated, or ever forgot; and before morning he expired.'--
But this is too gloomy to dwell upon; indeed I hardly know how I came to touch upon it at all. What had I to do with hell and horrors, when the lovely youth, whose triumphs we are celebrating, only desired me to proclaim the loveliness and love of Christ; to tell you how exceeding abundant the grace of our Lord had been towards him; and what obligations he was under to the dear Redeemer, living and dying ?—This will be best done by proceeding to the next general, which was, to shew
II. How death came to lose its sting.
I don't know whether I have expressed myself with strict propriety here ; perhaps it may lead you into a mistake. You may think from this, that now Death hath no sting: that now any man, let him be ever so notorious a sinner, may boldly challenge Death to do his worst, and have nothing to fear in
death, or after it. But this is contrary to experience and fact. The instance just now quoted is a striking refutation of it; and if sinners did not die in general so hardened and stupid, we should have many more instances to prove that death can sting, and terribly too. What I mean, therefore, under this head, is, To show how, in particular cases, death hath lost its power to hurt; or, whence it is, that some persons are enabled to look death in the face undaunted, to walk through the valley of the shadow of death without the least fear, to shake hands with the king of terrors, and thank him for his friendly assistance in helping them. over Jordan, and landing them safe on the shores of the celestial Canaan.-Now. I hardly need tell you, that it is not owing to any superior courage and fortitude in the persons themselves; for they were, many of them, persons of uncommon natural timidity, starting at the shaking of a leaf, and all their life-time ready to die at the very thoughts of death : and persons too, who, though they had been renewed in the spirit of their minds, and were, in the main holy in all manner of conversation and godliness, yet had sins enough to furnish death with a sting. I say, it is obvious enough that it cannot be owing either to the innocence or heroism of the persons themselves. The apostle ascribes it to its true and proper cause, when he says, “ Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory.” No power short of Omnipotence was equal to it; and he claims it to himself. 66 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death! I will be thy plagues; O grave! I will be thy destruction.” (Hos. xiji. 14.) But how was it brought about;
by what means or instrument was this glorious victory obtained ? And of this too the Apostle informs us, in the latter clause of the same verse; " Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” He, by dying, hath delivered us from the fear of death, and the punishment of sin : by rising again he got a glorious victory for himself, and hath ascertained the like to us. He hath made an end of sin, by satisfying for it; and delivered us from the curse of the law, by being made a curse for
So that every part of our conquest is by him ; and if we are conquerors, it must be through“ him that loved us.”
The devil, by prevailing over our first parents, got a kind of power over them, as a jailor and executioner, to terrify them here and torment them hereafter. Christ, in mere compassion to the helpless and unhappy, undertook our rescue.
He came down “ to preach deliverance to the captives," and turn men “ from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.”
“ For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” When our grand adversary perceived his design, no doubt but he exerted all his art and power to defeat it: and when he had got Judas to betray Christ to the chief priests, and got the chief priests to accuse him to Pilate, and got Pilate to condemn him and deliver him to the soldiers, and got the soldiers to execute the bloody sentence, it probably caused a momentary exultation in the breast of that infernal fiend. Now,' says hie, the world's my own. Now I have defeated the Son of God in his attempts, I have no one else to fear. Now my empire is established for