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these, there are £29,000 remaiping out of the consumption of spirits in this single parish. Now, suppose we were to give £50 a-year to every spirit-seller in Belfast, to pension them off, (and I am sure, it would be much better for the country that they should be paid for doing nothing, than for doing mischief,) we still should have £12,500 a year, which would give £l to every head of a family in the parish, out of this single sum.
BIBLE INSTRUCTION.-No, XVII.
“It is appointed unto men once to die.”—HEBREws ix. 27.
THERE are four questions which appear to embrace all that is necessary to consider upon the solemn theme of death. These are, what death? what is its cause? what is the preparation necessary to meet it ? and what are its consem quences? We shall attend to these in their order.
I. What is death? It is the most important change that passes upon man, affecting the very mode of bis existence. All we know of this change, beyond the mere fact, is derived from revelation. By it alone are we assured that the man lives after death. The light of nature did not fully reveal it, philosophy could not prove it; it is natural to men to wish to live for ever; and all that philosophy could do, was to remove some of the obstacles that appeared to stand in the way. By the ligbt of revelation, however, and the fact of ihe resurrection of Christ, we have sure evidence and satisfactory proof, that all which death can do, is to produce a change in the mode of man's existence. In the Scriptures, this change is variously described. We find six different expressions applied to it there, and a notice of these is, perhaps, the best explanation we can give of the subject. It is called a departure. “The time of my departure is at band,” 2 Tim. iv. 6. Death is thus the transfer of the man from one state of existence to another. It is termed a dissolution. “If our eartbly house of this tabernacle were dissolved,” 2 Cor. v. 1. The soul is disengaged from the body, and is relieved of its encumbrance. It is the way of al} men. "I am going the way of all the earth,” Josh. xxiii. 14. The change is a universal one, to which-humanity must, in every instance, submit. In the
case of Enoch and Elijah, the only exceptions to the uni. versal law, a change tantamount to death must have taken place, although they were delivered from it in its ordinary form z for it is expressly declared, that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." It is described as a returning to the dust.“ Unto dust shalt thou retúra," Gen. iii. 19. This is intended to remind us of the original elements that constitute the body. It is called a sleep, “He fell asleep,” Acis vii. 60. The body, while in the grave, is not in a state of consciousness, but it shall be awoke. And, finally, it is represented to be the last home of the human family. "Man goeth to his long home," Eccl. xii. 5. By it man enters on an unchanging and en. during state of existence. Thus these few expressions, brought together from the Scriptures, teach us more of the nature of death than all the laboured researches of an un. satisfying philosophy. It is a change from one state of being to another, in which the connexion betweeu the soul and the body is dissolved -- to which all must yield-wherein the body returns to its original elements-is deprived of consciousness until it shall be raised from the grave and in wbich the soul enters on an unchanging state of being, goes to its own place, its eternal home. How thankful we should be for the light that is thus poured on the darkness of the grave! What a mystery it used to be to man! The uncertainty that attached to all their speculations upon it, filled them with distress. It hindered the wholesome in. fluence which the prospect of death is calculated to exercise over the mind. O! how bumbling and affecting to see the wisest and the best of all the ancient philosophers, holding the poisoned bowl in his hand, while all his resined speculations upon death and futurity failed him, and, in the midst of doubt and uncertainty, he could not but express bis fears, saying, “if there be an hereafter.” The greatness of our privilege, in the assurance of immortality, we are unable to estimate, having never known what it is to be without' it. The light of revelation is so bright, that it has scattered every dark cloud. Jesus Christ hath brought life and immortality to light by the gospel. And when we die,"we know that we merely undergo a change in the mode of our existence a change, indeed, of most momentous character, for it is the beginning of either endless bliss or woestill only a change in the mude, but no interruption to the continuance of our being,
II. What is the cause of death? On this branch of the subject, as well as upon the former, we have much reason to be thankful for the explicit and satisfactory testimony of revelation. It may be profitable to endeavour to collect the amount of this testimony, and present it in a few par. ticulars.
11. Death is the appointment of God. “It is appointed unto men to die.". The change is not a necessary one, nor does mortality necessarily attach itself to the body. It might have been created immortal, and immortality, we are assured, is an attribute of the body with which the Lord Jesus Christ is now clothed, and it shall belong to the bodies of the risen saints. This corruption shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall be clothed with immortality. In the mean time, death is, by the appointment of God, the portion of humanity.
2. It is inflicted as a punishment upon man. Whether any change, equivalent to death, would have passed upon man,'had he not become the object of the divine displea. sure, we are not distinctly informed. Of this, however, we are certain, that had such been the case, it would have been very different from death as it is now experienced by men. As it is now endured, it is a marked and awful judgment. This is plain from the universal fear of death that possesses the human family--this being one of the first feelings that discovers itself in men--and death being to all the king of terrors; from the pain that accompanies it, for although there are instances in which it is compara. tively easy, in most it is an awful struggle of nature, and the burning hand, the hurried pulse, the clammy sweat, the convulsed frame, are its usual and well-known accompaniments-the agony of death is the highest -expression for suffering; from the inroads it makes on the happiness of society, for its victim is not the only sufferer-while one goeth to his long home, many mourners go about the streets, their only consolation being, that their friend is at rest: a father dies, and his children become dependents; a husband is removed, and a happy wife becomes a desolate "widow; a child departs, and to the parents it is a bitter be reavement. All these accompaniments of death proclaim it to be the infliction of judgment upon men.
3. Sin is the cause of death. This is plain from its history. “ In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely. die," was the threatening addressed to our first parents; and when they did eat, and sinned against God, death was the consequence. Sin, therefore, brought death into the world, and all our woe. Hence the plain testimony of the apostle, " by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon
for all have sinned.” Had there been no sin, there would, therefore, have been no death, as we are heir to it. - This is the secret cause of the fear of death, so tormenting to men. “ The sting of death is sin.” What an expression! Death is a monster who derives all his
It is the consciousness of its attaching to us, that makes us afraid to die. 1: And what views do these things give us of the nature of sin, and of the light in wbich it must be regarded by God. If we are to judge of causes by their effects, how shall we estimate sin, the cause of sickness, sorrow, and death. Nor is it merely that every one who commits it exposes himself individually to these calamities. The one sin of Adam was deemed of su enormous magnitude, as to entail them on the whole race descended from him. “ In Adam all die.” Death is a proof of the guilt and danger and demerit of sin, which no other effect of it, save the death of Christ, so fully attests. And particularly does it teach us how sin is regarded by God, since it is he who has annexed to it such a punishment. Let us bear this thought upon our minds as often as death is pre. sented to our notice--that it is no more law or necessary ac. companiment of humanity, but the judgment of a holy and righteous God upon the guiltiness of an apostate portion of his creatures. The indulgence of this thought will prepare us for the next branch of our inquiry.
III. What is the preparation necessary to meet death? The cause of death, we have seen, is sin ; to prepare for is
, therefore, is to be delivered from sin. The sting of death, we have seen, is sin ; to conquer the monster, therefore, he must be deprived of this weapon. The whole inquiry thus comes to be what shall a sinner do to be saved ? And the answer is familiar to the Christian ear—“ believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” £:: Were the question, what is the preparation for death, to be anstvered in one sentence, that answer should be given in the language of the apostle Paul, “there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” Union with Christ is the only sécurity against sin, and, therefore, the only preparation for death. Nor can there be any difficulty in apprehending how it answers such an end. When the sinner is united to
Christ, his guilt is cancelled; for by means of that union, he becomes a partaker in the benefits of his death; and since that was intended to be an atonement for sin, his guilt is taken away; and when death comes, he is found to be free from eondemnation. Again, in virtue of union with Christ, he becomes a partaker of bis righteousness, so that not only is he supposed to have suffered what Christ suffered, but to have done what he did; so that when death comes upon him, he is able to plead the perfect righteousness of Christ, as his title to eternal life. Farther, by reason of this union, his mind un. dergoes a complete change. Faith and the new birth take place simultaneously. “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." And being thus a new creature, delivered not merely from the guilt and punishment of sin, but from the power and love of it, when death comes, it finds him ready to enter into the presence of God, and to enjoy him for ever. Finally, by this union, he is brought under the habitual and practical influence of the gospel. Its views are entertained by him, its motives actuate him, and its precepts are his rule of action. His life thus becomes holy. The mind that was in Christ is imparted to him, and he walks even as Christ also walked ; and when death comes, it finds him like unto one waiting for his Lord, in the exercise of watchfulness, diligence, and prayer.
To be ready for death is thus seen to be one with Christ; by faith. That secures all that the sinner needs. And, therefore, when we are exhorted to prepare for death, it is an ad. monition to see that we are united to Christ, to examine the evidences of that union in ourselves, and to be diligent, that these evidences may abound in our life and conversation. The true Christian is habitually ready to die--as much so when asleep as awake-whether rejoicing in God, or mourning over sin-when suffering under the fear of death, and triumphing over it. But it is also his duty to cultivate the actual readiness of having his loins girt about, his lamps burning, being diligent in, business, and waiting till his change come.
As to the feelings with which death shall be contemplated at a distance, or met when it comes, this must, in ordinary cases, be determined by the measure to which we have attained, of clearly apprehending Christ, and the evidences of our union with him. It is thus that the review of our past life in. Auences the peace of the death-bed. If we have been faithful in bis service, the evidence of our union is proportionably clear, and accordingly so is our happiness; whereas, if we have been