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great High-priest of the new covenant, shall we still find it painfully difficult to follow thee, whilst thou art conducting us to heavenly places, by the bloody traces of thy cross and martyrdom. Jesús Christ is a conqueror, who has acquired for us a kingdom of glory and felicity; his death is an invaluable pledge of a triumphant eternity.
Death, then, has nothing, henceforward, that is formidable to the Christian. In the tomb of Jesus Christ are dissipated all the terrors which the tomb of nature presents. In the tomb of nature I perceive a gloomy night, which the eye is unable to penetrate; in the tomb of Jesus Christ I behold light and life. In the tomb of nature the punishment of sin stares me in the face; in the tomb of Jesus Christ I find the expiation of it. In the tomb of nature I read the fearful doom pronounced upon Adam, and upon all his miserable posterity: Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return, Gen. ij. 19. but in the tomb of Jesus Christ my tongue is loosed into this triumphant song of praise: 0 death, where is thy sting? () grave, where is thy victory ? .... Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Cor. xv, 55. 57. Through death he has destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; that he might deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their life time subject to bondage.
1. THE APPLICATION.
But if these be our privileges, is it not matter of Teproach to us, my brethren, that brought up in the knowledge and profession of a religion which furnishes arms so powerful for combatting the terrors of death, we should still, for the most part, view it only with fear and tremoling? The fact is too
evident to be denied. From the slightest study of by far the greatest part of professing Christians, it is clearly apparent that they consider death as the greatest of all calamities. And with a very slender experience of the state of dying persons, it will be found that there are few, very few indeed, who die without regret ; few but who have need to exercise all their submission, at a season when it might be expected they should give themselves up to transports of joy. A vapor in the head disconcerts us; we are alarmed if the artery happens to beat a little faster than usual; the least apprehension of death inspires us with an unaccountable melancholy, and oppressive dejection.
But those apprehensions and terrors, my brethren, surprising as they may appear to us, have nothing which ought really to fill us with surprize. If to apply to a man's self the fruits of the death of Jesus Christ, were a simple act of the understanding, a simple movement of the heart, a simple acknowledgment of the tongue : if to apply to a man's self the fruits of the death of Christ, were nothing more than what a hardened sinner is capable of figuring to himself, or than what is prescribed to him by an accommodating casuist, you would not see a single Christian afraid of death, But you know it well, the gospel assures you of it, and the dictates of your own conscience confirm the truth, to make application of the fruit of Christ's death, is a complication of duties, which require attention, time, labor, intenseness of exertion, and must be the business of a whole life. The greatest part of those wbo bear the Christian name, neglect this work while in health; is it any wonder that they should tremble when overtaken by the hour of death?
Call to remembrance the three ways in which Christ has disarmed death. He has spoiled the king of terrors, by demonstrating to us the immortality of the soul, by making atonement for our transgressions, by acquiring for us an eternal felicity.
But what effect will the death of Christ have upon us, as a pruof of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, unless we study those proufs, unless we seriously meditate upon them, unless we endeavor to feel their force, unless we guard against the difficulties which the unhappy age we live in opposes to those great principles ?
What effect can the death of Christ have upon us, as a sacrifice offered up to divine justice for our sins, unless we feel the plenitude of that sacrifice, unless we make application of it to the conscience, unless we present it to God in the exercises of a living faith ; above all, unless by the constant study of ourselves, unless by unremitting, by persevering exertion, we place ourselves under the terms, and invest ourselves with the characters of those who have a right to apply to themselves the fruits of this sacrifice ?
What effect can the death of Christ produce upon us, considered as the pledge of a blessed eternity, unless the soul be powerfully impressed with that eternity, unless the leart be penetrated with a sense of what it is; if we are at pains to efface the impression which those interesting objects may have made upon us; if, hardly moved by those great truths which ought to take entire possession of the mind, we instantly plunge ourselves into the vortex of worldly pursuits, without taking time to avail ourselves of that happy disposition, and, as it were, purposely to withdraw from those gracious emotions which seemed to have laid hold of us? Ah! my brethren, if such be the conduct of the generality of professing Christians, as we are under the necessity of admitting; when not satisfied with observing their deportment in the house of God, and from a pulpit, we follow them into life, and look through those flimsy veils of piety and devotion which they had assumed for an hour in a worshipping assembly; if such, I say, be the conduct of the generality of professing Christians, their terror at the approach of death exhibits nothing to excite astonishment.
The grand conclusion to be deduced, my brethren, from all these reflections, is not an abstract conclusion, and of difficult comprehension; it is a conclusion easy, natural, and which would spontaneously present itself to the mind, were we not disposed to practise deception upon ourselves; the grand conclusion to be deduced from these reflections, is this: If we wish to die like Christians, we must live like Christians. If we would wish to behold with firmness the dissolution of this body, we must study the proofs which establish the truth of the immortality of the soul, so as to be able to say
with St. Paul: I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day, 2 Tim. i. 12. Would we wish to have a security against fear at that tremendous tribunal, before which we must appear to receive judgment, we must enter into the conditions of the covenant of grace, that we may be able to say with the same apostle : I am the chief of sinners, a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious : but I obtained mercy, 1 Tim. i. 13. Would we be strengthened to resign, without murmuring, all the objects around us, and to which we are so fondly attached, we must learn to disengage ourselves from them
betimes; to place our heart betimes where our treasure is, Matt. vi. 21. that we may be able to say with the Psalmist : Whom have I in heaven but ther? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee, Psa. Ixxiii. 25.
If after we have exerted our utmost efforts, we still find our frail flesh and bloud complaining at the prospect of approaching dissolution; if the heart still repines at the hard necessity imposed upon us of dying; let us strive to recover confidence, not only against this apprehension, but likewise against the doubts which it might excite respecting our salvation. This fear of death is, in such a case, not a crime, but an infirmity. It is indeed a melancholy proof that we are not yet perfect, but it is not a blot which obliterates our christianity. It is an expression of timidity, not of mistrust. It is a calamity, which prevents our enjoying all the sweets of a triumphant death, but not an obstacle to prevent our dying in safety. Let us be of good courage. What have we to fear? God is an affectionate friend, who will not desert us in the hour of adversity. God is not a cruel being, who takes pleasure in rendering us miserable. He is a God whose leading characters are goodness and mercy. He stands engaged to render us happy. Let us not distrust his promise: it has been ratified by the most august seal which suspicion itself could exact, by the blood of the spotless Lamb, which is sprinkled, not on the threshold of our doors, but on our inmost conscience. The exterminating angel will respect that blood, will presume to aim no stroke at the soul which bears the mark of it.
After all, my dearly beloved brethren, if the most advanced Christians, at the first glimpse of death, and in the first moments of a mortal distemper, are unable to screen themselves from the