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that this question began to be asked by them? If so, terrible was the answer they received.
He came and claimed as his first victim, not the authors of sin, but their best loved son, who had so often cheered their sinking hearts by his simple faith and guilelessness. And what a death!
The morning had been as usual. No shadow of the awful blow which was that day to desolate their hearth was on them as they went forth each to his chosen work and labour. The daily morning sacrifice is offered. Every member of that first family circle brings his best gift to the altar, and Abel the younger son at least with such simplicity of faith that he is able to see in the firstling of his flock an image of the true Lamb of God, who in the far distant generations of the world should be offered up as the perfect Sacrifice for sin, and by virtue of that sacrifice would restore to him the home of peace and sinless happiness which had been lost by the sin of his parents. A special mark of God's favour is given him, and as he speaks of it in happy heedlessness he marks not the change which
passes over his elder brother's face, a sign of those jealous feelings which are working within him. A little later, and what a scene presents itself! The two parents bending in speechless agony over the lifeless body of their boy slain by his brother's hand. They have lost in one day both their sons; one is
dead, the other is dead to them, made by his crime a fugitive and a vagabond upon the face of the earth. For the first time they gaze on death, and oh ! how bitter must be their thoughts as they realize the extent of the sorrow they have brought not only upon themselves but upon their whole posterity. How in this moment of their agony do they reproach themselves for the folly which induced them to listen for one moment to the voice of the tempter-“ Ye shall not surely die.” Hardly less murderers in their own sight than the guilty Cain, for was not his crime a direct consequence of their own fall?
Two considerations follow from this.
It is this which invests it with its peculiar horror. Good men can meet death with resignation, just as a good child will accept with meek submission the punishment which it knows it has deserved—but still it is a punishment. It is not natural to us. It is the mark of a degraded and fallen nature. We were not created for it—and yet as all are sinners by birth and by act we cannot avoid it. There are considerations which may soften the penalty, but still the fact remains that DEATH IS THE PUNISHMENT FOR SIN.
II. How God must hate sin,when He the All-merciful can inflict such a penalty on the sinner. Oh! that as we shudder at the thought of death we might learn to hate more intensely the sin which brought death into the world-and by fleeing from sin might escape that second death which outweighs in its awfulness the death of the body.
II. The Great Death.
Let us picture to ourselves another scene. Let us place ourselves in spirit at the foot of Calvary. Let us pierce with the intensity of our gaze the miraculous gloom that shrouds the earth in darkness, and look upon the form of Him, who, for our transgressions, is hanging upon the Cross of Shame : and, as we hear that appalling cry: Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit," and see the ashy paleness of death spread itself over those noble features, let us ask ourselves —
1. Who was this ?
1. Who was this-dying thisignominious death, surrounded by mocking crowds ? No common malefactor it is clear—for no common malefactor had the power to stir the hearts of all around him to such fierce joy or to such bitter grief, as we may see depicted in the faces of the spectators at the foot of the Cross. Who was this? The sun, which refuses to shed its light on the awful scene : the earth, as with mighty convulsions it seems to sob over its Maker's agonies : the Centurion, hardened to such sights of suffering, yet who had never seen such a death before : these all bear their witness that This truly is the Son of God! Yes, He whom we see enduring the penalty of sin-in all the mortal agonies of the most painful death, is in very truth the Eternal—the Sinless One -the very God who first pronounced on His guilty creatures the sentence of death. How is it that He is now in human form enduring this most awful penalty ?
2. What better answer can we have than those words of the inspired prophet of old : “He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed.” That death scene is but the proof of the wonderful love of God, who, though He could not belie His word, and save the sinner from the death due to his sin, would yet, by tasting death for every man Himself, lighten that terrible burden which we have to bear, and satisfy the sterner demands of an inexorable justice.
3. What are then the effects of that death ?
Death is no longer so utterly hopeless to him who has faith in Jesus. It still remains a penalty for sin, from which the natural man, created for immortality, shrinks with instinctive fear and dread—but it is a penalty shared with Jesus—the greater burden of which He has borne-and so they who have hope in their death, are able to face it with peace and calmness. For what cause have they to fear ? Has not Jesus died? Are they not, in their death, but treading in the footsteps of Him, who, in dying, removed from death its sting ? From henceforth, to die is but to sleep in Jesus, to be taken home to His bosom, and there to be hushed to sleep, after all the fierce conflicts and weary trials of an earthly life have ceased for ever-to wait in the sweet calm of conscious rest for that even happier time, when, after the Resurrection of the Body, we shall be for ever with the Lord whom we love.
We may deduce from these thoughts two considera. tions
1. It deepens in our souls the sense of God's love, who spared not His own Son, but gave Him up freely for us all, to save us from the penalty due to our sins —for oh! if it is a terrible thing for the natural man to die, what must it have been to Him, who, though He was very man, was also very
Life Himself—and yet, even from this He did not shrink
God - the