« ZurückWeiter »
Christ; in killing him, he killed himself; he was conquered then, and has now no power to hurt his followers. Death is now but the shadow of what he would have been if Christ had not conquered him; he was once a lion, but now the is but a lamb. A good man may indeed be harassed with fears of death, and may be much terrified when going through the valley of the shadow of death, but that is no just ground of any terror, and if the saints are terrified, it is only through their infirmity and darkness. As a child is frightened in the dark where there is no danger, because he is a child, so a good man may be affrighted at the terrible looks of death. But he will find this awful appearance to be only a shadow, that can look terribly, but can do nothing terrible. Death may, through the weakness of the saints, trouble them, and exercise them, but be cannot destroy the ground they have for comfort and support. When death comes to a wicked man, all those things on which he built his comfort fail, their foundation is overflown with a flood. Job xxii. 16. But the foundation of the peace and comfort of the godly man is not shaken at such a time. Oftentimes the saints are actually carried above all the fears and terrors of death; they see that it is but a shadow, and are not afraid: nut only their foundation of comfort remains, but that peace and comfort itself is undisturbed, the light shines through the darkness, and the lamb-like nature of death appears through the shadow of the lion. The godly have a God to stand by them when they come to die, in whose love and favour they may shelter themselves, in whose favour is life, yea life in death; and they have a blessed Saviour to be with them, to uphold them with the right hand of his righteousness. These are the friends they have with them, when they are going to take their leave of all earthly friends. God will be with them when their flesh and heart fails; God will be the strength of their heart, when they are weak and faint, and nature fails. God will put
. underneath his everlasting arms to support them, and will make all their bed for them in their sickness. Ps. xxxvii. 37. “ Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.”
2. Death is not only no death to them, but it is a translation to a more glorious life, and is turned into a kind of resurrection from the dead. Death is a happy change to them, and a change that is by far more like a resurrection than a death. It is a change from a state of much sin, and sorrow, and darke ness, to a state of perfect light, and holiness, and joy. When a saint dies, he awakes, as it were, out of sleep. This life is a dull lifeless state ; there is but a little spiritual life, and a great deal of deadness; there is but a little light and a great deal of VOL. VIII.
darkness; there is but a little sense, and a great deal of stu
а pidity and senselessness. But when a godly man dies, all this dcadness, and darkness, and stupidity, and senselessness are gone for ever, and he enters immediately into a state of perfect life and perfect light, and activity and joyfulness. A man's conversion is compared to a resurrection, because then a man 'rises from spiritual death. Eph. ii. 1. “ And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” But though spiritual life is then begun, yet there are great remains of spiritual death after this, and but little life. But when a godly man dies, he rises from all remains of spiritual death, and comes into a state of perfect life. This body is like a prison to the holy soul, it exceedingly clogs, and binders, and cramps it in its spiritual exercises and comforts. But when a saint dies the soul is released from this prison, this grave, and comes into a state of glorious freedom and happiness. So that death is not only deprived of his sting, but is made a servant to the saints, to bring them to Christ in heaven, who is their life. And their ground of comfort does not only last when they are going out of the world, but it is in some respects increased, for then their perfect happiness draws nigh. It is “ far better” to depart and be with Christ, than to continue here. And when the saints are enabled to see their own happiness in death, they are enabled exceedingly to rejoice in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death, and to triumph joyfully over the king of ter. rors. Death to the saints is always a passage or avenue, leading out of a world of vanity, and sin, and misery, into a world of life, light, and glory; but though often a dark avenue, it is at times full of light, the darkness all vanishes away, and the light shines out of that glorious city into which they are entering. It shines through the darkness and fills the soul, and the clouds of death vanish before it. The awful appearance of death is but a mask or disguise that death wears. It is not terrible but joyful in reality, and this light of the new Jerusalem sometimes so clearly shines that it shines through the frightful disguise, and shows the saints that death is but a servant. Yea, sometimes it is so when death has on its most terrible disguise that ever it wears, and comes in its most dreadful forms, as when the saints are burnt at the stake, and put to all cruel and torinenting deaths. It is oftentimes joyful to the saints when
. dying, to think that they are now going into the glorious presence of God, to enjoy God and Christ to the full. The joyful expectation sometimes makes them ready to cry out, “Even $0, come Lord Jesus, come quickly!” and, “Why is his chariot so long in coming ?”
Thirdly. Let us next consider the happiness of the saints, in their state of Separation from the Body.
1. When the soul departs from the body, it is received by the blessed angels and conducted by them to the third heavens. On the eve of its departure there is a guard of angels standing round the dying bed; and the devils, though eager to seize upon it as their
prey, shall by no means be suffered to come nigh. The holy angels shall be a guard to the soul, to keep off all its enemies. We are taught that this is part of the office in which God employs them. Psalm xxxiv. 7. "The angel of the Lord encampeth
“ round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. Psalm xci. 11. “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways ;" as it was with Daniel in the lion's den. Daniel vi. 22. “My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me : forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no burt." And as soon as the soul is loose from the body, it shall be kindly and courteously received by those bright and blessed ones, to be conducted by them into Christ's glorious presence ; for the angels are all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them that shall be the heirs of salvation. This is one way in which they shall minister; viz. to guard and conduct the departed spirits of the saints; which we are plainly taught in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Luke xvi. 22. “And it came to pass that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom : the rich man also died, and was buried.” These spirits of holiness and love, when they have received the soul, shall conduct it along through the aerial and starry heavens to the most glorious part of the universe; the highest part of the creation, the place of God's most holy residence, the city and palace of the most high God, where Christ is. There are some who
say that there is no such place as heaven; but this is evidently a mistake, for the heaven, into which the man Christ Jesus entered with his glorified body, is certainly some place. It is absurd to suppose that the heaven where the body of Christ is, is not a place. To say that the body of Christ is in no place, is the same thing as to say he has no body. The heaven where Christ is, is a place; for he was seen ascending, and will be seen descending again; and the heaven where the departed souls of the saints are, is the same heaven where Christ has ascended. And therefore Stephen, when he was departing this life, saw heaven opened, and the Son of man standing on the right band of God. And he prayed to that same Jesus whom he saw, that he would receive his spirit; i. e. that he would receive it to him, where he saw him, at the right hand of God. And the apostle Paul signifies, that if he should depart, he should be with Christ. Philip. i. 23,
“ For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better :" 2 Cor. v. 8. “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Besides there are some of the saints there already with their bodies, as Enoch and Elijah. Therefore there is some place, where God gloriously manifests himself, and where Christ is, and where saints and angels dwell, and whither the angels carry the souls of the saints when they depart from their bodies; and this place is called Paradise, and the ihird heaven. 2 Cor. xii. 2. 4. The aerial heaven is the first heaven; the starry heaven is the second ; and the blessed abode of Christ and saints and angels the third, because it is above the other two; and so Christ is said to be made higher than the heavens. Heb. vii. 26. “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens," i. e. higher than the visible heaven. This heaven is far above the stars. So it is said that Christ ascended far above all heavens. Eph. iv. 10. “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things," i. e. far above all the heaven that we see. This is the mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerasalem, and bither the angels conduct the souls of the saints when they leave their earthly tabernacles. When they come there, they shall be received with a joyful welcome, the doors of this glorious city are opened to them, and they shall have entrance given to them into heaven, as an inheritance to which they have a right. Rev. xxii. 14. “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." Avd then shall open to view that glorious world, that beautiful city, and delightful Paradise, which they had often before heard of, and thought of, and desired: then they shall see it, and possess it as their own.
There they shall be welcomed and joyfully received by that glorious company that dwell there, by the angels, and by the saints that went to heaven before them. There was joy among them at their conver, sion, and now also will there be joy among them when they are brought home to glory. To have one that was dear to them before, because a child of the same family and a disciple of the same Lord, brought home from a strange country to come and dwell with them for ever; how will their fellow-citizens and brethren in heaven be glad for them, and rejoice with them, and embrace them, when they come there to join them in their praises of God and the Lamb! And then they shall be conducted unto the Lord Jesus Christ in his glory, and shall be presented to him perfectly free from sin, and without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; who will also abundantly welcome them to his glory, and to the blessed enjoy
ing of his love. And then shall their good Shepherd rejoice, when he shall not only have brought home the soul that was lost to a saving close with him, but home to him in bis heavenly father's house. The Saviour shall then rejoice when he shall receive a soul that he loved before the foundation of the world; and for which he laid down his life, and endured such dreadful sufferings. This was the joy that was set before him, to redeem and make happy the souls of his elect; and he will rejoice, therefore, when he sees this accomplished. He will bid them welcome, and make them welcome, and they shall be received into the full enjoyment of his love. The Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and he shall present them also to God his father, having redeemed them to him by bis blood, who shall also abundantly welcome them there. Then the soul shall behold that glory, and taste that pleasure which it long hoped for, and thought of with delight, and the thoughts of which were wont to be such a support to it when on earth; then shall it know by experience what the joys of heaven are; then shall the great and precious promises of the gospel be falilled; then shall faith be turned into vision, and hope into fruition; then shall all sin be eternally left behind; there shall be no more indwelling corruption, wicked thoughts, or sinful dispositions, to torment them. And whatever borrow and affliction they underwent on earth, God shall now wipe away all tears from their eyes; and though they have lately passed through death, yet there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying ; neither shall there be any more pain, because the former things shall be passed away.
Rev, xxi. 4. If they have lived hardly in this world, and suffered hunger and thirst, there shall be an end of it all; and they that have suffered persecution, and have had their raiment stained with their own blood, shall now suffer no more.
" And he said unto me, these are they which cane out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat: for the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Rev. vii. 14, 15, 16, 17. Though they had many enemies lo conflict with while on earth, yet now shall they obtain the victory over them; now shall they triumph and sing, being for ever out of the reach of all Satan's templations, and of all bis power to afflict or molest them; now shall they appear in mount Zion with the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palms in their hands.
Rev. vii. 9.