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yo:ith ; no cloud ever passing over your minds; no fear, anxiety, sorrow or remorse, ever troubling your hearts; I acknowledge you might, with reason, wish to live always. But viewing man as he is; as born to inward griefs, and external pains, can you call death an evil? And contemplating the gospel as a free offer, not only of aid in general, but of peculiar support in the last hour, and of perfect bliss, when that is past; can you account death aught but an inestimable privilege ? As you are subject to the infirmities of disease and of age ; as you are liable to be oppressed with sickness, and to be racked with pain; to struggle with poverty and hardship; to be separated from those whom you love, and to be left alone in the midst of strangers ; above all, as you have to endure a perpetual conflict within, between the good and the evil principle, dissolution must be rather an object of desire than of aversion. Were death, indeed, to appear
in all its native terrors, it were truly to be dreaded : but disarmed of its sting, conquered, nay, more than conquered, changed from a messenger of vengeance, into the immediate harbinger of eternal peace; what christian would not bid it welcome ? " I desire to depart, and to be with “ Christ.”* If " to me to live be Christ, to die is gain." +
Had this article been omitted, our charter had indeed been incomplete. What preserved Paul from fainting under the labours and sufferings, which he was called to endure? What, but the blessed prospect of relief by death? “ For “ we know that, if our earthly frame of this taber“ nacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, Phil. i. 23
+ Ibid. 21.
" an house not made with hands, eternal in the “ heavens.”* And those who, like him, “ walk by
faith, not by sight,” + instead of dreading the summons to depart, will rather be ready to complain of the slow progress of time, and to wish the velocity of its wheels increased. “ Come quickly," they will say, “ Lord Jesus, come quickly!” You are apt to envy those, who, like Enoch and Elijah, have suddenly escaped from a world of darkness, "guilt, and sorrow, to a heaven of purity, knowledge, and enjoyment. How rapid the transition from the outer courts below, to the temple above! And in what does the death of a christian materially differ from the translation of an Elijah ? He is no sooner “ absent from the body," than he is “ pre* sent with the Lord.”! And if the approach of death have been tardy, if his sufferings, ere it ar. rived, have been severe, the contrast, in his change, is more complete ; and his feelings of astonishment and joy must, if possible, be higher.
66 Bless" ed are the dead, which die in the Lord!"Let rebels be afraid of death, and worldlings averse to part with earth, the heaven-born mind will contemplate the hour of its departure with joy, and long to rise to its native land. The day of death it will prefer to that of birth; or rather will esteem it the day of its birth to a state of perfection; the day of its deliverance from prison, of its return from exile, of its eternal redemption.
V. “ Things present” are also numbered among the believer's privileges. By “ things present,” it does not appear that we are to understand, either the time allotted to us below, or the possessions, ne+ Ibid. 7. # Ibid. 8.
Rev. xiv. 13.
2 Cor. v. I.
cessaries, and comforts, which we here enjoy; as these are naturally expressed by the terms “ life," and“ the world;" the import of which we have already illustrated. Things present,” then, seem to denote present events; the circumstances and vicissitudes of our present lot, whether prosperous or adverse. The phrase is employed in the same sense, where the apostle expresses to the Romans his triumphant assurance, that “ neither death, nor “ life; things present, nor things to come; shall be “ able to separate us from the love of God, which “ is in Christ Jesus, our Lord."* All the particulars, then, of our temporal estate, all the changes which it may experience, all the pleasures and pains, all the trials and comforts through which we may pass, are asserted to be ours. They are overruled by divine providence for our benefit; and such aids are afforded under them, as our various exigencies require. The prosperity, which renders sinners proud, sensual, and careless of eternity, Christ sanctifies, to make his people grateful and humble, to quicken their zeal for his glory, and to afford them the means of more extensive usefulness. The calamities, under which the former are peevish and discontented, nay, perhaps despairing and blasphemous, teach the latter lessons of patience and resignation, and“ work for them an
exceeding weight of glory;"† while, at the same time, they afford them the best opportunities of experiencing the sufficiency of divine consolations; and thus, of tasting that peace which the world knoweth not of. In these, and in similar views, kow comfortable is the assurance of the text; and . Rom. viii, 38, 39.
+ 2 Cor. ir. 17.
how excellently adapted to inspire serenity of mind! Clouds and darkness sometimes gather round the traveller to mount Zion. The road is often steep and rugged; and his feet are torn by the roughness of the way. The tear swells in his eye. His bosom heaves with sorrrow; or is agitated by perplexity and fear. But when he reflects by whom all events are superintended; when he remembers, that the kindest purposes are frequently concealed under the darkest dispensations, and that the most salutary cordial is often poured into the bitterest cup, he becomes composed and silent; he is contented and joyful. But having lately had occasion to direct your attention to the superintending providence of God, and to point out the tendency of faith in it to inspire serenity and gladness, * I restrain myself from pursuing this theme farther now.-Be not, then, at any time cast down, ye children of God. In whatever circumstances you may be placed, for your advantage these circumstances have been ordained. Nay, have ye not often had it accomplished in your own experience? Through the thickest cloud, has not a light often darted on your path, that shewed to you the good to which it tended? Have ye not frequently tasted of the loving kindness of the Lord, even when you thought yourselves neglected ; and had reason to sing of mercy in the midst of judgment?
Are “ things present” yours? Then was the ordinance of the supper, of which you this day partook, also yours; intended, not only in its institution in general, but in this particular observance of it, for your comfort and support. “ Do this,” said
See the second sermon on christian rejoicing.
Christ,“ în remembrance of me; of the redemption which I have wrought for you, and of the eternal crown which I have won for you. “ Do this," said he, the night before he suffered; that though I be absent from you in body, ye may have a sensible token of my presence; and that thus your joy may remain.
“Do this;" and thereby “shew “ forth my death, till I come again;" that ye may have a continual memorial, both that I died for you, and that I will return to receive you to myself. So shall ye have foretastes of the heavenly manna, and of the water of life, by which ye shall be nourished, through eternity, in my immediate presence.-How sweetly, my brethren, in this ordinance, do duty and privilege accord !- You have this day shared of a feast which kings cannot give, and which, perhaps, few of them can enjoy. You have received, at a resting-place in the wilderness, to support you on your way, a refreshment from the King of the country to which you travel. You have had a specimen given you of the fruits of that country; like the cluster of grapes from the valley of Eshcol, to Israel in the desert. You have had a view of it afforded you, like that of the land of Canaan, granted to Moses, from the top of Pisgah.--I am thus naturally led
VI. To the last particular in the christian's charter of privileges, things to come.”
Paul himself, with all his eloquence, and all his inspiration, did not pretend to give a particular de scription of the future state of the righteous. He was conscious that mortal man is unequal to the task; is possessed neither of language to express, nor of faculties to conceive, the nature and extent of ce