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figuring to himself, or than what is prescribed | ception upon ourselves; the grand conclusion
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 fruits of Christ's death is a complication of duties, which require attention, time, labour, intenseness of exertion, and must be the business of a whole life. The greatest part of those who 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 proof of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, unless we study those proofs, unless we seriously meditate upon them, unless we endeavour 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 heart 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 de
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 thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee," Ps. lxxiii. 25.
If after we have exerted our utmost efforts, we still find our frail flesh and blood 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 against 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 zeal 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 fear of death; if the flesh murmurs, if nature complains, if faith itself seems to stagger; reason, religion, but especially the aid of God's spirit, granted to the prayers, to the importunities ascending to heaven from the lips of such a Christian, dissipate all those terrors. The mighty God suffers himself to be overcome, when assailed by supplication and tears. God resists not the sighs of a be
liever, who from his bed of languishing stretches | out his arms towards him, who entreats him to sanctify the sufferings which he endures, who implores his support in the agonies of death, who cries out from the centre of a soul transported with holy confidence, "Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth," Ps. xxxi. 5. Receive it, O my God. Remove from me those phantoms which disturb my repose. Raise me up, take me to thyself. "Teach my hands to war, and my fingers to fight. Draw me, I shall run after thee." Kindle my devotion; and let my inflamed desires serve as a chariot of fire to transport me to heaven. The clouds, thickened around me by "Him who had the power of death," are scattering; the veil which covered eternity insensibly withdraws; the understanding is convinced; the heart melts; the flame of love burns bright; the return of holy meditations, which formerly occupied the soul, disclose the grand object of religion, and the
bed of death is transformed into a field of victory. Many of your pastors, Christians, have been the joyful spectators of such a triumph.
May all who hear me this day be partakers of these divine consolations! May that invaluable sacrifice which Jesus Christ offered up to his father in our behalf, by cleansing us from all our guilt, deliver us from all our fears! May this great High Priest of the new covenant bear engraven on his breast all these mystical Israelites, now that he is entered into the holiest of all! And when these foundations of sand, on which this clay tabernacle rests, shall crumble away from under our feet, may we all be enabled to raise our departing spirits out of the ruins of the world, that they may repose in the mansions of immortality! Happy, beyond expression, beyond conception happy, to die in such sentiments as these! God of his infinite mercy grant it may be our blessed attainment! To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen,