« AnteriorContinuar »
of faith, or paralysed with disease, and incapable of intellectual exertion; they are blessed. The declaration is general. It is not said, blessed are they who die triumphantly; but, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord; which fall asleep in Jesus; which close their eyes to the sorrows of time, to open them in the glories of eternity.
I be allowed to observe here, as I promay ceed, that the language before us will strongly confirm, in the view of the serious Christian, the doctrine of the divinity of the Son of God, which he has previously derived from express declarations in other parts of Scripture. It will appear to his mind to be blasphemous to pronounce the Christian blessed because he dies in a creature: but to die united to a divine Saviour, who has clothed himself with our nature, and, having gone to prepare a place for us, is come again to receive us unto himself, will seem to him a natural, and important, and transporting source of consolation. In fact, he may observe that the three persons of the ever-blessed Trinity are here introduced; the Father, uttering a voice from heaven; the Son, as the divine person in whom the dead are blessed; the Holy Ghost, as adding a solemn asseveration to their blessedness. Thus the happiness of the righteous in their death is confirmed by the testimony of these three adorable and sacred witnesses.
The expression, from henceforth, has been applied, by many commentators of great authority, to the particular persecutions and calamities to which the prophecy with which it is connected refers. It imports, in this view, that so numerous were the disasters which would then fall on the church, that, from the period when they should arise, there would be abundant reason to congratulate those who should be taken out of this vexatious and afflictive world, whether by a natural or by a violent death.
Other critics, of scarcely less name, understand the words more generally, as synonimous with, immediately; and as instructing us, that, from the very time, from the instant, when Christians die, they are blessed; in opposition to the fabled purgatory of the church of Rome. Whilst some divines, amongst whom is the great Beza, by a slight alteration of the accent of the Greek word, render it, perfectly, really, completely; and connect it with the word, blessed; Completely blessed are the dead that die in the Lords.
Without attempting to decide between contending authorities, this remains undoubted on all hands, that, when once the soul of the Christian is delivered from the burden of the flesh, it
• Vide Schleusner, sub voce åráph, vol. i. 248.
is in joy and felicity: that, so soon as it is absent from the body, it is present with the Lord: the instant it leaves the dark and afflictive abode of this earthly tabernacle, it is clothed upon with a building of God; an house, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. How sudden, how surprising, how blissful a change! to pass, in one short moment, from earth to heaven; from a vale of tears, to endless peace; from toil and affliction, and sin and woe, to rest and holiness and joy!
This leads me to consider,
III. The PARTICULARS of which the blessedness of the righteous consists: That they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
They are blessed in their REST, and they are blessed in their RECOMPENSE.
1. They REST from their labours.
The very name of rest is grateful to the weary Christian. He obtains, indeed, in this world, in a very important sense, rest unto his soul. He is reconciled to God. He is delivered
from the tormenting passions the heart of the wicked. He is become the servant of Christ. He walks with him, in a course of faith, communion, and obedience. He casts all his care upon him, yields to his
guidance, and relies on his protection. But, still, his tranquillity is partial and imperfect. It is disturbed by sin, and disturbed by sorrow. It is only in heaven that he will, properly speaking, repose from his labours.
Then he will rest from all persecutions for the name of Christ. This is particularly referred to in the text. The period to which it relates was to be so calamitous, that the Apostle says of it, in the preceding verse, Here is the patience of the saints. Let any one, indeed, review the sufferings of St. Paul, or those of the worthies whom he celebrates in the 11th chapter of the Hebrews, or the history of the primitive church, or even the affecting narratives of our own martyrology, and he will understand how delightful must be the Christian's deliverance from such labours. We have to bless God that we are exempted from these fiery trials, and have only to contend with those effects of the general aversion of the human mind to pure Christianity, which no human laws can control.
There are other labours, however, which are common to all the church of God. Such is the labour of our spiritual conflict: from this spiritual conflict the Christian will rest. The unremitted warfare of the Christian, with the world, the flesh, and the devil, makes him often sigh for repose. Sin is the grief, and bur
man the glorious prospect of felicity beyond the grave.
Upon the affecting occasion on which we are now assembled, it appears to me that no words can be more suitable for our meditation than those of my text. The object of them is, to afford consolation to the church in a season of calamity and the source whence this consolation is derived is, the blessedness of the righteous in their death.
Upon this subject there are three points to which I design to call your attention.
1. THE SOLEMNITY WITH WHICH THE BLESSING IS PRONOUNCED.
2. THE PERSONS TO WHOM IT BELONGS.
I. The blessedness of those who die in the Lord is pronounced with unusual SOLEMNITY.
IT IS ACCOMPANIED WITH AN AUDIBLE VOICE FROM HEAVEN: I heard a voice from heaven.
This is a remarkable circumstance. The message can be of no ordinary importance. It is not sufficient that it should lie in common with the other truths revealed to the beloved disciple. So momentous a point must be promulgated with especial distinction. Attention must be excited. The immediate voice of God 'must call the notice of the church to the conso