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How the death of Christ frees us from the tormenting fear of death. By dy.
ing he paid our ransom to the injured justice of God, and deprives satan of the legal power he had over us. His death is our redemptioo from the curse of death. It makes death a blessed advantage to believers. The happiness obtained by death unfolded. It frees the saints from afflicting evils, and sin the cause of them. The highest positive good obtained by death.
111. I Now come to show how the death of Christ frees us from the tormenting fear of death.
For the clearing this, we are to consider, that sin, satan and death, are enemies in combination against man in his mortal state; and the destructive power of satan, and death, is from sin. When man renounced his Creator and natural Lord, he was judicially given up to satan as the executioner of vengeance, and to the power of death. Such is the order, rather the confusion in the world by sin. The empire of satan and death is built on the ruins of our innocence.
Now the Son of God came from his throne in heaven to deliver us: and whereas there are two ways of obtaining freedom from captivity, either by ransom, or by power and rescue, in both respects our deliverance from bondage to these capital enemies, is ascribed to the death of Christ.
It is called our ransom, and that in its strict notion has a respect to captivity: “There is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus ; who gave himself a ransom for all.” 1 Tim. 2. 6. His life was the full price of our liberty and salvation. God does not pardon sin, and release from punishment by a pure absolute act of his will and authority, as a creditor forgives a debtor; but in such a way as to preserve the rights of justice inviolate. Therefore when man was devoted to death, our Redeemer exchanged conditions with him, and offered “up his precious blood," 1 Pet. 1. 18. as our ransom to God, in the quality of the king and judge of all. Such was the dignity of his person, that the entire world, the heavens and the earth, with all their inhabitants, are of less value to him, than the basest dross to refined gold. Such was the greatness of his sufferings, Phil. 2. 8. in which the highest degree of obedience, and the lowest degree of humility were conspicuous, as to be a valuable compensation, to obtain“ eternal redemption for us.”
Now when God the Supreme Judge is satisfied, satan forfeits the right he had to torment us, and is divested of his dominion over our wills; which though justly permitted, was an usurpation upon God's right in man that can never be extinguished. It is said by the apostle, that our Saviour “ blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;" Col. 2. He abolished the use of the ceremonial law, that was an evidence and inditement of their guilt who performed it, and the curse of the moral law : it follows, “and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it."
Our Saviour died victoriously; the tree of infamy on which he suffered, was the trophy of his conquest. His death disarmed satan of his weapons, whereby he subdued us, sin, the law, and death; for though his actual triumph was in his resurrection and ascension to glory, yet it is justly ascribed to his death; for that meritoriously opened the grave at his resurrection, and heaven at his ascension.
And here by the way it is most worthy of observation, that our deliverance from our spiritual and most deadly enemies is equally righteous, as admirable and glorious : for our suffering Saviour appeased the wrath of God, and broke the powers of darkness. “ The wisdom and love of God had their designs in his death, as well as the malice and rage of satan ; as lines, that are opposite in the circumference, meet in the centre."
And as from the tyranny of satan, so the death of our Redeemer is our redemption from death, as to the curse and final dominion of it; nay, has made it a blessed advantage to us.
1. The curse is removed. Death considered as the wages of sin, is all sting and poison, the consequent of the spiritual death, and the introduction to eternal death. “ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” 1 Cor. 15. Death hath its wounding power from sin, and sin from the law, that forbids it, that discovers its nature, and enhances the measure of
its guilt, and denounces condemnation for it. Now our Saviour having in our stead subjected himself to death, the penalty of the law for sin, “ There is no condcmnation to those that are in Christ Jesus Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” Gal. 3. Death inflicted on the saints, has not that relation to the guilt of sin, as to be properly satisfaction to revenging justice. There are no petty payments to be made by our sufferings after his complete satisfaction to God. “ The Lord laid on him the iniquities of us all." Isa. 53.
It is indeed still a declaration of God's holy displeasure against sin, for that originally opened the way of its coming into the world ; and sometimes by the immaturity or manner of it, it is a chastisement upon good men for sin; that is, to make them renew their repentance, and mortify their carnal affections that fasten them to the world. For though after the last act of expiration there is no place for repentance; yet in the approaches of death, the soul is strongly excited by the call of God to review its state, and make solemn preparations to “be found of him in peace.” But it is not in a strict sense the malediction and vengeance of the law executed upon them. The serpent is turned into a rod of correction in the hands of our heavenly Father for their good. Heb. 12. As the apostle, speaking of some that for their profaning the Lord's table, were fallen asleep, adds, “that when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” 1 Cor. 10. 33. “A believer shall not be hurt of the second death." Rev. 2.
From hence it is, that in the book of life, the scriptures, the death of the saints is called a sleep. Saint Paul argues, “If we believed that Jesus died and rose again; even so them also that sleep in Jesus, will God bring with bim." 1 Thess. 4. 14. It is observable how the apostle varies the expression, “ Jesus died, and the saints sleep in lim:” for he sustained death with all its terrors, that it might be a calm sleep to his people. * They enjoy as perfect a rest in the beds of dust, as ever in the softest down. Stephen in the midst of a shower of stones fell asleep. Believers die in peace. “The righteous is taken from the evil to come; he enters into peace.” Isa. 57. 1, 2. Being reconciled to God through the blood of Christ, they are not terrified at his call, but with sweet tranquillity resign their souls unto him. “Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen thy salvation.” Luke 2. There is a vast difference in God's account, between the death of the righteous and the wicked. As the tabernacle in the wilderness was taken down with care upon their change of station, and delivered to the Levites' charge, in order to the raising of it again with honour; but the house incurably infected with the leprosy, was plucked down with violence, and thrown into an unclean place with execration: thus “the death of the saints is precious in the sight of the Lord,” their bodies are kept in the bosom of the earth, to be raised in glory; and the death of the wicked is accursed. In short, as the wood that Moses cast into the waters of Marah, by a miraculous virtue sweetened them : so the cross of Christ has taken away the malignity and bitterness of death.
* Annon longe gloriosius fuit, quandoquidem totum pro nobis agebatur, ut non modo passio coporis, sed etiam cordis affectio pro nobis faceret?. Et quos vivificabat mors, nihilominus & trepidatio robustos, & mæstitai lætos, & tædium alacrís, & turbatio quietos faceret, & desolatio consolatos ? Bern, Serm. 1. de S. Andr.
2. Death is a blessed advantage, and enriching gain to a believer : it brings him to the possession of that good that incomparably exceeds the evil that remains in it. For the death of a saint is not total; but as in the ceremony of purification from leprosy, one bird was killed, and the other let fly in the open air, the mysterious shadow of the lepers being restored to a state of liberty: thus “when the body dies and returns to the earth, the spirit returns to God, the Father of spirits, and fonntain of life.” Our Saviour told the Jews, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, that I will give for the life of the world.” John 6. 48. The heavenly divine life, that is communicated by the Spirit of Christ to believers, remains entire when the sensitive life is lost. The natural order is, “ There is a time to be born, and a time to die :” the supernatural is, there is a time to die, and a time to be born. The death of a saint is a * new birth; the pains of the dying
* Dies iste quem ta tanquam supremum reformidas, æterni natalis est. Senec,
body are as throws, whereby the ripened soul is delivered into the “ land of the living." The happiness of a saint after death, more particularly will appear by considering ;
3. The freedom he obtains from all afflicting evils that are numberless here, and from sin the worst in its nature, and the cause of all the rest. The present world is a labyrinth of thorns, in every state we meet with something to vex us.
You may as well count the waves of the sea when enraged by a tempest, as the troubles to which in this mortal open state we are exposed. “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.” Job 14. 1. A short life, and many miseries, O our unhappy capacity! the body is liable to as many diseases, * as there are members; and the soul to as many perplexities as passions, How often are the scenes and habits changed in the time of one man? He that lives in pleasures, must act the mourner's part, “Our sweetest comforts have hidden stings :” and whatever is most pleasing, may occasion bitter grief. And usually holy men have a greater portion of afflictions here : sometimes by the malignity and violence of tle wicked; as under the law, the lamb and the dove were sacrifices, the emblems of innocence, and pu
ity, and meekness, whilst the vulture and the lion, the greedy devourers escaped. The apostle declares of the elect, “ They are predestinated to be conformed to the image of God's Son,” who traced out the way to heaven in his own blood, and by the cross ascended to the throne. Sometimes more immediately divine providence afflicts them to preserve their spirits from the tainted pleasures of the world, and for other holy ends : but there “ is a rest for the people of God in heaven.” Besides, there are relics of sin in the best of the saints here. Indeed sin is deposed from sovereignty and rule; the imperious lusts are crucified, but not quite expired. As those that were nailed to the cross in their hands and feet, the parts least vital and most sensible, died a painful and lingering death. “Still the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.” As there is a complexion of humours in human bodies, always jarring when they are in the soundest health ; and where there is not this active contrariety, either the body is without a soul, a mere carcass, or a glorified body in heaven: so where there is not this internal
* Tempus angustatur ad vitam, dilatatur ad miseriam.,