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may be healed. By the virtue of the sanctifying Spirit, the soul that was dead, absolutely unable to perform spiritual and supernatural acts, “ is revived to a kind of omnipotence, it ean do all things,” required by the evangelical covenant, by the new law that is in the hands of our merciful Mediator for salvation. It is true, there are relics of sin in the best, and the flesh and spirit are repugnant principles warring against one another : but the renewed spirit will make no capitulation or composition with sin, but is so predominant, that sin is gradually subdued, and does not so freely and frequently break forth as it does from the unrenewed. By the grace of the Spirit “ we are enabled to mortify the deeds of the body, to crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof;" and to perform holy duties with freedom, alacrity and zeal, in such a manner as is acceptable to God. In short, saving grace is distinguished from that which is common to the unregenerate by its prevalency and constancy. There may be a declination in the saints tending to a downfal ; but “ the seed of God," that supernatural grace that “ remains in them,” will by the power of the Holy Spirit recover the supremacy. Others may be enlightened, and feel some good motions, and transient touches; as Saul had his rapture among the prophets : but they are not truly, entirely, and perseveringly converted to God; they are not proof against the allurements or terrore of the world. They make a fair profession till they are tried by temptations. Congealed drops of water appear like solid crystal, till the warm beams of the sun dissolve them, and discover the hypocrisy of the crystal. False jewels may seem to have the lustre of diamonds, till they are broke by a fall, and discovered to be glass. Thus the riches, the honours and pleasures of the flesh melt some, and temporal evils break the resoJution of others, and make it evident they were not sincere converts. But where the Holy Spirit savingly works, he is said " to dwell :” he is not like a passenger, or a tenant at will, that neglects the house, and suffers it to fall into ruin, but as the proprietary and owner he keeps perpetual residence in true ehristians, and by his continual influence preserves them from final apostaey.
Now from hence we may judge whether we have an interest in · Christ and his benefits. For the apostle clearly tells us, “ that
if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Rom. 8. 9. By this sacred signature we are appropriated to Christ, and visibly distinguished from the world. For though the secret and pure influences of the Spirit in the soul are only known to the person that feels them, yet his active inspirations are declarative of his presence and power in the outward conversation. As the wind that is of so thin and subtile a nature that it is invisible in itself, but we certainly know from what point it blows by the course and way that the ship makes : thus the
Spirit of God, who is compared to the wind, is discovered by an . infallible indication, his fruits and effects in a holy life. And those who have communion with Christ by his Spirit, have a share in his victories, and may with confidence meet the last enemy, death: for we are assured, “ if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell in us, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken our mortal bodies, by the Spirit that dwelleth in us.” Rom. 8. 11.
A preparative conformity to Christ in grace, will be followed with a consummate in glory. But those who never felt the sanctifying efficacy of the Spirit in their hearts and lives, though they are christians in profession, yet they have no other union with Christ, than a dead branch with a tree that receives no sap and virtue from it ; or an artificial member joined to the body, that may have the outward clothing and ornaments proper to that part, but derives no life and sense from it. " Whoever is in Christ is a new creature.” 2 Cor. 5. 17. And only " those who partake in the first resurrection from sin, shall be exempted from the power of the second death,” and upon just grounds are freed from the terrors of the first.
Our dear obligations to our Redeemer considered, who frees us from the
sting, and fear, and doininion of death. His love was equal to the height of his glory from whence he descended, and the depth of his sufferings for our sake. An excitation to make it the great design of our lives to over. , come the fear of death. Reconciliation with God requisite to our being freed from the powers of death. Repentance is necessary to obtain ibe favour of God. The infinite danger of delaying it, unfoided. The presumption of long life is vain. The hope of a future repentance is very deceitful. It is very hazardous whether God will accept the repentance that flows merely from bitter constraint at last. The continuance in sin upon the presumption of pardon, renders men most unworthy of it.
To apply this point, let us,
1. Consider our dear obligations to our blessed Saviour, who to free us from the sting and enslaving fear of death, submitted to it with all its terrors from God and wicked men.
He felt a sadness to an agony in his soul, and suffered the equal extremities of ignominy and torment in his body. The favour of God was intercepted from him, that it may shine upon us in that gloomy hour. And all his terrible sufferings, though foreknown by his enlightened mind, could not weaken his determined will to undergo them for us: but when Peter regarded with a more tender eye his life than our salvation, he was repelled with indignation. Unparalleled love! no less than divine, transcending all the instances of human affection. The highest kind and excess of love among men is to die for another, and the highest degree in that kind is to die to save an enemy; and of this our Saviour is the singular example: love incomprehensible! " it passes knowledge, and all understanding" but his who expressed it. His love was equal to the height of his glory from whence he descended, and the depth of his sufferings that he sustained in our stead. “ By washing us from our sins in his blood, he makes us kings,” Rev. 1. dignifies us with spiritual sovereignty over, not only defiling, but disturbing passions. The freest and most confident sinner in the world, that rebels against the divine
laws without restraint, is a slave, not only under the chains of his imperious lusts, but in that he is liable to the scourgings of conscience whenever awakened, and to the servile fear of death every day. But the sincere christian has a clear and sweet peace, a blessed tranquillity from the tormenting apprehensions and fears of death, that are the just consequences of guilt.
One of the ancient Romans * highly celebrates the astronomers, who discovered the true causes of the eclipses of the sun and moon, and freed the world from the double darkness of ignorance and fear; for before that discovery, men believed the obscuring of those great lights were the fainting fits of nature, and mortal symptoms threatening an universal calamity. But what praise and blessing is due to our Saviour, who hath given us infallible assurance that the death of the righteous is not, as the heathen world imagined, an irreparable loss of life, but a short eclipsing of this low and mean light that is common to sensitive creatures, to be restored more excellent and permanent in heaven, where those stars shine in the divine presence for ever. “ Thanks be to God which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." This should render him “ infinitely precious to us," and inflame our hearts with desires equal to our obligations to serve him.
2. Let us make it the great design and main business of our lives to remove from our souls the just fears of death. It is one of the solemn follies of the world to fear where there is no cause : as if a sentinel should mistake glow-worms in the night for lighted matches, and give a false alarm : but it is a worse folly, though pleasing, not to fear when there is the greatest reason to excite it. And it is so in the present case; for the most are without the fear of death, that should make them serious in preparing for it: nay, to maintain their security, are as unwilling to hear conscience declare the wretchedness of their condition with respect to eternity, as Ahab was the prophet Micaiah, “ who always foretold evil things to him."
It was the chief design of the philosophers, by principles of reason, to fortify themselves against all frightful accidents, and with a masculine mind, with an ardent and generous spirit, to * encounter this inevitable evil. When one of them was threatened by the Emperor Antigonus with present death, he boidly replied, threaten this to your dissolute courtiers that are softened and melted by sensual pleasures, and easily receptive of terrible impressions, not to a philosopher to whom death is contemptible in any appearance. This was a piece of affected bravery; for Pagan philosophy could never furnish them with armour of proof against the dart of our last enemy. But the gospel assuring us that death is an entrance into immortality, makes that to be the reality of a christian, that was a vain boast of the philosophers.
* Macti ingenio esse cæli interpretes, rerumque naturæ capaces, argumenti repertores, quo Deos hominesque vinxistis. Plin. lib. 2.
Now that we may be established in that blessed tranquillity that death cannot discompose, the following directions are infinitely useful.
i. We must give all diligence to be in a state of reconciliation with God. The things requisite to that are, as the apostle declares, “ repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 20. 21. Repentance includes a godly sorrow for sins past, with a detestation and forsaking them sincerely, without hypocrisy; and entirely, without partiality in the heart and conversation. It is called “ repentance from dead works,” Heb. 6. 1. the proper name of our sins, that deserve eternal death. By repentance we return to obedience that is due to God our maker and lawgiver. Faith respects the Redeemer, who by his blood shed on the cross, and pleaded in heaven, reconciles God to penitent sinners. The belief of his merciful and powerful mediation for our acceptance and pardon, “ works by love,” 2 Cor. 5. 14. and “ constrains us” to dedicate ourselves in a devoted propriety to his glory and service, and to live according to that dedication. These two are absolutely necessary to the vital and salvifical state of a christian. And as soon as a person sincerely repents and believes, he is justified before God; and if he dies, will certainly obtain eternal glory. This should be the early and most speedy work of our lives: for the delay of repentance, and neglect of securing the favour of God, arms death with more stings and terrors.
* Fælix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas : Atque metus mortis & inexorabile fatum Subjecit pedibus.