« AnteriorContinuar »
pass under the angel's sword, the stroke of death, to come into his presence. He infinitely deserves our love, for we owe our salvation and eternal glory to the merit of his humiliation, and the power of his exaltation. With what earnest affections did St. Paul desire “ to be dissolved and to be with Christ?" Phil. 1. Love gave wings of fire to his soul, ardent desires mounting to heaven. How valiant were the martyrs in expressing acts of love to Christ? How boldly did they encounter death that interposed between them and the sight of his glory? Their love was hotter than the flames that consumed them. They as willingly left their bodies, as Elias let fall his mantle to ascend to heaven. And how does it upbraid the coldness of our love, that we are so contented to be here, absent from our Saviour. That the moles of the earth, who never saw the light of the sun, and feed on bitter roots, are pleased in their dark receptacles, is no wonder; but if birds that are refreshed with his cheerful beams, and feed on sweet fruits, should willingly be confined in caverns of the earth, it were unnaturally strange. Thus for Pagans (and those who are so in heart, though different in profession) that are so short-sighted and depraved, that they only perceive and affect present sensible things, for them to be unwilling to die is no wonder; for then all that is valuable and delightful to them is lost for ever : but for those who are enlightened by the revelation of God so clearly concerning the state of glory, and have tasted the goodness of the Lord, and know the incomparable difference between the mean and frail felicity here, and the inestimable immutable felicity hereafter, for them to be unwilling to leave this world for that which is infinitely better, is astonishing. Such was the love of our Saviour, that his personal glory in heaven did not fully content him, without the saints partaking of it with him : “ Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory." John 17. If our hearts do not answer his, it is a sad indication that we have not an interest in him : for the application of his merits is always joined with the imitation of his virtues, and the reflection of his love. The lovers of Christ will join with the inflamed spouse, “ draw us, and we will run after thee:” Cant. I. O loosen our affections from this world, that we may readily ascend to thee : they will renew the sighs of holy David in his banishment, “ O when shall we come and appear before God!"
Lastly. To die with thanksgiving and joy. It is usual to compare this life to a voyage : the scripture is the chart that describes the coasts we must pass, and the rocks we must avoid ; faith is the compass that directs the course we must steer; love is the rudder that governs the motion of the ship ; hope fills the sails. Now what passenger does not rejoice at the discovery of his country where his estate and heart is, and more at the near approach to the port where he is to land ? Is not heaven the country of the saints? Is not their birth from above, and their tendency to their original ? And is not the blessed bosom of Christ their port? O what joyful thanksgivings are due to God, when by his Spirit and providence, they have happily finished their voyage through such * dangerous seas, and are coming into the land of the living? How joyful was to Noah the coming of the dove with an olive branch, to show him the deluge was assuaged, and the time was come of his freedom from the troublesome company of animals, and from the straitness and darkness of the ark, to go forth and possess the world ?" How joyfáil should death bè to à saint, that comes like the dove in the evening, to assure him the deluge of misery is ceased, and the time is come of his enlargement from the body, his deliverance from the wretched sinful society here, and his possessing the divine world? Holy souls are immediately transported by the angels to Christ, and by him presented to his father, without “ spot or wrinkle," complete in holiness, and prepared for communion with him in glory. How joyfully are they received into heaven by our Saviour and the blessed spirits ? they are the reward of his sufferings, the precious and dear purchase of his blood. The angels that rejoice at the conversion of a sinner, do much more at the glorification of a saint: and thé “ church of the first-born" who have before us entered into glory, have a new accession of joy, when their younger brethren arrive to the undefiled immortal inheritance. And is it not very becoming believers joyfully to ascend to the seat of blessedness, to the happy society that inspires mutual joys for ever? For our encouragement there are numerous instances of believers that have with peace and joy, though in various degrees, passed through “ the dark valley to the inheritance of light.” Some have died with more joy than they lived, and triumphed over the last enemy with the vocal praises of God: * others with silent affections have quietly commended their spirits into his hand. Some have inward refreshings and support; others exuberant joys and ravishments, as if the light of glory shined into them, or the veil of flesh were drawn, and their spirits were present with the invisible world. Some of the martyrs in their cruellest sufferings felt such impressions of confidence and alacrity, that as in the house of Lamech there were accorded at the same time two discordant callings by the two brothers; Jubal the inventor of the harp and organ, and Tubal-Cain the first artificer in brass and iron, Gen. 4. the one practised on instruments of music, breathing harmonious sounds and melodies; the other used hammers and anvils, making noise and tumult: so in some persons, whilst the heaviest strokes fell on their bodies, their souls were ravished with the sweetest joy and exultation. Indeed it is not thus always with the saints : for though sin be pardoned, yet the apprehensions of guilt may remain. When a stream is disturbed, it does not truly represent the object : when the affections are disordered, the mind does not judge aright of a christian's state. A serpent may hiss when it has lost its sting. Death may terrify when it cannot hurt us. I doubt not but some excellent saints have been in anxieties to the last, till their fears were dispelled by the actual fruition of blessedness. As the sun sometimes sets in dark clouds, and rises in a glorious horizon. We read our evidences for heaven by the light of God's countenance: his image is made visible in our souls by the illustration of his Spirit : and he exercises prerogative in the dispensation of his comforts. It is his pleasure to bestow extraordinary favours on some, and deny them to others that are as holy. But every penitent believer has just cause of joy in death : for Jesus Christ has reconciled God, destroyed satan, and conquered death: and the last day of his life is the first of his glory.
* Quamdiu in salo isto, tamdiu inter naufragia.
Accitus sum ad id miracoli, videre exultantem ia morte hominem, & insultantem morti, Bern. 26. Serm. in Cant.
Acts xvII. 31.
Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained: whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
The coherence of the text opened. The determining a time, and the design
ation of the person to judge the world are expressed. God is king of the world by creation. The two principal parts of his sovereignty, are giving laws to rule his subjects, and to pass final judgment according to those laws. His essential attributes qualify him for the exercise of government. The Son of God united to the human nature, is wisely appointed to judge
The quality of this office requires no less person, upon the account of its superlative dignity, and immense difficulty. It is the reward of his sufferings. The day of judgment is styled the groat day in several respects. To define the particular time is beyond the knowledge of any
Saint Paul had this title of honour eminently conferred upon him, the apostle of the Gentiles : this office he performed with persevering diligence, diffusing “the light of life to those that sat in darkness, and in the shadow of death.” In this chapter we have recorded the substance of his sermon to the Athenians; wherein his admirable zeal and prudence are remarkable, in the matter and order of his discourse, to convince and persuade them to receive the saving truth of the gospel. He first lays down the prineiples of natural religion, to prepare them for the more easy belief of supernatural revealed religion. The depravation of the minds of men was in no instance more prodigious than in their vilifying conceits of the Deity: they attributed his name and honour to various idols, and ascribed to him their own figure, and, which was infinitely more unworthy and dishonourable, their own passions and vices. They adored their own vain imaginations. The idols of their hearts were erected on their altars. Venus was a goddess, because impure love reigned in their breast. Bacchus had religious rites, because sensual pleasures, as sweet as wine, intoxicated their spirits. These errors, as gross as impious, were universal : the philosophers themselves were not exempted from the contagion. The apostle therefore makes use of the clearest arguments, to give authority to the plain conspiring voice of nature, that had so long in vain recalled them from idolatry to the worship of the only true God. He therefore declares that the divine Maker of all things, “the Father of spirits, could not be represented by corporeal and corruptible things,” ver. 29. but was to be acknowledged and adored in a manner becoming his spiritual and infinite perfections. That “he made all nations of one blood,” ver. 26. though distinguished in their habitations and times, that they might seek and serve the one universal Creator. And though the pagan world for many ages had lived in an unnatural oblivion of God, and he seemed unconcerned for their violation of his laws, yet it was not from the defect of justice, but the direction of his wisdom, that his patience was so long extended to them. And this he proves by the new and most express declaration of his will: “ But now he commanded all men every where to repent; because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by the man whom he hath ordained: whereof he hath given assurance to all men, in that he raised him from the dead."
In the words, the eternal counsels of God are revealed in two great things.
First. The determining a time wherein he will righteously judge the world : “ He hath appointed a day.”
Secondly. The designation of the person by whom he will perform that eminent part of sovereignty: “ by Jesus Christ, whom he hath raised from the dead.”
In order to the handling of the main point, it is requisite to premise briefly some propositions.