|« Prev||Chapter LVII.||Next »|
Consolations Against The Fears Of Death.
Christ hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.—2 Tim. 1:10.
This sentence is full of divine comfort against the fears of temporal death. For if “Christ hath abolished death,” why should we fear it? And if “life and immortality be brought to light,” why should we not rejoice to pass through the gates of death, to take possession of them? But since there is no man so holy, but that at some time or other he is afraid of death, I shall here subjoin the chief heads of consolation, which I shall divide into two parts. The first contains those consolations which arise from Christ's sufferings and death, and the fruits of them. The second, those that arise from the consideration of the vanity of the world. Each of these parts shall comprehend seven arguments of comfort.369
2. I. The first and most powerful remedy against the fear of death, is the most holy and innocent death of Jesus Christ, by which he destroyed the power of death. The power of death consists in the continual dread, anxiety, terror, and trembling that arise from the thought of the severe judgment that is to follow. With this the soul is oftentimes so afflicted, that it is, as it were, continually dying, yet cannot die. This is the power of death, yea, is even the second and eternal death: and this terrible state the devil makes yet more dreadful by his suggestions. Upon this account he is said “to have the power of death” (Heb. 2:14); that is, to terrify and torment the conscience with hellish fears and terrors. This was David's case, as he complains, “My heart is sore pained within me; and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.” Ps. 55:4. So again, “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.” Ps. 18:3, 4. Now the blessed Jesus has taken away this power of death, changing it into a calm sleep, a blessed rest of soul and body. When the soul is at rest, the body sleeps peacefully, so that the peace of the soul gives peace also to the body. Hence every true and faithful Christian may be properly said not to taste of death; according to that promise of our blessed Lord, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my sayings, he shall never see death.” John 8:51.
3. The second ground of comfort is, the resurrection of our bodies. For Christ has so far destroyed the power of death, that it not only cannot torment our souls, but cannot even keep our bodies perpetually. As the power of Christ's death in us protects us from tasting the bitterness of it; so, by the power of his resurrection, our mortal bodies shall also be raised again to a glorious immortality.
4. For (1), the foundation of our resurrection is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as he himself says, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” John 14:19. “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” John 11:25. “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Job 19:25. “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Cor. 15:21, 22.
5. (2) This is also founded upon God's veracity. “Thy dead men shall live.” Isa. 26:19. “Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live. Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O my people.” Ezek. 37:5, 12. “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Dan. 12:2. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:25, 28, 29. “And I saw the dead, both small and great, stand before God.” Rev. 20:12.
6. (3) It is also founded upon the 370 omnipotence and glory of Jesus Christ. As in the resurrection of Lazarus, he was glorified, when he cried out, “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43); so will he also, in the last great day, manifest his power and glory, by showing himself to be the Lord of the dead and living. Rom. 14:9. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death; O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.” Hosea 13:14.
7. (4) The divine justice is also engaged for the confirmation of this truth. As it has received fulfilment in that sentence, “Thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17); so also must it be fulfilled in our resurrection after a complete satisfaction for sin. For when sin itself is at an end, the wages of sin ought to have an end likewise. This is strictly agreeable to the justice of God.
8. (5) This is also further confirmed to us by the examples of those who have been already raised from death unto life. Such was the case of the widow's son (1 Kings 17:22); the Shunammite's son (2 Kings 4:35-37); the dead body that was raised by touching the bones of Elisha (2 Kings 13:21); the daughter of Jairus (Matt. 9:25); the widow's son at Nain (Luke 7:15); Lazarus (John 11:43); and Tabitha (Acts 9:41).
9. (6) Christ hath redeemed both soul and body to everlasting life.
10. (7) The beautiful parables derived from nature, as the grain of wheat, in John 12:24, claim attention. The apostle says: “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die,” etc. 1 Cor. 15:36, etc. Upon this account, burying-places are, in the German tongue, called God's fields (Gottesacker).
11. A third comfort against the fears of death is, the fruit of Christ's resurrection; that is, that eternal, incorruptible, and immortal state purchased for us by Jesus Christ. For as by the transgression of the first Adam, all his posterity were made subject to death; so by the obedience of the second, all are restored to life and immortality. Upon which account it is said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Rev. 21:5. This renovation consists in an entire freedom from sin, misery, and death, and is a state of righteousness, joy, and eternal life. For this cause it is also called Paradise: “In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Ps. 16:11. If it be Paradise, it follows, that no grief, pain, sorrow, or sighing: no hunger, thirst, cold, heat, or any other evil, can enter there. These all belong to this transitory life, but that eternal life is “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away;” as we are told by St. Peter. (1 Peter 1:4.) This is, indeed, the glorious fruit of Christ's resurrection: for by Christ all things are renewed and restored; corruption is changed into incorruption; that which was transitory, into that which is eternal; our filthiness, into spotless purity; our grief, into joy; our sorrows, into triumphs; our sins, into righteousness; the divine anger into mercy; the curse into blessings; our poverty into riches; our diseases into health; our contempt into honor; our reproach into glory; our disquiet into everlasting rest; our miseries into pleasures; our death into life. Now death is the entrance into this blessed state: so that temporal death is the gate to everlasting life, and all these joys.
12. The fourth consolation against the fear of death, is prayer. So we 371 read of the Son of God, that “being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly.” Luke 22:44. And “in the days of his flesh, he offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.” Heb. 5:7. Indeed, the prayers of dying people are strong and earnest; they proceed from the bottom of the heart, ascend through the clouds, and reach the ears of the Almighty. “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.” Ps. 145:18. “I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him.” Ps. 91:15. “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isa. 41:10.
13. The fifth consolation is, the glorification of our bodies. “Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working, whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.” Phil. 3:20, 21. What greater glory can we conceive, than that our bodies shall be, like the glorified body of Jesus Christ? He showed us his glorified body upon Mount Tabor (Matt. 17:2; Mark 9:2, 3), that he might inflame us with a desire of the same glory. Oh! what a glorious temple of God shall our body then be! Of this, the royal and priestly garments under the law, were but a faint shadow and resemblance.
14. The sixth is, the presence of the holy angels, who carry our departing souls into Abraham's bosom. Our soul enters into the regions of eternal glory, and joins the society of blessed spirits. This is what is meant by “Abraham's bosom.” Luke 16:22. That rest of the soul consists entirely in a freedom from the fears and terrors of death. So “Return unto thy rest, O my soul. For the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee: for thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” Ps. 116:7-9. For then the soul, being delivered from the yoke of the flesh, will rejoice like a prisoner rescued from long captivity.
15. The seventh comfort is, the eternal duration of our future glory. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, or any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Rev. 7:16, 17. “My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places.” Isa. 32:18. And “I will extend peace to her like a river. And as one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.” Isa. 66:12, 13. “My servants shall eat, and drink, and rejoice.” Isa. 65:13. Such eating and drinking, are to be understood of their exalted pleasure, arising from their vision of God, “Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face.” 1 Cor. 13:12. “We shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2. “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” Ps. 17:15. O happy day, when we shall see God face to face! How ardently did holy David long for it, saying, “When shall I come and appear before God?” Ps. 42:2.
16. In short, the joy of eternal life 372 will consist: 1. In the beatific vision of the face of God. 2. In the presence of Christ our Redeemer, in all his glory and majesty: “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me.” John 17:24. 3. In the most exalted enjoyments of all the gifts, graces, and pleasures of the Holy Ghost, “the fountain of life.” Ps. 36:9. 4. In the society of all the Elect, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, and Martyrs. “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Isa. 35:10.
17. II. Thus much for those consolations that arise from the nature, offices, and promises of the blessed Jesus. I come now to consider those that may be drawn from the consideration of the vanity of the world. Of these there are also seven.
18. First, this life, how great and glorious soever it may appear to some, is made up of misery and sorrow. 1 Cor. 15:31. Every day steals away a part of our life, and as our years increase, our life decreases; so that every moment of our time is divided betwixt life and death. How many and various diseases are there, which, like slow poisons, waste and consume our bodies! How are we tormented with sorrow, broken with labors, and distracted with care! So that the wise man truly pronounced that “the day of death is better than the day of one's birth.” Eccles. 7:1. “Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? Are not his days also like the days of a hireling? As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as a hireling looketh for the reward of his work: so am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me.” Job 7:1-3. “Man that is born of a woman, is of few days and full of trouble.” Job 14:1. But a holy and happy death puts an end to all these miseries.
19. Secondly, we are exposed to many and very grievous sins, from which nothing can deliver us but a happy death. Thus St. Paul complains, “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Rom. 7:23, 24. What is life but a continued course of sin? So that it was a prayer of one of the ancients, “Lord, let me die, that I may cease from sin.” And if the whole creation is travailing in pain, and waiting to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8:21, 22), how much more ought we to sigh after it? How full the world is of offences and stumbling-blocks, which we are continually obliged to see and suffer, whether we will or not! And these offences will so increase in the last days, that the souls of the righteous shall be vexed like righteous Lot's in Sodom. 2 Pet. 2:8. “I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun; and behold, the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. Wherefore, I praised the dead which are already dead, more than the living which are yet alive.” Eccles. 4:1, 2. How many pestilent errors in matters of faith; how many heresies, superstitions, false 373 prophets and false Christs there are, so that, if it were possible, even the elect might be deceived! Matt. 24:24. Upon this account God takes his faithful people out of all these dangers and troubles. How many dreadful mischiefs, and mournful events, how many wars, butcheries, plagues, and famines occur! Such, and so great, are they, that indeed no Christian would wish to see or endure them.
20. Thirdly, all must die without distinction. “Death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Rom. 5:12. Since so many holy and excellent men, so many Patriarchs, Prophets, and so many other righteous men are dead, who would not willingly follow them? “Take away my life, for I am not better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4), said the prophet Elijah. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Heb. 9:27. “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.” Isa. 40:6, 7. “I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.” Ps. 39:12.
21. Fourthly, no man dies by chance; but God is the Lord of life, and he has appointed the bounds of its duration. “His days are determined, the number of his months are with thee.” Job 14:5. “Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.” Ps. 90:3. “In thy book all my members were written.” Ps. 139:16. “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matt. 10:30. “God is thy life, and the length of thy days.” Deut. 30:20.
22. Fifthly, “To die is gain.” Phil. 1:21. We gain more than we lose by dying; righteousness, instead of sin; glory, for misery; heavenly riches, for earthly; instead of the short-lived friendships and relations of this world, we gain an eternal fellowship and union with the saints in heaven; instead of this mortal, diseased, and frail body, we gain a heavenly and glorious one; we change banishment for our own country; misery, for peace; and this world for heaven. In short, what is there in this world, that we cannot have infinitely better in the next? If thou seekest riches, honors, or glory; with friends, pleasures, peace, or enjoyments, all these thou shalt enjoy in a far higher degree in the next world.
23. Sixthly, Man would be the most miserable creature in the world, if he were obliged to abide in it forever. “If in this life only,” saith St. Paul, “we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” 1 Cor. 15:19. It follows, therefore, that we are designed for a better world. So that, in truth, it is a very affecting instance of divine mercy to take us out of this valley of tears, and translate us to a better place. “The righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.” Isa. 57:1, 2. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors.” Rev. 14:13.
24. Seventhly, since we cannot with these bodily and sinful eyes behold the glory of God, nor enter with these mortal bodies into the “new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13); let us cheerfully put off this earthly tabernacle, that we may be clothed with a heavenly and spiritual body. 1 Cor. 15:44. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither 374 doth corruption inherit incorruption.” 1 Cor. 15:50. Great, therefore, is the mercy of God, who exchanges these filthy rags for a shining garment, in which we may celebrate the eternal marriage; a beautiful, festive garment, fit to be worn in the everlasting rest; a priestly robe, with which we may enter into the very holy of holies.
|« Prev||Chapter LVII.||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version