« AnteriorContinuar »
lesson to the people to abstain from such dead works, as are contrary to a life of purity, such as is required in the servants of God.
Death is also a disgrace: for no man can suffer as a malefactor without shame. To be numbered with transgressors, and die by the hand of justice, hath always been accounted infamous and such is now the death inflicted upon fallen man by the justice of God.
All these things are true of death considered in itself; but to a Christian it is another thing. Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth. In the first chapter of the Revelation, Jesus Christ appears to the Evangelist as a conqueror over death, and saith-Fear not—I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death. Henceforth, from this appearance and this declaration, we are to date the blessedness of the dead. Jesus Christ hath changed the nature of death by partaking of it for our sakes. In consequence of which, our death is no longer a punishment for sin, but a sacrifice, with a benediction upon it, like that commemorative sacrifice of his own body, which he brake and blessed. Thus our death is no longer to be abhorred as sinful and unclean, but as attended, like the holy death of Christ,
Christ, with myrrh, aloes and frankincense; to signify our acceptance with God, and our preservation to immortality, when the corruptible shall put on incorruption.
The shame and disgrace of our death is removed from us by that shame which Christ endured upon the cross. He suffered such a death as the law of Moses pronounced to be cursed in its kind, that our death might be blessed.
But now we are to remember, this change takes place on those only who die in the Lord; that is, on those who are in the Lord at their death. By which it is to be understood, that they die members of his mystical body, the Church, by baptism: which consideration assures us, that infants, so made members of him, are in the Lord; and if they die, they die in the Lord: their death is blessed, and they enter into rest; as the new-born children of the Hebrews passed over Jordan into the promised land, without undergoing the trials of the wilderness. If they grow up to years of discretion, they must live in the other ordinances of God; they must keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus; they must live in private devotion, and in the public worship of the congregation. They must lead the life of soldiers under
under the captain of their salvation; as the Hebrews fought under Joshua against the enemies of God, before they could obtain a peaceable settlement in the land of Canaan.
If thus prepared, there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For if any man is really in Christ, he is a new creature: he leads a new life, and that ends in a new death the blessedness of which, according to the text, consists in these two particulars; first, that they, who die in this state of renovation, rest from their labours; and secondly, that their works do follow them.
The labours of life, and the Rest of death, were signified to us from the beginning of the world: for God worked upon the six days of the creation, and then rested upon the seventh; giving us a promise and a pattern, that if we labour with him, we shall rest with him. No Rest was necessary to him; for the holy one of Israel neither slumbereth nor sleepeth: a world cometh forth into being, and is arranged into order and perfection at his word. He rested therefore for our instruction: to teach us, that the labour of this life, if it is for good, like that of God, will certainly end in the Rest of heaven. And we learn farther, by plain inference from this example, that there can be no rest for
man, properly so called, 'till the works of this life are done and over.
There is a passage, wonderfully beautiful and instructive, on this subject, in the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews-He that is entered into his Rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. In which the Apostle means, that the Christian who is departed, and hath ceased from the works of life, and not till then, enters into a state of Rest; which is not a mere cessation from labour, but a rest which is blessed and sanctified; and which is also heavenly and eternal, because it is called the Rest of God"if they shall enter, saith he, into my Rest."
Hence again, we have another sure inference, that there will be no rest for those who do not labour: the sleep of a labouring man is sweet: he that will rest with God, must work with God. The idle and the unprofitable have their rest here (such as it is) and their trouble is to come after. Lazarus is carried by the angels to his Repose, in what is called the bosom of Abraham; and they fall into a place of torment, where their eyes are at last open (they were shut all their life-time) only to discover that their condition is miserable and hopeless. Instead of having angels ready to
receive them at their death, they fall into the company and custody of those, to whose advice and direction they committed themselves in their life-time, without seeing their guides t but now they see their keepers.
The true Rest not only presupposes labour, but that this labour is of the right sort. They rest from their labours, saith the text; that is, from such labours as Christian men, who live and die in the Lord, are engaged in and exercised with. Wicked men have their labours; and the devil himself is always at work. Few men are more zealous and active than they whe have ends of sin or mischief to promote. Such is the deceitfulness of sin, that many of the works of vice are very laborious and distressing to those who are occupied therein. But such labour doth not lead men to Rest; it keeps them for life under the torment and disappointment of their passions; which trouble them perpetually, as winds and tides give an unceas ing motion to the sea. And it is too commonly followed by an hopeless death. The pains which tear them from the body are but the be ginning of their sorrows.
The labours intended in the text, are the labours of good men; and we are to enquire more particularly into the nature of them, be