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may have thought that the duties of religion were merely nominal, and its results secured by a blind and indifferent obedience to some of the external claims of revealed truth. The heart must be broken and its vain imaginations destroyed, its carnal affections and propensities subdued by God's grace, and the whole current of its thoughts and feelings turned into the channel of the love of God, spiritual truth, and practical holiness. Such a change is indispensable to fellowship with God and fitness for heaven. Two cannot walk together except they be agreed, and there can be no agreement nor fellowship with the Almighty where the mind is carnal, for then hostility bears its awful and desolating rule. The same state unfits us for heaven. If a soul in its unregenerate state could enter the society of the spirits of the just, it would not be happy. A wicked man is not happy in the presence and spiritual exercises of the truly pious on earth. It is easily accounted for. Ignorant of God, disaffected to his authority and government, unacquainted with the power of truth, and the hidden life of a Christian, looking intently and fondly upon this present world, its pleasures and honours, believing its vain promises, full of pride, conceit, envy, malice, wrath, deceit, hypocrisy, and inordinate lusts; it cannot be happy among those who loathe and abhor sin in any or every form. Such a soul would soon discover and avow how ungenial was such society, and that a heaven and services of that class possessed no charm. Nothing would satisfy it till it descended to kindred companions, and could associate with those equally corrupt and depraved with itself. Facts like these should forcibly remind us of the necessity of the agency of the Holy Spirit to work in us this great change. We must be born of the Spirit, from whom all holy desires and all just works do proceed. There can be no spiritual enjoyment on earth and none in heaven without it. We must be prepared to enjoy spiritual bliss before we shall either covet or appreciate it. And what is religion without enjoyment? What are our public and solemn services if they are not the means of spiritual life and enjoyment to our souls? If religion be to us as a barren rock, or a parched desert, our spiritual existence would soon wither, and death would advance with gigantic strides. But it is not so. Our sweetest pleasures of life flow from it, and our most solid joys in death will originate in it: and we expect that
“ After death its joys will be
Lasting as eternity."
There is a change that must pass upon the body as well as upon the mind before it can be said, “ ye are come to the Judge, the God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect." That change is death. It is an awful change, and most momentous in its consequences. We think much of life, its duties and pleasures. Our thoughts roam to other families, to other nations, and sometimes to other worlds; but upon death we do not like to dwell. There is nothing inviting in its appearance, except the clearness with which it enables us to contemplate our own end, and the power with which it addresses us to prepare for eternity. We have all perhaps looked upon the face of the dead. An infant or a youth, a lovely sister, a venerable father or mother, a wife or husband, in the power of, and subject to, death, may have arrested the eye tbat likes not the appearance of death, and checked the ebullitious of the gay and volatile feeling usually indulged. How mysterious is death! The mind has fled; the body is prostrate; physical energy is annihilated; the heart has ceased to beat, and the blood to flow. The frame is cold, the eye glazed, the bloom has faded from the cheek, the ear is deaf, the tongue is silent, the limbs are motionless, and there is no response of feeling and of sentiment. The process of decay begins to shew itself, and the offensiveness of a body, recently embraced with fondness, demands its removal from the society of the living, and its habitation in the grave. We perform the last office of placing it in the grave, and there we see other processes of death and other stages of decay. The history of the dead of former generations is brought to view by the fragments of their frames scattered at the grave's mouth, and we seem to feel that we are the living among the dead.
How every earthly tie is snapped by death! The parent must part with the child, and the child the parent: the brother with the sister, and the sister the brother. Civil connexions are dissolved; families are broken up; and where once many were gathered under the roof of the father, they are now dispersed, and the wreck of a large household can only be found after diligent and troublesome inquiry. Neighbourhoods break up in the same way. One generation succeeds another in the busy scene of merchandize; and the solitary remnant of a former age looks upon those who have come after him, and in thought, feeling, and habit, he is the man of former times. What'has thus transpired ever since the foundation of the world, is now going on, and will not stop till the
ravages and desolations of death are complete. And must I die? Is this body to dwell in the cold grave? Is this flesh I now strive to maintain it health, to be reduced to dust, and my mind by which I think, in which I feel which prompts the movements of my body, and which employs it for the fulfilment of its desires and purposes, to appear before the Judge, the God of all? And can I be indifferent to such a change? A change that may take place directly, and must, in a few years, with many, and but a few even with him in this assembly who may have to live the longest? Indifference must be shaken off! It will be profitable to try and realize the last scenes of life: the scene of death, and the entrance of the soul to a future state. If you dwell upon it, the longest interval ere it takes place will appear to be but short. The engagements of time, however important in their present influences and results, will dwindle to an atom of dust in our estimation : and the preparation of the soul for glory by the method of God's appointment, will appear to be the great object worth living for. We cannot avoid death. His arrows may be flying thickly around us; but his aim is true when he wounds with the intent to kill. But death, the last enemy of man shall be destroyed. The soul is now released from the body by death, and death is the penalty of sin. But the Christian need not sit down and repine because death slays his thousands and tens of thousands ! He knows who has said, “ O grave, I will be thy destruction:" and he can triumphantly, through Christ, say, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law, but thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I have endeavoured to present to you the scriptural view of the state of the soul when it leaves the body. The view we have taken is in harmony, we think, with all the passages that refer to the subject, though an examination of such passages has not been entered upon this morning. The author of the text when writing to the Corinthians, says, “We are always confident, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord (for we walk by faith, not by sight :) we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” We have taken this view of the subject, and have spoken of the Judge the God of all; of the perfection of nature, the state, and final reward of the spirits of just men, and the glory and blessedness of seeing Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant. In the second part of the subject we have stated that the regeneration and sanctification of the mind by the Holy Spirit, and its purification from sin by the blood of atonement, are necessary for its admission to heaven; and in consequence of sin, the death of the body is necessary for the release of the soul, and that death must take place before it can literally be said to the believer, “ Ye are come to the Judge the God of all.”
There are two or three reflections suggested by the subject; which I offer, and then close.
The first is, Who of us will finally be united with the redeemed; see Jesus, and dwell for ever with the Godhead? Shall we all? Not one exception ? What a delightful thought if it be true! And is it not true? Who is the exception? Who has the testimony within him, that if he were now to die he should be eternally lost? What a mercy you are not dead, and that your state is not irrevocably fixed! Let it no longer continue what it has been, and what it is at this moment. The thought is inexpressibly painful, that there are men continually sitting under the sound of the Gospel : men who approve its doctrines, and precepts, respect its institutions, voluntarily support its ministers, and cheerfully contribute to circulate the inspired book which publishes its tidings, and yet they are not saved by it. I do beseech such persons, seriously to think of that hour, when they shall leave the world. You will, you must leave this state: have you thought to what world you shall go? You manfully grapple with other difficult subjects, and your minds are daily exercised with calculations relating to this life. O spend one day; if you think that period too long, spend one hour in examining yourself, and in prayer to God to enlighten your mind upon a subject of such interest to you. It will be one of the best spent hours in your whole life. It will have a bearing on eternity. It will embrace the questions of a state of friendship or enmity with God, of reconciliation or confirmed alienation, of forgiveness or perpetuated rebellion, of a happy or miserable death-bed, of endless happiness or misery, and these, as relating to yourself. Others present, hope to join the spirits of just men, when they leave the earth. Your happiness is great with such a prospect. Such a hope maketh not ashamed. You are strengthened and encouraged, under many
of the afflictions and difficulties of the present life by your prospects of the future. How blessed shall that day be in our history when these fond anticipations shall be realized! The same arm which shall have supported us under all our sorrows, will then support us amid the glories of perfect men, of angels, of the Mediator, and the thrine of Jehovah,
Secondly: The pious dead are not lost to themselves, their cotemporaries, nor their successors. They are holy, and happy, and possessed of durable riches. They have attained
“ All they desired or wished below." Rich in the love of the Father, and the covenant blessings of the death of Christ, their perfection enables them to enjoy the happiness which God confers in heaven. How soon also do they meet all the pious they knew on earth. A few years bring to the celestial Paradise those whom they left behind, and the generation to which they belonged, and the next that followed are soon complete. We, the successors of the last generation, shall again be cotemporaries with our fathers, and the pious, not only of the past but of every preceding age, when we shall have come to the spirits of the just made perfect. All these truths and many much more inspiring and sublime are familiar to the perfected spirit of our beloved brother, who has recently been admitted to the church in heaven*. It is but justice to his character and piety, to spend an hour in meditating upon the state into which he has entered : and this I have always thought the legitimate use the church should make of the decease of any of its members. The language of proud and flattering eulogy is as opposed to the principles of Christianity as it is to the correct taste of every one who is sensible that all excellence is only derived, and who would rather turn the tributary stream of praise to the ocean of eternal love, and give to God the glory, than receive it to swell the pride of the heart. Still we love the pious dead. They are not lost to us who succeed them. Their lives and excellences serve valuable purposes in the church, and their memory is embalmed in the hearts of all who love the Redeemer.
Finally—Let us not forget, in thinking of the present state of the church on earth, and in devising means for its enlargement, unity, and more efficient co-operation within itself, and influence upon the world, that part of it which is in heaven; one family on earth and in heaven, bearing the name of the same Saviour.
John Howe, speaking of them, says—"All of them full of God, continually receiving the vital, satisfying, glorious communications of the every-where present, self-manifesting Deity; all full of reverence, and most dutiful love to the Father, Son, and Spirit: all formed into perpetual, lowliest, and most grateful adoration, with highest delight and pleasure ; all apprehensive of their depending state, and that they owe their all to that fulness which filleth all in all. Every one in his own eyes a self-nothing, having no separate, divided interest, sentiment, will, or inclination. Every one continually self-consistent, agreeing with himself, ever free of all self-displeasure, never finding any cause or shadow of a cause for any angry self-reflection in their present perfect state: though not unmindful what they were, or might have been; and ascribing their present state and stability to the grace of God; and dedicating them all to the praise and glory of that most free and unaccountable grace; as well assured, and unsuspiciously conscious with inexpressible satisfaction of their acceptance with God, and placing with the fullest sense and relish their very life in his favour. All full of the most complacential benignity towards orie another, counting each one's felicity his own, and every one's enjoyments
* A Member of the Church, recently deceased.
being accordingly multiplied to many thousand fold, as he apprehends every one as perfectly pleased and happy as himself." Well might Paul, with still loftier views of the state of the redeemed, say, I“ reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Believing these things, let us not faint in our pilgrimage. “ Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."