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For as the Psalmist distinctively separates the company of those who fear God, from those three classes of men; and as he ascribes to those three classes of men, all things which are in this life upon earth; that is, to the first, political administration, or earthly rule; to the second, administration in spiritual things or ecclesiastical rule; to the third, the use and enjoyment of all creatures and all good things; it of necessity follows, that, that blessing, namely, another life, that is, eternal life, is given to the remaining small company of those that fear Cod. And seeing that those three classes or kinds of men envy this small company the blessings and enjoyments of this life, and tear them from them; it is necessary, that this their consolation be eternal consolation, and that this their salvation be eternal salvation. And what else can it be but eternal salvation, when they can boast of, and glory in, the Lord himself, above and beyond all those good things of princes and of men, in which those others abound? For the Lord is an eternal good!
And any one can easily collect, determine, and prove within himself, that where the heart feels that it has God favourable to it, there must be remission of sins. And if sins be taken away, then death is taken away. And where this is the case, there must be a consolation, and a persuasion of eternal righteousness and eternal life. This is a certainty of all certainties!
We must therefore observe in this verse, a singular skill; where the Psalmist so intrepidly, and so powerfully, drives away and removes death from his eyes, where he will not allow himself to know any thing of sins or of death, and where he so diligently sets and fixes life before his eyes, that he will know nothing w hatever but life. And he who lives for ever, never sees death; as Christ saith, John iii. "He that heareth my word, shall never see death."
Thus he throws himself entirely into the ocean of life, that death may be wholly swallowed up of life, and may utterly disappear. And this takes place, from his cleaving unto the "right hand" of God with a steady faith. Thus it is that all the saints have sung this verse, and thus it is that all the saints ought to sing it down to the last day. But we see this more particularly in the holy martyrs. Here, before the world, they seem to expire and die: but yet, their heart with a firm faith says, "I shall not die but live." Whenever therefore the saints, either in the Psalms or in any other part of the scripture, call upon God; whenever they pray for consolation and help; the things their hearts are upon, are, eternal life, and the resurrection from the dead. All those petitions and scriptures have reference to the resurrection from the dead, and to eternal life; yea, to the whole of the third part of the Creed concerning the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the remission of sins, the resurrection from the dead, and eternal life. This must be diligently observed. And all these things Aon from those words of the commandment, "I am the Lord thy God :" these few words, comprehend most hilly that third part of the Creed. For when the saints complain that they die and are afflicted, in this life ; and when they, console themselves with the hope, not of this, bat of another life, yea, with the hope of God himself who is above and beyond this life; it is impossible that they can die, or not enjoy eternal life; and that, not only because God, to whom they cleave, and in' whom they place all their hope and expectation, cannot die, and because they must therefore live in and through him; but because, God cannot be the God of those who are dead or who are nothiug, but must be the God of the living, as Christ saith; and therefore, they must live for ever. For, if God did not live for ever, he could not be the true God and their God, nor could they cleave unto him. Hence death is not death to the saints, but a sleep.
And if this be true; if they live in God; then this, of necessity, also follows; — that they have remission of sins. And if their sins be forgiven them, then it is certain they have the Holy Ghost whereby they are sanctified. And if they be sanctified, or saints, then they are the true and holy church, and that "little flock" of Christ which shall overcome the power of Satan, rise again, and live for ever. Behold! these are the great and glorious works of the "right hand of the Lord!" And what, I pray you, are all the works of men and potentates, in which the whole world trusts, compared with these! They are "spiders webs," as Isaiah saith; which cannot be made garments, nor any thing else wherewith a man may cover himself; and which are of no other use, than to catch wandering and foolish flies and gnats, that is, vain spirits and souls, that they may perish in eternal death!
Moreover, the saints not only live in the life to come, but also begin to live here by faith. For wheresoever there is faith, there eternal life is begun. And the passages of scripture concerning faith, have reference to all those articles above-mentioned. For in those first three classes, there is no need of faith, as to this present life, because the ungodly enjoy this life to the full. Nor can faith cleave to, and rest on, any thing that is of moment or value in this life; for it always goes forth and mounts higher, and cleaves to that which is above and beyond this life, even to God himself.
And that the saints enter upon eternal life in this life, and live even in death, is taught also by this verse; where it says, "and I shall declare the works of the Lord :" for he who shall declare the works of the Lord must be alive. But the spirit and blood of the dead also celebrate the works of the Lord, and proclaim them. Thus the blood of Abel "cried out" against Cain, Gen. iv. And, Heb. xi. we read that Abel, "being dead, yet speaketh." But this verse greatly offends tyrants, more than any other in the scriptures;—that those, whom they suppose to be dead, silent, and altogether forgotten, should now more than ever begin to live and to speak. And indeed they say the truth, when they say, that it is not safe to mock and trifle with the saints, if, when they are dead they then more immediately enter upon, execute, and promote that, for the doing of which they were killed out of the way, and never cease; and, especially, seeing that they cannot be killed or have their mouths stopped again, bnt will declare the works of the Lord to all eternity!
The Pope burnt John Huss, and many other saints and excellent men; and lately also Leonard Keiser, and a great many more men who truly feared God. But, I pray you, what advantage did he procure to himself by so doing? His endeavours were of great service to him, indeed! and he stopped their mouths to great effect! For does not their blood now cry out against the Pope, without cessationF And has it not hitherto so effectually cried out, that the Pope has lost nearly all his power, and is compelled to become a beggar, and to implore the help of others, even the assistance of kings and princes, over whom, before, he held such absolute sway that he actually trampled them under his feet? And had not those kings, princes, and potentates, come to his help, and propped up his tottering kingdom, that poor miserable beggar would long ago have been a prey to the worms. But however, that he begged for help and wretched assistance, will little prolit him after all. For, at length, he shall be deserted by all, and shall be compelled to acknowledge John Huss his conqueror, and himself conquered by him!
The Lord hath chastened me sore, but he hath not given me over unto death.
In this 18th verse of this triumphal song, the Psalmist displays a wonderful skill: that is, a rhetorical confutation, humiliation, and interpretation. "The Lord hath chastened me sore, (saith he) but he hath not given me over unto death." What is the meaning of this? He glories that he "shall not die but live." But the flesh, the world, men, and princes declare the contrary: and their clamours confuse and torture the godly man's heart, and try to break his spirit and to drive him to despair. Aha, say they, is this your living, when you are burnt, when your head is taken off," when you are drowned, murdered, condemned, and exterminated? If you have any senses at all, you now feel whether being in this state be living or not! Where is now thy God? Let your Elias save you now if he will have you !—let him come and save you now!
Against these bitter taunts of the ungodly he encourages his mind, and suffers not himself to be weakened and moved from his holy purpose, but consoles himself thus.—Let me die as much as I may, yet that death is nothing. It is only my Father's rod. It is not his wrath, but (as the Germans say) 'a fox's brush:' that is, a gentle chastisement which causes no pain. It is no proof of severity or of anger. The Lord does not by it declare any thing severe or cruel. But he chastises me in this manner, as a father chasteneth his son whom he loveth. This death is not indeed sweet or pleasant to the flesh, but bitter. It does not taste of honey, but of gall. It is I know a rod: but which, so far from bringing me into real death, translates me into real and eternal life!
And is there not here a wonderful interpreter, and a firm confuter of objections? Is it not a wonderful turn and blessed interpretation, to make of the word, death, a saving and life-giving rod? No one can teach this skill, but the Holy Spirit and the right hand of God. For no one can describe how the flesh is thrown into perturbation, tortured, distressed, and grieved; when, to these corporal murderings, pains, and dire afflictions, there are added insults, jeers, taunts, scoffings, and abuses; and when the wicked, by wagging their heads, and by virulent abuse, agitate and revile the saints, as the Jews did Christ when he hung upon the cross.—Flesh and blood will do just the contrary. They will judge the rod, which is wholesome and beneficial, to be death and hell. They fall immediately into unbelief, and go into desperation, even when left to want a loaf of bread only. But this is not a right and spiritual interpretation. The far greater and more glorious skill is, to be enabled, when the devil, while death, not a common but a dreadful and most horrid death, is before the eyes, irritates and galls the heart of the godly with such taunts and jeers as those with which he tortured Job and number