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the corruption of our nature; and He hath taken out the sting of death, and made it a blessing, instead of a torment, to all his faithful servants.
If, therefore, a stranger to our religion should ask us, what is the meaning of this service ? we should answer him, that all mankind were in a state of bondage and slavery; slaves to their own corrupt affections, slaves to the power of evil spirits, slaves to the fear of death, and to the fear of what may follow; that Jesus Christ has delivered us from this slavery and bondage; and that we keep this service, that neither we, nor those that come after us, may ever forget this great deliverance; for that we had no power to deliver ourselves out of this bondage and slavery, no more than the Israelites had to deliver themselves, unless God had undertaken to redeem us.
Now, that we may truly value the work of our redemption, and rejoice with reason as oft as we remember it, it will be necessary that we take a view of our misery in the three instances just now mentioned. For too true it is, notwithstanding the bondage we are certainly in, too, too many make a shift not to see or feel their misery and danger. With the Israelites (wbo are a lively figure of the generality of Christians) they are not pleased with their deliverer ; but cry, would to God we had staid in Egypt! forget the hard- [Exod. 16.
3.] ships they there underwent, and upon every temptation, are for returning back, despising their redemption.
But though people may for a while divert themselves from seeing their misery or danger, yet when the conscience is once awake, as sometime it will be, we shall be so sensible of the bondage of sin and death, that all temporal evils will appear as nothing in comparison of the wrath of God.
That we may escape this, it will be necessary, that we seriously consider what we are by nature, and what we may be by the favour and merits of our Redeemer. And this I shall endeavour to do, in explaining the three particulars beforementioned, namely, the guilt of sin, the power it has over us, and the fear of death. From all which we can only be redeemed by Jesus Christ.
1. Let us first consider, the bondage we are in upon the account of the sins we have already committed. If people know themselves to be sinners, and yet can be
SERM. easy without knowing how they may obtain forgiveness, it is
only because they do not apprehend the danger they are in. Rom. 1. 18. They do not know "that the wrath of God is revealed from
heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”
For if they did, they would certainly be afraid for themselves, [Matt. 10. “and fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” 28.]
And if men are not under any trouble on the account of
their sins, the sacred Scriptures give us the true reason, 2 Cor. 4. 4. “The God of this world” (that is, Satan) “hath blinded the 1 Cor. 2. 14. minds of them that believe not;" so that “the things of 2 Pet. 1. 9. the Spirit are foolishness unto them.” “They cannot see
afar off;" that is, they do not foresee the misery that is like to come upon them. They shut their eyes against that light which would make them see and feel the slavery they
are subject to. Rom. 8. 20. The Apostle tells us, that "by the Law is the knowledge
of sin.” And whoever will hear the Law and the Prophets, will plainly perceive the condition a sinner is in before his guilt is taken away.
Is it for nothing, do we imagine, that the Law saith, as the Gal. 3. 10. Apostle quotes it, “Cursed is every one who continueth not
in all things which are written in the book of the Law, to do them?
Is it for nothing, that David, upon calling his sins to re
membrance, expresseth himself after this sensible manner? Ps. 38.2,&c. “ Thine arrows stick fast in me, and Thine band presseth me
There is no soundness in my flesh, because of Thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones, because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over my head; as a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long; I am feeble and sore broken; I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart.”
And let us assure ourselves, that these are the pains, this is the bondage of every man, when he comes to be thoroughly awake. He will be afflicted, he will loath himself in his own sight, and in the anguish of his soul he will cry out, What shall I do to be forgiven ? What shall I do to be saved ?
To cure, or to prevent, these sad reflections, some shut their eyes, some divert themselves, some strive to forget their
sins, others to lessen them. But all this will not do; for there is a power above us; and there are seasons when He will set our sins before us in their true colours, and will make us to see them, whether we will or not. And then we shall be convinced, and confess, that our sins deserve the wrath and vengeance of God.
And this is not all our misery neither; for we have not only sinned against God, and feel bitter remorse for what is past. But,
II. Secondly; we are by nature under the power and dominion of sin; and if we are left to ourselves, we shall go on to obey it, against reason, against conscience, though we are sure to be ruined by it.
The Scripture assures us, and we see it with our eyes, that we are slaves to the most unreasonable passions and desires. Some have set their hearts upon iniquity. Others have gone Hos. 4.8;
2 Pet. 2. 14; so far, as that they cannot cease from sin. Some have sold 1 Kings 21. themselves to work wickedness. Some make a mock of sin.
14.9; Zech. While others make their heart as an adamant stone, lest they 7. 12. should hear the Law.
Some sin, even when the hand of God is upon them; and Ps. 78. 81, others, when He shews them favour. Some think and say, 10; Job 21.
32; Isa. 26. that it is in vain to serve God. And many are so wicked as to think it strange, that others run not with them into the 1 Pet. 4. 4. same excess.
Now, if this is not a slavery to be lamented, we must be utterly insensible of danger. It may be, you may imagine that this is but the case of a few profligate wretches, who are sold under sin; but, be not deceived, this is the state of all men by nature; and men must be strangers to themselves, who do not perceive it to be so. How many have been almost persuaded to be Christians, and after all have fallen back into a state of insensibility! How many have been under strong convictions of guilt, and have made resolutions of better obedience, and yet have returned with the dog to his vomit!
It is not to discourage you, that I mention so many instances of our bondage and slavery, but to awaken us all into a just sense of our danger, and that we may be thankful to our GREAT DELIVERER.
SERM. III. But there is still another instance of our bondage, LXIX.
and that is, THE FEAR OF DEATH, which, as the Apostle tells Heb. 2. 15. us, “subjects us to bondage all our life long" And indeed,
there is nothing in nature so truly terrible to an unregenerate person, as the thoughts, but especially the sight of death. People may strive to stifle and disguise their fears; but free themselves they cannot, so long as life and conscience lasts. It is a bondage all are subject to.
Let a man be never so great, he is apprehensive of what death will bring him to; and if he be never so mean and miserable, he fears the consequence of going to an unknown world.
If we consider it as the night of that day which is given us (John 9. 4.] to work in, and that when the night cometh no man can work;
how frightful must the thoughts of death be to one who is not prepared for such a change!
And if we consider it as the beginning of eternity, it is still more dreadful.
In short, it will make those to tremble, who pretend to Job 18. 14. fear nothing else. For which reason it is called " The King of
Terrors :" and the Psalmist, when he would express the worst Ps. 55. 4. of evils, saith, “the terrors of death are fallen upon me.”
This, no doubt of it, is a very grievous burden. God saw it was so; and out of great compassion, sent His Son to deliver us. And indeed, there is no way of judging so truly of the greatness of our slavery, as by the manner of our redemption. That no other deliverer would serve, but the Son of God Himself; that no Moses could be found; no angel, nor archangel, could work this deliverance for us. This is a sure proof that our case was desperate. Here then is our bondage: and I beseech you to consider, whether the slavery of Egypt could possibly be more insupportable ?
And will not this make the memory of our great Redeemer ever dear to us; who, by His precious death, hath delivered us from the guilt of sin, from the powers of hell, and from the fears of death ? And by His resurrection we are assured that God accepted of the price He paid for our redemption.
But, to be a little more particular upon these three heads.
with us :
the Scriptures every where assure us. This was the sum of the Apostles' commission, “ To preach repentance and re- Luke 24.47. mission of sins in His name.” “In Him," saith St. Paul, Eph. 1. 7. “In Him we have redemption ;" that is, the forgiveness of sins. “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin ;" 1 John 1. 7. that is, upon our repentance ; for we must not imagine, that God, for Christ's sake, will forgive us, if we continue in sin. St. Paul gives us a very different account of the design of Tit. 2. 14. the Gospel, and the end of Christ's sufferings : “He gave Himself for us," saith he, “that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.”
Whenever, therefore, we please ourselves with the thoughts of what Jesus Christ has done for us, in obtaining the remission of our sins past, let us always have His words present Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (John 5.
14.] But, secondly, Jesus Christ has not only delivered us from the guilt, but also from the power of sin. He hath delivered us from the powers of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of His Father; that is, He has put us under His protection, so that sin or Satan shall not have dominion over us; for by faith in Jesus Christ we shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
Lastly; He has delivered us from the fear of death, according to that which was spoken of Him by the Prophet, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will Hos. 13. 14. redeem them from death." " Whether we live, therefore, Rom. 14. we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's : for to this end Christ both died and rose again, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.”
The truth is, the sting of death, that which makes it truly (1 Cor. 15. terrible, is sin ; if we can but be assured of the forgiveness of dc.] our sins, death is no longer to be feared; so saith the Spirit expressly, “ Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.”
Rev, 14. 13, You see therefore, Christians, to whom these mighty favours, these great promises, belong. Even to such as through faith are made partakers of the divine nature; such as have [2 Pet. 1.4;
Gal. 5. 24.] crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts. To all such, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is an undoubted pledge of