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sublime conceptions he has formed of the glories of a future state, and his firm dependence on Him who has purchased and secured them for his possession, pluck the sting from death, and triumph over the fears of humanity. In this world he has tribulation; but in the next he realizes uninterrupted happiness. Here, his best services are clogged with imperfections, and the clearest visions of his faith are obscure; in heaven he expects a perfect freedom in his praise, and a beatific sight of his God face to face.
So far then, from regretting his departure, the believer welcomes the messenger that calls him hence. Wrapt about in the righteousness of his Redeemer, he can look forward to his change with a cheerful anticipation; and with firm establishment of mind, bid adieu to all below. A writer of Mrs. Rowe's life, observes, that 6when her acquaintance expressed to her the joy they felt at seeing her look so well, and possessed of so much health as promised many years to come," she was wont to reply,“that it was the same as telling a slave his fetters were like to be lasting, or complimenting him on the strength of the walls of his dungeon.” “And (continues he) the fervor of her wishes to commence the life of angels, irresistibly broke from her lips in numberless other instances."
But the desire of death, to be lawful, must arise from proper sources.
Such, in my humble opinion, may be reckoned the following:
I. A holy thirsting of the soul after a more complete enjoyment of the love and presence of a gracious God, than is consistent with the present state.
From this source arose the desire of the apostle, expressed in the following energetic language, “In this we groan, earnestly desiring to be cloathed upon with our house which is from heaven;" and again, “we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened, not for that we would be uncloathed, but cloathed upon, that mortality may be swallowed up of life.” Can it be unnatural for a soul, whose faith strongly realizes the blessedness of a future world, and the enlargement of capacity she will there receive for the reception of that blessedness, to long for the hour which breaks off her connexion with things below, and gives her leave to soar to the object of her love? Surely not. Devotion is in lively exercise; the affections are purified from low attachments; the soul aspires to union with her God; and the violence that is necessary to effect it, is not feared, but fervently desired for its blessed consequences. Her language is, “As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so pant I after thee, O God; I thirst for God, for the living God! When shall I come, and appear before God?"
II. A conviction of the mind, grounded on the peculiar dealings of God's providence, that a dissolution is about to take place.
In this case the will is entirely absorbed in the determination of God. The mind of the believer entertains no wish contrary to this determination. Sometimes, indeed, “he is in a strait between two;" but often feels a predominant “desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better."
III. A holy zeal to glorify God by death, in case of persecution.
Here the saint is in no strait. If the enemies of religion threaten, “Behold,” says he, “I am ready, not to be bound only, but also to die for the name of the Lord Jesus!" He even rejoices that he is counted worthy to suffer shame for his sake, and exults under the persecutions of a Nero, in the consideration that “he is ready to be offered, and that the time of his departure is at hand.” “Having fought a good fight, finished his course and kept the faith, there is laid up for him a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give him at that day.”
From the above sources, if from any, the desire of death may be lawfully indulged. But, to close the subject with a few cautionary hints, I would observe, that a cheerful resignation to the will of God, in all cases, is a clear and constantly binding duty; the desire of death, extraordinary and peculiar. A preference of heavenly and eternal things to those that are earthly and temporal, is likewise a constant and peremptory duty; but the time to be put in complete enjoyment, ought to rest with the Divine Disposer of our persons and our lives. All discontent and impatience under the dispensations of Providence, ought carefully to be avoided. In all cases, a fortitude of mind should be earnestly implored and unceasingly cultivated, to endure the whole will of God, to whose service we profess ourselves devoted, having our minds in unison with the apostle who labored, that whether absent or present, he might be accepted of God.
REMARKS ON I COR. xv. 24, 25, 28.
Extracted from the late Dr. Erskine's Sermons.
“Christ's power over all flesh shall appear in ruling his church in heaven, and imparting to them the blessings of his glory. "He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” It seems absurd to suppose that he, who is emphatically termed the Prince of Peace, shall enjoy his power only while wars and oppositions remain; and shall be divested of it when enemies are conquered, and peace established by their destruction. No; he shall for ever continue the king of his church, the channel through which all our bliss is conveyed, the bond of their union with God, the medium of their access to him: the spring and security of all the happiness of saints in heaven, is shortly this: “The Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and lead them unto living fountains of waters.”* Every enjoyment will be enhanced to them, and doubly relished, when received from the hands which, for their redemption, were nailed to the accursed tree. Scarcely could Christ be said to give eternal life to as many as were given him by the Father, if he only bestowed on them the first fruits of that life, not the full harvest. Imagine not that when Christ conducted you to the palace of the Father, his relation to you as a Mediator, and his acts of kindness to you, in consequence of that relation,
No! he ever liveth to make intercession for us! His throne is for ever and ever; and it is the ever
* Revelation vii. 17.
lasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, into which an entrance shall be ministered abundantly. Christ is called our life;* which, as is evident from the context, must mean, That as he now imparts to us the blessings of his grace, so, hereafter, he will impart the blessings of glory. When the marriage of the Lamb is come, the church will not receive less from her heavenly Husband than when she was only espoused to him; and when the redeemed shall reign for ever and ever, surely the Redeemer shall not cease to reign!
“I know that many learned and pious divines have taught a different doctrine, and argued speciously in support of it, from 1 Cor. xv. 24, 25, 28. But in matters of faith, calling no man Father, we ought to bring every opinion to the touchstone of the sacred oracles; and to explain what is more dark and obscure in a way consistent with what is more clear and explicit. Christ shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; but as the Father did not cease to reign when all power was given to Christ in heaven and in earth, so neither shall the Son cease to reign when he delivers up the kingdom to the Father; as the Father's reign shall not then begin, so the Son's reign shall not then terminate. The kingdom, therefore in this passage, means The subjects of the kingdom. Christ having completed the salvation of every one of them, shall present them all to the Father, saying, “Behold I and the children which God hath given me.” He shall give what he did on earth, in consequence of the trust committed to him; and shall claim, that the purchase of his
an account of
* Colossians iii. 3.