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to misery. And what inexpressible pangs would many pious persons endure, to have the assurance, without any gleam of hope to the contrary, that their friends, whom they tenderly loved in this world, were forever lost, beyond the possibility of recovery; and were then, and continually, enduring the wrath of God, without any rest, day or night! It is true when the saints get to heaven, they will know what has become of those they loved here; but then God will be all in all; and a regard to his glory will so entirely fill the soul, as to prevent any pain, from ..a kubwledge of the sufferings of those, for whom we felt a natūral affection in this world. But in our present state, such knowledge would often be a source of keen, lasting, and insupportable distress; and hence it is ordered in infinite wisdom, that all the friends as well as the enemies of God, should die.
4. We observe again that death is a blessing to the christian. It tends to keep him humble, and promote the growth of the important grace of humility. It is calculated to fill him with a deeper sense of the evil of sin, than he would otherwise have, and to embitter sin to him, by which death was introduced into the world, and lead him to hate it the more. It is calculated more deeply to impress him with a sense of the love of Christ, by knowing from experience, something of what Christ endured for him; and thus has a tendency to increase his love and sense of obligations to the Saviour ; and will the better prepare him for the blessed employment, of celebrating the praises of redeeming love throughout eternity. Besides some christians, are by death enabled to glorify God before the world, perhaps more, than if they were exempted from death, by manifesting the excellence of religion to support them under the heaviest afflictions, and strengthen them to meet even the king of terrors with fortitude and composure.
5. The christian, we have reason to believe, will finally enjoy the blessings of heaven more, than if he never had died. We know that in this world, when a person has been in great labour, distress, or pain, and finds relief, rest, and comfort, his enjoyment is much more exquisite than if he had not been labouring or suffering. On the same principle, the enjoyments of heaven will be heightened by the previous sufferings of the believer, and
therefore by the agonies of death. And the final triumph which all believers shall have over death and the grave, “when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality;" And that say. ing is brought to pass, “ death is swallowed up in victory." And they shall sing that song, “ O death where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory ? Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. xv. 54, 55, 57.) will be a source of inexpressible happiness to them, which they could not have had, if they had never been called to combat with death.
These are some of the reasons which may be offered in answer to the inquiry, why believers, though delivered from condemnation through Christ, nevertheless die.
We proceedII. To enquire what is the state of the soul immediately after death? The soul does not die with the body, but survives it, and exists in a separate state. The immortality of the soul has already been proved in a former discourse. The state of the souls of the righteous and the wicked after death is widely different. “The souls of belivers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory.” But as stated in our Larger Catechism, “ the souls of the wicked are at their death cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness.” The departed soul goes into no middle state, such as purgatory is described to be; neither does the soul sleep at death, and continue in a state of inactivity, and insensibility until the resurrection of the body, as some have supposed; but it pas„ses immediately into a state of happiness or misery. The souls of the righteous, at the instant in which the separation from the body takes place by death, are perfected in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory, where they are active and enjoy the happiness of heaven, in a state of separation from the body. And on the other hand, the souls of the wicked, are immediately after death, cast into hell, where, in their separate state, they endore excruciating torment.
The truth of this statement is confirmed by the testimony of the Scriptures. We find no mention made in the Scriptures of such a place as purgatory. We are therefore warranted from the silence of the Scriptures to conclude there is no such place. Besides the Scriptures fre
quently teach that the present life is the only season of probation, and that death will unalterably fix the state of the man; which is a further conclusive argument against the existence of such a place as purgatory. And to these we may add that the object of such a place, as set forth by its advocates; which is, by suffering, to make atonement for sin, is contrary to the whole tenor of the word of God.
That the soul does not sleep until the resurrection is equally evident from the Scriptures. That the souls of the wicked do no sleep, but are immediately cast into hell, appears evident from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, recorded Luke xvi. 66 The rich man also died and was buried. And in in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried, and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame." It is evident that this parable was intended to represent the state of the wicked, not after the resurrection, but immediately after death; for the rich man being denied his first request, spake of having five brethren, still living on the earth; and requested that Lazarus might be sent to warn them, lest they also should come to the place of torment in which he then was. Hence it is certain the parable was intended to represent the state of the soul of the rich man, immediately after death.
And that the souls of the righteous do not sleep until the resurrection ; but pass immediately into the heavenly blessedness, the same parable teaches. “ The beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom.”This doctrine is also proved by what our Saviour said to the penitent thief on the cross, Luke xxii. 43. “ Verily I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” The same is further proved by what the Apostle said of himself, and other christians. 2 Cor. v. 6. 8. -Whilst we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. We are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Here presence with the Lord is inferred as an immediate consequence of absence from the body, which is effected by death. Once more, this doctrine is proved by what the Apostle says, Phil. i. 21, 23. * For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ which is far better.” Here Paul asserted that it would be better for him to die than to live; which would not have been true, if he had passed into a state of insensibility; for Paul, while in this world, enjoyed in communion with his Saviour, more happiness than misery. Besides in the passage quoted, he tells us the reason why he would be happier if he should depart, viz. that then he would be with Christ, which was far better than to live.
From all these proofs, it is abundantly evident, that the soul immediately after death, passes into a state of happiness or misery, where it shall continue, enjoying the one, or suffering the other, until its reunion to the body, at the resurrection. It remains now that we answer the
III. Inquiry proposed, which was, what is the state of the body after death? The body returns unto the dust, whence it was taken. It descends into the grave, a land of silence, and of darkness; and there becomes the prey of worms and corruption, and moulders into dust. This state of the body after death is common to both the righteous and the wicked. But still there is a very great difference between the state of the bodies of the righteous, and of the wicked. The bodies of the righteous after death continue united to Christ. For the union which the believer has to Christ in this life is a union of the whole man body as well as soul, and this union is a permanent one which even death cannot dissolve; for neither death nor life, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Besides the saints are said to sleep in Jesus. And not only do the bodies of the righteous continue united to Christ; but also their grave is called a bed, and a place of peace and rest. My flesh (said the Psalmist, Ps. xvi. 9.) shall rest in hope." “ If we believe, (said Paul, 1 Thes. iv. 14.) that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” And Is. Lvii. 1, 2. we read, “ The righteous shall enter into peace : they shall rest in their beds." The death of the body is to the righteous a sleep, and the grave is a bed.
. Their dust is all precious in the sight of Christ, he watches over it and will raise it again in glory. Not so with the bodies of the wicked. The grave is to them a prison, in which they are locked up by Christ as an offended judge, until the resurrection and judgment of the great day; where they shall be raised in dishonour, and be brought forth as out of prison to execution.
A few reflections will now close this subject.
How great an evil is sin! It is the cause of all the mise ries which we suffer, or see in this life. It is the cause of death; and of all those dreadful and eternalmiseries which the wicked suffer after death. Shall we then continue to love sin ? Shall we roll this poison as a sweet morsel under our tongues ? Shall we cherish this viper in our bosoms ? Shall we not rather hate sin, watch and war against it, and flee from it as from our most deadly foe?
Again, what reason have we to be humble ! " It is appointed unto men once to die.” We are included in the decrée. Let us consider to what we are coming. Soon will these bodies become a lifeless lump of clay and be buried out of the sight of survivors. Soon will the rich and the poor, the high and the low, mingle together in one place, where a king cannot be distinguished from a peasant; and where worms and corruption will make no distinction, but will alike prey upon all. Come ye proud children of men, view this just picture which you are too apt to keep out of sight; and let it humble your pride. In view of this subject, how foolish is that pride which is founded on beauty of form and complexion, or on wealth or descent, and which leads a person to look down with contempt, on others of perhaps far more noble and virtuous minds, and far more useful in the world, and therefore far more deserving of esteem! Soon you must mingle with these persons and be brought to a level with them, where your bones and dust cannot be distinguised from theirs. Come and view this picture, and say with Job,“ to corruption, thou art my father ; to the worm, thou art my mother and my sister,” (Job xvii. 14.) and abase your pride and be humble. And learn further from this picture of yourselves, the folly of being so anxious about the body, and spending so much precious time to pamper and adorn it, and fulfil its lusts, when it must so soon be corrupted and moulder into dust.
And is this the end of man! Is there no hope beyond the grave! must death and the grave forever reign! Alas! how gloomy the thought! how insupportable the prospect of death! But blessed be God for the Gospel; it dispels this gloom, brings life and immortality to light by Jesus Christ, and opens a world of bliss to the righteous. Though the body dies and moulders into dust; yet the soul lives