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our destiny, is, that God has predestinated us to be conformable to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren ; he will have us to be baptized with his baptism, and drink of his cup, and enter into bliss by the same gate through which he has already passed. Through shame and disgrace he is arrived to glory; and througb death he is entered into life. He hath drunk of the bitter waters, before he tasted of the river of celestial joys; and he went down into the grave, before he would mount up to the right hand of God.'
Although it is appointed unto all men once to die, Heb. ix. 27. I dare affirm, that Death has no cause to triumph, because the chief advantage is not on that side. We read in the book of Esther, that king Ahasuerus would not recal the proclamation that he had sent forth against the Jews, but he gave them full liberty to take up arms to defend themselves, to attack their enemies, and to make them suffer all the mischief they intended against them. I find something like unto this proceeding, for God would not call back the sentence of death pronounced against mankind in the garden of Eden ; nevertheless he allows us, nay, he commands his true Israel, to take up arms against Death, to conquer and trample it under feet.
· In the first place Jesus Christ, our head, hath encountered with Death, and overcome it; he hath pursued it unto its trenches, and baffled it in its own fortification ; Death thought to have devoured him, but it hath been devoured itself. As the fishes are taken by the hook that they think to swallow; and as the bees hurt those whom they sting, but do greater harm to themselves, for they break their stings, and lose thereby their lives: thus Death, by fixing its sting in the humanity of Jesus Christ, hath put him to a great deal of pain for a time, but it has thereby lost all strength and vigour for ever.
The The men of Judah, to satisfy the enraged Philistines, delivered into their hands Samson bound with ropes. When they saw him, they gave several joyful sliouts ; but the Spirit of God came upon him in such a manner, that he tore in pieces the two ropes wherewith he was bound, and overcame them by whom he was to be led away prisoner, and killed a thousand of them. Thus the miserable Jews, for fear of the Romans, delivered unto them our Lord Jesus Christ, their brother according to the flesh, bound like a malefactor. When hell saw him nailed to the cross, and afterwards laid in the grave, it did wonderfully rejoice the devil, and his angels began to sing songs of triumph. But it was altogether impossible, that the Prince of life should be detained in the prisons of Death. He hath not only broken out of the grave by his infinite power, but hath also trampled under feet all his most furious enemies, and overcome millions of infernal fiends. And to declare how life and death were in his power,' be baffled Death, when he was, as it were, a prisoner, shut up in his dungeon. He hath broke open the gates of this black prison, and torn in pieces all its fetters : for wben he was yet in the grave, he raised to life many that were dead, who were seen in the holy city; and yet at present he holds in his hand the keys of death and hell. Therefore, as children rejoice at their father's victory, and as the subjects are concerned at the prosperous proceeding of their king, and as the members are the better for the glory and honour of their head; thus we may justly glory in the most notable victories and famous triumpbs of Jesus Christ, who is our father, king, and head. We may also justly glory, that we are lords of Death, and that we have overcome it in the person of our great God and Saviour. I say this after the apostle St. Paul, “ that God hath quickened us together, and raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places with Jesus Christ,” Eph. ii.
· Moreover, as our Saviour hath once overcome Death for us, he continues to subdue it in and by us. He suffers us not to encounter with our enemies alone, nor leaves us in our agonies : but as in a day of battle, a wise and provident general has an eye to every place, and encourages, by his action and voice, his soldiers, whom he perceives at handyblows with the enemy; some he loads with praises, others with promises ; by those means he encourages such as behave themselves bravely, rescues the weak and feeble, and to such as are overborne he furnishes them with fresh supplies : thus deals with us our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the great God of hosts, who sits in the heavens in triumph, and beholds all our combats and encounters. When he perceives us too weak, that we might not be overcome by our dreadful enemies, he furnishes us with his Holy Spirit, and his own armour, as Jonathan did David, when he delivered to him his cloak, his bow, his belt, and sword. Besides, this merciful Saviour disarms Death of its most hurtful wea. pons, and takes away all its arrows and darts.
As the strength and power of Samson lodged in the hair of his head, which the Philistines could never have imagined; so the strength and power of Death consists in such things as the world least dreams of. The most dreadful weapons with which it terrifies and beats us, are the thunderbolts and curses of the law; and our sins are poison in which it dips its arrows, or rather our sins are fiery darts with which it wounds and destroys us. Now Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, when he became a curse for us, Gal. iii. He has carried our sins in his body upon the cross, 1 Pet. ii. and, as the he-goat Hazazel, has transported them away into an uninhabited desert, Lev. xvi. he has removed them from the eyes of our God, as far as the east is from the west ; he has cast them to the bottom of the ocean, and drowned them in his blood; so that
we may now see fulfilled what was foretold by the prophet Jeremiah ; “ The iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found," chap. i. '
Therefore being befriended with the grace of God, and armed with the virtue of his Holy Spirit, let us shew our courage, and defy Death ; let us look it in the face without fear, laugh at allitsthreats, and encounter it without dread: for it is now like an insolent soldier without weapons; it is like a bee without its sting ; it is like an old lion that roars, but has lost all its claws; it is like a snake that would convey its poison, but has no venomous teeth left, having been pulled out by him who has bruised the serpent's head.
If you consider nothing but Death's exterior, its face and fearful appearance, its frigid eyes, its meagre body, its iron hands; you cannot perceive any difference between the death of God's children, and that of the most wicked var. lets. But if you lift up the mask, and examine the death of the one and of the other more exactly, you will meet with as great difference as betwixt heaven and earth, the paradise of God and hell: for as Moses's brazen serpent, which he lifred up in the desart, had the form and appearance of a burning serpent, but nothing of the poison and fire; thus the death of the faithful appears as the death of other men, but hath not the deadly and pernicious consequences ; for it is not only a sign and a testimony of God's grace and favour, but the beginning of our deliverance, and the cure of all diseases. As Moses when he had cast wood into the waters of Marah, they had the same colour, but not the same bitterness and unpleasant taste : thus the death of God's dearest children hath the same tincture and appearance as before; but Christ's cross hath taken away the danger, the trouble, and extracted out its distasteful bitterness, and changed it into unspeakable sweetness. As Pharaoh was drowned before all his army in the waters of the Red Sea, but the children of Israel found a secure and pleasant passage into the promised land; when they were arrived upon the other shore of that dreadful sea, they sung unto God songs of triumph and thanksgiving: thus Death opens its jaws to devour the reprobates, it is an abyss where they can find no bottom: but unto the children of God it is a favourable passage into an eternal bliss ; as soon as they are gone through, they are arrived at the place of assurance, joy, and rest, where God furnishes them with songs of triumph and thanksgiving to the Lamb, Rev. i. 15.
Balaam the prophet was called to curse the people of God, but he blessed them, contrary to the vain expectation of Balak, king of Moab. Thus Death hath been brought into the world by the devil, to destroy and utterly abolish the whole seed; but by God's infinite goodness and wisdom hath changed it into salvation and blessing. Let us therefore not be any longer puzzled to find out the meaning of Samson's riddle ; “ Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness,” Judg. xiv. For the church of God, unto whom Christ hath discovered the most excellent secrets of his kingdom, teaches us to seek the sweetest com, forts out of the belly of this old lion,
It is not possible to judge of music by a single note, or of an oration by a period, nor of a comedy by a scene. So we must not judge of a battle by the first assault, nor of a wrest ling by the first embraces and efforts of the wrestlers : for some in the beginning of the battle turn their backs, who nevertheless at last often win the victory; and some in wrestling are foiled at the beginning, who nevertheless supplant their enemy, and cast him upon the ground. Therefore, that we may better understand the great and notable advantages we have over Death, we must examine it all along until the end of the encounter; we must take notice of every assault that we give to this irreconcileable enemy.