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894 THE STATE OF SUCH AS DIE IN THEIR SINS.
The pleasures of sin are momentary, sensual and bru. tal; or they are infernal. They are overbalanced by the pain and torment which accompany and follow them. Life and death are set before us, blessing and cursing. Either depends on our own choice.
Should it not then be the earliest and most importunate enquiry, What shall I do to be saved? The anfwer is, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. He only hath power to save from sin and wrath. He is able to save to the uttermoft all that come to God by him. For he offered a perfect facrifice for fin, and ever liveth to make intercession for transgressors. Admit a conviction of your guilt and misery, your impotency through indwelling sin. Know that sin is exceeding sinful, the accursed thing, the cause of all other evil. believe in the all-fufficiency of Christ. Commit your souls to him in well doing, before the day of the Lord's anger. Think not of continuing in fin, that grace may abound. For what is this but to make the gospel, which was ordained to life, a savour of death unto death? Those, who despise the riches of mercy and long suffering, are vefsels of wrath fitted for destruction. Believe and fly for refuge before the decree bring forth, which cannot be reversed, appointing your portion with those who believe and tremble in hell.
The words, which have been under consideration, fet before us the way of life, and the way of death. Believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and you shall have life through his name.
No other hath the words of eternal life. If you will not come to him for life, if you live in fin, you are in the
the way to eternal death. Consider the opposite issue of faith and unbelief: And the Lord incline your hearts to choose life.
THE FUTURE BLESSEDNESS OF THE
THESSALONIANS, iv. 14,
FOR IF WE BELIEVE THAT JESUS DIED AND ROSE AGAIN, EVEN SO THEM ALSO WHO SLEEP IN JESUS WILL GOD BRING WITH HIM.
HE words call our attention to the future bleflednefs of believers. It is incumbent on me to state and to evince this doctrine.
The fcriptures speak of death as a sleep. The common death of all men is thus represented. “ Man lieth “ down, and shall not awake, nor be raised out of sleep “ till the heavens be no more. They who seep in the “ dust of the earth shall awake; fome to everlasting “ life, fome to shame and everlasting contempt. Speaking of those who perished in the deluge, Moses faith, They are as a sleep. The psalmist prayed, “ Light“ en mine eyes, that I sleep not the sleep of death.”
But to sleep in Jesus is appropriate to such as die in the Lord; that is, in the faith and hope of the gospel the contrast to dying in sins, alienated from God. We meet with the same expression as that before us, 1 Cor. xv. 18. They who are fallen asleep in Jesus. Death to a good man is resembled to taking rest by fleep; because he “rests from his labours” and sufferings.“ David, “ having served his generation by the will of God, fell
on sleep.” Some of his last words were, “ Thou “ haft made with me an everlasting covenant ordered “ in all things and sure."
The doctrine of the torpor or insensibility of the soul at death is inadmissible upon the principles of our faith. These assure us, that those, who fleep in Jesus, enter into the joy of their Lord_are with him in paradise. Says our apostle, “ We are confident and willing rather to “ be absent from the body, and to be present with the “ Lord. I have a desire to depart, and to be with “ Christ, which is far better.” When the righteous are taken away, they enter into peace. Lazarus at his death was conveyed by angels to Abraham's bosom. Now he is comforted. “I am,” said God, (after the death of the three patriarchs) “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Ja“ cob. Now he is not the God of the dead, but of the liv
ing.” After they slept in the dust, they lived to God, and enjoyed him as their portion. The pious dead “in“ herit the promises.” To inherit the promises, to be present with the Lord, implies a state of perception and blifs. Nor is there any reasonable presumption againft the opinion, that the foul, dislodged from its earthly tabernacle, perceives and acts more freely, than it does in union with it. This material body may rather clog and embarrass the faculties of the soul than aflift them. · Indeed, mental perception is often clogged, and sometimes appears to be wholly suspended, while body and soul are united. Will it therefore follow, that, when the union is dissolved, the soul does not resume its activity? Do perception, intelligence and vigour depend on a connection with matter? There are, you will admit, intelligent beings, who excel in mental difcernment and activity, though they never had any such connection. He who is perfect in knowledge, is a pure and perfect Spirit.
If they who die in the Lord, are blessed from thenceforth-if it is far better with them, tħan while they abode in the flesh, then the soul is not inactive at death. For in this probationary state, Christ's joy is in believers: His peace passeth all understanding. True, they have to struggle with tribulation and temptation : But
these are “working out for them a far more exceed“ ing weight of eternal glory.” Their continuance in the flesh also fubferves the cause of Christ. Would it then be eligible to forego this peace and these advantages for a state of entire insensibility? Why was Paul in a strait whether to die or live? how was death gain to him, if it wholly suspends the noble powers of the soul? To him to live was Chrift. No one pofseffed a warmer, or a more enlightened, zeal for the gospel; or contributed more to the spread of it--to the support, proficiency and confolation of its disciples. When his life was so much to the honour of Christ, and the immortal interests of Christians—when he knew how much Christ would be magnified in his body; why had this chief of faints a wish to depart, if departed spirits are as fenfeless as the body in the grave ? Let us not cherish the uncomfortable-may I not say the unscriptural and unphilofophical opinion?
The spirits of just men, of them who fleep in Jesus, are made perfect. We cannot say after what manner they exift--what are their employments--what is their bliss. But the scriptures warrant us to say thus much: They are released from all the burdens under which they groaned in this earthly tabernacle--from all affliction of body or mind - from all imperfection and fin—from all temptation and danger. They have an intuitive view of Christ in the separate state—an immediate afsurance and unintermitting manifestations of his fpecial love--fuch fulness of unmingled happiness as the separate state will admit. Their flesh rests in hope of a joyful resurrection.
The scriptures are our only guide on the subject of a future life. They inform us in general of the future bleffedness of them that sleep in Jesus ; and, by a variety of expression, lead us to conclude, that this blessedness commenceth at death. Why then should any suppose that it will be deferred until the resurrection ? why
suppose the intermediate state to be a state of infenfibility ? Though the world to come is very much unknown, it is yet a satisfaction to be assured in general, that the exchange of worlds not only liberates the faithful from all sin and temptation, from all forrow, pain and anxiety; but also introduceth them to the presence of Chrift—that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. In this view the day of death is better than the day of their birth. At their birth they came into a world full of trouble and snares. Descended from a corrupt stock, pollution was the condition of their birth; but death, the last enemy, diffolves their connection with the first Adam. The body is dead, because of fin; the spirit is life, because of righteousness. "The souls of the righteous are in the “hands of God, and there shall no torment touch “ them. In the sight of the unwise, their departure “ is taken for misery, and their end to be without “honour. But they are in peace, and their hope is “ full of immortality." While they lived, the seal of the Spirit was “ the earnest of their inheritance, un“ til the redemption of the purchased poffeffion.”
They sleep in him who hath the keys of hell and of death, Our subject refers us to his second coming, when the body, redeemed from corruption, raised in glory, will be a fit habitation for the purified, perfected spirit. If we believe that Jefus died and rose again, even fo them also that fleep ir Jesus will God bring with bin. The resurrection and second coming of Christ are here mentioned as truths assuredly believed. Did Jesus die and rise again? There is a sure hope of the resurrection and glory of all who fleep in him. Them will God bring with him. - If Christ be not raised,
your faith is vain; ye are yet in your fins. Then " they also, who are fallen alleep in Christ, are perish( ed. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we " are of all men most miserable. But now is Chrift “ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of