« PoprzedniaDalej »
the apostle Paul, “ O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!"*
The apostle John decides this point in most express terms. He
“ If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”+ Hc does not mean, "If we say we never did sin,” because this is contrary to his express words, which are in the present time, If we say we have no sin, now, at this present time. According to this, no man can with truth say, at any time of his life, “I have no sin, or I am without sin, and perfectly holy.” Therefore no real christian will say it, or can think this of himself ; none but those who are deceived about themselves, to such a degree, as is inconsistent with their being the children of light and of the day, can say, or even think this of themselves. This apostle, in the next verse but one, speaks of the time past, and says, “ If we say, that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." This is a different proposition from the foregoing ; it respects what they had been and done. If they had no sin now, and this could be said with truth, they could not say they had never sinned, without contradicting the whole gospel, which declares all men to be sinners; and so making God the Saviour a liar. But the other proposition respects what they were, at that time, or should be in any future time, while in this world; so that none who is not deceived, and has embraced the truth, can ever say or think, while in this life, that he now has no sin. There have been, and now are, those who say they have no sin. By this they de clare, they are deceived, and strangers to real christiani ty, and give greater evidence that they are not true christians, than they could, by only saying in express words, that they are not; for persons may really think, and may say, that they are not christians, when they are really such. 11. From this subject we learn, that
have no reason to conclude they are no christians, merely because they see much sin in themselves. This sight of ein often arises from their having that discerning, which none but true christians have ; who, by reason of this • Rom. vii, 24.
f 1 John i. 8.
discerning, see more sin in themselves than others do, and are more affected with it. And their complaints of themselves, of the amazing corruption and wickedness of their hearts, which they now see more clearly than ever before ; and which they mention, as an evidence that they have no grace, are often, in the view of the judicious christian, to whom they are made, an evidence, that they are real christians.
Great degrees of sin are consistent with some degree of true holiness. Therefore, if any thing can be found, that is of the nature of holiness, a sight of great sinfulness is not an evidence against a person, that he is not a christian, but the contrary. They who have made the greatest proficiency in holiness see most of their own sinfulness.
III. This subject teaches us, not to be forward to censure others, as no christians, because of great imperfections, and many things which are unbecoming and disagreeable. For the best of christians are very imperfect and sinful in this state : And in many things all offend. There too often appears in persons a censorious spirit towards their fellow christians, which is a greater evi"dence of the want of real religion, than those things for which they censure others, as no christians.
IV. Let none improve this doctrine, as an encouragement to sloth and sin, and a discouragement to watchfulness against sin, and exertions and strivings after greater degrees of holiness. They who are disposed to make this improvement of the imperfections and sin. fulness of all christians, and indulge themselves in it, have no reason to think themselves to be christians; for this is directly contrary to the spirit of a christian. If it be rightly improved, it will be a motive to press forward, to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Concerning Death; a Separate State ; the General Resur
rection and Judgment; and the eternal State of Happiness or Misery.
I. WHEN man had sinned, and God had opened to him a new constitution, for the redemption of some of the human race, by a Saviour, by saying to the serpent, “ I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed : He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise bis heel :"* He said to Adam, and in him to all mankind, that under this new constitution, and from this new state of probation, he should pass into another state, and go into the invisible world, by a separation between soul and body ; and his body should turn to dust, from whence it was taken. “ Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." This sentence must refer to his body only ; for this only was dust, and taken out of the ground. His spirit or soul was immaterial, and not dust, or taken out of the ground, but a distinct existence from the body, by which he bore the image of God. " And God said, Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”+ Therefore, Solomon describes u hat is contained in this sentence, in the following words, “Then shall the dust return to the earth, as it was; and the spirit shall return to God who
gave The death of the body does not imply the death of the soul, but the latter exists, when the former is turned to dust. This is declared by our Saviour.
+ Fear not them who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul."
This separation between soul and body, by which the latter is dissolved, and turned to dust, was not included in the threatening, “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die ;" for had there been no redemption, mankind must have been miserable, in soul and body • Gen. üi. 15. + Gen, i. 26. 4.7. * Eccl. xii. 7. S Matt. 2. 28.
it.”ļ forever ; which death, all they who are not redeemed will suffer, when the work of redemption is finished, which is called the second death, with reference to the body's turning to dust, which is called death, and is the first death. Man is indeed considered as a fallen creature, a sinner, when he is doomed to this first death ; and also, as in a new state of probation ; and it is wisely ordered as subserving the design of redemption. It is proper and important, that the future state should be invisible to sepse, which it would not be, if all men passed into it with their bodies; or without dying. But when the body dies and turns to dust, all that is visible and discerned by our senses, is left behind, and the invisible part of man departs into another state insensibly; and thus the future state is kept invisible, as the object of faith, not of sight. And this tends more sensibly to keep in view the fallen, sinful state of man, while all are doomed to death, which could not take place, had man been innocent; and it tends to humble man in his own eyes, since his body is soon to turn to dust; and to make him feel his wretchedness, if he have no security of existence and happiness in a future state, and to excite an attention to Christ and the gospel, which brings life and immortality to light, and a future resurrection of the body, formed every way perfect, beautiful and glorious, never to die again.
The only time of probation allotted to man, is that of this life, to which the death of the body puts an end; so that every one will be happy or miserable in the future, endless state, according to his character, which is formed before the soul is separated from the body. This is plain and certain from the scripture, where there is not a word, or the least hint of another state of trial, after the death of the body : But much is there said to the contrary of this. This life is represented, as the sowing, or seed time ; and that men shall reap in a future state, according to what they do in this life. 6 Be not de ceived; God is not mocked : For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption : But he that soweth to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting."* This life is represented, as the only time to lay
• Gal, vi. 7, 8.
up a treasure in heaven ; to make to ourselves friends, so as to be received into everlasting habitations, when we fail here, when this life ends : To make our peace with God, which Christ represents and urges, by agreeing with our adversary, while we are in the way with him, otherwise we shall be cast into prison, from whence there is no deliverance. And he represents Lazarus and the rich man, as fixed, the former in a state of happiness, and the latter in a state of misery, immediately upon their going out of this world. And it is said, “ It is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment.”* And if nothing were said, relating to this point but the following words, it is fixed in them, beyond a doubt. 'We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it good or bad.”+ If at the final judgment, when the endless state of men will be fixed, they shall be judged according to what they have done in the body, then this life is the only time of probation, and in the body they fix their character and state for eternity.
The time of man's death, and the way and means by which the soul shall be separated from the body, are all hidden from man. He is exposed to death as soon as he begins to exist in the body, and knows not how soon it may come; and no circumstances, nor any thing he can do, or that others can do for him, can secure him from death a moment. This is wisely ordered so, and answers many good ends, which it is needless particu. larly to mention here.
Death is not a calamity, but a great benefit to the re, deemed. It has no sting for them, but comes to them as a friend, by which they are delivered from all moral and natural evil, and become perfectly holy, and enter upon a life unspeakably better than to live here in the body. Therefore, the apostle Paul had a desire to de part, to die, and be with Christ, which was far better. And he considered the death of his body, as his great gain. I “ Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of his saints."|| Which denotes that it is an important, and desirable change, by which he is glorified, and their
Heb. ix. 27. | 2 Cor. 5. 10. Phil. 1, 21, 28. Psal. cxyi. 15.