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death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” Heb. ii. 14, 15. The accursed foe of God and man having by his subtlety enticed our first parents into sin, and which involved in it death, is very justly and properly said to have the power of death ; for as the same Almighty God the Spirit by another apostle saith, “ for of whom a man is overcome of the same is he brought into bondage," 2 Pet. ii. 19.
Hence, though the devil possesseth no power over our lives, yet, in the eventual consequence of things by having made us sinners, he virtually accomplisheth the same, and was and is, as our adorable Lord described him, “a murderer from the beginning," John viii. 44. The Son of God, therefore, by his sovereign and almighty acts “in putting away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” and by destroying him that by the introduction of sin had induced death, most effectually accomplished the purpose
of both : he entered the territories of this “strong man armed," (so scripturally designated, Matt. xii. 26-29.)-" the hand-writing of ordinances which was against us, and was contrary to us, he took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross ; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it,' Col. ii. 14, 15. He had said before under the spirit of prophecy by another of his servants, in allusion to this immense work, several generations before he tabernacled openly in substance of our flesh, "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death! I will be thy plagues; O grave! I will be thy destruction ; repentance shall be hid from mine eyes,” Hosea xiii. 14.
Here within a brief compass is stated the full and complete victory of our most glorious Christ; for he hath not only abolished death, but destroyed him that had the power of death; not only redeemed his people from the power of the grave, (or,
as the original word is, hell) but redeemed them from death; from all the penal effects of natural death, spiritual death, eternal death : for by sustaining in his own divine Person all that was due to sin, and all that by sin his whole body, the church, had justly incurred, he vanquished hell; fulfilled the law; made an end of sin; silenced all the accusations of Satan; and brought in everlasting righteousness; “abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” And most blessedly hath our most glorious Christ in the close of that sweet scripture added, “ repentance shall be hid from mine eyes;" for never, never, will this Almighty Saviour repent of his peerless grace in the accomplishment of this great salvation ; neither will Jehovah, in his Trinity of Persons, repent the eternal decree, productive of such infinite glory to God and good will to men. Rev. v. 1-10, with Psalm ii. 6, 7.
If it be demanded, by what process of operation the Son of God in our nature wrought out this mighty deliverance, and what those sufferings of our most glorious Christ were ; what agonies the Lamb of God sustained in the garden and on the cross; what were the horrors he endured in the accomplishment of his church's deliverance, both from the pangs of the first death in nature, and the endless torments of the second death in hell?
If questions of these and the like kind be proposed, the best answer, yea, the only answer I apprehend to be given, is to refer to holy scripture where the statement is made, according to what the Lord hath thought proper to reveal, and as far indeed as is essential for us to know “to make wise unto salvation,” but by no means calculated (for so it was never intended) to gratify curiosity. For my part, while desiring grace to contemplate the mysterious subject with increasing intenseness of mind, so as to lay low in the dust daily before God; and there receive increasing grace to bless God "for his unspeakable gift,” I would
retire from every other statement of this stupendous mystery with the most awful and profound reverence! What “angels desire to look into,” conscious of their incompetency to apprehend, cannot be the province of man; I presume not to fathom, neither to add an atom of mine to what the sacred scripture hath stated. Here I find enough to satisfy the most capacious desires of my awakened soul. Here therefore I rest ; on him would I beg for grace to fix and feast my ravished eyes,
, "who hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
Neither will it be said, I hope, that our Lord's complete victory in abolishing death hath any difficulty of apprehension, in that the bodies of his redeemed ones in common with mankind go down to the grave and see corruption ; for this, in fact, is their mercy, and not their misery : by a voice from heaven they are declared to be " blessed who die in the Lord !” Death in nature is more a privilege to the Lord's people than an evil; for the sting of death is sin: and that the Lord hath taken out, when “he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself;” and surely, neither the serpent or the bee deprived of their sting can injure. Nay, sin being removed death ceaseth to be death ; it is but a sleep, where, after the example of our most glorious Christ, the dead in Christ retire, as into their chamber of répose, until the resurrection morning. In death they are for ever freed from all the sorrows, pains, and toils of life: they sleep in Jesus. And as it was by their glorious head, so will it be with them, his members, from their participation in his triumphs. The prophet Jeremiah, when looking into gospel-times, and contemplating the Lord Jesus in his resurrection morn, described him as thus speaking; “ upon this I awaked and beheld, and my sleep was sweet unto me!" Jer. xxxi. 26. Precious Jesus! and was that interval between the cross and thy resurrection sweet to our most
glorious Christ when arising from the grave, in that thou didst behold the fruit of thy finished redemption extending to all thy members ? And will not the whole and every one of thy mystical body feel their proportion of blessedness, when arising from the grave from their triumphs in thee, and say also, my sleep was sweet to me!
One word more, and I will relieve your attention; “ life and immortality brought to light through the gospel,” opens to a subject as endless as eternity, and as full of blessings as it is endless. The prophet Isaiah contemplating the glorious Person of our most glorious Christ in the bringing of it in, and the wonders which would follow, thus expressed in a comprehensive way the vast subject of both, “ He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations: he will swallow up death in victory; the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces, and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth, for the Lord hath spoken it,” Isa. xxv. '7, 8. There is, indeed, by nature, in the fall of man the face of covering, and a vail of ignorance, blindness and corruption which now obscures our perfect vision: and this was symbolically represented in the Jewish temple, in the vail that separated between the most holy place and the outward sanctuary for daily services; but in the moment that our most glorious Christ by his death, abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through his gospel, “behold! (saith the evangelists with one voice) the vail was rent in twain from the top to the bottom!” The separation was for ever removed. The Son of God had now opened “ a new and living way by his blood.” He was now to enter into the temple “ not made with hands, but into heaven itself, there to appear in the presence of God for us,” Heb. ix. 24. And his whole body, the church, is said to have “ boldness to enter in by the blood of Jesus, by this new and living way which he hath consecrated for us through the, vail, that is to say, his flesh: and having such an high priest over the house of God, we are commanded to draw near with true hearts in full assurance of faith,” Heb. x. 19-22.
The Lord in his infinite grace open the year to all his redeemed ones while upon earth, as the Son of God hath now abolished death, and hath opened life and immortality to them in heaven. My brother, I would say (I would speak it to every redeemed and regenerated child of God into whose hands this salutation may come) let you and I beg for grace, and frequently in meditation take wing, and in the warmth of the most animated faith and joy light down near the tomb, from whence on the resurrection morn our most glorious Christ arose to shew us the way to his glory : from thence the first clear and distinct views were taken of the future abode of the blessed: from hence, I would say (as in imagination I beheld the sepulchre where my Lord had once lain) our glorious Lord opened the path which no vulture's eye had seen, Job xxviii. 7. to life and immortality: from hence, he arose to shew all the members of his mystical body the certainty that they shall assuredly follow him, that where he is, there they shall be also.” And in the daily contemplation of this most sure and blessed hope, I would sing in the same triumphant notes as the apostle, and with the same strength of faith, “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. 55.