Page images

Without that, no hope nor encouragement can be gathered from any passage of the Scripture. To die in the Lord, signifies 1. to die a member of his mystical body by baptism. Upon which consideration we are persuaded, that infants, being baptised, and dying in the state of infancy, are translated to the kingdom of heaven; as certainly as the infants of the Israelitish people were carried over Jordan into Canaan (a figure of heaven) without any preparatory trial in the wilderness.

If they live and grow up, the conditions of salvation change as their capacities change; insomuch that the same baptism, which is sufficient to save an infant, is sufficient only to condemn those who might, but never do, get any farther. As the Christian advances in life, there must be other evidences of his spiritual union with Christ: for as by baptism he is born to a new state; so by faith, by a partaking of the other sacrament, by prayer, and by a godly life, it must appear that he liveth in him unto whom he was born again; leading the rest of his life according to that beginning of it, at which he renounced the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.

For 1. it is written, the just shall live by faith: whence the great end the Apostle aimed at was to win Christ, and be found in him, not having his own righteousness which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith.

Then, .. it is necessary that our union with Christ should be confirmed by the other sacrament of the Lord's Supper; for without this, he himself hath

pronounced, that we have no life in us. But this cannot be true, unless the man, who wilfully neglects the communion, may thereby lose what he gained in his baptism,

Prayer is another sign of our abiding in Christ. Where the Spirit of adoption is, it will be employed in supplication to God, who, as a father, bestoweth gifts upon his children that ask him. If a man lives, he breathes: And if the Christian lives by the Spirit of God, the breath of prayer will be a never failing sign of it. Whence it is rightly declared, that if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his :. he is disowned, as a dead man, who is no longer reckoned a member of society.

And lastly, an holy conversation in godliness and honesty must insure the privileges of our Christian membership. We must be like our Master in temper and behaviour, acting with the simplicity of the sheep, instead of that worldly disposition, which is best expressed by the deceit and subtlety of the Fox. If any man is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature : he hath put off the old man, with his pride, and his malice, and his covetousness, and hath put on the new man. The image of God is restored in him; for he is created after God (that is, according to that image of God which Adam lost) in righteousness und true holiness. Again St. John saith, He that abideth in him ought so to walk us he also walked: which is agreeable to Christ's own declaration--He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit. From all which this short inference naturally occurs, that to live fruitless, is to die hopeless.

If we examine this matter more attentively, it will appear, that the blessedness of those, who die in the Lord, is said to consist chiefly in these two particulars.

1. That they rest from their labours.
2. That their works do follow them. St. Peter in-

structs us that we are all strangers and pilgrims in this world: and what doth the traveller hope for but rest at the end of his Journey? The life of man is represented to us in a very particular manner by the adventures of the Israelites in their passage from Egypt to Canaan. Till it pleased God to look upon their condition, they laboured under a state of cruel bondage, in the service of a merciless and atheistical Tyrant, whose chief delight it was to harrass and oppress them. Under a like tyranny every man is born; and would continue in it for ever, if the same God, who brought his people over the Red Sea, did not vouchsafe to translate him from the dominion of Satan, by conducting him through the waters of baptism. When the people had passed safe over the sea, and were encamped in the wilderness, how many temptations, difficulties and dangers had they to struggle with, under the exercise of which, they wandered about for forty years? In like manner is the life of a Christian full of labour and trouble. He is assaulted with divers lusts and passions which war against the soul. If he hath any concern for the glory of God and the salvation of men, the overflowings of ungodliness must of course harrass and vex him, so as to render his situation like that of Lot in Sodom. If he lives long, infirmities and sorrows bend him down every year nearer to the earth out of which he was taken. The primitive Christians, besides their ordinary labours of temptation, sorrow, and infirmity, were exercised with the sharper and bloody trials of persecution; flying from city to city, to avoid the rage of blinded Jews and blood-thirsty heathens. From all these troubles death set them free; whence, as it was observed in the preceding Dissertation, they called their death an Exodus*: no other word could so aptly express their happy translation from labour to rest, and from bondage to liberty. How glad were the Israelites, when they saw the fruitful hills and vales of the promised land stretching away before their view on the other side of Jordan, when all the trials of the wilderness were past, and their tedious journeyings and encampments brought to a conclusion? How glad was Lot, when he had escaped from the execrable Sodom, and found a peaceful refuge in Zoar? How happy is the Merchant, who, having been tossed upon the waves cof the sea, and in danger of shipwreck, finds himself at last safe in the port? So happy is the soul, which hath taken its flight from these regions of sin and sorrow; which, having died in the Lord, is admitted to the enjoyment of light and peace in that intermodiate state of Paradise, to which Christ himself departed while his body lay in the grave; and where the Saints both of the old and new Dispensation rest in the bosom of Abraham ; expecting that great day, when those gates of heaven shall again be opened, through which the King of Glory entered after his ascension from the earth. What man, who considers the labours of this life, and dares look forward to that rest which remaineth for the people of God, what man, I say, can refrain from wishing, in those words of the Psalmist-Oh that I had wings like a dove, for then would I flee away, and be at rest!

But, God knoweth, all men are not in a condition to utter such a wish as this, being discouraged by that second consideration--their works do follow them.

* So St. Peter calls it, Ep. II. c. i. 15. on which Grotius remarks -hic exitus figuratus per illum ex Ægypto.

[ocr errors]

cleared up

In this consists the blessedness of those who die in the Lord, that none of their good works will be lost or forgotten in the sight of God. The tears of their repentance, their prayers and devotions, their patient suffering for the truth's sake, their deeds of mercy and charity, all these things are now noted in the book of God, and shall hereafter be remembered. Then will they have honour, whom the world despised; Angels will celebrate the acts of those conquerors in the cause of God and of righteousness, whose lives the fools accounted as madness.

Every difficulty, which now meets us when we consider the lot of a righteous man, will then be

If he hath served God in a low estate here, he shall then be held in honour. If he hath promoted peace upon earth, and met with nothing but hatred for his good will, he shall then be owned amongst the children of God. If he hath delighted in works of mercy, and received nothing here in re. turn for them, he shall then receive, what all the powers upon earth cannot bestow, even the forgiveness of his sins; and, having shewed mercy, shall find mercy at the hands of God. If he hath suffered shame, loss, or persecution of any kind, for righteousness' sake, the kingdom of heaven, which God will permit him to claim as his own, will infinitely more than balance the account. Therefore, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.

The Church being like that net, which was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind both good and bad; this Essay may fall into the hands of very different readers, some of whom are in the way to those blessings which the Saviour of the world hath

« PreviousContinue »