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against it, for those who now refuse the Gospel ; and that they who cordially receive it shall be saved with an everlasting salvation, and shall one day sing, · Death is swallowed up in victory.'
I would further observe, that many prophecies have a gradual and increasing accomplishment, and inay be applied to several periods; though their full completion will only be at the resurrection and last judgment. This passage, as it stands in the prophecy of Isaiah,* from whence the apostle quotes it, appears to have a reference to the comparatively brighter light and glory of the Gospel state, beyond what was enjoyed by the church under the Levitical dispensation ; and especially to the privileges of those happy days, when the fulness of the Gentiles and the rempant of Israel shall be brought in, and the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of the Lord, and of bis Christ. I would not exclude these subordinate senses ; I have already considered them. But my text calls our attention to the end of all things. Then, in the most emphatical sense, ' Death will be swallowed up in victory.'
Let us endeavour to realize the great scene before us, to contemplate the redeemed of the Lord when they shall return with him to animate their glorified bodies. Let us ask the question which the elder proposed to John, Who are these clothed with white robes, and whence came they ?'t They came out of great tribulation ;' they were once under the power of death, but now death, as to them, is swallowed up in victory. In every sense in which death ruled over them, they are now completely delivered.
1. They were once dead in law. They had revolted from their Maker. They had violated the holy order of his government, and stood exposed to his righteous displeasure, and to the heavy penalty annexed to the transgression of his commandments. But mercy interposed. "God so loved them, that he gave his only begotten Son' to make an atonement for their sins, and to be their
wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.'I They received grace to believe in this Saviour, and now they are delivered from condemnation. They are accepted in the Beloved.' They are considered as one with him, and interested in all that he did, and in all that he suffered. Now they are the children of God, and heirs of his kingdom. Though they were afar off,
• they are brought nigh,' admitted into a nearer relation than the holy angels to bim who sitteth upon the throne. For he took upon him, and still is pleased to wear, not the nature of angels, but the human pature. Their former guilt is cancelled, blotted out swal
* Jsa. xxv. 8.
Rev. vii. 15.
I 1 Cor. i. 30.
lowed up. All their sins are covered, sunk in his precious blood as in a deep sea, so that, even if sought for, they can no more be found. That they have sinned, will always be a truth ; and probably they will never lose a consciousness of what they were by nature and practice while in this world. But this, so far from abating their joy, will heighten their gratitude and praise ' to him who loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood.'* Their happiness principally consists in a perception of his love to them, and in their returns of grateful love to him. · And they love him much,' because, for his sake, 'mnch has been forgiven them.'t
II. Once they were dead in sin. They were destitute of the knowledge and love of God. They were foolish, deceived, and disobedient, enslaved to divers lusts,'I to inordinate, sensual, unsatisfying pleasures; they lived in malice and envy, they were hateful, and they hated one another.' In a word, 'they were dead while they lived.'S But by the power of grace they were awakened and raised from this death, and made partakers of a new a spiritual, and divine life. Yet the principle of sin and death still remained in them ; and their life upon earth, though a life of faith in the son of God, was a state of continual warfare. They had many a conflict, and were often greatly distressed. “They sowed in tears,'to the end of their pilgrimage,' but now they reap in joy.'|| This death is' also swallowed up in victory.' They are now entirely and for ever freed from every clog, defect, and defilement. By beholding their Lord as he is, in all his glory and love, without any interposing veil or cloud, they are made like him, and, to the utmost measure of their capacity, conformed to his image. Now they are absolutely spotless and impeccable; for though mutability seeins no less essential to a creature than dependence, yet they cannot change, because their Lord is unchangeable, for their lite is hidden with Christ in God.' They cannot fall from their holiness or happiness, because he has engaged to uphold and maintain them by his almighty power.
III. One branch of the death due to sin is the tyranny and power of Satan. For a time he ruled in their hearts, as in his own strong hold; and while they were blinded by his influence, they were little affected with their bondage. Hard as his service was, they did not often complain of it. They were led by him according to his will for the most part without resistance, or, if they attempted to resist, they found it was in vain. But in bis own hour their Lord, who had bought them, dispossessed their strong
* Rev. j. 5.
+ Luke, vii. 47.
| Titus, iii. 3.
$ 1 Tim. v. 6. * 2 Cor. xi. 14. Psalm xxxvii, 13.
enemy, and claimed their hearts for bimself. Yet, after they were thus set free from his ruling power, this adversary was always plotting and fighting against them. How much have some of them suffered from his subtle wiles and his fiery darts ! from his rage as a roaring lion, from bis cunning as a serpent lying in their path, and from bis attempts to deceive them under the semblance of an angel of light !* But now they are placed out of his reach, Death and Satan are swallowed up. The victory is complete. Tie wicked one shall never have access to touch or disturb them any more. Now he is shut up in his own place, and the door sealed, no more to open. While he was permitted to vex and worry them, he acted under a limited commission, which he could not exceed ; all was directed and overruled, by the wisdom and love of their Lord for their advantage. Such exercises were vecessary then, to discover to them more of the weakness and vileness of their own hearts, to make them more sensible of their dependence upon their Saviour, and to afford them affecting proofs of his power and care engaged in their behalf. But they are necessary no longer. Their warfare is finished. They are now where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest.
IV. While they were in the world, they had a share, many of them a very large share of the woes and sufferings incident to this mortal state ; which, as they are the fruits and efects of sin, and
, greatly contribute to shorten the life of man, and hasten bis return to dust, are as I formerly observed, properly included in the comprehensive meaning of the original sentence, death.' They belong to its train, and are barbingers of its approach. None of the race of Adam are exempted from these ; but especially the servants of God have no exemption. Their gracious Lord who frees them from condemnation, and gives them peace in himself, assures them that in this world they shall have tribulation. I This is so inseparable from their calling, that it is mentioned as one special mark of their adoption and sonship.” If the prosperity of the wicked sometimes continues for a season without interruption, their day is coming ;'| but the righteous may expect chastisement and discipline daily. Thus their graces are refined, strengthened, and displayed, to the praise of iheir Heavenly Father. There is no promise in the Bible that secures the most eminent and exemplary believer from participating in the heaviest calamities in common with others, and they have many trials peculiar to themselves. Thus, while upon earth, they endure
† Job, iii. 17.
I John, xvi. 33.
Heb. xii. 6-8.
hardship for his sake. Because he chose them out of the world, and they would no longer comply with its sinful maxims and customs, 'the world hated them.'* Many of them were the mark of public scorn and malice, accounted the off-scouring of all things; they were driven to deserts, and mountains, and caves ; they suffered stripes, imprisonment, and death. Others had trials of pains, sickness, and poverty, of sharp bereaving dispensations. Their gourds withered ; and the desire of their eyes was taken
; away with a stroke. They had fightings without, and fears within. So that if their pressures and troubles were considered, without taking into the account their inward supports, and the consolation they derived from their hopes beyond the grave, they might be deemed of all men the most miserable.'t But they were supported under these exercises, brought safely through them, and now their sorrows are swallowed up in victory. Now the days of their mourning are ended.'I They now confess, that their longest afflictions were momentary, and their heaviest burdens were light, in comparison of that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory which they have entered upon. Sorrow and sighing have taken their everlasting flight, and joy and gladness have come forth to meet them, and to dwell with them for ever.
V. In their collective capacity, the seeds of sin often produced bitter fruits. Through remaining ignorance and prejudice, they often mistook and misunderstood one another. They lost much good which they might otherwise have enjoyed, and brought upon themselves many evils, through their intemperate heats and upsanctified zeal, which divided them into little parties and separate interests. The children of the same family, the members of the same body, were too often at variance, or at least cold and distant in their regards to each other. Yea, Satan could foment discord and jealousies among those who lived in the same house, or met at the same table of the Lord. But now grace has triumphed over every evil ; sin and death are swallowed up in victory: Now all is harmony, love, and joy. They have one heart and one song, which will never more be blemished by the harshness of a single discordant note.
May this prospect animate our hope, and awaken in those who have hitherto been afar off, a desire of sharing in the happiness of the redeemed! Awful will be the contrast to those who have had their portion in this world! Is it needful to address any in this auditory, in the language which our Lord used to his impenitent hearers ? • Wo unto you that are rich ; for ye have received your consolation.
Wo unto you that are full ; for ye shall hun* John, xv. 19. f 1 Cor. xv. 19. | Isa, Ix. 20. $ 2 Cor. iv. 11. # Isa. li. 11.
ger. Wo unto you that laugh now ; for ye shall mourn and weep !** When the rich man, who had lived in honour and affluence here, was torn from all that he loved, and lifted up his eyes in torment; the remembrance of his former state, that he once had his good things,t but that they were gone, for ever gone, could only be a keen aggravation of his misery. Dreadful will be the condition of all who die in their sins ; but the case of those who are now frequently envied by the ignorant, in the view of a mind enlightened by the truth, must appear doubly and peculiarly pitiable. They have the most to lose, they have the most to account for. Alas, how terrible, bow sudden the change! From a state of honour and influence amongst men, to fall in a moment under the contempt and displeasure of the Holy God—to pass from a crowd of dependants and flatterers, to the company of Satan and his angels ; from grandeur and opulence, to a state of utter darkness and horror, where the worm dieth not, and the fire cannot be quenched. These are sensible images, it is
I true ; the things of the unseen world cannot be described to us as they are in themselves ; but we may be certain that the description falls unspeakably short of the reality. The malicious insults of the powers of darkness, the mutual recriminations of those who, having been connected in sin here, will be some way connected in misery hereafter, s remorse, rage, despair, a total and final exclusion from God, the fountain of happiness, with an abiding sense of his indignation this complicated misery cannot be expressed in the language of mortals—like the joy of the blessed, it is more than eye hath seen, or ear hath heard, or can possibly enter into the heart of man to conceive.ll Add the ideas of unchangeable and eternal to the rest, that it will be a misery admitting of no intermission, abatement, or end; and then seriously consider, what can it profit a man, should he gain the whole world, if at last he should thus lose his soul? No longer make a mock at sin ; it is not a small evil; it is a great evil in itself, and, unless pardoned and forsaken, will be productive of tremendous consequences. No longer make light of the Gospel; it points out to you the only possible method of escaping the damnation of hell. To refuse it, is to rush upon remediless destruction. No longer trust in uncertain riches ; if you possess them, I need not tell you they do not make you happy at present, much less will they comfort you in the hour of death, or profit you in the day of wrath.** Waste not your time and talents (which must be accounted for) in the pursuit of sensual pleasure ; in the end
* Luke, vi. 24, 25.
Liike, xvi. 25. | Mark, ix. 44, 46, 48. Matth. xiii. 30. || 1 Cor. ii. 9. I Matth. xvi, 26.
** Prov. xi. 4: