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language of our text, “ Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his."
I observe, in the third place, that death is represented in the sacred writings as the universal allotment of the human race (1 Cor. xv. 22; Heb. ix. 27). It is the unalterable decree of the great Arbiter of life, of tin and of eternity, that man shall go the way whence be shall not return. In what region will you search for a man that liveth, and shall not see death? Where is the infidel to be found that can nullify the emphatic language of an illustrious prophet who once said, “ All do fade as a leaf.” The decree has gone forth, and the united energies of earth and hell cannot annul it, “ Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return." This is the fixed law of heaven, an enactment made by Him who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords ; and from whose righteous tribunal there is no appeal; it is like the law of the Medes and the Persians, it altereth not. Whatever may have been the riches or the strength of nations or of individuals, they have all submitted to this law; they have all either willingly or unwillingly resigned their fleeting breath, and departed hence to be no more seen. Where are the inhabitants of the antediluvian age, who by reason of their strength and the healthful temperature of the atmosphere, flourished for centuries without feeling their natural force abated? They are gone, and the place of their habitation is unknown; they are gone without leaving either wreck or trace behind (save the inspired records). And where are all the generations that have succeeded them up to the present time? They also have been removed into the dreary regions of the dead, where all things are forgot. “ Our fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever ?” What, my brethren, has been the history of all ages, but a history of the exploits and desolations of death? In every part of the habitable globe we may learn by transpiring events, that death is the allotment of man; death reigns over every region of the world: a century depopulates the globe, and, with a few rare exceptions, plunders every habitation of man. One generation passeth away, and another cometh: and this ingress and egress has been the characteristic of all generations. All earthly travellers meet in the house appointed for all living, and “ dust to dust" concludes the noblest song.
If such then has been the sad catastrophe of our forefathers, and of some whom we once knew in the flesh, what is the actual state of the present generation; of us, who are now assembled together hearing the words of eternal life? We are all tending to dissolution; the pallid hue and the cold sweat which we may have sometimes witnessed upon the countenances of our fellow-creatures when struggling in the agonies of death, will soon be seen by our survivors upon us ; for in whatever business we may be engaged, whether at home or abroad, asleep or awake, we are travelling to the grave. Great God! how awful the reflection-We are dying creatures; one moment, and we may disappear; before the shades of night prevail we may be exploring the wonders of eternity. And are we unconcerned? Can we trifle with our souls, when the very breath we inhale is big with death? Brethren, it is of infinite moment to ascertain upon what foundation you are building for eternity. What are your hopes, and what are your fears? It is my desire, and I trust it is yours also, to know that you are accepted of God through Jesus Christ, and ripening for the inheritance of the saints in light; that you may be able, at any moment, under divipe influence, to say, " Lord, now lettest thoy thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation ;" or in the language of our text, * Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his."
As the figures which we have employed, at this time, to represent death ara the principal, and most striking, and into which all the rest may be resolved, we proceed, in the second place, to assign SOME REASONS WHY THE DEATH OF
A RIGHTEOUS MAN BECOMES AN OBJECT OP DESIRE TO A WICKED MAN.
The term “righteous," as it occurs in the text, can only have one acceptation, and must, therefore, necessarily refer to principle-righteousness that enters into the inner man, and influences the dispositions, affections, and motives of the human mind: it includes inward and outward righteousness, in all their ramifications ; a sense of acceptance with God, a knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins, a confirmed title to unfading glory, and everlasting life. The import, therefore, of the term “ righteous," as it occurs in this passage, is determined without controversy by the construction of the passage itself, and the connexion in which it stands; and the term under the present dispensation, unquestionably means true religion, the kingdom of God within us, by which we have an assurance that though we walk through the valley and shadow of death, we need fear no evil, for God is with us, to strengthen us, deliver us, and save us. O! that I could look around upon this assembly, and say for every individual who now hears me, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die, is gain."
The first thing that appears enviable in the death of a righteous man, is the calmness and tranquillity of his departure.
What is there amid things visible so venerable in contemplation, as a righteous man bending beneath the weight of years, and finishing his course in the faith of the Gospel ? Men who are the least susceptible of Christian feeling involuntarily pronounce blessings on his memory. How enviable is the state of his soul! He is comforted and sustained by the precious promises of the everlasting Gospel; he has been washed from the guilt and pollution of
he has been redeemed by the blood of the everlasting covenant; and by grace through faith he has kept himself unspotted from the world : and now he can look forward with holy confidence, and without dismay, to the swellings of Jordan, and bid defiance to the utmost rage of the monster death. He re. views the past mercies of God to his soul; he marks the period when by faith he received the salvation of his soul; when he was united to Christ by living faith, and could say, “ Abba, Father; my Lord and my God." He reflects upon every step of his earthly pilgrimage ; upon the period when the tabernacles of the Lord were amiable; when he enjoyed all the privileges of the house of God, when the Christian Sabbath was a day of rest to his soul. He looks through a life of devotedness to the service of God, and finds that he has been habituating himself to that state of society to which he belongs : he has been living by faith on the Son of God, and the theme of his meditation has been, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon the earth that I desire in comparison of thee." The subject of his most frequent prayers has been for an enlargement of heart, with an increase of all the blessings of the Gospel of peace, and their extension to his perishing fellow-men. When he came within the precincts of the sanctuary, such have been the overflowings of his gratitude, and the conscious revelation of the divine presence to his soul,
that he has, when silently adoring in his heart, exclaimed, “ Lord, it is good for us to be here." These reflections, with an abiding evidence that he has an interest in the blood of Jesus, constitute the calmness and tranquillity of his soul, amid the falling of his earthly tabernacle. As he goes down to the dark and cheerless valley, he listens to a voice coming from the secret place of thunder, sweet as the music of heaven, “ Fear not, for I am with thee ; be not dismayed, for I am thy God: as thy day is, so shall thy strength be.” Thus supported he ventures down, and dips his feet in Jordan ; and while friends are weeping, in inconsolable anguish around his bed, and while angels and archangels are witnessing his Christian heroism, he passes through death triumphant home, and seraphs greet his entrance there.
“ The chamber where the good man meets his fate,
Of virtuous lise, quite in the verge of heaven." And if you are righteous, life is yours, and death is yours; the aspect of the last enemy is changed, and his approach is for your highest and eternal advantage. Such is the exuberance of the grace of God, that the Christian can triumph in the arms of death, and with heaven in prospect exclaim, “ Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.” Such is the unruffled peace, and undisturbed tranquillity of the departing saint, that it is represented in the sacred writings as a sleep, as falling asleep, falling asleep in Jesus, passing into a state of rest, a region of calm repose, where the body is relieved from all the disasters incident to human life, and all the oppression that may have been imposed upon it in this world for ever. There,
“ The languishing head is at rest,
Its thinking and aching are o'er,
Is heaved by affliction no more.
Of trouble and torturing pain;
It never will flutter again.”
Secondly, the hope of a glorious resurrection, and the assurance of realizing a happy eternity, are the principal reasons why the wicked envy the righteous.
The Christian goes down to the grave with widely different views and feelings to the sinner, whose guilt weighs him down, and sinks him lower than the grave: he goes down to the house appointed for all living, with his mind awake to the promise of the dear Redeemer—" I will raise him up at the last day; I will ransom him from the power of the grave.” On the great day of restitution, when the summons of the Eternal shall be heard through the immensity of space, he will remember with feelings of joy the promise, “ I will send mine angels to gather mine elect from the four winds of heaven." Away then with our fears, and our shrinking back from the cold hand of death. Our bodies, it is true, may be followed by our weeping friends to the grave, and over our remains they may hear the doleful sound, “ Dust to dust, and ashes to ashes :" but they shall not remain in the grave for ever; they shall burst the prisonhouse, and, by the omnipotent energy of Jesus Christ, disentangle themselves
from the shackles of the grave; they shall hear the summons, and with joy indescribable go forth to meet Him, out of whose fulness they have received, and grace for grace; and by whose omnific power our vile bodies shall be changed like unto Christ's glorious body, according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.
Who can describe the enjoyment of the man of God, when, amid the ruins of a dissolving world, he exclaims, “ This is my God; I have waited for him : I will rejoice and be glad in his salvation. There you see the resurrection of the righteous in all its infinite results, and in all the plenitude of its consummation! There you see the perfection of the plan, and the winding up of the scheme of human redemption! There you see God “ glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe.” Glance for a moment into the place where the righteous are destined to live for ever, and tell if it is not an enviable place, a glorious situation! Does not a desire vibrate in your souls to dwell with them through all the ages of eternity ? Their destination is heaven, mount Zion, the city of the great King. It is represented as a paradise, an inheritance, a throne, a city, a crown, a kingdom. But, then, all these things by which it is represented are perishable and fading, and, therefore, cannot perfectly represent it. The thrones, and kingdoms, and crowns, which are in reversion for the righteous, incorruptible, unfading, and everlasting. The city which they are everlastingly to inhabit hath foundations, whose builder and maker is the living God. O, the grandeur of the palace, and the dominions of our God and of his Christ! O, our souls would long to go, to see the “ King in his beauty, and the land that is now afar off!”
There, again, the enjoyments of the righteous will be as perfect as the place. God Almighty will be continually revealing and unveiling the glories of his face, and pouring out new enjoyments upon the countless multitude of heaven; there reposing under a cloudless sky in regions of unsullied light, they shall see the divine glory breaking forth from the throne of God and the Lamb, to fertilize the plains of heaven, and replenish the ranks of the redeemed with an eternity of bliss ; for there is fulness of joy, and at God's right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Is not the society of the righteous in heaven an enviable society—a society consisting of all the ancient worthies and martyrs that have reached the heavenly shores before us, down to Adam's last saved son, who shall be presented without fault before the presence of the Divine glory, with exceeding joy? O! what delight will it afford us, to spend a blissful eternity with those whom we once loved upon earth, and with whom we took sweet counsel! There we shall recount the toils of combat, and the labours of the way: there we shall join our voices with the hallelujahs of the blessed, and lose ourselves amidst the splendours of the beatific vision. See the ransomed of the Lord returning to Zion: with what shouts of ecstacy do they ascend the base of the divine throne! And while they are looking up and gazing upon the unclouded splendour of the King of heaven, with notes almost divine they sing, “Unto Him that hath loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, be glory and dominion for ever!" If such be the calmness and tranquillity of a Christian's transition from this world to anotker, and if such be the blessedness of the righteous in life, in death, and to all eternity, “ may we die the death of the righteous, and let our last end be like his." | Finally, I address you all, and ask you, as in the immediate presence of God
Are you prepared to die the death of the righteous ? Brethren, this is a vastly important question, it is an all-absorbing point; for, upon it is suspended your final sentence. You have heard, in the course of the remarks that I have made, that you are liable to be called away in a moment, and if you are unprepared, you will be eternally shut out of the mansions of the blessed. O, that ye were wise, that ye understood this, that ye would consider your latter end ! If you die in your sins, your rejection of the Saviour, and contempt of the blood of the cross, will heighten your misery, and exile you to the hottest hell. It will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than it will be for you, if you neglect the salvation of the Gospel. I earnestly entreat of you, by all that is solemn in death, and by all that is enviable in the hopes and prospects of the righteous, to be reconciled to God. If, however, the feeble efforts of him who now addresses you, have failed in making a deep and lasting impression upon your minds, then I turn to Him whose power and prerogative it is to save the soul; and I conjure you, in his name, and by his authority, whose smile is heaven, and whose frown is hell, to “
prepare to meet your God." Call upon the blood of sprinkling, that your names may be written in heaven, and that the recording angel may have to announce in the climes of bliss your transformation from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. Let there be joy in heaven over your repenting and turning to God: and then by continuance in well-doing, you shall die the death of the righteous, and your last end shall be like his. Amen.