« PreviousContinue »
grees he is washed and cleansed of that filth that covered his body. We were not only dead of a spiritual death, but we were also overwhelmed in an abyss of corruption and filth. The Son of God hath pulled us out of this abyss, and already restored us to life, but the dirt and putrefaction with which we are disfigured, he washes away with the water of grace, Zech. xiii. “ For
. “there is a fountain open for sin in the house of David," Isa. iv. in which God hath promised to wash away all the filth of the daughters of Zion, and all the blood of Jerusalem. And as it happened to cruel king Adonibezek, when the tribe of Judah took him prisoner, he lost the thumbs of his hands and the great toes of his feet, but he suffered not death till he came to Jerusalem ; thus our great God and Saviour, the Prince of the tribe of Judah, hath cut off the strength and power of the old man, who tyrannized in our souls, and hath deprived him of his venomous nails, with which he wounded our hearts; he hath also given him a mortal wound, but he suffers him to enjoy a languishing life, and will not take away his last breath, until we bring him to the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem.
But to speak more openly; sin is yet in us, but it reigneth not : For our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ hath broken its sceptre, and pulled it from the throne; and as he hath taken from it all command in us, he con strains it to leave the possession of our souls by degrees. As a strong and mighty king, who having won the battle, pursues and drives the enemy, until he hath totally expelled them out of his kingdom ; so doth our Saviour deal with sin.
And as it happens to a woman with child in her old age, there are in her body two contrary lives, that of the
mother and that of the child, the one decays and dies insensibly, the child's life grows and increaseth by degrees ; so it is in the faithful and regenerate soul; there are two lives; that of sin, that the scripture names the old man; and that of the new man, which is created according to God in righteousness and true holiness ; the one diminishes and draws to its final end ; but the other grows and gathers strength, until we arrive to the perfect stature of our Lord Jesus Christ ; the spirit of God every day gets ground of our corruption and weakness.
Why we are yet subjected to the corporal or natural
death, and what advantage we thereby receive in Jesus Christ.
THE wise kiyg teacheth us in the vinth Ecclesiastes, That the same accident happens to all, to the righteous, and to the wicked, to the clean, and to the polluted, to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not. These words are to be understood of the several afflictions unto which we are exposed during this mortal life; but we may apply them to the natural death : For it is appointed unto all men once to die, and after that judgment follows, Heb. ix. By one man sin is entered into the world, and by sin death ; and thus death is come upon all men because they have all sinned, Rom. v. Therefore, when Joshua felt himself feeble and de.caying, he told the children of Israel, That he was going the way of all flesh, Josh. xxiii. And Job complains unto God, I know that thou wilt reduce me unto death, and to the house appointed for all living, Job xxx. It was upon this subject that the royal prophet was exercising his meditation, when he cried out, Who is he that liveth, and shall not see death? Shall he free his soul from the power of the grave ? Ps. Ixxxix. And to speak the language of Solomon, Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel be broken at the cistern : that is to say the back-bone, where marrow is as white as silver, be loosed; when the skull, which is like a precious vessel of gold, be broken ; when the vena cava receives no more blood from the liver, the fountain of life; when the lights, which draw in and push forth the breath, move no more ; or when the kidneys, which extract the humidity from the veins, and cause it to drop down into a bladder às into a cistern, begin to fail ; Then shall the body return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God that
To express to us this inevitable fate, Moses, reckons all the ancient fathers, who have lived longest in the first world : he mentions one who lived 700, others 800, others 900 years, and some near 1000, Gen. v. But when he had well spoken of their deeds, and of their children which they left behind, he adds, in the conclusion of all, and then such an one died. Thus our creator executes upon all men the sentence pronounced against Adam, the father of all mankind, Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return.
By this means God declared his justice and truth, and accomplished what was signified by the ancient types, Lev. xiv. For according to the laws which God gave
to Israel by Moses, the house that was infected with leprosy, was to be demolished, and cast into a noisome place. There is a more urgent cause for a man's body to be destroyed, and laid in the sepulchre, because he was created to be the palace of the living God, the dwelling of his glory ; but sin, a kind of infectious leprosy, hath insinuated itself, and disfigured it ; hath entered the skin, corrupted the blood, disordered the spirits, crept into the joints and marrow, and hath spread its venom in such a manner that there is none of our members but are instruments of iniquity and unrighteous ness, Rom. vi. For the same reason, we cannot sufficiently admire the difference which God hath put between the vessels that were clean, and such as were unclean ; for he commanded, that the earthen vessels infected should be broken in pieces, Lev. xi. but that such as were of a more valuable substance should be only washed with water, and purified with fire, Numb. xxxi. The commands and laws of the great God are excellent commentaries upon his actions. Our soul is like a golden vessel, because it is a spiritual and heavenly substance, therefore God doth not altogether destroy it, although it be infected with sin ; but caused it to be washed and cleansed at the fountain of his infinite mercy. Ile purifies it with the blood of his Son, and causes it to pass through the fire of his holy spirit. But for this miserable body, and earthly vessel and tabernacle, he breaks it to pieces, and reduces it to dust and ashes It is my judgment that death is an excellent means to demonstrate the infinite power of our great God and Saviour: for the greater the distance is, the more admirable is the cure, and without doubt, the finger of God in his infinite power is far more visible in
raising one man from the dead, than preserving many thousands alive.
As God is wont to lighten our darkness, so he makes use of death, to cause his infinite wisdom to shine and appear in all his creatures. Sin hath brought forth death, and death on the contrary, as a most fortunate parricide, kills and destroys its parent, sin ; for it is death that totally roots out of our souls all corrupt affections.
Moreover, God, who is the same yesterday, to-day and forever, Heb. xiii. will have all his children pass through the same path, to take possession of his eternal inheritance, and enter by the same gate into his royal palace. All the faithful in the Old Testament are gone already this way; through many tribulations, Acts. xiv. they are arrived at the kingdom of God, and through death they are come to the abode of life and immortality. The holy scriptures, that are inspired of God, tells as, that the Reubenites and half the tribe of Manasses, Numb. xxxii. Josh. i, left their dwellings which they had beyond Jordan to go over and fight in the army of Israel, and did not offer to return, until God had given rest to their brethren, and put them into a peaceable possession of their inheritances. If I may make some stop at such an elegant allegory, I may say, that these passages represent to us a lively figure
, of the faithful who die before the end of the world : for they leave their bodies, the abode and dwellings of their souls, and pass through death, as through another Jordan, into the celestial Canaan, to encounter with God by their prayers, in the society of the first born, whose names are registered in heaven, and they will not return again to their bodies, until the number of the