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If any of you, my friends, know nothing, from your own experience, of repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Saviour of lost sinners; it is not to be wondered at, that you know nothing, as yet, of the pleasures of Religion. You have yet to learn what is that godly sorrow for sin, which worketh repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of. You have not entered in through Christ, who is "the door." Till you have done so, you will not "find pasture"; -you will not know peace.
One of the very important consequences of that peace with God, to which the Gospel brings those who receive it, is, deliverance from the FEAR OF DEATH. Men, in general, either think not at all of death, or are all their lifetime subject to a sort of bondage, through fear of it. Even in the days of health and festivity, the thought of death will frequently break in upon them, in spite of all their efforts to avoid it, and exceedingly embitter the only happiness with which they are acquainted: it hangs, with a depressing weight, on all their enjoyments; and, should dangerous sickness, or any
other cause, bring the thought very near to them, they are more wretched than can easily be conceived. Now, Religion delivers men from this state of bondage. "The sting of death is sin": but the Gospel, by destroying the condemning power of sin, takes away from death its sting. "Thanks be to God," saith St. Paul, "who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ *." There is, indeed, a natural dread of the separation of soul and body-implanted in us by God for wise purposeswhich is observed to differ, in degree, according to the different constitution and temperament of individual men. Besides that, the pain, with which death is usually accompanied, is such as human nature must shrink from: and, accordingly, it is not unfrequently found, that good men, true servants of God, on the near approach of death, appear appalled, and almost afraid to contemplate it. But, commonly, the more they have been living up to their principles, the more they are enabled to look upon their last enemy without fear. Deliberately, they regard death not as a terrible enemy, coming to consign them to everlasting misery, but 1 Cor. xv. 57.
as a friendly messenger, sent by their Heavenly Father, to conduct them to the mansions of blessedness prepared for them. It is not doubtful, whether the hope of everlasting bliss, to which we are called in the Gospel, is sufficient to sustain men in that hour so trying to flesh and blood, when nothing else excepting, indeed, the stupidity of a brute, or the languor of exhaustion-can give even the semblance of composure. Instances are daily occurring, of persons, not otherwise remarkable for courage or strength of mind, who meet him who has been called the King of Terrors, not only without dismay, but even with joy; and that, not so much from being wearied of the troubles of this life, as from anticipation of the blessedness of the life to come. And the same hope, which enables men to triumph over death, converts also into blessings the unavoidable sorrows and troubles of the present life.-They who have the hope of the Gospel, are not exempted from the troubles of life; on the contrary, they are taught to expect them: but even these they are privileged and enabled to regard and rejoice in, as blessings in disguise; for they are some of the means employed by their
Heavenly Father, to fit and prepare them for the society of glorified spirits above. They need to have their affections weaned from earthly things, and fixed supremely upon God: and, sometimes, very sharp afflictions are necessary, to produce this separation from the world. But, whatever be the cup put into their hand, it has been mixed by ONE who knows their frame, and who has no pleasure in the sufferings of His children; but who shews His love, even by the bitterness of the draught which He gives them to drink. If He loved them less, He would afflict them less. He afflicts because He loves them; and, along with the affliction, sends all needful strength and consolation: and, though "no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby*" Their "light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh" for them "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of gloryt." Viewed in this, which is the true light, even the afflictions of those who love God, do not at all invalidate the truth of the + Cor. iv. 17.
*Heb. xii. 11.
declaration in the text,-that "Her ways," that is, the ways of Religion, "are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." The true servant of God would not deliberately choose to be exempted from them; reckoning, as he does, that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed."
Of that glory, to be revealed at the second appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, I have said but little in this discourse; because the happiness spoken of in the text, is the present, rather than the future, happiness of the children of God. What God has reserved for them in that better state, to which they are privileged to look forward as the reward of their faith, and patience, and labour of love, I shall not now attempt to set before you."Beloved," saith St. John, 66 now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear, we hal be like him, for we shall see him as he is *" With this assurance, of being like God, accompanied by the promise of "an inheritance incorruptible
*1 John iii. 2.