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lasting glory.” And lastly, it is for the perfection of blessedness as well for them as for ourselves, that we daily pray to our heavenly Father when we say, “ Thy kingdom come.”
We see then, my brethren, that the place into which Jesus Christ will receive us at death, is not heaven; for until the earth and the sea shall give up their dead, our consummation cannot be complete, nor will the final sentence of admission into glory be pronounced; but it is Paradise, where the redeemed saints wait our coming, and will bid us welcome. This will be our temporary but blessed rest. There our spirits will be joined to those purified spirits whom here we have loved, while changing generations, and successive ages of lofty anticipation shall pass away. Often shall the angels rejoice in heaven over those repenting sinners that shall turn to God. Often shall they follow, in the triumphant train of their Lord, and bear to those blest abodes the departing souls of those who are made meet for the heavenly inheritance; until, at length, all the redeemed being gathered in, the last of living men shall be changed; they who sleep shall awake from the repose
of ages; and the judgment being ended, and the dread separation made, the holy city shall come down from God out of heaven; the righteous shall enter in through the gates to inherit everlasting life; and through the ages of eternity shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
My brethren, if such be our hopes, what limit shall we fix to our gratitude to him who, for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven; who, by his sufferings and death, opened for us the gate of everlasting life; and who, by his resurrection, has given us the fullest assurance of immortality.
But that we may more fully perceive our obligations of obedience and thankfulness, let us now consider, in the last place, the promise which he has given us, “ I will come again, and receive you unto myself.”
The manner in which Christ comes to manifest himself to believers, whether immediately, or through the intervention of angels, who “
ministering spirits sent forth to minister to “ them that shall be heirs of salvation," we cannot presume with certainty to know. It was the current opinion of the primitive Church, respecting the early martyrs for Christianity, who endured such unparalleled sufferings, “ that our Saviour “ stood by them in a vision, and personally con“ versed with them during their long continued " agonies.” And it was the testimony of some of the martyrs themselves, that he will thus be present with all his saints at that solemn hour. Nor is there any thing difficult or incredible in the
thought that Jesus Christ should, at such a time, be present to receive the dying spirit of the believer. Wherever two or three are gathered together in his name, he is in the midst of them; nay, he has promised that if a man will love him, and keep his words, he will come unto him, and make his abode with him. And if he thus grant his presence to his people continually in the days of life, shall it not be much more specially manifested in the hour of death? Will he, without whom “not a sparrow falleth to the ground," and who has said, “ Ye are of more value than many
sparrows,” permit his humble disciples to sink in death, without giving the assurance of his help, and the consolation of his presence! “ Fear “ not,” is his language in the Revelation, “I am “ the first and the last. I am he that liveth, and “ was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, " and have the keys of hell and of death.” These were the trophies of his victory when “ he de
stroyed him that had the power of death;" whom it is declared he destroyed for this very purpose,
“ that he might deliver them who, through “ fear of death, were all their life time subject to “ bondage.” The authority which he then acquired, and which he still holds, we are bound to believe that he ever exerts; and Christians may be most certainly assured that he exerts it only in kindness and with reference to their welfare and advantage. The fear of death should, therefore, be removed from the bosom of the Christian, since the power of death, and the appointment of its time and circumstances, are not in the hands of an enemy, but of a friend; and of a friend who himself comes to execute his purposes of mercy; insomuch that, to use the words of Dr. Doddridge, o “ the death of every believer may be regarded as “ Christ's coming to fetch him home.”
What consolation, my brethren, is here presented to the minds of survivors, in the thought that the spirit which departs, we know not how nor whither, is summoned away and received by Christthat it is taken home by him to the blissful mansions where he abides. This belief sup
. ported the holy martyr Stephen, when, looking up to heaven, he saw his Saviour, and cried, “ Lord Jesus receive my spirit.” This too animated St. John, when he uttered that passionate exclamation, “ Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!" And with this belief, it may well be said of Christians, that they “die in the Lord,” and “ sleep in - Jesus.”
If, then, my brethren, you are truly Christians, it is your privilege to compose your spirits for your last hour without apprehension or fear, relying assuredly upon the presence of your Saviour. He will give you strength equal to your day. He has promised to be with you in six troubles; and in seven he will not desert you. Nay, he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you."
« Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death " of his saints ;" and therefore, trusting in him, you may say with confidence, “ Though I walk
I “ through the valley of the shadow of death, I will “ fear no evil, for thou art with me.”
Some are privileged with this confidence long before they are called to die. Like the tribes of Reuben and Gad, they are permitted to enjoy the promised possession even before they pass over Jordan. But let not those despond whose faith rises not so high. Their portion also is reserved beyond, and God himself will guard them to its possession. Trusting in him, let them
forward to the river of death without fear. The Lord will open before them a way.
When they pass through the waters, he will be with them, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow them; and conducted by him, they shall attain in safety to the land of their heavenly inheritance. He has promised to come and receive them unto himself. Let them trust his promise ; for in his own good time, where he is there shall they be also.
But that Jesus Christ actually visits his children, and sustain them in their last hours of mortal suffering; that he strengthens their spirit to bear up against the feebleness and decay of the flesh; that he nerves with more than earthly vigour the fainting heart; that he chases away from the dying bed the phantoms which death and VOL. II.