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but Christ does not allow them in it, though he is tender of them under it.
We have next, the grounds of consolation, to dispel this fear, viz. (1.) The Godhead of Christ. He is the first and the last. The first principle of all things, from whom they had their beginning, and the last end of all things: an irrefragable testimony this of the divinity of Christ. And it shews us that the comfort of believers depends upon this article. (2.) The union of the Godhead and manhood in one person :—where Christ is held forth as God, the living God; who had life from eternity of himself, and gave life to all the creatures :-As man; in that it is said he died. It is spoken of the same person. It was the living God that died, though not the divine nature. Here we see proposed, for John's comfort, the death of Christ, God-man. He was made man, and died. (3.) His resurrection: I am alive. He overcame death, and arose the third day. (4.) The eternity of that life to which he was raised up: he lives for evermore. To all this is prefixed a Behold! to stir up believers to notice it as the grand fountain of their comfort; and it is followed with an asservation, Amen, or verily, to put them out of doubt of it.
Next, we have his Mediatorial sovereignty: He hath the keys of hell and death, The keys are an ensign of government.
The key of the house of David is laid upon his shoulder. He opens and none can shut, be shuts and none can open, Isa. xxii. 22. Nove go to death or hell but when he sends them; and none are kept out of hell, and taken to glory but by him.
From this subject we may observe the following
Doct. That the death and resurrection of Christ, that eternal life to which he was raised, and his Mediatory sovereignty, are the great grounds of the saints' consolation, and sufficient to dispel all their unbelieving fears.
In discoursing upon this subject, I shall, by divine aid,
I. Speak a little, and but a little, to each of these things, to unfold them, so as that the ground of comfort in them may appear.
II. Point out the consolation of the saint to be found in these.
1. To speak a little to each of the things in the text, to unfold them, so as that the ground of comfort in them may appear.
1. As to his death. On this I offer these few remarks: (1.) His death supposeth-his incarnation, and living as a man in the world, John i. 14, “ The word was made flesh and dwelt among us." This has a respect to the Shechinah, or the divine presence : that was a fire, encompassed with a cloud, which was above the ark in the first
“ He took upon
temple. Christ's divinity was clouded with his humanity; the form of God, with the form of a servant, Phil. ii. 6–8, him our nature.” He was a partaker of flesh and blood, Heb. ii. 14. Thus he became a substantial Mediator between God and man, that so he might be a Mediator of reconciliation ; how he was conceived, born, and lived in the world, the Evangelists fully relate. (2.) His death was vicarious; he died in the room and stead of sinners, not indeed of all, but of his own sheep. The Socinians allow that he died for our good, though not in our room ; but this places the death of the martyrs and of Christ on the same footing. But the scripture is plain, Matth. xx. 28, “He came to give his life a ransom for many."
Gal. iii. 13, “ Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. He was made sin for us, and died, the just for the unjust." There was a real imputation of the sins of the elect unto Christ, and a real translation of the punishment due to us upon him, Isa. liii. 4–6, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray: we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
- This was typified by the sacrifices under the law, on the head of which the offerer laid his hand, typically transferring the sin upon the beast: which was really accomplished in that true sacrifice of Christ; who gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour," Eph. v. 2. (3.) His sufferings and death were most exquisite : “God spared not his own Son.” In the death of Christ there was a complication of deaths; they murdered his reputation, execrating him as a blasphemer against God, and a traitor against the government; placing him between two malefactors, as if he had been the greatest of the three. They murdered his body, and that in a most cruel manner. The wrath of God fell opon his soul, the first drops of which made him cry out, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful.” His enemies shewed no pity, but gave him vinegar to drink : he got judgment without mercy from God ; even the sun was darkened, that he might not have the light of it, because it is pleasant to the eyes. (4.) His sufferings and death were satisfactory, and that fully. By his one sacrifice, he hath for ever perfected them that are sanctified. He was Lord of his own life: he voluntarily laid it down, and that upon a compact betwist the Father and him. Being God, the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him, the fuluess of merit cannot be doubted; for so his
sufferings were of infinite value, to which nothing can be added. He was God, and purchased the church with his own blood, Acts xx. 28. There was a proportion between the sins of the elect, and the sufferings of Christ. Sin is an infinite evil, his sufferings were of infinite value. His deity stamped an infinite value on his sufferings; and in this respect they do more than equal all the possible sufferings of all creatures together; for what would they all be to God dying?
2. As to his resurrection, and the life to which he was restored. The text says, “Behold I am alive.” Had he lain still in the grave as dead, all the hopes of believers had died with him; but behold, we have David's comfort: his soul was not left in hell, neither did he see corruption, Psalm xvi. 10. Here consider, (1.) That God raised up Christ; Acts ii. 24, “ Him God bath raised up, having loosed the pains of death; because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” There was the weight of all the elect's sins lying on him as a grave-stone. This was rolled away, and he was raised up by the exceeding greatness of God's power, Eph. i. 19. By this power, also, the Father declared him to be his Son indeed, Rom. i. 4; and that he was fully satisfied for the debt Christ undertook to pay. Therefore, though Christ himself could have rolled away the stone, yet an angel, God's officer, is sent to do it, to open the prison door; thereby declaring, that the Judge had no more to exact of him, that the debt was completely paid. (2.) Where he now lives. It is in heaven, the better country, which we had forfeited by sin, but where we still would fain be. Forty days after his resurrection, he ascended into heaven. As a public person he died, and as such he ascended. There the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec. He is set down on the Father's throne, and is at his right hand. Having offered his bloody sacrifice, he is now gone into the holiest of all, and there will continue till the restitution of all things. (3.) For what he lives. The apostle tells us, that it is to make intercession for us; and he himself says, it is to prepare a place for us in his Father's house, where there are many mansions. He went there to take infeftment of heaven for us, and he lives to keep possession. He lives there as the advocate of the saints, who have continual basiness at the court of heaven, yet have no skill to manage it; “but," says Paul, “Christ is entered there to appear in the presence of God for us." This is said in allusion to a custom among confederated states and princes, who have their agents, who, upon all occasions, appear in the presence of the prince in behalf of those they represent, and for whom they negotiate, to take up any emergent differences, or manage whatever business may be put into their hands. We now go on,
3. To the eternity of this life. The man Christ lives for evermore. Amen. Says Paul, “ He ever liveth” and that as God-man. The saints cannot outlive their advocate ? nay, through eternity they shall behold his glorious face. He will never lay aside our nature. He is now for ever out of the reach of death. He dioth no more, death hath no more dominion over him. Joseph's brethren, when they saw their father was dead, were in a great foar, lest Joseph should avenge the wrong they had done him. No such fear needs the believer have. Jesus lives for ever, to be the eternal boud of the saints' eternal communion with God.. For, soeing we can neither come to God by ourselves, nor by ourselvos abido in communion with him, it is necessary, that as we come to God by Christ, so by him also must we abide with God for ever. The members must receive influences and glory from their head, to whom they shall remain for ever united. He lives for ever, to bo their prophet, for the Lamb is the light of the New Jerusalem, Rev. xxi. 23; and he will be their priest for ever; he continuoth for over, having an unchangeable priesthood, Heb. vii. 24. Ho will eternally represent his own sacrifice as the foundation of our eternal glory: and as for his kingdom, it is an everlasting kingdom, that shall not be destroyed, Dan. vii. 14. Let us,
4. Attend to his mediatorial sovereignty. Ho hath the keys of hell and death. He hath all power over the presont and futuro worlds. Hell and death are terrible to the believer ; but Christ holds the keys of both. Ho went down to the gravo, opened the door, and brought the keys away with him. None go to hell but whom he sends there, and consequently tho koys of huavon aro in his hand ; which is here also understood. Ho has "all power in heaven and earth,” Matth. xxviii. 18. Of this, Joseph's exaltation in Egypt was a type, Gen. xli. 40. And theso koys are tho purchase of his blood, Phil. ii. 8, 9, “ Because he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Whorofore God also bath highly exalted him, and given him a namo which is above every name,” &o.
Now, these things, the death, resurrection, life, and power of Jesus, may be considered three ways, in order to improve them for consolation to the saints. (1.) As patterns and examples. It is the ordinary way of distressed persons, to conclude there is no sorrow like their sorrow; and if ye can satisfyingly answer that ordinary question of theirs, Was there ever any in my case that got safely out of it? you will do much to allay their grief, and raiso
their hopes. Thus we find the apostle improving the sufferings aud glory of Christ, Heb. xii. 3, “ For, consider him," says he, “that endared such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied, and faint in your minds." Yea, Jesus Christ himself says, Rev. iii. 21, “ To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father on his throne.” (2.) As pledges, assuring the saints of what they wish for. Thus the apostle improves the resurrection of Christ, to assure believers they shall not lie ever consuming in a grave, but shall be raised up to glory. Christ says he is risen from the dead, the first-fruits of those that slept, 1 Cor. xv. 20; and Jesus tells us, that his life is a pledge of ours : " Because I live, ye shall live also," John xiv. 19. (3.) As containing in them sufficient salves for all their sores. Thus are these the magazine of the saints' consolation, his wounds are the clefts of the rock, wherein the poor creature may safely hide itself. Only braise the spices, pour out the ointment, consider them in their nature and effects, and assuredly they will send forth a pleasant smell, sufficient to revive and comfort a fainting soul.
We are now, II. To point out the nature of that consolation which saints may derive from these. For this purpose, let us take a view of the fountains of their fears and distrust.
1. There is the super-eminent glory and infinite majesty of the great God. This, when seen and considered by poor worm man, whose habitation is in the dust, is a great source of fear. This made John fall down at his feet as dead. Who can behold the glorious majesty upon this earth, and not be ready to dwindle into nothing ? How do some tremble at the view of their fellow-creatures exalted above thein in power and dignity! But 0 what a vast disproportion betwixt God and the greatest monarch! This challenges our fear indeed, but the saints ought not to let it degenerate into slavish fear. God has vailed his throne in the heavens, he spreads his cloud upon it, Job xxvi. 9. This is the common benefit of mankind upon this earth. But the saints have another ground of consolation in the text : and that is the death of Christ, wherein we behold God incarnate, God made flesh, God in our nature. Can ye not look straight forward to divine majesty, then fetch a compass, and look through the vail of the flesh of Christ, and so ye may see God, and not die. “ Often and willingly,” said Luther, “would I thus look at God.”
2. Sin is another fountain of fear; sinfulness considered with the nature of God. Here the sinner first seos guilt in himself, and justice in God, which two together make a very frightful spectacle.