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It is the nature of guilt to bind over to punishment, and of justice to inflict it; so that guilt is a great source of fears. But fear not, O Christian ; Christ was dead, and is alive for ever more; therefore the guilt that exposes to hell-fire is done away. Thou mayest indeed be guilty, so as to bring upon thee fatherly chastisments for your amendment, but thou art not liable to eternal plagues. You may plead not guilty to the charges of the law as a covenant of works: "For if God be for us, who can be against us?” Rom. viii. 31. Upon the cross there were two crucified, the Son of God, and the law of God. But the Son of God, by his becoming dead, bruised to death the law as a covenant of works, in respect of believers. He took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross, Coloss. ii. 14. Therefore the law, our first husband, being dead, our relation to it is dissolved, and we are legally married to Christ, who was raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. Justice is satisfied. No faming sword stands any more to guard the tree of life. The storm hath exhausted itself upon Christ; fear not, but come forward.
He died in our room. Justice exacted, and he answered. Fear not old accounts, for God spared not his own Son. A thousand may fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, by the stroke of justice, but it shall not come nigh thee. Do ye doubt the completeness of the satisfaction ? Behold Christ in heaven, with the complete discharge in his band. He is out of prison. He brought the keys with him, and is now on the throne. Everlasting righteousness is brought in, and it is put on thee by bim. He is made of God unto you righteousness. Your own is only filthy rags; but that which is imputed unto you will abide the judgment of God, and endure for ever. But,
3. The sinner sees pollution in himself, and holiness in God. When they behold the spotless purity of God, and themselves as an unclean thing, they are ready to say, 0 will God look on vile me? will these pure eyes cast a favourable glance on such a dunghillworm ? Fear not, Christ was dead, and is alive. He is made of God unto you sanctification. Thou hast some grace amidst a heap of corruptions. Though thou seest not what a lustre this casts within thee, yet God sees it: “ The king's daughter is all glorious within," Psalm xlv. 13. But look to your outer garments, wbich are of wrought gold, they will hide all your deformities. Though you are, in respect of inherent grace, but fair as the moon, yet your imputed righteousness is clear as the sun. To this some may object, “ I am guilty of gross sins, and that even since the Lord began to deal with me." Fear not, Christ died; and if so, God died for your sins. If he was God who died, when he was pouring out his blood, he knew all the sins you would be guilty of, even after your conversion. He did not shed his blood in vain, and therefore in his death he had even these in his view; and will not the blood of God be able to expiate the grossest sins? It cleanseth from all sin. Remember also he is alive evermore to intercede for you: “ If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father," 1 John ii. 1. If his blood was sufficient for expiation, his intercession cannot but be prevalent. —“But I may say, I sin evermore, and that breaks my soul.” Fear not, Christ lives evermore; and, if ye believe the apostle, it is to make intercession for you. If Christ lives evermore, ye shall not sin evermore : for he will not thus live alone without you; where he is, there you shall be also, John xvii. 24. “But the sin of my nature lies nearest my heart: I am just a lump of hell, and a mass of sin. Acts of sin are transient, but this is permanent, and I cannot be freed of it.” Fear not: Christ died, and therefore, though it may make your way to heaven difficult, yet ye shall never be condemned for it. Nay, good news, O believer! with the death of Christ sin got a fatal wound. Your old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, Rom. vi. 6. You wonder it is so troublesome; but why do ye do so ? The old man is mortally wounded ; and can you think he will groan out his life in silence, and not move a tongue against Christ? But as surely as Christ came not down from the cross till he breathed out his last, so surely shall the body of death in you be destroyed.
3. Desertions are a cause of fears. The deserted soul is an af. frighted soul. Say some,“ Christ is withdrawn from me: my sou has gone down: nothing now but darkness and confusion : I can see no evidences of the Lord's love to me: I may say as Job, chap. xxiii. 8, 9," I go forward and backward, but I cannot perceive him." But fear ot, Christian; it has been, and it will be, better with you. Good news to you in your low state, Christ died, and in his death he was forsaken of God; and yet he now enjoys the bosom of the Father, and the light of his countenance. Who would not be content to follow Christ, even through the valley of the shadow of death ? Ye pray, and it seems ye are not heard ; so it was with Christ : “() my God,” said he, “thou hearest not,” Psalm xxii. 2. But though your husband be far off, though you cannot see him, yet he is not dead, he is alive; and if alive, he will come again, for he hateth putting away. Though ye seem to be out of sight, yet ye are not out of mind; he liveth evermore. Zion's account of Christ under a fit of desertion, is not canonical, it is not orthodox, Isa. xlix. 14-16, " But Zion said, the Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she
should not have compassion on the son of her womb ? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands, thy walls are continually before me."
To this the objection may be proposed, " But how can I endure to want the joys I have sometimes had, and these blessed consolations ?” Answer, Trust in God, and have respect to the recompense of the reward of grace. Will you disquiet yourselves because there is not a second summer in one year? Bless God that helps you to the fight in any measure ; wait patiently for his comforts, and be constantly at your work. Again, say others, “ Were there no more in my case, I might keep heart; but I am under dreadful apprehensions of wrath, and there are positive outgoings of God's anger against my soul, as Job vi. 4, " The arrows of the Almighty are within me.” Here, I confess, it is hard to stand, and not to fall down at his feet as dead. Yet we must say, Fear not; for Christ was dead, and the wrath of God was poured out into his soul, which melted his heart like wax in the midst of his bowels : Yet he swam through this ocean. Now, that he is alive, is a pledge that ye shall not drown: For, says he,“ because I live ye shall live also.”
It was one of the ends of Christ's death, to deliver you and the like of you, Hob. ii. 15, “ And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. You are mistaken, if you
think the arrows are dipped in deadly poison ; for Christ was dead, and is alive, and the poison of these arrows entered into his soul in full measure, and he drank it up; Gal. iii. 13,“ Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us : for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” They will wound very sore, though there be no poison, no curse in them. Your cloud has a white side, if ye could discern it; only believe, and ye shall be established. This is the heat of the battle with you. Keep hold of the death of Christ as your shield that will defend you. Look not on God, but through the veil of the flesh of Jesus. Dry stubble may be safe, if there be a strong crystal wall between it and the fire. Does God appear as a consuming fire ? Christ is the crystal wall: set him betwixt you and an angry God. The light of that fire will shine through him to refresh you, but it will not burn through him. It has been often tried; he is still alive, and ye shall live also.
4. Temptations are a source of fears. Sometimes Satan gets leave to dog saints at their heels. With what horrid temptations poor souls may be harassed, some know by sad experience: fiery darts that they tremble to think of, and that they dare not name ! This fills them with fear : but to such I say, Fear not. Christ died, and is alive evermore. He that thus lives evermore gave a deadly wound to the tempter. When Jesus was in the world, Satan set on him with the most severe temptations; but Jesus overcame hini, and at his death triumphed over him. He spoiled principalities and powers, Col. ii. 15, “ And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” You see, then, that the enemy with whom you fight is already vanquished, and the victory of Jesus over him is a sure pledge of yours. Yea, as in the first Adam we were all tempted and fell, so in the second Adam we were tempted and stood; and so have overcome already in our Head. We have no more to do but cry to our Lord, who, from his own temptations, well knows how to succour his tempted people. We must give the alarm, and handle our weapons. Though the fight may last a while, yet it will come to an end, and we shall be more than conquerors. Jesus is in lieaven, waiting till his enemies be made his footstool; and he will bruise Satan under our feet shortly.
5. Death is the cause of much fear. O how hard is it to look on it with a stayed countenance! Death is terrible, in that it is a dissolution of nature, parts soul and body; and therefore we are so apt to shudder at the thoughts of it. But fear not; for Christ died. His precious soul and body were parted; so he orders us to travel no path but such as he hath trode before us. By his death he has destroyed death; he has unstinged it to the believer. Then, fear it not, it can do you no harm, “But death is terrible, in that it takes us out of this world from all our enjoyments, from our dearest relations and friends, and sends us into another world, where we know not a foot of ground, where we never saw a face. Were a child born with that judgment that men have, the first sight of this world might be terrible to him; so must the unseen world be to
But fear not: he that was dead is alive; and when ye are carried off, you shall be with him who is infinitely better than all earthly relations. Here is your comfort. Jesus hath the keys of hell and death. He is Lord supreme of that other world to which you are travelling. He sends you such word as Joseph sent his father, Gen. xlv. 9, saying, “God hath made me lord of all Egypt; come down unto me, tarry not.” O to believe it firmly !
6, And Lastly, Hell is a fountain of fears. Sometimes the godly are above, sometimes under the fears of hell. It is terrible, the thought of being excluded for ever the presence of God ! " Who can abide with everlasting burnings ?” When we look down to the pit, it seems hard to escape it; when we look up to heaven, our souls faint, lest we never get there. But fear not: for Christ died; and if so,
he suffered the torments thou shouldst have suffered in hell, as to the essentials of them. He was under the punishment of loss; God forsook him, Psalm xxii. 1. He endured the punishment of sense, eveu to drops of blood, and the wrath of God poured into his soul. Then God will not require two payments for one debt. Christ lives, he rose, and entered heaven as a public person; and therefore, believer, thou shalt as surely go to heaven as if thou wert there already, yea, the apostle says we are there already. Eph. ii. 6, “ We are raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," as our Head. Jesus lives for evermore; and therefore thou shalt be for ever with the Lord. He has the keys of hell and death. Suppose your father or best friend on earth had these keys, would you be afraid ? But we may have more confidence in Jesus than in ten thousand fathers, or even the mothers that bare us. They may forsake us, and a mother may be found that will not have compassion on the son of her womb; but, o believer, Jesus hath said, “I will not forget thee,” Isa. xlix. 15, 16,“ Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet I will not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hand, thy walls are continually before me.” Though Satan be the jailor of hell, yet he keeps not the keys; they hang, believer, at the girdle of your best friend.
III. We shall conclude with some improvement.
1. From this subject we may infer the comfortless state of them that are out of Christ. Are the truths in the text grounds of consolation to the saints? How, then, can they bear up who have no interest in Christ? Nay, we might turn the black side of this white cloud upon unbelievers, and tell them, that if Jesus died how can they escape? If he be alive, he will avenge their contempt of him and their neglect of his salvation. If he lives for evermore, then they will have an eternal enemy. If he has the keys of hell, then they cannot escape that prison ; or te rescued out of it.
2. That it is the duty of Christians to improve these things for their actual comfort. Christian, sit down at his table, and suck the breasts of consolation. Build your comforts on these truths. Alas! our comforts are often short lived, because we do not found them sure enough. I will give you but a few notes concerning this. (1.) The grieving of the Spirit cuts the throats of our comforts. (2.) Good men sometimes build their comforts on outward blessings; hence, when these are gone, their comfort is gone. (3.) On grace within theni, not on grace without them; the comfort of some streams from their obedience principally, therefore it is soon dried up; whereas