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and uniting to promote sobriety, righteousness, and godliness in its place.
Finally : Christ died to save sinners ; and, if we be made conformable to his death, we also shall seek their salvation. Some of the first thoughts which occur to a believer's mind, on having found rest for his owo soul, respect the salvation of his kindred and acquaintance; and the direction given to one who had obtained mercy gives countenance to such thoughts and desires : Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.
It is not for ministers only to take an interest in the salvation of men: the army of the Lamb is composed of the whole body of Christians. Every disciple of Jesus should consider himself as a missionary. All, indeed, are not apostles, nor evangelists, nor preachers; but all must be engaged in serving the Lord; some by preaching, some by contributing of their substance, and all by prayer and recommending the Saviour by a holy conversation.
The death of Christ stands connected, in the divine promise, with the salvation of sinners. This is the travail of his soul, which he was to see, and be satisfied; the joy set before him, in view of which he endured the cross, and despised the shame. To be made conformable unto his death, therefore, we must combine that which God has combined with it. It is a high honour conferred on us to be instruments in thus saving our fellow-sinners, and in thus crowning our Redeemer : nor will it be less advantageous to us, since he has said, To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
THE LIFE OF CHRIST THE SECURITY AND FELICITY
OF HIS CHURCH.
Rev. i. 18.
lam he that liveth, and was dead : and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
Some of the most important writings in the church of Christ have been occasioned by the persecutions of its enemies. The Psalms of David, in which a good man will find all the devout feelinys of his heart pourtrayed, were mostly occasioned by the oppositions of the wicked. Many of Paul's Epistles were written from prison; and this book, which contains a system of prophecy from the ascension of Christ to the end of time, was communicated to the beloved disciple, when in a state of banishment. Thus it is that the wrath of man is made to praise God; so much of it as would not answer this end is restrained.
Some of the most distinguished prophets under the Old Testament were introduced to their work by an extraordinary and impressive vision. It was thus with Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel ; and thus it was with the writer of this book. They bebeld the glory of Jehovah in a manner suitable to the dispensation under which they lived; he, being under a new dispensation, of which Christ was exalted to be the head, saw his glory both divine and human; as the Alpha and Omega, the first and last, and as the Son of Man walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.
On seeing him, the Apostle fell at his feet as dead. He on whose bosom he could formerly lean with all the familiarity of a friend, is now possessed of a glory too great to he sustained by a mortal man. But yet how sweetly is this awful grandeur tempered with gentleness and goodness: He laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not, I am the first and the last; I am he that liveth, and was dead ; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
The force and beauty of the passage will appear to advantage, if we observe the circumstances of the church and of the Apostle at the time. It is supposed to be about the year 95, under the persecution of Domitian. The church, at that time, was under a dark cloud. Great numbers of the first Christians and the first ministers would now have finished their course ; many would be cut off by the persecution ; all the apostles were dead, excepting John; and he was banished. To an eye of sense it would appear as if the cause must be crushed. How cheering, in such circumstances, must it have been to be told, I am he that liveth! The Assyrian invasion, in the time of Hezekiah, filled the breadth of Immanuel's land ; but while Jerusalem was preserved, the head was above water, and the body politic, though overflowed even to the neck, would yet live. Much more would the church in the midst of persecution. While Christ her head lived, she could not die.
It was on the Lord's day, that the Apostle was favoured with this extraordinary vision, the day in which he had risen from the dead; which circumstance would add force to what he said of himself as having been dead, but as being now alive. It was the day also in which, as far as their persecuted state would admit, the churches were assembled for Christian worship; and while they, doubtless, remembered the venerable Apostle in their prayers, the Lord, by him, remembered and provided for them.
There is a charming circumlocution in the passage, which surprises and overwhelms the mind. The Lord might have said, as on a former occasion, Be not afraid, it is l; but he describes himself in language full of the richest consolation : Iam he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermort, and have the keys of hell and of death !
Let us observe the characters which our Lord assumes ; consider them as a ground of security to the church; and conclude with a few reflections.
1. Let us observe THE CHARACTERS WHICH OUR LORD ASSUMES. The words contain four positions ; viz. that he liveth; that he liveth who was dead ; that he liveth forevermore; and that he has the keys of hell and of death.
1. He saith, I am he that LIVETH. It is a truth that Christ liv. eth, and always did and will live as the first and the last ; but the life here spoken of, being that which succeeded to his death, was possessed in the same nature as that in which he died. It was the life which commenced at his resurrection ; when, being raised from the dead, he dieth no more : death hath no more dominion aver him. It consists, not merely in existence, but in that blessing, and honour, and glory, which he received as the reward of his humiliation. Is is the possession of that joy that was set before him, in the prospect of which he endured the cross, and despised the shame.
There appears to be something more in the words I am he that liveth, than if it had been said I live; for this had been true of millions as well as of Christ, whereas that which is spoken is something peculiar to bim. Paul says of himself. I live; but when be had said it, he, in a manner, recalled his words, adding, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. Cbrist is not only possessed of life himself, but communicates it to others : his lite involves that of the church, and of every individual believer in him. In his life they live, and will live forevermore.
In the life of Christ we trace the execution of the great designs 'of his death. It is as living tbat be intercedes for us at the right hand of God. If, says the Apostle Paul, when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son: much more being Vol. VII.
reconciled, we shall be saved by his LIFE. We see here three distinct stages in the work of Christ. First : By his death he made atonement for us : this is expressed by his having reconciled us to God, or restored us to his favour as the lawgiver and judge of the world. Secondly: By his word and Spirit we are subdued to the obedience of faith, so as, of enemies, to become friends : this is expressed by our being reconciled, or brought into a state of actual peace and friendship with God. Thirdly : By his life he saves
us : this is that branch of salvation which is effected by bis inter| cession, and which is denominated saving us to the uttermost.
From the first two, the Apostle argues the last, as from what Christ did for os when enemies to what he will do for us now that we are friends, and from his having begun the work to carrying it on to perfection.
In the life of Christ we trace all the important blessings of his reign. The promise of the sure nercies of Devid is alleged, by the Apostle as a proof of the resurrection of Christ. But how does this appear? By the sure mercies of David, as promised in the 55th of Isaiah, there is, doubtless, a reference to the covenant made with David, ordered in all things and sure, and which contained all his salvation, and all his desire.
But this covenant was to be fulfilled in the everlasting kingdom of Christ. The sure mercies of David, therefore, are the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom, the bestowment of which implies his resurrection ; for, if death bad continued to have dominiou over him, no sucb kingdom could have existed. The sum is, that, in saying to his servant John, I am he that liveth, be furnished one of the richest sources of consolation to the church in its state of tribulation.
2. He speaks of his life as succeeding to his death: I am he that liveth, AND WAS DEAD. This part of the description would remove all doubts, if any existed, as to who he was. The disparity between his present appearance and what he was when the Apostle saw and conversed with him in the flesh, must be exceedingly great, and might tend to stagger his belief in his being the same person ; but this speech, whatever doubts be felt, would at once remore them. • Yes, it is my Lord himself, and not another. It is he whom I saw expire upon the cross !'