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longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God." "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God! My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: When shall I come and appear before God?” The righteous, who love the temple of God in this world, desire to be fixed as pillars in his temple above. They long to be absent from the body, that they may be present with the Lord. David lived and died in the pleasing hope of enjoying the blissful presence of God for ever. “I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”
« Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." shall behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness." The prospect of death cannot destroy, but must necessarily consummate, the hope of the righteous that they shall be translated into the immediate and beatific presence of God.
Fourthly. The prospect which death presents to the righteous of being forever united with perfectly holy creatures, cannot destroy their hope. The wicked hate heaven on account of its holy inhabitants. They could not enjoy themselves a moment in the society of holy angels and of the spirits of just men made perfect. “ An unjust man is an abomination to the just: and he that is upright in his ways is abomination to the wicked.” Hence the apostle demands, " What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness ? and what communion hath light with darkness ?- or what part hath he that believeth, with an infidel?” The hearts of the wicked
, are in perfect contrariety to the hearts of the righteous, which totally disqualifies them for the holy and happy society of heaven, and completely fits them for the society of the unholy and unhappy prisoners of despair. The prospect of such an everlasting separation between the righteous and the wicked, will destroy the hope of the wicked, while it will strengthen and confirm the hope of the righteous. They dread, as David
. did, that God should gather their souls with the wicked, and ardently desire and hope to be where the wicked shall cease from troubling, and the weary shall be at rest. When the time of their departure is at hand, and they are waiting for death, they find a peculiar pleasure in looking through the grave up to the world of light, where they hope to be soon united with the patriarchs, the prophets, the apostles, and all the children of God, in their Father's house. They can hardly conceive of any happiness, which is superior to the felicity which they hope to derive from the love, the harmony, and the uninter
rupted society of the general assembly and church of the firstborn in heaven. Death, which opens such a bright and glorious prospect into the heavenly world, is suited to remove the doubts and fears, and to confirm the hopes, of the righteous.
Fifthly. There is nothing in the prospect of the holy employments of heaven, which can destroy the hopes of the righteous. To the unrighteous in this life, the duties of private devotion, the services of the sanctuary, and the very Sabbath itself, are a burden and weariness. And when they think of the eternal world, as they sometimes are constrained to do, the prospect of the holy services of heaven destroys all their hope or desire of going thither. Their hearts revolt from the painful idea of spending an endless duration in the holy and humble worship of the sacred Three in One. When death comes to call them away from the busy scenes of life, every ray of hope vanishes; for they are conscious that they cannot be happy either in praising, or blaspheming God, and of course must be completely wretched as long as they exist. But when death comes to the righteous, and opens the prospect of being for ever employed in worshipping and praising their God and Saviour, it fills their hearts with the purest joy and most lively hope. They have found it to be good for them to draw near to God in the duties of devotion. They have seen the glory of God in his sanctuary, and enjoyed divine pleasure in uniting with the assembly of his saints, in paying him the sincere and supreme homage of the heart. They know that death will not destroy their existence, and therefore it cannot destroy their desire and hope of praising God for ever. David believed this, and thankfully acknowledged it before God. “Praise ye the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul. While I live, will I praise the Lord : I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being." The prospect of dying in the Lord, of resting from their labors, and of enjoying one holy and perpetual Sabbath in the kingdom of heaven, instead of destroying the hope of the righteous, removes the gloom of the grave, and fills their hearts with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Sixthly. There is nothing in seeing the displays of divine justice upon the vessels of wrath after death, that can destroy the hope of the righteous. They have seen and approved the justice of God when pointed against themselves, and so are prepared to see and approve the brightest displays of it towards the finally impenitent. Though they do not delight in the death of the wicked, simply considered, yet they do delight, all things considered, in seeing God manifest his holy and just displeasure against the incorrigible enemies of all righteousness. As Moses and the pious Israelites could bless and praise God for destroying Pharaoh and his hosts in the Red Sea, so the righteous can, with equal benevolence and sincerity, say, “Amen, Alleluia," while they behold God perpetually pouring out the vials of his wrath upon those obstinate enemies who, if they had been able, would have destroyed his kingdom, and all his holy and obedient subjects. God never felt and never will feel the least malevolence towards his irreconcilable enemies, and therefore will never express the least malevolence towards them, while he gives them the due reward of their deeds. Though death will remove the vail which now hides the invisible world, and covers the destruction of the wicked, yet the prospect of this has a tendency to strengthen rather than to weaken the hope of the righteous, that they shall clearly see and sensibly enjoy the justice as well as the mercy of God for ever.
Seventhly. The prospect of seeing all the divine purposes completely accomplished and unfolded, cannot destroy the hope of the righteous when they are going out of time into eternity. This is a dreadful prospect to the wicked, who hate and oppose the eternal and immutable designs of the Deity. But those who habitually live in the exercise of that faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, sincerely rejoice in the prospect of seeing all the divine purposes fulfilled and explained in the world of light. When Peter could not comprehend the reason of Christ's conduct in a certain instance, " Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do, thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” This promise was undoubtedly a source of joy and hope to Peter, as long as he lived, and when he died. The same promise applies to all the righteous, and affords them a solid ground to hope that death will dissipate all the clouds and darkness which have rested upon the dispensations of providence and grace in this life. Now they see through a glass darkly, but after death they shall see face to face: now they know in part, but then shall they know even as also they are known. When the works of creation and providence shall have completed the work of redemption, then all the counsels of God shall be laid open; and the reasons of all his conduct towards all his creatures in every part of his vast dominions, shall be fully explained to the apprehension and satisfaction of his friends, and to the full conviction and utter confusion of his enemies. It is the sincere desire of the righteous, both in life and in death, that God would carry into effect all his wise, holy and gracious designs; and the prospect of their full accomplishment cannot draw a cloud of darkness over their depart
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ing spirits, but will greatly brighten their hopes of seeing the glory of all the divine perfections illustriously displayed to all eternity. I may add,
Eighthly. The prospect of existing for ever cannot prevent the righteous from having hope in their death. The prospect of existing for ever in a future state, carries despair to the wicked at the close of life. But the righteous have hope in their dying hour, that they shall enjoy a blessed immortality beyond the grave. They can adopt the language of the primitive christians, and joyfully say, “ We are persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the · love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” know, that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God; an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." While the righteous firmly believe that they shall thus survive the grave, and live for ever in the presence, in the favor, and in the enjoyment of God, and perpetually hold a free and intimate communion with all the holy and blessed spirits of heaven, they must have a lively hope in death, both in respect to themselves, and to all their christian friends, whether they have gone before them, or shall follow after them to the mansions of bliss. This the apostle represents as a consolation peculiar to christians. “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died, and rose again, even so them also, which sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him.” 6 And so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” In the very hour of death, the righteous have a sure and certain hope of a holy and happy existence to all eternity. “The perpetuity of bliss is bliss. "
I now pass to the improvement of the subject.
1. If the righteous have hope in their death, then they are essentially different from the wicked. This is a truth which many are very unwilling to admit. They suppose that there is only a gradual difference between the godly and the ungodly. They allow that saints are better than sinners, but they imagine that the only difference between them consists in the degrees of their goodness. They cannot believe that any of mankind are so completely depraved, as to be altogether destitute of moral goodness; and this naturally leads them to conclude that there is no essential difference between the righteous and the wicked. But if the righteous have hope in their death, while the wicked are driven away in despair, then there must be an essential
difference in their moral characters. The characters of all men are in perfect conformity with the objects upon which they place their supreme affections and hopes. If they place their supreme affections and hopes upon holy and virtuous objects, then their real characters are holy and virtuous; but if mere worldly objects hold the highest place in their desires and affections, then their characters are of a diametrically opposite nature. If we could only discover the real objects upon which mankind place their supreme regard and attention, we should never be at a loss about their true characters. Whatever, therefore, most clearly discovers their highest hopes and dependence, must make the greatest discovery of the moral quality of their hearts. And there is nothing which more completely makes this discovery, than a change of circumstances. It was a change of circumstances, which the subtile enemy of mankind supposed would discover the true character of Job; and the great Searcher of hearts consented that his character should be tried by this criterion. God pronounced Job to be a perfect and upright man ; but Satan insinuated that a change of circumstances would discover his selfishness and insincerity. The experiment was made; and by the infallible test proposed, Job was proved to be a true and sincere friend to God. It was a change of circumstances, that discovered the selfishness and insincerity of the multitudes who followed Christ from mercenary motives. It was a change of circumstances, that discovered the hypocrisy and avaricious spirit of Judas, and Simon the sorcerer. And it is a change of circumstances, that so often discovers the hearts and characters of men at this day. But there is no change of circumstances, which has so great a tendency to discover the hearts and characters, of men, as a sick and dying bed. Multitudes have concealed their supreme affections and hopes from themselves and from the world, until they were brought to this trying situation, when they could no longer wear the mask. If this be true, then the righteous who have hope in that tremendous hour which destroys the hope of the wicked, must be essentially different from them, in their hearts. If the wicked had the least degree of supreme love to God and to Christ, death could not destroy their hope, any more than the hope of the righteous, because it could not destroy the objects of their supreme affection and hope. But if the wicked have not the least degree of supreme love to God and to Christ, then death must remove all the objects of their supreme affection and hope, and so necessarily destroy their hope itself. It is impossible to account for the hope of the righteous and the despair of the wicked, at death, upon any other ground, than the truth of their total depravity of heart. If the wicked had the smallest portion of the oil of grace in