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THE AUTHOR'S LAST SERMO . Philippians, i., 23. — I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better. one ever expressed more ardour of desire for the tabernacle than David : " As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so longeth my soul after thee, O God !" " Wo is me that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar !" And shall Christians, strangers, pilgrims in a wilderness, sigh less after their home ? — less for that " city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God?" — » weary of dwelling in Meshech? — So Paul — though in a strait between the two, yet, when he consulted his own inclination and interest, it was to die. Let us consider, I. The object of his wish — death with the happiness following — " to depart and be with Christ." II. His disposition with regard to it — with vehemence— " Having a desire to depart." III. The reason of his desire — the great advantage — > "far better:' I. The object of his wish, &c. The death of the believer is only a departure to go and rejoin himself to Christ. Death so considered should not be an object of fear, but of " desire." How different the views of men on the subject of death : to the infidel, annihilation ; to the man of the world, a cruel separation from all he holds dear ; but to the Christian it is only a departure to be with Christ.
1. A departure of the soul from the body — thus, death is common to all. O infidel, think not that thou shalt cease to be ! it is but a change of country. O men of the world } Aa
186 PAUL I A STRAIT. ye are chased away by a strong arm ; you do not " depart ;" the messenger drags you away ! the term of your tenement is expired. ot so the believer ; he knows that here he has " no continuing city" but " that, if the earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, he has a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens ;" he is therefore content to quit his cottage — he departs with freedom and honour ! 2. It is the departure of the man altogether out of the society of the world ; a consigning of the body to dust, and the soul to a new world. All relations to sublunary things cease, and he will never hold the same connexion with them again. Painful thought to the wicked, whose heart was in the world — instructive to the righteous to sit loosely in affection to it. He is at an inn, not at home. Why be embarrassed, then, about the accommodations ? The soldier only pitches his tent ; the sailor merely touches at your coast. So you are as passengers waiting the change of wind. — The end of your voyage is " to be with Christ." The Scriptures represent the happiness of the righteous generally, whether before or after the resurrection, by this expression. But why did Paul employ this phrase in preference to any other ? He was filled ivith Christ ! If he live, it is because Christ lives in him. If he resolve to know anything,
it is " Christ and him crucified. 5 ' Christ is life — wisdom — hope. Christ is gain to him, whether living or dying. Christ is his felicity after death. And in every respect he is the source of our felicity: " We shall dwell with him." # # # Xhe kingdom he has opened for us is his kingdom ; the glory we are to inherit is his glory ; participation of his royalty ; the sight of him will be our chief happiness. — O / to be with Christ ! We cannot be with Christ while here ; we must depart to be with him. Once the disciples were with him on earth, and earth was a Paradise ! ow it knows him no more. The Father has exalted him above the heavens, to draw our hearts after him. If he had remained always in this
PAUL I A STRAIT. 187 world, who would have wished to depart ? But " he is not here — he is risen," and we follow. "We know where he is, and the way we know. — But as He did not enter heaven without rending the veil, his flesh, so neither can we. Then more reason shall we have than even his disciples to say, " Lord, it is good to be here !" to dwell forever, not in a tabernacle, but in this holy mountain. Paul joins without any medium, " depart" and " be with Christ" What numerous errors ! Talk no more of the soul's sleep till the resurrection ; let us hear no more of a purgatory. As to the first, it is impossible to separate thought from the soul. If it cease to think, it ceases to be — it will not sleep, therefore. Would any be happy to die, if between death and happiness so long a space ? Would Paul not rather have desired to live for the sake of his partial enjoyment of Christ here ? Would he then have said " depart and be with Christ?" If the soul sleep when we depart, then it cannot be " better" than to live ; for certainly life, and the
present enjoyment of God, and the prospect of service to the church, are better, &c. The same may be said of purgatory ; to be in purgatory cannot be much better than being in the church serving God ! Besides, this cannot be an object of desire, but rather of fear. To say Paul and the martyrs are exempted is mere assumption. The apostle connects himself with all believers : " We in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened, willing rather to depart and be with Christ" — this excludes us from purgatory as well as him. O ! how sweet the doctrine, " To depart and be with Christ!" II. The apostle's disposition with regard to it — with vehemence — " Having a desire to depart !" How extraordinary a desire ! especially when we consider the love of life and dread of death, so natural ! How, then, can death be an object of desire? and a desire so vehement as the original implies ? 1. It is not so much death as the advantages we derive,
188 PAUL I A STRAIT. and which follow after. Death in itself is not desirable. It is against the very first law of our nature. We do not condemn all trembling at the prospect. We would not divest man of his humanity. Enoch's end, &c, was more agreeable ; and Paul had this sentiment : " ot that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon ; that mortality might be swallowed up of life." But as passing through the valley is the ordinary way of going to Christ, there is nothing in our natural aversion which a well-grounded hope in the promises of the Gospel
should not overcome. Why not religion do for us what philosophy has done for others ? or worldly honour as the soldier ? # # # What a consideration, " to depart and be with Christ." 2. This desire is only found in the true believer — it is his Shibboleth, and his only. — We need not exhort the wicked not to fear death — surprising they do not fear it more. — But whether we desire it or not, it does not tarry. It overtakes him who flies as well as him who expects it. Its feet are swifter than the wind, its hands are stronger than iron. — But what ought this desire to be, and how far should it proceed ? 1. It should be purely passive, not active ; it should not stimulate us to lay violent hands on ourselves, but expect with joy and wait with pleasure the time when it shall please God to send for us. We should not be our murderers by refusing the body its proper care and nourishment, or by exposing ourselves to perils to which we are not lawfully called ; we should not break down the walls of our prison. 2. This desire should be accompanied with patience and submission, not murmuring nor repining. If there is piety in desiring death, there is sometimes more in suffering life. This belongs to the afflicted believer. Tarry for the Lord. Job says, " All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come." 3. It should not be carnal, but spiritual ; not stimulated by the miseries of the present life, but by a desire to be with
PAUL I A STRAIT. 189 Christ. If a wish to escape the pains and vanities of life, it should be only a secondary consideration.
4. This desire may suffer some abatement by the service of the Church requiring you — as a wife ordered to her husband, but is to leave her child behind. She is in a strait. — But take care this is not excessive, or a pretence to cover the excessive love of life. God can supply the Church and our families without us. III. The reason of his desire — the great advantage — "far better^ Beyond comparison more advantageous — the original seems to imply that it is infinitely better. — Show this. 1. Life, it is agreed by all, is subject to calamities without number. ow death, to be with Christ, is our jubilee ; our time of release and redemption. Here " man is full of trouble ;" every one has as much of the cup as he can well bear. But there all tears will be wiped away — and that by the hand of Christ ! o more strifes among brethren ; no more sin. He will repair our wrongs and recompense our losses. O ! when will this deliverance come ? 2. Compare the enjoyments of this life with the advantages of being with Christ. View life now on its bright side. It has advantages : goods, honours, pleasures. — But none are very great nor very certain. one can give solid joy! The soul is capable of three general affections : to know, love, feel. Three sources of actions and pleasures without number. * * * There it shall know God in a very different manner from now : in the presence of Christ it will always be at the source of truth ; enlightened at the fountain of uncreated light by the true light ! and capable of considering things in connexion with causes, &c. # # # What do we love here ? Many of the objects are causes of pain ; we love many things which are bad and imperfect. There love will be free from obstacles, pure from carnal
motives, vast in proportion to what we know, and know so perfectly. Here the soul has a number of agreeable feelings; but much more there ! more agreeable, more lively ! less limited ! How many new sources of pleasure may not God lay open to us ! pleasures of which he himself is the source. Here they are gross, short, and imperfect — a day with Christ is better than a thousand ! the crumbs from his table are better than the feasts of the rich and the abundance of the world. And as with pleasures, so with honours — coheirs with Christ ! — So with society — here, how the company of the wicked counterbalances the pleasures arising from the society of the pious ; there, glorified saints and Christ Jesus the Lord ! Oh ! it is " better to depart and be with Christ !"
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