« ElőzőTovább »
• Book of Revelations,' alluding to this distinction, speaks expressly of a second death, in terms very fit to be called to mind in the consideration of our present text. “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened ; and another book was opened, which is the book of life ; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written, according to their works : and the sea gave up. the dead which were in it, and death and hell (which last word denotes here simply the place of the dead, not the place of punishment) delivered up the dead that were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works : and death and hell were cast into the lake of fire” (that is, natural death, and the receptacle of those who died, were thenceforth superseded). “ This is the second death. And whatsoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” This description, which is exceedingly awful, is given in the three last verses of the 20th chapter. In reference to the same event, this · Book of Revelations' had before told us, viz. in the ad chapter and 11th verse, that he who overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death; and in like manner in the above quoted 20th chapter; “ Blessed and holy is he that hath part in this resurrection : on such the second death hath no power.” Our Lord himself refers to this death in those never to be forgotten words which he uttered, “He that liveth, and believeth in me, shall not die eternally.” Die he must, but not eternally : die the first death ; but not the second. It is undoubtedly, therefore, the second death which Saint Paul meant by the word death, when he wrote down the sentence, “the body of this death :” and the second death is the punishment, perdition, and destruction which the souls of sinners will suffer in a future state. It is well worthy
of observation that this was indeed the only death which those who wrote the • New Testament,' and probably all sincere Christians of that age, regarded as important; as the subject of their awe and dread and solicitude. The first death, the natural and universal decease of the body, they looked to simply as a change, a going out of one room into another; & putting off one kind of clothing, and putting on a different kind. They esteemed it, compared with the other, of little moment or account. In this respect there is a wide difference between the Scripture apprehension of the subject and ours. We think entirely of the first death; they thought entirely of the second. We speak and talk of the death which we see : they spoke and taught and wrote of a death which is future to that. We look to the first with terror; they to the second alone. The second alone they represent as formidable. Such is the view which Christianity gives us of these things, so different from what we naturally entertain.
You see then what death is in the Scripture sense ; in Saint Paul's sense. :« The body of this death.” The phrase and expression of the text cannot, however, mean this death itself, because he prays to be delivered from it; whereas from that death, or that perdition understood by it, when it once overtakes the sinner, there is no deliverance that we know of. “The body then of this death” is not the death itself, but a state leading to and ending in the second death; namely, misery and punishment, instead of happiness and rest after our departure out of this world. And this state it is, from which Saint Paul, with such vehemence and concern upon his spirit, seeks to be delivered.
Having seen the signification of the principal phrase employed in the text, the next and the most important question is, to what condition of the soul; in its moral and religious concerns, the apostle applies it. Now, in the verses preceding the text, indeed in the whole of this remarkable chapter, Saint Paul has been describing a state of struggle and contention with sinful propensities ; which propensities, in the present condition of our nature, we all feel, and which are never wholly abolished. But our apostle goes farther; he describes also that state of unsuccessful struggle and unsuccessful contention, by which many so unhappily fall. His words are these; “That
: which I do I allow not, for what I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that do I. For. I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not ; for the good that I would I do not ; but the evil which I would not, that do I. I find a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man. But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members."
This account, though the style and manner of expression in which it is delivered be very peculiar, is in its substance no other than what is strictly applicable to the case of thousands : “ The good that I would I do not; the evil which I would not, that I do.”
How many who read this discourse may say the same of themselves as also, “What I would,
! that do I not; but what I hate, that I do ?” This then is the case which Saint Paul had in view. It is a case, first, which supposes an informed and enlightened conscience; “I delight in the law of God.”
" I had not known sin but by the law.” I consent unto the
law that is good.” These sentiments could only be uttered by a man who was, in a considerable degree at least, acquainted with his duty, and who also approved of the rule of duty which he found laid down.
Secondly, the case before us also supposes an inclination of mind and judgment to perform our duty. “When I would do good, evil is present with me: to will is present with me, but how to perform that which
, is good I find not.”
Thirdly, it supposes this inclination of mind and judgment to be continually overpowered. “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members :" that is, the evil principle not only opposes the judgment of the mind, and the conduct which that judgment dictates (which may be the case with all), but in the present case subdues and gets the better of it. wars against the law of my mind, but brings me into captivity."
Fourthly, the case supposes a sense and thorough consciousness of all this ; of the rule of duty; of the nature of sin; of the struggle ; of the defeat. It is a prisoner sensible of his chains. It is a soul tied and
a bound by the fetters of its sins, and knowing itself
It is by no means the case of the ignorant sinner : it is not the case of a seared and hardened conscience. None of these could make the reflection or the complaint which is here described. “The commandment which was ordained unto life, I found to be unto death. I am carnal, sold under sin. In me dwelleth no good thing. The law is holy: and the commandment holy, just, and good : but sin that it might appear sin (that it might be more conspicuous,
“ Not only
aggravated, and inexcusable), works death in me by that which is good.” This language by no means belongs to the stupified, insensible sinner.
Nor, Fifthly, as it cannot belong to an original insensibility of conscience, that is, an insensibility of which the person himself does not remember the beginning ; so neither can it belong to the sinner who has got over the rebukes, distrusts, and uneasiness which sin once occasioned. True it is, that this uneasiness may be got over almost entirely; so that whilst the danger remains the same, whilst the final event will be the same, whilst the coming destruction is not less sure or dreadful, the uneasiness and the apprehension are gone. This is a case too common, too deplorable, too desperate: but it is not the case of which we are now treating, or of which Saint Paul treated. Here we are presented throughout with complaint and uneasiness ; with a soul exceedingly dissatisfied, exceedingly indeed disquieted, and disturbed and alarmed with the view of its condition.
Upon the whole, Saint Paul's account is the account of a man in some sort struggling with his vices; at least, deeply conscious of what they are, whither they are leading him, where they will end; acknowledging the law of God, not only in words and speeches, but in his mind; acknowledging its excellency, its authority; wishing also, and willing, to act upon it, but in fact doing no such thing; feeling, in practice, a lamentable inability of doing his duty, yet perceiving that it must be done. All he has hitherto attained is a state of successive resolutions and relapses. Much is willed, nothing is effected. No furtherance, no advance, no progress is made in the way of salvation. He feels, indeed, his double nature; but he finds that the law in his members, the law of the flesh, brings the whole man into captivity. He may