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ing in many instances, especially from sins of the heart, is not so conspicuous. Much of the evil which sin tends to produce is prevented by an over-ruling Providence. We often see conduct in itself sinful, made an occasion of good. Even when the injurious effects of transgressions are the most obvious, we do not always consider, we are unable fully to comprehend its malignity, in its relations to God and hi kingdom. Very plainly, therefore, we are not competent to determine the degree and the duration of that punishment, which the sinner deserves, but shall be almost sure exceedingly to underrate his sinfulness and ill desert. On these points we need a revelation from God; and since a revelation has been granted, communicating the needed instruc: tion, it becomes us with unhesitating confidence to receive it. What sin is, in its nature, its effect, its tendencies, and what amount of evil is due for every instance of transgression, is perfectly clear to the mind of God; and in the volume of inspiration we have his testimony. One very important declaration relative to the demerit of sin, is that of the inspired apostle in my text. The wages of sin is death. Sin is the master whom the sinner serves, and death is the compensation due for his services. The wages of sin is death, “but the gift of God," to them who serve him, "is everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The wages of sin, the gift of God. To the servant of sin death is the deserved recompense; to the righteous eternal life is the gift, through a Mediator of infinite grace.
The assertion of the text is, that the deserved recompense of sin is death. In this assertion what are we to understand by the word death? Let this point be settled, we shall then have the divine testimony respecting the ill desert of sin, most clearly and fully given.
If the text is viewed in its connexion, it will be plainly seen that the death intended is an evil, to be endured by the servants of sin only. Addressing himself to his brethren in Christ, the apostle inquires, “What fruit had ye then in those things, wherefore ye are now ashamed ? For the end of those things is death, but now being made free from sin, and become the servants of God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end ererlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Those vicious practices in which you formerly indulged, terminate in death. But the service of God will end in everlasting life. For death is the sinner's recompense ; but upon the righteous God will bestow eternal life. Very evidently from the death here spoken of, the righteous are exempted. It cannot, therefore be temporal death, for this is common to all men. In this respect the servants of sin and the servants of God fare al ke. Death in. the text is not the dissolution of the body.
It is an evil to which the servant of sin, continuing such, is liable, in distinction from the servant of God; and it ex cludes those upon whom it is inflicted from eternal life. Sin rewards those who are under his dominion with death. But God bestows upon his faithful servants eternal life. In these statements it is fairly implied that those who inherit everlasting life do not suffer death; and that those who suffer death do not inherit life eternal. The end of a sinful course is death, but the end of those whose fruit is unto holiness is evarlasting life. If the death intended were followed by eternal life, the end of those things would not be death, but the end of both the righteous and the wicked would be the same, and upon them both would be conferred the same gift of God. But according to the teaching of the apostle, they who receive the gift of eternal life are freed from that death, which is the wages of sin, and they to whom those wages are paid, do not receive that precious gift.
But if death in the sense of the text will exclude from eternal life, it must be either annihilation or endless misery. which of these two are intended, the text and context do not afford the means of deciding. Let us now inquire whether the term death be used in other parts of scripture, as in this portion of it, and if so, what additional light can be obtained respecting its meaning.
Now there are no words more frequently used in designating the rewards of the righteous and the wicked than life, and death As a motive to obedience the promise is given " he that doeth these things, shall live in them ;" that is, shall prosper, shall be blessed in doing them. By the death denounced upon the transgressor in the declaration," the soul that sinneth, it shall die," some calamity and suffering must be intended, the opposite of the blessedness connected with obedience. When the psalmist says, "thou wilt show me the way of life,” when Solomon affirms, “ the fear of the Lord is the fountain of life, wisdom is a tree of life to them who lay hold upon her, he who keepeth sound wisdom and instruction will find them the life of his soul," all must perceive that by life, not mere existence is intended, but happi. ness. On the other hand, when our Saviour declares," he that believeth in me shall never die," “ if a man keep my say. ings he shall not see death ;" no one supposes that the dissolution of the body is meant. “Whoso findeth me,” said Di. vine Wisdom, "findeth life;" i. e. felicity and joy. “But all they that hate me, love death”-i. e. misery. They pur. sue the road to ruin with as much zeal as if this were the object of their affection and choice. “He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Of this latter declaration the meaning must be, that he who from love to the Saviour sacrafices his earthly
life, as a martyr, shall inherit life eternal ; and of the former, that he who preserves his earthly existence by denying Christ, shall lose life eternal. “There is,” said the apostle John,
a sin unto death. I do not say that he shall pray for it.” And why not pray for it? Plainly for this reason, that it iş unto death. The meaning cannot be, that it will certainly issue in temporal death. For if this were all, it would not preclude prayer for pardon. The sin intended must be that“ sin against the Holy Ghost, which will not be forgiven either in this world or in the next." He that believeth on the Son of God, hath everlasting life;" i. e. everlasting felicity ; “but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life,” shall not partake of everlasting felicity," but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Not to see life, in this passage, denoting, as we may with good reason suppose the same thing with death in my text, is to be excluded from
the blessedness of heaven, and to experience continued manifestations of the divine displeasure. The wrath of God would not be spoken of as abiding in one who was not in existence.
expression plainly signifies continued punishment, conI will now call your attention to a scriptural use of the terms life and death, differing somewhat from that which has been noticed. We read of being dead “in trespasses and sins ;" “ to be carnally minded is death ;" “ he who liveth in pleasure is dead while he liveth.” On the other hand, we read of a “life" maintained by "faith in the Son of God;"
are told “that to be spiritually minded is life.” Ín these instances death denotes a state of great moral corrup. tion, and life a state of holiness. The former is the character of the human heart while unrenewed; the latter is the result of regenerating grace. And hence to be renewed in the spirit of one's mind is “ to pass from death unto life.” As holiness and happiness, sin and misery, are most intimately connected, it is not strange that the same words should be employed to signify both. The term life, when applied to the righteous, usualy, perhaps; includes the ideas of moral purity, and the happiness resulting from it. The life of the soul is a holy, happy existence. The death of the soul is a sinful, wretched existence. "He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. No murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” But in the heart of the true Christian eternal life does abide, for he is the subject of those holy affections which give present peace, and which brought to maturity will essentially constitute the blessedness of heaven. The death, on the contrary, in which the wicked abide, consists in those evil dispositions and habits which often occarion on earth great disquietude, and when fully matured, will produce unutterable anguish. In the sense now ex
plained, our first parents died on the very day of their transgression, and the death, which then began to come upon them, has passed upon the whole race. “If one died for all, then were all dead." Not annihilated, but sunk in sin and misery ; dead, as to God, holiness, and heaven. To those, in whom spiritual life has been commenced and is sustained by the renewing, sanctifying operations of the Holy Spirit, the gospel gives the assurance that they shall inherit life eternal. The rest” into which by faith they "enter," shall be perfected in that unending rest which“ remaineth for them" hereafter. And the death, in which the sinner now abides, will be consummated in that death, which they will experience who lose eternal life, upon whom the wrath of God abideth, and who never have forgiveness.
The evidence already adduced from other portions of the scripture, goes far to show, that by death, in my text and context, is not intended extinction of being, but a sinful, wretched existence that will never end. Other proof will now be alleged still more conclusive.
In the Revelation mention is made of the second death. “He that over cometh shall not be hurt of tle second death." Here it is asserted that the faithful followers of Christ will not suffer the second death, and implied that others will. By the second death must be intended a calamity to be experienced after the dissolution of the body; the same, doubtless, that is signified by the death simply, when used in relation to the future, in other parts of scripture. Now what the revelator means by the second death he has very explicitly told us.
“The fearful, and the unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolitors, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. This is the second death." Rev. xxi. 8. To undergo the secord death, then, is to have one's portion in the burning lake. Here we may notice,
1. The time intended. The inspired writer had seen a vision of the risen dead, standing before God, and judged according to their works. “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the lake of fire." Then he describes the blessedness of those whose names are written in the book of life, and immediately after declares, that the unbelieving and abominable shall suffer the second death. The time, then, in which the second death will be inflicted, is subsequent to the general resurrection and judgment.
2. The second death is a state of extreme suffering. It is represented as having one's part in a lake, burning with fire and brimstone. Very similar is the representation given by our Saviour, when he speaks of the wicked as being cast, at the end of this world, into a furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
3, It will be a state of continued, endless suffering. In Rev. xx. 10, we are told that “the devil, which deceived the nations, was cast into the lake of fire, where the beast and false prophet are, and shall be tormented” (i. e. the devil, the beast, and false prophet, for the verb is plural) “day and night, for ever and ever." Now the beast and false prophet are symbols of large classes of wicked men, and there is no evidence that they will suffer a punishment of longer duration than other wicked men. But their torments are to continue day and night for ever and ever. This phrase, for ever and ever, is used in the New Testament twenty times. In ten of these it is found in ascriptions of praise-as in the instance following—" to whom be glory for ever and ever.” In five instances it expresses the duration of the divine existence, as when mention is made of “ Him, who liveth for ever and ever.” Once it is applied to the duration of God's spiritual kingdom—“And he shall reign for ever and ever.” And once it expresses the perpetuity of that glory and felicity which the saints will enjoy—" they shall reign for ever and ever.” In all these instances it signifies unquestionably endless duration. The same'must be its meaning in the three other instances, in which it is used in relation to future punishment. One has been already quoted. The other two are as follows—“And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.” " And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.” If it is possible for language, unequivocally, to signify endless duration, it is signified in these passages. Our Saviour also told his disciples, and the declaration is five times repeated in six verses, Mark ix. 43-48, that the fire, into which the wicked will be cast, shall never be quenched. I know it may be said that, if the fire is unquenchable, it does not follow that the wicked will always be tormented by it. But if this were not the fact, what conceivable motive could our saviour have to declare that the fire would never be quenched? His intention was to awaken fear of the misery resulting from the indulgence of forbidden inclinations. But why should it alarm us that the fire is unquenchable, were it not for the apprehension that the pains occasioned by it will never cease? In the Apocalypse it is expressly asserted that "they shall be tormented for ever
Thus far my object has been to ascertain the scriptural meaning of the word death, when employed, as in the text
context, to denote those evils which are denounced against the wicked, in distinction from the righteous. These evils, it is evident cannot consist in the dissolution of the body. As death is he end of a sinful course, and everlasting
a holy one, as he sin unto death is a sin that will never be forgiven, and as expressions equivalent to death are, not