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natural practical bearing. Yet there is one subject of special practical tendency which for its importance, I deem necessary to press on your present attention. I mean, the necessary, the indispensable obligation of perseverance in religion; for vain and unsubstantial as the day-dream of the most bewildered imagination, is the hope of him who is not faithful unto death. The grand difficulty in religion is, fidelity to the Master we have undertaken to serve; courage and constancy in the cause we have embraced; perseverance to the end. It is comparatively easy to set out well; the difficulty is to keep in the path with an untiring pace and with an unmoved eye. Are there not many among you, who at some period of your lives have set out in the path of religion? And where are you now? Are you persevering, and with renewed and still increasing effort, are you travelling onward; or are you declining from the path, fatigued and tired, and languishing and sighing for the delights of a less spiritual service? Oh I do fear that there may be many an one, now in the presence of a heartsearching God, who has fallen from his steadfastness, and is now not persevering in the path which once his feet had trodden. If there is such an individual here, male or female, young or old, oh hear, I beseech you, the warning voice of God.-“If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” “If any man put his hand to the plough and look back, he is not fit for the kingdom of heaven." “ Be thou faithful unto death.” On your perseverance unto death, permit me to assure you, depends, under God, the everlasting welfare of your immortal souls. For, from the high and lofty habitation of
his holiness, God once more declares, “Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches ;” and never was there an appeal more solemn and awful, than the one with which the Spirit closes this most deeply interesting and important epistle.—“He that overcometh, shall not be hurt of the second death."
I need not detain your attention with a remark, enlarged on when the epistle to the Church at Ephesus was under special consideration, that the Christian's life is a struggle with enemies both within and without. The corruption of our nature, the alienation of our hearts from God, the enmity of the carnal mind, form those difficulties from within which require more power than that of nature to overcome. It is grace alone which can change those corruptions and purify the fountain. It is grace alone which can remove the alienation of the heart from its rightful sovereign, and bring it back to its allegiance. It is grace alone which can triumph over the opposition of the carnal mind, and make us conquerors and more than conquerors. But besides these formidable difficulties from within, there are the temptations, the trials, the persecutions of the world from without, to contend with; and blessed is he who going to the only sufficient source of strength, shall find grace to help in every time of need. Blessed is he who shall overcome in every struggle, for he shall not be hurt of the second death. Remark, my dear brethren, that there is not only a first, but a second death. Every individual who has ever breathed the breath of life, must be hurt of the first death; for death hath established an universal empire, and his reign commenced when the great transgression was commit
ted. The righteous as well as the wicked must bow beneath the iron sceptre of the King of Terrors, and the first death-earth to earth; ashes to ashes; dust to dust-must pass upon every son and daughter of Adam. In a few short years, you and I shall have passed away, and our memorial will have perished
Is it not a solemn consideration, beloved, that in a few years, another generation will occupy these pews, and you will sleep in the grave? But, my friends, if you belong to the Lord ; if you are his in the bonds of an everlasting covenant; if your hearts have been changed, and ye have been transformed into the image of the holiness of God, then and only then, will the terrors of the first death be soothed and mitigated by the victory of Christ, by the precious triumphs of Him who, in the commencement of this epistle, calls himself the “first and the last, who was dead and is alive again.” By him death is disarmed of its sting and the grave of its victory, and the real believer becomes in virtue of his union with Christ, a partaker of that triumph; for though he must be hurt of the first death, yet through the grace and mercy of Him who hath said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” he overcomes the fear of death, and looks upon the otherwise terrific monster as the friend who comes to usher him into the mansions of his everlasting rest. The real believer, justified in the sight of God and clad in the garment of a: Saviour's righteousness, has no fear of the second death; for its horrors rest alone upon those who have rejected the offers of his mercy and died as they have lived, in a state of enmity to him. But who can describe the horrors of that second death, a death which does not attach itself to the
body; but a death which lays its touch upon the soul, and the pangs and agonies of which are the pangs and agonies of an immortal spirit, always suffering, always dying, yet never dead. This is the portion of the wicked, and of those who forsake God; this the cup of trembling which they must drink; this the wages of their sin ; this the inheritance which themselves have purchased. Oh, my friends, the pains and the agonies of a first death we all must suffer, and there is no escape; and sufficiently terrific is the prospect; for who among you can contemplate without emotion, the awful period when this world must be abandoned for an untried state of being? Oh there is a solemnity in the dying hour; in the awful stillness of the chamber of dissolution; in the tears and the groans of the friends who stand around the bed-side watching the last gleam of intelligence in the glazed and closed eye, and dwelling with agony on the last word of affection. It is, believe me you will find it so, a solemn and an awful thing to die. Yet over the gloom of such a prospect, there is to the pious, heart-changed Christian, a beam of heavenly comfort, which brings the splendour of a brighter world to tinge with gold even the dark clouds which hang upon the tomb. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
Over such as these, the second death hath no dominion. But alas, how wretched is their situation, who, having lived without God in the world, careless and unconcerned, are not only to suffer the pains of a first death, uncheered by the presence of
a Saviour and a comforter, unrelieved by the anticipations of the future, and to whose visions the clouds which hang upon the tomb are black and the darkness terrible; but who shall also fall under the fatal and still more unspeakably terrible dominion of a second death, a dying of the soul, of the immortal soul, and consequently a death without a termination. Oye careless, for I know there are such among you, I beseech you deceive not yourselves, for you are hastening to a period when deception can avail you nothing. Oh ye who suffer yourselves to be overcome by the world, the flesh, and the devil, and who without a struggle yield yourselves the willing victims; oh ye who, fastening yourselves upon the things of this world, neglect, most awfully and fatally neglect, your everlasting welfare, “hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.”
If the voice of the preacher and the Gospel may be disregarded, yet despise not him that speaketh from heaven; and the voice of that Spirit tells you that he alone who overcometh, he alone who is faithful to the end, shall not be hurt of the second death. There is a dying which brings no death, an agony which is as immortal as the soul; a death which has not even the horrible comfort of annihilation. God of his mercy shield you; God of his mercy snatch you from that ruin.
Yet never, never, if the word of God be true, can you escape the horrors of that second death, unless that now, in the time of your visitation, you seize with the very energy of desperate men, the hope which the Gospel sets before you. Infinite is that love of God which desires your salvation ; in