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surely bring thee up again." Gen. 46: 3, 4. Fear not, believer, to go down to the grave, for God will be with thee there, and will surely bring thee up thence. This consideration, that Jesus Christ hath lain in the grave himself, gives manifold encouragements to the people of God against the terrors of the grave.
The grave received, but could not destroy Jesus Christ and as it was with Christ's personal body, so shall it be with Christ's mystical body: it could not retain him; it shall not for ever retain them. This resurrection of Christ out of his grave, is the very ground of our hope for a resurrection out of our graves. "Christ is risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept." 1 Cor. 15: 20.
As the union between the body of Christ and the Divine nature was not dissolved when that body was laid in the grave, so the union between Christ and believers is not, cannot be dissolved, when their bodies are laid in their graves. It is true, the natural union between his soul and body was dissolved for a time; but the essential union was not dissolved, no, not for a moment: that body was the body of the Son of God, when it was in the sepulchre. In like manner the natural union between our souls and bodies is dissolved by death; but the mystical union between us and Christ can never be dissolved.
As Christ's body, when it was in the grave, did there rest in hope; so shall the bodies of the saints when they lay them down in the dust: "My flesh also shall rest in hope," saith Christ. Ps. 16:9. In like manner the saints commit their bodies to the dust in hope: "The righteous hath hope in his death." Prov. 14: 32. And as Christ's hope was not a vain hope, so neither shall their hope be vain.
Christ's lying in the grave before us, hath quite changed the nature of the grave; so that it is not what it once
"Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return," was a part of the threatening and curse for sin. The grave was as a prison, to keep the bodies of sinners against the great assizes, and then deliver them up into the hands of a great and terrible God; but now it is no prison, but a bed of rest, where Christ lay before us; which is a sweet consideration of the grave indeed: "They shall enter into peace, they shall rest in their beds." Isa. 57:2. Oh then let not believers stand in fear of the grave. He that hath one foot in heaven need not fear to put the other into the grave. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me." Ps. 23: 4.
Indeed, the grave is a terrible place to them that are out of Christ: death is the Lord's officer to arrest them; the grave is the Lord's prison to secure them. When death draws them into the grave, it draws them thither as a lion doth his prey into the den to devour it. "Death shall feed" or prey upon them." Ps. 49: 14. Death there reigns over them in its full power. Rom. 5 : 14. And though at last it shall render them back again to God, yet it were better for them to lie everlastingly where they were, than to rise to such an end; for they are brought out of their graves as a condemned prisoner out of the prison, to go to execution. But with the saints it is not so; the grave (thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ!) is a privileged place to them, whilst they sleep there; and when they awake, it will be with singing. When they awake, they shall be satisfied with his likeness.
5. Since Christ was laid in the grave, and his people reap such privileges by it; as ever you expect rest or comfort in your grave, see that you now become united with Christ. It was an ancient custom of the Jews, to put rich treasures into the grave with their friends, as well as to bestow much upon their sepulchres. It is
possible that you have no great sum to bestow upon your funerals, nor are they likely to be splendid; no stately monuments; no hidden treasure; but if Christ be yours, you carry with you to your grave what is better than all the gold and silver in the world. What would you be the better if your coffin were made of beaten gold, or your grave-stone set thick with glittering diamonds? But if you die in the Lord, that is, interested in and united to him, you shall carry six grounds of comfort with you to your grave, the least of which is not to be purchased with the wealth of both the Indies.
The first is, that the covenant of God holds firmly with the very dust of the believer all the days of its appointed time in the grave. So much Christ tells us, Matt. 22:31, 32; "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: God is not the God of the dead, but of the living:" Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are naturally dead; but inasmuch as God, long after their deaths, proclaimed himself their God, they live, that is, their covenant relation lives still. "Whether we live, or whether we die, (saith the apostle,) we are the Lord's." Rom. 14:7-9. Now, what an encouragement is here! I am as much the Lord's in the state of the dead, as I was in the state of the living: death puts an end to all other relations and bonds, but the bond of the covenant decays not in the grave: our dust is still the Lord's.
As God's covenant, so his love to our very dust abides. The apostle is express, Rom. 8: 38, 39, that death separates not the believer from the love of God. As at first it was not our natural comeliness or beauty that engaged his love to us; so neither will he cease to love us when that beauty is gone, and we become objects of loathing to all flesh. When a husband cannot endure to see his wife, or a wife her husband; but saith of them
that were once dear and pleasant, as Abraham of his beloved Sarah, "Bury my dead out of my sight;" yet then the Lord delights in it as much as ever.
As God's love will be with you in the grave, so God's providence shall take order when you shall be laid in it. He will bring you thither in the best time; "Thou shalt come to thy grave as a shock of corn in its season." Job, 5:26; you shall be ripe and ready before God house you there. It is said of David, that "after he had served his generation by the will of God, he fell asleep." Acts, 13: 36. Oh what a holy and wise will is that will of God that so orders our death! And how proper is it that our will should be lost in his!
If you be in Christ, God's pardons have loosed all the bonds of guilt from you, before you lie down in the grave; so that you shall not die in your sins. It is a grievous threatening, "Ye shall die in your sins." John, 8:24. Better be cast alive into a pit among dragons and serpents, than into your grave dead in sin. Oh what a terrible word is that, "His bones are full of the sins of his youth, which shall lie down with him in the dust!" Job, 20:11. But from the company of sin, in the grave, all the saints are delivered. God's full, free, and final pardon has shut guilt out of your grave.
Whenever you come to your grave, you shall find the enmity of the grave slain by Christ: it is no enemy; nay, you will find it a privileged place to you: it will be as sweet to you that are in Christ, as a soft bed in a still, quiet chamber to one that is weary. Therefore it is said, "Death is yours," 1 Cor. 3:22; yours as a privilege; your friend: there you shall find sweet rest in Jesus; be hurried, pained, troubled no more..
If in Christ, know this for your comfort, that your own Lord Jesus keeps the keys of all the chambers of death; and as he unlocks the door of death when you enter it, so he will open it again for you when you
awake; and from the time he opens to let you in, til the time he opens to receive you, he himself watches over you while you sleep there. "I have the keys of death." Rev. 1: 18. Oh then, as you expect peace or rest in the chamber of death, get union with Christ. A grave with Christ is a comfortable place.
FOUR WEIGHTY ENDS OF CHRIST'S HUMILIATION.
"He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.”— Isaiah, 53:2.
We come now to speak of the blessed ends for which Christ was so deeply abased. It is inconsistent with common prudence for a man to be at a vast expense of time, pains, and cost, without a worthy design. And it is much less imaginable that Christ should abase himself, by stooping from the bosom of his Father to the state of the dead, if he had not had some excellent and glorious design, the attainment of which might be equivalent to the sorrows and abasements he endured. That he had such a design is plainly implied in the words before us: "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." In which we have,
1. The travailing pangs of Christ. So the agonies of his soul and torments of his body are fitly called, not only because of their sharpness and acuteness, but because they forerun and make way for the birth, which abundantly recompenses all those labors.
2. The assured fruits and effects of this travail; He shall see of the travail of his soul." By seeing, understand the fruition, obtaining, or enjoyment of the end