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On the character of the saints : the providence
and favour of God peculiarly exercised towards them in the hour of death.
PSALM 116, VERSE 15.
« Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."
THERE is no truth in religion of more importance to the direction or consolation of man, than that of a divine and particular providence in human affairs. What influence ought it not to have on the actions of our lives to know that there is an invisible Spectator who is constantly about our path and about our bed, and who spieth out all our ways; that there is a supreme Governour and Judge who marks with the minutest exactness, and with approbation or abhorrence, every thought, word, and action of our life! How consoling to reflect, that weak, ignorant, and helpless as we are,
still we are not left in this world of vicissitude and trouble, to our own guidance, to the direction of a blind fate, or to the sport of accident, but are under the perpetual guardianship, protection, and direction of a wise and benevolent being who watches over us in the natal and in the mortal hour; who takes an interest in all our concerns, who appoints to us our various fortunes and conditions, who rejoiceth in our happiness, who lends an ear to our complaints, and who, having the hearts of all men and the powers of universal nature subject to his control, causeth all things to work together for good to them who love God, and are the called according to his purpose. “ The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice, let “ the multitude of the isles be glad thereof."
But the doctrine of a superintending providence, though important and useful to all, is peculiarly interesting and comfortable to good men, whose persons are justified and accepted in the beloved, whose lives being in conformity to the law of God, are the object of his peculiar approbation, whom he guards as the apple of his eye, whom he guides with his counsel, and forsakes not even when the king of terrours approaches. For “ precious in the
sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
I hope it will contribute to our edification and improvement if, at this time, I briefly consider the two points to which the text principally directs our attention.
I mean, 1. The character of those whose death is precious in the sight of the Lord, and
2. In what respects the death of the saints is precious in God's sight.
I. The first thing proposed is to make some remarks on the character of those whose death is precious in the sight of the Lord—they are the saints, which literally signifies holy persons. This is a designation frequently given to the people of God, as expressive of their true character; for not only are they considered as righteous, in consequence of the interest which by faith they have in the righteousness of the Redeemer, but they have a principle of holiness inherent in them, by virtue of their regeneration, and they also abound in the outward fruits of holiness, to the praise and glory of God. This is a condition absolutely requisite to their enjoying the divine favour and regard, so that their life may be the object of God's care, or their death precious in his sight. The Lord, who is himself glorious in holiness and
the inexhaustible source of perfection, can have no delight in the ungodly and impure. Hence an irreversible decree hath passed in heaven, that “ without holiness no man shall “ see the Lord,” and as the flame consumeth the stubble, so will the fire of his holiness burn up the ungodly, who with fallen spirits shall have their portion in that lake of torments whose smoke ascendeth for ever and ever. But the Lord saith of his own people, " Thou « art a holy people unto the Lord thy God, 6. The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be “ a special people to himself, above all people “ that are on the face of the earth. And they 6 * shall call them the holy people, the re66 deemed of the Lord."
The holiness of the people of God is not original and natural, but derived. By nature they are like unto others, children of wrath and of disobedience; the thoughts of their hearts are only evil continually, and the actions of their lives are contaminated by imperfection and guilt. But infinite wisdom and goodness have devised means sufficiently efficacious to renew and sanctify the most impure.
" Come now and let us reason together,” saith the Lord ; “ though your sins be as scarlet, they
shall be white as snow, though they be red
like crimson, they shall be as wool.” And this change consists of two parts, a purification from sin, and a communication of holiness ; a removal of bad, and an acquisition of good dispositions.
Sin is the great cause which excludes the creatures of the Almighty from the favour of their Creator, and draws upon
them innumerable evils. It renders the life of the sinner miserable and his death awful. Before men can either enjoy the favour of God on earth, or be fitted for the immediate vision of his glory hereafter, their souls must be purified by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. They must be cleansed by the blood and spirit of the Saviour. Hence David was wont to pray, “wash me thorough
ly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from “ my sin; create in me a clean heart, O God,
; “and renew a right spirit within me.”. When John was favoured with a vision of the redeemed, who stood before the throne and before the Lamb, he beheld them arrayed in white robes, with palms in their hands, and was informed that they were washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. All, there.