"And he died." Genesis 5
This chapter celebrates the victories of DEATH. The
conqueror unfolds his standard over a prostrate world. The chieftains of the
elder age pass in review. DEATH meets them. They bow before him. Except
Enoch, they all fall slain. DEATH plies his sting, and they cannot escape.
Reader! seek profit from this deathful page. The same
destroyer still has like power. He tracks your steps. His eye rests on you.
His dart is poised. He soon will overtake. His chilly hand will bear you
away. Your life will cease. You will be numbered with the dead. The grave
will cover you. You will moulder in the dust. The worms will have their
food. Others will take your place. Your name will fade. The sun will rise,
as before. Nature will still put on her blithesome robe. The birds will
sing. The earth will bear her fruits. Man will go forth to toil--to pleasure
and to sin. Your absence will make no lasting void. All will go on, as
though you had never lived. Come, then, and be familiar with this leveler.
Walk daily by his side. Let him be no stranger. Wise acquaintance turns his
frowns to smiles. Grace makes this foe a precious friend.
Let us consider the womb which bore this mighty one.
Whence came his being? In what cradle was he nursed? Who forged his fearful
armor? Who braced him with such indomitable strength? Who gave him chains to
bind all Adam's race? Who sent him forth resistless to subdue? At once a
negative appears. Death forms no part of man's original. The first fabric
had no flaw. It upraised its head grand in enduring life. It held no seed of
imperfection or decay. Old age--decrepitude--disease--were not at first born
with man's body. Mortality is not his necessary adjunct. Life possesses not
in itself the ingredients of decline.
But life depended on a sinless course. It was the comrade
of obedience. If disobedience intervened, there must be penalty. The penalty
was death. "In the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die" [dying
you shall die] Genesis 2:17, Man fell. Transgression soiled him. Mortality
ensued. The beauteous frame lost its unfading youth. Dust it was, and now to
dust it must return. See then the cause of death. Sin brought in this ruin.
The sting--the barbed point--the conquering weapon--the relentless shaft of
death, is sin. "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin--and
so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned." Rom. 5:12.
Thus the poisonous stream is traced to its true source.
The deep roots of the tree are found. The seed is seen, from which the
withering crop springs. The culprit is detected and is dragged to light. Sin
is the murderer. Sin worked the woe. Pile in one mass the countless dead,
from Abel to this hour, and ask, Who slew all these? The clear reply is,
Reader! can you read this, and not abhor the monster. SIN
is the cause of all the evil which this earth has seen. It is the parent of
all the misery yet to come. No tear bedews the cheek--no sigh rends the
heart--no pain gives agony--no anguish gnaws, but sin effectuates all. Sin
digs each grave. Sin clothes all mourners with their weeds. It marred a fair
creation. It marks your body for dissolution. Take heed, lest it be
ruin to your soul.
Let us now analyze more closely the vast tyranny of sin's
firstborn--DEATH. See its effects upon that marvelous machine, man's body.
It touches. Its touch is ruin. Decomposition instantly ensues. The vital
powers wither. Animation is extinct. Motion is fled. The limbs freeze into
icy marble. The luster of the sparkling eye is dim. It has no sight. The
smell discerns no fragrance. The ear is deaf to melody. We lift the hand--it
falls. We pierce the skin--it is insensible to pain. Expression no more
brightens in the wan look. The blood no longer flows in warm current. The
pulse no longer proclaims vital glow. The "silver cord is loosed, the golden
bowl is broken, the pitcher is broken at the fountain, the wheel is broken
at the cistern." Eccles. 12:6. Decay invades the frame, and poisons it with
effacing finger. The dearest friends shrink from the object of their
tenderest love. Its presence cannot be endured. It must be buried out of
sight. It must be hidden in kindred dust. Reader! yet a little while, death
will turn you to this corruption. "Set your house in order, for you shall
die and not live." Isa. 38:1.
See, then, the fruits of sin, and hate it as the
origin of all woe. But limit not the thoughts of death to your own body.
Take the widest range. View the whole race of man. Death tramples upon all.
No station is too high for its assault. It hurls all monarchs from their
thrones. No lowly hut escapes its entrance. It tears away the poorest from
poverty's hardest bed. No genius can devise exemption. It annihilates the
noblest intellect. It bears off the orator--the poet--the most skilled in
arts and science--the hero from the battle-field--the statesman from the
helm of empire. It respects not the hoary head. It strangles the infant at
the mother's breast. It slays the bridegroom and the bride--the parent and
the child--the merry and the sad. Its sway is universal. Within a
century it extinguishes the earth of its inhabitants. Its ever-moving scythe
knows no repose. Its sword has no scabbard.
It is, moreover, capricious in its work. When
least expected, it is near. Sometimes it tarries long. No one can surely
state the time--the place of its destroying-wound. Reader! "set your house
in order, for you shall die and not live."
But is this malady without remedy? Is this a night
which has no morn? Is there no light behind this cloud? Is there no help?
None, if our view be limited to earth. But look off to Jesus. In Him there
is all help. He is far mightier than this mighty tyrant. He can recover
victims from his grasp. He can snatch the prey from his fangs. He can snap
his strongest chains. He can destroy the destroyer. He makes all His
followers more than death's conquerors. He plants their feet upon his
prostrate neck. He puts a new song into triumphant lips, "O death, where is
your sting? O grave, where is your victory?" 1 Cor. 15:55. Now in the house
of pilgrimage the saints may cry in rapturous confidence, "Thanks be to God,
who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." verse 57.
This background, black with such blackness, throws into
dazzling light the Gospel triumph. But here all language fails. No tongue
can speak the glories of our Jesus. No glowing touch can picture His
excellence. It were easier for color to outshine the sun--or painter's art
to eclipse the sparkling diamond--or voice to surpass the thunder's roar,
than for words to celebrate the victory over death. But let us calmly view
the work of Jesus, and receive His comfort.
He appears on earth. His path is bright evidence that He
is more than man. In the long chain of proof, He exhibits death utterly
subdued. The cases, probably, were not few. Enumerating His wonders to
John's disciples, He adds, "the dead are raised up." Matt. 11:5. We read,
also, that "many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the
graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared
unto many." Matt. 27:52-53.
Ponder the instances which are specifically given. The
Spirit records them, as a cordial to our faith. May His power put life into
JAIRUS had a youthful daughter. At tender age she
sickens. While the afflicted father implores help, he hears that death has
done its work. Surely now all hope is fled! Jesus replies, "Be not afraid,
only believe." Mark 5:36. He adds, "She is not dead, but sleeps." The
weepers know that life is gone. They laugh Him to scorn. Jesus reaches the
lifeless bed. He takes the stiffened hand. He speaks, "little girl, I say
unto you, Arise." Exert yourself, O death. Now, show your power. Retain your
victim if you can. Brief is the conflict. Death yields. "Immediately, the
little girl arose, and walked." Mark 5:42. Let faith crown the victor. He
stands death's conqueror.
Again, when He draws near to NAIN'S gates He meets a
mournful train. A young man is carried out, the only son of his mother, and
she is a widow. Jesus speaks omnipotently, "Young man, I say unto you,
Arise." Luke 7:14. Death cannot hinder. His shackles break. "He who was dead
sat up and began to speak." Crown Him again. Death is a stricken captive in
His mighty hands.
Once more, LAZARUS is sick and dies. He is carried to his
rocky cave. Jesus returns. He commands, "Take away the stone." They
remonstrate, that death had preyed upon its victim for four days, and that
decay had done its work. Jesus cries loudly, "Lazarus, come forth." Death
cannot counteract. The mandate compels obedience. Death relaxes its grasp.
"He who was dead came forth." John 11:44. Crown Him again.
These instances confirm the fact, that Jesus is mighty to
hurl death from his tyrannic throne--to shatter his fetters--to tread down
his power. At His bidding the lifeless live again.
A stronger proof remains. JESUS must die in His people's
stead. In all things He must be their substitute--drink their cup--pay their
penalty--occupy their place. Therefore He voluntarily yields to death. He
bows the head and gives up the spirit. But through death He destroys him
that had the power of death. Mark the outcome. If death has prevailing
power, let it now be shown. Jesus is within its prison. Let death bar fast
the gates--rivet the chains--detain its captive--display supremacy. It
fails. It is conspicuously defeated. Jesus holds its boasted prowess in
derision. It was not possible that He should be held by it. He strides forth
from the tomb. He tramples down opposing barriers. He shows Himself again
alive by many infallible proofs. Hear the victor's shout, "I am the living
one who died. Look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of
death and the grave." Rev. 1:18
Adore Him by His title, LIFE. Life is the opposite to
death. They cannot co-exist. Where one appears the other flees. But Jesus
proclaims, "I am the resurrection and the life." John 11:25. The Spirit
responds, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also
appear with Him in glory." Col. 3:4. Thus He who is essential life, is life
to His believing flock. He graciously repairs all traces of decline. No, His
restoration infinitely exceeds the loss. Did sin destroy life in the soul?
Are we by nature "dead in trespasses and sins?" He quickens and renews.
While we are in our blood, He says unto us, 'Live.'
By His Spirit He imparts new faculties--new energies--new
being--new desires. The EYE, once dark, now opened, sees the wonders of the
heavenly world--discerns things as they really are--admires God's glory, and
the preciousness of Christ--and reads the significance of the Book of books.
The EAR, once deaf, now hears the Spirit's call, and drinks in all the
glorious promises, and listens to the Shepherd's guiding voice. "My sheep
hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them
eternal life." John 10:27. The FEET, once fast in fetters of insensibility,
now alert and active, run in the way of Gospel-rule, and climb unwearied the
high hill of Zion, and continue steadfast to the end. The PALATE, once
insensible to the Gospel-feast, now has quick relish for the heavenly manna.
The blessed ones hunger and thirst after righteousness, and they are filled.
Thus, while "the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of
righteousness." Rom. 8:10. In Christ we spiritually live.
Consider the body. Here Jesus changes death's
whole aspect. He dissolves its power. He takes away all icy terror from its
sure approach. Death is no more a dreaded foe. It comes as a welcome friend.
It is a jewel in the believer's casket. "All things are yours, life and
death." It brings tidings that the chariot is ready to convey to endless
rest--that the weary pilgrimage is ended--that Jesus is waiting to
receive--that the ready mansions are prepared to welcome. Death is no loss
to those whose life is Christ. Paul felt the truth, "To me to live is
Christ, and to die is gain." Phil. 1:21. To depart and to be with Christ is
far better. But who can tell what gain? who can measure the length and
breadth of the far better! Death opens the cage-door, and the liberated
spirit flies to the sight of Jesus. It dissolves the detaining clay, and
instantly the spirit is in Paradise. It touches, and its touch is
never-ending bliss. Thus Jesus is our Life. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and
all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and
do not forget all His benefits." Ps. 103:1.
But the triumph of triumphs is not yet told. The
consummating scene comes on speedily. Then will believers raise victorious
heads. Their earthly frames will spring forth from their graves. A voice--a
mighty voice--the voice of Jesus shall call, and they shall stand again on
earth, a living multitude in living bodies. But oh! how changed! All traces
of sin, and sin's hideousness, and sin's deformity, and sin's infirmity are
forever gone. Corruption--dishonor--weakness disappear.
Incorruption--glory--power, reign. The natural body is now spiritual--"When
He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." 1
John 3:2. Where is death? It is completely vanquished. It is utterly
abolished. It is swallowed up in victory. "Death and hell were cast into the
lake of fire." Rev. 20:14.
Thus believers in resurrection-robes inherit life--the
life of immortality--the life of glory--the life of blessedness in the
presence of God and of the Lamb. Who will not love, and bless, and serve
this great Redeemer--this glorious Conqueror--our thrice-precious Jesus! How
perfect is His work! Its pinnacle cannot be higher. What adorations can we
adequately render! Let every breath be praise. Let our few days on earth be
wholly a thank-offering. Let our one study be to magnify His name. How
little is all life-long service when weighed against the debt! But by the
Spirit's help, let all we can do be most gladly done. And while abounding in
the work of the Lord, let us ascribe all strength--all pardon--all salvation
to free grace! The happiest pilgrimage on earth is living out of self, in
Christ, to God--in sight of heaven--in hope of glory--smiling at death, and
realizing endless life. Hallelujah! Come Lord Jesus! Amen.