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2 TIM. 1: 10.
WHO HATH ABOLISHED DEATH.
(Indiana-Place Chapel was decorated on Easter with appropriate and symbolic ornaments. The entire chancel was covered with a rich purple fabric looped to the wall at different points with wreaths of white flowers. Over the chancel, fixed to the wall, was a large cross surmounted by a crown, and at the side appeared the words “ He is Risen,” each worked in foliage and flowers. There were also numerous bouquets and single specimens of choice flowers and plants placed at different points in the chapel, which, with the national colors draped in mourning drooping from the gallery, heightened the general effect.]
WHEN JESUS died, it seemed as if the last hope of the world had perished. It seemed as if God had left the earth alone, - it seemed as if there was no Providence left. It was the blackest hour in the history of the human race. The power of darkness was at its height. Satan had conquered God. One man had at last appeared capable of redeeming mankind; he had given himself to that work, - one man teaching and believing a religion spiritual, humane, free; above ceremony, above dogmas, above all.fanaticism, enthusiasm, formality.
He was here ; the one being who knew God wholly and human nature exactly; who could say, “I and my Father are one,” “ I and my brother are one.” No sin terrified him, for he was able to cure the foulest diseases of the human heart and soul. From him flowed a life, a vital power, which strangely overcame diseases of the body and the soul. He was young : he had just begun his work. A world dying of weariness, an exhausted civilization, a worn-out faith, longed to be regenerated. The great auroral light of Greek intelligence had died away.
The stern virtue of Rome had ended in effeminacy and slavery. The world, prematurely old, asked to be made young again ; and here was the being who could do it. And then men took him and murdered him. They assassinated their best friend. BLACK TREASON,
in the form of Judas; COWARDLY DESERTION, in his disciples ; SHAMEFUL DENIAL and FALSEHOOD, in the person of Peter; TIME-SERVING SELFISHNESS, in Pilate; CRUEL POLICY, in the priests; BLIND RAGE, in the people ; COLD-BLOODED BARBARISM, in the Roman soldiers, all these united in one black, concentrated storm of evil, to destroy the being so true, so tender, so gentle, so brave, so firm, so generous, so loving. It was the blackest day in the history of man.
And yet we do not call it Black Friday or Bad Friday; we call it Good FRIDAY. We call it so, because the death of Christ has abolished death; because evil that day destroyed itself; sin, seeming to conquer, was conquered. And so we see, in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the great law revealed, that we pass through death to life, through sorrow to joy, through sin to holi
ness, through evil and pain to ultimate and perfect good.
We dress our church in flowers to-day in token of this triumph. Nature, every spring, renews her miracle of life coming out of death. The little, tender buds push out through the hard bark. The delicate stalks break their way up through the tough ground. The limbs of the trees, which yesterday clattered in the wind, mere skeletons, are now covered with a soft veil of foliage. Earth clothes itself with verdure, and these spring flowers come, the most tender of the year. They come, like spirits, out of their graves, to say that Nature is not dead but risen. Look at these flowers, - living preachers ! “ each cup a pulpit and each bell a book," and hear from every one of them the word of comfort: “ Be not anxious, be not fearful, be not cast down; for if God so clothe us, and so brings our life out of decay, will He not care for
yours evermore ?" On this day of the resurrection we commemorate the subjugation of the last enemy, - Death. “ He has abol. ished death,” says our text. Abolished it; or, as the same word is elsewhere translated, “made it void”; that is, emptied it of reality and substance; left it only a form ; “made it of no effect; destroyed it; brought it to nothing; caused it to vanish away.” Death to the Christian ought not to be anything. If we are living in terror of death, if we are afraid to die, if we sorrow for our friends who die as those who have no hope, then we are not looking at it as Christians ought. We ought to be, and we can be, in that state of mind in which death is nothing to us.
For what makes death terrible? First, it is terrible because it ends this life, and all the enjoyment and interest of this life. We are made with a love of life, and God means we should love it.
We are made to be happy in the sight of nature; in this great panorama of sky and land, hill and plain, sea and shore, forest, mountain, rivers, clouds, day and night, moon and stars, work and play, study and recreation, labor 'and sleep. We are made to enjoy the society of friends, the love of the near and dear, the quiet of home, the march of events, the changes of the seasons, vicissitudes of human and national life. Death seems to be the end of all this; and so we shrink from death. But that is because we do not see that all these things are the COMING OF God to us; that these are God's words and God's actions; that when surrounded by nature we are in the arms of God, and that all these things are from him, and through him, and to him. And as when we die we do not go away from God, so we shall not go away from all this beautiful variety and harmony, this majestic order and transcendent beauty of creation. We shall doubtless have more of it, know it better, enjoy it more entirely. And so, since Christ makes us realize the presence of God in nature, history, life, he abolishes thereby that death which seems to come to take us from them.
Another thing which makes death a terror is our own consciousness of sin. The sting of death is sin. But Christ removes this sense of sin, by bringing to us the pardon of sin. The conditions are simple and practicable: repentance and faith. If we turn from our sin
and renounce it, and then trust in the pardoning grace of God, we are forgiven our sin Then not only the mercy, but the truth and justice of God are pledged to forgive us. "If we confess our sin. God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin.” No one need to remain with a sense of unforgiven sin in his heart. In his dying hour, as in his life, Jesus sought to lead mankind out of the feeling of sin into that of reconciliation. When he said to the sinful woman, “ Go, and sin no more; neither do I condemn thee”; when he said of the other sinful woman,
Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much”; when he told the story of the prodigal son, to show how God sees us when a great way off, and receives us back at once into the fulness of his love; when, at his death, he said, “ This is my blood, which is shed for you, and for many, for the forgiveness of sin,” he sent into the soul of men the conviction that they could be at one with God notwithstanding their evil.
And the resurrection of Christ has abolished death, because it shows us that death, instead of being a step down, is a step up. It shows us Christ passing on and up, through death, to a larger life. It shows that when he died he did not close his work for man, but began to do it more efficiently. The resurrection of Jesus was the resurrection of Christianity; the rising up of human faith and hope. Jesus rose into a higher life, and his disciples then rose into a higher faith. They became strong, brave, generous, true. Their weaknesses and follies fell away from them. Christianity broke the narrow bands of Jewish ceremony, and became the reli