West London Alliance Church

Sufferings as Harbingers of Death

Last week I shared an excerpt from one of John Newton's sermons that he preached in response to the performing of Handel's Messiah in London. It is an excellent sermon and this week I'll share another excerpt.

The text for Newton's sermon is 1 Corinthians 15:54 which reads, "Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory!" Newton endeavours to demonstrate that Christ's redemptive work delivers his people from the reign of death. Part of this deliverance is in regard to the trials and tribulations which we still experience in this life which Newton refers to as harbingers of death's approach. At the end of days, Christ's victory over death will deliver God's people from all of these harbingers of death which we suffer through in this life.

I enjoyed this section very much and found it edifying in light of the suffering that so many of you are experiencing. May it encourage you as well.

While they were in the world they had a share, many of them a very large share, of the woes and sufferings incident to this mortal state; which, as they are the fruits and effects of sin, and greatly contribute to shorten the life of man, and hasten his return to dust, are, as I formerly observed, properly included in the comprehensive meaning of the original sentence, Death. They belong to its train, and are harbingers of its approach. None of the race of Adam are exempted from these, but especially, the servants of God have no exemption. Their gracious Lord, who frees them from condemnation, and gives them peace in Himself, assures them that in this world they shall have tribulation (John 16:33). This is so inseparable from their calling, that it is mentioned as one special mark of their adoption and sonship (Hebrews 12:6-8). If the prosperity of the wicked sometimes continues for a season without interruption, their day is coming (Psalm 37:13); but the righteous may expect chastisement and discipline daily. Thus their graces are refined, strengthened and displayed, to the praise of their heavenly Father. There is no promise in the Bible that secures the most eminent and exemplary believer from participating in the heaviest calamities, in common with others; and they have many trials peculiar to themselves. Thus while upon earth, they endure hardship for His sake. Because He chose them out of the world, and they would no longer comply with its sinful maxims and customs, the world hated them (John 15:19). Many of them wore the mark of public scorn and malice, accounted the off-scouring of all things; they were driven to deserts, and mountains, and caves; they suffered stripes, imprisonment and death. Others had trials of pains, sickness and poverty, of sharp bereaving dispensations [circumstances]. Their gourds withered, and the desire of their eyes was taken away with a stroke. They had fightings without, and fears within. So that if their pressures and troubles were considered, without taking into account their inward supports, and the consolation they derived from their hopes beyond the grave, they might be deemed of all men the most miserable (I Corinthians 15:19) . But they were supported under these exercises, brought safely through them, and now their sorrows are swallowed up in victory. Now, the days of their mourning are ended (Isaiah 60:20) . They now confess, that their longest afflictions were momentary, and their heaviest burdens were light, in comparison of that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (II Corinthians 4:17) which they have entered upon. Sorrow and sighing have taken their everlasting flight, and joy and gladness have come forth to meet them, and to dwell with them forever (Isaiah 51:11).

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