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It is worth our while to examine the words which St. Paul addresses to the Corinthians and Thessalonians concerning the state of the dead. He exhorts the latter, that they should not grieve immoderately for such as “sleep in Jesus," nor as if they were without hope. And upon what grounds, I pray you, does the Apostle attempt to enforce such an exhortation ? Does he tell them that the spirits of believers, upon their separation from the body, are instantly transported to the highest heaven, and to celestial glory ? This indeed would have been a perfect consolation, a most present remedy for all their sorrow. But, no! he mentions nothing of the kind ; neither does he attempt their relief or solace upon the ground of any immediate possession of bliss by the departed, but upon the sure and certain hope of a blessed resurrection, and of the return of the saints with Christ, in his glorious advent (1 Thess. iv. 13, 14, 18).
Again, in another of St. Paul's discourses (1 Cor. xv.), he argues as if all our hope depended on the resurrection; as if the future life which we scek would not be worth the pains and perils that must be passed through to obtain it, unless for the assurance that we shall be RAISED FROM THE DEAD (ver. 30): “ And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not ?" But if, in the very instant of our departure from the present life, we do enter into bliss, even perfect bliss; truly, it shall advantage us in no small degree, although there should be no resurrection at all. A most ample reward of valour, and worthy of any contest, were that divine condition of our spirits, and that consummate felicity enduring for ever in the light of the Highest.
Likewise, in his Epistle to the Romans (ch. viii.) the same Apostle, in comparing the evils and sufferings of this life with our future glory, wholly overlooks “the beatific vision” and the separate state, and regards the resurrection alone. “ For I reckon," saith he, " that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”-and when revealed in us? instantly upon our decease? Nay, but in " the manifestation of the sons of God," in “the redemption of our bodies,” in the resurrection of the dead. And again, in 2 Cor. iv. 17, he says, “ For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”....." For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved "--we shall instantly be transported into bliss, and the vision of God? I do not find it so; but this I find_" we have
a building of God, eternal, in the heavens;" a celestial body, with which we shall in due time be clothed.
Certainly He“who spake by the Prophets," spake also by St. Paul; and there can be no real inconsistency between the scriptures of that boly Apostle, and the multitude of texts which have been quoted to prove that length of days is a blessing: when, therefore, we find the Apostle declaring, that " while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord," and that “ we ure willing rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord;" and again, when he says, that “he is in a strait betwirt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better ;" we ought not, in the impetuous haste of the natural man, to adopt opinions wholly incompatible with so many hundreds of passages.
« Ile that hasteth with his feet sinneth" (Prov. xix. 2). « le that believeth shall not make haste” (Is. xxviii. 16).
Our Lord also (immediately before his entrance into the separate state) saith unto his disciples, “A little while and ye shall not see me, because I go to the Father ;" and again, in his intercessory prayer, be saith, " Father, I come unto thee.” The precipitate judgment of our carnal minds would surely lead us 10 suppose, from these passages, that he did go to the Father immediately upon giving up the ghost, namely, when he said, " Father, into thine hunds I commit my spirit.” After a little while he died, and was buried, and it happened as he said, “ A little while and ye shall not see me.” After three days he rose again ; and it came to pass, as he said," Again a little while and ye shall see me." Ilow plausible, or rather how inevitable, then, are all these mistaken conclusions, if the natural man might conclude on such subjects; or, indeed, who would not believe, from our Lord's own words, that he (during the separate state) was with the Father ? But, "o! he was all that time in the heart of the earth” (Matt. xii. 40); “ in the lower parts of the earth” (Eph. iv. 9); and after he had returned from the separate state, he says (John xx. 17) “ I am not yet ascended to my Father."
Seeing, then, how very easy a thing it is to precipitate ourselves into fatal errors, let us patiently reconsider the Apostle's words. we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord ;" “ we had rather be absent from the body," &c. But then he says, immediately before, we would not, however, be unclothed; we desire not to be stripped of our bodies; we would not be“ unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life:" or, as it is in 1 Cor. xv. 54, and in Is. xxv. 8, thut death might be suallowed up in victory--that is, at the resurrection.
Now, seeing that the Apostle may, not without impiety, be supposed to have really contradicted himself; or, rather, that the apparent inconsistency which I have pointed out is not in the Apost!r's words, but in the words of the self-same God who also spake by the Prophets, which we have so largely consulted ; let us with humility and docility inquire, whether there be any kind of “
presence with the Lord," during the separate state, such as is not incompatible with the language of all the Scriptures concerning death. In the cxxxixth Psalm, David says to God, “ Whither shall I go from The Spirit? Or whither shall I ilee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; IF I MAKE MY BED IN HADES, BEHOLD, TEIOU ART THERE!” So that God is present in hades, namely, BY HIS SPirit. For as it is written and set forth (with a simplicity which I defy any man to surpass, or to equal) in the ignorantly mis. quoted and shamefully despised Creed of St. Athanasius, “ In all things the Unity in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, is to be worshippel,” even so we believe: namely, that in Jesus Christ the whole fulness of the Godhead dwelleth bodily; and that in the Holy Ghost the whole fulness of the Godhead dwelleth sp ritually; and that in the Father the whole fulness of the Godhead dwelleth' inaccessibly. And in the separate state we have the presence of God the Holy Ghost, in whom we have communion, uninterrupted, pure, and peaceful com
We see all things referred to that day in the Scriptures of God : nor indeed is it an easy thing to discover any other retribution, except peace, rest, and the solace of our spirits, promised to any one before the resurrection, either the first or the second. Matt. xix. 28, 29; Acts iii. 19, 20; 2 Thess. i.7; John v. 25, 28, 29; Apoc. xx. 6, 12.
Many other passages to the same effect we pass over for the sake of brevity (which, at the same time, the reader is earnestly munion with Christ: as it is written, “If I make my bed in hades, behold, thou art there.” “Now he that hath wrought us for the self-same thing"-Who is he? Is it not the Holy Ghost; the whole Godhead Triune ?-as the Apostle writes : “Now he that hath wrought us for the self-saine thing is God! who hath also given unto us” (already) " the earnest of the Spirit," therefore we are always confident, knowing that while we are ai home in this unredeemed body: (which, like the microscope, is at once the means of boasted investigation, and at the same time the preventive of almost all sight); while we are enveloped with this shroud, the flesh; while all things are distorted by its impurity, and nothing seen aright by reason of its refraction, while sin is mingled in our every thought; and the better they are the more literally that is crucified; -—" while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. Not thut we (whom God hath made in flesh, and whom God hath destined for an eternal life in flesh)—not that we would be unclothed, for that is contrary to our eternal destiny“ not that we would be unclothed, BUT CLOTHED UPON :" for this is the more abundant source of glory to God, when we shall sing,“ O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be 10 God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (See John xvi. 7, 13, 14, 28, xiv. 1-3, 15–20, 26--28; Romans viii. 22-25).--In the separate state we are out of our element ;" it is not that for which we are formed, nor unto which the word of God and the lessons of his church have educated us. Therefore hades is temporal, but the resurrection is eternal : therefore bades shall be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. xx. 14), when " the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting king, dom," &c. (Dan. vii. 27.) In hades we may, we do, enjoy peace and rest and consolation, to the utmost extent of all that ile imagination can conceive within the office of the “TILE COMFORTER;" but there we see not the “ Bridegroom," we embrace not the Son of Man, our adored Lord,“ our Husband, our Spouse." That is not“ the inheritance ;" that is not“ marriage." There we may indeed receive much; yea, even the spiritual presence of the Godhead: but we return nothing there; and there there is nothing proclaimed. “The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence" (Ps. cxv. 17). “ The night cometh, in which no man can work” (John ix. 4). « Shall thy loving-kindness be declared in the grave ? or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall thy wonders be known in the dark ? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness ?" (Ps. Ixxxviii. 11, 12). “ The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day” (Is. xxxviii. 19). Although (with“ tre mind's eye”) we feast on hoped-for bliss, we are formed for more than mere prospective enjoyment; we are not for ever to dwell on what the mind's eye only sees. Our enjoyment is not perfect in the separate state; but even if it were, we should still say,“ Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name” (Ps. cxlii. 7); we should yet desire to glorify God, not only in our spirits, but in our bodies also, for they are His (1 Cor. vi. 20). And verily the foundation of the whole mistake is SELFISHNESS; a resting satisfied with vugue funcies of selfish enjoyment, without even remembering how God is to be magnified. The Lord pardon us; for our iniquity is hateful! (l's. xxxvi. 2).
exhorted to consult); adducing, in the next place, the well-known text from Revelations xiv. “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.” But wherefore blessed? Is it because they are in the present and actual enjoyment of the beatific vision of the Most High? The prophet tells us nothing of the sort : “Because they rest from their labours," is the reason given by the Spirit : " and their works do follow them;" in its season, their reward shall be sure. This order of events, this “erpected" bliss, and none other, is ours. We therefore affirm, according to the decrees of Christ's religion, that the felicity experienced by deceased believers shall consist in nothing more than a HOPE of future glory; in Rest; in a joy which is purely spiritual and internal-namely, until that glad day shall shine, when Christ shall call them forth from among the dead; when they shall come forth as the angels of God (Matt.xxii. 30, Luke xx. 36), and in the likeness of his Eternal Son (1 John iji. 2, 3).
All that we read in the Holy Scriptures concerning the raising of the dead, or concerning the locality and habitations of spirits, agrees with the doctrine that we have proposed : for who can believe that Lazarus was torn away from the beatific vision, when Christ commanded his return to this wretched life? or that the other Lazarus, in Abraham's bosom, found there the kingdom of heaven, or experienced there the same condition that is signified by the vision of God? or the souls under the altar of Rev. vi. ? or the worthies of Hebrews xi. 40, "not yet made perfect ?” Truly the fathers of the church thought otherwise of all such passages.- Lastly, when Christ took with him the spirit of the thief into paradise, he did not take him into the highest heaven, the seat of beatific vision: for Christ himself did not ascend thither until after three days of death“As Jonah was three days, and three nights in the whale's belly, so was the Son of Man three days and three nights in THE HEART OF THE EARTH (Matt. xii. 40): and neither do the ancient authors, whether Hebrew or Christian, understand paradise to signify heaven. If with an unbiassed mind we examine the facts, and the declarations of God himself; and thither yield our thought where the light of his holy word doth lead, venturing not a step from the path which His own finger hath defined; we shall certainly confess, yea, rather (as witnesses for God with his most Holy Spirit), we shall repeat,Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, for at this present time they have peace, rest, and consolation ;-MOST BLESSED shall they be who have died in the Lord, when, invested with their glorious bodies, in the advent of Christ, they shall know him even as they are known," and enjoy the ineffable sight of " HIM AS E js.'
Nor at all inconsistent with the above sentences are the sayings of St. Paul, that he should be with Christ” (Phil. i. 23), and in some way “AT HOME WITH THE LORD” when he died (2 Cor.v.8). For observe, that it makes no difference what kind of presence with the Lord we understand by these texts to be intended. Let it be corporeal and visible, or spiritual and internal, there is no interference with our argument. If St. Paul intend a corporeal or bodily presence, then he cannot otherwise be understood at all in this passage than as speaking of the resurrection (the interval of death being esteemed by him as a nothing), for the most obvious reason, that the spirit cannot in possibility have an outward and bodily presence with Christ, while it is without a body. From the very nature of things, and from the nature of truth, it is impossible. If, therefore, the Apostle understood a presence of this kind, he evidently treats the period of separation, or (if I may be allowed to use such a word) the period of his lying asleep, as a thing not even worthy to come into the account. In his mind the periods of death and the resurrection are intimately united, as two events which cannot be separated, on account of the certainty of their connection, and the imperceptibility of their distance in time from each other. And, indeed, I am the less adverse to the present explanation of the Apostle's meaning, when I call to mind the constant representation to be found in his Epistles of the Lord's second advent as an event equally sudden and near at hand. For example, in the first verse of this very chapter to the Corinthians; in which he unites the putting off of our terrestrial body, and the putting on of our celestial, as though the space of time intermediate between them were not worthy of account : “We know,” saith he, “that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God (Ex Osov), an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens :" thus conjoining immediately the possession of the two, although fifteen hundred years and more have passed since his death, and we know that St. Paul is not yet in possession of his celestial body *
Any lapse of time in which no change happeneth, nor can happen (e.g. a sleep, a swoon, or a fit of delirium, in which no change is remarked), is of necessity imperceptible, not to be
* For he himself tells us (1 Cor. xv. 51), that “we shall all be changed, IN A MOMENT (all in a moment), in the twinkling of an eye, AT THE LAST TRUMP:"and in 1 Thess. iv. 16, “ The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel's voice, and the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first ”—(so that the whole church universal shall be brought into the esta e of and spirit united )—“THEN WE, which are alive, and remaining, TOGETHER WITH THEM, shall be caught up, &c.&c." And in Romans viii. 23, the whole church is described as “WAITING for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body:" and in Rev. xxii. 12, the Lord saith, " My reward is will ME"-namely, not before I come!