Page images

the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than the blood of Abel.'

to come.


This is the high privilege of faith. And yet we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened'; and yet we wait and look for that which is We are redeemed, we are saved; and yet there is a future salvation; there is a redemption not yet accomplished, to wit, the redemption of our body.' And so the Apostle, speaking of heaven as our true abode, adds: From whence also we look for the Saviour, etc.'

But before I pass on to dwell on some of the thoughts which this passage suggests, it is absolutely necessary to make a change in the reading of the passage. Read it thus: 'Who shall change the fashion of the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to-made essentially and really like -the body of His glory.' I do not like to comment on errors, but the rendering, 'our vile body,' is peculiarly unfortunate, one of those blots in our otherwise admirable English Version which one longs to see removed. No doubt the word 'vile' had a less marked sense when our Version was made than it has now; still the expression itself is apt to produce a profoundly wrong impression. That is a phrase which might have suited the Manichæan heretics, who held that matter was, in its nature, evil, and that it was the work of a malignant and rival deity; but it cannot harmonize with a Christian belief. St. Paul, we may be sure, would not encourage any Stoic contempt, any Manichæan hatred of the body. No man ever spoke more strongly of the sanctity of the body, of the honour and reverence due to it, of the duty of keeping it free from all spot of defilement. St. Paul could not have called that body 'vile' which is the masterpiece of God's material creation. St. Paul could not have called that body 'vile' of which he writes: 'What? know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, which is in you?' St. Paul could not have called that body 'vile' of which he asks: Know ye not that your bodies are members of Christ ?> St. Paul could not have called that body 'vile' of which he tells us that it is the instrument whereby we glorify God. 'Let not sin reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.' 'Ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.' St. Paul could not have said one word in disparagement of that body for which he sees so glorious a future: Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.' This, we believe, is the very glory of Christianity, that it puts high honour on the human body as well as on the human spirit. It takes the whole man into its keeping. It invests each part of us with its luminous majesty. It bids us pray that God would keep body, soul and spirit 'blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." I say, St. Paul could not speak of the body as 'vile.' But St. Paul does speak of it as the body of our humiliation, the body of our present low estate, as children of fallen parents, the body which is the inlet of temptation and the lodging-house of sin, the body which is frail and perishing and


transitory, the body which subserves only a temporary purpose, and which is destined to a great and marvellous transformation. Christ, when He comes again, shall change the fashion of it. Mark the accuracy of the term. The fashion is not permanent. It has its growth, its change, its decay. All that is fleeting in it is to pass away, in order that a new and permanent body may take its place.

Now when we ask: What body shall that be? we are told: One conformed to, one invested with a permanent essential likeness to, the body of Christ's glory. Can we imagine what that change will be? It is a change which will pass upon all who shall enter into the heavenly city. 'We shall not all sleep,' says the Apostle-Death will not claim all human bodies as his prey; 'but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.' That is the same doctrine which we have here. Compare with our text again, for a moment, another passage in the Epistle to the Colossians: 'Seeing that ye were raised with Christ,' says the Apostle there (raised with Him in your baptism, chapter ii. 12-partakers in His Resurrection life), 'set your affection on things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.' What is that but saying, Your city is in heaven? Your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.' What is that but the very thought of our text: 'From whence we look for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; Who shall change the fashion of the body of our low estate, that it may be conformed-made truly, essentially like untothe body of His glory'? And what is the exhortation that follows?— 'Mortify therefore your members that are upon the earth'—see to it that ye render your bodies as well as your spirits 'a living sacrifice' unto the Lord. What is that but an exhortation based precisely upon the same train of thought which meets us here: 'Be ye followers of me: for many walk, of whom I have told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ,' the slaves of sense and appetite. Do not thus dishonour your bodies. Your bodies are sacred. Christ has redeemed them; they are to be the subject of His transforming power. They are to be made like unto His body. See, then, that ye reverence them; see, then, that ye guard against all that can defile and profane them.

But, I say, can we imagine what the change is which shall pass upon them? Surely, brethren, it is a very lofty hope which the Apostle holds out to us here. It is no earthly glory which he portrays. It is a true and perfect likeness to Christ, a likeness to Him not as He was in the days of His humiliation and weakness, but a likeness to Him in His risen glory. Now here Holy Scripture comes to our aid. We may gather something from the Gospel-history of the change which passed upon Christ at His Resurrection. He was the same, and yet not the same. His disciples were terrified and affrighted, and supposed they saw a spirit; but He said: 'Handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see M

have.' It was a true body, for He did eat and drink with His disciples; it was a true body, for He carried still on His sacred Person the print of the nails and the wound of the spear. Those august signs of His Passion had not been obliterated. Even in the Heavenly Glory there is seen One Who is 'as a Lamb that had been slain.' It is as though that mighty miracle of Love should never be effaced in the mediatorial kingdom, but should be left for the adoring interpretation of the 'redeemed from among men.' It was a true human body. But it was a body clothed with new powers. He came and went mysteriously; He passed like the wind through closed doors. They knew Him, and yet they knew Him not. The awe of His Resurrection was upon them. In that body He ascended, in that body He went to the Father. It is the body of His glory.' Or rather, perhaps, we may believe that a further change passed upon it at the Ascension, or possibly that during those forty days which intervened between the Resurrection and the Ascension a gradual transformation was wrought, by which the body of His humiliation was changed into the body of His glory.' These are mysteries which are not unveiled. We must touch them with reverence and godly fear.'


But, brethren, there is a revelation of that glory vouchsafed to us. It was given to His servant John to behold and to utter, so far as human language can utter it, the vision of that glory. He was in the Spirit' on that Easter Day. He heard a voice. He 'turned to see'; and, being turned, he saw ‘seven golden candlesticks, and in the midst of the seven candlesticks One like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars, and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.' That vision of resplendent glory is the vision of the Risen Son of Man. That is His Resurrection-Body. Το that Resurrection-Body ours shall be like, like with a true resemblance, like with a deep, essential conformity.

For this we are to hope. For nothing less than this are we to look for a likeness to our Risen Lord. 'We shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.'

But the future and the present are, in some sense, one. 'Our conversation is in heaven.' The transformation is begun. This is in some measure the work of His Spirit in us now. There is going on now in all who believe in Him a transformation after His image. We are changed,' says cannot be fulfilled here. His mighty power must


[ocr errors]

St. Paul, 'from glory to glory.' But that change The body of our humiliation must be laid aside. be put forth upon us, even that power by which He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.' We wait, we look, we hope for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.'

But here a difficulty presents itself. Our Lord's body did not see cor

ruption. The bodies of the saints who shall be alive at His coming will not see corruption. We can conceive how, by some miracle of power, the change may be wrought upon them in a moment. But how is it with bodies that have been laid in the grave and turned to their dust? O how that question strikes a chill to our hearts sometimes! We are looking for the last time on the face of one whom we have loved with a passionate love. Those eyes can no more look into ours with answering affection. That voice, which was as music in our ears, is silent. That hand, the grasp of which has thrilled us with tenderness, is still. Is all at an end? We know that still form which we laid in the grave. We know that it shall return to the dust. Can the grave give back the dead? Shall we hear that voice again? Will that hand clasp ours again? Shall we see eye to eye? Can this dust live? 'How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?' That is an old perplexity. Our modern science may have given it more edge and more sharpness, but there were philosophers on Mars' Hill, at Athens, who mocked when Paul 'preached through Jesus the resurrection of the dead.' The immortality of the soul was conceivable, the existence of a disembodied spirit after death and an abode of bliss for the virtuous and of misery for the wicked, was an accepted article of the popular creed. But that the body which they had seen turn to corruption should ever be reunited to the spirit, this appeared to them impossible. And to many men this seems impossible now.

Christian reasoners have not always dealt wisely with this question. They have sometimes argued that although the body is dissolved into its original dust, yet every particle of that dust is gathered by the hand of God and placed in His treasure-house, in order that it may form again the resurrection-body. And then science steps in and demonstrates triumphantly the impossibility of such a reconstruction. And so it comes to pass that, having taken up for ourselves a position not warranted by Scripture, we find ourselves seriously and unnecessarily embarrassed. Bear with me, if for a few moments I dwell on this subject, for it is one on which it is very important that we should think rightly. I may contradict, in what I am going to say, some popular misconceptions. I am quite sure I shall not contradict one word of Holy Scripture. What are the simple facts regarding our bodies when they die? Many are never laid in the grave at all. Some perish by fire, and their ashes are scattered to the four winds; some lie in the depths of the sea; some have been devoured by wild beasts, or by their fellow-men in unnatural banquets. Even of those that have been laid in the earth, or have mouldered upon the surface, the dust has been scattered, and has passed in one form or other into other bodies. All the dead become, after a short time, not merely dust, but vapour. They enter into other forms, either with or without chemical decomposition, and become the element of other living creatures, plants, animals and men. The dead are the life of the living. We inhale the dead. They flow in our veins; they help to form the texture of our bodies and our brain-cells.' The particles of each are become the common

property of many. You must mutilate one body to reconstitute another; you must mutilate many bodies to reconstitute one, if in order to reconstitute it you must bring together all the material particles of which it was once composed. I say, this is a physical impossibility. I am not limiting the power of God. I am only saying that to suppose Him to do this would be to suppose Him to do not what is supernatural, but what is unnatural. Millions of human bodies would, if this hypothesis were true, lay claim to the very same particles of matter at the resurrection of the last day. Happily, our Christian belief is not pledged to such an absurdity.

I shall show you presently how St. Paul shatters all hypotheses of this kind. But before I do this, let me first make one other remark which I trust will completely satisfy those who may still feel a difficulty in understanding how it is possible that there should be a resurrection of the body unless the same particles of which the body is composed are brought together to form the resurrection-body. Think for a moment of the way in which our bodies grow. Ask yourselves what it is that constitutes their identity. Our bodies are not an unchanging mass. They are in a state of perpetual flux. We are constantly taking in fresh matter by the air we breathe and the food we eat. We are constantly losing in various ways some of the particles which constitute our frame. Bone, tissue, nerve, muscle, all are changing. The body of our childhood is not the body of our youth, nor the body of our youth that of our manhood, nor the body of our manhood that of our old age. Every particle has changed, and yet it is the same body: the person to whom it belongs still continues the same person. You recognise him by feature and voice and gesture. Twenty years hence you will know him as you do to-day. If you insist upon it that every particle of matter of which my body is built must be brought together again to form my new resurrection-body, then I ask, What body during this present life is my true body? Is it the body of my childhood, or of my youth, or of my old age? The body in which I die is not more truly mine than the body with which I came into the world. Both are mine, both are in some sense the same, and yet they have not a single material particle in common. What possible reason is there, then, for contending that the body which is laid in the grave, it may be in disease and decrepitude, must be brought together again, bone to his bone, particle for particle, at the resurrection, when it is not more essentially a part of myself than my body at any other stage of my existence? Of this, and this only, do we need to be assured, that the principle of identity which governs the formation of the body in this life shall govern its formation at the Resurrection. In the ever-flowing torrent of life, as wave after wave passes through our bodily frame, bringing with it growth and variety in the structure, there is some principle or law, or building-force, or specific form, call it what you will, which remains ever the same. The organism is essentially one, despite the modifications of size, of form, of inward constitution. I say, then, that whether we consider the undoubted facts of the decomposition of our bodies at death, or whether we consider the no less certain facts

« PreviousContinue »