Page images
PDF
EPUB

tion to a future state, that I am particularly thinking; when the living must be changed; (Cor. I. xv. 52 ;) and the translated likewise, as Enoch and Elijah, for example, must surrender to death, perhaps, and take their trial with the rest of the prisoners, which shall come forth“ out of the pit wherein is no water;" (Zech. ix. 11;) of the resurrection that is to come and continue. The doctrine of this is more generally interesting than the doctrine of any art or mystery that has ever been cultivated by mankind, whether for amusement, or for a subsistence. It is such a doctrine as our Saviour died to prove and exemplify; as his apostles lived only to promote, and many of them also attested by their deaths. And the subject, notwithstanding its neglect, is of that paramount importance that no other can compare with it: the accident is not to be matched by any that visibly befalls mankind in life.

For of all the changes in life there is none like that which comes after. Even the last change of all that we have to experience on this side the grave, even death itself-that awful, mysterious, and equivocating change, which will not be duly apprehended, though all the living are subjected to it without exception,-even that is nothing to the change that comes after; I mean the resurrection from the dead. For death only fixes in the earth for a time-a creature that once enjoyed the privilege of moving on its surface: the resurrection will either free that creature from the attraction of the earth, and give him a motion quick as thought in the luminous space by which it is surrounded; or load him with indissoluble chains, and fix him in everlasting darkness ten thousand times deeper than the gloomy grave. Death is only the end of a short probation, the closing of a frivo

I say, perhaps, because there is a possibility, though we have not sufficient data, to allege it for a fact, that each of these characters may have returned since their translation, as was expected of one of them by the Scribes in our Saviour's time, (Mark ix. 11,) and died upon earth personally, if not avowedly, in another. (Ib. 13; Mat. xvii. 12.)

[ocr errors]

lous account ; in which, enjoyment and suffering are pretty equally balanced, and neither of any great consequence after it is over: the resurrection is an eternity of happiness or misery, of reward or punishment, depending on that probation and regulated by that account. As much more important, therefore, as death is than all the changes in life, so much is the resurrection more important than death itself. And yet, to shew the vanity of our human understanding, as much on the contrary as death is usually less considered than the ordinary changes in life, so much is the resurrection also less considered than death.

There must be men, no doubt, who think a little in their own way of dying sometimes before the period arrives : but, judging from experience, it is an uncommon thing to find-is a man or woman either who thinks very seriously of rising again. In consequence of which they proceed for the most part as if there was no chance of it; and having no better views than the beasts that perish, they learn to live like them. “Let us eat and drink, (say they,) for to-morrow we die.” (Cor. I. xv. 32.) That is their thought for to-morrow; but after to-morrow is what they do not think of: whereas to-morrow will be over as soon almost as to-day, while after to-morrow runs on for ever. And why is this not more regarded? Why is the longest and most eventful period beyond all comparison, the period that we think of least ? Certainly, what may be most out of sight is in general least likely to be thought of; as the resurrection, for example, being a degree beyond death. But this alone will not be sufficient to account for so strange an oversight; it must proceed from some other cause; and can only be ascribed to the influence of unbelief: men have but a slight belief in the resurrection of the dead; it is thought“ a thing incredible” with them, and, therefore, they do not think much about it. Even those who have the most time and leisure to think do not like to bestow much of it on a thing that is

thought incredible, however such things may amuse them for the moment. A journey to some distant clime performed in the turn of an hand or the twinkling of an eye-a sudden enlargement in our outward circumstances, from the lowest and most confined to the highest and most imposing-or such an improvement of our physical powers as might enable us to perform prodigies unheard of in any department is an event hardly to be expected : it is what we cannot presunie to reckon upon; it is a thing incredible, consequently, what no man in his right senses would be apt to think much of.

But why should the resurrection be looked on as a thing of that sort ? Let me ask my hearers as St. Paul asked his august audience. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead ?” For I am verily persuaded, that some of my bearers must be of this opinion : indeed it would be singular, if in so promiscuous an assembly some were not. For there are too many I believe who have no notion of the fact, and still more who have none of the manner-of the resurrection: the name of it is to some like an empty sound, to others like an unintelligible proposition; and our preaching must be as much in vain for others as for them, if this foundation be not duly prepared for it.

Such is my author's inference in a beautiful and well known view that he has given of the general resurrection, with an allusion also to the resurrection of its Author,—“The First fruits," as he says. “Now, if Christ be preached, that he rose from the dead, (says he,) how say some among you, that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen. And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain; and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God, that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if it so be, that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is Christ not raised : and if Christ be not raised, your faith

is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead; and become the first fruits of them that slept." (Cor. I. xv. 12, &c.)

I have thought myself before now, that proving this one resurrection by unquestionable evidence might be enough to establish the probability of a general resurrection *. But it seems, there are other methods also: and for one, that of shewing the manner and feasibility of the fact: and hence the apostle's argument in this passage is almost like a description. His reasoning upon the subject was most powerfully brought forward once before Felix, the Roman governor of Judea ; (Acts xxiv. 25;) and if to this we add his eloquent appeal to Agrippa including my text, we shall have a regular form of pleading on the subject altogether from different passages of this excellent writer, which it may be well to imitate. For when St. Paul reasoned on the certainty of “a resurrection both of the just and unjust, first before Felix and then before Festus and Agrippa, with so much power and circumstance as to astonish one of them and half persuade the others,” (Acts xxvi. 24, 28,) he was likely enough to have adduced the substance of the doctrine of the resurrection as delivered by him to the Corinthians two or three years before in the forecited epistle ; so that the whole might look here like a restitution of two severed parts to each other. And, adapting my discourse accordingly, I shall now endeavour to lay before you, 1, the Doctrine for the epistle ; and 2, its Defence for the expostulation aforesaid ; having already copied the apostle's method in my exordium.

§ 1. In proposing the particulars of the Doctrine after St. Paul's method I shall be copying also that of the Psalmist in one of his beauties; (Ps. civ;) as both would seem to intimate, but one more explicitly than the other,

• Attempted in Kingdom Sermons, 1st Series, Serm. 9.

how the dead are raised up, and with what body they do come; or the manner and mode of the general resurrection. For example, David, after lauding the Deity for his good and equitable providence over all creatures, as well of every kind upon earth as of those“ in the great and wide sea also;" watching for their present state, and man's especially “ until the evening:" then taking away their breath, to let them die and turn again to their dust, as they had need,-continues, “ When thou lettest thy breath go forth, they shall be made, and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.” (Ib. 30.) Thus far the Psalmist : while St. Paul shews in his doctrine before cited, not only how this all happens generally, but more particularly also in its several stages or degrees: which doctrine of his may be considered as an enlargement on the Psalmist's: and I shall be glad, if my exposition, or dilution, in like manner of St. Paul's may enable you to comprehend the following particulars of the subject,-namely, of the Resurrection; 1, its Beginning and Progress; 2, Extent; 3, Signs; 4, Scite or Place; 5, Order and Precedence; with some other Circumstances.

1. The first part is to comprehend, How the dead are raised up, or the manner and mode of the resurrection in its Beginning and Progress; which is with and from God himself in three types or persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, by several acts, dispensations, or degrees; as I before signified, and am now to explain.

1, His first act, or otherwise Preparation, consists in a Dissolution of the old materials before he proceeds to new make them, or rather, their produce; as the apostle intimates in answer to the supposed question, “ How are the dead raised up ?” pamely,—“ That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance, of wheat or of some other grain : but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.” To connect the future with the 'present

« PreviousContinue »