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disputation against infidels, proves in a most convincing manner; “ thou fool, that which thou sowest, is not quickened except it die.” As the rotting of the corn in the earth is necessary to the reviving and springing of it up: so we must die, and the image of the earthly Adam be abolished, that we may be transformed into the image of the Heavenly One.
And to the other part of the question, why the saints remain in the state of death for a time? there is a clear answer. The resurrection of the saints is delayed till Christ's coming to judgment, partly for the glory of his appearance: for what an admirable sight will it be, that the saints of all ages shall at once arise glorified and immortalized, to attend upon our Saviour in the last act of his regal office, and then to make a triumphant entry with him into heaven? And partly, that the established order of providence may not be disturbed : for the changing of our nature into glory, in a sudden and inexplicable manner, cannot be without miraculous power; and if every believer presently after death, were in his glorified body translated to heaven, the world would be always filled with miracles, which were to cease after the sufficient confirmation of the gospel by them. But how long soever the interval be to the resurrection, it shall be with “ them that sleep in Jesus," as it is with those that awake out of a quiet natural sleep, to whom the longest night seems but as a moment: so when the saints first awake from death, in the great morning of the world, a thousand years will seem no more to them than to God himself, “ but as one day.”
I now come to prove, that our Saviour will abolish the dominion of death over the saints.
Whilst the bodies of the saints remain in the grave, they seem to be absolutely under the power of death. The world is a Golgotha, filled with the monuments of its victories. And it may be said to this our last enemy, in the words of the prophet to the bloody king, “ hast thou killed, and taken possession ?" but we are assured by an infallible word, that the power of death shall be abolished, and the bodies of the saints be revived incorruptible and immortal.
The resurrection is a terra incognita to the wisest heathens; a doctrine peculiar to the gospel : some glimmerings they had of the soul's immortality, without which all virtue had been extinguished in the world, but no conjecture of the reviving of the body. But reason assists faith in this point, both as to the will of God, and his power for the performing it. I will glance upon the natural reasons that induce the considering mind to receive this doctrine, and more largely show how “ the resurrection of the just is assured” by our Redeemer.
The divine laws are the rule of duty to the entire man, and not to the soul only: and they are obeyed or violated by the soul and body in conjunction. Therefore there must be a resurrection of the body, that the entire person may be capable of recompences in judgment. The soul designs, the body executes : the senses are the open ports to admit temptations. Carnal affections deprave the soul, corrupt the mind, and mislead it. The love of sin is founded in bono jucundo, in sensible pleasures : “ and the members are the servants of iniquity.” The heart is the fountain of profaneness, and the tongue expresses it. And the body is obsequious to the holy soul in doing or suffering for God; and denies its sensual appetites and satisfactions in compliance with reason and grace. The “ members are the instruments of righteousness." It follows then there will be an universal resurrection, that the rewarding goodness of God may appear in making the bodies of his servants gloriously happy with their souls, and their souls completely happy in union with their bodies, to which they have a natural inclination, and his revenging justice be manifest in punishing the bodies of the wicked with eternal torments answerable to their guilt.
And of the possibility of the resurrection, the circular and continual production of things in the world, is a clear demonstration of the power of God for that effect. There is a pregnant instance that our Saviour and the apostle made use of as an image of the resurrection : a grain of corn sowed in the earth, corrupts and dies, and after springs up entire ; its death is a disposition to life. The essays of God's power in the works of returning nature, flowers and fruits in their season, instruct us how easily he can make those that are in the dust to awake to life. If the art of man, whose power and skill are 'very narrow and limited, can refine gold and silver to such a lustre, as if their matter were not * earth digged out of the mines: if from black cinders it can form crystal glasses so clear and shining,
Nomeo terræ in igni reliquit. Tertul,
how much more can omnipotency recompact our dust, and reanimate it with a glorious life? Death that dissolves our vital frame does not abolish the matter of our bodies : and though it is corrupted and changed by a thousand accidents, yet it is unperishing; and under whatsoever colours and figures it appears, God perfectly discerns, and will separate it for its proper use.
More particularly, I will show how the resurrection of Christ is an assurance of the resurrection of believers to glory. As our surety he was under the arrest of death ; it becoming the holy majesty of God, and conducing to the ends of his government, not to derogate from the dignity of his law, but to lay the penalty upon his Son, who interposed for us. Now having finished the work of our redemption by his sufferings, his resurrection was the just consequent of his passion. And it is observable that his resurrection, though one entire act, is ascribed as to himself, so to his Father, Rom. 1. 11. by whose consent and concurrence he rose again. Therefore it is said, “ whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, since it was impossible he should be holden by it.” Acts 2. 24. It was naturally impossible upon the account of the divine power inherent in his person, and legally impossible, because divine justice required that he should be raised to life; partly to vindicate his innocence, for he was reputed, and suffered as a malefactor, and principally because he had fully satisfied God. Accordingly the apostle declares, “ he died for our sins, and rose again for our justification.” Rom. 4. Having paid our debt, he was released from the grave, and the discharge was most solemnly published to the world. It is therefore said, “ the God of peace raised him from the dead :" Heb. 13. the act is most congruously ascribed unto God invested with that title, because his power was exerted in that glorious work, after he was “ reconciled by the blood of the covenant.” Briefly, Our Saviour's victory over death was obtained by dying, his triumph by rising again. He foiled our common enemy in his own territories the grave. His death was a counterpoison to death itself; as a bruised scorpion is a * noble antidote against its venom.
Indeed his death is incomparably a greater wonder than his resurrection. For it is apparently more difficult that the Son of God, who originally possesses immortality, should die, than that the human body united to him, should be raised to a glorious life. It is more conceivable that God should communicate to the human nature some of his divine perfections, impassibility, and immortality, than that he should submit to our lowest infirmities, sufferings and death.
* Qui sibi ipse pulcherrimum medicamentum. Celsus.
Now the resurrection of Christ is the argument and claim of our happy resurrection. For God chose and appointed him to be the example and principle from whom all divine blessings should be derived to us. Accordingly he tells his disciples in a forecited scripture, “because I live, ye shall live also." Our nature was raised in his person, and in our nature all believers : therefore he is called “the firstfruits of them that sleep :" because as the firstfruits were a pledge and assurance of the following harvest; and as from the condition of the firstfruits being offered to God, the whole harvest was entitled to a consecration; so our Saviour's resurrection to the life of glory is the earnest and assurance of ours. He is is called “ the first-born among the dead," and owns the race of departed believers as his brethren, who shall be restored to life according to his pattern. He is “the head,” believers “ are his members," and therefore shall have communion with him in his life. The effect is so infallible, that now they are said “ to be raised up together, and made to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephes. 2. 6. If his victory over our enemies had been imperfect, and he had saved himself with difficulty and hazard, “ as it were by fire,” in the apostle's expression, our redemption had not been accomplished: but his passion was triumphant; and is it conceivable that he should leave the saints, his own by so many dear titles, under the power of death? If Moses, the deliverer of Israel from the tyranny of Pharaoh, Exod. 10. 26. would not suffer any thing of theirs, “ not an hoof” to remain in the house of bondage; will our great Redeemer be less perfect in his work? Shall our last enemy always detain his spoils, our bodies, in the grave? This would reflect upon his love and power. It is recorded, to confirm our hopes, how early his power was displayed in forcing the grave to release its chained captives : “ and many bodies of saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.". Matt, 27. 52, 53. What better earnest can we have, that the strength of death is broken? From what he has done to what he is able to do, the consequence is clear. The apostle tells us, “ he will raise our vile bodies, and change them like unto his glorious body, by that power whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.” Phil. 3. 21. Our redemption “ will then be complete," Rom. 8. 23. and all the bitterness of death past. The redemption of the soul is accomplished from sin and misery immediately after death: but the redemption of the body is the last in order, and reserved to crown our felicity at the great day. Then “ death shall be swallowed up in victory,” I Cor. 15. abolished for ever.
And O the joyful reunion of those dear relatives after such a divorce ! when the body that was so long detained in the loathsome grave, 1 Cor. 15. shall be reformed with all glorious perfections, and be a fit instrument for the soul, and partaker with it in consummate blessedness and immortality. It is said, that “ those that wear rich clothing are in kings' houses :" but what are all the robes of costly folly wherein earthly courtiers appear, to the brightness and beauty of the spiritual body wherewith the saints shall be clothed, to qualify them for the presence of the King of kings, and to be in his house for ever? But O the miserable condition of the wicked in that day! Death now breaks their bodies and souls into an irreconcileable enmity, and how sad will their conjunction be! The soul will accuse the body to have been sin's solicitor, continually tempting to sensualities : and the body will upbraid more than ever it allured the soul, for its wicked compliance: then the sinner shall be an entire sacrifice burning, but never consumed. Mark 9. Now from the assurance of a blessed resurrection by Christ, the forementioned fear of death is conquered in believers. If the doctrine of the * transmigration of souls into bodies (the invention of Pythagoras) inspired his disciples with that fiery vigour, as to encounter the most present and apparent dangers, being fearless to part with the life that should be restored; how much more should a christian with a holy confidence receive death, knowing that
* Felices errore suo quos ille timorum