« AnteriorContinuar »
why need we take the compass of a year? Every twenty-four hours there is a rehearsal, in nature, of man's death and resurrection. Every evening, the day, with its works, dies into darkness and the shadow of death. All colours fade, all beauty vanishes, all labour and motion cease; and every creature, veiled in darkness, mourns, in solemn silence, the interment of the world. Who would not say, 'It is dead, it shall not rise P Yet, wait only a few hours, in faith and patience, and this dead entombed earth, by the agency of heaven upon it, shall burst asunder the bars of that sepulchral darkness in which it was imprisoned, and 'arise and be enlightened, and its light shall come: the day-spring from on high shall visit it, and destroy the covering cast over all people,' and array universal nature with a robe of glory and beauty, raising those that sleep, to behold themselves and the world changed from darkness to light, and calling them up to give glory to God, and think of the resurrection. Happy are they, who make this use of it. God shall help them, when that morning appeareth, of which every morning has been to them a blessed prelude: to such, day unto day uttereth the word of the everlasting gospel, and night unto night showeth the knowledge of salvation. They understand how 'the heavens declare the glory of God' in the felicity of his chosen, and furnish us with some ideas of our approaching glorification. Nothing earthly can fully represent that which is changed from earthly to heavenly, for 'the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.' There is one glory of the Son of Righteousness,—another glory of the moon, his church, walking in the brightness she receives from him,—and another glory of the stars, his saints; for here also one differeth from another star in glory. All stand in their order, in shining circles round the throne of the Sun. There these morning stars sing together unto the Lord a new song, and all the sons of God, even the children of the resurrection, shout for joy; for they rest not day or night, making one sound to be heard through all the heavenly courts—' Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come! Heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Glory be to thee, O Lord most high!' Vol. I.' 2F
Wherefore, my beloved bretliren, seeing these our bodies are to become instruments of glory hereafter, how ought they to be instruments of grace here! For grace is the dawn of glory, as glory is the meridian of grace. Seeing we are to have such bodies, what ought our souls to be, for whom such bodies are prepared? And how ought we to spend our short moment of probation in cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in 'the fear of God I' The consideration of our glorious change cannot but make our hearts to burn within us. And then is the time to reflect, that blessed is he, whose soul is changed from grace to grace; for his body shall be changed from glory to glory. And if the soul of a Christian be ever 'transformed by the renewing of his miiid,' it must be, not while he is in the hurry and vanity of the world below, but when he leaves the world, and, following the steps of his dear Lord and master, ascends, by faith, to the mount of transfiguration, and is on his knees before God, remembering it is written—' While he prayed, he was transfigured.' Blessed therefore is be who breaks away from idle and vain conversation, to meditate in the law of God day and night; to commune with his own heart, and in his chamber; to call his past ways to remembrance, in the bitterness of his soul ; to confess his wickedness, and be sorry for his sin. ' Rejeice, O young man, in thy youth,' says the world. 'Blessed are they that mourn,' says he whom the world crucified. Let those, therefore, who enjoy a life of perfect leisure, and are continually complaining how beavy time hangs upon their hands, consider whether they could tell, if God should call upon them at this moment, when they ever freely and voluntarily withdrew for one hour, to attend the business of changing their souls from sin to righteousness, that so their bodies may be changed from dust to glory. And if this question, from the mouth of the all-seeing Judge, will strike the unprofitable servant speechless at his foot-stool, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Let us consider this, and be wise unto salvation, and in every thought, word, and action, remember our latter end. Let us remember, that ' our Redeemer liveth, and that he shall indeed stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after our skin, worms destroy this body, yet in this flesh shall we see God.' And may we so 'look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ,' by the eye of faith, that when we see him as he is, he may * change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working, whereby he is able even to subdue all things to himself.'
IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL.
2 Cor. v. 1. For we know, that if our earthly house of this tabernacle
were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Here are two great objects presented to our consideration. First, The state which is the object of good men's hope. Secondly, The certain foundation of their hope; • we know, that if our earthly house be dissolved, we have a building of God.' I. The expressions here employed to signify what is promised to the righteous, 'a building of God, a house not made with hands,' are expressions of a mysterious import. They suggest to us things which we cannot now conceive, far less describe. Into that house which is above, those habitations of eternity, no living man has entered to explore them, and to report to us tidings of what he there beheld. A sacred veil conceals the mansions of glory. But, in general, these expressions of the text plainly import, that the spirits of good men shall, upon death, be translated from an imperfect to a glorious state. Whether we explain 'the building of God, the house not made with hands,' to signify the incorruptible bodies which the just shall animate at the resurrection, or the habitations of celestial glory into which they enter, they are terms which convey -ideas of high magnificence and felicity. This earth on which we dwell, is no more than an exterior region of the great kingdom of God. It is but an entrance, through which, after suitable preparation, we pass into the palace of an Almighty Sovereign. Admitted there, we may hope to behold far greater objects than we now can behold; and to enjoy in perfection
those pleasures which we here view from afar, and pursue in Tain. Such degrees of pleasure are allowed us at present, as our state admits. But a state of trial required that pains should be intermixed with our pleasures, and that infirmity and distress should often be felt. The remains of our fall appear every where in our condition. The ruins of human nature present themselves on all hands. But ' when that which is perfect, is come, that which is in part, shall be done away.' With the fall of the earthly house, all its rotten and corruptible materials shall disappear. 'It is sown in corruption,' says the Apostle, speaking of the happy change made upon good men at the resurrection, 'it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural, it is raised a spiritual body:—for this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality.' [1 Corinth, xv. 42-53.] Into that ' house not made with hands, that building of God,' we have every reason to believe, that there will be no room for such guests to intrude, as care or sorrow. Nothing can be admitted to enter there, but what contributes to the felicity of those whom the Almighty hath allowed to dwell in his presence, and to 'behold his face in righteousness.'
Besides the glory and perfection of this future state, the text suggests its permanency. This house 'not made with hands,' is ' an house eternal in the heavens.' The tabernacle which we now inhabit, is every moment liable to fall; above is the fixed mansion, the seat of perpetual rest. Beyond doubt, the certain prospect of death renders every thing inconsiderable which we here possess. Every enjoyment is saddened, when we think of its end approaching. We become sensible, that we are always building on sand, never on a rock. Fluctuation and change characterize all that is around us; and at the moment when our attachment to any persons or objects is become the strongest, they are beginning to slide away from our hold. But in the mansions above, alteration and decay are unknown. Every thing there continues in a steady course. No schemes arc there begun and left unfinished; no pleasing connexions just formed, and then broken off. The treasures possessed there shall never be diminished; the friends we enjoy there, shall never die, and leave us to mourn. In those celestial regions, shines the sun that never sets; the calm reigns
which is never disturbed; the river of life flows with a stream, which is always unruffled in its course.
Such are the prospects, imperfectly as we can now conceive them, which are set forth to good men in a future world. But how, it may be asked, shall we be satisfied that such prospects are not mere illusions, with which our fancy flatters us? Upon what foundation rests this mighty edifice of hope, which the Apostle here rears up for the consolation of Christians, and of which he speaks so confidently as to say, 'We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God !'—To enquire into this was the
lid. proposed head of discourse, to which we now proceed. And as the subject is in itself so important, and so pleasing to all good men, I shall take a view of the different kinds of evidence, upon which our faith of a happy immortality is grounded.
We must observe, in the first place, that the dissolution of the earthly tabernacle at death, affords no ground for thinking that the soul at the same time perishes, or is extinguished. There are clear proofs that the body and soul, though at present closely connected by Divine appointment with one another, are substances of different and dissimilar natures. Matter, of which the body is composed, is a substance, altogether dead and passive, and cannot be put in motion without some external impulse: whereas the soul hath within itself a principle of motion, activity, and life. Between the laws of matter, and the action of thought, there is so little resemblance, or rather so much opposition, that mankind, in general, have agreed in holding the soul to be an immaterial substance; that is, a substance the nature of which we cannot explain or define, further than that it is a substance quite distinct from matter. This being once admitted, it clearly follows, that, since thought depends not on matter, from the dissolution of the material part we have no ground to infer the destruction of the thinking part of man. As long as, by the ordination of the Creator, these different substances remain united, there is no wonder that the one sh ould suffer from the disorder or indisposition of the other.
It is so far from following, that the soul must cease to act on the dissolution of the body, that it seems rather to follow, that it will then act in a more perfect manner. In its present