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to the mountains to cover them, and trembling in expectation of this final sentence—Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, such as the devils and the slaves of Satan have deserved—to hear the heavenly sound of final victory over sin and death, the rapturous chorus of honour, praise, and power to the Lamb of God for ever-to be witnesses to the grateful homage, the joys ineffable, of those once doomed the most unworthy of this world—the poor, the mean, the hapless sons of temporary misery; while the rich, the proud, the prosperous, and powerful of the sons of men, already begin to weep and wail, and gnash their teeth, having no hope left of any redemption ; for, THEN, there is no more sacrifice for sin, but fearful expectation of just wrath and judgment :--faintly, I say, my brethren, as this poor description must be allowed to represent the blissful exultation of the redeemed, or the insupportable agonies of the condemned, when all shall rise again to judgment, to receive, in the body, the reward or punishment which the works of the body call for according to God's positive decree, that by their work they shall be judged; still it may help to prepare the mind for present serious thoughts at least, and secure attention to an article of faith that comprehends such very important truths.
Having introduced the subject in such a
manner as is suitable to its affecting nature, I shall now proceed to instruct you more particularly concerning what we are understood to profess as Christians, concerning it.
To this end I shall divide my subject into two parts: under the first, I shall consider the nature, possibility, and certainty of the resurrection of our bodies from the dead, in a more general point of view.
And in the second, I shall confine myself to its evidence, as supported by the resurrection of Christ ; pointing out the difference of the two, as essential to the rendering our faith in this article still more clear and perfect.
The proposition consists of only two parts: our belief of a general resurrection, and the resurrection of the dead. And first, after my usual plain method, let us inquire into the literal meaning of the word. It is taken from the Latin tongue, and signifies a rising again ; and in its closer meaning, as applied to the sense of the article before us, it implies, that God will raise our bodies out of the grave, and join them again to our souls, to live for ever. This, therefore, we style the third privilege promised by God to Christ's church; and so extraordinary is it in its nature, that we cannot dwell too fully upon the event, or examine too closely into the particulars respecting it.
The belief of a general resurrection of the dead, which will come to pass at the end of the world, and which will be followed by that immortality, either of happiness or misery, which forms the subject of the next and last article of our Creed, is a principal article of religion in common to the Jew and the Christian. It is very expressly taught, both in the Old and New T'estament, as we may see in Heb. ix. 25, 26, 27; part of which I have already quoted; and particularly in John, v. 28, 29—“ Marvel not at this (saith the Author of the promise); for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."
The doctrine of the resurrection of the bady was unknown to the heathens; it is peculiar to the gracious revelation of the Gospel. The wise and good among the heathen, indeed (or Gentiles, as they are called in Scripture), had some persuasion of the soul's living after the body, but no knowledge of the reviving of their bodies : however, the revelation is a divine gift to man, that opens to us mysterious truths, that the bare light of reason, especially in its present degenerated state, could never have discovered ; yet it is not inconsistent with reason, which still continues a light of God's gift, though much eclipsed to what it was originally, and by which,
through a consciousness of our weakened faculties we are led to revelation, and persuaded to trust to it. And, indeed, in this very point reason unites with our faith respecting it, as I will endeavour to convince you.
Now, our reason must assure us, that as the divine law is the rule of duty to the whole man, and not to the soul only; so they are broken or obeyed by the soul and body together, as forming one accountable creature. Thus, the members, as the Apostle expresses it, become the instruments of iniquity; and thus, though it is the soul that designs, it is the body that executes; for it is by the senses that we admit temptation. Again, carnal or bodily affections corrupt the soul or mind, and mislead it. The heart is the seat of profane inventions, the tongue expresses them : hence it is past dispute that they are equally partners in guilt ; for, if the body were without a soul, it could not design evil ; and a soul without such a visible body or tenement as is allotted to the souls of men, could not commit such particular offences as carnal men do daily.
On the other hand, again, the body is equally obedient to the holy soul : it acts and suffers for the love of God; it denies and mortifies its sensual appetites and satisfactions, in compliance with reason ; and then (as the Apostle also expresses himself with equal truth and justice) the members become instruments to righteous.
From thus stating to you the case of both the good and wicked, as beings composed of two parts, soul and body, you may clearly conclude the necessity of an universal resurrection of both soul and body, since, otherwise, the rewarding goodness of God would not appear, if the bodies of his servants were not completely happy as well as their souls, by being joined again to the bodies to which they have a natural inclination, and so likewise his avenging justice becomes more fully manifest, in that it punishes the bodies of the wicked with eternal torments answerable to their guilt.
If any man is doubtful as to the possibility of the resurrection, reason again unites with revelation, to confirm his faith past doubt : for the continual re-production of nature affords an argument of the clearest certainty as to the power of God for that effect; and both our blessed Lord and his holy Apostle present this very image in their reasoning upon the subject, to persuade their hearers of the possibility of the fact, and of the necessity of dying once, in order to experience it.
I cannot afford you stronger proof than what our blessed Lord asserts, when speaking of his own resurrection (John, xii. 23, 24). The hour is come (saith Christ) that the Son of man shall be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground, and die, it abideth