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The Final Resurrection. THOUGH Christ, the Sun of righteousness, after having “abolished death,” is declared by Paul to have brought life and immortality to light,” shining upon us through the gospel,” (3) whence also in believing we are said to have “passed from death unto life,” (h) being “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God,” (i) who “ hath made us sit together in heavenly places” with his only-begotten Son, (k) that nothing may be wanting to our complete felicity; yet, lest we should find it grievous to be still exercised with a severe warfare, as though we derived no benefit from the victory gained by Christ, we must remember what is stated in another place concerning the nature of hope. For “since we hope for that we see not;” (1) and, according to another text, “faith is the evidence of things not seen;" (m) as long as we are confined in the prison of the flesh “ we are absent from the Lord.” (n) Wherefore the same apostle says, “ Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God;” and “when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." (0) This then is our condition, " that we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." (p) Here we have need of more than common patience, lest being wearied we pursue a retrograde course, or desert the station assigned us. All that has hitherto been stated, therefore, concerning our salvation, requires minds elevated towards heaven; that, according to the suggestion of Peter, we may love Christ whom we have not seen, and, believing in him, may “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory,” till we receive “ the end of our faith.” (9) For which reason, Paul represents the faith and hope of the faithful as having respect to
" the hope that is laid up in heaven.” (s) When we are thus looking towards heaven, with our eyes fixed upon Christ, and nothing detains them on earth from carrying us forward to the promised blessedness, we realize the fulfilment of that declaration, “ Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (s) Hence it is, that faith is so scarce in the world; because to our sluggishness nothing is more difficult than to ascend through innumerable obstacles, “ pressing toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling.” (t) To the accumulation of miseries which generally oppress us, are added the mockeries of the profane, with which our simplicity is assailed; while voluntarily renouncing the allurements of present advantage or pleasure, we seem to pursue happiness, which is concealed from our view, like a shadow that continually eludes our grasp. In a word, above and below, before and behind, we are beset by violent temptations, which our minds would long ago have been incapable of sustaining, if they had not been detached from terrestrial things, and attached to the heavenly life which is apparently at a remote distance. He alone, therefore, has made a solid proficiency in the gospel, who has been accustomed to continual meditation on the blessed resurrection.
II. The supreme good was a subject of anxious dispute, and even contention, among the ancient philosophers: yet none of them, except Plato, acknowledged the chief good of man to consist in his union with God. But of the nature of this union he had not even the smallest idea; and no wonder, for he was totally uninformed respecting the sacred bond of it. We know what is the only and perfect happiness even in this earthly pilgrimage; but it daily inflames our hearts with increasing desires after it, till we shall be satisfied with its full fruition. Therefore I have observed that the advantage of Christ's benefits is solely enjoyed by those who elevate their minds to the resurrection. Thus Paul also sets before the faithful this object, towards which he tells us he directs all his own efforts, forgetting every thing else, “ if by any means he may attain unto it.” (u) And it behoves us to press forward to the same point with the greater alacrity; lest, if this world engross our attention, we
should be grievously punished for our sloth. He therefore characterizes the faithful by this mark, “ Our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour.” (x) And that their minds may not flag in this course, he associates with them all creatures as their companions. For as ruin and deformity are visible on every side, he tells us that all things in heaven and earth are tending to renovation. For the fall of Adam having deranged the perfect order of nature, the bondage to which the creatures have been subjected by the sin of man is grievous and burdensome to them; not that they are endued with any intelligence, but because they naturally aspire to the state of perfection from which they have fallen. Paul therefore attributes to them groaning and travailing pains, (y) that we who have received the first-fruits of the Spirit may be ashamed of remaining in our corruption, and not imitating at least the inanimate elements which bear the punishment of the sin of others. But as a still stronger stimulus to us, he calls the second advent of Christ “our redemption.” It is true, indeed, that all the parts of our redemption are already completed; but because “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, he shall appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (2) Whatever calamities oppress us, this redemption should support us even till its full consummation.
III. Let the importance of the object sharpen our pursuit. Paul justly argues, that “if there be no resurrection of the dead,” the whole gospel is vain and fallacious; for we should be “ of all men the most miserable,” being exposed to the hatred and reproaches of mankind,“ standing in jeopardy every hour,” (a) and being even like sheep destined to the slaughter; and therefore its authority would fall to the ground, not in one point only, but in every thing it contains relating to adoption and the accomplishment of our salvation. To this subject, the most important of all, let us give an attention never to be wearied by length of time. With this view I have deferred what I shall briefly say of it to this place, that the reader, after receiving Christ as the Author of complete salvation, may learn to soar higher, and may know that he is invested with
(1) Phil. iii. 20. (y) Rom. viii. 19—23. (z) Heb. ix. 28. (a) 1 Cor. xv. 13. &c. heavenly glory and immortality, in order that the whole body may be conformed to the Head: as in his person the Holy Spirit frequently gives an example of the resurrection. It is a thing difficult to be believed, that bodies, after having been consumed by corruption, shall at length, at the appointed time, be raised again. Therefore, while many of the philosophers asserted the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body was admitted by very few. And though this furnishes no excuse, yet it admonishes us that this truth is too difficult to command the assent of the human mind. To enable faith to surmount so great an obstacle, the Scripture supplies us with two assistances; one consists in the similitude of Christ, the other in the omnipotence of God. Now whenever the resurrection is mentioned, let us set before us the image of Christ, who in our nature, which he assumed, finished his course in this mortal life in such a manner, that, having now obtained immortality, he is the pledge of future resurrection to us. For in the afflictions that befal us, “ we bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” (6) And to separate him from us, is not lawful, nor indeed possible, without rending him asunder. Hence the reasoning of Paul; “ If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:" (c) for he assumes this as an acknowledged principle, that Christ neither fell under the power of death, nor triumphed over it in his resurrection, for himself as a private individual; but that all this was a commencement in the Head of what must be fulfilled in all the members, according to every one's order and degree. For it would not be right, indeed, for them to be in all respects equal to him. It is said in the Psalms; “ Thou wilt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (d) Though a portion of this confidence belongs to us, according to the measure bestowed upon us; vet the perfect accomplishment has been seen in Christ alone, who had his body restored to him entire, free from all corruption. Now that we may have no doubt of our fellowship with Christ in his blessed resurrection, and may be satisfied with this pledge, Paul expressly affirms that the design of his session in
heaven, and his advent in the character of Judge at the last day, is to change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.” (e) In another place also, he shews that God raised his Son from the dead, not in order to display a single specimen of his power, but to exert on the faithful the same energy of his Spirit, whom he therefore calls “ our life" while he dwells in us, because he was given for this very pur. pose, “ to quicken our mortal bodies.” (S) I am but briefly glancing at things which would admit of a fuller discussion, and are deserving of more elegance of style; but I trust the pious reader will find in a small compass sufficient matter for the edification of his faith. Christ, therefore, rose again, that we might be the companions of his future life. He was raised by the power of the Spirit, who is given to us also for the pur. pose of quickening us. In a word, he was raised that he might be“ the resurrection and the life.” But as we have observed that this mirror exhibits to us a lively image of our resurrec. tion, so it will furnish a firm foundation for our minds to rest upon, provided we are not wearied or disturbed by the long delay: because it is not ours to measure the moments of time by our own inclination, but to wait patiently for God's esta. blishment of his kingdom in his own appointed time. To this purpose is the expression of Paul; “ Christ the first fruits, afterward they that are Christ's, at his coming.” ($) But that no doubt might be entertained of the resurrection of Christ, on which the resurrection of us all is founded, we see in how many and various ways he has caused it to be attested to us. Scorners will ridicule the history narrated by the evangelists, as a childish mockery. For what weight, they ask, is there in the message brought by some women in a fright, and afterwards confirmed by the disciples half dead with fear? Why does not Christ rather set up the splendid trophies of his victory in the midst of the temple and the public places? Why does he not make a formidable entrance into the presence of Pilate? Why does he not prove himself to be again alive, to the priests and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem? Profane men will scarcely believe the persons selected by him to be compe