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quickest ear, that it can no longer hear; and no bodily organ will any more convey our wishes to the spirit, which but a moment ago animated the now lifeless corpse. And but a few hours or days more, and the fairest form, although recently possessing all the health and vivacity of youth, becomes a mass of offensive putrefaction, which makes the most affectionate friend desire, as did Abraham, to have the remains of a late beloved object interred out of sight. There is nothing that our senses can discover, but what would lead to the supposition that death is the annihilation of our being. When we stand around the reopened grave, and seeing the dead remains cast up ; ask, Can these dry bones live and of that which formerly constituted the life of our friend, (the soul or the spirit,) our senses can discover nothing. If we invoke the dead, we get no response. If we mentally express our love and affection to the deceased, we cannot perceive that any ear listens; death seems, to the eye of sense, to be the destruction of our existence. The unaided reason of man has sometimes acquiesced in the evidence of the senses, and has compared death to the extinguishing of a flame, which ceases for ever; sometimes, however, reason has suggested the probability of a continued existence of the spirit, in a separate state, after the body has returned to dust; but the revelation of our blessed Saviour alone has “brought life and immortality to light.” His Gospel removes all doubts on the subject; and not only does it assure us that the separate spirit lives, but that the dead body too shall revive. They “that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting shame and contempt.” Our theme this day does not, however, lead us to speak of the awful eternity of the wicked, but of the hope of the righteous. For these there is prepared an eternally happy region, and happy society, in Sacred Scripture called “The kingdom of God.” There the Deity manifests the light of his countenance, and the glory of his perfections, so as to diffuse amongst the inhabitants of heaven, a felicity which is, to mortal man whilst on earth, utterly inconceivable ; there, too, angelic beings, and the glorified spirits of just men made perfect, form a society, in comparison with which, not to say the unsubstantial pleasures of the gayest society on earth, but the society of the wisest and purest of human beings, is joyless. But “This I say, brethren, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” Heaven is a state of existence and of happiness, of which the human body, as it is now constituted, is incapable. A chANGE, therefore, of the present mode of existence must take place; “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” Death is the commencement of that change; the resurrection is the consummation of it. “This corruptible must put on incorruption.” That death is the commencement of that change, is true of all those who shall quit this world before the last day—ere the morning of the day of judgment dawn ; for the Christians that shall be found alive on that morning shall not die, but shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye; when the last trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. Of the nature of this change, I presume not to speak, nor do I now deem it needful to answer objections to the possibility of a resurrection. That God's power can effect a resurrection of human beings, few will deny; and God's word declares he will raise the dead. St. Paul compares the dead body interred in the earth, to seed sown in the ground; and in allusion to this idea, he says of the body, when dead—“It is sown in dishonour,” but, in reference to the resurrection, “It is raised in glory; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” The identity of the human being is preserved whilst the qualities of the body are changed. Dishonour is changed to honour; and the natural or material body to a spiritual body; and again the Scripture saith, this vile body shall be fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself. Not only will the body D
be purified and undecaying in its qualities, but it will also be rendered incapable of pain or suffering ; in heaven there shall be no more sickness, neither sighing, nor tears. But is not death the punishment of sin St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, saith, “By one man (meaning Adam, the first parent of mankind) sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men ; for that all have sinned.” Had man never sinned who can tell but he would have undergone some change, similar to death, whereby he would have been transferred to a superior state of existence. Death in that case would have been simply a dissolution of the existing body, unaccompanied by pain, or agony, or fear; a calmly going to sleep. But now there is in the impenitent sinner's death a dreadful sting. Sin, or a violation of God's holy law, a guilty conscience, makes death a most terrific enemy; more terrible than any other foe, and hence called the “King of Terrors.” And this enemy mere human power could never have conquered, this sting human strength never could have extracted. But God the Father, seeing there was no deliverer, with his own arm brought salvation. God so loved (or compassionated) the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Jesus Christ, by his obedience and sufferings, fulfilled the law in our stead, and made atonement for us; the law of God being satisfied, sin is removed from the believer in Christ ; and with the removal of sin, the sting of death is taken away. Death is only the beginning of that change which is necessary to translate the Christian, from a world of suffering, to the kingdom of God in heaven; and the resurrection of the body shall complete that change. “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting ! O grave, where is thy victory ! Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Since, then, death is not an eternal sleep, but a resur
rection and subsequent never-dying state of existence are certain; and our Saviour, when he comes to judge the world, will award to every one according to the deeds done in the body; and no person's labour shall be in vain in the Lord. Let us be steadfast and immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Steadfast in the belief of the truths taught by our Saviour, and not to be moved away from the hope of the Gospel; which looks to a complete deliverance from divine wrath, and from all evil, and an eternity of inconceivable happiness, all accruing to us through the finished righteousness and perfect work of our exalted and adorable Redeemer. And the person who has this hope in him, should abound in all Christian tempers, and in all virtuous practice, according to the duties of his station, holding forth the word of life, whether by a declaration of divine truth, or by an example which shall edify others. Now, as to labouring in the Lord, it is self-evident that a person must first belong to Christ; and it is not merely having received the rite of baptism in infancy, that constitutes us Christians in the high and beneficial sense which will be finally availing. By baptism we are made members of the visible church; but ere we can be united to Christ, we must be born again. If any man be in Christ, or be a genuine disciple, he is “a new creature;” he is converted, or turned, or changed; he is made a new man. From the universal prevalence of death, may be argued the universal existence of sin and guilt; but Sacred Scripture is explicit in declaring that all mankind have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; that in consequence of sin, and alienation of mind from God, human beings are universally deserving of his displeasure. Indeed, till persons by repentance and faith return to the Lord, and become united to Christ, the Divine Being is very little in their thoughts, his displeasure is not feared, his favour is not valued, the wonders of mercy and condescension, displayed in the work of human redemption,
excite little or no regard; this state of mind, although accompanied with the decencies and common moralities of life, is characteristic of those who do not yet belong to Christ, or who have backslidden from the good ways of the Lord. If, indeed, we violate the moralities which are universally approved for the general good of society, we certainly have no claim to the Christian character; but it is possible to observe these moralities, and still our hearts not be right with God. In a Christian mind, God is the supreme good, his revealed will is the standard of conduct, his declarations of human guilt are confessed to be true, his revelation of mercy, through Christ, is received with deep gratitude, sometimes with grateful exultation, the ordinances of religion, whether personal, domestic, or in the public assembly, give pleasure, because they are the means of what the Scriptures call “Communion with God;” the taste is elevated, it becomes more intellectual, rational, and spiritual, and acquires a disrelish for many of the frivolous and time-killing amusements which are so keenly followed by a large portion of society. The mind, in this state, possesses calm and silent joys which the world knows not of, and which the world can neither give, nor yet take away. The Lord of the universe permits the Christian to call him Father—his reconciled God; and, in adversity, so strong is the Christian's affiance in his Almighty Saviour,
he can say with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust
in him;” and when dying, death has no sting.
March, 2, 1822.
Those whose lot it is to visit distant countries, look naturally with longing affection to the land of their childhood, and to the place of their fathers’ sepulchres; but it may never be their happiness to return thither, for death spares neither age nor sex. Death waits not till man attains his wishes. He arrests his victims in foreign lands, as well as at home. He sometimes hurries man from earth within