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“ he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit:"* and the blood of Christ unites God and the soul meritoriously. O blessed conjunction, O happy meeting! God hath found out a way in the gospel, “ to gather together the outcasts of Israel.” Alas, we are all as sheep going astray, but our “ Lord gathers the lambs into his arms,” and brings them into his fold; Jews and Gentiles make one fold; † for saith the apostle Paul, “ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus,” Gal. iii. 26. Faith makes a mystical, love a moral union ; Eph. iv. 15, “But speaking the truth in love,” or teaching it in love, “may grow up into him in all things, which is the head even Christ.” O this, this is the foundation of all the rest ; conversion is the first collection.
2. God gathers his saints by death to himself. It is said of Abraham, that he should "be gathered to his fathers in peace,” Gen. xv. 15; and "he was gathered to his people,” Gen. xxv. 8. Interpreters observe that this is usually applied in scripture to good men, with respect to the soul, that they go to their pious progenitors, and because this is applied to Ishmael, therefore the Jews think he was a penitent; but however, the phrase is applied most ordinarily to good men, as Jacob, and Aaron, and Moses; of Josiah † it is said, 2 Kings xxii, 20, “I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace.” It is true, he died in battle, but in peace with God, and was translated into everlasting peace along with the saints; this is the way of divine providence to carry his children through a tempestuous sea into an haven
* Eph. ii. 13. iv. 18 1 Cor. vi. 17.
Gen. xxv. 17. xlix. 29. Numb. xx. 24. xxvii. 13.
of rest; they shall not always be tormented with Satan's temptations, the world's opposition, or their own corruptions, but when they have done their work here in this weary world, “they shall enter into peace, they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness,” Isa. lvii. 2. O blessed change, God gives them repose after the troubles of this weary pilgrimage,
they rest from their labours ;” their bodies sleep in Jesus, and are safe in a quiet repository, and their souls do enter into paradise, that is, the third heaven, the immediate presence of God.* As earth is the common mother of all, so heaven is the receptacle of all believers.
3. God gathers them up out of their graves by the resurrection of their bodies, and the reunion of their souls to those self-same bodies. This was a doctrine believed and well digested under the old testament, Job xix. 25—27, “Though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; thy dead men shall live,” saith Isaiah, chap. xxvi. 19,
together with my dead body shall they arise.” The new testament doth abundantly confirm this great article of our faith, John v. 28, 29. 1 Cor. xv. 20, &c. O what an army of saints will start up out of the earth! Their scattered bones and dust shall be reared up, and re-organized, and our Lord will bring their glorified souls along with him to sing out the high praises of Jehovah. Roses die, sweetest flowers perish, and the beauteous complexion of the earth turns to a bleak and withered hue in winter, yet in summer there is a kind of resurrection; if you say of them, life is remaining in the root and seed; we say, the soul is the root of the body, and Christ the root of the soul, and both are living, Col. iii. 3, 4; and though there be no physical
* Rev. xiv. 13. 1 Thess. iv. 14. Luke xxiii. 43.
contact, yet there is a relative union betwixt soul and body, and the soul hath to it a deep-rooted love and inclination; the silly snail with its natural life and power, can make for itself a habitation, yea the silkworm becomes a winged fly, the warmth of the hen turns the egg into a chicken; these are emblems of
the resurrection.* And what cannot the power of -> God effect? If a skilful workman can turn a little
sand and ashes into curious transparent glasses, why should we doubt whether the mighty power of God can communicate a glorious perfection to the flesh that is dissolved into its elements ? Luther saith, I love the noble art of chemistry, it is such a fine emblem of the resurrection. O what a blessed transporting sight will that be, to see the sanctified soul united to the glorified body, to receive their reward together!
4. By the same power of God some shall be changed, others raised from the dead, the souls of the glorified saints shall descend and be united to their own bodies, and then ascend to meet the Lord in the air, and the wicked are left behind on their dunghill, the earth, in fetters, to receive their sentence, and to be confined to their prisons; this is that mystery, which possibly the blessed apostle Paul heard from God when he was caught up into the third heaven, and heard “unspeakable words,” apprta púuara, wordless words.t 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52, “Behold,” saith he, “I shew you a mystery, we shall not all sleep,” that is, die, “but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye;" this is further confirmed and explained, 1 Thess. iv. 15, “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep ;” and ver. 16, and 17, “ The dead in Christ
• See Mr. Baxter on Self-denial, page 296. + 2 Cor. xii. 4.
shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air." Calvin saith,* “He speaks here of the faithful only; the resurrection of the wicked, is also a kind of change, though they are not mentioned: but with respect to such as shall bear the name of the heavenly or of Christ, it is equivalent to death, as there will be an abolishing of the former nature, and an introducing of a new one.” This is a species or kind of death, but as it is not a separation of the soul from the body, so it is not a sleep, but a sudden transition from corruptible nature to a blessed immortality. Here is the difference between those that die and such as are changed: the former put off the substance of the body, but they that are changed, put off nothing but the qualities of the body, the dead shall rise before the living are taken up. He sends the clouds for chariots, as Joseph his waggons for Jacob and his family. O what vast numbers will then mount up like a cloud and darken the heavens! this is in order to their congregating above.
5. The angels of God are sent to gather up the scattered saints, Matt. xxiv. 31; “ And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”+ It is true, some take this to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, but most interpreters apply it to this last day. Paul saith, “the trumpet shall sound;"I as of old, they called the congregation of Israel together by the sound of a trumpet; so now," the Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God," 1 Thess. iv. 16. I confess here are hard points, which no mortal I believe * Calvin on 1 Cor. xv. 51. + Mark xiii. 27. # 1 Cor. xv. 52.
can resolve, as (1.) Concerning this trumpet, what it is, Calvin saith, I leave to others to discourse subtilly on it.* (2.) What kind of shout this is, which must be a sort of magnificent accompaniment of the Judge, and summons for all to appear; for the word in Greek Łv kedeúquarı doth also signify a command, alluding to mariners or soldiers summoned to be ready. (3.) Who this archangel is, and what degrees there are among the angels, which schoolmen voluminously dispute, or whether it be not Christ himself, because it is said, “the dead that are in their graves shall hear his voice,” John v. 28. And (4.) Whether this shall be an oral shout or voice from the mouth of Christ, or only an expression of his divine power, I am not able to determine. But such a summons there will be, and all the sons and daughters of Adam shall appear, not one person gentle or simple can sculk or hide himself, the meanest shall not be looked on as inconsiderable, and the most potent princes will be on a level with their fellowmen; in vain shall the “ kings of the earth, great men, rich men, the chief captains and mighty men, bond and free, hide themselves, or call to the mountains and rocks to fall on them," Rev. vi. 15, 16. No, no, the summons will reach all, and all must obey and appear, whether they will or not; the mighty, almighty God can fetch them out, his all-seeing eye discover them. See the summons, Psal. 1. 1—6, “ He, shall call to the heavens from above and to the earth that he may judge his people;” these are his words, “gather my saints together unto me, those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” O what a vast multitude will then appear! “ Thousand thousands minister to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before him;" yea, a great multitude
* Reliquo aliis subtilius disserendum.