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CHRISTIAN'S TRIUMPH OVER DEATH.
I COR. xv. 55.
O DEATH, WHERE IS THY STING? O GRAVE, WHERE IS THY VIC
In this chapter, the Apostle largely insists upon that Article of the Christian Faith, which is so far above the reach and comprehension of reason, that even those, who were the professed masters of reason, the wise Athenians, among whom both learning and civility were in their highest elevation, yet could not abstain from railing abuses, when St. Paul preached of the resurrection unto them : Acts xvii. 18. What will this babbler say ? and, He seemeth to be a setter-forth of strange gods : because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection. So strange and uncouth a doctrine did this appear, that, as they thought he recommended Jesus to them for a new God; so they thought that this HVASASIS, or Resurrection, was some new-invented Goddess, that Paul himself worshipped, and whose votaries he would persuade them to be. Which, howsoever, had certainly been of a better rank, than many of that rabble of deities, which they owned and worshipped : for both Cicero and Clemens Alexandrinus testify of these learned Athenians, who rejected the Resurrection as a strange and novel God, that they yet erected temples to Contumely and Impudence, Diseases and Ill-Fortune: and it is pity, they should not always have the favour and presence of those deities. There was scarce any superstition so absurdly ridiculous, which these sages would not rather embrace, than the belief of a Future Resurrection; which they accounted a downright affront to the principles of reason and learning. They could not comprehend a possibility in the re-union of the separate soul and body; so contrary to their celebrated maxim, a
privatione ad habitum non datur regressus : nor could they conceive, that dust, scattered to the four winds of heaven, and subjected to so many changes, and made the ingredients of so many other bodies, could ever be re-collected, and kneaded up again into the same body to which it did originally belong.
But I shall have no occasion presently to vindicate the possibility of the resurrection; and to demonstrate, that, though it may be above the reach of reason to conceive, yet it is not beyond the reach of omnipotence to effect.
It is more pertinent, at present; to observe, that the Apostle draws a most firm and natural consequence from the belief of the resurrection, to fortify us against the dread of death. Doth the husbandman fear to commit his grain to the earth, because it must there die and rot, and lie buried under clods and dirt; whereas he knows, that all these changes tend only to make it afterwards sprout up more flourishing and verdant, with the greater beauty and increase ? So it is, saith the Apostle, with our bodies : vv. 42, 43. They are sown in corruption ; but raised in incorruption : they are sown in dishonour ; but raised in glory: they are sown in weakness; but raised in power : there they lie hid under the deep furrows of the grave, suffering all the debasements of stench, worms, and putrefaction; but God, the Great Husbandman of the World, doth but sow us in the ground: we shall certainly sprout up again, and appear more beautiful and glorious. These ruins of our bodies shall be made a foundation for a more stately edifice: This corruptible shall pilt on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality: v. 53.
Now, the certain hope and expectation of this blessed change quite disarms death, and leaves it without any venom or malignity against a believer. To what purpose is all that ghastly train, which attends this king of terrors; diseases, pains, and languors ? when they have done the utmost that they are able, they can hut cast him to the earth, whence, Antæus like, he riseth again with redoubled vigour. God deals with us, as the Chinese do with their precious earth : he lays us long under ground, that we way be refined; and made fit to be vessels of honour prepared for our master's use. What a weak and impotent adversary is this, whose assaults are our advantage, and whose conquests prove his own overthrow!
And, upon this very consideration, the Apostle doth, in my text, insult over this contemptible enemy: 0 death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?