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first in order of succession ; all the saints following him, as the harvest follow
1 ed the presentation of the first fruits of the temple. The interval is long, and the dreary sterility of the grave might justify the thought that the seed committed to it has perished for ever. But our hope rests upon his power, which can make the wilderness blossom as the rose; and we wait till heavenly influences descend as the dew of herbs, when the barren soil shall display all the luxuriance of vegetation, and death itself shall teem with life.
Of the change which will take place in the bodies of the saints, Paul speaks in his first Epistle to the Corinthians ; but his words are too general to convey a distinct idea of the subject. “ It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory ; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body."* We
may, however, draw from them some conclusions respecting the state of the glorified body..
First, It will be incorruptible and immortal. In the present state, the human body is liable to dissolution, and contains in itself the principles of decay. It is subject to acute and chronic diseases, by which life is suddenly or slowly extinguished; and then the process of putrefaction begins, which terminates in the destruction of its organization, and the separation of its parts. In the future state it will be sound and healthy, and probably be so constituted as not to be naturally capable of disease and waste, while the penal cause of its disorders will no longer exist. There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain."| The body will be immortal as the soul. Although things on earth, even the firmest and most solid substances, are wasted away ; yet this appears to be the effect of the circumstances in which they are placed-of the action, for example, of air and moisture. We do not know that all matter experiences decay. We are ignorant of its state beyond our own world; but we have reason to believe that the sun and stars are of the same magnitude, and emit the same splendour, as at the beginning; and can find no difficulty in conceiving any portion of matter to be made, by the will of God, immutable and eternal.
Secondly, The bodies of the saints will be glorious; but in what this glory will consist, we are not able to say. The word, glory, when applied to the body, suggests the idea of brightness or splendour; and in this sense we speak of the glory of the sun and the stars. It may seem to favour this meaning of the term in reference to the present subject, that at the transfiguration of our Lord, his face shone as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light;f and that when John saw him in Patmos, his face was like the mid-day sun, and his eyes as a flame of fire, and his feet as burning brass ,|| and we are told that the bodies of the saints will be fashioned like unto his glorious body. It is certain, however, with respect to the latter description, that some parts of it are emblematical ; and we cannot therefore consider it as a true representation of the appearance of his body in heaven. We are equally uncertain with regard to the other appearance; because it does not follow, that the form in which our Saviour shewed himself to his disciples, living upon earth, and entertaining the common notion of corporeal glory is the form which he wears in a state so different from the present. There is no doubt that, in symmetry, and beauty, and dignity, the glorified body will be perfect. It will be finished after the highest pattern in the universe. Man will then be fair as in paradise, and fairer still than in that happy place. Of all the visible works of God, the most exquisite will be those bodies which his own Son has redeemed from death with his precious blood. Thirdly, The bodies of the saints will be powerful. At present, they are * 1 Cor. xv. 42.-44.
| Rev. xxi. 4.
#Matth. xvii. 2. | Rev, i. 14-16.
§ Phil. iii. 21.
subject to many infirmities; their strength is soon exhausted and they need food, and rest, and cordials, to restore them. In the future state, languor and weariness will be unknown. We have no means of estimating the strength of the glorified body, as we know of no resistance which it will have to overcome ; but we may perhaps judge of it from a circumstance which is revealed concerning the righteous in heaven, that they will be uninterruptedly engaged in the service of God. Constant employment will cause no fatigue, and sleep will not be necessary to renovate their powers. It is plain, therefore, that their bodies will possess a degree of vigour and activity of which we can form no conception.
Lastly, The bodies of the saints will be spiritual. It is a remark which must occur to every person, that a spiritual body is an apparent contradiction ; and we are therefore under the necessity of understanding the word, spiritual, in an unusual sense. It seems to signify refined, in opposition to the grossness of the present body, composed, as it is, of flesh, blood, and bones; and to this meaning we are led by the following words, which the Apostle subjoins as an explanation of his account of the glorified body, or as the reason of the change which it will undergo : “ Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither can corruption inherit incorruption." Corruption is the present corruptible body, which, it is intimated, remaining as it is, or retaining its present constitution, cannot become incorruptible. It must undergo a new modification ; in consequence of which, although still material, it will be very different from what it now is. We see matter existing in different states, composing a metal, and composing a sunbeam; and hence, it is easy to conceive the power of God so to refine the bodies of the saints, that they may be comparatively said to be spiritual. How pure, I had almost said etherial, must those bodies be, which will need neither food nor rest, and will never experience pain or fatigue! It would be folly and presumption to speculate upon a subject of which we have so little information ; but it is evident that certain parts of the body will no longer be necessary,—those, for example, which serve for the concoction and digestion of our food ; and if the future body is not to be sustained by other substances, the use of the blood which circulates through the veins and arteries, to convey nourishment to every part, will be superseded. I might carry this reasoning farther ; but after al) we could arrive at no certain conclusion : and why should we seek to know what the Scriptures have concealed ?
Some have entertained the idea that, before the general resurrection, there will be a partial resurrection of the saints, or of the martyrs; and found it upon the following words: “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.”| This passage has given rise to the notion of the personal reign of Christ upon the earth ; and those by whom it has been espoused are called Millenarians. It is, however, too obscure to be made the foundation of a positive opinion. It probably refers to a spiritual resurrection,-a resurrection of the cause for which the martyrs suffered; which will then be triumphant; and while their names will be held in honour, persons of the same spirit will arise and reign with Christ, in the undisturbed enjoyment of religion and its privileges, Satan being bound, and his agents reduced to inactivity and silence. Some such interpretation is favoured by this circumstance, that John speaks not of the bodies, but of the * 1 Cor. xv. 50.
| Rev. xx. 4, 5.
souls of those who had been slain. No wise man would oppose a vision, in which the description is professedly figurative, to the plain declaration of Scripture, that the resurrection will take place at the second coming of Christ. It is worthy of attention that, when speaking of that event, Paul makes mention of two classes of persons, the dead in the grave, and those who will be alive ; and says concerning the latter, that they shall be changed, or undergo the same change with those who are raised. But, if some of the saints had been previously raised, such a change would not be necessary to them; and we may therefore conclude that there will be no persons of this description among the last generation of mankind.
“ Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed."* The law of mortality admits of exceptions, and an entire generation will be exempted from its operation. I formerly showed you that death is not necessary to the complete sanctification of the soul; although, in the case of those who die, that is the period when it is completed. The bodies of those who are alive when Christ comes, will be as unfit for the heavenly state as the bodies lying in the grave, and will therefore undergo the same change ; with this difference only, that there will be no recomposition, but a sudden transformation of them. This moment, they will be weary, hungry, faint, diseased, and racked with pain; the next, they will be invested with the glories of immortality. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."| But, in the first place, as we are informed, the dead saints shall be raised. What a wonderful sight! mortals changed into immortals! the earth and the sea yielding up their treasures, and men mingling with angels who have descended to convey them to their own blessed abodes ! " Then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we be ever with the Lord.”I
ON THE FINAL STATE OF THE RIGHTEOUS.
The Final Judgment of the Saints. Their Acquittal and Entrance into Heaven.-Their Su
preme Felicity : its Nature and Sources.
The resurrection of the dead will be followed by the general judgment, in which small and great shall stand before God to receive their final sentence. There will be a visible appearance of Jesus Christ, who will come with great power and glory, and will erect his throne in the clouds. His ministers will be the angles, who will be sent forth to gather together his elect from all parts of the earth in which they are dwelling, or in which their bodies are deposited. Saints and sinners are now mingled together in the common offices of life, and are connected by various ties; but then they will be parted for ever. “ Before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats ; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.”'S These words are commonly understood in a literal sense, as if the places mentioned would be respectively occupied by the two opposite classes of mankind; but perhaps a little
1 Cor. xv. 51. +1 Cor. xv. 52. #1 Thess. iv, 17. Matth. xxv. 32, 33. VOL. II.-41.
reflection will show us that this interpretation cannot be admitted, and does not accord with our other conceptions of the grand assize. If the Son of Man is to sit on his throne in the clouds, and the saints are to be caught up to meet him in the air, the position of the two parties on the right and left hand cannot be so easily imagined, and it may be presumed to be a figurative description. The place at the right hand, which will be assigned to the righteous, may signify the station of honour which they will occupy; for this is the general idea which that situation suggests in Scripture, particularly when our Saviour himself is said to sit at the right hand of his Father, who has no right hand, but has exalted him “far above all principalities and powers.”
In the figurative description of the transactions of the last day, in the Revelation of John, we are informed that “the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life.” It is out of this book that the saints will be judged, whether we understand by it the Gospel, or the divine decree by which they were appointed to salvation. To the law, as the rule of justification and condemnation, they are not amenable; for they have been delivered from it by Jesus Christ, and when they believed in him, they declared that they ceased to seek righteousness by it. The question, therefore, will not be, whether they have fulfilled or transgressed this law; but, whether they possess the precious faith which God has appointed to be the only means of obtaining salvation. No inquiry will be necessary for the satisfaction of the Judge, who knows their hearts, and by his grace produced all the good which will be found in them ; but it will be necessary for the great design of the general judgment, which is, the manifestation of his righteousness in the final allotment of the human race. To convince all that it is not by an arbitrary decision that heaven is assigned to them in preference to others, and that the sentence is founded in reasons which accord with the rectitude of Divine administration, evidence will be exhibited of the validity of their title; and this evidence will be furnished by their works : “ Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world : For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in ; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”ł It is evident to every person who understands his Bible, that the works of the saints are here mentioned, not as the foundation, but as the evidence of their title. If men are not justified by works but, by faith ; if they are not saved by their merit, but by grace; it is certain, that the final sentence 'can refer to their works only as proofs, to all who shall witness the decision, that they are the persons to whom the promise of eternal life belongs, or believers, whose faith wrought by love and thus demonstrated its genuineness.
It appears that the good works of the saints will be mentioned in the judg. ment, and for what purpose they will be produced. But will any mention be made of their sins ? This is a question about which those who have deemed it worthy of attention are divided in sentiment. It has been said by such as maintain that they will not be mentioned, that there is no reference to them in the account which our Lord gives of the general judgment, in the Gospel of Matthew ; that the remission of them is expressed in such terms as imply that they are henceforth to be for ever concealed, for they are “cast into the depths of the sea, and are to be remembered no more ;" that it is not consonant to the character of the Judge, who is also the propitiation for their sins, to suppose that he will bring them to light in a manner so public; and that, notwithstanding their full acquittal, we could not conceive the saints not to be affected with shame, if their crimes, the recollection of which has often made them blush and hang down their heads, were exposed to the view of the universe • Rev, XX, 12.
Matth. xxv. 34-36.
But, in opposition to these arguments, it is said that, according to Scripture, “God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil ;** that justice seems to require that there should be an impartial review of the conduct of each individual ; that to recall the memory of the sins of the saints, will display the virtue of the atoning blood of Christ, and the riches of the grace of God, through which they have been pardoned; that, in many cases, the sins of the wicked could not be published without the publication of theirs, as they were associated in the same deeds; that some of them are already made public in the Scriptures, and are held up as a spectacle to all generations; and that no feeling of shame would be excited, because God has fully remitted their trespasses, and they glory in the righteousness of Christ, with which they are adorned.
There is some force in the arguments on both sides, and it is not easy to determine which preponderates; but we need not perplex ourselves about the matter, as in truth the question is more curious than profitable, and nothing will be gained or lost by a decision in either way.
But, whether the particular sins of the saints will or will not be mentioned in the judgment, there can be no doubt that there will be a general reference to them. Glorious as their appearance will be, it will be understood that they were once sinners, who deserved to be placed on the left hand of the Judge, but were pardoned through Divine mercy; and it will be an important part of the transactions of the last day, to publish the sentence of acquittal in the ears of angels and men. If their title to the favour of God is often a subject of doubt to themselves amidst the darkness of the present state, their fears are dispelled, either before they die, orimmediately after their spirits enter into the presence of God. But by others it is disputed, and the grounds on which it rests are accounted imaginary, while their faith is derided as a foolish presumptuous fancy, and the doctrine of imputed righteousness is pronounced to be the dream of a shadow. The decision of the last day will put an end for ever to these suspicions and accusations. Who shall condemn those whom God has justified ? There are, besides, many calumnious charges advanced against the people of God, through ignorance or malice, which, indeed are in this case very nearly allied; for although they may sometimes originate in mistake, yet there is a disposition on the part of the ungodly to adopt the charges, from prejudice against religion, and a wish to hold up to contempt and detestation men whose persons they hate, because they hate their principles. We know what were the slanders of the Jews and Gentiles against the Christians in the primitive times ; it appears from history, that these have been repeated, or new ones have been invented in succeeding ages ; and the same hostility subsists, and discovers itself in the opprobrious names with which the genuine disciples of Jesus are branded. Precisians, puritans, methodists, enthusiasts, fanatics, hypocrites, are some of the terms of contempt in the world's copious vocabulary; and they are applied to them because they have imbibed the spirit, and act under the influence, of the religion which even their enemies profess to respect. But the final sentence will vindicate the character of the righteous, and make the infamy light upon those with whom it originated. Then shall these words be fulfilled in all their extent: “ No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper ; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment, thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord; and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord,"|
The saints having been openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, will make their triumphant entry into the place destined for their reception: “ These shall go away into everlasting life. The place is called heaven, by which we understand that region of the universe in which angels and • Ecc. xü. 14.
| Isa. liv, 17.