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To the penitent, dying thief on the cross, Christ said, * To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” That there is a heavenly paradise, from which Christ came, and to which he and all his followers go, when they leave this world, is abundantly testified in the scriptures. To this glorious residence, the inartyr Stephen desired to be received, when he prayed, in the agonies of death,“ Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Here are the many mansions, provided for the accommodation of all that die in the faith.
In the Ecclesiastes, we have a plain account of death and the separate state.
66 'Then shall the dust return unto the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." The plain neaning is, that at death, the spirit, or soul of man, instead of going into a long oblivion, returns to God immediately, to receive its destiny, as in the case of the rich man and Lazarus. At death, the day of probation is finally closed, and the destiny of saints and sinners, which will be confirmed publicly at the day of judgment, is established.
If we cast an eye over the revelations made to the Apostle John, we shall find superabundant evidence of the sensible existence and activity of the souls of mankind, between death and the final judgınent. Visions of the heavenly state, in which the saints in glory are seen and heard, celebrating the glory of God and the Lamb, are a clear and decisive evidence of their sensible existence, and high felicity. The souls of the martyrs, in particular, are said to cry with a loud voice, “ How lony, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not avenge our blooil on them that dwell on the earth.” We have an account of one of the heavenly messengers 'expressly declaring himself to be of the human race. 66 I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren, the prophets, and of them that keep the say
" There is, on the whole, no want of evidence of the sensible existence of all the dead, both saints and sinners, in the state of separation from their mortal bodies. The Apostle Paul, anticipating the glories of the heavenly state, had a desire to depart, not into a state of oblivion, till the resurrection of the dead; but to be with Jesus. He desired 5 to be absent from the body, that he might
be present with the Lord.". The expectation of Paul was, that immediately after the death of his body, he should find himself in the glorious presence of his divine Redcemer, celebrating his praise, with innumerable hosts of angels, and of the spirits of just men made perfect. And this was a just and reasonable expectation. For the souls of men, whether in or out of the body, are capable of beholding the astonishing and glorious events of divine providence and grace in this world. Here they can witness the displays of the power and glory of God, in the protection and progress of his church, notwithstanding the temporary triumphs of the adversary. Even in the separate state, they will be witnesses of the conquest of Satan, and of the universal triumph of truth. They will be witnesses of the last efforts of the adversary, and be prepared to concur in the final judgment of the world.
The Resurrection of the Dead.
The two great and concluding subjects, in the system of divine truth, are the resurrection, and final judgment.
That there will be, at the end of the world, a resurrection of the dead, both of saints and sinners, 6 the just and the unjust,” is a doctrine clearly revealed in the holy scriptures; and a doctrine highly interesting and important. For, should this prove false, the gospel system must, of course, fall to the ground. But, that death and hell, or death and the grave, and the earth and the seas, shall deliver up the dead that are in then, is plainly declared, as it was revealed to the Apostle John. The Sadducees, who denied the doctrine of the resurrection, and the existence of angels and spirits; and who held to annihilation ; were confuted by the quotation of what the Lord said to Moses in the bush ; “ I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. God is not a God of the dead, but of the living." These
patriarchs must have been in existence, and in hopes of the resurrection, when the Saviour made these declarations; or the Lord could not then have been their living and true God.
In the Old Testament, are found several testimonies of the resurrection of the dead. Speaking of bodily death,
66 Man lieth down and riseth not till the heavens be no more;" plainly implying, that when the heavens shall be no more, when they shall pass away, with a great noise; and when the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burnt up; then shall man rise from the dead. “ I know," says Job, 6 that. my
Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand, at the latter day, upon the earth ; and though, after my skin, worms shall destroy this body; yet in my flesh, I shall see God; whom I shall see for myself and not another, though my reins shall be consumed within me." 66 I shall be satisfied," says the Psalmist " when I awake with thy likeness." Alluding to this the Apostle teaches us, that the bodies of the saints, in the resurrection, will be fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body. In the prophecy of Isaiah, the doctrine of the resurrection is suggested in these words, “ He will swallow up death in victory." Paul makes an application of these words to the doctrine of the resurrection. 6 O death, where is thy sting? 0 grave,
where is thy victory ? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The solemn testimony of Christ to the doctrine of the resurrection is this : “ Verily, verily I say unto you; the hour is coming, in which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” This doctrine was well understood by the followers of Christ. Martha, the sister of Lazarus, being informed that her brother should rise again, replied, “ I know that he shall rise again, in the resurrection, at the last day.” By the Apostles, the resurrection of the dead was considered as a capital doctrine ; constituting an important part of their ministerial Jabor. They preached, “ through Jesus, the resurrection
of the dead.” With the Sadducees and proud philosophers, they had much debate on this subject. Some mocked; some said " The resurrection is past already." Others said, The thing is incredible, because it is unphilosophical. This was a plausible objection; but, by the way, the scriptures do not consider the resurrection of the dead as an operation of the laws of nature; but as an immediate effect of infinite power. In this view, “ Why should it be thought a thing incredible, that God should raise the dead ?” Jesus Christ, beyond all doubt, is arisen from the dead. He was as evidently alive, from the third, to the fortieth day after his crucifixion, as at any period of his incarnation! He was often seen by his disciples; ate, drank, and conversed with all his intimate friends. It is said, “ He was seen by many infallible witnesses.” He taught and commissioned his Apostles ; “Go, teach all nations." And, by them he was seen to ascend to glory. It is on the ground of Christ's resurrection, that the gospel has been supported, and the church has been established. Had there been no resurrection of the dead, Christ could not have been raised : and, says the Apostle, “ If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." If Christ be not risen from the dead, it is altogether unaccountable, how his weak and trembling followers could have had influence to propagate such a doctrine and belief, among the learned Jews and Romans: and how this doctrine could have been embraced and supported, by all the wise and candid, down to this day. But, the resurrection of Jesus Christ being proved, it establishes the doctrine of the resurrection of all the dead. According to divine testimony, “ there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust." Christ was the first begotten from the dead; the first fruits of them that slept in the grave. He being raised, the resurrection of all the dead is amply secured.
The doctrine of the resurrection being understood and established ; we proceed to consider the manner of this wonderful work of God. All that can understand, or need to learn of the manner of this divine operation is stated distinctly, in the noted 1 Cor. xv. 66 But some man
is the crop.
will say, How are the dead raised up ? and with what body do they come ? Thou fool ; that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die.” The object of the sower
But without the dissolution of the seed, there can be no crop. It is added; 66 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body which shall be, but bare grain. Thou sowest not the crop, which springs and vegetates from the seed; but barely the seed itself, whatever it be ; whether it be wheat, or any
other grain. It is added, “ But God giveth it a body, as it hath pleased bim, and to every seed its own body.” Although God, by his own sovereign agency, produces the crop ; yet, as in all his works, he observes a strict order and consistency. He never produces cockle from the seed of wheat; nor wheat from the seed of cockle. 66 Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
On this wonderful and mysterious subject, it is added, 66 There are celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." Of these different bodies, we can have but a faint concep-. tion, till an actual resurrection explains the subject. One thing is clear however, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God : neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Doubtless the celestial and spiritual body is different, in its essential properties from the natural and material body: for it is incorruptible, and durable as eternity-capable of endless bliss, or endless woe.
The Apostle proceeds to state the doctrine of the resurrection, as it respects that generation, which shall be found alive, at the coming of Christ to Judgment. “Behold! I shew you a inystery. We shall not all sleep.” A whole generation, consisting of saints and sinners, shall be found alive, at the coming of Christ, with all his holy angels. All the wicked will be found in armis, surrounding the camp of the saints, and the beloved city, which is the church of Christ, ready to devour the holy seed. On all these, “ fire will come down from God out of heaven and destroy them." With all the wicked of former ages, , they will then rise to shame and everlasting contempt.
Far different will be the case, as respects the saints of that last generation. Like Enoch and Elijah, they shall