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I fear thee not; take captive my body at thy will; it shall not long be thine: triumph while thou mayst over the wreck of this temporary frame. Eternity is not thine, as once it seemed to be. Already hast thou lost one victim from thy grasp, who has led captivity captive." The grave is no longer thy sure prison house, thy stronghold from which there is no escape : Jesus has burst its barriers, and will come again to call his own, and shall command thee to restore thy prey, and shall be obeyed. If we believe that Jesus rose from the dead, even so them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
But although Jesus Christ by his death has so far changed the penalty of sin, that, as he died for the sins of the whole world, so all mankind will participate in the resurrection, yet it will be the resurrection of life only to the pious and the good; to the rest the resurrection of damnation. All shall enter by the same
17 Although this expression may very properly be applied to our Saviour, as having led captive those who had before taken men captive at their will; yet its true meaning is that which is given in the margin of our translation, “led a multitude of captives.” The Hebrew idiom, by which a verbal substantive, used with its verb, increases the intensity of its signification, is too common to
18 1 Thess. iv. 14.
great door into the judgment-hall of Christ; but there the final separation will be made; and those on the left hand shall go away into everlasting punishment ;. but the righteous into life eternal. It is not enough for us, to be assured that we shall rise again, unless we know that we shall rise with Christ; but those who are his, who have taken him for their only Saviour, and followed him as their only Master, have that assurance in his promises, his resurrection, and his ascension. His resurrection ratified and confirmed his promise of their admission into heaven, and his ascension exemplified its reality. Whither the head is gone, the members will follow. We have a forerunner who is for us entered :20 visibly departed into that glory into which he has pledged himself to admit his faithful followers; I
go to prepare a place for you ; and if I
and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also. When Thomas, not yet enlightened by the Spirit, said to him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. We know
19 Matt. xxv. 46.
20 Heb. vi. 20.
21 John xiv. 2.
then that it is possible to reach that glorious place, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God; and we know the way, the only way. We know that it is possible ; for our Lord and Master has said, I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live :22 and we know the way, for he has said again, I am the door ; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.2
All this we know; because the Almighty has set to it the seal of everlasting truth, by first foretelling, and then accomplishing the resurrection of Jesus. The possession of this knowledge places the humblest disciple of Jesus, as to his motives and prospects as a moral agent, at an immeasurable elevation above the wisest and best of the masters of heathen philosophy. It is this which imparts to him, under the certainty of approaching dissolution, a sentiment of joyful anticipation, as different from the trembling doubt, or the determined apathy of the dying unbeliever, as the bright gleams of light, which herald the rising of the sun, are different from the fitful glare of the lightning, or the sullen darkness of a polar winter.
But these vivid prospects of future glory ought surely to obscure, and almost to obliterate those less sublime and holy views and motives, which actuate the children of this world, who live in and for this world, and have no clear discernment of another. He who, by a determined and affectionate reception of Christ, as his redeemer and teacher, has ascertained his own title to a share in the resurrection of the just, looks forward to that event with such a sure and stedfast hope, that he may be said already to have risen with Christ. But this ought to be the case with every one who professes to be his disciple. It is promised in baptism; it is implied when we name him as our Saviour ; it is referred to in all our prayers. If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.+ Mortify your members which are upon the earth.25 Remembering that our bodies will one day be glorified and rendered fit to stand before God, let us be careful not to use them as the instruments of unholiness; but to glorify God in our body and in our spirit, which are God's,28 by a pious and reasonable use of both; that he may glorify both soul and body in the resurrection of the just.
22 John xi, 25.
23 John x. 9.
The doctrine of a bodily resurrection invests with somewhat of a tangible and practical character our notions of immortality. We have so little conception of the nature and operations of pure
disembodied spirit, that our aspirations to the glories of a future state are apt to be checked by the indistinctness of our ideas, as to the manner in which we can hereafter become the objects of reward or punishment. Inquire into your own views on the subject, and see whether it be not almost impossible to divest yourselves of the opinion, that you are to be clothed upon with bodies, of whatever kind, in the life to come. The notion of a distinguishable identity seems requisite, in order to give substance and reality to those pleasing and consolatory hopes, which brighten the darkness of bereavement with the prospect of re-union, and mitigate the anguish of the parting hour with the thoughts of rejoining and recognizing, in the world of spirits, those who are gone before us to their reward. This is in fact the language of nature: it is also that of Scripture : it is one of the plainest revelations of Christianity. And if the curious, or the profane, should abuse this doctrine, by attempting to institute comparisons between our bodily habits and wants here in the flesh, and hereafter