« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
CHRIST ABOLISHING DEATH, AND BRINGING LIFE AND IMMORTALITY TO LIGHT BY THE GOSPEL.
2 TIM. i. 10.
DEATH is not abolished in the same sense as an order of men, or a law, or an institution, which, when abolished, cease to exist: it is matter of woful fact that death does still exist in all its unmitigated force. The course of justice goes on, as if nothing had been done by which it was to be ultimately affected. One generation followeth another, and there is none abiding. All are dying; none are living again. What, then, hath Christ done towards the abolishment of death? He hath provided the means by which it is to be achieved, in the fulness of time. He has stated the doctrine with his own lips, and exemplified it in his own person, by a complete victory over the grave. He first bowed to the law, and he, then, abolished it, so that it can never again come into operation against him. He has by this act "destroyed death and him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." He had the power of their souls, and through them ruled over their bodies.
But in having thus abolished death, as it regarded himself, he has abolished it, virtually, in all his people. As they are, so was he in the world; and we shall, in due time, be as he is in heaven. He has passed through every state and every stage of being to which man is subjected. He suffered death; his body was laid in the grave, and his spirit entered the separate state: the spirit returned, and the body was raised; the soul entered the body, and thus a man was formed again. This man went to heaven, and was, and is, there glorified. In that heaven they whom the Father hath given him will appear in due time-glorious, as he is glorious. They will be purified from all the consequences of death and sin. Jesus will thus, by death, destroy him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil, and so will deliver them who, through the fear of death, have been all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Life and immortality are not two distinct things, but a Hebraism put for immortal life-life that shall not end, and not be changed; it is the opposite of death. This great doctrine lay in comparative, not to say absolute, obscurity. The heathen had some dim visions of another state for the soul, but they never thought of the resurrection of the body. Whatever the Jews possessed above them they owed to revelation, which, on this point, was very sparing in its communications.
IT IS PROPER, FIRST, TO SET FORTH THE DOCTRINE AS IT EXISTED IN THE WORLD BEFORE THE APPEARANCE OF JESUS CHRIST.
I. Evidence for the doctrine possessed by the Heathen.
The doctrine of immortality was supported by the general consent
of all mankind. On this fact they themselves placed great stress; it seemed to have all the truth, if not the force, of an instinct. The greatest of all the Romans-the most eminent man in the best part of all antiquity, arguing on this very subject, says, This is a very great argument, that Nature doth secretly, and in men's silent thoughts, determine the immortality of the soul-that all men are solicitous what shall become of them after death. I know not how there cleaves to the mind a certain kind of presage of a future state; and this is most deeply fixed, and discovers itself soonest, in the choicest spirits. As this opinion is implanted in us by Nature, that there are gods, so, by the consent of all nations, we believe that the soul remains after the body."
Such is the testimony of Cicero concerning the matter at, and previously to, his own time. The state of things since and now we can ascertain for ourselves. On the discovery of the Western World, America, it was found that all its nations cherished the idea of the soul's immortality. In the softer regions of the East, we learn from the celebrated Xavier, who traversed thirteen of its nations, that they generally entertained the same notion. Even in a nation distinguished, above all other, for the horrors of its cannibalism, the doctrine strongly prevailed. Of these an eminent person, who lived a season amongst them, writes as follows: "There is no nation in the world more remote from all religion; yet to show that there is some light in the midst of this darkness, I can truly affirm that they have not only some apprehensions of the immortality of the soul, but a most confident persuasion of it."
Such seems to be the general creed of the human family on this great subject; yet it was rather a feeling than a principle, and therefore it produced no effect on the hearts and lives.
This powerful sentiment perfectly accords with the other kindred sentiments of our nature. These notions are two, and of the very same description: first, that there is a God; and second, that there is an essential difference between good and evil. These are truths of the same nature with that mentioned, and rest upon the same foundations: "That which may be known of God is manifest to them, for God hath showed it unto them; for the invisible things of him are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse." The Gentiles are a law unto themselves; the work of the law is written in their hearts; "their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another."
Such, then, was the state of things among the heathen. The notion prevailed generally, but so faintly, that it produced but little influence on the heart and the life. It was not day, it was not dawn; it was midnight irradiated by a few solitary stars. Even he whom I have quoted confesses that it was, after all, rather a thing to be wished than a thing to be hoped for. It is most affecting to hear
one of the greatest men of ancient times, when near eternity, say, "I believe that the fathers, those eminent persons, and my particular friends, are still alive, and that they live the life which only deserves the name of life. Nor has reason only and argument brought me to this belief, but the judgment and authority of the chief philosophers. O glorious day! when I shall go to the great council and assembly of spirits! when I shall go out of this tumult, and confusion, and quit the sink of this world! when I shall be gathered to all those brave spirits who have left this world, and with Cato, the greatest and best of mankind! And if, after all, I am mistaken, I am pleased with my error, which I would not willingly part with while I live."
Behold, then, the very height of human attainments in the heathen world! How great their need of Him who came a light to lighten the Gentiles!
II. Evidence of the doctrine possessed by the Jews.
They had all that belonged to the heathen, and special evidence imparted by revelation. That, however, was small in measure, and easily overlooked. It does not appear that the body of the Jews saw clearly, even for a short distance, into eternity. The spiritual part of the Jews had some notions of it, but the rest were blinded by their carnal hearts and expectations. The dispensation was very dark at the outset, but became a little clearer as it advanced, until, at last, a most distinct prophecy was uttered by Daniel, who said, Many of them who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." Up to this time there was no clear and distinct announcement of the great truth of immortality. Blessings and punishments were almost all confined to earth and time, and were consequently carnal; but spiritual things were darkly involved in the types, figures, and predictions. Hence, when Jesus came, he found that gross darkness covered the people."
THE ORDER OF THINGS NEXT CALLS FOR A NOTICE OF THE DOCTRINE AS IT HAS EXISTED SINCE THE APPEARANCE OF CHRIST AND THE INTRODUCTION OF THE GOSPEL.
I. The immortality of the soul is taught most positively and most abundantly in the whole New Testament.
It is a most important part of the mighty plan which is developed there. The Saviour began with this; it entered into all his chief discourses. It was necessary to every part of his plan. It was a principal element of the mighty apparatus with which he was to move and shake the world. He taught it with all imaginable clearness.
II. The immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body were set forth by a fact-a fact attested by multitudes of most credible witnesses.
Of this fact every one was competent to take cognizance. Men saw, and heard, and touched the body of the Lord Jesus Christ,
after the resurrection. Forty days did he sojourn with them; then, assembled in full body, they saw him rise from the earth, and ascend to heaven. He left a solemn promise, that, when he reached the heavens, he would send another mighty person-the Holy Spiritto the earth. That person came, in the plenitude of his gifts, and thus displayed the demonstration of his ascent, his truth, and his power.
Let us now ponder the following certainties:
I. Certainties concerning Jesus Christ.
He has abolished death in his own person. He met death, and in conflict with death he fell; yes, and by death he overcame him that had the power over death, that is, the devil, and is now triumphant. He lay down upon the lowly bed, as low as the humblest of his followers, and there he slept the appointed period, and then arose. He burst every barrier; neither men nor devils could prevent his rising! He has utterly done with death, as much as if death were not. God hath shown him the path of life. He has mounted and soared on high, and entered the gates of glory. See! see the results of the work on the cross! Behold the Lamb of God!
The risen Saviour is the great fountain of life—he is the life of his people. Their life is hid with him. We have no life but what we derive from him. His words are spirit and life. He is the life of the world. Yes, to the world he will give life; for all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and they that hear shall come forth; they that have done good to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation
This will be to the Saviour a most triumphant hour. Then shall he see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied. His power has been displayed in his own person, and, in the fulness of infinitude, it waits the time for final operation. It will go forth to all that have fallen. All shall rise; not one will be left behind. The good will be raised; the evil will be raised; and the arm that raised will finally dispose of all. Then will he have earned his title to the Prince of life. Then the accumulated millions will exclaim, "Where, O Death, is thy sting? Where, O Grave, is thy victory?"
II. Certainties concerning true Christians.
You have been the subjects of one death. You brought into this world with you a body of sin and death.
You have been, spiritually, the subjects of a glorious resurrection! You have been quickened by the Spirit of God; you were dead, but now you are alive again!
You must become the subjects of another death. Yes, we must die, and leave this world! But we know that all shall be well with our immortal souls. Nothing can save you. It is appointed for you to die.
But your bodies will be raised again by his almighty power.
You will go to sleep, and nothing shall disturb you. The first voice you shall hear will be the voice of your Lord, to call you forth, that he may bless you! As your soul is now united to God, and the body will then be united to the soul, so there will be an end of death. Mortality will be swallowed up of life!
Let us comfort ourselves with this reflection. The holiest friendships must be broken up, and the tenderest ties be dissolved. We must part, but not for ever! No, we shall meet again; and meet to part no more! Are not our hearts now prepared to exclaim, but on better grounds, with the celebrated ancient, "O glorious day, when we shall go to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven; and to God, the Judge of all; and to the spirits of just men made perfect; and to Jesus, the Mediator; and to the blood of sprinkling?" III. Certainties connected with sinners.
They may reject the great salvation; but they must share in the general resurrection. They must be raised in order to be judged. All are to be "judged according to the deeds done in the body;" and they must, therefore, appear in the body. The judgment may not sit upon the embodied and the disembodied; this would be incongruous every spirit must, therefore, appear in its appropriate costume. The wicked, according to Daniel, will "awake to shame and everlasting contempt." Body will be necessary to give expression to that "shame," and to constitute a visible object of that " contempt." The prospect is terrible! It is in vain that the wicked shudder, and try to banish the thought: they must submit! They will be just as passive and as helpless in the hour of the resurrection as they were in the hour of death! Their wisdom, therefore, is, now to be reconciled, before they "perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little." J. C. Aug. 1849
An Affectionate Address to the People of England.
FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS,-
ployed, and it is hoped not in vain, to check its advance. Our local authorities have acted with commendable vigour and promptitude; the attention and kindness of the medical men of the city have been beyond all praise, and have secured for them the gratitude of many hearts; and those who have been called upon to visit the dwellings of the poor-amongst whom the disease has chiefly prevailed-can