صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

uncoffined, and unknown. It matters not if it becomes inixed with the ashes of the funeral pile, and be scattered to the four winds of heaven. There is an Eye that watches it; there is a Mind that knows it; there is a Power that protects it; and not one of those who have been bought by his blood shall be found wanting at the appointed time of revival and of glory.

“God our Redeemer lives,

And often, from the skies,
Looks down and watches all our dust,

Till he shall bid it rise."

And O, my brethren, what boundings of heart should we have towards Him whose mercy has not forgotten the clay tenement in which has been the precious pearl of the soul; and who destines both to be made partakers of the inheritance of his kingdom and glory!

But, thirdly, it will be observed, that the image of sleep also illustrates their prospect of restoration. When men lie down to sleep, it is with the prospeet of waking again in the enjoyment of renovated and recreated vigour: and when we find the figure of sleep associated with the destinies of believers, we cannot but perceive it to be associated with their prospect of joyous and final restoration. We have made some partial allusion already to the final resurrection of the body. The event of the body's resurrection is that which the Apostle especially has in view in connexion with the words of the text: “For," says he, “ if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so thein also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 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 ever be with the Lord.” If you turn to other parts of Scripture, you will find how beautiful the image of sleep is connected with the doctrine of the final resurrection, as the time of awakening. For example, take the language of David : “As for me I shall behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness ;" referring to the resurrection of the dead. Take the language of Daniel: “ Many of them"- -or the inany of them—“that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Take the language of the Saviour: when he was speaking of the daughter of Jairus he said, “The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth ;" and this because he was going to raise her froin the dead. When he spake of Lazarus he said, “ Our friend sleepeth ; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep;" and this because he was about to raise him from the dead. When we hear the narrative of the saints that arose after the resurrection of the Saviour, we find it said, “Many bodies of the saints which slept arose.” And if you turn to 1 Corinthians, xv., you will there obserre, how the Apostle argues upon this figure to a very considerable extent, and with beautiful emphasis and power. “It,” says he, “ Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised,

your

faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most uniserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resuriection from the dead.” The connexion, therefore, of the figure of sleep, is perfectly and decisively clear.

And now, my brethren, what will that final resurrection accomplish with regard to those who have been asleep? That great event will, in the first place, invest the bodies of believers with ineffable dignity and splendour. J ang not, my brethren, about to speculate on what the body to be raised from the dead, shall be: I know not the precise forms which shall be assumed by you, and you, who go down to the grave, which has been hallowed by the conquest of the Saviour. But this I do know, and so also do you yourselves, from the testimony of revelation, that the Lord Jesus Christ “shall change our vile bodies, that they may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working, whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” If you turn to that wonderfully sublime passage in which the great doctrine of the future resurrection is exhibited, you find, my brethren, these terms, which we cannot read without high and thrilling emotion of heart: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. 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. And so it is written: The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. How beit, that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.

As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God ; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 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, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Aye, my brethren, and now there is no darkness that gathers over the sepulchre: you might go and stand by the hollow house, where you yourself shall lie, and, instead of starting back again to life,

“ Fond of your pris.n and your clay," wislı almost that the time of decomposition and ruin bad come, as bastening the time when thus you shall be recovered and restored.

[ocr errors]

** Arrayed in glorious grace,

Shall these vile bodies shine;
And every shape, and every face,

Be heavenly and divine."
0, thanks be unto God for this his unspeakable gift!

And then, again, my brethren, this great event of restoration may be counected with the communication of still higher and more ecstatic pleasures of the soul. There are not a few in connexion with the Christian Church, who seem. to consider there is somewhat of discrepancy or contradiction in the doctrine of a separate state of consciousness, and in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead : aud it has been asked, if there be a separate state of happiness for the soul, apart from the body, do we not, while we admit that fact, seem, in some measure, to turn away from the testimony and importance of the resurrection of the dead? My own view, my brethren, upon the subject, is this—The soul while existing in a state separate from the body, after the event of death, and before the event of the resurrection, receives only those pleasures which are derived from memory, from reflection, or from anticipation ; faculties which it may easily and constantly work upon and employ without the agency, and without the assistance, of the body. When the soul becomes united to the body at the time of the last resurrection, it receives, in addition to the pleasures of memory, reflection, and anticipation, the se other pleasures which arise from observation, and from communication with external and material beings and objects. We know, my brethren, how much of our pleasure in the present world consists in our power of holding intercourse with other beings, and observing other objects. And we can calculate, in some measure, without difficulty, what will be the amount of increased pleasure to the glorified spirit, when, in addition to the pleasures of memory, reflection, and anticipation, it possesses also the power of holding intercourse through a refined and spiritualized body, with those beings and those objects which are congregated in the heaven of heavens. But whether, my brethren, this view of the case be correct or not (and I desire not to speak by commandment, but by permission), this much is certain, that, no doubt, when the body shall be raised, and the people of Christ, before his tribunal, shall receive, in the presence of the assembled world, the recognition of their characters, and the consummation of their glory, God will shower upon them the highest and best blessings, which the treasures of his omnipotence and mercy can impart; then will they receive the last communications of the celestial recompense; and, dwelling in the heaven of heavens, in the full and beatific vision of Him who sitteth on the throne will they possess “the fulness of jov," and those “ pleasures” which are “ for erermore.” This, my brethren is the consummation of the state of “ them that are asleep."

WHAT INFLUENCE

We now, my brethren, shall, very briefly, employ you on the third and last inquiry arising from the interesting words before us : SITOULD THESE REPRESENTATIONS, AS TO THE STATE OF THE DEPARTEN, PROPCCE UPON THE LIVING? It was intended by the Apostle, clearly, that certain practical influences upon those who live, should be stamped and sealed by the view of the case of those who are gone. I must request, my brethren, your very devolt ottention, while I notice the following three..

ye

[ocr errors]

In the first place, in consequence of this view of the state of the departea we ought not to indulge excessive grief on account of those Christian frienas whom it has been, or whom it may yet be, our lot to lose. There was a dark influence on the bereavement, otherwise, upon those to whom he addressed himself. They were grieving, probably, inordinately, for the loss of those who had departed : “ But,” says he, “ I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which hare no hope." And then, when he states this prospect of restoration, in the verze we have read, he concludes, “ Wherefore comfort one another with these words." And again : “Comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also

do." Let us apply this delightful exhortation to ourselves. We, who are now in the presence of God, have felt many losses. As members of the Church of God we have been bereaved. Our missionaries have gone, and those who have been, as it were, the vanguard of the armies of the Lord, in order to introduce those armies by a yet unbeaten path, into a land which has been covered with the gigantic powers of heathenism, under the guidance of the god of this world, have been called away to their rest. And it is but recently, with regard to the mighty population in the hitherto hermetically sealed empire of China, we have to lament like the sons of the prophet, that our master has been taken away from our head to-day. We have lost, my brethren, our pastors. Do you not recember many, under whose voice you sat with delight, and to whose tidings you listened with advantage ; that voice now being silent, and those tidings being now repeated by another. And speak I not to many, who may look at this marble*, and who can scarce gaze upon it but with throbbing heart and with tearful eye? “Our fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live for ever ?" And we have lost, my brethren, our friends : we have gone into the death chamber; we have gazed upon the corpse; we have seen the chill, changeless brow—the sad, shrouded eye—the cold, pallid cheek. We have looked upon the fringe of the shroud, and upon the melancholy of the tinselled coffin. We have followed in the funeral procession; we have stood by the yawning of the open grave: we have heard the rattling of the dust as it fell on the deposit of the dead, and heard the sound, “ Dust to dust, ashes to ashes :" and the dead were “buried out of our sight:" and we have come back to the silent and desolate homes, where the loved ones were not, and never, never can be again. And yet, my brethren, it becomes us not to grieve as those who have no hope. Where are they? Is it not true that they are at rest? Is it not true they are secure? Is it not true that their very flesh is made to “rest in hope?"

Is it not true that in due time they shall come forth again in the splendours of a living immortality, to suffer and to die no more ? brethren, let us moderate the grief of the heart, and wipe each tear-drop from the eye. Let us commit them placidly, without extravagant sorrow, to the place where they sleep in Jesus; and, comforting ourselves in the recollection of their happiness, let us follow the path which they have trod, being “followers of them who now, through faith and patience, do inherit the promises."

Secondly: such, my brethren, being the condition of the departed, it becomes us as Christians not to dread the arrival of death for ourselves. There are

• The Tablet to the Memory of the Rev. Rowland HILL.

Then,

[ocr errors]

many amongst you, my Christian brethren, who have often feared death. Retire to-night, and meditate-What is it? It is nothing but falling asleep. Could you tremble when, at the hour of midnight, you go to the couch of repose, and draw the curtains around you, and close your eyelids, and commit yourselves to the oblivion of sweet and restoring slumber? Why, my brethren, should we fear the last sleep, when that sleep places us especially in circumstances of repose and security, with the prospect of a joyous restoration ? My brethren, I should like to-night, as a messenger for eternity, to arouse you, as true believers in Jesus, to the high attitude of courage and of majesty, with which you are enabled to anticipate the hour, the moment of dissolution, when you shall fall, and your spirits shall wend their way to immortality. One thing alone is required—that you should ascertain your interest in Christ, and have the witness. of the Spirit with your spirits, that you are the children of God; and when that is done, all is done, and death is to be feared no more. No, my brethren, then should you look him in the face, as he comes with the heavy tramp of malignant fury to strike you down, and, as bis dart gleams in his uplifted hand, bare your bosom for the blow, and exclaim, “Strike! I fear thee not. Strike! for thou art conquered. Strike! for thou art but a commissioned messenger of mercy, to herald me to my Lord. Strike!” And as the frame-work of the clay falls beneath the blow which you invite, your last song of tremulous triumph shall be, “Fall, fall, frail mansion; for I know, that when the earthly house of my tabernacle is dissolved, I have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

And, finally, my brethren, let this view of the condition of the departed impress upon us the propriety of desiring the same consummation for ourselves. For while, my brethren, I have spoken to many who can look to the prospect of falling asleep, there are many around us, with no prospect of sleeping in Jesus. Their bodies will be dissolved, it is true; those bodies will be interred, It is true. It may be, the funeral crowd shall follow them; and that they may epose in the sculptured mausoleum, and beneath the pageantry of wealth and flattery. But, ah, my hearers ! where will be that immortal spirit, which must render an account of the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or bad ? You who have not repented, you, who have not believed, you are to die ; you are to die soon ; you may die to-night: this very place may be, as it were, hung round with the emblems of the funeral for you: the messenger may have gone forth, the arm uplifted, the arrow sharpened, the poison placed upon it; and even now it may be winging to strike you into the dust of death. Aye, and you can retire from these portals to-night, and iningle in the common contemptible avocations of a perishing world, recking not whether you shall be saved or lost, whether you shall be glorified or damned. My fellow sinners, you have heard the tidings of life and immortality to-night: I beseech you that you do not depart from the service which now terminates, without presenting yourselves, as humble suppliants, at the footstool of the Divine Majesty : praying that He would prepare you, by repentance and by faith, for the moment of death, and for the enjoyments of immortality. O, what an invaluable treasure .s within these walls to-night! There is not one anywhere who has not a sou), o comparison of which, diadems, and empires, and worlds are as nothing: and one soul be thus precious, what must be the preciousness of all these souls !

« السابقةمتابعة »