1 CORI THIA S xv. 12. ow if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection from the dead? IT might reasonably be expected, that the pro mulgation of an article of faith so novel in its nature, so strange in its effects, so tremendous in its consequences, as that of the resurrection of the dead, should encounter the resistance and opposition, which would naturally arise in the minds of those who were ill calcuated for the reception of any religious truth, much more of this, the most sublime and awful doctrine of the Christian dispensation. The sophistry and the pride of man took the alarm, and marshalled themselves in array against the word and the power of God. The one, de lighting ever, rather in the detection of error, than in the possession of truth, could not but employ itself in raising objections, which unas4

58 SERMO V. sisted and alone, it could never resolve; the other, could but ill support the entrance of a doctrine, to whose origin human reason could not interpose the slightest claim.

In proof of this assertion, let us for a moment turn our eyes from that opulent and luxurious city, to whose converted inhabitants the words of my text are directed, and behold the great Apostle in a nobler scene, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, addressing himself no longer to the obstinacy of Jewish prejudice, or the ignorance of Asiatic superstition, but to the pride of Athenian literature, to the power of Greek philosophy. Within the walls of that ancient and illustrious city, were assembled those who gave law to the moral and intellectual world ; within her schools were concentrated the rich stores of information gathered from every age and country. She was still the emporium of science ; the Academy stiU flourished, and in her groves philosophy still maintained her ancient sway. It was to this city, it was to the disciples arid followers of those great masters of human reason, whose writings have challenged the ad miration of every age, and are themselves, if duly weighed, considered, and studied, both in their excellencies and defects, the very avenue and portico to Christianity ; it was to them that the great Apostle proclaimed aloud the resur-

SERMO V. 59 * rection of the dead. The partial light displayed by the greatest luminaries of human reason, had neither itself dispelled the powers of darkness in their minds, nor taught them to look up with confidence to that heavenly light, which now burst in upon them in full lustre. When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, " some mocked, and others said, we will hear thee again

of this matter." The intellectual indolence of the Epicurean fled with precipitation from a thought so fatal to his voluptuous ease. The stern dogmatism of the Stoic rejected with scorn what he never did, and therefore never would, believe. The Academy perhaps would freely have heard him again of that matter, but it would have heard him only to have indulged the love of idle disputation, and to have repeated a system of sophistical objections. It will not be unimportant to consider on what principles their objections were founded, and on what part of the Christian scheme of a general resurrection they fixed as incredible and absurd. Was it on the expectation of a future life was it on the hopes of immortality ? In every age, and under every system, the wisest of the hea thens discovered that there were grounds for an expectation beyond the grave. For life and immortality, ature pants with groans unutter able. She sees all her children mingled with the

60 SERMO V. dust ; but by the power of unassisted reason she sees also, that there is in the composition of man an invisible and an immaterial principle, over which the grave can have no power, and cor ruption no dominion. Farther, in every other work of the Almighty arm, she perceives the beauties of its whole, the harmony of its parts, the order of its system, the constancy of its curses. In the moral world, alone, she per ceives disorder and confusion. She sees with horror the dominion of triumphant vice ; she views with dejection and pain the sorrows of afflicted virtue. Whither then can she flee from

this scene of darkness and perplexity for refuge ? On the hopes of another world she rests her ex pectation, as the comfort of her afflictions here on earth, and as a vindication of the just and equal administration of the universal and allruling Being. On this point then the doctrines of the Gospel, and the dictates of natural reason, stand or fall together. The superstition of 4he_ vulgar, the imagination of the poets, and the frauds of the priests, had indeed in every coun try so concealed this natural belief under the veil of mystical darkness, and so clothed it with mythological absurdity, as to call forth the strongest powers of the mind to separate the light from the darkness, and distinguish truth from absurdity. There were those, whose trans-

SERMO V. 61 cendant minds unmasked the errors of the po pular mythology, and displayed the hopes and fears of natural reason in their fairest colours. There were a few, who argued from the follies of imposture against the notion itself, and with a species of suspicious infatuation called in ques tion the existence of a future state. But, where ature gave her children an expectation only, Christianity has proclaimed an assurance. Rea son informed us only of the necessity of the thing: Revelation has prescribed the terms. Philosophy conjectured merely its existence, the Gospel has announced the mode of its consum mation the resurrection of the dead, at the great and terrible day of the Lord. Here then philosophy was lost in amazement ! That at that one tremendous moment, at the sound of the last trump, the bodies of all the sons of men, of every nation, and throughout every age, should rise

at once and receive their everlasting doom, was to philosophy a greater delusion than their fa bled regions beneath the earth. That the body of each individual, though consumed in the fire, scattered in the air, or mouldered in the dust, should be again restored, was altogether incre dible, perhaps even impossible ! Why then should natural reason start back at this difficulty ? Is there too much for omniscient wisdom to contrive, or for omnipotent strength

62 SERMO V. to execute ? Why should it be more impossible for God to gather together the dispersed parts of a corrupted body, and re-unite them to their former soul, than to create matter at first out of nothing ? Why should any man imagine, that he who at the creation separated the confused mass of matter, cannot with the same ease at the ge neral resurrection separate again the same con fused mass of matter, and assign to each body its own part ? Is it too great a task for Him who numbers the sand of the sea, and the very par ticles of created matter, to collect the dispersed parts of a man s body into their due situation and order ? It may, indeed, and with some appearance of justice, be urged, that the parts of the body may be so scattered and so incorporated with the parts of other bodies, that it may not be possible for every individual body to arise with exactly the same parts of which it consisted at its disso lution. ow even allowing the strength of this objection, it will not affect the main point, I mean the resurrection of the same body as the

object of a future judgment. For if it does, it must affect also the identity of our body as con cerned in every action of human life ; as, at no two periods of our life, however close in succes sion, are our bodies precisely the same ; at no two hours are they composed of the same numerical

SERMO V. 63 particles. Within a few years they undergo a total change. The laws of the animal economy allow of no stagnation of matter in the system and constitution of man, but develope a wondrous and continued succession of renovation and de cay. There are organs whose designation it is to absorb and carry off the various materials of which our structure is composed. There are others, which fulfil their office by the secretion and deposition of fresh matter, and a propor tionate renewal of our wasted frame. From childhood to maturity the change is sensible and clear ; from maturity to the latest period of our existence, though less evident to the common eye, it is equally capable of the strictest demon stration. In the sameness therefore of the nu merical particles, the personal identity of our bodies does not consist. Otherwise the same difficulty would arise in all human transactions, which we suppose will arise in the divine judg ment hereafter. As, then, the personal identity of the body is preserved on earth, though the numerical particles be entirely changed, so, in the resurrection, shall the personal identity be also preserved, even though clothed with par ticles of matter not precisely the same as at its dissolution. I have thus endeavoured to shew, that in the

resurrection of the body no contradiction is in-

64 SERMO V. volved ; it is therefore an object for the work of Omnipotence. Of the manner of this wonderful operation we cannot have the most distant idea. We have the power neither to create, nor the power to raise again ; nor have we the power to comprehend the mode either of creation or resur rection. For our belief in the possibility of this stupendous miracle we trust to our reason ; for the certainty of it we trust to revelation ; for the performance of it we trust to Omnipotence. It hath pleased the Almighty to confirm our faith in this momentous doctrine by the resurrection of our blessed Lord from the gates of the grave, and the dominion of corruption. Christ burst the barriers of the tomb, not only as the seal of our justification and pardon ; not only as a mighty victim over the powers of darkness and death, but as " the first fruits of them that slept." His resurrection, as it was the type, so it was the earnest of our own. " If therefore Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among ye that there is no resurrection ?" At that awful and tremendous period, when the grave shall deliver up its victims, and those long mouldered away in dust and ashes shall re vive again, when the mighty voice of the last trumpet shall awake the dead, not only shall our mortal bodies rise again and be united to their souls, but " this corruptible shall put on incor-


ruption, and this mortal shall put on immorta lity." Our vile bodies shall in a wondrous and incomprehensible manner be changed, and shall become like the glorious body of our heavenly Saviour ; not according to the laws of nature, not by the power of man, but by that mighty working of the Almighty arm, " whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself." " But that which is sown is not quickened except it die;" as in every grain of corn there is contained a minute, insensible, seminal principle, which is itself the entire future blade and ear, and in due season unfolds itself into that form ; so this mortal and corruptible body, retains in itself the seed and material principle of that which is immortal, and incorruptible. " As it has borne the image of the the earthy, so it shall also bear the image of the heavenly." The resurrection from the dead is not revealed from on high to man as a source of idle argument, as a theme of barren speculation ; but as an awful and influential principle of ac tion, as the anchor of our hope under all the pains and afflictions of this chequered scene of misery and woe, as our comfort in life, our con solation in the pains and horrors of death. " We must all appear at the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done whether it be good or bad." How then shall he F

66 SERMO V. commit a cool and deliberate sin, when in that body in which he sinned, he must arise at the

last day before the judgment seat of Christ, to render an account of his works, and in that very body to receive a just retribution. How shall he defile that body, which in the sight of men and of angels, shall rise again, the living testi mony of its pollutions in the flesh. How shall this earthly tabernacle awake to glory hereafter, except it be sanctified as the temple of the Holy Spirit here ? They that have glorified God in their body and spirit, which are God s, here, shall be glorified by God in the same, hereafter, for they are both " bought with a price," even with the blood of our Redeemer. Sickness and trouble, misery and affliction, are the inheritance of the sons of corruption. Every hour are they liable to the torments of the acutest pain, the lingering irritations of prolonged disease, the sinkings of a shattered frame ; yet, even here, in the sharpest agonies which our wounded nature can bear, how animating is the hope, how vivify ing and powerful the consolation, that in these very bodies, now groaning under the torments of pain and the afflictions of corruption, we shall rise again the heirs of immortality, emancipated from every power of disease, delivered from the bond of pain and corruption ; that in these very bodies, we shall receive the fulness of joy

SERMO V. 67 and pleasure, unalloyed with any admixture or idea of pain, at that blessed period, " when sin and sorrow shall be no more, and all tears shall be for ever wiped from every eye."

Here then, as upon a rock, the Christian takes his stand, in sure and certain hope, that the same Almighty arm, which, in the revolution of light and darkness, in the resuscitation of the vege table world around him from the wintry grave, restores every thing to man, shall restore also man to himself. He rests assured that when his earthly tabernacle shall be dissolved into dust, and return to the ground from whence it came, that by the mighty power of God the same shall rise again, and appear before the judgment-seat of Christ to receive its doom, and being washed and made pure in the blood of the Lamb, shall admit a glorified and an incorruptible form. In the season of temptation, this powerful thought shall raise him above the sink and pollutions of the flesh ; in the day of disease and anguish, this shall sustain his fainting heart, this shall cheer and support his sinking spirits. In the hour of impending dissolution, will he resign with hum ble and unabated assurance his mortal frame to the power of death, and the corruption of the tomb. With his last breath will he join in the comforting voice of the suffering Patriarch, " I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall F2

68 SERMO V. stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold and not another."



Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful