The Resurrection of Christ in its Relation to the Inner Life of the Christian
"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection." Phil. 3:10.
The real value of any truth to a child of God is the conscious power of that truth in his own soul. The Bible is designed to be an experimental and a practical book. It deals not in abstract truth, in mere theoretical teaching, but in revelations intended by its Divine Author to address themselves to the judgment, thus finding an inlet to the conscience and the heart, and becoming a leaven of holiness in the soul, diffusing its influence through the entire moral and intellectual man. We repeat the observation, that any one truth is valuable to the Christian in proportion to his personal and experimental acquaintance with its nature and, effects. And here it is impossible to resist the solemn remark- how far an individual may go in an intellectual subscription to, and a theoretical reception of, vital and essential truth, and yet be utterly ignorant of its renewing and sanctifying power in his soul!
It is another characteristic of the true believer in Jesus, that he places no limit to his knowledge and experience of Divine truth. Take the apostle, whose words are now under consideration, for an example of this. Did he not already know something of Christ? Assuredly! And yet he panted to know more- "That I may know him." Had he not already felt in his soul- and in no common degree, too the power of the Lord's resurrection? Undoubtedly! And yet behold how he desires to know more: "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection." Thus placing no bound to the extent of his knowledge of Christ, and his experience of the truth, but defining for himself a scope worthy the objects of his study, and placing his eager and fixed gaze upon the loftiest standard of Christian attainment, he forgot the things that were behind, and pressed forward to those things which were before, never regarding himself as having attained, so long as the goal was yet unreached, and the "mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" was still before him. O that there were more of this Christianity in the Church of God! Everything in creation and providence is advancing to its given point of perfection; why should the believer alone be stationary? -why should he, possessing already the germ of a perfection so glorious, and destined to a development so great, be content with a dwarfish stature, rather than the "stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus?" O Lord, stir us up to greater advances in the Divine life!
The resurrection of Christ is a vital doctrine of Christianity. It sustains an essential relation to the spiritual life of the believer. Viewing it in connection with the union of Christ and his people, the two facts become identical- standing in the relation of cause and effect. Our Lord, in his great atoning work, acted in a public, or representative character. He represented in his person the whole elect of God, who virtually were in him each step that he took in working out their redemption. In his resurrection from the grave this was preeminently so. The Head could not be resuscitated apart from the Body. Christ could not rise without the Church. To have left the Church, which he represented, and in whose place and behalf he acted, still in the grave, would have been, to say nothing of the impossibility of such a thing, her eternal destruction. Thus, then, the new, or the resurrection life of Christ, and the inner, or spiritual life of the believer, are one and indivisible. Now, when the resurrection of the Head is spiritually realized, when it is fully received into the heart by faith, it becomes a quickening, energizing, sanctifying truth to each member of his body. It transmits a power to the inmost soul, felt in all the actings and manifestations of the spiritual life; "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection." Blessed are they who feel, and who feel daily, that they are indeed "risen with Christ," and who find every new perception of this great truth to act like a mighty lever to their souls- lifting them above this "present evil world" -a world passing away. I propose in the present chapter to adduce a few observations upon the authenticity of this great doctrine, and then proceed to illustrate its relation to the inner life of the believer.
How truly has the "Stone which the builders rejected become the head stone of the corner!" The single doctrine upon the truth of which Christianity rests; and which, for the same reason, is, of all the truths of the Bible, the most impugned and rejected by the unbeliever, is the doctrine of Christ's resurrection. Both the Jew and the infidel have sagacity enough to perceive that, if this fact be proved, all is proved that appertains to Christianity. The great question of the divinity of our holy religion is at once and forever set at rest. Christ is then declared to be the true Messiah, and Christianity the true religion. But come we to the argument. Quietly and reverently his disciples composed his mangled limbs, and laid them to rest in the new-made sepulcher. Up to this touching and eventful moment the chain of evidence had been powerful and complete. Event had succeeded event, and miracle had followed miracle- each one fulfilling some new prediction, and supplying some still more convincing demonstration of his Messiahship. But suppose that at this crisis the chain were broken! Suppose the last link were lacking to complete the mighty proofs of his divinity! What if he had not come back again to life- death and the grave prolonging beyond the predicted moment their boasted victory? Who does not see that the whole case would have fallen to the ground- that the entire testimony would have been overthrown- that the great volume of prophecy would have proved a fiction- the hopes of past ages a dream- salvation a stupendous lie- redemption a splendid delusion- and Christ the prince of impostors? But eternal love and omnipotent power were pledged for the certain and glorious issue.
Were we disputing with an objector, we should probably pursue a line of argument somewhat like this- The great question is, Was the tomb of Christ emptied or not? If it was, what became of its sacred deposit- the body of Jesus? The first and leading point is conceded by all- namely, that the grave was vacated. Then, what became of the body? Was it retained by the Jews? Then let them produce it, and the question is fairly and forever set at rest, and decided in their favor. Was it true, as affirmed by his enemies, that his disciples, who but three days before clustered a feeble
weeping band around that tomb, had, in the quietude of night, and in the face of a Roman guard, armed to the teeth, and wakeful to every breath, sacrilegiously invaded its sanctity, and robbed it of its precious treasure? Still the act would not have aided their cause, while it must have furthered the design of the Jews. But mark the perfect agreement of the witnesses who testified that he was risen from the dead. Five hundred of them declare and affirm that Christ was alive. They were all examined, and cross-examined apart, and still nothing could shake their testimony that he was alive. And where did they publish the fact? Did they travel to some remote place, where the evidence could not be examined, and where they might succeed in palming their story upon the ignorance and credulity of strangers? No! but in Jerusalem- in the synagogues- upon the very spot where he had asserted his Messiahship, foretold his death, and predicted his resurrection, they affirmed that he was alive. And when did they publish the doctrine? Did they wait until the epoch of his resurrection had passed, and the circumstance of its novelty and interest had subsided?
No; but from the moment that the celestial sentinels, who still lingered within the tomb, announced that he was not there, but was risen- pointing to the vacant spot where he had lain, as an affirmation of the truth- they went forth and published the fact; and while the whole city was in a tempest of excitement, and the eyes of his enemies were still sparkling with rage, and the storm that had laid low the Savior threatened to crush his followers, they fearlessly and boldly affirmed everywhere that Jesus was alive. Is it likely, we ask, that these men, timid and unlearned as they were, and confronted, too, with the sternest tribunal of the world, could have invented such an imposture, or if so, could have succeeded in winning such multitudes over to its belief? We think it impossible.
The circumstances of the Savior's resurrection were in harmony with its lonely and solemn grandeur. No human witness was privileged to behold it. The mysterious re-union of the human soul with the body of Christ was an illustrious event, upon which no mortal eye was permitted to gaze. There is a moral grandeur of surpassing character in the resurrection of Christ unseen. The fact is not an object with which sense has to do so much as faith. And that no human eye was permitted to witness the stupendous event, doubtless was designed to teach man that it was with the spiritual and not with the fleshly apprehension of this truth that he had especially to do. What eye but that of faith could see the illustrious Conqueror come forth, binding, with adamantine chains, hell, death, and the grave? What principle but the spiritual and mighty principle of faith could enter into the revealed mind of God, sympathize with the design of the Savior, and interpret the sublime mystery of this stupendous event? It was proper, therefore, no it was worthy of God and in harmony with the character and the design of the resurrection of our Lord, that a veil should conceal its actual accomplishment from the eye of his Church, and that the great evidence they should have of the truth of the fact should be, the power of his resurrection felt and experienced in their souls. O yes! the only power of the Savior's resurrection which we desire to know is that which comes to us through the energy of an all-seeing, all-conquering, all-believing faith. O give me this, rather than to have witnessed with these eyes the celestial attendants clustering around the tomb- the rolling away of the stone that was upon the sepulcher- the breaking of the seal- and the emerging form of the Son of God, bearing in his hands the emblems and the tokens of his victory. The spiritual so infinitely transcends the carnal- the eye of faith is so much more glorious than the eye of sense, that our Lord himself has sanctified and sealed it with his own precious blessing- "Jesus with unto him, Thomas, because you have seen me you have believed: blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed." Blessed Jesus! in faith would I then follow you each step of your journey through this vale of tears- in faith would I visit the manger, the cross, and the tomb- for you have pronounced him blessed above all, who, though he sees not, yet believes in you. Lord, I believe, help you mine unbelief.
Perhaps no circumstance connected with the resurrection of Christ conveys to the mind a clearer idea of its bearings upon the happiness of the Church than the part which the Divine Father is represented as having taken in the
illustrious event. His having committed himself to the fact, at once stamps it with all its saving interest. Thus is it ascribed to him- "Whom God has raised" - "Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father" - "If the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead." By this act of raising up his Son from the grave, the Father manifested his infinite delight in, and his full acceptance of, the sacrifice of Christ, as a finished and satisfactory expiation for the sins of his people. So long as Jesus remained in the grave, there was lacking the evidence of the acceptance of his death- the great seal of heaven, the signature of God, was needed to authenticate the fact. But when the Father released the Surety from the dominion of death, he annihilated, by that act, all legal claim against his Church, declaring the ransom accepted and the debt cancelled. "He was taken from prison," -as the prisoner of justice- and the prisoner of death- and the prisoner of the grave: the Father, in the exercise of his glorious power, opens the prison door and delivers the illustrious captive- and by that door through which he emerges again to life, enters the full justification of his whole Church -for it is written: "He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." Such is the doctrine, whose relation to the inner life is so essential, interesting, and influential, as to be worthy of our especial and deepest consideration.
A more important truth- where all are of infinite significance to the happiness of man- is not found in the word of God. As it forms the keystone to the mighty arch of Christianity- essential therefore to the stability and beauty of the whole fabric- so it constitutes the groundwork of spiritual life upon the basis of which the Holy Spirit of God quickens the souls of all who are the "called according to his purpose." The relation of the Lord's resurrection to the life of his people springs from the union which subsists between them. The Lord Jesus acted not, as we have just intimated, in his private or individual capacity, in any step which he took in the accomplishment of our salvation. He lived and labored, died and rose again, as a public man, and standing in a federal relation to the Church. He needed not to obey for himself, for he was holy. He needed not to die for himself, for he had no sin to atone. He needed not to rise from the dead for himself, for he was Essential Life. But when he lived and died, rose and revived again, he acted in behalf of, and in union with, a people who were one and indivisible with himself. Hence the influence of the great truth of Christ's resurrection upon the state of the inner life. It was a knowledge of this truth which awoke the ardent desire of the Apostle's soul, "That I may know him and the power of his resurrection."
Trace this power as it first appears in the spiritual resurrection of the child of God. The Apostle Paul, in behalf of the Ephesian saints, prays that, "the eyes of their understanding being enlightened, they may know what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us who believe, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead." Thus the same resurrection power which brought back to life again the Head of the Church, is exerted in effecting the spiritual resurrection of the Church itself. The true believer is already risen. He was once dead in sin, and entombed in the grave of his iniquities. But a power- the same which awoke the death-slumber of Lazarus, has darted from the tomb of Jesus, and has quickened him to a new and a deathless life. Oh, were we more directly to trace the mighty energy of the Eternal Spirit in our souls, raising us from the region of death, to life and immortality, to that stupendous fact of redemption- the resurrection of Christ from the dead- how would it exalt our views of its importance, and fill our souls with its glory! What must be the power of our Lord's resurrection, that can even now awake the profoundest sleep of spiritual death! When the Spirit of God puts forth his own grace to raise a soul from the grave of sin, oh, forget not it is in virtue of a risen, living Savior. Despair not of the spiritual life of any, though they may have laid in the grave so long as well near to have quenched all hope of their conversion, since Christ has risen from the dead, and is alive, to give life in answer to the prayer of faith: "The Second Adam is a quickening Spirit."
The power which the resurrection of Christ possesses in opening up to view the doctrine of Divine reconciliation is great. The moment faith can look up to God through the medium of a risen Christ, all its views of his character
instantly become kind and soothing. How beautifully the Apostle associates the two blessings: "The God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus!" He is now truly the 'God of peace'- the pacified God, the reconciled Father; and the evidence of it is, his raising up his dear Son from the grave. Thus what a bright view does this truth unfold to us of God! When we retire within ourselves we see much to engender dark views of, and distrustful feelings towards, him. But when faith travels to the grave of Jesus, and we see it empty, we have such an overwhelming evidence of the perfect reconciliation of God, of his thoughts of peace towards us, that instantly faith triumphs, and all our gloomy, trembling apprehensions of his character vanish and disappear. He is the "God of peace," because Jesus is a risen Savior. And in proportion as you lay hold by faith of the resurrection-life of Christ, you will have that pillar to sustain you upon which rests the whole fabric of salvation. The peace of God will fill your heart, as you know from experience the power of the Lord's resurrection in your soul. The power of Christ's resurrection, in fact, lies in a sense of pardoned sin, in our apprehension of complete justification, in the living hope of eternal glory. Jesus saves to the uttermost all that come unto God by him, because he is a risen and a living Savior, and ever lives to make intercession in behalf of all his people. O deal believingly with a risen Christ!
But I wish to lay before the Christian reader an illustration of the practical power which this great and precious truth exerts in the healthy actings of the inner life. It quickens and strengthens the Divine life against the influence of worldly things. Of the earthward tendency of our hearts
we are, alas! but too conscious. We need an antagonistic principle, something to counteract the ever-working influence of an ungodly world. Where shall we meet with it? We answer, in the power of Christ's resurrection, felt, realized, and experienced in the soul. How beautifully and forcibly does the apostle place this truth before us; "If you, then, be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." This is the argument of Paul- "You are a risen people, risen in union with Christ. If this be so, then seek after heavenly-mindedness, setting your affections on things above." What a heaven-attracting power, then, has this glorious truth! What is Christ? he is alive. Where is Christ? he is in heaven, at the right hand of God, as my Head, my Representative, my Forerunner, my Treasure, my all. Then, let me rise! Shall not my affections soar to their best Beloved? Shall not my heart be where its treasure is? Shall I set my mind upon things on the earth, when my Lord rose out of the earth, and ascended above the earth, and bids me rise and follow him in faith, in spirit, and in love, until he calls me to come away to him entirely, that I might be ever with him, and behold his glory? If I am indeed risen with Christ, then let me evidence it by my increasing spiritual-mindedness. Christ, who is my life, its in heaven, why should I needlessly be buried in the earth? Why allow, as I appear to do- that there is an object upon earth whose claims to my love are paramount, whose beauty to my eye is greater, whose, attraction to my soul is stronger than my risen, ascended, and gloried Lord? Is there upon earth one who loves me as Jesus loves me? Is there one who has done for me what Jesus has done? Is there one who is doing for me now what Jesus is doing? Is there one who is to me such a friend, such a brother, such a counselor, as Jesus? No, not one! Then why should not my thoughts be more with him? Why should not my heart cling closer to him? Why this vagrancy of mind, this truancy of affection, this wandering of desire; why this forgetfulness, coldness, and cleaving to earth; when my Lord is risen, and I am professedly risen with him? O to feel more sensibly, more deeply, more constantly, the power of his resurrection! Lord! I detect my heart settling down on creature things; objects of sense and sin. My business is a snare; my domestic blessings are a snare; my friendships are a snare; my position is a snare; the too fond opinion which others entertain of me, is a snare; my grace, my gifts, my usefulness, through the corruption of my heart, are snares. Lord, place beneath my soul the mighty lever of your resurrection, and lift me towards yourself! O let me feel the earth-severing, the heaven-attracting power of your resurrection-life! Having been buried with you by baptism into death, sincerely would I now rise with you, like as you were raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, that I might walk with you in newness of life, until I reach you in the realms of glory.
But not only is this a quickening, it is also a most COMFORTING truth; and thus there is a power which is felt in the very consolation which it conveys. What a blessed declaration is that- "Where Christ sits at the right hand of God!" The words are inexpressibly sweet- "sitting at the right hand of God." Having finished his work, having made an end of sin; having brought in an everlasting righteousness, having risen from the grave, having ascended up on high, he has sat down at the right hand of God, reposing in the full satisfaction, glory, and expectancy of his redeeming work. And for what object is he there seated? Why is he thus presented to the eye of faith? That the Church of God might have visibly and constantly before its view- a risen, living Christ. O how constantly is the Lord teaching us that there is but one Being who can meet our case, and but one Object on which our soul's affections ought to be supremely placed- even a risen Savior. We have temptations various, trials the world knows nothing of, crosses of which those who know and love us the most, never suspect- for often the heart's acutest sorrow is the least discoverable upon the surface.
But here is our great mercy- Christ is alive. What if we are unknown, tried, tempted, and sad, we yet have a risen Savior to go to; who, as Rutherford says, "sighs when I sigh, mourns when I mourn, and when I look up he rejoices." How can I lack for sympathy when I have a risen Christ? How can I feel alone and sad, when I have the society and the soothing of a living and an ever-present Jesus- a Jesus who loves me, who knows all my circumstances, all my feelings, and has his finger upon my every pulse- who sees all my tears, hears all my sighs, and records all my thoughts- who, go to him when I will, and with what I will, will never say to nee no, nor bid me depart unblest- who is risen, exalted, and has sat down at the right hand of his Father and my Father, his God and my God, to administer to me all the blessings of the everlasting covenant, and to mete out, as I need them, all the riches of his grace, and the supplies of his salvation? Why, then, should I despond at any circumstance, why despair at any emergency, or sink beneath any trial, when I have a risen, a living Christ to go to? "When we are enabled to look at things above, to set our affections upon them, remembering that Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, that he has blotted out sin and made an end of it; and when his precious blood is sprinkled on our hearts, we can then say with ardent desire, 'Lord God, give me every grace, make me like yourself, make me conformed in body, soul, and Spirit to you, dead to the world and alive to you, thirsting for you and loving you supremely, willing to do and suffer your will, so that at last I may be able to finish my course with joy, and that which the Lord has committed unto me.' It is a sweet, and quiet, land happy posture of soul, to look at Christ sitting at the sight hand, of God, and to know that he is there with the breastplate upon his heart, and with the ephod upon his shoulder, interceding every moment for each individual member of his body. O the amazing power of the Lord's resurrection! O the preciousness of the fruit that springs from it! "Communion with our heavenly Father, near walking with God, a life of faith in Christ, living on high, living not only on Christ's fulness but on Christ himself; not only on what he has, but on what he is, in his Godhead, in his humanity, in the tenderness of his heart as well as the fulness of his salvation; living in the blessed anticipation of glory, and honor, and immortality; rising in the morning and saying, This day, and every day, I would consecrate to my God," -these are some of the fadeless flowers and precious fruits that grow around the grave of Jesus, when faith, listening to the voice that issues from the vacant sepulcher, "He is not here, but is risen" -looks up and beholds him alive, "seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high." Then, O then, it exclaims in a transport of joy, "Whom have I in heaven but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside you," you risen, living, and glorious Redeemer!
"You are my all- to you I flee;
Take me, oh, take me to your keeping!
Make me your branch, your husbandry;
Be yours the seed-time, yours the reaping.
For what on earth but tells your power?
And what but makes your love its theme?
I read it in the vernal shower,
it cheers me in the summer beam:
"It glows while memory lingers yet,
Over hours a mother's love beguiled;
For ah! a mother may forget,
But you will not forget your child.
I had a friend- nor false his love,
But him on earth no more I see:
Oh, you unchanging Friend above,
What is an earthly friend to Thee?
Give me no bright behest of care,
No groveling boon of envied sod;
No hopes that lead but to despair;
Ease, honors, wealth, are not my God.
"Nor anything in heaven; for, angels, say,
And saints escaped earth's guilt and sadness,
What makes your everlasting day?
What tunes your heart to joy and gladness?
"Oh, there is nothing in yon bright sky,
Worthy this worthless heart to own;
On earth there's nothing; friends, creatures, fly;
I pant, my Lord, for you alone."
But a signal and glorious illustration of the power of our Lord's resurrection is yet to appear- the first resurrection and glory of all the saints. "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of those who slept." All who in this and in other places are described as sleeping, are the saints of God; the ungodly die, but the righteous only sleep. This distinction the Holy Spirit observes. Now Jesus, in his resurrection, is the first-fruit of those who slept; that is, in virtue and in consequence of his resurrection from the grave, all who sleep in him shall have a part in "the first resurrection." This period will distinguish the saints from the ungodly. It is distinctly affirmed by the inspired apostle, that "the dead in Christ shall rise first," while "we who are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air." Now to this prior, or, first resurrection, there are some pointed and remarkable allusions. Our Lord distinctly refers to it in the words, "They who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world and the resurrection from the dead." It was to this first resurrection the apostle Paul was anxious to arrive- "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." To this, too, the saints and martyrs of the Old Testament looked as the crown of their sufferings, and the recompense of their reward. "Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection." And this is the resurrection- and the only one-which God has pronounced blessed. "Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection; of such, the second death has no power, but they shall be priests' of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." How important that we should give to the prophetical events with which the resurrection of the saints stands connected, and which, indeed, are but preparatory to the ushering in of that great event, our most profound and prayerful consideration and study!
There is so much scriptural clearness and power in the following excellent remarks of an unknown, but evidently a deeply taught and spiritual writer, that I am induced to quote them in connection with our present interesting and important subject. "It is desirable for us to know, what are the peculiar glories and advantages of the first resurrection; and also at what time we may expect it to take place. It is to the first resurrection saints, that the promise is made of reigning with Christ, and partaking with him of his millennial glory, and it shall be the privilege of those who are alive, when the event happens, to be 'clothed upon,' and not 'unclothed'; that is, to be given glorified bodies, without having seen death and corruption; and to escape those pre-millennial troubles, which, in the great day of the Lord, will come on the earth. We read that the living saints are caught up to meet the Lord in the air. This must be for some purpose. They would not be caught up to descend again immediately; and accordingly, we find repeated promises of their being thus kept in safety from the destruction of the earth, as Noah from the flood, and Lot from Sodom. At the close of the pre-millennial troubles, when, at the battle of Armageddon, our Lord descends, his feet stand upon the Mount of Olives, and he completes the destruction of his enemies- 'he brings his saints with him,' including those who had been caught up alive previously. 'A man' had been their hiding place from the wind, their covert from the tempest. From what portion of the final troubles we know not, or how long they had been hid; but we know that Noah and Lot escaped entirely. And Peter says that from these types it is manifest, that the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations (trials). Our Savior refers to the same events, saying, 'Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.' For until the day Noah entered the ark, the world went on as usual; and the 'same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone.' Paul also declares, people are to be saying, 'Peace and safety,' just before the sudden destruction or, day of the Lord's revealing, when his saints are taken. It is from this sudden destruction Christ teaches us to pray that we may escape, and that when these things shall come to pass, we may be able to stand before him. Habakkuk hoped to 'rest in the day of trouble,' and Zephaniah says, 'It may be we shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger.' We read, 'Come, my people, enter into your chambers, and shut your doors about you; hide yourself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord comes out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.' The Prophets and Psalms abound with promises of this safety from trouble, which are only partially fulfilled if we take them metaphorically, since believers are more in trouble than other men; but will be literally fulfilled when the time arrives. Seeing, then, that a literal safety is promised during a time of trouble, such as 'never was,' -and that things are prepared for those who escape, such as 'could not have entered into the heart of man,' had they not been revealed by the Spirit- no wonder that John says, 'Those who have this hope, purify themselves.' No wonder Peter says, 'Seeing you look for such things, be diligent that you may be found of him in peace, without spot'; for if not, we lose all the glory of the new heavens and the new earth. No wonder that the whole creation groans, waiting for the redemption of the body, and that the earnest expectation of the creature waits for this manifestation of the sons of God. Then, when the merciful men are taken from the evil to come, and 'the godly men cease,' 'then shall you return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked.' For it is expressly said, that when one is taken, another is left- while the one who loves his Lord's appearing, and expects it, shall meet him in the air, (as naturally as an eagle is attracted by a body,) the other is left, because of unbelief, to go through the time of the desolation of the earth.
"We next consider when these things may be; and if it should appear only probable that they may be at hand, we shall find sufficient cause for watchfulness. People in general suppose that they will not take place until our Lord descends to the earth at the end of the troubles; and as many events must happen first, namely, the restoration of the Jews, the battle of Armageddon, &c., they have a snare in their hearts to put off daily expectation. But let those who desire to be partakers of a 'better resurrection,' observe, that the re-establishment of the Jews in Jerusalem, marks the time when the church will have been removed.
"By comparing Matt. xxiv. with Luke xxi., we see that 'the tribulation' began with the dispersion of the tribe of Judah, and ends with it; and that afterwards, 'immediately after,' are the signs in sun, moon, and stars; or that period of trouble commences from which the Church is saved. This is the period mentioned by Daniel, as the last end of the indignation to the Jewish nation, and which they will have to go through, with the exception of that remnant 'according to the election of grace,' which, having been converted to the faith of Jesus, will be raptured with the Church. This last end of indignation is the time of the final development and overthrow of antichrist, and does not begin until the 'times of the Gentiles' are over; which times are commensurate with the treading down of Jerusalem. Thus, at the re-establishment of Judah, the Lord must have gathered his people out of all nations; have made up the number of his elect; and have secured them from the judgments coming on the earth.
"From hence we may perceive how very near that appearing of our Lord may be, which will either begin our blessedness or leave us to be partakers of the destruction which comes upon the earth. The Jews are now in a remarkable state of excitement, and expecting an immediate restoration. Nothing seems to be more likely than their speedy re-establishment in their own land. If, then, their restoration be near, the Lord's appearing to meet his saints must be near also.
"The sign which the Papacy affords, is one of the most striking and conclusive. Its destruction takes place during the final troubles, and after the dispersion of the Jews is over; for in Daniel we read, 'When he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.' Turning to Rev. 10:7, we see written, that at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and pouring out of the seventh vial, the mystery of God shall be finished. The seventh trumpet includes the seventh vial; and when this vial is poured out, we read, 'There
came a great voice, saying, It is done.' Just before this vial it is written, 'Behold, I come as a thief.' The midnight cry is made, and then the great earthquake takes place, in which Babylon is destroyed by a sudden and unexpected destruction.
"Let us now observe, that at the French Revolution, when, the 126O years being over, the seventh trumpet began to sound, the Papacy was, according to the prophecy, hated, and made desolate; or, as Daniel expresses it, the judgment sat, and they took away her dominion, 'to consume and to destroy unto the end.' "Her state, at the end, we find from Rev. xviii., to be one of exultation; for having risen again from depression, she cries, 'I sit a queen! and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow;' alluding to her late widowhood and sorrow, from which she now believes herself to be delivered. But what follows? Her sudden and eternal destruction! In one hour is she made desolate; with violence is she thrown down, and is never to be found again. Universal lamentation succeeds; all on earth lament over her; for the Church, having been previously translated, praises God in heaven for the judgment, 'Much people in heaven said, Alleluia!' "We certainly have abundant evidence that Popery is now on the very brink of the destruction denounced; but it is clear that this cannot take place before the restoration of the Jews and the rapture of the Church- may we, then, lift up our heads, for our redemption draws near! The 14th of Rev. affords such corroborative evidence, it must not be omitted. We have in this chapter the cry of three missionary angels in our own time, after the termination of the 126O years. First an angel preaches the everlasting gospel (ver. 6); and never did prophecy meet with more complete fulfilment. It will be enough to state, that the Bible Society alone has circulated fifteen million Bibles; and ten million have been circulated by foreign Bible Societies. Of these societies, there are now more than 7OOO; and of these, nearly 4OOO are in Great Britain. The number of versions of the Holy Scriptures is 159. The Tract Society has since its institution (at the time of the angel's flight) circulated three hundred and seventy billion publications; and its works are published in eighty-eight different languages. These two societies alone show in what manner the prophecy has been accomplished; and if we take the most superficial glance at the work of other missionary societies during this period, we shall find the evidence overwhelming.
The second angel declares the corruptions and impending fall of the Papacy; and the third angel warns men against worshiping the Beast, and receiving his mark. What do we see? -the people of the Lord everywhere obeying the voice, and coming out of the Papacy. In France, whole communities renouncing the faith of Rome; and at this moment 800 converts in Ireland, suffering persecution and starvation, rather than receive the mark of the Beast. Then immediately follows the blessedness of the raptured church. From henceforth will they be blessed, by having their glorified bodies, and receiving the reward of their works. The destruction of the Papacy succeeds. This is symbolized by a harvest of the earth. In Jer. li. 33, where the type, or literal Babylon, is spoken of, we read, 'The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor, it is time to thresh her; yet a little while, and the tune of her harvest shall come. And when the dried harvest of the anti-type (Rome) shall have been reaped, the vintage takes place, or that final battle of Armageddon, in which the Lord appears personally, and treads down his enemies.
"Let us also observe that the cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom comes,' has been long and universally raised. This is a most remarkable sign, and sufficiently convincing that midnight was come when it began. The cry has been raised before at different periods, but never so widely, or combined with those other signs for which we are commanded to watch. For now is the gospel preached as a witness in all lands.
Now is Jerusalem no longer despised, but sought out, and the Lord's servants take pleasure in her stones, and favor the dust thereof,' Psalm. cii. 13, 14. Now, many run to and fro, and knowledge is increased. Now, we see that word of Paul fulfilled to the very letter, 'A form of godliness, denying the power thereof,' which was to characterize the last of the latter days.
"Now, also, the prophetic dates clearly point to the present moment; and now is there universal peace, while wars and commotions are confessedly looked for, by those who discern the political signs of the times. These men see that a great crisis is at hand; they see that the world cannot go on in its present state, and they announce the coming storm! and does not the eye of faith perceive the same, with greater certainty and assurance? are the children of this world always to be wiser than the children of light? shall they wake, and the Church sleep? Oh, let not the day overtake us as a thief! let not the cry be unheeded, 'Behold, He comes!' but let us prepare for His appearing.
"What will be the nature of that appearing, we know not; but it is distinct from our Lord's standing on the earth, at the end of the troubles. He has himself told us that we need not fear mistaking it. Whatever the appearance may be, it will be universally seen, and the saints will be immediately caught up. And remember, 'When once the master of the house is risen up, and has shut the door,' it will be too late to prepare for this event- either you will be found ready or unready- either you will be taken, or left; and the Lord has said, if we will not watch, we shall not know the hour when the Son of man comes upon us. But if we keep the word of his patience, he will keep us 'from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try those who dwell. upon the earth."
In view of such glorious predictions- living in times so momentous- encircled by events so spirit-stirring- by signs so significant- and in the anticipation of a glory so resplendent and of a rapture so great, who would not desire, and pray, and labor to have "part in the first resurrection?" Would you, my reader? Then seek to know in your soul the power of Christ's resurrection! And, if sensible of this power, quickening you with the inner life- raising you above sin, above the world, above the bondage of the law, above self, above all earthly, carnal attractions- then labor on, and toil on, and fight on, and suffer on a while longer- for soon you shall spring from the dust, and bathing your quickened spiritual body in the beams of the resurrection morn, you shall unite with all the risen saints in singing, "O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?"