In the verses now to claim our thoughts, we have again two antithetical clauses; or, repeating our figure, antiphonal strains.

"And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it." Romans 8:11-12

"The body is dead because of sin;"--"Shall also quicken your mortal bodies." Other topics already touched upon, are embraced in the passage. We shall therefore confine ourselves to these contrasted words--answering chords--"dead" and "quicken." It is Death in conjunction with Life--or rather with Life as its sequel and triumph. It recalls the burial sentences so familiar to many, when standing by the grave--"Man that is born of a woman has but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He comes up and is cut down like a flower; he flees as it were a shadow, and never continues in one stay. In the midst of life we are in death." Followed by the inspiriting words--"In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life…Our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in Your eternal everlasting glory."

Or there may be brought before the mental vision of some of us, the impressive and never to be forgotten spectacle of a soldier's--a Christian soldier's funeral. The procession slowly pacing the streets, amid the wailing of the "Dead-march"--with the accompaniment of muffled drum--"the body is dead." But when the concluding volley is fired--the ordinary tribute borne by the brave to the brave; the dirge-notes are merged into some jubilant strains, possibly dear to the departed as he was passing through the last mortal strife.

The same antithesis as that of our present verses, often occurs throughout Sacred Scripture--"The voice said, Cry; and he said, What shall I cry? all flesh is grass, and all the goodness thereof is as the flower of the field" (Isa. 40;6). The voice said Cry--"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour comes, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live" (John 5;25 ).

Let us briefly meditate on the two themes.

"The body is dead." Some have considered this expression figurative or symbolic. It is in every respect more in harmony with the Apostle's meaning and argument, to take it in its simple and natural acceptation. His reference is to the dissolution of the mortal framework (2 Cor. 5;1). Indeed any other interpretation we think is inadmissible. The "body"--were we by that to understand "the flesh"--the animal nature, is not thus "dead because of sin." Such would unsay and contradict the repeated assertions of the seventh chapter--negative the writer's humbling lamentations over his own dual experiences. Even when most subdued, the fires of corruption and evil smoulder to the last; and death alone puts the extinguisher upon them.

It is then, as may be strongly asserted, this human body of flesh and blood, which sooner or later undergoes the doom of dissolution, of which he speaks. And this, too, even though "Christ be in you" (v. 10). There is no exemption from the universal law. Christianity and Paganism are on the same footing here. It is the testimony of wide humanity, "We must needs die." Believer and unbeliever--the children of light and the children of darkness are served heirs alike to the "covenant with death."

And, "the body is dead because of sin." "Death has passed over all men for that all have sinned!" It is sin which wrote that primal sentence from which there is no appeal--involved in that warfare from which there is no discharge--"Dust you are, and unto dust you shall return." DEATH!--we dare not mock our deepest, holiest feelings by attempting to soften your terrors. Death!--which so often, like an avalanche, comes crashing down in the midst of summer skies and smiling fields. You are indeed the great Destroyer--the disrupter of closest bonds, the unsparing implacable foe of human happiness; leaving behind you weeping eyes and broken hearts. If there were not other inspiring music, of which we shall presently speak, there could be no "Song of Songs" to wake into life and hope these hushed and gloomy corridors--nothing but unstrung harps. We could only be mute in such bewildering moments, as we wail out the dirge-notes of the insoluble mystery--"How is the strong staff broken, and the beautiful rod!"--the severance, the void, the blank, the silence! In the words of the Laureate--
"Our lives are put so far apart,
We cannot hear each other speak."

O Death, here IS your sting; O Grave, here IS your victory!

But I willingly leave the shadows of this picture, and pass to its glorious lights--from the sob in the darkness to the "Song in the night."

(V. 11) "Shall also QUICKEN your mortal bodies." It is the first introduction--the first faint warbling, in the inspired Canticle, of the believer's future triumph--the first pencilled ray, which, as the chapter closes, "breaks and broadens into glorious day."

"Our vile body" (lit., the body of our humiliation, Phil. 3;21), is to assume an incorruptible form--quickened from the dust of mortality into everlasting life. "Life in Paul's writings," says Dean Howson, "is scarcely represented adequately by 'Life.' It generally means more than this, that is, Life triumphant over death." And let us note very specially with what, in the mind of the Apostle, that quickening is associated. It is with the Resurrection of the believer's Lord--"He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies." Paul had discoursed to the Athenians at Mars Hill, on "Jesus and the Resurrection." He does so now with his Roman converts. He brings before their minds that great Resurrection day, on which the buried Conqueror had met His first followers with the "all hail" (Matt. 28;9); and when the glad tidings were afterwards borne from lip to lip--"The Lord is risen!" This, indeed, is the chief note of our Apostle's present Golden Song, and of all the after Songs of Christendom, including the greatest uninspired Song of the ages--"When you had overcome the sharpness of death, You did open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers." "If Christ be not risen," he elsewhere affirms, "your faith is vain, and you are yet in your sins." "But now has Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of those who slept" (1 Cor. 15;17, 20). "It is a faithful saying. For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him" (2 Tim. 2;11).

Am I able to appropriate this transcendent truth, that in a partial sense now, and in a full sense hereafter, I am sharer in the Resurrection-life of my divine Redeemer? The great problem of all time has been--"If a man die shall he live again?" Paganism with its elysium, mingling with a dim land of shadows (Tartarus and Acheron)--gave a feeble, trembling response, like,
"An infant crying in the night,
An infant crying for the light,
And with no language but a cry."

The noblest intellect of the olden world says, hypothetically--"If there be a life beyond?" Even Athens, with all her boasted enlightenment, had one of her favorite altars in the Temple of Minerva Polias dedicated to 'Oblivion'. Nature presents, in her great parable-book, some significant guesses and types, but nothing more--of "the secret hidden from ages and generations." In the upspringing of the seed buried under the clods and snows of winter; or the bursting of the insect from its cocoon prison-house, soaring to heaven on wings of purple and gold. But all these oracles were unsatisfactory and ambiguous, until Christ came. Rolling back the stone from the sepulcher of Golgotha, He proclaimed Himself--"I am the Resurrection and the life;"--coupling with this a guarantee for the life and resurrection of His people--"Because I live, you shall live also." He, the first fruits, was presented before the Heavenly Altar, the pledge of the vast harvest that was to follow--"Afterward those who are Christ's at His coming." We need not wonder at the Apostle's emphatic words in a subsequent strain which we shall come to consider--"It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again."

Blessed Savior! may I be enabled to "know You, and the power of Your resurrection" (Phil. 3;10). I would enter by faith Your vacant tomb, and hear the angel-announcement--"He is not here, He is risen as He said; come, see the place where the Lord lay." No, more; I would see in all this, what disarms the sting in the first clause of the passage now before us--"the body is dead because of SIN;"--for I see, in You, death and sin alike doomed. In You the grave has become the robing-room for immortality. So completely has Your dying vanquished the last enemy and his dominion, that You are said to have "abolished death," and to have "brought life and immortality to light." I can understand now the meaning of Paul elsewhere, when, in enumerating the contents of the Christian's charter--the roll and record of the believer's privileges, he includes the startling entry--"All things are yours…DEATH" (1 Cor. 3;22). He was writing to the world's Metropolis--to those familiar with their Appian Way--the long street of tombs, ending in the Via Sacra with the Forum and Capitol. Earth in a wider sense is one long Appian Way--a vista and avenue of sepulchers, with the universal inscription--"Sin has reigned unto death." But, through Him who has raised up Christ from the dead, it resolves itself into a "Sacred Approach," leading to the City whose walls are salvation and its gates praise--on whose entrance--its triumphal arch--the words are emblazoned--"And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21;4).

Meanwhile, in the prospect of that glorious quickening, when His people will be changed into "the body of His glory,"--may it be my longing and aspiration, that "the spirit"--the renewed, quickened, and regenerated spirit--may be "life because of righteousness." May I be imbued with a spirit instinct with holiness. Above all, desiring to be "like" my risen Lord. The exhortation of the Apostle of love seems the appropriate one in this longing after purity and consecration of heart and life--"And every man that has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure" ( 1 John 3;3). It is a solemn test and touchstone which ushers in our present verses--"IF Christ be in you!" Is my life now "hidden with Christ in God"? Is His love enthroned in my heart, and is it expelling all less worthy aspirations? Partaker of this Resurrection-life of Jesus, let me so rise above the fear of natural death, that seen in the morning light of the great coming Easter it may appear like a "going home."

And may not all this be deepened and intensified, when I think of it in connection with the beloved dead? Those rayless eyes will be lighted again. The music of that hushed voice will be awakened again. In the certainty of that quickening, we are lifted far above the poor Xaipe (the farewell) on Pagan tombs. As we pace these dark and doleful realms of death, the sound as of the silver trumpet is heard. It is a Song of Songs in long antecedent years, sung by no Apostle but by the Lord of life Himself; as looking down the vista of ages, He exclaims--"I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death; O death, I will be your plague; O grave, I will be your destruction" (Hos. 13;14). "Your dead shall live;…awake and sing, you that dwell in dust" (Isa. 26;19).

Hear how, in other beautiful words of comfort, our Apostle connects the Resurrection of Christ with the glorious awaking of His sleeping saints. It is not the poet's "Sleep, the sleep that knows no waking." "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." (1 Thess. 4;13-17). "Together with them;" and "forever with the Lord!" Death is the transmuting and transforming of human relations into a life which is impossible in the earthly sphere. It is, with reverence we call it--a Transfiguration on the Mount of Heaven.

This meditation cannot be more appropriately closed, than by quoting two passages which seem written as if an express comment on the verses which have claimed our attention--two sweet melodies in full harmony with our Song of Songs;

"All honor to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is by his boundless mercy that God has given us the privilege of being born again. Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead." 1 Peter 1:3

For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die. When this happens—when our perishable earthly bodies have been transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die—then at last the Scriptures will come true:

"Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?"

For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord! 1 Cor. 15:53-57

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