The Glory of the Redeemer in His Resurrection
And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Rev. 1:17-18
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Rev. 1:17-18
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, "Don't be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one who died. Look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. Rev. 1:17-18
We now stand upon the threshold of a subject second to none, yet considered in the grandeur of its character, in the immensity of its results, and in the glory with which it encircles the person and the work of our adorable Redeemer. It is that single doctrine of the Bible, the existence of which authenticates the truth, and develops the beauty of all the others. Indeed, it is to Christianity what the soul is to the body, what the foundation is to the building, what the key-stone is to the arch- it would seem necessary to the very existence of revelation, imparting vitality, substance, and security to every doctrine of the inspired word. The life of Jesus is the life of the Bible- the life of the believer- the life of glory. The one fact- the resurrection of Christ- would appear to be the fountain of life to the Church of God in all ages of the world. It throws back a quickening influence, felt by prophets and by patriarchs; it is the life of the Church now, and it will, to the remotest period of time, transmit an influence which shall be felt by the last vessel of mercy. Impressed thus with its vast importance, its essential relation to the truth of the Bible, and to the existence of the Church of God, we humbly enter upon its discussion. And oh may the Eternal Spirit of truth so anoint both the writer and the reader, that this glorious and precious doctrine may come to our minds with all the power, freshness, and sweetness of a newly-discovered, heaven-descending doctrine!
We have placed at the head of this chapter a sublime portion of the inspired word, which, while it embodies the doctrine before us, places it in a lucid and convincing point of view. At the first glance, it may seem to direct the eye rather to the glorified humanity of our Lord, than specifically to the single fact of His resurrection. But a little reflection will convince the mind that the two doctrines are closely interwoven the one with the other; and the appearance of Jesus in a state of ascension-glory, necessarily involves His resurrection-glory, and so places the master-fact of the Bible beyond the region of doubt. The passages are affirmative, from His own lips, of the risen life of Jesus; and as this is the point now demanding our consideration, a brief exposition of the words may greatly assist our investigation.
The occasion on which they were spoken is deeply instructive. Our adorable Emmanuel frequently reveals the most brilliant beams of His glory in seasons of the most painful trial and deepest gloom. The dark providential dispensations of God often bring out in richer radiance the glories of His beloved Son, as the darkness of night reveals more distinctly and brightly the existence and beauty of the heavenly bodies. For the manifestation of this remarkable revelation of His risen glory to His servant, our Lord selects precisely such an occasion- an occasion which, to the eye of reason, would appear the most unpropitious and improbable; but to faith's eye, ranging beyond second causes, the most appropriate for such a revelation of Jesus. Domitian, though not released from his fearful responsibility for the act, was but the instrument of executing the eternal purpose of grace and love. God's hand was moving, and moving, too, as it often does, in the "thick darkness." Exiled as John was by this Roman emperor to a desolate island of the Aegean Sea, "for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ," the Redeemer was but preparing the way for the revelation of those visions of glory, than which none more sublime or more precious ever broke upon the eye of mortal man. God was not only placing His beloved servant in a right posture to behold them, but was also most wisely and graciously training and disciplining His mind spiritually and humbly to receive them. There are two features in the Lord's manifestation of His glory to His saints worthy of our serious notice. As in the case of the Apostle John, there is often a preparation for the manifestation. The believer is placed in a position suited to a proper view of the object. A holy disciplining is employed. There is a bringing down, a laying low, a soul-emptying and humbling process, often most trying and painful, but most needed in preparing the Lord's way into the soul. Other objects of love and beauty are removed, other glory is dimmed, the palace is "swept and garnished," the eye is "anointed with fresh eye-salve," then the Lord of glory enters– then Jesus draws near- reveals His beauty, manifests His glory, and unfolds His love.
The second feature is illustrated by the case of the Apostle Paul, and marks the subsequent process through which the soul often passes. Through the abundance of the revelations of the Redeemer's glory that are sometimes made, the Lord has now to fortify the soul against the risings of self; and lest, through the clinging infirmities of our unsanctified nature, we should be "exalted above measure," a "messenger of Satan" is sent to bring and keep us low in the dust before God.
But mark how this dark and trying incident was making for the good of this holy exile. Banished though he was from the saints, from society, and from all the means of grace, man could not banish him from the presence of God, nor persecution separate him from the love of Christ. Patmos, to his view, became resplendent with the glory of the risen Savior- the reconciled God and Father was his sanctuary- the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, overshadowed him- and the Lord's day, already so hallowed and precious to him in its association with the resurrection of the Lord, broke upon him with unknown effulgence, sanctity, and joy. Oh, how richly favored was this beloved disciple! Great as had been his previous privileges- journeying with Christ, beholding His miracles, hanging on His lips, reposing on His bosom- yet never had he been so privileged- never had he learned so much of Jesus, nor had seen so much of His glory, nor had drunk so deeply of His love, nor had experienced so richly His unutterable tenderness, gentleness, and sympathy, and never had he spent such a Lord's day as now, the solitary inhabitant of a lonely isle though he was. Oh, where is there a spot which Jesus cannot irradiate with His glory- where is there solitude which He cannot sweeten with His presence- where is there suffering, privation, and loss, which He cannot more than recompense by His sustaining grace and soothing love- and where is there a trembling and prostrate soul, which His "right hand" cannot lift up and soothe? This, then, was the occasion on which the Lord appeared in so glorious a form, with such soothing words and sublime revelations, to His beloved servant. We now proceed to the subject before us.
The resurrection-life of Jesus, as we have remarked, is the life of the child of God. Before more fully going into the consideration of this great truth, it may be profitable briefly to trace the close relation which this one fact sustains to the veracity of the Bible itself; for if this doctrine be false, it falsifies the sacred word, neutralizes the faith, and annihilates the hope of the Church. "If Christ has not been risen," argues the apostle, "then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain; yes, and we are found false witnesses for God. And if Christ has not been raised, you are yet in your sins. Then they also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished." Now, as on this one fact the truth of the Gospel hinged, and the life of the Church was suspended, and the whole glory of the Redeemer hung, and events the most stupendous and solemn were poised, we wonder not that the apostles placed this doctrine in the very foreground of their ministry; everywhere, and on all occasions, proclaiming it with marvellous boldness, power, and success, the testimony of their own conscience, and the descending evidence of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness that it was true. "And with great power the apostles gave witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all." How necessary, then, would it appear that, in their preaching, they should lay great stress upon this doctrine, proclaiming it as men who knew it to be no lie, and who, in the face of the rack, and the boiling cauldron, and the cross, and the scourge, and the prison, and the banishment, undaunted and unmoved, should press it to their hearts, and hold it high- the glorious truth of God!
If the tomb still enclosed the lifeless body of their Master, then were made good the assertions, and then were realized the predictions, of His enemies, that He was an impostor, and His religion an imposition. If the apostles could prove, as eye-witnesses of what they asserted, that the tomb of their Lord was empty, and that nothing of Him remained in it but the shroud that had wrapped His form, and the "napkin that was about His head;" then would they confound their enemies, strike the death-blow to Judaism, and triumphantly establish the truth of Christianity. As it was everything to the success of their cause, to prove that Christ was alive, so it was everything to the Sanhedrin, in their plot to defeat their cause, to disprove that Christ was alive. Both saw that the verification or the falsification of this single fact was of the first moment. Everything hung upon it. The chief priests and rulers, driven to desperation, affirmed that the body was stolen; the apostles, strong, but calm, in the belief of the truth of what they asserted, affirmed that the body was quickened. Vain and weak attempt of the Jewish council to defeat the evidence of a fact, the truth of which they could not gainsay! The body stolen! The grave robbed! By whom? By His enemies? It was their interest to have allowed the body of our Lord to remain undisturbed in the grave, that the proof of His imposture might be the more palpable and overwhelming. Surely they would not have taken a step tending to impart even the semblance of truth to the predictions of Christ, and the declarations of His friends. But supposing that they had secreted the body, why did they not, if in their power, produce it? This would have decided the question of His resurrection in their favor, and have stifled in its birth, at once and for ever, the infant and rising religion. By His disciples? But who can prove that they stole the body? Is it probable that, if confederated to deceive, they would witness against themselves? And if the soldiers were awake, would they have allowed themselves to be over come by a handful of unarmed and timid men? And is it likely that the disciples, thus unarmed and timid, would have opposed their weakness to the strength of a Roman guard, strongly armed, and awed by the fear of certain death, to the most sleepless vigilance? Or would they have thus periled their lives for a man who had so shamefully deceived, and so cruelly abandoned them? Or if, as the rulers would have made it appear, the soldiers were asleep, how came they to know that the disciples secretly, and by night, took the body away?
But we turn to the testimony of the apostles themselves. How unlikely were they to impose upon the credulity of the world and the Church! They were unlearned and unsophisticated men, incapable of a plot. They were poor and uninfluential men, possessing neither the means nor the power of executing, even had they the skill to conceive it. And yet how clearly and triumphantly do they establish the great fact for which they contended! The Apostle Paul thus condenses their personal and unanimous testimony. "I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures; and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve: after that He was seen by above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James; then by all the apostles. And last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time." What further testimony need we than this?
But what are SOME OF THE GREAT TRUTHS CONFIRMED BY THE RESURRECTION of Jesus, and in the belief of which the believer is built up, by this glorious and life-inspiring doctrine? They are many and vast. Indeed, it would not be too much to affirm of the entire system of Divine truth, that it depended mainly for its evidence upon the single fact of Christ's resurrection from the dead. In the first place, it establishes the Bible to be the revelation of God. If the types which shadowed forth, and the prophecies which predicted, the resurrection of the Lord, received not their substance and their fulfilment in the accomplishment of that fact, then the Scriptures were not true, the types were meaningless, and the predictions were false. For thus do they unite in setting forth this glorious and precious truth. First, as it regards the types. What was the receiving back of Isaac after he had been laid upon the altar, and the knife raised to slay him, but the shadowing forth of Christ's resurrection? As the binding of him upon the wood prefigured the sacrificial death of Christ, so the unbinding of him from the altar, and his surrender to his father the third day from the time that he had received the command to sacrifice him, prefigured the risen life of Christ. Significant type! radiant with the glory of the risen Jesus! In the one part we see Him dying, in the other part we see Him rising. The one shadows forth His atoning sacrifice, the other His risen glory. And here did the mind of Abraham rest. His towering faith rose above the type; he looked beyond the shadow. His soul embraced the crucified and the risen Lord. Strong in the exercise of a prospective faith, he beheld before him as vividly, and he reposed in as firmly, the dying and the living Redeemer, as did John when the sweet voice broke upon his ear, "I am He that lives, and was dead." "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac. . . . Accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead from where also he received him in a figure."
A part of the ceremony observed in the purification of the leper, points to the same glorious truth. "Two birds alive and clean," were to be brought to the priest. One was to be "killed in an earthen vessel over running water." The priest was then to "dip the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed," and to "let it go out of the city into the open fields." The bird killed in an earthen vessel was a type of the human nature of our Lord crucified for the leprosy of sin, the atoning virtue of whose precious blood is of continual efficacy, typified by the running water; for the "blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." The living bird dipped in the blood of the bird slain, and then let free, was the type of the resurrection life of Jesus, who, as the great High Priest, "ever lives to make intercession for us," by pleading within the veil the merits of His atoning blood.
The type of the slain and the living goat embodies in vivid outline the same essential doctrine. Aaron was commanded to kill the goat of the sin-offering, and bring his blood within the veil. But upon the head of the live goat he was to place both his hands, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and then to send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness. "And he shall let go the goat in the wilderness." Our adorable Lord was the glorious substance of this expressive type. Both parts met, and were realized in Him. "He was delivered for our offences, and rose again for our justification."
The prophetic Scriptures are equally as explicit in setting forth the resurrection of Christ. It will not be necessary that we quote them accompanied with any lengthened comment, as in a former part of this work allusion has already been made to the Scripture prophecies concerning the Redeemer. "You are my Son, this day have I begotten You." "My flesh shall also rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in hands, nor will You suffer Your Holy One to see corruption." "I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." Now mark how exactly these portions of the prophetic Scriptures are quoted by the Apostle Paul, and strictly applied by him to the resurrection of Christ. "But God raised Him from the dead; and He was seen many days by them who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses unto the people. And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God has fulfilled the same unto us, their children, in that He raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second Psalm, You are my Son; this day have I begotten You. And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he says also in another Psalm, You shall not suffer Your Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation, by the will of God, fell asleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: but He whom God raised again, saw no corruption." How brightly does the doctrine of the risen Savior shine throughout this remarkable portion of God's holy word! Truly the life of Jesus is the life of the Scriptures. Again, "Your dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise." "I know that my Redeemer lives." Thus does the resurrection of Christ from the dead confirm the truth of God's holy word. The types find their substance, and the prophecies their fulfilment, in Him who was emphatically the "plague of death, and the destruction of the grave."
The resurrection of the Redeemer established the truth of His Godhead. Thus the Holy Spirit speaks by the apostle- "And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." His miracles had already proved the truth of His Divine Sonship. Yet there wanted one other evidence, the crowning one of all- the resurrection. This one evidence would put the final seal to the truth of His Deity. If not, then all that He had previously said, predicted, and done, would prove but to have been, as His enemies have asserted, the stratagem of a designing man, attempting to impose upon the credulity of a few devoted but deluded followers. But this return to life on the exact day which He had predicted, breaking, by the exercise of His Divine power, from the cold embrace of death and the imprisonment of the grave, put at rest forever the question of His Deity, and declared Him to be the Son of God. Oh, how truly and properly Divine did He now appear! August and convincing as had been all the previous attestations of His Godhead, His life one succession of the most astonishing and brilliant achievements of Divine power and goodness, diseases healed, sight restored, demons ejected, the dead raised, tempests hushed, and winds stilled, His death marked by prodigies of terrible and surpassing wonder and sublimity- the earth heaving beneath His feet, the sun darkening above Him, the graves opening around Him; yet never had His Godhead shone forth with such demonstrative power and resplendent glory, as when He broke from the tomb and rose triumphant over hell, death, and the grave. Then did He fulfil this prediction, and redeem this pledge- "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again." Receding for awhile from Communion with life- as if to create a pause in nature, which would awaken the interest and fix the gaze of the intelligent universe upon one stupendous event- He disappeared within the very domain of the "king of terrors," wrapped around Him its shroud of darkness, and laid Himself down- Essential Life locked in the embrace of death, immortality slumbering in the tomb! But He rose again! bursting from the cold embrace, and awaking from the mysterious slumber, He came back to life, all radiant, immortal, and Divine!
Saint of God! need you a further and stronger evidence that your faith has credited no cunningly devised fable? that He to whose guardianship you have committed your precious soul, is able to keep it until the morning of your own resurrection glory? Behold it in the risen life of the incarnate God! He has come up from the grave, to make good all His previous claims to Deity, thus to encourage and confirm your belief in the truth, dignity, and glory of His person, and to assure you that He that "believes in Him shall not be ashamed." Now may you take up the triumphant strain, as it falls from the lips of the departing apostle, prolonging it until another shall catch it from your expiring tongue: "I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day."
The resurrection of Christ was the Father's great seal to the truth of His Son's mission, and the public expression of His entire satisfaction with, and full acceptance of, His atoning work. The quickening of Christ's body is, therefore, frequently ascribed to the Father, "Whom God has raised up," "But God raised Him from the dead," "The working of His mighty power which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead," "Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father." Participating as the Son Himself and the Holy Spirit did in this work- for it was a work employing equally the power, and involving equally the glory, of the triune God- it is yet particularly spoken of as the act of the Father. And why? Because at His hands His Son had received the great commission- by Him He had been invested with the mediatorial office- and by Him sent to discharge the claims of law and justice in behalf of His covenant people. Who, therefore, but the Father, could authenticate the truth of His mission, receive back His office, release Him from the obligation, and accept the work at His hands? This He did "when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand." Here was the grand evidence of the perfection and acceptance of His sacrifice. The atoning work of Jesus was in itself perfect and complete. It was all that God demanded, all that the Church required, and all that law and justice asked. Yet there was needed one proof that this work was accepted by God, and was Satisfactory to Divine justice. On the cross He had uttered that wondrous cry, which sent gladness through all heaven, and dismay through all hell- "It is finished!" But, lo, He dies! The Captain of our salvation is conquered! The promised Victor is vanquished! He is laid in the grave! The stone covers Him! The earth imprisons Him! What proof have we now that He was more than mortal? what evidence that He was God? What Divine seal is affixed to the great charter of redemption? What pledge have we that it is complete? What security against the law's loud thunder, and the consuming flames of justice- against the wrath of the offended God, and the condemnation that is to come? In a word, how may we know that all the Divine perfections are harmonized in our salvation, and that "whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish, but have everlasting life?" Behold, the Father raises Him from the dead! This is the evidence- this is the seal- this is the pledge- and this the security. We need even ask no more. It satisfied God, it satisfies us. Then did God "rest in His love;" and then, if ever, did He rejoice over His Church with singing. It was a sublime, a momentous event. It was bringing forth the top-stone amid the shouts of angels, and placing it upon that finished work of which His death had been the foundation. At that moment all created intelligences were summoned to witness the great and final Seal affixed to redemption's perfect work. And while every eye was thus intently bent upon the yielding grave, the Father, in that stupendous act of His power and love, utters His solemn voice, "This is my beloved Son, in whose person I delight, and with whose work I am well satisfied." Oh what majesty now encircled the rising form of the incarnate God! Never had He appeared so truly the Savior, never so illustriously the Redeemer, and never so perfectly the Mediator and Advocate as now- sealed by God the Father, quickened by God the Spirit, and radiant with the beams of His own Divine glory.
But not only was it His personal release from all the obligations He had assumed as the sin-bearer of His people, but His resurrection also involved the complete justification of His Church. Obeying, suffering, and rising as the Representative, the Surety, the Head of His Church, may we not say, that what He did was not so much His own act, as that of the Church in Him? He obeyed not for Himself, nor for Himself did He die and rise again, but for His "body, the Church." His resurrection, therefore, was as much His Church's entire release, discharge, and justification, as it was His own. Then was the glorious sentence of acquittal passed- then transpired the great act of justification. The emerging of the Redeemer from the grave, was the emerging of the redeemed from all condemnation. His release from the cold grasp of the destroyer was their release from the iron hand of the law. "He was taken from prison and from judgment;" and as He passed out of the court of God's justice, and from the prison-house of death, the Church, purchased with His blood, passed out with Him, legally and fully discharged, exclaiming as the last barrier yielded, and the last fetter broke, "Who is He that condemns? it is Christ that died, yes rather, that is RISEN AGAIN!" On this ground, therefore, the apostle argues that righteousness is imputed to us, "if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;, who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our (declared) justification." Precious Redeemer! What surpassing glory beams forth from Your emptied sepulcher!
It was also the consummation of His glorious victory. Until this moment, the Redeemer had all the appearance of one vanquished in the great fight. He was left slain upon the battle-field. Indeed, it would appear that He had really endured a momentary defeat. He was now under the dominion of death; and as death was the consequence and penalty of sin, so long as He was subject to its power, He still lay beneath the sins of His people. Cancelled although they were by the blood He had just shed, the great evidence of their remission did not, and could not, transpire until the resurrection had passed. What gloom now enshrouded the Church of God! The Sun of Righteousness was setting in darkness and in blood; and with it were descending into the tomb, the hopes of patriarchs and prophets, of seers and apostles. The "king of terrors " had laid low his illustrious victim; and the cold earth had closed upon His sacred body, mangled and lifeless. Oh, what a victory did hell and sin, death and the grave, now seem to have achieved! But the "triumphing of the wicked is short." In three days the tomb, at the mighty fiat of Jehovah, unveiled its bosom, and yielded back its Creator and Lord. The Sun of Righteousness ascended again in cloudless glory and peerless majesty, to set no more forever. The Church of God, now "begotten again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," arose from the dust and put on her beautiful garments. Now was the scene changed. His enemies, no longer wearing even the semblance of victory, were overthrown and vanquished. Hell was disappointed, and its gates forever closed against the redeemed. Sin was thrown to an infinite distance, and "death had no more dominion over Him, God having loosed its pains, because it was not possible that He should be holden by it. He rose the mighty and the illustrious Conqueror. And all this conquest, let it not be forgotten, was achieved in behalf of the chosen and the beloved people. It was our battle that He fought, it was our victory that He won. Therefore, called though we are to "wrestle against the principalities and against the powers," and exhorted though we are to "take unto us the whole armor of God," we yet are confronted with enemies already vanquished. It would seem as though we were summoned, not so much to go out upon the field of battle, as upon the field of conquest; not so much to combat with the foe, as to gather up the spoils of victory. For what is every successful conflict with our spiritual adversaries- what is every corruption mortified- what is every temptation resisted- what is every sin overcome- but a showing forth the great victory already won by the Captain of our salvation? Every triumph of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a regenerate man, is a display of the triumph of Him who, in hanging on the cross, and in rising from the grave, "spoiled the principalities and the powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it."
But there is a most important and blessed view of the glory of the Redeemer's resurrection still to be considered; a view which will be found to bring this essential doctrine of our faith with living power to the soul, causing each believer in Jesus to feel a personal interest in, and identity with, it. The resurrection of Christ from the grave is the spiritual, assured, and eternal life of the Church. In this light, the risen life of Jesus is everything to the believer's salvation, as it is everything to the entire system of Christianity. Death seemed to rest upon all that related to the kingdom of Christ, during the short period that He Himself continued under its dominion. It was a three days of fearful, agonizing suspense. If there ever was silence in heaven, may we not suppose it was during that period? The salvation of millions yet unborn, as of millions who had died in the faith of Jesus, and the everlasting honor and glory of the triune Jehovah, were suspended upon that single event. But He rose again, the death of death, the life of the Church. The quickening of His natural body was the quickening of His spiritual body. Here we are again brought back to that elevating and sanctifying truth- the federal relation of Christ to His Church- the responsible headship of Jesus- His perfect oneness (implying more than mere union) with His Church. We have seen that in dying, His death was the death of the Church in Him- its death to the claims of the law, to the penalty of justice, to the imputation of sin, and to the power of death itself. Therefore says the apostle, "I am crucified with Christ," "Dead with Christ," "Reckon yourselves to be dead to sin." "You also are become dead to the law." Now, as all the death of the believer comes through the sacrificial death of Christ, so also does all the life of the believer come through the risen life of Christ. And in language equally as clear and explicit is this corresponding truth set forth. A few passages will be sufficient proof. "God has quickened us together with Christ," "risen With Christ," "Christ lives in me," "Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also (emblematically) you are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised Him from the dead. And you has He quickened together with Him." Here, then, are two grand truths placed before us, written as with a sunbeam- the believer's oneness with Christ, and Christ the new and spiritual life of the believer.
Now let us attempt to unfold the great and glorious truth- THE MANIFESTATION OF CHRIST'S RISEN LIFE IN THE SOUL OF A CHILD OF GOD. The apostle, in the following passage, places in beautiful and striking contrast the two opposite elements of the Christian character- the death and the life. "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." That there is a literal signification which we are to attach to the "dying of the Lord Jesus," as it applied to the case of the apostle, there cannot be a doubt. We have shown that the great fact which everywhere, and on all occasions, they asserted, was the resurrection of their Master. If this fact were proved- as proved it was beyond all possibility of doubt- then their argument was a triumphant one, that the religion of Jesus was no fable, and that He Himself was no impostor. But when, in place of confuting this doctrine by argument, and disproving this fact by evidence, the Sanhedrin strove by violence, persecution, and cruelty, to silence the propagators of this statement, was it not naturally to be inferred that they knew the falsehood of their own account, though unwilling to admit the truth of the apostles? In vain did they endeavor, by stripes, and imprisonments, and torture, to compel the apostles to "speak no more in His name;" in vain did they substitute power for proof, and cruelty for argument; undaunted and undismayed they girded themselves to their work, "and with great power gave they witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus."
Now the "bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus," in its literal acceptation of the words, consisted of the persecutions to which the apostles submitted in defense of the doctrine which they so firmly believed and so zealously preached. And was this, we ask, no evidence of the truth of the fact which they affirmed? Would they have submitted to the scorn and the ridicule, to the persecution and the suffering, which they endured, had they been conscious that they were propagating a falsehood, and were palming a deceit upon the world? There is a limit to enthusiasm. There is a line, beyond which an impostor dares not pass. But the apostles, in "taking joyfully the spoiling of their goods," in cheerfully exposing themselves to peril and to death for the sake of the doctrine which they affirmed, demonstrated their own belief that Jesus was alive; and their believing that He was alive, was no small proof that He actually lived.
But the "bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus" has a deeper meaning than this. We are not to restrict its experience to the early and suffering days of Christianity, nor its meaning to that scathed and scarred appearance of the earthly tabernacle, to which Paul, in another place, thus touchingly alludes: "From henceforth let no man trouble me for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Every truly regenerate individual bears about with him the "marks of the dying of the Lord Jesus." "You are dead," says the apostle; and again, "Our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed." And when thus the flesh is crucified, with its affections and lusts, and the redeemed body is presented to God a living sacrifice upon the altar of a holy and filial obedience, then most spiritually, most emphatically is it true of us, "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus."
But turn we now to the contemplation of the glorious truth which the Holy Spirit has placed in soothing contrast with this: "That the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." The one great fact of which the believing soul needs to be assured, is that Jesus lives. Convince him that Christ is risen, that He is alive at the right hand of God, and you have supplied a mighty lever, which raises him above the deepest agitations, changes, trials, and conflicts of this mortal life. But oh, who can assure him of this, but the living Savior Himself? and who can enable him to press it to his heart as a personal truth, but the Holy Spirit, the great testifier of Christ, and the witness of the soul?
NOW IN WHAT POINTS OF VIEW IS THE LIFE OF JESUS MANIFEST IN THE SAINTS?
In the first place, their conversion to God is a convincing and precious evidence that Jesus is alive. In the regeneration wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit, the life of Jesus is imparted. He breathes into the soul morally dead the breath of life, and it becomes a living soul. Until, in the exercise of His distinct office, this Divine Person of the adorable Trinity convinces of sin, quickens and brings the soul to Christ for acceptance, risen with Christ although that soul mystically is, it yet remains totally dead to, and insensible of, its great privilege, an utter stranger to that new life which springs from oneness with the "second Adam." The new nature which the eternal Spirit now imparts is nothing less than the creation of the life of Christ in the soul; yes, even more than this, it is the bringing of Christ Himself into the soul to dwell there the "hope of glory" through time, and glory itself through eternity.
Here, then, is an evidence that Jesus is alive, to the renewed mind the most convincing and precious. Thus quickened by the Eternal Spirit of God, believers become temples of Christ. Jesus lives in them. "I in them." "If Christ be in you, the body is dead," "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him." "Know you not that Christ is in you?" "Christ lives in me." "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you." "Christ in you the hope of glory." Thus every believer is a living witness that Jesus is alive, because He bears about with Him the very life of Jesus. By the indwelling of the Spirit, and realized by faith, Christ abides in the believer, and the believer abides in Christ. "I in them, and You in me, that they may be made perfect in one; that they also may be one in us."
We have already stated that this glorious entrance of Christ within the soul transpires at the period of the new birth. What, then, is every new conversion, every fresh trophy of redeeming grace, but a new manifestation to the universe of the life of Jesus? Contemplate the spectacle! I see the sinner pursuing his mad career of folly, rebellion, and guilt. He is, perhaps, a blasphemer- a sceptic- a sensualist- a lover of pleasure- a hater of God, and a despiser of the Lord Jesus. Suddenly he is arrested. I see him bowed to the earth, his heart broken with sorrow, his spirit crushed beneath the burden of sin. He smites upon his breast; he acknowledges his transgression, confesses his iniquity, deplores it in the dust. Presently I see him lift his eye and rest it upon the bleeding Savior- he gazes, wonders, believes, adores- is saved! By whom is this miracle of grace wrought? The Spirit has descended to testify that Jesus is alive. That newly-converted soul, so lately dead in sins, but now quickened with Christ; that sinner but recently dwelling among the tombs, whom no human power could tame, now sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind- demonstrates that Christ is in heaven, and is alive for evermore. Oh, it is the heaven-descending life of Jesus! It is, so to speak, a second incarnation of the Son of God, assuming, as it were, another tabernacle of flesh, investing Himself with another veil of mortality. Show me, then, a soul just passed from death unto life, and I will show you an evidence that Jesus is alive at the right-hand of God.
But not only is Jesus the actual, but He is also the relative, life of the believer- the life of his pardon and acceptance. See it in reference to the blood of Emmanuel. It is the blood of Him who was essential life. And, although springing from His pure humanity, essential life gave it all its virtue and its power. The resurrection of Jesus confirmed forever the infinite value and sovereign efficacy of His atoning blood. Oh what virtue has it now, flowing from the life of Jesus! It has removed transgression to the distance of infinity, and to the duration of eternity, from the Church. Washed whiter than snow, all iniquity forgiven, all sin blotted out, the believer stands before God a pardoned soul. And oh! what life does he find in the constant application to his conscience of the atoning blood! One drop, what peace does it give! what confidence does it inspire! what vigor does it impart to faith, and power to prayer, and cheerfulness to obedience! Oh, it is living blood. He who spilt it, lives to plead it- lives to apply it- lives to sustain its virtue, until there shall be no more sins to cancel, and no more sinners to save. "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin," and "speaks better things than the blood of Abel," because it possesses undying life. Behold, then, beloved, how manifestly is Jesus the life of your pardon. Oh! as fresh, as efficacious, as precious is that blood at this moment, as when it sprang warm and gushing from the pierced side of the glorious Redeemer. It is life-giving and life-sustaining blood. Here we see the antitype of the "living bird dipped in the blood of the bird slain," and then allowed to go free, suspended mid-heaven upon the wing of unrestricted and joyous life. As the living bird bore upon its plumage the crimson symbol of atonement- death and life thus strangely blended- what was the glorious gospel truth it shadowed forth, but the close and indissoluble union of the pardoning blood with the resurrection life of our incarnate God? And, O believer! lose not sight of the deep significance of the "running water" over which the bird was slain. That flowing stream was the image of the perpetual life of the blood of Jesus. And it bids you, in language too expressive to misunderstand, and too persuasive to resist, to draw near and wash. Glorious truth that it teaches! Precious privilege that it enforces! the repeated, the perpetual going to Emmanuel's atoning, life-giving, life-sustaining blood, thus keeping the conscience clean and at peace with God. My beloved reader, no experimental and practical truth does this work enforce of greater moment, of more precious nature, and more closely interwoven with your happy, holy walk, than this. Your peace of mind- your confidence in God- your thirsting for holiness- your filial access- your support in the deepest trial- spring from your soul's constant repose beneath the cross. What is your present case? what is the sin that wounds your spirit? what the guilt that burdens your conscience? what the grief that bows your heart? what the fearfulness and trembling that agitate and rock your mind? what gives you anxious days and sleepless nights? See yonder stream! It is crimson, It is flowing, It is vivifying with the life-blood of Jesus. Repair to it by faith. Go now- go at this moment.
Have you gone before? go yet again. Have you bathed in it once? bathe in it yet again. See I it is a "running stream." Cast your sin, your guilt, your burden, your sorrow upon its bosom; it shall bear them away, never, never more to be found. Oh deal closely with the atoning, life-giving blood! Were I here to end my task, penning not another sentence, this should be its closing one- deal closely, constantly, believingly with Emmanuel's blood. When you do rise in the morning, and when you do lie down at night- wash in the blood. When you go to duties, and when you come from duties- wash in the blood. When your deepest sigh has been heaved, when your holiest tear bas been shed, when your most humbling confession has been made, when your sincerest resolution has been formed, when your holiest covenant has been renewed, when body, soul, and spirit have again been fully, freely, unreservedly dedicated- wash in the blood. When you draw near to the holy Lord God, and spread out your case before Him- plead the blood. When Satan accuses, and conscience condemns, and death terrifies, and judgment alarms- flee to the blood. Oh! nothing but the atoning blood of the spotless Lamb, gives you acceptance at any moment with God. And this, at any moment, will conduct you into the secret chamber of His presence, and bow His ear and heart to your faintest whisper, and to your deepest need.
Christ is equally the life of the righteousness that justifies. He was "raised again," or restored to life, for our justification." The believer stands before God in the righteousness of the living Head. The resurrection from the dead was God's acknowledgment of the perfection, and His full acceptance of the obedience of His dear Son, as the basis of His people's justification. By this stupendous act of His power and glory, He proclaimed the eternal acquittal of His Church. Never did the work of our great Surety appear so complete; never did the robe of righteousness, wrought by His life of obedience, and steeped in His own blood upon the cross, appear so truly Divine, so glistening with beauty, as when He broke the scepter of death, and rose, resplendent with living glory, from the tomb- "the Lord our righteousness."
Here is a truth, the vastness of which is only equaled by its unspeakable preciousness. The Lord Jesus is the life of our acceptance with God. We stand as believers in the righteousness of the living Head. Within the veil He has entered, "now to appear in the presence of God for us," presenting all His people each moment complete in Himself. It is a present justification. "You are complete in Him."
"Accepted in the Beloved." "Justified from all things." Perfection in himself, the enlightened soul utterly repudiates. Completeness in anything that he is, or has done, he totally rejects. Incomplete his deepest repentance- incomplete his strongest faith- incomplete his best obedience- incomplete his most costly sacrifice- low in the lowest dust does he lay himself. Too low he cannot think of himself- too little he cannot be in his own eyes. Language fails to express the deep self-loathing and sin-abhorrence of his soul. But, lo! a voice is heard- oh, it falls upon his ear like the music of the spheres: "you are complete in Him." In one moment all is peace! The believing soul ceases from his works- the weary spirit enters into rest, because, believing, it enters into Jesus. In Christ he now stands complete. His pardon complete- his justification complete- his adoption complete- his whole person complete before the holy God! Is not this a great truth? And is it not a glorious one? Where is the doctrine that exceeds it? Where is the declaration that has in it such life as this? Dear reader, it may be you have long been looking at yourself for some one thing complete. Something- in your judgment you may reject the thought, yet in your heart there is that principle which has been looking for something in yourself to commend you to God- something to make you more acceptable to, more welcome by, Him. But behold where your completeness is found- in, and solely in, Christ. Oh precious truth! A poor, vile sinner, standing before the holy God, complete in righteousness, the object of His infinite love and delight, over whom He rejoices with singing! Oh, how Divine, how finished, and how glorious must that righteousness be which so covers your soul as to present you before the God of immaculate purity, "without a spot, or a wrinkle, or any such thing!"
Behold, too, as a result of this blessed truth, THE ETERNAL SECURITY OF THE WEAKEST BELIEVER IN JESUS. The act of justification once passed under the great seal of the resurrection of Christ, God can never revoke without denying Himself. Here is our safety. Here is the ground of our dauntless challenge- "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? it is God that justifies." What can I need more? What more can I ask? If God, the God of spotless purity, the God of inflexible righteousness, justifies me, who is he that condemns? Sin may condemn, but "it is God that justifies!" The law may alarm, but "it is God that justifies!" Satan may accuse, but "it is God that justifies!" Death may terrify, but "it is God that justifies!" Then, "if
God be for us, who can be against us?" Who will dare to condemn the soul whom He justifies? How gloriously will this truth shine forth in the great day of judgment! Every accuser will then be dumb. Every tongue will then be silent. Nothing tending eternally to condemn, shall be laid to the charge of God's elect. God Himself shall pronounce them fully justified and forever saved: "For whom He justifies, them He also glorifies." All this is confirmed to us by the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
And what is the life of faith which the believer lives, but a manifestation of the life of the Lord Jesus? The highest, the holiest, the happiest life lived below, is the life of faith. But nature contributes nothing to this life. It comes from a higher source. It is supernatural- it is opposed to nature. It springs from the life "hidden with Christ in God." "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God." Here is a glorious manifestation of the life of Jesus. It is not he that lives- "not I," but Christ in him- "Christ lives in me." If we desire any evidence that Jesus is risen, that He is alive again, and that He is the life of the soul, here it is! See the faith of the child of God sifted as wheat, yet not one grain falling to the ground. Tried as gold, yet not one particle lost. Severely tempted, but never failing. Though in the flame, yet never consumed. And why? Because Christ lives in the soul. The living Christ is there, guarding his wheat, watching his gold, strengthening, feeding, nourishing, sustaining that faith, but for which it must fail, be consumed, and die. Dear believer! your faith may be sharply tempted, severely tried- tried by Satan- tried by strong corruption- tried by adversity- tried by straitened circumstances, but never, never shall it quite fail, for Jesus lives in you, and lives in you forever! Oh blessed trial of faith, that manifests in, and endears to you, the life of Jesus! It is the precious trial of "precious faith," -a faith which, the more deeply it is tried, the more deeply it manifests the risen life of its Divine "Author and Finisher."
And what, too, are all the supports of the believer in seasons of trial, suffering, and bereavement, but so many manifestations of the life of the Lord Jesus? Thus was it exemplified in the case of the apostles. "We are troubled on every side," says Paul, "yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." In another place, alluding to their sufferings, the apostle says, "I think that God has set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed unto death: for we are made a spectacle (margin, we are made a theater) unto the world, and to angels, and to men." Theirs was no smooth and flowery, but a rugged and a thorny, way to God. They passed through the baptism of fire to glory. They fought their way to their thrones through the martyr's tribulations. But what to them were ignominy and suffering? What to them were the malice and the fury of their persecutors, hemming them in on every side, and confronting them at every step? What to them were the torture, which stretched the limb and tore the nerve- the famine, which wasted the body's strength, and dimmed the eye's luster- the imprisonment, which wore away the elasticity of the spirit- and the death of long and lingering agony, which wrenched the soul from its framework of flesh? They shrunk not, they murmured not, they fled not, for Christ was living in them. Why should they be depressed, or why yield to despair? They knew their Lord was risen, that He was alive, and was at the right hand of God, upon the throne. They knew that their life was bound up with His. They felt that Jesus was pouring forth each moment from the ocean-fulness of His own risen life, perpetual streams of existence into theirs; and that if, on the one hand, they were troubled, yet, on the other, they were not in distress; if perplexed, they yielded not to despair; if persecuted, they felt they were not forsaken; if cast down, they knew they were not destroyed; because they were conscious that, while bearing about in their bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus, the life also of Jesus was manifest in those bodies.
From the apostles we turn to the Church of God. What is our path to glory, but the path of trial, of tribulation, of suffering, and of death? Our Lord and Master, in the expression of His wisdom and love, forewarns us of this. "In the world you shall have tribulation." And His apostles but echo the same sentiment when they affirm that it is "through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom." But the life of our risen Lord is daily manifested in us. This it is, and this only, that keeps the soul buoyant amid the billows, strong in faith, joyful in hope, soaring in love. Thus is Jesus the life of every grace, the life of every promise, the life of every ordinance, the life of every blessing: yes, of all that is really costly and precious to the child of God. Jesus is the substance, the glory, the sweetness, the fragrance, yes, the very life itself. Oh! dark and lonely, desolate and painful, indeed, would our present pilgrimage be, but for Jesus. If in the world we have tribulation, in whom have we peace? In Jesus! If in the creature we meet with fickleness and change, in whom find we the Friend that loves at all times? In Jesus! If in the wilderness the well is exhausted, and the stream is dried, and the gourd withers, in whom find we an ever-flowing fountain, and an ever-grateful and out-spreading shade? In Jesus! When adversity comes as a wintry blast and lays low our comforts, when the cloud is upon our tabernacle, when health, and wealth, and distinction, and influence, and friends are gone, in whom do we find the covert from the wind, the faithful, tender Brother born for adversity? In Jesus! When temptation assails, when care darkens, when trial oppresses, when bereavement wounds, when heart and flesh are failing, who throws around us the protecting shield, who applies the precious promise, who speaks the soothing word, who sustains the sinking spirit, who heals the sorrow and dries the tear? Jesus! When sin struggles in the heart, and guilt burdens the conscience, and unbelief beclouds the mind, whose grace subdues our iniquities, whose blood gives us peace, and whose light dispels our darkness? Jesus'! And when the spark of life wanes, and the eye grows dim, and the pulse grows feeble, and the heart's-blood congeals, and the mind wanders, and the soul, severing its last fetter, mounts and soars away- who, in that awful moment, draws near in unseen form, and whispers in words unheard by all but the departing one, now in close communion with the realities of the invisible world- "Fear not, I am the resurrection and the life; he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whoever loves and believes in me shall never die?" Still, it is Jesus!
From this subject MANY SANCTIFYING, PRACTICAL, AND CONSOLATORY LESSONS are deducible. Is Jesus alive? then the saints of God are a risen people. What a glorious character is theirs! Mystically they are risen with Christ from the tomb, and spiritually they are risen from the grave of death and sin to newness of life. One of the most fruitful causes of a feeble Christianity is the low estimate the believer forms of his spiritual character. Were this higher, were it more proportioned to our real standing, our responsibility would appear in a more solemn light, our sense of obligation would be deeper, and practical holiness of a high order would be our more constant aim. Ours is a glorious and exalted life. Our standing is higher, infinitely higher than the highest angel- our glory infinitely greater than the most glorious seraph. "Christ is our life." "We are risen with Christ." By this we are declared to be a chosen, an adopted, a pardoned, a justified, and a quickened people. This is our present state- this our present character. We bear about with us the life of God in our souls. As Jesus bore about in His lowly, suffering, tempted, and tried humanity, the hidden, essential life, so we, in these frail, sinful, bruised, dying bodies, enshrine the life derived from the risen Head, the hidden life concealed with Christ in God. What an exalted character, what a holy one, then, is the believer in Jesus! Herein lie his true dignity and his real wealth- it is that he is a partaker of a Divine nature, that he is one with his risen Lord. All other distinctions in comparison vanish into insignificance, and all other glory fades and melts away. Poor he maybe in this world, yet is he rich in faith, and an heir of the kingdom, for he has Christ. Rich he may be in this world, titled and exalted, yet if Christ is in his heart, that heart is deeply sensible of its native poverty, is lowly, child-like, Christ-like.
If this is our exalted character, then how great our responsibilities, and how solemn our obligations! The life we now live in the flesh is to be an elevated, a risen, a heavenly life. "If you are 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. For you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." What is the holy state here enjoined? Heavenly-mindedness. On what ground is it enforced? Our resurrection with Christ. As a risen people, how heavenly-minded, then, ought we to be! How sickly does any other state comport with our new and hidden life! How incompatible and incongruous do groveling pursuits, and carnal joys, and earthly ambitions appear, with a life professedly one and risen with the incarnate God! But even here much heavenly wisdom is needed to guide in the narrow and difficult way. To go out of the world- to become as a detached cipher of the human family- to assume the character, even in approximation, of the religious recluse- the Gospel nowhere enjoins. To relinquish our secular calling, unless summoned by God to a higher and more spiritual service in the Church, to relax our diligence in our lawful business, to be indifferent to our personal interests and responsibilities, to neglect our temporal concerns, and to be regardless of the relative claims which are binding upon us, are sacrifices which a loyal attachment to our heavenly King does not necessarily demand; and if assumed, are self-inflicted; and if made, must prove injurious to ourselves, and displeasing to God.
But to be heavenly-minded, in the true and scriptural sense, is to carry our holy Christianity into every department of life, and with it to elevate and hallow every relation and engagement. There is no position in which the providence of God places His saints, for which the grace of Jesus is not all-sufficient, if sincerely and earnestly sought. The statesman in the cabinet, the legislator in the senate house, the professor in the chair, the magistrate upon the bench, the warrior in the camp, the seaman upon the deck, may maintain, even amid circumstances the most unfavorable and hostile, a high degree of heavenly-mindedness, and may bear a holy and uncompromising testimony for God and for Christ. Nor is there any sphere, however humble, nor calling, however lowly, to which the life of Jesus in the soul may not impart dignity, luster, and sacredness. Christianity through all grades, and classes, and occupations, is capable of diffusing a Divine, hallowing, and ennobling influence, transforming and sanctifying all that it touches. Blessed and holy are they who know it from personal and heartfelt experience!
But "if we are risen with Christ," what is it to seek those things which are above, and to set our affections not on things on the earth? In other words, what is true heavenly-mindedness? It involves, in the first place, habitual and close converse with God. Upon no other terms can this spiritual state be maintained. The life of the soul can only be sustained by constant and ceaseless emanations from the life of God. There must be a perpetual stream of existence flowing into it from the "Fountain of life." And how can this be experienced but by dwelling near that Fountain? Of no practical truth am I more deeply and solemnly convinced than this, that elevated spirituality, (and oh, what a blank is life apart from it!), can only be cultivated and maintained by elevated communion. The most holy, heavenly minded, devoted, and useful saints have ever been men and women of much prayer. They wrestled with God secretly, and God wrought by them openly; and this was the source which fed their deep godliness, which supplied their rich anointing, and which contributed to their extensive and successful labors for Christ. Thus only can the life of God in the soul of man be sustained. Such is the mighty evil by which this indwelling principle is begirt, and such the hostile influences by which its every development is assailed, it is quite impossible that a plant so heavenly and divine, embedded in a soul so earthly and uncongenial, can thrive but as it dwells in its own atmosphere- the atmosphere of close communion with God. How stands your soul, concerning this holy and practical truth, my reader? Perhaps you are at the head of a family whose claims draw largely upon your time, your sympathies, and your thoughts. Perhaps you are a man of business, deeply immersed in this world's lawful, yet low and deadening cares. Perhaps you are placed upon 'a pinnacle of the temple,' occupying some post of distinction and honor in the Church of God! one of its builders, zealously laboring upon the external parts of the structure; or the man of societies and committees, living in the meridian of a controversial, exciting, and bustling Christianity. Has the thought ever crossed your mind, that you may all the while be living in sad and awful neglect of secret, close, and real fellowship with your Father? that you may be almost a stranger to closet prayer, closet wrestling, closet transaction with God? It is quite possible that this may be so. Your family, your business, your profession, even what you would term your religious engagements, may crowd the religion of your soul into the smallest compass of time. Oh do not think that spirituality of mind, even in an ordinary degree, can thus be sustained or promoted! Do not marvel at the difficulty you find in maintaining even the holy spark alive. Do not wonder at the little real delight you take in drawing near to God- at the growing distaste you find for spiritual duties- at the little life that breathes in your prayers- at the lack of power and sweetness in the ministry of the word- at the greater preponderance of your mind and affections to the things that are earthly and sensual. But return to prayer- return with earnestness, with real desire for more heavenly-mindedness, for more true and close walking with God, and God will return to you. Return to ejaculatory prayer- to closet prayer- to family prayer- to social prayer- return but to PRAYER! The way of your return is open- it is a "new and a living way," sprinkled with the reconciling blood of the great High Priest, now alive upon His throne, and leading into the holiest. And the moment you turn your face towards God, you shall find His face turned towards you. Let nothing then rob you of this precious means of advancing your heavenly-mindedness- nothing can be its substitute. Other duties- however spiritual- other enjoyments- however holy- other means of grace- however important and necessary- never can supply the place of prayer. And why? because prayer brings the soul into immediate contact with Christ, who is our life, and with God, the Fountain of life. Exclude all air from the body, and it would soon cease to exist. Shut out all prayer from your soul, and how can you expect to maintain its Divine life, vigorous and healthy? As the total absence of the breath of prayer marks the soul "dead in trespasses and in sin;" so the waning of the spirit of prayer in the quickened soul as surely defines a state in which all that is spiritual within seems "ready to die."
Another means of increasing and promoting eminent spirituality of mind, is a diligent and prayerful reading of God's holy word. This, we fear, is not an element in the Christianity of the many. It defines a duty sadly, and to a great extent, neglected. The tendency of the age is to substitute the writings of man for the book of God. Let them come but with the robe of religion gracefully thrown around them, and whether they assume the form of history, or story, or song, they are devoured by the professing multitude, who would deem their true spirituality unquestionable! But the Divine life of the soul is not to be fed and nourished by the profound discoveries of science, or the recondite axioms of philosophy, or the brilliant flowers of genius, or the dreams of a poetical imagination. It ascends to a higher and a diviner Source; it aspires towards the nourishment of its native climate. The bread that comes down from heaven, and the water that flows, pure as crystal, from beneath the throne of God and the Lamb, can alone feed, and nourish, and refresh this hidden principle. Jesus is its sustenance; and the Gospel, as it unfolds Him in His glory and grace, is the spiritual granary from where its daily food is drawn. To this it repairs, oftentimes pressed with hunger, or panting with thirst, weary and exhausted, drooping and faint, and it finds its doctrines and its precepts, its promises and its admonitions, its exhortations and revelations, a "feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees: of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined." And thus refreshed and satisfied, the grateful soul adoringly exclaims, "Your words were found, and I did eat them; and Your word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." Truly did Jesus testify, "Verily, verily I say unto you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you;" evidently and solemnly implying that if there exists no appetite for spiritual food, there is lacking the great evidence of the life of God in the soul. A mere semblance of life, an informed judgment, a "fair show" of religion in the flesh," can content itself with anything short of the spiritual nourishment contained in God's word. A ministry without Christ, without unction, without power, and without profit; the duty and the day rigidly observed without spirit and without sweetness; the monthly periodical, the religious story, the drawing room exposition, may seem to feed the lamp of mere profession, can keep alive the "form of godliness," and satisfy a soul utterly destitute of its "power." But the Divine life of a quickened soul, while it disdains no auxiliary to its spiritual advance, can yet feed on nothing but Divine food. The "flesh and the blood" of Emmanuel can alone meet and satiate its hungering and thirsting. It is from heaven, and its supply must be heavenly; it is from God, and its nourishment must be Divine. Jesus, and Jesus alone, received into the heart, rested in, and lived upon by faith, is the food of a believing man. Nothing but Christ- "Christ all" in Himself, and Christ 'in all' means, 'in all' ordinances, I 'in all' channels, 'in all' seasons- sustains a soul whose "life is hidden with Christ in God." Dear reader, do you see the importance and feel the solemnity of this truth? Oh, it is a great and solemn one! Except by faith you "eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, you have no life in you!" Your mind content with anything as a substitute for this- your faith standing in the wisdom of men- your sacramental observances- your religion of "foods, and drinks, and diverse washings, and carnal ordinances"- your "keeping of days, and months, and times, and years;" or, to use great plainness of speech in a subject so momentous, your past submission to the rite of baptism- your present habitual observance of the Lord's supper- your visible union with the Church of God- all will avail you nothing in the great matter of your soul's salvation without Christ! Does this startle you? Are you alarmed at the discovery? It is, I trust, with the affection and tenderness which the spirit of the Gospel inspires, that I thus address you. Nothing short of Christ- Christ's righteousness, Christ's atonement, Christ's flesh and blood, Christ in us, Christ outside us, Christ risen, Christ alive at the right hand of God, yes, "Christ all and in all," can meet the deep immortal necessities of your soul. You need all that Christ is in the matter of pardon, and justification, and sanctification, and wisdom, and redemption. If anything less than Jesus had sufficed, if an expedient less magnificent, or if an expenditure less costly, had answered for God and man, then less would save you. But since the incarnate God alone is the Savior of a poor, lost sinner, see that you detract not from, or add to, this salvation by any works of human merit. To return to our first observation: be exhorted to an intimate acquaintance with God's holy word, as supplying a powerful help to the progress of the soul in deep spirituality. And if your time for reading is limited, limit it to one book, and let that one book be the bible. Let it be the companion of your hours of solitude; the solace in your seasons of sorrow; the store-house in all your necessities; the man of your counsel in all your doubts and perplexities. Then will your blessed experience resemble that of the Psalmist, "Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. This is my, comfort in my affliction: for Your word has quickened me. Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. I rejoice in Your word, as one that finds great spoil."
But observe the exhortation, in connection with the precept, "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." How solemn and full of meaning are these words! To set the affections on heavenly things, is to realize the ardent desire of the apostle, that he might "know Christ and the power of His resurrection." Oh, there is a mighty, elevating power in the resurrection of Christ! It is the great lever to a child of God, lifting him above earth, heavenward. To know that he is closely and inseparably one with the risen Head of the Church, is to be the subject of a continuous quickening influence, which in spirit raises him from the dust, and the darkness, and the pollutions by which he is surrounded; fixing the affections with greater ardency of devotion and supreme attachment on things above. Oh, nothing will more sanctify and elevate our hearts, than to have them brought under the "power of Christ's resurrection." Following Him by faith, from the dust of earth to the glory of heaven, the affections will ascend with their Beloved. Where He is, the heart's most precious treasure- there it will be also. And oh, to have the heart with Christ in heaven, what an unspeakable mercy! And why should it not be? Has earth more that is attractive, and lovely, and holy, and worthy of its affection, than heaven? Here, we are encircled by, and combat with, spirits of darkness and pollution, principalities and powers- there, is "an innumerable company of angels." Here, we are much separated from the Church of God- there, is the "general assembly and Church of the first-born," from whom nothing shall divide us. Here, the Divine presence is often withdrawn, and we are taunted and accused by our foes- there, is "God the judge of all," whose presence will be our eternal glory, and who will "bring forth our righteousness as the light, and our judgment as the noon-day." Here, we often hang our heads in sorrow, at the imperfections we mark in the saints, there, are the "spirits of just men made perfect," "without fault before the throne." Here, we often lose sight of our beloved Lord- there, is "Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant," never more to be veiled from our view. Oh, then, how much richer and more attractive is heaven than earth, to a renewed and holy mind, each moment growing richer and more attractive, by the accession to its numbers of those, the holy and loved ones of the earth, who have for a little while preceded us to that world of perfect bliss! Our treasure in glory, how rapidly it accumulates! Death, which impoverishes us here by snatching from our embrace the objects of our love, by that same act augments our riches in heaven, into the full possession and enjoyment of which it will, in its appointed time, beneficently translate us. But the sweetest, the most powerful attraction of heaven, let us never forget, is, that Jesus is there. Ah! what would heaven be, were He absent? Could we, at this moment, rush into the fond embrace of the dearest of the glorified ones, and meet not the "Chief among ten thousands, the altogether lovely One," who on earth was more precious to our hearts than life itself, oh, how soon would its glory fade from our eye; and its music pall upon our ear! It would cease to be heaven without Christ. Even on earth His presence and His smile constitute the first dawnings of that better world. And he who lives most in the enjoyment of this- and oh, bow much more may be enjoyed than we have the faintest conception of- has most of the element of heaven in his soul. Aim, then, to cultivate heavenly affections, by a life of high communion with God.
But there is also a prohibition. "Set your affection not on things on the earth." It is not the design or tendency of the Gospel, to destroy or impair any single class of those human affections which God has created. On the contrary, it recognizes, encourages, and strengthens them all. He is the fondest parent, the most dutiful child, the most faithful servant, the sincerest friend, the best citizen, whose affections are sanctified and regulated by the hallowing influence of the Gospel of Christ. It is the Gospel, experienced in the heart, that alone gives tone, elevation, and security to the conjugal, the parental, and the filial relation, defining and enforcing the duties of each. It is worthy of remark, that in the identical chapter which declares the believer risen with Christ, and which exhorts him to consequent heavenly-mindedness, some of the precepts to which we have referred are thus strikingly portrayed, and earnestly enforced- "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things; for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God. Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that you also have a Master in heaven." Thus the weighty precepts of God are closely interwoven with the most sublime doctrines of His word.
And yet there is much solemn meaning in the prohibition, "Set not your affection on things on the earth," worthy of our deepest consideration. The circle it embraces is a wide one. It includes every earthly object tending to injure and impair the heavenly-mindedness of him who is mystically and spiritually risen with Christ. That was a solemn charge which, with tears, the holy apostle alleged against some of the primitive professors- "who mind earthly things." Against the sin with which they were chargeable, and which rendered their Christianity of so doubtful a character, he warns the Colossians, in the passage before us, "Set not your affection on things on the earth." The prohibition includes creatures, riches, honors, pleasures, yes, every earthly object that would be a substitute for Christ- everything that would render Him less glorious to the eye, less precious to the soul, less an object of the heart's holiest, fondest, and supreme affection. Oh, many a mother has taken the little flower God has intrusted to her, and placing it in her bosom, has been so elated with its beauty and its fragrance, as to forget the "Rose of Sharon," the "Lily of the valley." Her affections have been inordinately set upon an earthly object- her love to Jesus has, in consequence, waned. Her zeal for His glory has cooled; her walk with God has been less intimate. She has followed her Lord afar off; the means of grace have been neglected- her child has come between her soul and Christ, and presently He has transferred it from her bosom to His own. He has blighted the mercy that tended to supplant in her holy affections the God of the mercy.
Delicate as is the subject, and needing as it does to be treated with a tender and skillful hand, we nevertheless must allude to that undue, idolatrous, if not superstitious, attachment to, and reverence for, Christian ministers by churches and by individuals, which, we think, comes within the scope of this prohibition, the existence and growing extent of which demand a prompt and effectual check. The office of the Christian ministry is strangely misunderstood at the present time. By one part of the professing Church, the Christian minister is all but deified; and by another part, he is all but crucified. By the one he is exalted into the place of God; so that multitudes, in the blindness of their superstitious attachment, worship him as God; by the other, his office is altogether denied, and his dignity, authority, and instructions are cast out of the Church, to be trodden under foot by men. Fearful extremes are these! And yet, both at this moment to an alarming extent exist. Who will be found tenderly, yet earnestly and faithfully, to lift up his voice against them, for the Lord's sake? May not a slight investigation of God's holy word bearing upon this subject, clearly point out the middle and the better path between these opposite and dangerous points of opinion, which at the present time threaten, and even already are working, the greatest evil to the Church of God?
In turning, then, "to the law and to the testimony," we find that there exists in the Church of Christ the office of the Christian ministry, having its appointment from Christ Himself, the great Head of the Church: "And Jesus spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go you, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you aways, even unto the end of the world." Again: "And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry." This high commission, which no man, nor body of men, can confer, every minister of the Gospel bears, whom the Holy Spirit has called to the work, and who "goes forth, preaching everywhere, the Lord working with him." Let no man, at his peril, deny his office, or despise his work. The ministerial character is described: "A bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." They are to be thus recognized by the saints: "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." They are to be respected, honored, and loved: "Receive him (Epaphroditus) therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such (margin, honor such) in reputation." "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake." "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine." They are to be especially prayed for, "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me." "Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ." "Brethren, pray for us." Their authority is to be acknowledged, and their word obeyed: "I beseech you, brethren, ... that you submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helps with us, and labors." "For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether you be obedient in all things." "Remember them who have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God." Their temporal necessities are to be amply and cheerfully ministered to by the churches whom they serve- "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" (see the First Epistle to the Corinthians, the ninth chapter). "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teaches in all good things." "The laborer is worthy of his hire." These are some of the statutes of the New Testament, bearing upon the Christian ministry: from them it will appear- that the office is of Divine institution, that it is essential to the existence of a Gospel Church, that it is connected with the discharge of certain functions, and that it is clothed with dignity and authority, which are to be recognized and exercised, not for its own self-aggrandizement, but for the welfare of the saints, and for Christ's honor and glory. On the other hand, equally clear is it, that the Christian ministry possesses essentially no Divine rights of its own, that it confers no spiritual gifts, conveys no spiritual grace, and that it disclaims all superstitious reverence, and rejects all idolatrous attachment and worship from the creature.
With all earnestness and solemnity of feeling we urge the reader to avoid the two extremes of error which we have pointed out, and to which we have thus opposed the word of God. Let him, on the one hand, be careful how he takes a step in sapping the foundation, or in impairing the influence, of an institution which Christ has so distinctly appointed, and so signally blessed. Second to none, but superior to all, as an instrumentality of promulgating truth and of promoting Christ's kingdom in the world, is the Christian Ministry, composed of Divinely called, spiritually taught, and holy men. Dark will be that day, when this holy bulwark of our country, this mighty engine of the truth, this powerful safeguard of virtue, and this distinguished glory of the Church, ceases to occupy that elevated and commanding position assigned to it by the "chief Shepherd and Bishop of souls." In placing yourself in opposition to it, you are not, perhaps, aware that you are allying yourself with the enemies of God and of truth, who reject Christ as a deceiver, who oppose Christianity as a fiction, and who deride the Christian ministry as a system of priestcraft. From such turn away. Have no fellowship with them in these doctrines, not even in appearance. Countenance them not in their attempts to uproot the Divine and hallowed institutions of the New Testament, by holding views inimical to, and destructive of, any one of these institutions. The Church of God has never existed without a holy and a Divinely taught ministry. He who first gave to His Church "apostles and prophets, pastors and teachers," "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ," has never ceased, in all the scenes of persecution and darkness through which she has passed, to replenish, glorify, and comfort her with men after His own heart; thus guarding the high office with a jealous, sleepless, and loving eye, from all the evil that has ever threatened its overthrow. And so will He ever guard it. In the fierce conflict of mind with mind, of principle with principle, of truth with error, which is fast approaching, no, which even has already begun, the pulpits of our land cannot be dispensed with. This is the field upon which the great battle is to be fought. While a godly press will be found an invaluable and an indispensable barrier against the advancing foe, it is from the pulpit those silver trumpets are to be blown, at whose shrill sound the host of Israel are to gather themselves to "the help of the Lord against the mighty;" and at whose overpowering blast the wall of Antichrist shall fall before Him. Rather than be found, then, in opposition to Christ's ministry, seek, by all scriptural and holy means, to impart to it greater efficiency and strength, praying continually to the "Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth more laborers into His harvest."
On the other hand, seek to divest your mind of all unscriptural, superstitious, and idolatrous views and feelings in reference to the nature and powers of this office. Remember it is but a human instrumentality, possessing no essential, inalienable grace or holiness of its own; that it is an agency, powerful and efficacious only as God the Eternal Spirit makes it so; that the treasure of the everlasting Gospel is in "earthen vessels;" and that "Paul may plant, and Apollos may water," -and this is the utmost limit of their agency- but that God only can give the increase. See, too, that you dishonor not God, nor grieve the Holy Spirit, nor cast reflection upon this sacred office, by refusing the message of God's word from the lips of any of His servants by whom He may send it. Oh! what numbers rob their own souls of vast blessing, and Christ of much glory, by not taking heed to this! They will attend upon sanctuaries where, confessedly, no healing waters flow, and upon ministrations barren of Gospel truth, clothed with no unction, and conveying no blessing, rather than break from fetters which education, or prejudice, or superstition, or habit, have forged, and woven around them, and humbly and earnestly inquire from the Lord, in the spirit and language of the Church of old, "Tell me, O you whom my soul loves, where you feed; where you make your flock to rest at noon?" Were this petition more sincerely and frequently urged, the answer would not long tarry. "O you fairest among women, go your way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed your kids beside the shepherds' tents." Receive it as a word sent from God to your soul, dear reader. It is the Lord's message to you. Go where His Spirit draws you- go where the name of Jesus draws you- go where His glory attracts you- go where His truth invites you- go where His blessing awaits you. It should be to you of but little consideration through what channel, or by what instrument, the Lord feeds your soul, so that He does feed it. The nourishment of God's life within you is of the first and greatest moment. A scrupulous conscience, a prejudiced mind, a contracted heart, may be productive of the greatest injury to your spiritual interest. Of what value will it be, if God gives you your request, by giving you a ministry according to your prescribed order, but sends leanness into your soul? And this He will do- perhaps is now doing- if His word is in any way, directly or indirectly, undervalued, slighted, or refused. Oh, that God may fill your heart with His love- love to Himself- love to His people- love to His truth- and love to His ministers, by whom His truth is proclaimed, by whatever name they may be known among men.
But the evil against which many of the Lord's people need to be tenderly cautioned, and which we think is deprecated by the broad precept, "Set not your affection upon things on the earth," is, that undue exalting of the instrument which we sometimes mark in Christian communities. A Church may so vaunt itself of the talents, the gifts, the attainments, the popularity, and even the success of its pastor, as greatly to detract from the glory of God, grieve the Spirit, and seriously injure both itself and the object of its adulation. How keenly is the spiritual mind pained by the humiliating spectacle of man-worship which sometimes meets the eye! What applauding of human eloquence- what burning of incense at the shrine of human intellect and genius- what vain boasting of profound learning, and brilliant talent, and popular gifts- the mere mint, and anise, and cummin- while the infinitely weightier attributes of a holy, powerful, and useful ministry, are lightly esteemed, if not totally dispensed with! The evils which arise from this vain- glorying in men, and this undue admiration of, and exclusive attachment to, a particular order of ministerial character and fitness, are many and various. We have only space to allude to a solitary one- the painfully depressing effect it produces upon the feelings of other ministers and pastors- men self-taught, of irregular mental training, and lacking, it may be, that intellectual furniture, polish of address, and those graces of elocution, which a university may be supposed to confer; yet, men profound in the Scriptures, mighty in prayer, rich in Christian experience, deeply taught and anointed by the Spirit, partaking largely of the grace of Jesus- the true polish and refinement of a man of God- humble-minded, and eminently successful in winning souls to Christ. That the Church of God is honored and blessed by many such men, is a fact demanding a prompt and most grateful acknowledgment. They are, in some particular departments of labor, the most effective workmen. The Church could ill spare them. Is there not, then, danger of impairing influence that should be jealously guarded, and of wounding feelings that should be tenderly shielded, and of undervaluing an office that should be highly esteemed, by attaching an undue importance to a certain class of gifts and accomplishments, the possession of which has, perhaps, more frequently proved a greater snare than a blessing?
But, even where there exists not this vain boasting in man, may there not be, even in more spiritual communities, a setting of the affections upon the instrument, tending to its undue exaltation, thus entrenching upon the power of the Spirit and the grace and glory of Christ? Oh, it is a lovely and a holy sight, the strong attachment of a pastor and a Church! Earth presents no spectacle of moral beauty surpassing it; and angels, bending from their thrones in heaven, must gaze upon it with new ecstasy and delight. We would not breathe a word, or pen a sentence; tending to mar the symmetry, or shade the beauty, or impair the strength, of such a union. This only would we say- receive him reverently and gratefully, as the Lord's messenger, esteem him very highly in love for his work's sake; yet hold him infinitely subordinate to Christ, and with a loose and gentle grasp. If heavenly-minded, and the channel of blessing to your souls, he is the Lord's gift, and as such only is he to be regarded. All that he possesses, really valuable, is from Jesus- his gifts, his acquirements, his grace, his usefulness, his moral loveliness, and even those minor attractions of person and address- which, if possessed, may, without much holy caution, but strengthen the heart's idolatry, and shade the infinite loveliness of Christ- came from God, are the bestowments of His undeserved mercy, and were intended but to lead you up to Himself, the source from where they proceed. Then lend your ear and yield your heart to the needed exhortation, as it bears upon this point- "Set not your affection on things on the earth." Cherish a devout and grateful spirit for the precious and invaluable gift of a holy, affectionate, and useful minister; but rest not in him short of Jesus. Give to him his proper place in your affections and thoughts- a place infinitely beneath the adorable Son of God, God's "unspeakable gift." He is not his own, nor yours, but the Lord's. And He, whose he is and whom he serves, may, in the exercise of His infinite wisdom, and sovereign will, and, I may add, tender love, suspend for a while his labors, or transfer him to another section of the vineyard, or, which would be most painful, crumble the earthen, though beautiful, vessel to dust, and take the precious treasure it contained to Himself. Still, Christ is all; He is your all; and, as the chief Shepherd and Bishop of His Church, He will never take Himself from her. The happy secret of retaining our mercies is to receive and enjoy Christ in them; to turn every blessing bestowed into an occasion of knowing, and loving, and enjoying more of Jesus, apart from whom, poor indeed were the most costly blessing. Blessed indeed would our blessings then be! Leading our affections up to God; giving us a deeper insight into a Father's love; laying us lower in the dust at His feet; filling the spirit with secret contrition and tender brokenness, the heart with adoring love, the mouth with grateful praise; endearing the channel through which it descends, and the mercy-seat at which it was sought and given; encouraged and stimulated by the gift, to devote person, time, influence, and property, more simply and unreservedly, to the glory of God; then should we keep a longer possession of our sanctified blessing, nor fear the thought, nor shrink from the prospect of its removal; or, if removed, we should be quite satisfied to have God alone as our portion and our all.
Against the love of the world, this holy and stringent precept as solemnly warns the believer. As those who are professedly risen with Christ, but who yet, for a while, dwell in a world of perpetual seduction, how needed, how kind the exhortation! How necessary to be constantly reminded of our risen life! Behold how we are cautioned- "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, io not of the Father, but is of the world." Are you walking in filial obedience to this precept? Oh, as a risen man, love not the world! Let it be to you as a dead thing. Receive them with gratitude, and use them for God's glory, but oh, set not your affections inordinately, exclusively, sinfully, on "things on the earth" -husband, wife, children, wealth, honor, estate, dress, recreation, or whatever is of "the earth, earthly." "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." You are dead; you are alive. Your death is a death to things below; your life is a life to things above. You are crucified, you are risen. You are professedly crucified to the world; you are mystically risen with Christ; then live as one whose treasure, whose conversation, and whose all is on high, even " where Christ sits at the right hand of God."
The resurrection of Christ is the pledge and earnest of the glorious resurrection of the believer. This great event- the crowning bliss of the Church- has long been as a star of hope, on which the eye of faith has loved to gaze. Patriarchs, and prophets, and apostles, sang, and spoke, and wrote of it. Who does not recognize the doctrine of the resurrection, and trace the yearning of his soul for this glorious event, in the expressive and touching words of Job, "There is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground, yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant." How strikingly and beautifully significant is this figure of the resurrection! His faith grafted upon the doctrine, see how his heart longed for the arrival of the event- "Oh that You would hide me in the grave, that You would keep me secret until Your wrath be past; that You would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time (not the appointed time of his death, as some interpret it, but of his resurrection, for this is the event he is now anticipating) will I wait until my change come. You shall call, (oh! how sweetly will fall the sound of the archangel's trump upon the ear of those who sleep in Jesus!) and I will answer: You will have a desire to the work of Your hands." But if possible, in terms yet more distinct and glowing, the holy patriarch announces his faith in this doctrine, and expresses his ardent longing for this event, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He shall 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 my eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me," (marg. my reins within me are consumed with earnest desire for that day). How clearly does the prophet Isaiah enunciate the doctrine- "Your dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise!" or, as it has been more properly rendered, "Your dead men shall live," alluding to the Church's dead- "my dead body shall rise," Christ here being the speaker, and referring to His mystical body, whom He has promised to raise at the last day. "Awake and sing, you that dwell in dust; for your dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead." But our limits forbid any lengthened quotation from God's word, establishing this doctrine. We must rather assume than prove its existence. The hope to which the resurrection of the Lord has begotten the believer, is termed by the apostle a "lively," or, as it may be rendered, a "living hope." Its life springs from the resurrection-life of Christ, just as the same glorious event imparts quickening to the whole Christian economy. "Blessed be the God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again unto a living hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Thus the believer, and he alone, can adopt the language of his Lord, as he resigns his body to the dust- and oh! let it be the epitaph of all who sleep in Jesus- "my flesh also shall rest in hope." A living hope, based upon the resurrection of Jesus, smooths his suffering pathway to the tomb; hope dissipates its gloom, and kindles within its somber recesses an immortal radiance; and hope- the Pharos of the sepulcher- throws its bright beams across the dark waters of eternity, revealing in all its glory an "inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away." "Oh yes!" may every slumbering believer exclaim, "my flesh shall rest in hope of a glorious resurrection to eternal life." Observe how closely the two events- the resurrection of Jesus, and that of the believer- are interwoven the one with the other. "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of those who slept." "Every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward those who are Christ's at His coming." What was the meaning of the first sheaf, which, under the law, was commanded to be presented before the Lord in His temple? Was it not to be considered as an earnest, a pledge, and a pattern of the future harvest, ripening for the sickle? So was the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! In like manner He burst from the grave, the "first-fruits," the earnest, the pledge, and the pattern of a future and a glorious harvest. As surely as He rose, so surely shall all His people rise. As certainly as the first golden sheaf has been presented in the temple, and waved before the throne of God, as certainly shall the "blade, the ear, and the full corn in the ear," be sickled in, and gathered home, "and not the least grain fall upon the earth."
"But how are the dead raised up?" That there is much of sublime mystery associated with this event, we readily admit. But its very mystery endears Him to the soul "who has abolished death (or, rendered it of none effect) and has brought life and immortality to light by the Gospel." Thus is this mystery explained: "It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonor; 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. Behold, I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised in corruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." Yes, this very body, as much redeemed by the precious blood of the incarnate God as the deathless principle it enshrines, shall rise again! And by what power? The power of Omnipotence! "He that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells in you." Every entombed saint of God is an entombed temple of the Holy Spirit. Think of this, and tread lightly, as you carry it to the grave. You bear a temple of the Holy Spirit! Precious is the dust, and hallowed the urn that contains it. And shall that temple lie in ruins forever? God forbid! Oh, it is a mighty and a glorious work, to resuscitate, remold, and re-occupy this dilapidated structure! To gather from the four winds of heaven every particle of the scattered dust- to bring bone to its bone, and sinew to its sinew- to invest the reformed skeleton with a covering more soft and delicate than an infant's- to summon back its former occupant- and then to lift it to glory, outliving in its deathlessness the stars of heaven, and outshining in its brilliancy the brightest angel before the throne. Oh, it is a stupendous work! But stupendous as it is, it transcends not in its mightiness the power of God. Oh, we deal too faintly with the almightiness of Jehovah! We limit the power of the Holy One of Israel. Bring but this power to bear upon the doctrine of the resurrection, and all its mystery is explained, and all its difficulty vanishes. On this Divine perfection rested the faith of Abraham, who, in obedience to God's command, bound his son upon the altar, and took the knife to slay him, "believing that God was able to raise him up again, even from the dead." Shall it, then, be thought a thing incredible that God should raise the dead? The difficulties of summoning together every atom of dust, borne though it may have been by the winds to the furthermost parts of the earth, or strewn upon the waves of the sea- of distinguishing what element belonged to each individual, and appropriating to each his own- of clothing the framework with a new and a deathless nature, and animating it with the same human soul which it contained in the long years of its humiliation, oh, how do they vanish before one touch of Omnipotence! What! shall He who at first formed man out of the dust, and breathed into him the breath of life- shall He at whose fiat world on world started into being, each one, for anything that we know, teeming with a population partaking of His likeness, and sharing in His immortality, shall He who "upholds all things by the word of His power," who "takes up the isles as a very little thing," who "holds the winds in His fist, and the waters in the hollow of His hand," who "has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet," -shall He be perplexed and baffled when He comes to unlock the world's charnel-house, quickening, and summoning to His bar, each slumbering occupant? Oh, it will be a stupendous and a glorious work! but reason and revelation unite in ascribing it to Him as worthy of His infinite greatness, majesty, and glory.
But "with what body do they come?" The identical body that was sown, yet so changed, so spiritualized, so glorified, so immortalized, as to rival in beauty the highest form of spirit, while it shall resemble, in its fashion, the glorious body of Christ Himself. We can form but a faint conception, even from the glowing representation of the apostle, of the glory of the raised body of the just. But this we know, it will be in every respect a structure worthy of the perfected soul that will inhabit it. Now it is the antagonist, and not the auxiliary of the soul- its clog, its prison, its foe. The moment that Jesus condescends to 'grace this mean abode' with His indwelling presence, there commences that fierce and harassing conflict between holiness and sin, which so often wrings the bitter cry from the believer, "Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Oh, what a cumbrance is this body of sin! Its corruptions, its infirmities, its weaknesses, its ailments, its diseases, all conspire to render it the tyrant of the soul, if grace does not keep it under and bring it into subjection as its slave. How often, when the mind would pursue its favorite study, the wearied and overtasked body enfeebles it! How often, when the spirit would expatiate and soar in its contemplations of and in its communings with God, the inferior nature detains it by its weight, or occupies it with its needs! How often, when the soul thirsts for Divine knowledge, and the heart pants for holiness, its highest aspirations and its strongest efforts are discouraged and thwarted by the clinging infirmities of a corrupt and suffering humanity! Not so will it be in the morning of the resurrection. "Then shall this corruptible put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality." Mysterious and glorious change! "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, "the dead in Christ shall awake from their long sleep, and spring from their tombs into a blissful immortality. Oh, how altered! oh, how transformed! oh, how changed! "Sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." "A spiritual body!" Who can imagine, who describe it? What anatomy can explain its mysteries, what pencil can paint its beauties? "A spiritual body!" All the remains, all the vestiges of corrupt matter passed away. "A spiritual body!" So regenerated, so sanctified, so etherealized, so invested with the high and glorious attributes of spirit, yet retaining the 'form and pressure' of matter; that now, sympathizing and blending with the soul in its high employment of obeying the will and chanting the praises of God, it shall rise with it in its lofty soarings, and accompany and aid it in its deep researches in the hidden and sublime mysteries of eternity. "Our conversation is in heaven," -oh that it were always there!- "from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who will change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself." Then, oh then, shall we be perfectly like Christ. Like Him in the spotless purity of the mind, like Him in the perfect beauty of the body. Transporting thought!
There is yet another view of our subject peculiarly soothing. Have you lately committed to the dust some beloved object of your affection, now sleeping in Jesus? Are you wont to "go unto the grave to weep there?" Oh listen to the voice of Jesus, which proclaims, "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." Let this declaration chasten your grief, and moderate your sorrow, and dry your tears. The Lord, in the faith of whose finished work His people fall asleep, is their resurrection and their life: and soon the heavens will part, the archangel's trumpet will sound, and He will come again, that He may awake them out of sleep, and then, 'your brother shall arise again.' "And I heard a voice saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord." Ah! blessed and holy indeed are they! for they shall have a "part in the first resurrection, and on them the second death shall have no power, but they shall be kings and priests unto God, and shall reign with Him forever." "I am the resurrection and the life." Precious words! Then, death, where is your sting? and grave, where is your victory? You have none, both are gone, for Jesus has abolished both. "I am the resurrection and the life." Divine and glorious title, Captain of my salvation! Then why, since "through death You have destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil," should I be in bondage through its fear? And why, since You have "died, and risen, and revived," and have declared that he that believes in You, though "he die, yet shall he live," should I shrink from descending into the grave, narrow, and dark, and lonely though it be? Precious Son of God! You are "the resurrection and the life," and because You live, I shall live also!
But there is another resurrection! UNCONVERTED READER, it is yours. Have you ever seriously thought of it? "Those who have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." Poor thoughtless, careless, prayerless, Christless soul! dying in your sins, ah! long before your body rises, your soul will have been a prey to the "worm that dies not," and to the "fire that is never quenched." It will have been years in torment before the body becomes its companion in misery. And when the archangel's trumpet shall exclaim, "Awake, you dead, and come to judgment," then will your body "rise to shame and everlasting contempt," and be reunited to the soul, fearfully increasing the torment that shall endure forever. Yes, the same body, now the servant of Satan, and the instrument of sin; now pampered by luxury and indulgence, the prey of every vile affection, that identical body shall rise again, with all its appetites, and lusts, and cravings immortalized. It is "sown a natural body," it rises a natural body. "It is sown in corruption,"it rises in corruption. "It is sown in dishonor," it rises in dishonor. The resurrection takes it up as death laid it down. Can you conceive a picture of future torment, surpassing this in its fearfulness and intensity? With every sensual affection perpetuated, the strength of every lawless desire still remaining, unbridled appetites and passions yet existing, with no corresponding objects to meet their cravings, will not this constitute an element of hell, an ingredient in your cup of trembling of an appalling character? Oh! the "resurrection of damnation!" To rise but to sink! To awake but to "shame and everlasting contempt!" To meet the angry God, the frowning Judge- the God you have hated, and the Christ you have rejected! The resurrection of your body will be the resurrection of your sins. All then will come to light. Every transgression will rise to memory and to judgment, and all your secret sins will be placed in the light of God's countenance. Scoffing infidel! polluted sensualist! sordid miser! groveling worldling! proud pharisee! deceived professor! you are to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. What will your scepticism, what will your carnal joys, what will your money, what will your fame, what will your own works, and what will your empty lamp do for you then? Oh, how are you bartering your birthright of immortality, and selling your soul of priceless worth and deathless existence, and choosing death rather than life, and hell rather than heaven! Your present existence has its limit, and will soon be over. For the remote and tremendous consequence you are unprepared. You have no Savior to trust in, no righteousness to stand in, no refuge to hide in, no atonement to build on, no plea wherefore you should not be eternally condemned. Is not your state awful? is not your position perilous? "What will you say when He shall punish you?"
Oh! by all that is solemn in death, and awful in the resurrection, and terrific in judgment, I beseech you, I implore you, repent- this moment- repent! "God now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness." Not a moment is to be lost- eternity is near at hand. Lay yourself low before God. Humble yourself in the dust at His feet. Confess your sin, acknowledge your iniquity. Flee to the Lord Jesus Christ, your only refuge from the wrath to come. Seek God's forgiveness alone through Him. Renounce all dependence on your own works of righteousness, and implore the Holy Spirit of all grace and love, to invest you with the righteousness "which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." Then, living or dying, you will be the Lord's. And when the morning of the 'first resurrection' dawns in glory upon the tomb, a voice, soft as angels' music, shall dissolve your long slumber "Awake and sing, you that dwell in dust: for your dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead." Then, planting your feet upon the crumbling tombstone and the heaving earth, you shall spring into life and immortality, swelling as you rise the chorus of the noble anthem, which will be chanted by every lip, and which will float from every harp- "thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!"