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mirth and song? Are these amusements unsuitable for a general in the field of battle, because the lives of men are intrusted to him? they are still more unsuitable for us, for the eternal life of the soul is at stake. The life of the body is valuable; but the soul infinitely exceeds it in value: had it been otherwise, Christ would not have laid down his life to redeem it. Should a general be in earnest, because the happiness or misery of an empire is suspended upon his conduct? Shall not we be in earnest for the salvation of our souls redeemed at so great a price; knowing that the happiness or misery of time is not to be compared to the joy or the wo of eternity?
If a mighty sand-glass stood before us, which should run out just when time with us shall terminate, how should we watch the grains, as they fell one by one: how often compare the quantity that had passed with that which remained to pass; and O, how eager would such a sight make us to prepare for the transit of the last sand! There is a veil over the glass; perhaps the last grain is about to fall! The redemption of the soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever! How stand matters with you? Conscience, speak!
But to bring the matter to an issue. How dear to us should be "the earthly dwellings of our God." The very dust of Judea was dear to a Hebrew. The stones of our house of prayer have an associated excellence in the eyes of a Christian. The place of a king's nativity is interesting; but the birth-place of a soul has far higher claims to regard; and of this place it shall be said, "This and that man was born there."
The time for occupying this house of prayer ceaseth for ever! We shall soon see the last of our earthly sabbaths: how important the thought to preachers and people!
"Who shall change our vile bodies, and fashion them like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself," Phil. iii, 21.
It was not until life and immortality were brought to light by the gospel that the resurrection of the dead was understood to be among the provisions of mercy entertained by the eternal Mind. This glorious doctrine of revelation is not only one very full of comfort in itself, but it is also of importance, as giving us a deeper and more powerful impression of the immortality of the soul, and consequently of man's responsibility, of the reward promised to his obedience, and the threatening denounced against his disobedience. That the truth of these assertions may appear, it is not necessary to draw out a lengthened proof from the records of heathenism, in order to establish the conclusion that the Gentiles had never imagined such a truth as the resurrection of the dead. The Greeks were the wisest of nations; Athens was, in a sense, the metropolis of Greece; and when Paul "preached to them Jesus and the resurrection" they mistook the very words he used. They said he was a "setter-forth of strange gods," supposing Jesus to be the name of one god and Resurrection to be the name of another. And if such was the folly of the wise, how deplorable must have been the ignorance of all others!
But the ignorance of the Gentiles on the subject of the resurrection did not merely shut them out from
its consolation, if they wrought righteousness-and from its foreboding, if they wrought iniquity, but it was also an eminent cause of the doubt and hesitation with which they held the belief of the soul's immortality. How this should be the case, is apparent from the consideration that the body of man is so connected with his spirit as that all our ideas of future happiness and misery have a relation to the material part of man, all our prospects and anticipations regard the whole of our nature; the feelings of the separate dead we can form no clear conception of; and it brings the terrors and the joys of a future state unspeakably near to us when we are brought to believe that "they who sleep in the dust shall awake, some to shame and everlasting contempt, and others to glory and honour." When we meditate on heaven, it is of singing praises to God and the Lamb, of walking the golden streets, of eating of the tree of life, of drinking the refreshing streams of the water of life, of seeing patriarchs and prophets and the Ancient of days, of rest and relief after fatigue, of solace on the removal of sorrow, of uninterrupted ease, and health, and peace. When we meditate on the state of the lost, we faintly picture the fearful gnawing of the worm that never dies, of the tongue scorched amidst the flame, of the gnashing of teeth, and torture of every kind. We may have loftier conceptions of happiness, and deeper apprehensions of misery, but we have no idea either of happiness or misery in which the body has no part. Of the intermediate state between death and the resurrection we find it difficult to conceive any thing distinctly, and our attention is but too apt to dwell exclusively on the closed eye, the silent tongue, the motionless limbs, the solemnities of interment, the wasting body, the feast of worms, the triumph of the
spoiler; in a word, "the thing men fear to look upon." When we think of Lazarus, it is of one reclining in the bosom of Abraham; or of Dives, it is of one rolling in fire, his tongue scorched in the flame,-without once recollecting that the body of each is still in its place of sepulture, separate from the immortal spirit.
To soften down "the terrors of the Lord," the Socinians, those dwellers in the frigid zone of Christianity, so speak of the resurrection of the body as to weaken our belief, were we to follow their opinion, in its identity and individuality. And this is in perfect accordance with their whole system. For if the soul and the body experience a new creation, instead of a restoration to each other, how can the newly formed creature have any conscious recollection of the past, through the interval of that parenthesis of existence that is said to have taken place? And how feeble then becomes the motive which we have to the practice of self-denial! Heathenism, in its ignorance of the body's resurrection, was led to regard the immortality of the soul as a doubtful and purely speculative trath. Much the reverse of all this has been frequently advanced. But a reference to the writings of the best of their authors may determine the question.
If Plato entertained the idea that the soul could never die, it would, perhaps, be difficult to prove that the subject was not with him rather one of delightful speculation than of fixed belief, a pleasing theory, a sublime probability, rather than a practical doctrine and a truth that could not be contested. If we may infer the popu lar belief from the writings of Virgil, Ovid, and Cicero, we shall be led to conclude that death was believed to terminate existence and responsibility. Virgil scouts the fear of futurity, and praises the man who nobly
treads on the mean restraints which the forebodings of futurity would impose. In his Eneid, he calls the place of the departed the land of shadows, and its avenue the outlet of dreams; expressions which, taken in connection with what he saye elsewhere, cannot be mistaken. Ovid ascribes to mere vulgarity of mind the dread of the eternal world. "Quid-nomina vana timetis ?" Cicero exults in the prospect of meeting, beyond the grave, with the illustrious dead, but checks his triumph with the thought of the doubtfulness of that which he contemplates-"If these things are so." "Fabulæ manes," and "domus exilis Plutonia,” says Horace. The poeta were the vates: the better informed, the less they believed of their mythology. Had they known, by a divine revelation, that the body should rise again, how would the belief of that doctrine have confirmed their languid hopes! The partaker of Christ's sufferings shall be a sharer of the joy to be revealed. The instrument of sin shall share in its punishment. How well fitted these truths to confirm every holy purpose, and to shake every wicked one. Let us rejoice that immortality is brought to light, and let us seek to profit by the revelation.
The text suggests for our consideration, I. The subject. II. The nature. III. The Agent of this wondrous change.
I. "This vile body" shall be changed. The epithet employed is suggested by inspiration, and it is obviously the language of truth. For, since man became a sinner, his tenement is polluted by the leprosy of its inhabitant. That this term describes the present state of the body, appears from three considerations.
First, It is the seat of disease of every form and name. No organ, however well protected against injury, no