« AnteriorContinuar »
is spoken of his crucifixion, 'signifying what death he should die.' (John xii. 32, 33.] But it is proportionably true of his ascension, and sitting at the right hand of God; for there is a power and virtue in the resurrection of Christ, and his ascension into heaven, as well as in his death, to draw all men to him. The gift of God's holy Spirit is the fruit of his ascension and exaltation at the right hand of his majesty on high :' and it is by the powerful operation of the Spirit of God upon our hearts, that we are raised to newness of life, and our affections fixed upon heavenly things. We are naturally bowed down to the earth, and inclined to the things of this world ; but our glorified Saviour, sitting at the right hand of God, by the power of his spirit, draws our affections to him.
The · II. 3. Third and last argument, which is but implied in the text, is the transcendent and incomparable excellency of heavenly things above things on the earth; which the apostle intimates by the opposition, set your affections on things above; not on things on the earth.' Earthly things are perishing and transitory, gross and unsatisfactory, and cannot be the felicity of an immortal soul, being neither suited to the spiritual nature, nor to the immortal duration of our souls: they can neither satisfy us while we live, nor preserve us from death, nor comfort us in it, nor accompany us into the other world, nor contribute anything to our happiness there; and if they can do nothing toward our happiness, why should we set our hearts upon them? They that seek for happiness in earthly things, are like the women sitting over our Saviour's sepulchre with their faces bowed down to the earth ; they seek the living among the dead;' our happiness is not here, it is risen,' it is above. Let our hearts ascend thither, where our happiness and our treasure are. Why should we bestow our affections upon those low and mean things, when there are incomparably better objects to fix them upon ?
The inference from all this shall be to engage and persuade us, by all these arguments and considerations, to seek and mind the things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God; and to have our conversation there, where our Saviour is, and from whence also we look for him again, to change these vile bodies, that they may be made like unto bis glorious body, according to the working of that mighty power, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself. Let all our actions have relation to another world, and our conversation declare, that we are mindful of another country, that is, a heavenly.' Is Christ our head risen and ascended into heaven? Let us in our hearts and affections follow him thither, and patiently wait till he receive our souls, and raise our bodies, and take us wholly to himself, that we may be · for ever with the Lord.'
The resurrection of Christ is a demonstration of a future state after this life, and a pledge of a blessed immortality in another world. For our Lord, by his resurrection from the dead, hath conquered death, and abolished it, and brought life and immortality to light.' He is the first-fruits of them that slept,' and his resurrection is an earnest and assurance of ours; and from thence the apostle makes this inference, ' Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast and unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as ye know, that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.' The belief of a future state after this life should put us upon the most earnest and vigorous endeavours to secure this happy condition to ourselves; “if by any means,' as the apostle expresseth it, we may attain the resurrection of the dead.' It should raise us above the world and the lusts of it, above all the terrors and temptations of it.
As on the one hand the serious thoughts of our mortality should check our eager pursuit of this world ; so on the other hand, the belief of a life to come should quicken our endeavours for the obtaining of it; seeing we hope for so happy a state, we should prepare ourselves for it by purity and holiness of heart and life, by perseverance, and a ' patient continuance in well-doing. What manner of persons ought we to be, in all holy conversation and godliness,' who have such hopes and expectations ? Every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself even as he is pure.' Now that · life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel,' what greater, what other design can any man propose to himself, than to be happy for ever? For such a prize who would not strive, and run, and take any pains ? Who would not deny himself the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season,' resist temptations, and conflict with difficulties, and glory in tribulations and sufferings, and be constant and faithful to the death, in hope of that eternal life, which God that cannot lie, hath promised ?'
In our pursuit of the things of this world, we usually prevent enjoyment, by expectation ; we anticipate our own happiness, and eat out the heart and sweetness of worldly pleasures, by delightful fore-thoughts of them: so that when we come to possess them, they do not answer the expectation, nor satisfy the desires which were raised about them, and they vanish into nothing: but the things which are above, are so great, so solid, so durable, so glorious, that we cannot raise our thoughts to an equal height with them; we cannot enlarge our desires beyond a possibility of satisfaction. Our hearts are greater than the world ; but God is greater than our hearts; and the happiness which he hath laid up for us, is, like himself, incomprehensibly great and glorious. Let the thoughts of this raise us above this world, and inspire us with greater thoughts and designs, than the care and concernments of this present life.
We all profess most firmly to believe, that after a few days we shall leave this world, and all the enjoyments of it, and go to the place from whence we shall not return; that we shall enter upon an unchangeable state of happiness or misery, according as we have demeaned ourselves in this present life; that great care and diligence are necessary to work out our own salvation;' that there must be a great preparation of ourselves, by unspotted purity of heart and life, to make ourselves' meet for an inheritance with them that are sanctified;' that we must labour, and strive, and run, and fight, and give all diligence to make our calling and election sure ;' that we had need to watch and pray always, that we may be accounted worthy to escape the judgement of the great day, and to stand before the Son of man.' Such thoughts as these should continually possess our souls; and heaven should be always in our eye, if, with St. Stephen, we saw the heavens opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,' to see how we behave ourselves here below, and when we have fought a good fight and finished our course, and kept the faith, to receive us to himself, that where he is, there we may be also.'
THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY. Phil. iii. 20-21.- From whence also we look for the Saviour, the
Lord Jesus Christ; who shall 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 to himself. The text treats of a most amazing change, to be one day wrought in the bodies of men, as also of the person who is to effect it, namely, our Lord Jesus Christ.
I. Let us consider Christ coming from heaven as a Saviour.
Man consists of two parts, both of which stand in need of a Saviour, because both fell, and became subject to the destroyer. The salvation, here spoken of, is plainly the salvation of the body, not excluding that of the soul, but perfective of it. For if Christ be here denominated a Saviour, because he comes to change the body,—then is he here spoken of as the Saviour of the body, which he comes to change. Now, a Saviour is one that delivers us from our enemies; as it is written_ he hath raised up a horn of salvation for us—that we should be saved from our enemies.' [Luke i. 69-71.] But the enemy that destroys the body, is death; and therefore the body cannot be saved from that enemy, without a resurrection; nor can Christ be its Saviour, unless he raise it from the dead. But the Apostle here styles him the Saviour, with respect to the body; therefore he will be its resurrection and its life; and whosoever believeth in him, though he were dead, yet shall he live.'
Indeed, the work of redemption is left unfinished, if this not the case. For notwithstanding the sufferings and resurrection of Christ, the whole creation groaneth, and travaileth in pain together, until now; and not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body.' (Rom. viii. 22.] This, and this only, crowns and makes effectual the labours of a Redeemer. For this end (says the Apostle) Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord, both of the dead and of the living.' (Rom. xiv. 9.] And again, “He hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world by that man whom he bath ordained ; whereof he has given assurance unto all men, in that he raised him from the dead.' (Acts xvii, 31.] Christ was incarnate that he might die; he died, that he might rise ; he arose, that he might ascend; he ascended, that he might take possession of his kingdom ; and he took possession of his kingdom, that he might raise the dead and judge the world. The God of our fathers (says St. Peter) raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, him hath God exalted with his right hand'-for what end ? to be a prince and a Saviour.' [Acts v. 30.] He therefore that has done so great things for us already, whereof we do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice, will never leave us in our enemy's hand, but shall reign till he has put all enemies under his feet;' and we know the last enemy that shall be destroyed, is Death.'
Again. He who is eternal truth, and who promised to raise Christ, has promised to raise us. He has fulfilled one part of his promise ; and therefore will accomplish the other.
Nor is this all. But such is the intimate union between Christ and us, that his resurrection in effect is ours; and we are looked upon by our beavenly Father, as already risen in his beloved Son. For we must consider Christ as suffering and rising, not for himself alone, but for us. We must not view him as a private person, as a single individual, but as the representative and substitute of human nature, and of all the persons in that nature: we must view him as the second Adam, containing in his loins, all who are or shall be born of the will of God, of incorruptible seed, by spiritual regeneration; as in the loins of the first Adam lay all his posterity, afterwards born of the will of man, of corruptible seed, by natural generation. In this capacity, as surety and father of us all, he entered the grave, and lay under the arrest of death, for our sin ; and in this capacity he arose from the grave, and came forth, for our justification ; that as in Adam all died, even so in Christ should all be made alive.' The words therefore, which he spake, are fulfilled; Because I live, ye shall live also.' [John xiv. 18.] For if Christ be risen in our nature, then our nature is risen in Christ ; and if our nature be risen, then they who partake of that nature, shall rise too. We are, as the Apostle speaks, planted together in the likeness of his death,' that we may grow together in the likeness of his resurrection.'