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Now of these truths, whether awful or comfortable, our Saviour's Resurrection is the appointed seal and token. He is the Firstfruits of them that slept—the beginning, the First-born from the dead. Not that He is the only man, nor the first, whose soul, once departed, has been united again to the body by the mighty power of God: for this is true of those children whom Elijah and Elisha raised from the dead : it is true of the widow's son at Nain, and of Jairus’ daughter, and especially of Lazarus, and of others since, who have been restored to life by the Eternal Spirit answering the prayers of His faithful Apostles and Martyrs. Christ is not, then, called the Firstfruits, because He was the first or the only person raised from the dead, but because He was the first and only one so raised, who returned no more to corruption. Lazarus, the widow's son, Jairus' daughter, and the rest, have all been long ago gathered to their fathers. They have died the common death of all men : their bodies have decayed as those of other persons. But He whom God raised again, our Saviour Christ, saw no corruption. He left His grave within a very few hours, before decay could have begun there in the natural course of things; and He never did nor can return to the grave again. He first, by such a Resurrection as admitted of no death afterwards, was to give light to the people and to the Gentiles—to those who knew God, and to those who knew Him not.
Now, most likely, all who listen to such discourses as this, think, without any hesitation, that they believe all this already. They think they believe in the Resurrection of our LORD, and also in the resurrection of their own bodies. And so, no doubt, they do believe, as far as mere words go. That is, when they say these words; "The third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures;” and again, “I believe in the Resurrection of the body," —when people say, they believe these things, they really do believe that something or other, which those words mean, is true. But it is not a steady considerate belief : they do not seriously put their minds to it. They believe, as did Martha, the sister of Lazarus, when she stood by her brother's grave, and heard our Saviour saying to her, “Thy brother shall rise again.” “I know," said Martha, " that he shall rise again at the Resurrection in the last day.” She seemed to herself as if she had a sound faith in this great article of the Resurrection. But what was the fact? When it came to the point, that something was actually to be done with a view to Lazarus's own resurrection, she seems to have been perplexed, and hesitates like an unbeliever. I mean, when they came to the grave, and our Saviour commanded the stone to be taken away, which closed up the grave's mouth. Martha, not having collected and steady thoughts as to who our LORD was, and how distinctly He had promised a resurrection, answered, as she might have done to any other friend who might have wished to see her brother in his tomb, “LORD, by this time he stinketh.' It sounds as if she doubted for the moment, whether even God could do any thing, corruption having once begun.
Now, what reason have we to think that our faith in the Resurrection is more perfect than the faith of Martha, the sister of Lazarus ? Is it not plainly all but impossible for any man to believe, seriously and thoughtfully, that his body shall rise again and be judged according to his works, without such belief making a great difference in his conduct? If no such difference appear, is it not plain that the belief in the mind, however sincere at first, has become very weak : too weak to do him any
real good; too weak to control unruly passions, and brace the mind to hard and irksome duties?
We may try our faith in the Resurrection, either by our pains or by our pleasures.
Whenever we feel or fear bodily pain, this is God's warning to us, that we may not forget the pains that shall never end, the torments of those who for their obstinacy will be cast into hellfire; not mere figures of speech, but real bodily torments : so Scripture gives us to understand. It will be well for those who, as far as they can, (they cannot always, for great pain and languor,) make their sufferings an occasion of religious fear. It is well if they begin to say seriously to themselves, “ Here am I, unable to endure a raging tooth or a throbbing head; what if the vials of God's wrath were to be poured out on me? what if I were cast into the lake of fire ?” In short, the arrows of ALMIGHTY GOD, whether they pierce the soul or body, or both, show Him to be indeed Almighty over us; show how exactly He knows our weak points. When we feel them, we naturally
fall down and humble ourselves before His Throne, who has at His command the stores of eternal wrath.
This, I say, would be natural, simple, and reasonable, for a plain man to do in his hours of bodily anguish, if he really were used to think much of his own part in our LORD's Resurrection. But how do the generality take bodily pain ? When they are sick, and in much suffering, are they not almost sure to say, “I wish and pray that God would take me?” Now, what does this wish and prayer mean? Too often one can only understand by it, that the person so praying has never seriously thought what it is to appear before God. Else, even for their bodies' sake, whose pains cause them to speak so, they would hardly dare wish themselves dead. For except you have a reasonable hope of dying in God's favour through Jesus Christ, to wish yourself dead is wishing yourself in intolerable anguish of mind, waiting for the coming of the offended JUDGE to consign you for ever to intolerable torment of body. It is safer, therefore, and wiser, and more Christian in every way, instead of praying for a short time, because your bodily trials are severe, or other wants and inconveniences pressing—it is safer, I say, a great deal, to let God choose for you ; only praying Him not to take you until He sees that you are really fit to go.
There is another very awful thought, which may reasonably occur in many cases, to those who suffer great bodily pain from disease. Too often such pains may be actually accounted for by some wicked habit or other—drunkenness, or surfeiting, or pining discontent, or this or that irregular passion. The disease, even in this world, follows the sin, and every body says it was natural and might have been expected. Now what if it should be found in the next world, that these same sinful indulgences prepared men’s very bodies for the torments of hell, as undoubtedly as they prepare them in this world for the miseries of sickness? What if those first pains and loathings, caused by surfeiting, for example, or drunkenness, be a kind of specimen or pattern of the intemperate man's portion in the world that is to come ? only that, of course, this latter when it does come will be infinitely worse than the former ? Still it is what one may conceive, that the one is a kind of token or earnest of the other. At any rate, the sufferings you bring on yourself by wickedness, be they light or heavy, yet so far as they are real, are a pledge of God's anger against you for that wickedness—of that anger which none can resist. I repeat it; pain and languor, caused by intemperance, is as sure a mark of your JUDGE's displeasure, as if He called to you from Heaven, in the world's hearing and yours, "Drunkenness, revellings, and such like, are works of the flesh: they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Thus far I have considered one great religious use of bodily pain : its putting reasonable men often in mind of God's anger against sin, and of the very element in which sinners as such must expect to dwell for ever,-pain and torment without relief. Now, on the other hand, let something be said of bodily pleasures, in the same way of thinking; how they appear to a considerate Christiền, having his mind full of the Resurrection of the body.
First, then, innocent and moderate pleasures, even those of the body itself, are, without question, to be thankfully received by Christ's servants, not only as gifts from God in themselves, but also as pledges of His love, and so far, tokens of good things to come. “ Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the Word of God and by prayer.” So St. Paul teaches, speaking of diverse kinds of meats, which, being sanctified by the Word of God, that is, having God's blessing upon them, are, so far, signs and tokens of His love: something for the mind to rest on when tempted to mistrust or weariness; something to make you ashamed, if you are growing discontented and unthankful.
Take, for example, the enjoyment most men naturally have, at some time or other of their lives, in beholding the glorious works of God: the sun rising or setting, the moon walking in brightness ; flowers, trees, herbs, growing or decaying; animals at play; the fresh air; the sports of children ; music; and a thousand other things, which, however common they may be, and however mixed up, some of them, with bodily sensations, are undoubtedly to be taken as gifts from Him, whose least gift is infinitely precious ; and are, so considered, as little drops or crumbs, fallen as it were under the heavenly table. Many such occasions there are, on which it would be wrong to say much, but it cannot be wrong to feel deeply and thankfully that the very slightest enjoyment we have, a pleasant gleam of sunshine, or a quarter of an hour's quiet sleep, is far more
than a sinner can deserve ; is indeed one of the ten thousand reasons, of which the world is every where full, for thatking God our merciful REDEEMER, and taking courage to do all our duty.
On the other hand, it is certain, by sad experience, that if people take no care thus to mingle the thought of God with their pleasures, those pleasures, however innocent in themselves, will prove to them guilty and mischievous; for they will drive out holy and serious thoughts, and make men less and less willing to serve their REDEEMER with a pure heart. Gross, sensual, bodily enjoyments, are part of our frail nature and imperfect condition here in this world of trial ; there will be an end of them when we go out of the world; and, therefore, those who depend much on them are sure to find themselves unprepared for Heaven. For instance, while we have these “ bodies of vileness" (so St. Paul calls them), we cannot help being hungry and thirsty ; we, of course, have pleasure in meat and drink ; but there is no reason at all to think that such infirmities, or such pleasures, will find any place in the world to come. Again, hear our Blessed Saviour : "The children of this world marry and are given in marriage: but they that shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the Resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage : neither can they die any more: for they are like unto the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the Resurrection.” Is it not plain that for such a state they will be . found little provided, who have given their whole hearts and minds to such cares and pleasures as most easily engage and win the natural man ; who go on eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the very day when the Son of Man is revealed; or (which is the same thing to them) until the day that God calls them out of the world ? Depend upon it, bodily pleasures, the best of them, are dangerous and deceiving, and ought to be sparingly and fearfully indulged in. David is a sad instance of this. If he had been more on his guard, more severe and watchful over his own heart, in those enjoyments which were not sinful, he would not, it is likely, have fallen so shamefully, when sinful desire and opportunity came.
Even with regard to those pleasures which are not so properly to be called sensual ;-for example, with regard to good health, which is in fact a continual course of moderate and gentle bodily