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poured out ủis soul unto death on the cross. early on Sunday morning, before Mary Magdalene had come to the sepulchre (and she came while it was yet dark), our Lord had burst the bands of death, and was risen in his glorious incorruptible body. On the whole, then, we cannot suppose that he had been dead more than thirty-six hours; so that it may well be believed that his body had the privilege of returning to life free from all change and decay. In this respect, a difference was made between it and the body of Lazarus, which had been in the grave four days, and was therefore
supposed by his friends to have seen corruption.
There seems, indeed, even to our ignorant thought, an especial propriety in its being ordered, that the only body which was never stained by sin, should also be the only one exempt, though not from the pains, yet from the loathsomeness of death. It was a way of giving the whole world, angels, and men, clearly to understand, that, although God had laid on him the punishment due to sinful men, yet he never ceased for a moment to be the only beloved of his Father. He bore the curse on Adam, as far as the separation of soul and body went ; but his soul was not imprisoned for any length of time in the state of separation ; neither did his body literally return to the dust. His soul was not left in hell; neither did his flesh see corruption.
According to the marvellous fulness of Scripture, it will be found that this one short verse, applied, as it is, by the apostles to Jesus Christ, contains in it many great truths, most necessary for our comfort as Christians, and most impossible to be known, had not God mercifully revealed them from heaven.
First, it proves most expressly the truth of our Savior's human soul and body: proves, that as he took on himself, really and truly, the substance of our nature in the womb of the blessed virgin, and lived and died, in all respects, a man, sin only and sinful infirmity excepted; so also, in his unseen state, he continued to be a man among men; his divine soul went where other souls go; his precious body lay for a while in the grave, like other bodies.
By the care taken to reveal this, we have a token and earnest given us that our merciful God sympathizes (if I may say so) with our natural care and anxiety as to what shall become both of our friends and ourselves, during that awful interval which is to come between death and resurrection. We know now, for certain, what is enough to make up for our blindness and uncertainty about everything else, that souls departed, and bodies in the grave, be they where they may, are within the merciful care of him who is both God and
He cannot fail to provide for them; for he has himself gone through their condition, and can be touched with a feeling of what they require, as of all the other infirmities and imperfections of such a frail being as man. This, when it is well considered, is surely everything in the way of comfort, whether we are fearing the state of separation for ourselves, or mourning it for others, perhaps very dear to us. Provided only we may have reasonable hope that the covenant of our Christian hope is not forfeited, it is surely everything in the way of comfort to know that departing is in some sense being with Christ;—that it brings the soul of the faithful somehow into nearer communion with him, and seals up their bodies, as it were, under his especial protection.
But our comfort, on farther consideration, will, perhaps, be found still more distinctly expressed. Observe the difference between the language of the Old Testament, even the most evangelical portions of it, where they speak of the state of the dead, and the language of the blessed gospel itself, relating to the same subject. David's expectation is, “ Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell," that is, in the dark unseen state. It is dark and unseen; that is all he says of it. But when our Lord himself spoke of it, his word was not “hell,” but paradise.” His promise to the penitent thief on the
say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Here is a happy and consoling difference between the way of speaking in Jewish, and in Christian times. The considerate among God's
ancient people knew that the souls of the righteous must be in the hands of God, and that no torment could touch them. But whether they were in an actual state of enjoyment; whether they knew their own happiness, or rather lived in a quiet sleep; this might be matter of doubt, until our gracious Lord made known for certain, that Abraham's bosom is prepared for such as Lazarus, paradise for such as that penitent, believing malefactor.
Now what the actual blessings of paradise are, Holy Scripture nowhere explains: but thus much it gives us to understand, that, the holy souls there, are with Christ, in some sense, so near and so blessed, that St. Paul most earnestly desired to depart thither. It was better, more for his immediate happiness, to be with his Master in paradise, than to have such communion with him, as even he, St. Paul, enjoyed on earth. He knew well
. what he wrote ; for, beside the especial teaching of the Holy Ghost, he had himself been caught up into paradise: and found it, not a mere place for taking of rest in quiet sleep, but a place where heavenly thought can be exercised, and heavenly words spoken in such perfection as is unutterable on earth. “ He heard there unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to
Such being the condition of these holy souls, who are under God's
keeping in paradise, it is not to be imagined that such a marvellous event, as the divine spirit of our blessed Redeemer coming into that sacred abode, could take place without some great joy and happiness in all that sacred company, who by faith had looked forward to some great and wonderful redemption, but could not perhaps ever imagine anything so high as was now revealed to them a world saved, and the power of the devil destroyed, by the death of him who was both God and man. În whatever sense our Savior had said be. fore, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad;" we must needs suppose, that the heavenly sight of gladness was renewed, and made more perfect, when the victorious spirit of our
Savior entered into the resting-place of the faithful, with the glad tidings of salvation, wrought by his blood.
And thus, we understand, that in all our holy duties, our remembrances of Christ crucified, and risen again, we do in fact hold communion with all the saints of God: not only with the saints now living, but also with those which have gone before, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, holy bishops, confessors, virgins; whatsoever and wheresoever Christ has been glorified in them, living and dying, they are all one people in paradise, and one people too with the church on earth, rejoicing together to see Christ's day, and to welcome him “who liveth and was dead, and behold he is alive for evermore.”
For, in the third place, the words of the text intimate, that, how happy and comfortable soever the paradise of the dead may be, it is not a place of final perfection, but a place of waiting for something better ; a region, not of full enjoyment, but of assured peace and hope. For so much is hinted, in that God is thanked and glorified, for not leaving our Savior's soul in that place. It was an act of his mighty power, to whom all things bow and obey, to open for the soul of Jesus Christ the doors of that happy, though as yet imperfect, abode, and to make a way for his final and unspeakable exaltation, by again uniting that soul to his blessed body.
Now here is something very apt to raise in us high and noble thoughts of that, which, in one way or another, we are shamefully used to undervalue-I mean the mortal body of man.
Even the Son of God, it appears, could not, as man, be made perfect, without the union of his soul and body by resurrection, after the two had been separated from each other by death. And such, we know, is God's purpose, with regard to all who shall be glorified through Christ; their bodies, as well as their spirits, are to partake of the eternal reward.
In order, too, to prepare them for it, the very body of our Savior Jesus Christ is appointed to be received, by faith, in the Lord's supper, that it may be, even to our mortal bodies, a kind of seed of an immortal and glo
rious being. “The last Adam is a quickening spirit;" out of his very body goes virtue, to heal and revive the bodies, as well as the souls, of those whom he accounts worthy to touch him.
Whoever will reflect on this seriously, will surely have earnest thoughts arise in him of his own guilt hitherto many ways, in regard both of his own and other men's bodies. Surely it is no light thing, in any way to defile or dishonor that, which the Holy Ghost has sealed in baptism to be the vessel of a regenerate soul: nay more, that in which he himself, God's own Holy Spirit, vouchsafes to dwell, and which our Lord would have nourished to a pure and heavenly life, by mysterious union with his own sacrificed body. Surely we cannot be too pure, grave, or charitable—too much on our guard in our dealings with that which is to rise again—which Christ has taken for part of his peculiar treasure—which he intends one day to present to his Father in heaven, united to a purified soul, to live for ever. Speaking as the Scriptures speak, that is, after the manner of men, it depends on ourselves—on our own use of our bodies—to confirm or make void this his mere ciful and heavenly purpose. May his gracious spirit help men to think on these things in time; for undoubtedly the load of guilt is extreme-far greater than any of us imagine—which they daily heap on themselves by their irreverent usage of the temples of the Holy Ghost, contradicting, as it were, and working against the especial purpose of Christ's most holy sacrament.
So much for what the prophet here teaches, concerning the dealings of Almighty God with the human soul of our Redeemer in its separate state : now observe what the same Scripture tells us of his body : wherein you will find more and more reasons, for that scrupulous purity and charity, of which I have been speaking. - Thou wilt not suffer thy Holy One to see corruption:” these words, of course, relate to our Savior's body only, as the former words had related to his soul. And see what a title is given to that crucified body ; it is called, in a peculiar sense, God's Holy One; even as