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“ We shall not all sleep.” This soft and pleasing term is repeatedly used in the sacred oracles, to denote death. Christ says, “ Our friend Lazarus sleepeth ; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.” “ Then they also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” The analogy between sleep and death, though natural, is very striking · In sleep there is rest; so in death. - Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord : from henceforth, saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.”
They who sleep are insensible of the event that take place around them: so it is with the dead; for in the grave there is no work, wisdom, device, or knowledge. But I believe the principal idea of the apostle, when he compared death to sleep, was, he who sleeps expects to rise again; so it is with the saints who die. They believe that they shall rise again at the last day, to die no more. Hence they submit to death in sure and certain hope of a resurrection to eternal life.
III. Our apostle proceeds to shew in what the change will consist, that is to take place on the bodies of the saints who shall be found alive at the second coming of Christ. The bodies of the dead that are raised, and of the living saints who will be changed, will be alike. This the apostle teacheth us by applying what follows in the text to both. “For this corruptible must put on in. corruption.”
The body in its present state is subject to corruption. Of this we have melancholy proof in the many instances of gangrene, cancer, and par
tial mortification in some persons while alive, to such a degree as to render them disagreeable to themselves and to those who attend them.
But if mankind escape this most distressing condition while living, how soon after they have died, do they become a mass of putrefaction, insomuch that their friends are obliged to hurry them to the grave for the sake of the living. However much beloved before, they now say with Abraham, “Bury my dead out of my sight.” The apostle therefore styles it this vile body. “Who shall change this vile body, and fashion it like unto his glorious body.” But “ this corruptible must put on incorruption." After this change, it shall be spiritual and glorious, and thus fit to be re-united to the soul, and in a complete person enter into the joy of the Lord.
“ And this mortal must put on immortality." That body which was subject to disease and death must put on immortality. It will become as immortal as the mind or soul itself. “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written (Isaiah xxv. 8.) Death is swallowed up in victory.” The resurrection or change of the body will be the destruction of death, because the grave shall deliver
the dead that are in it, and the sea shall give up the dead that are in it, and there shall be no more pain, no more death; for the former things shall all be passed away. • Let us now close the subject with a few reflections :
How sublime and interesting is this doctrine of divine revelation! What a cheering prospect it opens to the believer, when contem
plating the dissolution of the body. Though now vile, and subject to disease and death, it shall finally be changed, and fashioned like to Christ's glorious body. What inconceivable joys await the real Christian, in this perfect resurrection state. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
The last trump will sound with sufficient energy to raise the dead. He who has all power in heaven and earth in his hands can easily call the dead from the grave. Of this we have decisive proof in the resurrection of Lazarus. How interesting is this truth to the dying Christian. Supported by its influence, he is enabled to say, “ Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is interesting also to the living Christian. When he follows his pious, beloved friend to the grave, he rejoices that he shall live again. “Not lost, but gone before,” is his motto, when such are removed from him.
2. For this blessing we are indebted to Christ : “ for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again ; even so them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.”
The resurrection of Christ is a sure pledge of the resurrection of his people. He rose as their Head, and for their justification. Often beset with difficulties and dangers, the believer is ready to say, If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (he can add) is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. Christ
16 But now
the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming."
3. How glorious to the saints will be the resurrection day? This to them will be a morning without clouds. It will be the beginning of a glorious scene, that will never close. They will now enter upon the felicities of that state, and be introduced into that kingdom, prepared for them from the foundation of the world. The Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall lead them to living fountains of water; and God himself shall dwell with them, and be their God; and all tears shall be wiped away.
4. And lastly, how awful will that day be to unbelievers. They must also rise, but “to the resurrection of damnation.” How unspeakably distressing the condition of those, who shall then be driven to cry to the rocks and mountains, saying, “Fall on us, and hide us from Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand.”
May the Lord enable such of you as are in a Christless state, to bow to the sceptre
mercy, before it is too late ; before the pit shut its mouth upon you, and repentance be finally hidden from your eyes. The Lord grant that ye may find mercy in that day, for Christ's sake. Amen.
THE NATURE AND USES OF PRAYER.
PSALM Ixv. 2.
THE being and perfections of God are the foundation of all religion and morality. This principal truth is established by every thing around us, and by the common consent of mankind; and is inseparably connected with many other important principles : such as, the creation of all things , upholding, preserving and governing all things. That Deity had a certain and very important end in view in bringing into existence such a great variety of beings, cannot be doubted. That that end shall infallibly be accomplished ; in order to which, he governs all things, great and small; the fall of a sparrow, as certainly as the rise and fall of empires. If he did not govern all, his plan might be disappointed. That he hath established in his own mind the means by which his purposes shall be brought to pass. Hence follow other truths : such as, that we are accountable to him; and that there will come a period, when all mankind shall appear before him, to give an account of the things done in the body. To which I add, that the duties of prayer and thanksgiving also result from this first principle : for if God created and governs all things,
+ Delivered April 7, 1801, being the quarterly day of prayer.