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Paul speaks “ of the spirits of just men made perfect,” and of their “ coming to the general assembly of saints,” it seems to import that we should be known of them, and of one another; that when Christ declares, “ that the secrets of the heart shall be disclosed,” it imports, that they shall be disclosed to those who were before the witnesses of our actions. I do also think, that it is agreeable to the dictates of reason itself to believe, that the same great God who brings men to life again, will bring those together whom death has separated. When his power is at work in this great dispensation, it is very probable that this should be a part of his gracious design. But for a specific text, I know none which speaks the thing more positively than this which I have chosen. St. Paul, you see, expected that he should know, and be known to, those his converts; that their relation should subsist and be retained between them; and with this hope he laboured and endeavoured, instantly and incessantly, that he might be able at last to present them, and to present them perfect in Christ Jesus. Now what St. Paul appeared to look for as to the general continuance, or rather revival of our knowledge of each other after death, every man who strives, like St. Paul, to attain to the resurrection of the dead, may expect, as well as he.
Having discoursed thus far concerning the article of doctrine itself: I will now proceed to enforce such practical reflections as result from it. Now it is necessary for you to observe, that all which is here produced from Scripture concerning the resurrection of the dead, 'relates solely to the resurrection of the just. It is of them only that St. Paul speaks in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians. It is of the body of him, who is accepted in Christ, that the apostle declares, that “it is sown in dishonour, but raised in glory ; sown in weakness, raised in power.”. Likewisej when he speaks, in another place, of “ Christ's changing our vile bodies that they may be like his glorious body;" it is of the bodies of Christ's saints alone, of whomi thiş is said. This point is, I think, agreed upon amongst learned men, and is indeed
very plain. In like manner, in the passage of the text, and, I think, it will be found true of every other in which mankind knowing one another in a future life is implied, the implication extends only to these who are received amongst the blessed. Whom was St. Paul to know? even those whom he was to present perfect in Christ Jesus. Concerning the reprobate and rejected, whether they will not be banished from the presence of God, and from all their former relations; whether they will not be lost, as to all happiness of their own, so to the knowledge of those, who knew them in this mortal state, we have from Scripture no assurance or intimation whatever. One thing seems to follow with probability from the nature of the thing, namely, that if the wicked be known to one another in a state of perdition, their knowledge will only serve to aggravate their misery.
What then is the inference from all this? Do we seek, do we covet earnestly to be restored to the society of those who were once near and dear to us, and who are gone before?
before? It is only by leading godly lives, that we can hope to have this wish accomplished. Should we prefer, to all delights, to all pleasures in the world, the satisfaction of meeting again in happiness and peace, those whose presence, whilst they were amongst us, made
the comfort and enjoyment of our lives? It must be, by giving up our sins, by parting with our criminal delights and guilty pursuits, that we can ever expect to attain to this satisfac-' tion. Is there a great difference between the thought of losing those we love for ever, of taking at their deaths or our own,
, an eternal farewell, never to see them more;
and the reflection that we are about to be separated, for a few years at the longest, to be united with them in a new and better state of mutual existence; is there, I say, a difference to the heart of man between these two things ? and does it not call upon us to strive with redoubled endeavours, that the case truly may turn out so ? The more and more we reflect upon the difference, between the consequences of a lewd, unthinking, careless,
profane, dishonest life; and a life of religion, sobriety, seriousness, good actions and good principles, the more we shall see the madness and stupidity of the one, and the true solid wisdom of the other. This is one of the distinctions. If we go on in our sins, we are not to expect to awaken to a joyful meeting with our friends, and relatives, and dear connexions. If we turn away from our sins, and take up religion in earnest, we may. My brethren, religion disarms even death. It disarms it of that which is its bitterness and its sting, the power of dividing those who are dear to one another.
But this blessing, like every blessing which it promises, is only to the just and good, to the penitent and reformed, to those who are touched at the heart with a sense of its importance; who know thoroughly and experimentally, who feel in their inward mind and consciences, that religion is the only course that can end well: that can bring either them or theirs to the presence of God, blessed for evermore; that can cause them, after the toils of life and struggle of death are over, to