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But in this mortal strife, where nature feels her infirmities on every side, and the great question is, not how to die with composure, but how to meet the tribunal which awaits us after death, the anxious soul, casting about for help and deliverance, wants something more than an example of fortitude, which neither quickens its hopes, nor allays its fears.Then, the conviction that Christ died for the ungodly, and by his one oblation of himself, made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, is the only consideration that can bring it peace.
For with this conviction full before it, the consciousness, that if, by faith and spiritual communication it partakes in his death, it partakes also in his resurrection and consequent acquittal, yields it indescribable pleasure, and enables it, in the beautiful language of the Apostle, to exclaim, “O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory ?"
WHY SHOULD IT BE THOUGHT A THING INCREDIBLE WITH YOU, THAT
GOD SHOULD RAISE THE DEAD?"
THE resurrection of the dead is a truth of which man could have no possible knowledge but by revelation. There is nothing in nature to give us an original notion, much less to intimate to us the probability or expectation of such an event. When an animal dies it becomes apparently destroyed. The particles of which its body is composed, mix with the surrounding elements, and, to our apprehension, are quite lost in the general mass of matter which is perpetually undergoing new transformations. This is true of the human frame, and, therefore, the wisest of the heathen philosophers, never so much as conceived it possible for a dead body to be restored to life. Nay, they deemed such a notion, as the resurrection of the body, to be quite inconsistent with the happiness of the soul in a future state. Of the reality of such a state, the persuasion was general, for many of their most entertaining works abound with fanciful descriptions of it; but having no just conceptions of its nature, and no satifactory proofs of its reality, they encouraged it rather as an amusing theory, than as a governing principle of action. They felt that the soul could not die. Indeed, an impression of its immortality, seems to be inherent. But of its future condition,-its faculties, occupations, and enjoyments after death,—they appear, for the most part, to have had the strangest notions; such only as ignorance, prejudice, and superstition could supply.
The Jews were far better off in this respect. They had been taught, by God's merciful revelation, the history and the economy of man; how he was made, how he fell, and how he was to rise again. The doctrine of a future state was the basis of divine Scripture, and the responsibility of man in that state was manifest in all its pages. The resurrection, therefore, though not expressly taught, was evidently implied in the Old Testament, as St. Paul intimates in that memorable speech before King Agrippa, of which the text is a portion. His words are these, “Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the Prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.” The belief which grew out of this idea could not but
overawe and influence their lives, for the doctrine of à future state of rewards and punishments, necessarily carries with it some regard to our conduct, which is to be the subject of them. Still, it was not till our blessed Lord came, that this doctrine was expressly taught; nor till after his resurrection and return to heaven, that it became an established article of belief.
Many causes concurred to render this doctrine unpopular at the time when it was promulgated. It is highly probable, that the lives of men have, at all times, been a greater obstacle to the reception of religious truths, than any difficulty there was in the nature of the truths themselves. This is particularly observable of the one before us.
The resurrection of the dead and the final judgment which is contingent upon it, are utterly incompatible with a sensual, profane, and ungodly life; and as the passions of men, when unrestrained, darken the understanding, and render it averse to all moral considerations, so those
those men who are subject to them, generally reject the truth in proportion as it forbids and condemns their conduct. It is well known that the heathen nations were given up to all sorts of sensuality serving divers abominable lusts and pleasures, unthankful, unholy, and too many of the Jews were as little respectable in their morals. How, then, was it likely, that a doctrine which declared that the deeds done in the body should, in a future state, be judged in that body and punished for ever, could prove an acceptable
boon to men, who regarded the unrestrained licence of their passions as their greatest felicity and good ? To such men it must have been the most unwelcome truth that ever was promulgated. But independently of this, the evidence on which it stood had nothing to recommend it to the Heathen world. A man of obscure, origin had been put to death in Judea by the Roman Government for treasonable practices alleged against him by the Chief Priests and Elders of his nation ; and this supposed malefactor was declared by his adherents to have risen again from the dead. On this assumed account of his return, the doctrine of a general resurrection was publicly taught. Could any thing, on the first face of it, appear more improbable? any thing more unphilosophical ? or more contrary to experience ?yet such was the fact. Wherever the disciples of Jesus went, they began their address with this assertion, that the person in whose name they appeared, and for whom they claimed the highest honours of Deity was, after being crucified and slain, risen again from the dead. But they did not produce any examples * of the same kind, nor was Jesus standing by to corroborate their testimony. They wrought miracles in testimony of what they stated, and they ascribed those miracles to the power and agency of Christ.
So far they showed themselves to be endued with extraordinary talents, but this
* The case of Eutychus, at Troas, is the only miracle of this nature which is recorded to have been performed in the Gentile states.