THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD, AND ETERNAL JUDGMENT:
OR, THE TRUTH OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODIES, BOTH OF GOOD AND BAD AT THE LAST DAY: ASSERTED, AND PROVED BY GOD'S WORD.
ALSO, THE MANNER AND ORDER OF THEIR COMING FORTH OF THEIR GRAVES; AS ALSO, WITH WHAT BODIES THEY DO ARISE. TOGETHER, WITH A DISCOURSE OF THE LAST JUDGMENT, AND THE FINAL CONCLUSION OF THE WHOLE WORLD.
BY JOHN BUNYAN, A SERVANT OF THE LORD'S CHRIST.
"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed"—(1 Cor 15:51,52).
"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation"—(John 5:28,29).
ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR.
This very important treatise, judging from the style in which it is written, was, probably, one of the first books composed by Bunyan. The form in which it is prepared, with minute divisions to assist the memory, and its colloquial language, indicate that it was first intended for the pulpit and then enlarged to form a more complete treatise; while the frequent recurrence of the words "I say," shew the unpolished style in which he was in the habit of committing his thoughts to paper, when he became an author.
A good copy of what appears to be the first edition, is in the British Museum, a small 8vo, without date—and from this, collated with the reprint by C. Doe in Bunyan's works, 1691, the present edition is published. Doe, in his catalogue of all Mr. Bunyan's books, appended to the Heavenly Footman, 1690, states that "The resurrection of the Dead, and eternal Judgment by John Bunyan, a servant of the Lord's Christ, was first published in 1665." I have not been able to discover any subsequent edition in a separate volume.
The resurrection of the body is a subject of universal and deep importance. It defies our reasoning powers, while it exalts our ideas of the divine omnipotence. With God, all things revealed in his word are not only possible, but certain of accomplishment. The bodies of the saints, which are a part of the Redeemer's purchase will be raised in heavenly and wondrous perfection; like to the Saviour's glorious body. That body, which being transfigured "did shine as the sun, and his raiment became as the light." That body which, after his resurrection, might be touched, but which could appear and disappear to mortal eyes; in the room at Emmaus, or in a closed room filled with his disciples; could be touched, yet vanish away; could eat with them on the sea shore, and could ascend to heaven from the mount. Thus it was foretold by the prophet and reiterated by the apostle—"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" (Isa 64:4; 1 Cor 2:9). Not one atom of our dust can be lost; a bright, a glorious anticipation to the saints; but how solemn and awful a thought to those who die without hope. Among Christians it is common to think and talk of the happiness of the spirits of the just made perfect; but alas, how seldom do we think or speak of the perfect bliss of our whole nature, body, soul, and spirit—incorruptible, undefiled, glorified—every part equally the object of the Saviour's purchase and of his care.
This treatise, which will be ever new, and ever important, was peculiarly required in Bunyan's early days. Under the protectorate, the minds of men, which had been kept in slavery, became suddenly emancipated from human creeds and formularies of public worship. The personal attention of every one was then directed to the Bible—the Lord's day was observed, men were chosen as ministers not from high connections, but from deep and humble piety. Tens of thousands became happy in a personal knowledge of divine truth. At such a period, it must have happened that some evil spirits would exalt themselves, and that even some serious inquirers would draw strange conclusions from a misconception of divine truth; and dimly see "men as trees walking." Among these there appeared teachers, who, unable to comprehend how that body, which had gone to dust, or in some cases had been reduced by fire to its primary elements, and dispersed to the winds or waves, could be again produced. They revived an ancient error, That the new birth was the only resurrection from death; and consequently, that to those who were born again, the resurrection was passed. The individuals who promulgated these opinions, do not appear to have been associated together as a sect, or a church. The greater number were called in derision "ranters," and some "quakers." It is very probable, that this treatise was intended as an antidote to these delusions. We must not infer from the opinions of a few unworthy individuals, who justly deserved censure, that Bunyan meant to reflect upon the Society of Friends. This treatise was printed in 1665: but it was not until 1675 that the Quakers' rules of discipline were first published, and they from that time as a sect have been, in a high degree, conformable to the morality and heavenly influences of the gospel. But even before this, Fox, Crisp, Penn, Barclay, and others, who afterwards formed the Society of Friends, had declared their full belief in this doctrine. "The resurrection of the just and unjust—the last judgment—heaven and hell as future rewards—we believe and confess." "We believe the holy manhood of Christ to be in heavenly glory." "We acknowledge a resurrection in order to eternal recompence, and rest contented with that body which it shall please God to give us." "We do firmly believe that besides the resurrection of the soul from the death of sin, to a life of righteousness while here, there will be a resurrection of the dead hereafter, and that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." Barclay, in his catechism, 1673, clearly asserts Bunyan's own ideas of the resurrection. But in the face of these, and a thousand similar declarations, the grossest calumnies were asserted by a fanatic clergyman, Alexr. Ross, in his View of all Religions:—"The Ranters are a sect of beasts that neither divide the hoof, nor chew the cud; that is to say, very unclean ones. They, like the Quakers, oppose forms and order (the form and order of Common Prayer). To anatomize this monster: 1st, They hold that God, Devils, Angels, Heaven, and Hell, are fictions. 2d, That Moses, the Baptist, and Christ were impostors. 3d, That preaching and praying is lying." 8vo., 1696, p. 273. And such wild slanders were uttered occasionally against all dissenters, until a much later period. Happily they are now better known, and the truths of Christianity are more appreciated. I have been careful to guard the reader upon this subject, lest it should be thought that Bunyan had in any degree manifested the spirit of those, who even to the present day misrepresent the opinions of the Quakers. This may be occasioned by their distinguishing tenet—That the work of the ministry is purely a labour of love, and ought not to be performed for hire—derived from the command of Christ to his disciples, "Freely ye have received, freely give." This, however, is no reason that they should be, as to their general views of divine truth, misrepresented and traduced.
Bunyan, at all times solemn and impressive, is peculiarly earnest and searching in this treatise. The dead will arise involuntarily and irresistibly—conscience uncontrolled, must testify the truth, yea, all the truth to the condemnation of the soul and body, unless cleansed from sin by faith in the Redeemer and the sacred influences of the Holy Spirit. The books will be opened, and every thought and word and action be seen inscribed in characters legible to all. Every soul will be able to read and clearly to understand those mysterious books—God's omniscient, his penetrating, his universal sight of all things from the creation of the world to the final consummation; and his perfect remembrance of all that he saw—are one and the same. There is then no refuge, no escape—the word depart impels obedience, and the sinner plunges into eternal woe!! O that the living may lay these awful realities to heart, and fly for refuge to the bosom of the Redeemer—he only is able—he is willing to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him. And they who find in him a refuge from the storms of life, shall hear his voice irresistibly impelling them to heaven, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
O glorious hour! O blest abode! I shall be like and near my God! And flesh and sin no more control The sacred pleasures of the soul.
May the divine blessing abundantly attend the reading of these awful or joyful realities.
Though this be a small treatise, yet it doth present thee with things of the greatest and most weighty concernment, even with a discourse of life and death to eternity: opening, and clearing, by the scriptures of God, that the time is at hand, when, there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust; even of the bodies of both, from the graves where they are, or shall be, at the approach of that day.
Thou hast also in these few lines, the order and manner of the rising of these two sorts of people, wherein is shewed thee with what body they shall then rise, as also their states and condition at this day, with great clearness.
For here thou shalt see the truth, and manner of the terrible judgment, the opening of the books, the examining of witnesses, with a final conclusion upon good and bad. Which, I hope will be profitable to thy soul that shall read it. For if thou art godly, then here is that which will, through God's blessing, encourage thee to go on in the faith of the truth of the gospel; but if thou art ungodly, then here thou mayst meet with conviction: yea, and that of what will be, without fail, thy end, at the end of the world: whether thou continue in thy sins, or repent. If thou continue in them, blackness, and darkness, and everlasting destruction; but if thou repent, and believe the gospel, then light, and life, and joy, and comfort, and glory, and happiness, and that to eternity.
Wherefore let me here beg these things at thy hand,
First, That thou take heed of that spirit of mockery that saith, "Where is the promise of his coming?" (2 Peter 3:4,5).
Secondly, Take heed that thy heart be not overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and so that day come upon thee unawares (Luke 21:34,35).
Thirdly, But be diligent in making thy calling and election sure; that thou in the day, of which thou shalt read more in this book, be not found without that glorious righteousness that will then stand thee in stead, and present thee before his glorious presence, with exceeding joy. To him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, world without end. Amen.
OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD.
"BUT THIS I CONFESS UNTO THEE, THAT AFTER THE WAY WHICH THEY CALL HERESY, SO WORSHIP I THE GOD OF MY FATHERS, BELIEVING ALL THINGS WHICH ARE WRITTEN IN THE LAW AND IN THE PROPHETS: AND HAVE HOPE TOWARD GOD, WHICH THEY THEMSELVES ALSO ALLOW, THAT THERE SHALL BE A RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD, BOTH OF THE JUST AND UNJUST"—(Acts 24:14,15).
My discourse upon this text, will chiefly concern the resurrection of the dead: wherefore to that I shall immediately apply myself, not meddling with what else is couched in the words.
You see here, that Paul, being upon his arraignment, accused of many things, by some that were violent for his blood; and being licensed to speak for himself by the then heathen magistrate; he doth in few words tell them, that as touching the crimes wherewith they charged him, he was utterly faultless, only this he confessed, that after that way which they call heresy, so he worshipped the God of his fathers; believing all things that are written in the law and the prophets, and that he had the same hope towards God, which they themselves did allow, that there should be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
Whence note by the way, that a hypocritical people, will persecute the power of those truths in others, which themselves in words profess. I have hopes towards God, and that, such a hope which themselves do allow, and yet I am this day, and that for this very thing, persecuted by them.
But to come to my purpose, "There shall be a resurrection of the dead," &c. By these words, the apostle sheweth us what was the substance of his doctrine, to wit, that there should be "a resurrection of the dead;" and by these words also, what was the great argument with his soul, to carry him through these temptations, afflictions, reproaches, and necessities he met with in this world, even the doctrine of a resurrection. I have hope towards God, saith he, and there is my mind fixed; for there shall be "a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." The reason why I cannot do what these Jews would have me; also why I cannot live as do the Gentiles, it is, because I have in my soul, the faith of the resurrection. This is the doctrine I say, which makes me fear to offend, and that is as an undergirder to my soul, whereby I am kept from destruction and confusion, under all the storms and tempests I here go through. In a word, this is it that hath more awe upon my conscience than all the laws of men, with all the penalties they inflict. "And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men" (verse 16).
Now here, seeing this doctrine of the resurrection of the dead hath that power, both to bear up and to awe; both to encourage and to keep within compass, the spirit and body of the people of God; it will be requisite, and profitable for us, to inquire into the true meaning and nature of this word, "the resurrection of the dead."
And for the better compassing of this matter, I shall briefly enquire,
First, What in this place is meant by the dead.
Secondly, What is meant by the resurrection.
Thirdly, Why the apostle doth here speak of the resurrection of the dead as of a thing yet to come—"There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust."
First. The dead in scripture go under a five-fold consideration; as,
1. Such as die a natural death, or as when a man ceaseth to be any more in this world, as David, whom Peter tells us "is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us to this day" (Acts 2:29).
2. There is a people that are reckoned dead in trespasses and sins, as those are, who never yet were translated from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. Such, I say, who yet never felt the power of the Word and Spirit of God, to raise them from that state, to walk with him in the regeneration; making a life out of Christ, and his present benefits (Eph 2:1,2; John 5:25).
3. There is a death seizeth men often after some measure of light received from God, and some profession of the gospel of Christ. These, for the certainty of their damnation, are said to be dead—dead, twice dead, and plucked up by the roots (Jude 12).
4. There is in scripture mention made of a death to sin, and the lusts of the flesh; this death is the beginning of true life and happiness, and is a certain forerunner of a share in Christ, and with him in another world (Rom 6:6-8; 2 Tim 2:11).
5. Lastly, There is also in the word, a relation of eternal death. This is the death that those are in, and swallowed up of, that go out of this world Godless, Christless, and graceless; dying in sin, and so under the curse of the dreadful God; who, I say, because they have missed of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour in this day of grace: are fallen into the gulf and jaws of eternal death and misery, in the fire that never shall be quenched (Mark 9:43,44; Luke 16:23-26).
Now then, seeing there is death, or to be dead, taken under so many considerations in the scripture; it is evident, that to be dead in Christ, the text is not meant of them all: I then must distinguish, and inquire which of these deaths it is, that here the apostle did look for a resurrection from. (1.) then, It cannot be meant a resurrection from eternal death, for from that there is no redemption (Psa 49:8). (2.) Neither is it a resurrection from that double death; for they that are in that, are past recovery also. (3.) And as for those that are dead to sin, it is nonsense to say there shall, or can be a resurrection from that: for that itself is a resurrection; which resurrection also, the apostle had then passed through: and also all the brethren, as he saith, You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins (Col 2:12,13,20). And again, "If ye then be risen with Christ" (Col 3:1), and again, "Wherein also ye are risen with him, through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead" (Col 2:12). (4.) The dead therefore in this scripture, must be understood of those that have departed this life, that have body and soul separated each from the other; and so the resurrection, a resurrection of the body out of the grave; as Daniel saith, "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake" (Dan 12:2). And again, "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth," &c. (John 5:28,29).
Second. [What is meant by the resurrection.] The resurrection of the just, then, is the rising of the bodies of the just, and the resurrection of the unjust, the rising of their bodies, at the last judgment. This also is the meaning of that saying of Paul to Agrippa, "I stand," saith he, "and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers" (Acts 26:6), which promise at first began to be fulfilled in the resurrection of the body of Christ (Acts 13:32,33), and hath its accomplishment, when the dead, small and great, are raised out of their graves. Wherefore, though Paul saith in the 13th of the Acts, it is already fulfilled; yet here he saith, he hopes it shall come. "Which promise," saith he, "our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come" (Acts 26:7). As God told Daniel, saying, "go thy way, till the end be: for thou shalt rest and stand in thy lot at the end of the days" (Dan 12:13).
Christ is already risen, and therefore so far the promise is fulfilled; but his saints are yet in their graves, and therefore that part of the fulfilling of it is yet to come, as he saith, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" (Acts 26:8).
Again, That it is the resurrection of the dead bodies of both saints and sinners that is here inserted, it is further evident; because the apostle saith, it is the resurrection, that the very Pharisees themselves allowed. I have hope towards God, saith he, which themselves also allow; then what that hope is, he in the next words sheweth, namely, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, &c. Now we know, that the Pharisees did not allow of a resurrection from a state of nature, to a state of grace, which is the same with the new birth; but did confidently allow and teach, that they were the children of Abraham, according to the flesh. Yea, when any of them began to adhere, or incline to Christ's doctrine in some things, yet the doctrine of the new birth, or of being raised from a state of nature, to a state of grace, they would very much stick at; though in the meantime, they utterly were against the doctrine of the Sadducees, which denied the resurrection of the body (John 3:1-9; 8:51-56; Acts 23:6-8).
Further, the resurrection here spoken of, must needs be the resurrection of the body, because it is called, "a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust"—that is, of both saints and sinners, according to the saying of Christ, "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28,29).
Third. [The resurrection spoken of is a thing yet to come;] the resurrection here mentioned, is a resurrection to come, not already enjoyed, either by saints or sinners—"There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." Now, I say, the resurrection here being yet deferred by the just, and counted also the resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust: it must needs be the same resurrection that is spoken of by Job, who saith, "So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep" (Job 14:12).
Having thus, in few words, opened this scripture unto you, I shall in the next place, for the further satisfaction of those that are yet wavering, and for the refreshment of those that are strong and steadfast, lay down before you, several undeniable scripture demonstrations of the resurrection of the dead, both of the just, and unjust.
FIRST, I shall first begin with,
THE RESURRECTION OF THE JUST.
First, The just must arise, because Christ is risen from the dead. Christ is the head of the just, and they are the members of his body; and because of this union, therefore the just must arise. This is the apostle's own argument—"If Christ," saith he, "be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen" (1 Cor 15:12,13). Now, I say, the reason why the apostle thus argueth the resurrection from the dead, by the resurrection of Christ, it is, because the saints, of whose resurrection he here chiefly discourseth, are in their bodies, as well as in their souls, the members of Christ; "Know ye not," saith he, "that your bodies are the members of Christ" (1 Cor 6:15). A very weighty argument; for if a good man be a member of Christ, then he must either be raised out of his grave, or else sin and death must have power over a member of Christ. I say again, if this body be not raised, then also Christ is not a complete conqueror over his enemies; forasmuch as death and the grave have still power over his members. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Cor 15:26). Now, though Christ in his own person hath a complete conquest over death, &c., yet death hath still power over the bodies of all that are in their graves: now, I say, Christ being considered with relation to his members, then he hath not yet a complete conquest over death, neither will he, until they every one be brought forth of their graves; for then, and not till then, shall that saying be every way fulfilled, "Death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Cor 15:53,54).
Second, As there must be a resurrection of the just, because Christ is their head, and they his members: so also, because the body of the saints, as well as their soul, is the purchase of Christ's blood. "Ye are bought with a price:" saith Paul; "therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor 6:20). Christ will not lose the purchase of his blood. O death, saith Christ, I will have them; O grave, I will make thee let them go; I will ransom them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death. I have bought them, and they shall be mine. "O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction" (Hosea 13:14): I say, though the power of the grave be invincible, and death be "the king of terrors" (Job 18:14), yet he who hath the keys of hell and of death at his girdle (Rev 1:18), to him belongeth the issues from death. "He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death" (Psa 68:20), and we, the price of his blood, shall be delivered.
Third, As the body is the member of Christ, and the price of his blood: so it is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in us. "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you,—and ye are not your own?" (1 Cor 6:19). The body is no such ridiculous thing in the account of Christ as it was in the account of the Sadducees. "The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body" (verse 13), and that not only in this world, but that which is to come; wherefore he saith, "God hath both raised up the Lord [Jesus,] and will also raise us up by his own power"—that is, as he hath raised up the body of Christ, so will he raise up ours also by Christ.
Fourth, The bodies of the just must arise again, because of that similitude, that must be betwixt the body of the Lord Jesus Christ and the bodies of the saints. "When he shall appear, we shall be like him" (1 John 3:2). Now we have it abundantly manifest in scripture, that the body of the Lord Jesus, was raised out of the grave, caught up into heaven, and that it ever remaineth in the holiest of all, a glorified body (Luke 24:3-7; 36-43; John 20:24-28; Acts 1:2-11; 2:31; 17:30-32; Mark 16:6,7,19; Heb 7:24-26; 8:1-3; 10:12).
Now, I say, it would be very strange to me if Christ should be raised, ascended, and glorified in that body; and yet that his people should be with him, no otherwise than in their spirits; especially, seeing that he in his resurrection, is said to be but "the first-born from the dead, and the first-fruits of them that sleep" (Col 1:18; 1 Cor 15:23). For we know, that a first-begotten doth imply more sons, and that first-fruits do foreshew an after-crop; wherefore we conclude, that "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (1 Cor 15:22,23).
And hence it is that the scripture saith, He "shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body" (Phil 3:21). And hence it is again, that the day of Christ is said to be the day of the manifestation of the sons of God, and of the redemption of our body (Rome 8:21-24), for then shall the saints of God not only be, but appear as their Saviour, being delivered from their graves, as he is from his, and glorified in their bodies, as he is in his.
Fifth, There must be a resurrection of the body of the saints, because the body, as well as the mind, hath been a deep sharer in the afflictions that we meet with for the gospel's sake. Yea, the body is ofttimes the greater sufferer, in all the calamities, that for Christ's sake we here undergo; it is the body that feels the stocks, the whip, hunger and cold, the fire and rack, and a thousand calamities; it is the body in which we have the dying marks of the Lord Jesus, "that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal1 flesh" (Gal 6:17; 2 Cor 4:11). God is so just a God, and so merciful to his people, that though the bodies of his saints should, through the malice of the enemy, be never so dishonourably tortured, killed, and sown in the grave: yet he will, as further will be shewn anon, raise it again in incorruption, glory, and honour: as he saith also in another place, that we who have continued with Christ in his temptations, that have for his sake underwent the reproach and malice of the world, to you, saith Christ. "I appoint a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me" (Luke 22:28,29). If we suffer, we shall also reign with him (2 Tim 2:12): "and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal" (John 12:25). All this is to be enjoyed, especially at the resurrection of the just. But,
Sixth, There must be a resurrection of the just, otherwise, there will be the greatest disappointment on all sides that ever was, since man had a being on the earth. A disappointment, I say,
1. Of the will of God—"And this is the Father's will which hath sent me," saith Christ, "that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, [not a dust,] but should raise it up again at the last day" (John 6:39).
2. A disappointment of the power of God; for he that hath raised up the Lord Jesus, doth also intend to raise us up by his power, even our bodies; as Paul saith, "The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his power" (1 Cor 6:13,14).
3. If there should be no resurrection of the just, Christ also would be wonderfully disappointed of the fruits of all his sufferings. As I told you before, his people are the price of his blood, and the members of his body, and he is now at the right hand of God, "far above all principalities and powers, and every name that is named," expecting till his enemies be made his footstool (Heb 1:13), and brought under the foot of the weakest saint; which will not be, until the last enemy death is destroyed. We know that he said, when he went away, that he would come again, and fetch all his people to himself, even up into heaven, that where he is, there we may be also (John 12:26; 14:1-3; 17:24). But, I say, how will he be disappointed, if when he comes, the grave and death should prevent and hinder him, and with its bars, keep down those, whom he hath ransomed with his blood, from the power thereof.
4. If the bodies of the just arise [not] from the dead, then they also will be disappointed. 'Tis true, the saints departed, have far more fellowship and communion with God and the Lord Jesus, than we have, or are not yet capable of having, they being in paradise, and we in this world (Luke 23:43); but yet, I say for all that, they are, though there, very much longing for the day of the Lord's vengeance, which will be the day in which they will, and must arise from the dead. This, I say, is the time that they long for, when they cry under the altar, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (Rev 6:10,11). When they died, they died in hope to "obtain a better resurrection" (Heb 11:35), and now they are gone, they long till that day be come; till the day come, I say, when the dead, even all the enemies of Christ, shall be judged; for then will he give rewards to his servants the prophets, and to his saints, and to all that fear his name, small and great (Rev 11:18).
5. If the just arise not, great disappointment also will be to the saints yet alive in this world; for, notwithstanding they have already received the first-fruits of the Spirit, yet they wait, not only for more of that, but also for the resurrection, redemption, and changing of this vile body. "For our conversation is in heaven," saith Paul, "from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like to his glorious body" (Rom 8:20-23; Phil 3:20,21). But now, I say, if the body riseth not, then how can it be made like to the glorious body of Christ Jesus: yea, what a sad disappointment, infatuation, and delusion, are those poor creatures under, that look, and that by scripture warrant, for such a thing? They look for good, but behold evil; they expect to be delivered in their whole man from every enemy; but lo, both death and the grave, their great enemies, do swallow them up for ever. But, beloved, be not deceived. "The needy shall not always be forgotten, the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever" (Psa 9:18). Saith Christ, He that seeth the Son, and believeth on him that sent him, hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:40).
6. If the just arise not out of their graves, then also is every grace of God in our souls defeated; for though the spirit of devotion can put forth a feigned show of holiness with the denial of the resurrection, yet every grace of God in the elect doth prompt them forward to live as becomes the gospel, by pointing at this day; as, (1.) 'Tis this that faith looks at, according as it is written, "I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you" (2 Cor 4:13,14). (2.) Hope looks at this. "We," saith Paul, "which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body"—that is, we expect this by hope; "but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth," or hath in present possession, "why doth he yet hope for?" (Rom 8:23,24). (3.) The grace of self-denial also worketh by this doctrine—"If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not?" (1 Cor 15:32). As who should say, Wherefore do I deny myself of those mercies and privileges that the men of this world enjoy? Why do not I also, as well as they, shun persecution for the cross of Christ? If the dead rise not, what shall I be the better for all my trouble that here I meet with for the gospel of Christ? (4.) Both zeal and patience, with all other the graces of the Spirit of God in our hearts, are much, yea, chiefly encouraged, animated, and supported by this doctrine; as James saith, "Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord," for then shall the dead be raised (1 Thess 4:16,17). "Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (James 5:7,8).
Seventh, The doctrine of the resurrection of the just, must needs be a certain truth of God, if we consider the devilish, and satanical errors and absurdities that must unavoidably follow the denial thereof; as, he that holdeth no resurrection of our body, he denieth the resurrection of the body of Christ. This is the Spirit's own doctrine—"For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised" (1 Cor 15:16). He that denieth the resurrection of the members, denieth the resurrection of the head; for seeing the resurrection of the saints is proved by the resurrection of Christ, he that doth deny the resurrection of the saints, must needs deny the resurrection of Christ, that proves it. Now this error, as it is in itself destructive to all Christian religion: so it, like an adder, carrieth within its bowels, many other alike devilish and filthy; as,
1. He that denieth the resurrection of the saints, he concludeth, that to preach deliverance from sin and death, it is vain preaching; for how can he be freed of sin, that is swallowed up for ever of death and the grave? as he most certainly is, that is always contained therein, as Paul saith, "If Christ be not risen," whose resurrection is the ground of ours, "then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain" (1 Cor 15:14), then we preach fables, and you receive them for truth.
2. This error, casteth the lie in the face of God, of Christ, and the Scriptures—"Yea, and we," saith Paul, "are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ:—if so be that the dead rise not" (1 Cor 15:15). Mark, before he said, Christ in his resurrection, doth prove our resurrection; but now he saith, that our resurrection will prove the truth of his; and indeed both are true; for as by Christ's rising, ours is affirmed; so by ours, his is demonstrated.
3. The denial of the resurrection, it also damneth all those that have departed this world in the faith of this doctrine. "If Christ be not raised," (as if he is not, we rise not, then is not only) your faith vain, ye are yet in your sins (that are alive,) but "then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished" (1 Cor 15:17,18).
4. He that denieth the resurrection of the just, he concludeth, that the Christian is of all men the most miserable. Mark the words: "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (1 Cor 15:19). First of all, men the most miserable, because we let go present enjoyments for those that will never come, "if the dead rise not." Of all men most miserable, because our faith, our hope, our joy, and peace, are all but a lie, "if the dead rise not." But you will say, he that giveth up himself to God shall have comfort in this life. Ah! but "if the dead rise not," all our comfort that now we think we have from God, will then be found presumption and madness, because we believe, that God hath so loved us, as to have us in his day, in body and soul, to heaven: which will be nothing so, if the dead rise not. If in this life only, we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. Poor Christian! thou that lookest for the blessed hope of the resurrection of the body, at the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, how wilt thou be deceived, if the dead rise not! "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead" (1 Cor 15:20,21).
5. But again; he that denieth the resurrection of the dead, he setteth open a flood-gate to all manner of impiety; he cutteth the throat of a truly holy life, and layeth the reins upon the neck of the most outrageous lusts; for if the dead rise not, let us eat and drink; that is, do anything, though never so diabolical and hellish; "let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die" (1 Cor 15:32), and there is an end of us; we shall not arise again, to receive either evil or good.
6. To deny this resurrection, nay, if a man do but say, it is past either with him or any Christian: his so saying tendeth directly to the destruction and overthrow of the faith of them that hear him; and is so far from being according to the doctrine of God, that it eateth out good and wholesome doctrine even as cankers eat the face and flesh of a man. How ill-favouredly do they look, that have their nose and lips eaten off with the canker? Even so badly doth the doctrine of no resurrection of the dead, look in the eyes of God, Christ, saints, and scripture (2 Tim 2:18).
7. I conclude then, that to deny the resurrection of the bodies of the just, it argueth,
(1.) Great ignorance of God, ignorant of his power to raise, ignorant of his promise to raise, ignorant of his faithfulness to raise; and that both to himself, Son, and saints, as I shewed before. Therefore saith Paul to those that were thus deluded, "Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame" (1 Cor 15:34). As if he had said, Do you profess Christianity? and do you question the resurrection of the body? Do you now know, that the resurrection of the body, and glory to follow, is the very quintessence of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Are you ignorant of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and do you question the power and faithfulness of God, both to his Son and his saints; because you say, there shall be no resurrection of the dead? You are ignorant of God; of what he can do, of what he will do, and of what he will by doing glorify himself.
(2.) As it argueth very great ignorance of God's power, faithfulness, &c., so it argueth gross ignorance of the tenor and current of the scriptures; for "as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses [saith Christ] how in the bush, God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err" (Mark 12:26,27).
To be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it is to be understood of his being their God under a new covenant consideration; as he saith, "I will be their God, and they shall be my people." Now, thus he is not the God of the dead—that is, of those that perish, whether they be angels or men (Heb 8:10,11; John 8:42; 1 John 3:8-10; Hosea 6:2; Col 3:4; Eph 1:4).
Now, I say, they that are the children of God, as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they are counted the living under a threefold consideration—(a.) In their Lord and head, and thus all the elect may be said to live; for they are from eternity chosen in him, who also is their life, though possibly many of them yet unconverted. I say, yet Christ is their life, by the eternal purpose of God. (b.) The children of the new covenant, do live both in their spirits in glory, by open vision, and here by faith and the continual communication of grace from Christ into their souls (Gal 2:20). (c.) They live also with respect to their rising again; for God "calleth those things which be not as though they were" (Rom 4:17). To be born, dead, buried, risen, and ascended, are all present with God, he liveth not by time, as we do—a thousand years to him are but as the day that is past. And again, "One day is as a thousand years" (2 Peter 3:8). Eternity, which is God himself, admitteth of no first, second, and third; all things are naked and bare before him, and present with him (Heb 4:13; Isa 46:9,10); all his live unto him. There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust (Rom 8:29-34).
A resurrection—of what? Of that which is sown, or of that which was never sown? If of that which is sown, then it must be either of that nature that was sown, or else of the corruption that cleaveth to it; but it is the nature, and not the corruption that cleaveth unto it, that riseth again. And verily, the very term "resurrection" is a forcible argument to prove the dead shall come forth of their graves; for the Holy Ghost hath always spoken more properly than to say, "There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust;" when yet neither the good nor the bad shall come forth of their graves, but rather something else to delude the world withal.
Having thus in few words, shewed you the truth of the resurrection of the dead, I now come,
SECOND—To the manner of their rising.
THE MANNER OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE JUST.
And FIRST of the just.
The apostle, when he had in the fifteenth of the 1st of the Corinthians proved the truth and certainty of the resurrection, he descends to the discovery of the manner of it; and to the end, he might remove those foolish scruples that attend the hearts of the ignorant, he begins with one of their questions—"But some man will say," saith he, "How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" (verse 35). To which he answereth,
First, By a similitude of seed, that is sown in the earth. In which similitude, he inserteth three things—
1. That our reviving or rising, must be after death—"That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die" (verse 36).
2. That at our rising, we shall not only revive and live, but be changed into a far more glorious state than when we were sown. "That which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be," &c. "But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him" (verse 38)—that is, he giveth the body more splendour, lustre, and beauty at its resurrection. But,
3. Neither its quickening, not yet its transcendent splendour, shall hinder it from being the same body—as to the nature of it—that was sown in the earth; for as God giveth it a body, for honour and splendour as it pleaseth him, so "to every seed his own body" (verse 38).
And, indeed, this similitude by which he here reasoneth the manner of the resurrection of the just, is very natural, and fitly suiteth each particular; for, as to its burial—(1.) The corn of wheat is first dead, and after sown and buried in the earth; and so is the body of man. (2.) After the corn is thus dead and buried, then it quickeneth and reviveth to life: so also shall it be with our body; for after it is laid in the grave and buried, it shall then quicken, rise, and revive.
Again, as to the manner of its change in its rising, this similitude also doth fitly suit; as,
It is sown a dead corn; it is raised a living one. It is sown dry, and without comeliness; it riseth green and beautiful. It is sown a single corn; it riseth a full ear. It is sown in its husk; but in its rising it leaveth that husk behind it.
Further, though the kernel thus die, be buried, and meet with all this change and alteration in these things, yet none of them can cause the nature of the kernel to cease—it is wheat still. Wheat was sown and wheat ariseth; only it was sown dead, dry, and barren wheat; and riseth living, beautiful, and fruitful wheat. It hath this alteration, then, that it doth greatly change its resemblance, though yet it hath this power, as still to retain its own nature. God giveth it a body as it pleaseth him, "but to every seed his own body."
The apostle having thus presented the manner of the resurrection of the saints by the nature of seed sown and rising again; he proceedeth,
Second, for further illustration, to three more similitudes—The first is, to shew us the variety and glory of flesh. The second is, to shew us the difference of glory that is between heavenly bodies, and those that are earthy. The third is, to shew us the difference that is between the glory of the light of the sun, from that of the moon; and also how one star differeth from another in glory: and then concludeth, "so is the resurrection of the dead" (1 Cor 15:39-43). As who should say, at the resurrection of the bodies, they will be abundantly more altered and changed, than if the flesh of beasts and fowls were made as noble as the flesh of men; or the bodies of earth, were made as excellent as the heavenly bodies, or as if the glory of the moon should be made as bright, and as clear as the glory of the sun; or as if the glory of the least star was as glorious, and as shining, as the biggest in the firmament of heaven.
It is a resurrection indeed, a resurrection every way. The body ariseth, as to the nature of it, the self-same nature; but as to the manner of it; how far transcendent is it! There is a poor, dry, wrinkled kernel cast into the ground, and there it lieth, and swelleth, breaketh, and, one would think, perisheth; but behold, it receiveth life, it chitteth,2 it putteth forth a blade, and groweth into a stalk, there also appeareth an ear; it also sweetly blossoms, with a full kernel in the ear: it is the same wheat, yet behold how the form and fashion of that which now ariseth, doth differ from that which then was sown; its glory also when 'twas sown, is no glory, when compared with that in which it riseth. And yet it is the same that riseth that was sown, and no other; though the same after a far more glorious manner; not the same with its husk, but without it. Our bran shall be left behind us when we rise again. The comparison also between the bodies heavenly and bodies earthly holds forth the same—"The glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another." Now mark it; he doth not speak here of the natures of each of these bodies; but of the transcendent glory of one above another. "The glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another." Wherefore I say, at our rising, we shall not change our nature, but our glory; we shall be equal to the angels (Luke 20:36), not with respect to their nature, but glory. The nature also of the moon is one thing, and the glory of the moon is another; and so one star also differeth from another in glory.
A beggar hath the same nature as a king, and gold in the ore, the same nature with that which is best refined; but the beggar hath not the same glory with the king, nor yet the gold in ore, the same glory with that which is refined. But our state will be far more altered than any of these in the days when we, like so many suns in the firmament of heaven, arise out of the heart and bowels of the earth.
These things thus considered do shew you how vainly they argue, that say, our human nature consisting of body and soul, shall not inherit the kingdom of God, and also how far from their purpose, that saying of the apostle is, which saith, that "flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God." And now also, because I am fallen upon the objection itself, I shall not pass it, but with a short dash at it. Wherefore reader, whoever thou art, consider that frequently in scripture the words "flesh" and "blood," as also in the place alleged, are not to be understood of that matter which God made; which flesh cleaveth to our bones, and blood runs in our veins: but is taken for that corruption, weakness, mortality, and evil that cleaveth to it; which weakness and corruption, because it possesseth all men, and also wholly ruleth where the soul is unconverted; therefore it beareth the name of that which is ruled and acted by it—to wit, our whole man, consisting of body and soul; yet, I say, is a thing distinct from that flesh and blood which is essential to our being, and without which we are no men. As, for instance, he that is Christ's, saith Paul, "hath crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts" (Gal 5:24), Who is so vain as to think that the apostle by these words, should mean our material flesh that hangeth on our bones, and that is mixed with our natural blood, sinews, and veins; and not rather of that inward fountain of sin, corruption, and wickedness, which in another place he calleth "the old man," with his "deceitful lusts" (Eph 4:22). Again, "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh." Is it our flesh that hangeth on our bones, which lusteth against the spirit? and that also against which the spirit lusteth? Certainly, if the spirit lusteth against our material flesh, then it is our duty not to nourish it at all, because, by nourishing of it we nourish that against which the Spirit of God fighteth, and warreth. Nay, if the spirit lust against the flesh on our bones simply considered as flesh; and if it be our duty to follow the Spirit, as it is, then we must needs kill ourselves, or cut our flesh from our bones. For whatever the Spirit of God lusteth against, it must be destroyed; yea, it is our duty with all speed to destroy it. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that by flesh here is to be understood, not the nature that God hath made, but the corrupt apprehension, and wisdom, with those inclinations to evil, that lodge within us, which in another place are called the "wisdom of the flesh," yea, in plain terms, "flesh and blood," where Christ saith, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed [this] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matt 16:17).
Nay, observe it, all these places, with many others, do rather point at a corrupt soul, than a corrupt body; for, indeed, sin and all spiritual wickedness, they have their seat in the heart and soul of a man, and by their using this or that member of the body, so defile the man; the weaknesses of the body, or that attend our material flesh and blood, they are weaknesses of another kind, as sickness, aches, pains, sores, wounds, defection of members, &c. Wherefore, where you read of flesh and blood, as rejected of God; especially, when it speaks of the flesh and blood of saints, you are not to understand it as meant of the flesh, which is their proper human nature, but of that weakness which cleaveth to it.
Paul in another place, reckoneth up the works of the flesh, in many things, as in witchcraft, hatred, variance, strife, emulation, fornication, and many others. But can any imagine, that he there should strike at that flesh which hangeth on our bones, or rather at that malignity and rebellion that is in the mind of man against the Lord, by reason of which the members of the body are used this way, and also sometimes that, to accomplish its most filthy and abusive deeds (Gal 5:17-21). "They were—enemies in [their] mind by wicked works" (Col 1:21).
Thus you see that "flesh and blood" is not to be taken always for the flesh that is upon our hands, and feet, and other parts of our body; but for that sin, weakness, and infirmity, that cleaveth to our whole man.
Further then, touching our real substantial flesh, it may be either considered as God's creature purely, or as corrupted with sin and infirmity. Now if you consider it as corrupted, so it shall not inherit the kingdom of God: but yet consider it as God's creature, and so all that God hath converted to himself, through Jesus Christ, shall, even with that body when changed, inherit the kingdom of God. The woman whose clothes are foul, can yet distinguish between the dirt and the cloth on which it hangeth; and so deals God with us. 'Tis true, there is not one saint, but while he liveth here, his body is arrayed and infected with many corrupt and filthy things, as touching bodily weaknesses; yea, and also with many sinful infirmities, by reason of that body of sin and death that yet remains in us: but yet God, I say, distinguisheth between our weaknesses, and his workmanship, and can tell how to save the whole man of his people, while he is destroying the corruption and weakness that cleaveth to them.
And now to return to the place objected—"Flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God." It cannot be truly understood, that that flesh which is man's nature shall not enter the kingdom; for then, as I said before, Christ must lose his members, the purchase of his blood, the vessels and temples of his Spirit; for all this is our body. Again, then Christ also, in that his body, which is also our flesh and blood, is not in glory, contrary to the whole current of the New Testament (Heb 2:14,15; 7:24,25; 8;3,4; 10:10-12; Rev 1:18; 2:8).
Yea, it would be nonsense to say, there should be a resurrection, and that our vile body shall be changed, "and made like to the glorious body of the Son of God;" if this body do not at all rise again, but some other thing, which is not in us, and our nature. But to be short; the apostle here, when he saith, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit," &c., speaks properly of that mortality and weakness, that now attends our whole man, and not of our real substantial body itself. For after he had said, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God," he adds, "neither doth corruption inherit incorruption," which two sayings are answerable to what he presently adds, saying, "Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead"—mark, "the dead shall be raised incorruptible"—that is, the dead shall be so raised as that in their rising, incorruption shall possess them instead of corruption, and immortality instead of that mortality that descended to the grave with them,—"for this corruptible"—mark, this corruptible—"must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." Mark, I say, it is this corruptible, and this mortal, that must be raised, though not corruptible and mortal, as it was buried; but immortal and incorruptible; it shall leave its grave-clothes of corruption and mortality behind it (1 Cor 15:50-53).
THIRD. The manner of which their rising, the apostle doth more distinctly branch out a little above in four particulars, which particulars are these that follow—1. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. 2. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. 3. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 4. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body (1 Cor 15).
1. It is raised in incorruption. We are brought into this world by sin and corruption; corruption is our father, and in sin did our mother conceive us (Job 17:14; Psa 51:5). And hence it is that we have our life, not only like a span, shadow, or post, for shortness, but also, that it is attended with so much vanity and vexation of spirit. But now being raised from the dead incorruptible, which is also called a begetting and birth, these things that now in our life annoy us, and at last take away our life, are effectually destroyed; and therefore we live for ever, as saith the Spirit—"And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things," that is, all our corruptibleness, "are passed away" (Rev 21:4).
There shall be in our resurrection no corruption, either of body or of soul; no weakness, nor sickness, nor anything tending that way; as he saith, He will present us "to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph 5:27). Therefore, when he saith it is raised in incorruption, it is as if he had said, It is impossible that they should ever sin more, be sick more, sorrow more, or die more. "They which shall be counted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage;" though 'twas thus with them in this world; "neither can they die any more, for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection" (Luke 20:35, 36).
2. It is raised in glory. The dishonour that doth attend the saint at his departing this world, it is very great—"he is sown in dishonour;" he is so loathsome at his death, that his dearest friends are weary of him, stop their noses at him, see no beauty in him, nor set any price upon him, (I speak nothing here how some of them are hanged, starved, banished, and so die, torn to pieces, and not suffered to be put into graves,) but it is raised in glory. Glory is the sweetness, comeliness, purity, and perfection of a thing. The light is the glory of the sun, strength is the glory of youth, and grey hairs are the glory of old age—that is, it is the excellency of these things, and that which makes them shine (1 Cor 15:40,41; Prov 20:29).
Therefore, to arise in glory, it is first to arise in all the beauty, and utmost completeness that is possible to possess a human creature; I say, in all its features and members, inconceivably beautiful. Sin and corruption have made mad work in our bodies as well as in our souls. 'Tis sin commonly that is the cause of all the deformity and ill-favouredness that now cleaveth to us, and that also rendereth us so dishonourable at our death; but now at our rising, we being raised incorruptible, we shall appear in such perfections, and that of all sorts, belonging to the body, that all the beauty and comeliness, sweetness and amiableness, that hath at any time been in this world, it shall be swallowed up a thousand times told with this glory. The Psalmist saith of Christ that "he was fairer than the children of men" (Psa 45:2), and that, as I believe, in his outward man, as well as in his inward part. He was the exactest, purest, completest, and beautifulest creature that ever God made, till his visage was so marred by his persecutions; for in all things he had and shall have the pre-eminence (Isa 52:14; Col 1:18). Why, our bodies at our resurrection will not only be as free from sin, as his was before he died, but also as free from all other infirmities as he was after he was raised again. In a word, if incorruptibleness can put a beauty upon our bodies when they arise, we shall have it. There shall be no lame legs, nor crump shoulders, no bleared eyes, nor yet wrinkled faces—He "shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body" (Phil 3:21).
Again, all the glory that a glorified soul can help this body to, it at this day shall enjoy. That soul that hath been these hundreds or thousands of years in the heavens, soaking in the bosom of Christ, it shall in a moment come spangling into the body again, and inhabit every member and vein of the body, as it did before its departure. That Spirit of God also that took its leave of the body when it went to the grave, shall now in all perfection dwell in this body again; I tell you, the body at this day will shine brighter than the face of Moses or Stephen, even as bright as the sun, the stars, and angels. "When Christ who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Exo 34:29,35; Acts 6:15; Dan 12:3; Matt 13:43; Luke 20:36; Col 3:3,4).
3. It is raised in power. While we are here, we are attended with so many weaknesses and infirmities, that in time the least sin or sickness is too hard for us, and taketh away both our strength, our beauty, our days, our breath, and life, and all (Job 38:17). But behold, we are raised in power, in that power that all these things are as far below us as a grasshopper is below a giant; at the first appearance of us the world will tremble.
Behold, the gates of death and the bars of the grave are now carried away on our shoulders, as Samson carried away the gates of the city (Judg 16:3). Death quaketh, and destruction falleth down dead at our feet: What, then, can stand before us? We shall then carry that grace, majesty, terror, and commanding power in our souls that our countenances shall be like lightning3 (Compare Luke 20:16 with Matthew 28:2,3). "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Cor 15:53,54).
4. It is raised a spiritual body. This is the last particular, and is indeed the reason of the other three; it is an incorruptible body, because it is a spiritual one; it is a glorious body, because it is a spiritual one; it doth rise in power, because it is a spiritual body. When the body is buried, or sown in the earth, it is a body corruptible, dishonourable, weak, and natural; but when it ariseth, it doth rise incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual; so that so far as incorruption is above corruption, glory above dishonour, power above weakness, and spiritual above natural; so great an alteration will there be in our body, when raised again. And yet it is this body and not another; this in nature, though changed into a far more glorious state, a thousand times further than if a hoggard4 was changed to be an emperor. Mark, "it is sown a natural body;" a very fit word; for though there dwell never so much of the Spirit and grace of God in it while it liveth, yet so soon as the soul is separate from it, so soon also doth the Spirit of God separate from it, and so will continue while the day of its rising be come. Therefore, it is laid into the earth a mere lump of man's nature—"It is sown a natural body;" but now at the day when "the heavens be no more," as Job saith (14:12), then the trump shall sound, even the trump of God, and, in a moment, the dead shall be raised incorruptible, glorious, and spiritual (1 Cor 15:52; 1 Thess 4:16,17). So that I say, the body when it ariseth, will be so swallowed up of life and immortality, that it will be, as if it had lost its own human nature; though, in truth, the same substantial real nature is every whit there still. 'Tis the same it that riseth, that was sown; "It is sown," "it is raised;" "it is sown," "it is raised," saith the apostle. You know, that things which are candied, by the art of the apothecary, they are so swallowed up with the sweetness and virtue of that in which they are candied, that they are now, as though they had no other nature, than that in which they are boiled: when yet, in truth, the thing candied doth still retain its own proper nature and essence; though by virtue of its being candied, it loseth its former sourness, bitterness, stinking, smell, or the like. Just thus, at the last day, it will be with our bodies: we shall be so candied, by being swallowed up of life, as before is shewed, that we shall be, as if we were all spirit, when in truth, it is but this body that is swallowed up of life. And it must needs be, that our nature still remain, otherwise it cannot be us that shall be in heaven, but something besides us. Let us lose our proper human nature, and we lose absolutely our being, and so are annihilated into nothing. Wherefore it, the same it, that is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body.
But again, as I said, concerning things that are candied; our body, when thus risen, it shall lose all that sourness and stink, that now, by reason of sin and infirmity, cleaveth to it: neither shall its lumpishness, or unwieldiness, be any impediment to its acting after the manner of angels. Christ hath shewed us, what our body at our resurrection shall be, by shewing of us, in his word, what his body was, at and after, his resurrection. We read, that his body, after he was risen from the dead, though it yet retained the very same flesh and bones that did hang upon the cross, yet how angelical was it at all times, upon all occasions! He could come in to his disciples with that very body, when the doors were shut upon them: He could, at pleasure, to their amazement, appear in the twinkling of an eye, in the midst of them: he could be visible and invisible as he pleased, when he sat at meat with them: in a word, he could pass and repass, ascend and descend in that body, with far more pleasure and ease, than the bird by the art of her wing (Luke 24:31,32,36-42,50,51; John 20:19,24-26; Acts 1:1-12; Mark 16:19; Eph 4:7-10).
Now, I say, as we have in this world borne the image of our first father; so, at that day, we shall have the image of Jesus Christ, and be as he is—"As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also, (at our resurrection,) bear the image of the heavenly" (1 Cor 15:48,49). It is so in part now, but shall so be in perfection then.
To mount up to heaven, and to descend again at pleasure, shall, with us, in that day, be ordinary. If there were ten thousand bars of iron, or walls of brass, to separate between us, and our pleasure and desire, at that day, they should as easily be pierced by us, as is the cobweb, or air by the beams of the sun: And the reason is, because to the Spirit, wherewith we shall be inconceivably filled at that day, nothing is impossible (Matt 17:20); and the working of it at that day, shall be in that nature and measure as to swallow up all impossibilities. He "shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body,"—now mark, "according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Phil 3:21). As who should say, I know that there are many things, that in this world hinder us from having our bodies like the body of Christ; but when God shall raise us from the dead, because he will then have our body like the body of his Son; He will stretch forth such a power to work upon, and in our body, that he will remove all impossibilities and hindrances.
Nay, further, we do not only see what operation the Spirit will have in our body, by the carriage of Christ, after his resurrection; but even by many a saint before their death. The Spirit used to catch Elijah away, no man could tell whither. It carried Ezekiel hither and thither: It carried Christ from the top of the pinnacle of the temple into Galilee; through it he walked on the sea; the Spirit caught away Philip from the eunuch, and carried him as far as Azotus (1 Kings 18:11,12; 2 Kings 2:11; Eze 3:14; Luke 4:14; Matt 14:25; Acts 8:39,40).
Thus the great God hath given us a taste of the power and glory that is in himself, and how easily it will help us, by its possessing 5 of us at the resurrection, to act and do like angels; as Christ saith, They that shall be counted worthy of that world, and of the resurrection from the dead, they shall not die, but be equal to the angels (Luke 21:36).
Further, as the body by being thus spiritualized, shall be as I have said; so again it must needs be, that hereby all the service of the body, and faculties of the soul, must be infinitely enlarged also. Now "we shall see him as he is," and now we shall know even as we are known (1 John 3:2; 1 Cor 13:12).
First, Now we shall see him; to wit, Christ in his glory; not by revelation only, as we do now, but then face to face; and he will have us with him to this very end (John 17:24). Though John was in the Spirit when he had the vision of Christ, yet it made him fall at his feet as dead (Rev 1:17); and also turned Daniels' beauty into corruption (Dan 10:8). It was so glorious, and so overweighing a glory, that he appeared in; but we shall, at the day of our resurrection, be so furnished, that we shall with the eagle, be able to look upon the sun in his strength: we shall then, I say, "see Him as he is," who now is in the light, that no eye hath seen, nor any man can see till that day (1 Tim 6:16).
Now we shall see into all things; there shall not be anything hid from us; there shall not be a saint, a prophet, or saved soul, small or great, but we shall then perfectly know them. Also, all the works of creation, election, and redemption, and shall see and know as thoroughly, all the things of heaven, and earth, and hell, even as perfectly, as now we know our A, B, C. For the Spirit, with which we shall in every cranny of soul and body be filled, I say, "searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (1 Cor 2:10). We see what strange things have been known by the prophets and saints of God, and that when they knew but "in part."
Abraham could, by it, tell to a day, how long his seed should be under persecution in Egypt (Gen 15:13); Elisha, by it, could tell what was done in the king of Assyria's bed-chamber (2 Kings 6:12); Ahijah could know by this, Jeroboam's wife, so soon, yea before her feet entered within his door, though he saw her not (1 Kings 14:1-6).
The prophet of Judah could tell by this, what God would do to Bethel, for the idolatry there committed; and could also point out the man by name that should do the execution, long before he was born (1 Kings 13:2). What shall I say, Enoch by it could tell what should be done at the end of the world (Jude 14,15). How did the prophets, to a circumstance, prophesy of Christ's birth, his death, his burial, of their giving him gall and vinegar, of their parting his raiment, and piercing his hands and feet! (Isa 53). Of his riding on an ass also; all this they saw, when they spake of him (John 12:41). Peter also, though half asleep, could at the very first word, call Moses and Elias by their names, when they appeared to Christ in the holy mount (Luke 9:33). He is very ignorant of the operation of the Spirit of God, that scrupleth these things. But now, I say, if these things have been done, seen, and known, by spiritual men, while their knowledge hath been but in part, how shall we know, see, and discern, when that which is perfect is come? Which will be at the resurrection; "It is raised a spiritual body."
Thus, in few words, have I shewed you the truth of the resurrection of the just, and also the manner of their rising. Had I judged it convenient, I might have much enlarged on each particular, and have added many more; for the doctrine of the resurrection, however questioned by heretics, and erroneous persons; yet is such a truth, that almost all the holy scriptures of God point at, and centre in it.
God hath, from the beginning of the world, shewed to us, that our body must be with him, as well as our soul, in the kingdom of heaven. I say, he hath shewed us, how he will deal with those that are alive at Christ's coming, by his translating of Enoch (Gen 5:24), and by taking him body and soul to himself (Heb 11:5); As also, by his catching of Elias up body and soul into heaven, in a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2:11), and,
Secondly He hath often put us in remembrance of the rising of those that are dead, at that day, as, (1.) By the faith he gave Abraham, concerning the offering of his son: for when he offered him, he accounted "that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure" (Heb 11:19). In a figure of the resurrection of Christ, for Abraham's justification; and of Abraham's resurrection by Christ at the last day, for his glorification. (2.) By the faith he gave Joseph concerning his bones; which charge, the godly in Egypt, did diligently observe, and to that end, did keep them four hundred years; and at length, carried them, I say, from Egypt to Canaan, which was a type of our being carried in our body, from this world to heaven (Heb 11:22).
Besides, how oft did God give power to his prophets, servants, and Christ Jesus, to raise some that were now dead, and some that had been long so; and all, no doubt, to put the present generations, as also the generations yet unborn, in mind of the resurrection of the dead. To this end, I say, how was the Shunammite's son raised from the dead? (2 Kings 4). The man also at the touching of the bones of Elisha? (2 Kings 13:20,21). Together with the body of Lazarus, with Jairus's daughter, and Tabitha, and many others, who, after their souls were departed from them, Lazarus lying in his grave four days, were all raised to life again, and lived with that very body out of which the soul, at their death, had departed (Luke 8:53-56; John 11:43,44; Acts 9:40,41). But above all, that notable place in Matthew, at the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, gives us a notable fore-word of the resurrection of the just. Saith the text, "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many" (Matt 27:52,53).
When the author to the Hebrews had given us a catalogue of the worthies of the Old Testament, he saith at last, "These all died in faith." In the faith of what? That they should lie and rot in their grave eternally? No, verily; this is the faith of Ranters, not of Christians. They all died in faith, that they should rise again; and therefore counted this world not worth the living in, upon unworthy terms, that after death "they might obtain a better resurrection" (Heb 11:13,35).
It is also worth the considering, that of Paul to the Philippians, where he saith that he was confident that that God that had begun a good work in them would "perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil 1:6). Which day of Christ, was not the day of their conversion, for that was passed with them already, they were now the children of God; but this day of Christ, it is the same which in other places is called the day when he shall come with the sound of the last trump to raise the dead. For you must know, that the work of salvation is not at an end with them that are now in heaven; no, nor ever will, until (as I shewed you before) their bodies be raised again. God, as I have told you, hath made our bodies the members of Christ, and God doth not count us thoroughly saved, until our bodies be as well redeemed and ransomed out of the grave and death, as our souls from the curse of the law, and dominion of sin.
Though God's saints have felt the power of much of his grace, and have had many a sweet word fulfilled on them; yet one word will be unfulfilled on their particular person, so long as the grave can shut her mouth upon them: but, as I said before, when the gates of death do open before them, and the bars of the grave do fall asunder; then shall be brought to pass that saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up of victory;" and then will they hear that most pleasant voice, "Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead" (Isa 26:19). Thus much touching the truth of the resurrection of the just, with the manner of their rising.
Now you must know, that the time of the rising of these just, will be at the coming of the Lord: for when they arise, nay, just before they are raised, the Lord Jesus Christ will appear in the clouds in flaming fire, with all his mighty angels; the effect of which appearing will be the rising of the dead, &c. "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout," saith Paul, "and with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead shall rise" (2 Thess 1:8; 1 Thess 4:16; 1 Cor 15:52).
Now at the time of the Lord's coming, there will be found in the world alive both saints and sinners. As for the saints that then shall be found alive, they shall, so soon as all the saints are raised out of their graves, not die, but be changed, and swallowed up of incorruption, immortality, and glory; and have the soul-spiritual translation, as the raised saints shall have; as he saith, "We shall not all [die, or] sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,—for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Cor 15:51,52). And again, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess 4:16,17). As he saith also in another place, he "shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom" (2 Tim 4:1).
Now when the saints that sleep shall be raised thus incorruptible, powerful, glorious, and spiritual; and also those that then shall be found alive, made like them: then forthwith, before the unjust are raised, the saints shall appear before the judgment-seat of the Lord Jesus Christ, there to give an account to their Lord the Judge, of all things they have done; and to receive a reward for their good according to their labour.
They shall rise, I say, before the wicked, they being themselves the proper children of the resurrection; that is, Those that must have all the glory of it, both as to pre-eminency and sweetness; and therefore they are said, when they rise, to rise from the dead; that is, in their rising, they leave the reprobate world behind them (Luke 20:35,36; Acts 3:15; 4:10; 13:30; John 12:1,9,17). And it must be so, because also the saints will have done their account, and be set upon the throne with Christ, as kings and princes with him, to judge the world, when the wicked world are raised. The saints shall judge the world; they shall judge angels; yea, they shall sit upon the thrones of judgment to do it (1 Cor 6:2,3; Psa 122:5). But to pass that, [we come THIRD, to the examination the just must undergo, and the account they must give to the Lord the Judge; or,]
THE JUDGMENT OF THE JUST.
Now when the saints are raised, as ye have heard, they must give an account of all things, in general, that they have done while they were in the world; of all things, I say, whether they be good or bad.
FIRST, Of all their bad; but mark, not under the consideration of vagabonds, slaves and sinners, but as sons, stewards, and servants of the Lord Jesus. That this shall be, it is evident from divers places of the holy Scriptures:
First, Paul saith, "We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ,"—we saints—"For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom 14:10-12). Again, "Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one [of us] may receive the things done in his body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor 5:9,10).
It is true, God loveth his people, but yet he loveth not their sins, nor anything they do, though with the greatest zeal for him, if he be contrary to his word; wherefore as truly as God will given a reward to his saints and children for all that they have indeed well done; so truly will he at this day distinguish their good and bad: and when both are manifest by the righteous judgment of Christ; he will burn up their bad, with all their labour, travel, and pains in it for ever. He can tell how to save his people, and yet take vengeance on their inventions (Psa 99:8).
That is an observable place, in the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, and the third chapter, "If any man build," saith he, "upon this foundation [Christ] gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (1 Cor 3:12-15). Now observe,
1. As I said before, the foundation is Christ (verse 11).
2. The gold, silver, and precious stones that here are said to be built upon him, are all the actings in faith and love, according to the word, that the saints are found doing for his sake in the world (1 Peter 1:7; Rev 3:18).
3. To build on him wood, hay, and stubble, it is to build, together with what is right in itself, human inventions and carnal ordinances, fathering them still on God and his allowance.
4. The fire that here you read of, it is the pure word and law of God (Jer 23:29; John 12:48).
5. The day that here you read of, it is the day of Christ's coming to judgment, to reveal the hidden things of darkness, and to make manifest the counsels of the heart (1 Cor 4:5).
6. At this day, the gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and stubble, and that of every man, shall be tried by this fire, that it may be manifest of what sort it is; the wind, the rain, and floods, beat now as vehemently against the house upon the rock, as against that on the sand (Luke 6:48,49).
(1.) That the apostle speaks here of the saved, not of the reprobate—"He himself shall be saved."
(2.) That this saved man may have wood, hay, and stubble; that is, things that will not abide the trial.
(3.) That neither this man's goodness, nor yet God's love to him, shall hinder all his wood, hay, or stubble from coming on the stage, "Every man's work shall be manifest: the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is."
(4.) Thus, a good man shall see all his wood, hay, and stubble burnt up in the trial before his face.
(5.) That good man then shall suffer loss, or, the loss of all things that are not then according to the word of God—"If any man's works shall be burnt," or any of them, "he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire"—that is, yet so as that all that ever he hath done, shall be tried, and squared by the word of God.
From all which, it must be unavoidably concluded, that the whole body of the elect must count with their Lord for all things they have done, whether good or bad, and that he will destroy all their bad, with the purity of his word, yea, and all their pains, travel, and labour that they have spent about it. I am persuaded that there are now many things done by the best of saints, that then they will gladly disown and be ashamed of; yea, which they have and do still do with great devotion. Alas, what gross things do some of the saints in their devotion father upon God, and do reckon him the author thereof, and that he also prompts them forward to the doing thereof, and doth give them his presence in the performance of them! Yea, and as they father many superstitions and scriptureless things upon him; so they die in the same opinion, and never come in this world, to the sight of their evil and ignorance herein.6
But now the judgment-day is the principal time wherein everything shall be set in its proper place; that which is of God in its place, and that which is not, shall now be discovered, and made manifest. In many things now we offend all; and then we shall see the many offences we have committed, and shall ourselves judge them as they are. The Christian, is in this world, so candid a creature, that take him when he is not under some great temptation, and he will ingeniously confess to his God, before all men, how he hath sinned and transgressed against his Father; and will fall down at the feet of God, and cry, Thou art righteous, for I have sinned; and thou art gracious, that, notwithstanding my sin, thou shouldest save me. Now, I say, if the Christian is so simple and plain-hearted with God, in the days of his imperfection, when he is accompanied with many infirmities and temptations; how freely will he confess and acknowledge his miscarriages, when he comes before his Lord and Saviour; absolutely stript of all temptation and imperfection. "As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God" (Rom 14:11; Phil 2:10,11). Every knee shall bow, and reverence God the Creator, and Christ the Redeemer of the world; and every tongue shall confess, that his will alone ought by them to have been obeyed in all things; and shall confess also, and that most naturally and freely—I mean, the saints shall—in how many things they were deceived, mistaken, deluded, and drawn aside in their intended devotion and honour to God.
[Second.] But yet take notice, that in this day, when the saints are thus counting for their evil before their Saviour and Judge; they shall not then, as now, at the remembrance and confession of sin, be filled with the guilt, confusion, and shame that now through the weakness of faith attendeth their souls; neither shall they in the least be grieved or offended, that God hath before the angels and the rest of their holy brethren, laid open to a tittle their infirmities, from the least and first, to the biggest and last. For,
1. The God to whom they confess all, they will now more perfectly than ever see he doth love them, and free them from all, even when and before they confess and acknowledge them to him; and they shall, I say, have their soul so full of the ravishing raptures of the life and glory that now they are in, that they shall be of it swallowed up in that measure and manner, that neither fear, nor guilt, nor confusion can come near them, or touch them. Their Judge is their Saviour, their Husband, and Head; who, though he will bring every one of them for all things to judgment, yet he will keep them for ever out of condemnation, and anything that tendeth that way. "Perfect love casteth out fear," even while we are here; much more then, when we are with our Saviour, our Jesus, being passed from death to life (John 5:24; 1 John 4:18).
2. The saints at this day, shall have their hearts and souls so wrapped up in the pleasure of God their Saviour, that it shall be their delight, to see all things, though once never so near and dear unto them; yet now to perish, if not according to his word and will. "Thy will be done," is to be always our language here (Matt 6:10); but to delight to see it done in all things, though it tend never so much to the destruction of what we love; to delight, I say, to see it done in the height and perfection of delight; it will be when we come to heaven, or when the Lord shall come to judge the world. But,
3. The sole end of the counting of the saints at the day of God, it will be, not only for the vindication of the righteousness, holiness, and purity of the word, neither will it centre only in the manifestation of the knowledge and heart-discerning nature of Christ [though both these will be in it, (Rev 2:22,23)]. But their very remembrances and sight of the sin and vanity that they have done while here; it shall both set off, and heighten the tender affections of their God unto them; and also increase their joy and sweetness of soul, and clinging of heart to their God. Saints while here, are sweetly sensible that the sense of sin, and the assurance of pardon, will make famous work in their poor hearts. Ah, what meltings without guilt! what humility without casting down! and what a sight of the creature's nothingness, yet without fear, will this sense of sin work in the soul! The sweetest frame, the most heart-endearing frame, that possibly a Christian can get into while in this world, is to have a warm sight of sin, and of a Saviour upon the heart at one time. Now it weeps not for fear and through torment, but by virtue of constraining grace and mercy, and is at this very time, so far off of disquietness of heart, by reason of the sight of its wickedness, that it is driven into an ecstasy, by reason of the love and mercy that is mingled with the sense of sin in the soul.
The heart never sees so much of the power of mercy as now, nor of the virtue, value, and excellency of Christ in all his offices as now, and the tongue so sweetly enlarged to proclaim and cry up grace as now; now will Christ "come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe" (2 Thess 1:10).
Wherefore, though the saints receive by faith the forgiveness of sins in this life, and so are passed from death to life; yet again, Christ Jesus, and God his Father, will have every one of these sins reckoned up again, and brought fresh upon the stage in the day of judgment, that they may see and be sensible for ever, what grace and mercy hath laid hold upon them. And this I take to be the reason of that remarkable saying of the apostle Peter, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:19-21).
If a sense of some sin, [for who sees all? (Psa 19:12)], and a sight of the love of God, will here so work upon the spirit of the godly: what will a sight of all sin do, when together with it they are personally present with their Lord and Saviour?
Yea, if a sight of some sins, with a possibility of pardon, will make the heart love, reverence, and fear with guiltless and heart-affecting fears; what will a general sight of all sin, and together with them an eternal acquittance from them, work on the heart of the saint for ever?
Yea, I say again, if a sight of sin, and the love of God, will make such work in that soul where yet there is unbelief, blindness, mistrust, and forgetfulness: what will a sight of sin do in that soul, who is swallowed up of love, who is sinless, and temptationless; who hath all the faculties of soul and body strained by love and grace, to the highest pin of perfection, that is possible to be in glory enjoyed and possessed? Oh the wisdom and goodness of God, that he at this day, should so cast about the worst of our things, even those that naturally tend to sink us, and damn us, for our great advantage! "All things shall work together for good," indeed, "to them that love God" (Rom 8:28). Those sins that brought a curse upon the whole world, that spilt the heart-blood of our dearest Saviour, and that laid his tender soul under the flaming wrath of God, shall by his wisdom and love, tend to the exaltation of his grace, and the inflaming of our affections to him for ever and ever (Rev 5:9-14).
It will not be thus with devils; it will not be thus with reprobates; the saved only have this privilege peculiar to themselves. Wherefore, to vary a little from the matter in hand: will God make that use of sin, even in our counting for it, that shall in this manner work for our advantage? Why then, let saints also make that advantage of their sin, as to glorify God thereby, which is to be done, not by saying, "Let us do evil, that good may come;" or, "Let us sin, that grace may abound;" but by taking occasion by the sin that is past to set the crown upon the head of Christ for our justification; continually looking upon it, so as to press us, to cleave close to the Lord Jesus, to grace and mercy through him, and to the keeping of us humble for ever, under all his dispensations and carriages to us.
Now, having counted for all their evil, and confessed to God's glory, how they fell short, and did not the truth in this, or that, or other particulars, and having received their eternal acquittance from the Lord and Judge, in the sight of both angels and saints; forthwith the Lord Jesus will make inquiry,
SECOND, into all the good and holy actions and deeds they did do in the world. Now here shall all things be reckoned up, from the very first good thing that was done by Adam or Abel, to the last that will fall out to be done in the world. The good of all the holy prophets, of all apostles, pastors, teachers, and helps in the church; here also will be brought forth and to light, all the good carriages of masters of families, of parents, of children, of servants, of neighbours, or whatever good thing any man doth. But to be general and short,
First, here will be a recompense for all that have sincerely laboured in the word and doctrine—I say, a recompense for all the souls they have saved by their word, and watered by the same. Now shall Paul the planter, and Apollos the waterer, with every one of the their companions, receive the reward that is according to their works (1 Cor 3:6-8).
Now, all the preaching, praying, watching, and labour thou hast been at, in thy endeavouring to catch men from Satan to God, shall be rewarded with spangling glory. Not a soul thou hast converted to the Lord Jesus, nor a soul thou hast comforted, strengthened, or helped by thy wholesome counsel, admonition, and comfortable speech, but it shall stick as a pearl in that crown "which the Lord the righteous Judge, shall give thee at that day" (2 Tim 4:7,8). That is, if thou dost it willingly, delighting to lift up the name of God among men; if thou doest it with love, and longing after the salvation of sinners, otherwise thou wilt have only thy labour for thy pains, and no more. "If I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed to my charge" (1 Cor 9:17; Phil 1:15). But, I say, if thou do it graciously, then a reward followeth; "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye," saith Paul, "in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy" (1 Thess 2:19,20). Let him therefore that Christ hath put into his harvest, take comfort in the midst of all his sorrow, and know that God acknowledgeth, that he that converteth a sinner from the error of his way, doth even save that soul from death, "and covereth a multitude of sins" (James 5:20). Wherefore labour to convert, labour to water, labour to build up, and to "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;—and when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 5:2,4).
Secondly, And as the ministers of Christ's gospel shall at this day be recompensed; so shall also those more private saints be with tender affections, and love looked on, and rewarded for all their work and labour of love, which they have shewed to the name of Christ, in ministering to his saints, and suffering for his sake (Heb 6:10). "Whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free" (Eph 6:8). Ah! little do the people of God think, how largely and thoroughly, God will at that day, own and recompense all the good and holy acts of his people. Every bit, every drop, every rag, and every night's harbour, though but in a wisp of straw, shall be rewarded in that day before men and angels—"Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you," saith Christ, "he shall in no wise lose his [a disciple's] reward" (Matt 10:42). Therefore "When thou makest a feast," saith he, "call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:13,14). If there be any repentance among the godly at this day, it will be, because the Lord Jesus, in his person, members, and word, was no more owned, honoured, entertained, and provided for by them, when they were in this world: For it will be ravishing to all, to see what notice the Lord Jesus will then take of every widow's mite. He, I say, will call to mind, even all those acts of mercy and kindness, which thou hast shewed to him, when thou wast among men. I say, he will remember, cry up, and proclaim before angels and saints, those very acts of thine, which thou hast either forgotten, or, through bashfulness wilt not at that day count worth the owing. He will reckon them up so fast, and so fully, that thou wilt cry, Lord, when did I do this? and when did I do the other? "When saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt 25:37-40). "The good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid" (1 Tim 5:25). Whatever thou hast done to one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me. I felt the nourishment of thy food, and the warmth of thy fleece. I remember thy loving and holy visits when my poor members were sick, and in prison, and the like. When they were strangers, and wanderers in the world, thou tookest them in. "Well done, thou good and faithful servant;—enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matt 25:21-23; 34-47).