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unto us." The most pernicious designs, the most malevolent purposes, are frequently found to clothe themselves in smiles; often while mischief lies brooding in men's hearts, “their words are smoother than oil.” The father of lies himself can have recourse to truth if it be likely to serve his turn; and the enemy of all goodness will condescend to quote that scripture which he hates, if it can help him to an argument for the occasion. With this affected deference for Moses, the Sadducees are aiming at the total subversion of every moral and religious principle, by weakening one of the strongest motives to virtue, and undermining the surest foundation of hope and joy to man. They allege, that obedience to the law might eventually lead to much confusion and disorder : and they suppose a situation, for none such ever existed, in which compliance with the revealed will of God in this world would infallibly lead to discord and distress in that which is to come. In this we have an example of a very common case ; that of men straining their eyes to contemplate objects at a great distance, or totally out of sight, and wilfully neglecting or overlooking those which are immediately before them : troubling themselves about effects and consequences of which they are ignorant, and over which they have no power, while they are regardless of obvious truth and commanded duty, though these are their immediate business and concern. The Sadducees in order to cloak their licentiousness and infidelity, affect solicitude about the regularity and peace of a future state, which in words they denied, if they did not from the heart disbelieve.
I make but one remark more before I proceed to our Lord's reply. Eagerness and anxiety to bring forward and to establish an opinion, betray an inward doubt or disbelief of it.—Truth is not ever proclaiming itself from the house tops, is not forward to obtrude itself upon every occasion, but is satisfied with maintaining and defending itself when assaulted; but falsehood is eternally striving to conceal or strengthen its conscious weakness by a parade of words, and a shew of reason. The zeal of the Sadducees to explode and run down the doctrine of the resurrection, plainly betrays a secret dread and belief of it.
Our Lord, in his answer, points out directly the source of all error and infidelity, “ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, and the power of God.” Not knowing the scriptures, ye suppose a doctrine is not in them, because ye have not found it there: because ye have wilfully shut your own eyes, ye vainly imagine there is no light in the sun; and take upon you to affirm there is none. Not knowing the power of God, you call that impossible which you cannot do, deem that absurd which you do not comprehend, and pronounce that false which you wish to be so. The whole force of the objection to the truth of the resurrection, goes upon the supposition, that the future world is to be exactly constituted as the present; that the relations and distinctions which subsist
among men upon earth, are to subsist in the kingdom of heaven. But the supposition is founded in ignorance and falsehood ; and, the moment it is denied, the mighty argument built upon it falls to the ground. “In the resurrection," says Christ, “ they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”
In these words, the condition of men in the world to come, is described, first, negatively, " they neither marry, nor are given in marriage." The power which created the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, might undoubtedly, had it pleased him, have created the whole human race at once, as easily as he formed the first of men, Adam, and as easily as he rears up one generation of men after another, in the course of his providence. But, thinking it meet to people the earth by multiplying mankind gradually upon it, difference of sex, and the institution of marriage, were the means which he was pleased to employ. In the resurrection, the number of the redeemed being complete at once, that difference, and that institution, being unnecessary, shall be done away. Our Saviour adds, “neither can they die any more.”. Death, too, enters into the plan of Providence for the government of this world. Men must be removed, to make room for men. But because this sphere is narrow and contracted, and unable to contain and support the increasing multitudes of many generations, is the Lord's hand shortened, that he cannot expand a more spacious firmament, and compact a more spacious globe, to contain, at once, the countless nations of them that are saved ? O how greatly do men err; not knowing the power of God! Death is no part of the plan of Providence for the government of that world of bliss. In our Father's house above there are many mansions; there is bread enough, and to spare ; there is room for all, provision for all : the father need not to die, to give space to the son, nor the mother to spare, that the child may have enough. For they are “ as the angels of God," says our Lord, according to Matthew, equal to the angels,” says our evangelist,“ and are the children of God.”
This describes their happiness positively. Men on earth “ see in a glass darkly; know in part, prophesy in part,” are encompassed with infirmity; but the "angels in heaven" excel in strength, stand before the throne of God, serve him day and night in his temple, without wearying, see face to face, “know as they are known.” Their number is completed, their intercourse is pure and perfect, without the means of increase, and union which exist here below.
Having thus reproved their ignorance and presumption, respecting the power of God,” our Lord proceeds to expose their ignorance respecting “the scriptures,” and produces a passage from Moses, in whom they trusted, which they had hitherto overlooked or misunderstood, wherein the doctrine in dispute was clearly laid down; and which we had principally in view in leading your attention to this passage on the present occasion.
The passage quoted, is that noted declaration of God to Moses, from the midst of the burning bush, “ I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' That God should have condescended to hold this language concerning Enoch,“ who was translated that he should not see death,” had been less wonderful; for that holy man, who walked with God upon earth, was exalted immediately to a more intimate union with God in Heaven. But to speak thus of men who were long ago mouldered into dust, of whom nothing remained among men but their names, conveys an idea of human existence, before which the life of a Methuselah dwindles into nothing, an idea which swallows up mortality, and gives a dignity and a duration to man that bids defiance to the grave. That God should say to Abraham, while he lived, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward,”+ was a miracle of grace and condescension ; but to speak thus, more than three centuries after he had been consigned to the tomb, “ I am the God of Abraham," this exhibits a relation between God and the faithful, which perfectly reconciles the mind to the thoughts of dissolution. Indeed it is impossible to conceive any thing more elevating, any thing more tranquillizing to the soul, than the view of future bliss with which the text presents us. And this tranquillity and elevation are greatly heightened by the consideration, that Jehovah from the midst of flaming fire, under the Old Testament dispensation, and Jehovah, in the person of the great Redeemer, under the New, taught, the same glorious truth to the world. And what is it? “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
When God was pleased to express his favourable regard to Abuaham upon, carth, what did it amount to ? He led him through a particular district of
* Exod. iij. 6.
i Gen. xv, 1.
land, in the length and the breadth of it, and said “ I will give it thee.” But Abraham now expatiates through a more ample region, and contemplates a fairer inheritance, an inheritance his own, not in hope, but in possession. Abraham, though following the leading of the Divine Providence, saw the Redeemer's day only afar off : but, in virtue of his relation to God, he has now beheld the dawning of the morning expanded into the pure light of the perfect day. He once felt the events which affected his family, with the emotion natural to a man; he has since beheld them extending their influence to nations which he thought not of; and he now looks forward in holy rapture to that period when he, and his Isaac, and an earthly Canaan, and every thing of a temporal and transitory nature, shall bring their glory and their honour, and lay all at the feet of Him, who sitteth upon the throne, and before the Lamb."
From Abraham we are removed to a distance of time and place, in which thought is lost, and we seem to have no more interest in him than if he had never existed. But the doctrine of the text brings us so close to him, that we recognise the friend of God, in the midst of myriads of saints in glory; we converse with him, and continue to be instructed by him.
The dust of Abraham sleeps unnoticed and forgotten in the cave of Machpelah ; but lift up thine eyes and behold Abraham on high, and Lazarus in his bosom ; his spirit united to God “the Father of spirits,” and to all the spirits of just men made perfect.” " And even that dust" also “ rests in hope:” It shall not always be left in the place of the dead ; it shall not remain forever a prey to corruption. Abraham purchased a tomb, and buried his Sarah out of his sight; but he has overtaken, regained her, in the regions of eternal day, where virtuous and believing friends meet, never more to be disjoined. Abraham received his Isaac from the wonder-working hand of Heaven, when nature was dead to hope ; at the command of God he cheerfully surrendered him again, and devoted him upon the altar : again he receives him to newness of life, and that darling son lives to put his hand upon his eyes. But they were not long disunited ; the son has overtaken the parents : they rejoice in God, and in one another; they are the children and heirs of the resurrection ; " they are as the angels of God in heaven.”
“I am the God of Isaac.” This Isaac the heir of Abraham's possessions, of his faith, and of his virtues, was on earth united to the God of the spirits of all flesh, by many tender and important relations : by piety, by filial confidence, by goodness, by patience and submission, on his part; by election, by special favour, by highness of destination, on the part of his heavenly Father. Yet these distinguished advantages exempted him not from the stroke of affiction. Many years did this heir of the promises, this chosen seed, “ in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed,” many years did he go childless. Early in life was he visited with the loss of sight, and thereby exposed to much mortification and dejection of spirit. Children are at length given him, and they prove the torment of his life; they excite a war betwixt nature and grace in his own breast; discord and jealousy arm them against each other; he is in danger of " losing them both in one day.”. The one must be banished from his father's house, the other mingles with idolators. Behold a wretched, blind old man, a prey to “grief of heart.' But these things, on the other hand, dissolved not, interrupted not his covenant relation to God: they served but to cement and strengthen the divine friendship: and death which, to human apprehension, separates every connexion, and indeed tears asunder every mortal tie, only brought him into a clearer light, and to intercourse and intimacy, which can never expire.
“ I am the God of Jacob.” In all the wanderings, in all the dangers, im all the distresses of this patriarch; in all his successes, all his acquisitions,
all his joys, we discover the relation of God to him, expressed in these words ; and we behold the presence of God with him whithersoever he went, constantly relieving the wretchedness of one state ; dignifying and supporting the felicity of the other. This gave him security from the violence of an incensed brother; this cheered the solitude of Luz, and turned it into a Bethel ; by this the slumbers of a head reposed on a pillow of stone were made refreshing and instructive; this repressed and over balanced the rapacity of Laban; this supported and sanctified the loss of Joseph: this sweetened the descent into Egypt, and dissipated the gloom of death; by this, though dead, he exists, though silent, he speaketh, “absent from the body he is present with the Lord;" the moment of his departure is on the wing to overtake that of his redemption from the power of the grave. Before God, the distance shrinks into nothing. That word, that one little word, I AM, unites the era of nature's birth with that of its dissolution, it joins eternity to eternity," and swallows up death in victory."
The same gracious declaration applies, with equal truth and justice, to every son and daughter “ of faithful Abraham,” to every Israelite indeed.” We speak of departed friends in the past time, we cannot but remember such things were ; and were most dear to us;" but it is the glorious prerogative of Jehovah to employ eternally the present in describing his own essence, and his covenant relation to his people: “I AM THAT I AM.” “I AM the God of thy father," of thy buried, thy lamented brother, friend, lover, child. And to us also is the word of this consolation sent, “ Fear not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed, I am thy God.” “Thus saith the Lord, that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel: Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by name, thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overtlow thee; when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not
burnt ; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.” Believing and resting upon this sure foundation, the christian triumphs in the prospect of "departing and being with Christ :” he smiles at the threatening looks of the king of terrors, exults and sings “ with the sweet singer of Israel," “ yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod, and thy staff, they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever :"* and triumphs with the enraptured apostle of the Gentiles, “ ( death, where is thy sting; O grave, where is thy victory ? Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”+
It is a transporting reflection, that the fond wishes and desires of the human heart are warranted, encouraged and supported by the revelation of God : that the life and immortality which we naturally pant after, are brought to light by the gospel. It is pleasant to find wise and good men, guided only by the light of reason, and the honest propensities of nature, cherishing that very belief, cleaving to that very hope, which the text inspires. Cicero, in his beautiful treatise on old age, while he relates the sentiments of others, sweetly delivers his own on this subject. The elder Cyrus according to Xenophon, thus addressed bis sons before his death: “Do not imagine, O my dear children, that when I leave you, I cease to exist. For even while I was yet with you, my spirit you could not discern; but that it animated this body you were fully assured by the actions which I performed. Be assured it will continue the same, though still you see it not. The glory of illustrious men would sink with them into the grave, were not their surviving spirits capable of exertion, and concerned to rescue their names from oblivion. I can never suffer myself to be persuaded, that the man lives only while he is in the body, and dies when it is dissolved; or that the soul loses all intelligence on being separated from an unintelligent lump of clay; but rather that, on being liberated from all mixture with body, pure and entire, it enters upon its true intellectual existence. At death, any one may discover what becomes of the inaterjal part of our frame: all sinks into that from which it arose, every thing is resolved into its first principle; the soul alone is apparent neither while it is with us, nor when it departs. What so much resembles death as sleep ? Now the powers of the mind, in sleep, loudly proclaim their own divinity: free and unfettered, the soul plunges into futurity, ascends its native sky. Hence we may conclude how enlarged those powers, will be, when updepressed, unrestrained by the chains of fesh. Since these things are so, consider and reverence me as a tutelary deity. But, granting that the mind were to expire with the body, nevertheless, out of reverence to the immortal gods, who support and direct this fair fabric of nature, piously, affectionately cherish the memory of your affectionate father.” The great Roman orator puts these words into the mouth of Cato, in addressing his young friends Scipio and Lælius. “ Those excellent men, your fathers, who were so dear to me in life, I consider as still alive: and indeed, as now enjoying a state of being which alone deserves to be dignified with the name of life. For as long as we are shut up in this dungeon of sense, we have to toil through the painful and necessary drudgery of life, and to accomplish the laborious task of an hireling. The celestial spirit is, as it were, depressed, degraded from its native seat, and plunged into the mire of this world, a state repugnant to its divine nature and eternal duration." And again,
* Psal. xxiii. 4, 6.
+ 1 Cor. xv. 15, 57.
And again, “Nobody shall ever persuade me, Scipio, that your father Paullus, and your two grandfathers, Paullus and Africanus, and many other eminent men whom it is unnecessary to mention, would have attempted and achieved so many splendid actions, which were to extend their influence to posterity, had they not clearly discerned that they had interest in, and a connexion with the ages of futurity, and with generations yet unborn. Can you imagine, that I may talk a little of myself, after the manner of old men, can you imagine, that I would have submitted to so many painful toils, by night and by day, in the forum, in the senate, in the field, had I apprehended that my existence, and my reputation, were to terminate with my life? Were this the case, would it not have been much better to doze away in indolence an insignificant and useless life? But I do not know how the soul incessantby exerting its native vigour, still sprung eagerly forward into ages yet to come, and seized them as its own.
“ I feel myself transported with delight at the thought of again seeing and joining your fathers, whom on earth I highly respected and dearly loved ; and, borne on the wings of hope and desire, I am speeding my flight to mingle in the honoured society, not of those only whom on earth I knew, and with whom I have conversed; but of those also of whom I have heard and read, and the history of whose lives, I myself have written, for the instruction of mankind. I have the consolation of reflecting, that I have not lived wholly in vain : and I quit my station in life without regret, as the wayfaring man, whose face is towards home, bids farewell to the inn where he had stopped for a little refreshment on his way. O glorious day, when I shall be admitted into the divine assembly of the wise and good! When I shall make an eternal escape from this sink of corruption, and the din of folly! When, amidst the happy throng of the immortals, I shall find thee also, my son, my Cato, best, most amiable of men ! On thy ashes, I bestowed the honours of the tomb. Ah! why did not mine rather receive them from thy hand! But your spirit, I know it, has never forsaken me; but, casting back many a longing, linger