Human Nature in its Fourfold State
Thomas Boston (1676 - 1732)
"Marvel not at this– for the hour is coming, in which
all who are in the graves shall hear his voice– and shall come forth;
those who have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and those
who have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." John 5:28-29
These words are part of the defense which our Lord Jesus
Christ makes for himself, when persecuted by the Jews, for curing the
impotent man and ordering him to carry away his bed on the Sabbath; and for
vindicating his conduct, when accused by them of having thereby profaned
that day. On this occasion he professes himself not only the Lord of the
Sabbath, but also Lord of life and death; declaring, in the words of the
text, the resurrection of the dead to be brought to pass by his power. This
he introduces with these words, as with a solemn preface, "Marvel not at
this,"– at this strange discourse of mine– do not wonder to hear me, whose
appearance is so very base in your eyes; for the day is coming, in which the
dead shall be raised by my power.
Observe in this text,
1. The doctrine of the resurrection asserted, "All
that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth." The dead
bodies, which are reduced to dust, shall revive, and evidence life by
hearing and moving.
2. The author of it– Jesus Christ, "the Son of
man," verse 27. The dead shall hear his voice, and be raised thereby.
3. The number that shall be raised, "All that are
in the graves," that is, all the dead bodies of men, howsoever differently
disposed of, in different kinds of graves; or all the dead, good and bad.
They are not all buried in graves, properly so called– some are burnt to
ashes; some drowned, and buried in the bellies of fish; yes, some devoured
by man-eaters, called cannibals; but, wherever the matter or substance of
which the body was composed is to be found, thence they shall come forth.
4. The great distinction that shall be made
between the godly and the wicked– they shall indeed both rise again in the
resurrection. None of the godly shall be missing; though, perhaps, they
either had no burial, or a very obscure one; and all the wicked shall come
forth; their vaulted tombs shall hold them no longer than the voice is
uttered. But the former have a joyful resurrection to life, while the latter
have a dreadful resurrection to damnation.
5. The set time of this great event– there is an
hour, or certain fixed period of time, appointed of God for it. We are not
told when that hour will be, but that it is coming; for this, among other
reasons, that we may always be ready.
Doctrine. There shall be a resurrection of the dead.
In discoursing of this subject, I shall–
I. Show the certainty of the resurrection.
II. I shall inquire into the nature of it.
III. And, Lastly, make some practical improvement
of the whole.
I. In showing the
CERTAINTY of the resurrection, I shall
evince, 1. That God can raise the dead. 2. That he will do it;
which are the two grounds or topics laid down by Christ himself, when
disputing with the Sadducees, Matt. 22:29, "Jesus answered and said unto
them, you do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God."
Seeing God is almighty, surely he can raise the dead.
We have instances of this powerful work of God, both in the Old and New
Testament. The son of the widow in Sarepta was raised from the dead, 1 Kings
17:22; the Shunammite's son, 2 Kings 4:35; and the man "cast into the
sepulcher of Elisha," chapter 13:21. In which we may observe a gradation,
the second of these miraculous events being more illustrious than the first,
and the third than the second. The first of these persons was raised when he
was but newly dead; the prophet Elijah, who raised him being present at his
decease. The second, when he had lain dead a considerable time; namely,
while his mother traveled from Shunem, to mount Carmel, reckoned about the
distance of sixteen miles, and returned from thence to her house, with
Elisha, who raised him. The last, not until they were burying him, and the
corpse was cast into the prophet's grave. In like manner, in the New
Testament, Jairus's daughter, Mark 5:41, and Dorcas, Acts 9:40, were both
raised to life, when lately dead; the widow's son in Nain, when they were
carrying him out to bury him, Luke 12:11-15; and Lazarus, when putrid in the
grave, John 11:39, 44.
Can men make curious glasses out of ashes, reduce flowers
into ashes, and raise them again out of these ashes, restoring them to their
former beauty? And cannot the great Creator, who made all things of nothing,
raise man's body, after it is reduced into the dust? If it be objected, "How
can men's bodies be raised up again, after they are reduced to dust, and the
ashes of many generations are mingled together?" Scripture and reason
furnish the answer, "With men it is impossible, but not with God." It is
absurd for men to deny that God can do a thing, because they see not how it
may be done. How small a portion do we know of his ways! How absolutely
incapable are we of conceiving distinctly of the extent of almighty power,
and much more of comprehending its actings, and method of procedure! I
question not, but many illiterate men are as great unbelievers as to many
chemical experiments, as some learned men are to the doctrine of the
resurrection– and as these last are ready to deride the former, so, "the
Lord will have them in derision."
What a mystery was it to the Indians, that the Europeans
could, by a piece of paper, converse together at the distance of some
hundreds of miles! How much were they astonished to see them, with their
guns, produce as it were thunder and lightning in a moment, and at pleasure
kill men afar off! Shall some men do such things as are wonders in the eyes
of others because they cannot comprehend them, and shall men confine the
infinite power of God within the narrow boundaries of their own shallow
capacities, in a matter no ways contrary to reason! An inferior nature
has but a very imperfect conception of the power of a superior. Brutes do
not conceive of the actings of reason in men; and men have but imperfect
notions of the power of angels– how low and inadequate a conception, then,
must a finite nature have of the power of that which is infinite! Though we
cannot conceive how God acts, yet we ought to believe he can do above what
we can think or conceive.
Therefore, let the bodies of men be laid in the grave;
let them rot there, and be reduced into the most minute particles– or let
them be burnt, and the ashes cast into rivers, or thrown up into the air, to
be scattered by the wind– let the dust of a thousand generations be mingled,
and the steams of the dead bodies wander to and fro in the air– let birds or
wild beasts eat the bodies, or the fish of the sea devour them, so that the
parts of human bodies, thus destroyed, pass into substantial parts of birds,
beasts or fish; or, what is more that that, let man-eaters, who themselves
must die and rise again, devour human bodies, and let others devour them
again, and then let our modern Sadducees propose the questions in these
cases, as the ancient Sadducees did in the case of the woman who had been
married to seven husbands successively, Matt. 22:28. We answer, as our
blessed Lord and Savior did, ver. 29, "You do err, not knowing the
Scriptures, nor the power of God." We believe God to be omniscient and
omnipotent; infinite in knowledge and in power– and hence, agreeably to the
dictates of reason, we conclude the possibility of the resurrection, even in
the cases supposed.
Material things may change their forms and shapes, may be
reduced to the principles of which they are formed– but they are not
annihilated, or reduced to nothing; nor can they be so, by any created
power. God is omniscient, his understanding is infinite; therefore he knows
all things; what they were at any time, what they are, and where they are to
be found. Though the countryman, who comes into the apothecary's shop,
cannot find out the drug he wants; yet the apothecary himself knows what he
has in his shop, whence it came, and where it is to be found. And, in a
mixture of many different seeds, the expert gardener can distinguish between
each of them. Why then may not Omniscience distinguish between dust and
dust? Can he, who knows all things to perfection, be liable to any mistake
about his own creatures? Whoever believes an infinite understanding, must
needs own, that no mass of dust is so jumbled together, but God perfectly
comprehends, and infallibly knows, how the most minute particle, and every
one of them is to be matched.
II. I shall inquire into
the NATURE of the resurrection, showing,
1. Who shall be raised.
2. What shall be raised.
3. How the dead shall be raised.
1. WHO shall be raised? Our text tells us who
they are; namely "all that are in the graves," that is, all mankind who are
dead. As for those people who are found alive at the second coming of
Christ, they shall not die, and soon after be raised again; but such a
change shall suddenly pass upon them as shall be to them instead of
dying and rising again; so that their bodies shall become like lo those
bodies which are raised out of their graves, 1 Cor. 15:51, 52, "We shall not
all sleep, but we shall all be changed– in a moment, in the twinkling of an
eye." Hence those who are to be judged at the great day, are distinguished
into living and dead, Acts 10:42. All the dead shall arise, whether godly or
wicked, just or unjust, Acts 24:15, old or young; the whole race of mankind,
even those who never saw the sun, but died in their mother's womb– Rev.
20:12, "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God." The sea and
earth shall give up their dead without reserve, none shall be kept back.
2. WHAT shall be raised? The bodies of
mankind. A man is said to die, when the soul is separated from the body,
"and returns onto God who gave it," Eccl. 12:7. But it is the body only
which is laid in the grave, and can be properly said to be raised– therefore
the resurrection, strictly speaking, applies to the body only. Moreover, it
is the same body that dies, which shall rise again. At the
resurrection, men shall not appear with other bodies, as to substance, than
those which they now have, and which are laid down in the grave; but with
the self-same bodies, endowed with other qualities. The very notion of a
resurrection implies this, since nothing can be said to rise again, but that
3. HOW shall the dead be raised? The same
Jesus, who was crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem, shall, at the last
day, to the conviction of all, be declared both Lord and Christ– appearing
as Judge of the world, attended with his mighty angels, 2 Thess. 1:7, "He
shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and
with the trumpet of God," 1 Thess. 4:16, "The trumpet shall sound, and the
dead shall be raised, and those who are alive, changed," 1 Cor. 15:52.
Whether this shout, voice, and trumpet, denote some audible voice, or only
the workings of Divine power, for the raising of the dead, and other
dreadful purposes of that day, though the former seems probable, I will not
positively determine. There is no question but this coming of the Judge of
the world will be in greater majesty and terror than we can conceive– yet
that dreadful grandeur, majesty, and state, which was displayed at the
giving of the law, namely, thunders heard, lightnings, and a thick cloud
upon the mount seen, the Lord descending in fire, the whole mount quaking
greatly, and the voice of the trumpet waxing louder and louder, Exod.
19:16-19, may help us to form a becoming thought of it. However, the sound
of this trumpet shall be heard all the world over; it shall reach to the
depths of the sea, and of the earth. At this loud alarm, bones shall come
together, bone to his bone– the scattered dust of all the dead shall be
gathered together, dust to his dust; "neither shall one thrust another, they
shall walk every one in his path;" and, meeting together again, shall make
up that very same body which crumbled into dust in the grave. At the same
alarming voice shall every soul come again into its own body, never more to
be separated. The dead can stay no longer in their graves, but must bid an
eternal farewell to their long homes– they hear His voice, and must come
forth, and receive their final sentence.
Now as there is a great difference between the godly and
the wicked, in their life, and in their death; so will there be also in
The godly shall be raised out of their graves, by virtue
of the Spirit of Christ, the blessed bond of their union with him, Rom.
8:11, "He that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your
mortal bodies, by his Spirit that dwells in you." Jesus Christ arose from
the dead, as the "first-fruits of those who slept," 1 Cor. 15:20, So those
who are Christ's shall follow at his coming, ver. 23. The mystical head
having got above the waters of death, he cannot but bring forth the members
after him, in due time.
They shall come forth with inexpressible joy; for then
shall that passage of Scripture, which, in its immediate scope, respected
the Babylonish captivity, be fully accomplished in its most extensive
meaning, Isa. 26:19, "Awake and sing, you that dwell in the dust." As a
bride adorned for her husband, goes forth of her bedchamber unto the
marriage– so shall the saints go forth of their graves, unto the marriage of
the Lamb. Joseph had a joyful coming out from the prison, Daniel from the
lion's den, and Jonah from the whale's belly– yet these are but faint
representations of the saint's coming forth from the grave, at the
resurrection. Then shall they sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, in
highest strains; death being quite swallowed up in victory. They had, while
in this life, sometimes sung, by faith the triumphant song over death and
the grave, "O death, where is your sting? O grave where is your victory?"
But then they sing the same, from sight and sense; the black band of doubts
and fears, which frequently disturbed them, and disturbed their minds, is
forever dispersed and driven away.
May we not suppose the soul and body of every saint, as
in mutual embraces, to rejoice in each other, and triumph in their happy
meeting again; and the BODY to address the soul thus– "O my soul,
have we got together again, after so long a separation! are you come back to
your old habitation, never more to remove! O joyful meeting! how unlike is
our present state to what our case was, when a separation was made between
us at death! Now is our mourning turned into joy; the light and gladness
sown before, are now sprung up; and there is a perpetual spring in
Immanuel's land. Blessed be the day in which I was united to you; whose
chief care was to get Christ in us the hope of glory, and to make me a
temple for his Holy Spirit. O blessed soul, which in the time of our
pilgrimage, kept your eye to the land then afar off, but now near at hand!
you took me into secret places, and there made me to bow these knees before
the Lord, that I might bear a part in our humiliation before him– and now is
the time that I am lifted up. You did employ this tongue in confessions,
petitions, and thanksgivings, which henceforth shall be employed in praising
for evermore. You made these sometimes weeping eyes, sow that seed of tears,
which is now sprung up in joy that shall never end. I was happily beat down
by you, and kept in subjection, while others pampered their flesh, and made
their bellies their gods, to their own destruction– but now I gloriously
arise, to take my place in the mansions of glory, while they are dragged out
of their graves to be cast into fiery flames. Now, my soul, you shall
complain no more of a sick and pained body; you shall be no more clogged
with weak and weary flesh; I shall now keep pace with you in the praises of
our God for evermore."
And may not the SOUL say– "O happy day in which I
return to dwell in that blessed body, which was, and is, and will be
forever, a member of Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit! Now I shall be
eternally knit to you– the silver cord shall never be loosed more– death
shall never make another separation between us. Arise then, my body, and
come away! And let these eyes, which were used to weep over my sins, behold
with joy the face of our glorious Redeemer; lo! this is our God, and we have
waited for him. Let these ears, which were used to hear the word of life in
the temple below, come and hear the hallelujahs in the temple above. Let
these feet, that carried me to the congregation of saints on earth, take
their place among those in heaven. And let this tongue, which confessed
Christ before men, and used to be still dropping something to his
commendation, join the choir of the upper house, in his praises for
evermore. You shall fast no more, but keep an everlasting feast; you shall
weep no more, neither shall your countenance be overclouded; but you shall
shine forever, as a star in the skies. We took part together in the fight;
come, let us go together to receive and wear the crown."
But on the other hand, the WICKED shall be raised by the
power of Christ, as a just Judge, who is to render vengeance to his enemies.
The same divine power which shut up their souls in hell, and kept their
bodies in the grave, as in a prison, shall bring them forth, that soul and
body together may receive the dreadful sentence of eternal damnation, and be
shut up together in the prison of hell.
They shall come forth from their graves with unspeakable
horror and consternation. They shall be dragged forth, as so many
malefactors out of a dungeon, to be led to execution crying to the mountains
and to the rocks to fall on them, and hide them from the face of the Lamb.
Fearful was the cry in Egypt, that night on which the destroying angel went
through, and slew their first-born. Dreadful were the shouts, at the earth
opening her mouth, and swallowing up Dathan and Abiram, and all that
appertained to them. What hideous crying then must there be, when at the
sound of the last trumpet, the earth and sea shall open their mouths, and
cast forth all the wicked world, delivering them up to the dreadful Judge!
How will they cry, roar, and tear themselves! How will the jovial companions
weep and howl, and curse one another! How will the earth be filled with
their doleful shrieks and lamentations, while they are pulled out like sheep
for the slaughter!
They who, while they lived in this world, were profane,
debauchees, covetous worldlings, or formal hypocrites, shall then, in
anguish of mind, wring their hands, beat their breasts, and bitterly lament
their case, roaring forth their complaints, and calling themselves beasts,
fools, and madmen, for having acted so mad a part in this life, in not
believing what they then heard. They were driven away in their wickedness at
death– and now all their sins rise with them; and, like so many serpents,
twist themselves about their wretched souls, and bodies too, which have a
frightful meeting, after a long separation.
Then we may suppose the miserable BODY thus to accost
the soul– "Have you again found me, O mine enemy, my worst enemy, savage
soul, more cruel than a thousand tigers. Cursed be the day that ever we met.
O that I had remained a lifeless lump, rotted in the womb of my mother, and
had never received sense, life, and motion! O that I had rather been the
body of a toad, or serpent, than your body; for then had I lain still, and
had not seen this terrible day. If I was to be necessarily yours, O that I
had been your donkey, or one of your dogs, rather than your body; for then
would you have taken more true care of me than you did! O cruel kindness!
have you thus hugged me to death, thus nourished me to the slaughter? Is
this the effect of your tenderness for me? Is this what I am to reap of your
pains and concern about me? What do riches and pleasures avail now, when
this fearful reckoning is come! of which you had fair warning? O cruel
grave! why did you not close your mouth upon me forever? Why did you not
hold fast your prisoner? Why have you shaken me out, while I lay still and
was at rest? Cursed soul, wherefore did you not abide in your place, wrapped
up in flames of fire? Wherefore are you come back, to take me also down to
the bars of the pit? You made me an instrument of unrighteousness; and now I
must be thrown into the fire. This tongue was by you employed in mocking at
religion, cursing, swearing, lying, backbiting, and boasting; and withheld
from glorifying God– and now it must not have so much as a drop of water to
cool it in the flames! You withdrew mine ears from hearing the sermons which
gave warning of this day. You found ways and means to stop them from
attending to seasonable exhortations, admonitions, and reproofs. But why did
you not stop them from hearing the sound of this dreadful trumpet? Why do
you not rove and fly away on the wings of imagination, thereby, as it were,
transporting me during these frightful transactions; as you were used to do,
when I was set down at sermons, communions, prayers, and godly conferences;
that I might now have as little sense of the one, as I formerly had of the
other? But ah! I must burn forever, for your love to your lusts, your
profanity, your sensuality, your unbelief, and hypocrisy."
But may not the SOUL answer– "Wretched and vile
carcass! I am now driven back into you. O that you had lain forever in your
grave! Had I not torment enough before? Must I be knit to you again, that,
being joined together as two dry sticks for the fire, the wrath of God may
burn us up? It was by caring for you, that I lost myself. It was your
appetites, and the gratifying of your senses, which ruined me. How often was
I ensnared by your ears! how often betrayed by your eyes! It was to spare
you, that I neglected opportunities of making peace with God, loitered away
Sabbaths, lived in the neglect of prayer; went to the house of mirth, rather
than to the house of mourning; and that I chose to deny Christ, and forsake
his cause and interest in the world; and so am fallen a sacrifice to your
cursed ease. When at any time my conscience began to awake, and I was
setting myself to think of my sins, and the misery which I have felt since
we parted, and now feel, it was you that diverted me from these thoughts,
and drew me off to make provision for you. O wretched flesh! by your silken
cords of fleshly lusts, I was drawn to destruction, in defiance of my light
and conscience– but now they are turned into iron chains, with which I am to
be held under wrath for evermore. Ah wretched profits! ah cursed pleasures!
for which I must lie forever in utter darkness!"
But no complaints will then avail. O that men were wise,
that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!
As to the qualities with which
the bodies of the SAINTS shall be endowed at the resurrection,
the apostle tells us, they shall be raised incorruptible, glorious,
powerful, and spiritual, 1 Cor. 15:42-44, "It is sown in corruption, it is
raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is
sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is
raised a spiritual body."
1. The bodies of the saints shall be raised
INCORRUPTIBLE. They are now, as the bodies of others, a mass of
corruption, full of the seeds of diseases and death; and, when dead, become
so offensive, even to their dearest friends, that they must be buried out of
their sight, and cast into the grave, where they are to rot, and be
consumed– yes, loathsome sores and diseases make some of them very
unsightly, even while alive. But, at the resurrection, they leave all the
seeds of corruption behind them in the grave; and rise incorruptible,
incapable of the least indisposition, sickness, or sore, and much more, of
dying. External violences and inward causes of pain, shall forever cease–
they shall feel it no more– yes, they shall have an everlasting youth and
vigor, being no more subject to the decays which age produced in this life.
2. They shall be GLORIOUS bodies; not only
beautiful, lovely, and well-proportioned, but full of splendor and
brightness. The most beautiful face, and best proportioned body, that now
appears in the world, is not to be named in comparison with the body of the
lowest saint at the resurrection; for "then shall the righteous shine forth
as the sun," Matt. 13:43. If there was a dazzling glory on Moses' face, when
he came down from the mount; and if Stephen's face was "as it had been the
face of an angel," when he stood before the council; how much more shall the
faces of the saints be beautiful and glorious, full of sweet agreeable
majesty, when they have put off all corruption, and shine as the sun! But
observe, this beauty of the saints is not restricted to their faces, but
diffuses itself through their whole bodies– for the whole body is raised in
glory, and shall be fashioned like unto their Lord and Savior's glorious
body, in whose transfiguration, not only did his face shine as the sun, but
his clothing also was white as the light, Matt. 17: 2. Whatever defects or
deformities the bodies of the saints had when laid in the grave, occasioned
by accidents in life, or arising from secret causes in their formation in
the womb, they shall rise out of the grave free of all these.
But suppose the marks of the Lord Jesus, the scars or
prints of the wounds and bruises which some of the saints received while on
earth, for his sake, should remain in their bodies after the resurrection;
the same as the print of the nails remained in the Lord Jesus' body after
his resurrection– these marks will rather be badges of distinction, and add
to their glory, than detract from their beauty. But however that be, surely
Isaac's eyes shall not then be dim, nor will Jacob halt– Leah shall not be
tender-eyed, nor Mephibosheth lame of his legs. For as the goldsmith melts
down the old broken vessel, and casts it over again in a new mold, bringing
it forth with a new luster; so shall the vile body, which lay dissolved in
the grave, come forth at the resurrection, in perfect beauty and lovely
3. They shall be POWERFUL and strong bodies.
The strongest men on earth, being frail and mortal, may justly be reckoned
weak and feeble; for their strength, however great, is quickly worn out and
consumed. Many of the saints now have weaker bodies than others; but "the
feeble among them," to allude to Zechariah 12:8, at that day shall be "as
David, and the house of David shall be as God." A grave divine says, that
one shall be stronger at the resurrection than a hundred, yes, than
thousands are now. Certainly great, and vastly great, must the strength of
glorified bodies be; for they shall bear up under an exceeding and eternal
weight of glory. The mortal body is not at all adapted to such a state. Do
transports of joy occasion death, as well as excessive grief, and can it
bear up under a weight of glory? Can it exist in union with a soul filled
with heaven's rapture? Surely not. The mortal body would sink under that
load, and such fullness of joy would make the earthen pitcher to fly all in
The Scripture has plainly told us, "That flesh and
blood," namely, in their present frail state, though it were the flesh and
blood of a giant, "cannot inherit the kingdom of God," 1 Cor. 15:50. How
strong must the bodily eyes be, which, to the soul's eternal comfort, shall
behold the dazzling glory and splendor of the New Jerusalem; and steadfastly
look at the transcendent glory and brightness of the man Christ, the Lamb,
who is the light of that city, the inhabitants whereof shall shine as the
sun! The Lord of heaven does now in mercy "hold back the face of his throne,
and spreads his clouds upon it;" that mortals may not be confounded with the
rays of glory which shine forth from it, Job 26:9. But then the veil shall
be removed, and they made able to behold it, to their unspeakable joy. How
strong must their bodies be, who shall not rest night nor day, but be,
without intermission, forever employed in the heavenly temple, to sing and
proclaim the praises of God without weariness, which is a weakness incident
to the frail mortal, but not to the glorified body!
4. They shall be SPIRITUAL bodies. Not that
they shall be changed into spirits, but they shall be spiritual as to their
spirit-like qualities and endowments. The body shall be absolutely
subservient to the soul, subject to it, and influenced by it, and therefore
no more a clog to its activity, nor the animal appetites a snare to it.
There will be no need to beat it down, nor to drag it to the service of God.
The soul, in this life is so much influenced by the body, that, in Scripture
style, it is said to be carnal; but then the body shall be spiritual,
readily serving the soul in the business of heaven, and in that only, as if
it had no more relation to earth than a spirit. It will have no further need
of the now necessary supports of life, namely, food, and clothing, and the
like. "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more," Rev. 7:16. "For
in the resurrection, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are
as the angels of God in heaven." Then shall the saints be strong without
food or drink, warm without clothes, ever in perfect health without
medicine, and ever fresh and vigorous, though they shall never sleep, but
serve him night and day in his temple, Rev. 7:15. They will need none of
these things, any more than spirits do. They will be nimble and active as
spirits, and of a most refined constitution. The body, that is now lumpish
and heavy, shall then be most sprightly. No such thing as melancholy shall
be found to make the heart heavy, and the spirits flag and sink. I shall not
further dip into this matter– the day will declare it.
As to the qualities of the
bodies of the WICKED at the resurrection, I find the Scripture
speaks but little of them. Whatever they may need, they shall not get
a drop of water to cool their tongues, Luke 16:24, 25. Whatever may be said
of their weakness, it is certain they will be continued forever in life,
that they may be ever dying; they shall bear up, however unwillingly under
the load of God's wrath, and shall not faint away under it. "The smoke of
their torment ascends up forever and ever. And they have no rest day nor
night." Surely they shall not partake of the glory and beauty of the saints.
All their glory dies with them, and shall never rise again. Daniel tells us,
they shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt, chap. 12:2. Shame
follows sin, as the shadow follows the body.
But the wicked in this world walk in the dark, and often
under a disguise– nevertheless, when the Judge comes in flaming fire at the
last day, they will be brought to the light; their mask will be taken off,
and the shame of their nakedness will clearly appear to themselves
and others, and fill their faces with confusion. Their shame will be too
deep for blushes– all faces shall gather blackness at that day, when they
shall go forth from their graves, as malefactors out of their prisons to
execution– for their resurrection is the resurrection of damnation. The
greatest beauties, who now pride themselves in their loveliness of body, not
regarding their deformed souls, will then appear with a ghastly countenance,
a grim and death-like visage. Their looks will be frightful, and they will
be horrible spectacles, coming forth from their graves, like infernal furies
out of the pit.
They shall rise also to everlasting contempt. They
shall then be the most contemptible creatures, filled with contempt from
God, as vessels of dishonor, whatever honorable employments they had in this
world; and filled also with contempt from men. They will be most despicable
in the eyes of the saints; even of those saints who gave them honor here,
either for their high station, the gifts of God in them, or because they
were of the same human nature with themselves. But then their bodies shall
be as so many loathsome carcasses, which they shall go forth and look upon
with abhorrence; yes, "They shall be an abhorring unto all flesh," Isaiah
66:24. The word here rendered "an abhorring," is the same which in the other
text is rendered "contempt," and Isaiah and Daniel point at one and the same
thing, namely, the loathsomeness of the wicked at the resurrection.
They will be loathsome in the eyes of one another. The unclean wretches were
never so lovely to each other, and then they will be loathsome; dear
companions in sin will then abhor each other; and the great and honorable
men who were wicked, shall be no more regarded by their wicked subjects,
their servants, their slaves, than the mire in the streets.
Use I. Of COMFORT to the people of God. The
doctrine of the resurrection is a spring of consolation and joy unto you.
Think on it, O believers, when you are in the house of mourning, for the
loss of your godly relations or friends, "that you sorrow not, even as
others which have no hope;" for you will meet again, 1 Thess. 4:13, 14. They
are but laid down to rest in their beds for a little while, Isa.
57:2; but in the morning of the resurrection they will awake again, and come
forth out of their graves. The vessel of honor was but coarse, it had much
alloy of base metal in it; it was too weak, too dim and inglorious, for the
upper house, whatever luster it had in the lower one. It was cracked, it was
polluted; and therefore it must be melted down, to be refined and fashioned
more gloriously. Do but wait a while, and you shall see it come forth out of
the furnace of earth, vying with the stars in brightness; no, as the sun
when he goes forth in his might. Have you laid your infant children in the
grave? You will see them again. Your God calls himself "the God of your
seed;" which, according to our Savior's exposition, secures the glorious
resurrection of the body. Therefore, let the covenant you embraced for
yourselves and your babes now in the dust, comfort your heart, in the joyful
expectation, that by virtue thereof, they shall be raised up in glory– and
that as being no more infants of days, but brought to a full and perfect
stature, as generally supposed.
Be not discouraged by reason of a weak and sickly body–
there is a day coming, when you shall be entirely whole. At the
resurrection, Timothy shall bo no more liable to his often infirmities; his
body, that was weak and sickly, even in youth, shall be raised in power.
Lazarus shall healthy and sound, his body being raised incorruptible.
Although perhaps, your weakness will not allow you now to go one furlong to
meet the Lord in public ordinances, yet the day comes, when your body shall
be no more a clog to you, but you shall "meet the Lord in the air," 1 Thess.
4:17. It will be with the saints coming up from the grave, as with the
Israelites when they came out of Egypt– "There was not one feeble person
among their tribes."
Have you an unlovely or deformed body? There is a glory
within, which will then set all right without, according to all the desire
of your heart. It shall rise a glorious, beautiful, handsome, and
well-proportioned body. It's unloveliness or deformities may go with it to
the grave, but they shall not come back with it. O that those, who are now
so desirous to be beautiful and handsome, would not be too hasty to effect
it with their foolish and sinful arts, but wait and study the heavenly art
of beautifying the body, by endeavoring now to become all glorious within,
with the graces of God's Spirit! This would at length make them admirable
and everlasting beauties. You must indeed, O believer, grapple with death,
and shall get the first fall– but you shall rise again, and come off
victorious at last. You must go down to the grave; but, though it be your
long home, it will not be your everlasting home. You will not
hear the voice of your friends there; but you shall hear the voice of Christ
there. You may be carried there with mourning, but you shall come up from it
rejoicing. Your friends, indeed, will leave you there, but your God will
not. What God said to Jacob, concerning his going down to Egypt, Gen. 46:3,
4, he says to you, on your going down to the grave, "Fear not to go down– I
will go down with you– and I will also surely bring you up again." O solid
comfort! O glorious hopes! "Therefore comfort" yourselves, and "one another
with these words," 1 Thess. 4:18.
Use 2. Of TERROR to all unregenerate men. You
who are yet in your natural state, look at this view of the eternal state;
and consider what will be your part in it, if you be not in time brought
into a state of grace. Think, O sinner, on that day when the trumpet shall
sound, at the voice of which the bars of the pit shall be broken asunder,
the doors of the grave shall fly open, the devouring depths of the sea shall
throw up their dead, the earth cast forth hers; and death every where, in
the excess of astonishment, shall let go its prisoners; and your wretched
soul and body shall be re-united, to be summoned before the tribunal of God.
Then, if you had a thousand worlds at your disposal, you would gladly give
them all away, on condition that you might lie still in your grave, with the
hundredth part of that ease, with which you have sometimes lain at home on
the Lord's day; or, if that cannot be obtained, that you might be but a
spectator of the transactions of that day; as you have been at some solemn
occasions, and rich gospel feasts; or, if even that is not to be purchased,
that a mountain or a rock might fall on you, and cover you from the face of
Ah! how are men infatuated, thus to trifle away their
precious time of life, in almost as little concern about death, as if they
were like the beasts that perish! Some will be telling where their corpse
must be laid; while yet they have not seriously considered, whether their
graves shall be their beds, where they shall awake with joy, in the
morning of the resurrection; or their prisons, out of which they
shall be brought to receive the fearful sentence. Remember, now is your
seed-time; and as yon sow, so shall you reap. God's seed-time begins at
death; and at the resurrection, the bodies of the wicked, that were sown
"full of sins, that lie down with them in the dust," Job 20:11, shall spring
up again– sinful, wretched, and vile.
Your bodies, which are now instruments of sin, the Lord
will lay aside for fire, at death, and bring them forth for the fire, at the
resurrection. That body, which is now employed in God's service, but is
abused by uncleanness and lasciviousness, will then be brought forth in all
its vileness, thenceforth to lodge with unclean spirits. The body of the
drunkard shall then stagger, by reason of the wine of the wrath of God
poured out to him, and poured into him, without mixture. Those who now
please themselves in their reveling, will reel to and fro and another rate,
when, instead of their songs and music, they shall hear the sound of the
last trumpet. Many weary their bodies for worldly gain, who will be loath to
distress them for the benefit of their souls; by labor, unreasonably hard,
they will quite unfit themselves for the service of God; and, when they have
done, will reckon it a very good reason for shifting duty, that they are
already tired out with other business; but that day comes, when they will be
made to abide a yet greater distress. Many will go several miles for food
and clothing, who will not go half the way for the good of their immortal
souls; many will be sickly and unable on the Lord's day, who will be
tolerably well all the rest of the week.
But when that trumpet sounds, the dead shall find their
feet, and none shall be missing in that congregation. When the bodies of the
saints shine as the sun; frightful will the looks of their persecutors be.
Fearful will their condition be, who shut up the saints in nasty prisons,
stigmatized, burnt them to ashes, hanged them, and stuck up their heads and
hands in public places, to frighten others from the way of righteousness,
which they suffered for. Many faces, now fair, will then gather blackness.
They shall be no more admired and caressed for that beauty, which has a worm
at the root, that will cause it to issue in loathsomeness and deformity. Ah!
what is that beauty, under which there lurks a monstrous, deformed, and
graceless heart? What, but a sorry paint, a slight varnish; which will leave
the body so much the more ugly, before that flaming fire, in which the Judge
shall be "revealed from heaven, taking vengeance on them that know not God,
and that obey not the gospel?" 2 Thess. 1:7, 8. They shall be stripped of
all their ornaments, and not have a rag to cover their nakedness– their
carcasses shall be an abhorrence to all flesh, and serve as a foil to set
off the beauty and glory of the righteous, and make it appear the brighter.
Now is the time to secure, for yourselves, a part in the
resurrection of the just– which if you would do, unite with Jesus Christ by
faith, rising spiritually from sin, and glorifying God with your bodies. He
is the "resurrection and the life," John 11:25. If your bodies be members of
Christ, temples of the Holy Spirit, they shall certainly arise in glory. Get
into this ark now, and you shall come forth with joy into the new world.
Rise from your sins; cast away these grave-clothes, putting off your former
lusts. How can anyone imagine, that those who continue dead while they live,
shall come forth, at the last day, unto the resurrection of life? But that
will be the privilege of all those who, having first consecrated their souls
and bodies to the Lord by faith, do glorify him with their bodies, as well
as their souls; living and acting to him, and for him, yes, and suffering
for him too, when he calls them to it.