The Resurrection of the Christian
"He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." Romans 8:11
Identical with, and consequent upon, the resurrection of the Savior, is the resurrection not less divine, and scarcely less glorious- of the saints. Seeing that our Lord entered the grave as a public person, sustaining a representative character, when, therefore, he broke from its thraldom, he rose, the "first-fruits of those who slept." The Head of the Church alive, the resurrection-life of the Church became a fact, at once certain and glorious. Now, if the gospel be a myth- how charming the fiction! If untrue- how blissful the lie! With what sunlight joyousness does it gladden all the present, and with what effulgent hope does it gild all the future! Robbing us of this, what does Infidelity offer as its substitute? It proposes to soften our ills, and to soothe our sorrows, by annihilating our faith, and extinguishing our hope! But we believe, and are sure that Christ was no impostor, that Christianity is no fiction, that the Gospel is no lie; and, confirmed in our faith in the resurrection of the Savior, "why should it be thought a thing incredible that God should raise the dead?" Having contemplated the "first-fruits," now waving before the golden altar in heaven, let us take a perspective view of the coming harvest- the quickening of our mortal bodies by Christ's Spirit that dwells in us.
"Your mortal bodies"- words which at once define our present existence as one of suffering, and humiliation. And such verily it is. In asserting this fact, let it not be supposed that we deny that there is much dignity and grandeur connected with our material frame. We are fearfully and wonderfully made; a piece of mechanism displaying in each part and combination of the whole, the infinite wisdom, and elaborate skill, and boundless benevolence of the Divine Framer. And yet, from the most pleasing survey of this wondrous creature, man, we are compelled to revert to the sad truth, that our present existence is one of deep humiliation and certain decay. The language of Scripture in depicting this condition- a condition well calculated to lay human pride in the dust- is strong and emphatic. The Apostle characterizes our material frame as "this vile body," literally, "the body of our humiliation." And in his sublime and triumphant argument on the resurrection, he employs terms equally as descriptive of our present State: "When this corruption shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality." Thus is our physical structure, which we adorn with so much care, and which others so extravagantly admire, described as a "vile body," as "corruption," as "mortal." Ah! has the fact with many, perhaps, my reader, with you, become so common-place as to have changed its character, from one of the most affecting and humbling, to one the existence and contemplation of which awakens in the mind no deep and serious reflection? Have you grown so familiar with disease, and become so conversant with death- the inanimate clay, the shroud, the coffin, the hearse, the grave- those sad emblems of our mortality- as to feel sensible of no solemn emotions when the Holy Spirit brings the fact before the mind? Is it with, you a light matter to die? Ah! death is no trifle; and he will find it so who knows not Him who is the "Resurrection and the Life." But, display the stoic and act the philosopher as you may, give place to mirth, and hilarity, and thoughtlessness as you will- in all your vivacity, your pomp and power, you are mortal, and must die. "Dust you are, and unto dust shall you return." You shall "say to corruption, You are my father; and to the worm, You are my mother and my sister." To this humiliating end all are tending. And although some of our race move to the tomb in greater state and luxury than others, yet, "The grave is my house," is the affecting exclamation of all. There the rich and the poor meet together- Dives and Lazarus side by side. "There the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." And yet how few feel the solemnity, and admit the force of this truth. How few pause to consider that this body which they now pamper with such studied luxuriance, and adorn with such refinement of taste, will before long need no clothing but the winding sheet, no house but the coffin, and no home but the grave! And that so changed will be the countenance, once lined with beauty and radiant with thought- and so decayed the body, once so graceful and athletic- that those who regarded it with the fondest love, and who worshiped it with the deepest devotion, will be the first to exclaim, "Bury my dead out of my sight." Oh, how dire the humiliation of our present existence! "The body is dead because of sin."
But there glows around the grave of the believer in Jesus the halo of a blessed hope. "He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies." But for this animating and sustaining hope how starless and cheerless were his present existence. Strange as it may sound, that existence derives a character of peculiar sadness from the very circumstance of his Christianity. He is one to whom the Spirit has made known the inward plague. He is one whose frequent cry is, "O, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" He is one who conflicts with principalities and powers. He is one who is often placed in the fiery furnace of affliction. There is a secret in the history of every believer known only to God and his own soul. Oh, then, what a rayless, desolate path through this valley of tears were his, but for the hope of the resurrection- that hope which, like the stars of evening, shines the sweetest and the brightest when life seems the gloomiest and the darkest. No pomp or circumstance may attend him to the tomb, no marble monument may rear its chiseled form to record his virtues, to perpetuate his name, or mark the spot where his ashes repose. Those ashes the Ocean's cave may contain; his only tombstone the crested billows; his only requiem, chanted to the wild sea-bird, the solemn music of the waves as they dash and die upon the shore: but he sleeps in Jesus, and slumbering thus, his flesh rests in hope of a glorious resurrection and a blissful immortality. Oh, what a new and impressive character does Christianity give to the entire scene of the believer's departure out of this world to go unto the Father! To the eye of sense the outer door of the tomb appears hideous and forbidding. The deadly nightshade, and the overshadowing ivy, entwine darkly and thickly over its dismal arch; while the trail of the worm and the time-gathered mold upon its bars, deepen the air of its repulsiveness. But viewed by faith, how changed that tomb! As seen by its piercing eye, it is all radiant around, and all refulgent within. The Lamb of God has been there, touching and gilding all with life and glory. There rears the tree of life- there clusters the living vine- there flow the heavenly waters- there float the celestial breezes- there are redolent all the sweets of the upper paradise. And when the inner door opens upon heaven, what a scene of grandeur bursts upon the spirit's view! Glory, streaming from above, bathes it in its liquid beams, and lights its pathway to the skies. This is the tomb of a believer in Jesus. No; it is no longer a tomb- it is a triumphal arch, all radiant and garlanded, through which the spiritual conqueror, laden with the spoils of his last victory, passes, amid the acclaim of angels and the welcomings of sister spirits, to his crown and his rest.
But what will be the order of the believer's resurrection? Will it be anterior to, or contemporaneous with, the general resurrection of the dead? This is a question of the tenderest, holiest, interest. We believe that in this, as in each former part of his history, God will maintain the same difference he has ever put between the righteous and the wicked. The resurrection of the just is distinctly placed in Scripture in the foreground of the great and solemn scene. It is evidently made to take the precedence by a thousand years of the resurrection of the unjust. "The dead in Christ shall rise first." "Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection." Speaking of the ungodly, the Psalmist thus refers to the difference between them and the just at the resurrection: "Like sheep they are laid in the grave death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning." Oh, what a scene of joy will that be when, emerging from the gloom and impurity of the grave, the dead in Christ shall find themselves bathing in the golden beams, and inhaling the heavenly odor, of the morning of the "first resurrection." No demon of darkness shall shade its glory with his raven wing. No wail of despair shall blend with its entrancing music; it will be as when this magnificent creation first burst into being, and all the morning stars sang together for joy. And as the Savior cleaves the air, descending in the clouds of heaven, and nearing the earth he had touched and consecrated with his blood, a shout will be heard, so melodious, that all the heavenly minstrelsy will suspend their harpings to listen in breathless silence to its strains- "Lo, this is our God: we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him; we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."
"By his Spirit that dwells in us." Such is the agency by which the resurrection of the saints will be effected. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit secures the reanimation of our slumbering dust, and supplies the power by which it will be accomplished. The resurrection of the redeemed body will be the resurrection of an entombed, not a lost- the reconstruction of a dilapidated, not a destroyed temple of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit dwelling in us now, will dwell in us then. Quickening with his Divine energy our mortal body, he will remodel, reanimate, and re-enter his former abode, replenishing it with his glory through eternity. In this marvellous work of resuscitation each Person of the ever blessed Trinity will be engaged. The Father will welcome home, as from a long exile, his adopted family; the Son will openly espouse his ransomed bride; and the Spirit will rebuild and re-occupy his sacred temple. Then will the Prophet's prediction receive its fullest and sweetest accomplishment- "The Lord God in the midst of you is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over you with joy; he will rest in his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."