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1. It shall be raised AN ENTIRE AND PERFECT BODY,
Not a' dust, not an atom, that is necessary to the integration of it, shall be lost: and, though they be scattered up and down the world, and confusedly mixed with other beings; yet, by the omnipotence of God and the ministry of angels, every dust shall be picked up again, and set in its due place and order. To this purpose Tertullian speaks well : Si non integros suscitat Deus, non suscitat mortuos, &c: “ If God doth not raise us up entire, he doth not raise the dead :" for, if any part of us be not raised, as to that we are still dead.
ii. As it shall be raised up entire and perfect, so EVERY MEMBER OF IT SHALL BE MADE SUCH, AS MAY BE MOST SUBSERVIENT TO THE SOUL, AND MOST CAPABLE OF THE RECEIPT OF GLORY.
We shall not find our bodies so restive nor so unwieldy, as too often here we do. They now hang upon us as heavy clogs, and depress us when we should be soaring up to heaven. Then, we shall no longer need our Saviour's gracious excuse for our infirmities : Mat. xxvi. 41. The spirit truly is willing, but the Aesh is weak. No; this flesh of ours, in that glorified estate, shall hold out in all the rapturous exercises of the soul: and, whereas now we are dull when we hear, and drowsy when we pray, and distracted when we meditate, soon tired out in any holy performances; then, when all these dregs and phlegm shall be purged from us, our bodies themselves shall be all light and fire, brisk and sparkling, ready to attend every the least motion of the soul, without reluctance and without weariness.
iii. Though the body shall be thus raised entire, and perfect in all its limbs, YET SHALL THEY NOT PERFORM ANY OF THOSE SORDID OFFICES TO WHICH NOW THEY SERVE.
They shall be discharged from their offices, as the same Tertullian speaks; but yet they shall not therefore cease to be necessary in the body: for, though they lose their offices, yet must they still retain their places; being reserved for the sentence of the Righteous Judge.
I COR. xv. 56.
THE STING OF DEATH IS SIN.
In the foregoing verse, we have a Christian's Triumph over Death and the Grave, in the expectation of a blessed and glorious Resurrection. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Shall our scattered dust and ashes be rallied again into the same body ? shall that, which was infirm, dishonourable, and mortal, be raised up powerful and active, bright and glorious, impassible as spirits and deathless as eternity ? shall we everlastingly survive our funerals ? shall we again receive these bodies out of the eart!, purified from all earthy, dreggy mixtures and concretions? There can be no consequence more naturally drawn from these premises, than what our Apostle infers : to contemn death, as a feeble and impotent adversary; to trample upon this disarmed worm, without fear of hurt; and to disdain the weakness of its malice, whose greatest spite turns only to our inconceivable advantage.
In the words now before us, and in the ensuing verse, the Apostle makes use of another medium to prove the same assertion, That, to a believer, there is nothing formidable or dreadful, even in death itself.
Now, because in this argument there are many ellipses, many propositions which are silenced, and yet very necessary to be understood, before we can find out the full force of it; I shall endeavour briefly to unfold it, and shew wherein the strength and sinews of the Apostle's reasoning consist.
The great truth, which he would prove, is, That a Christian may well triumph over death.
And this he doth by Two heads of arguments.
The one, drawn from the consideration of the exceeding great advantage and glory, which shall redound even to their very bodies, by the resurrection. And this he, at large, prosecutes, in a great part of this chapter ; especially in verses 42, 43, 44. It is sown in corruption : it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonour : 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.
The other head of arguments is that, which now lies before us to be considered; which, if it be drawn out at length, contains in it many propositions.
First. That all the pernicious and baneful effects of death proceed from sin; which, therefore, is here called, The Sting of Death : because, as venomous creatures transmit their poison by their sting; so, likewise, that, which serves to convey into us all the mischief and harm that death can do us, is only sin. And, hence, it is well represented unto us, under that metaphorical expression of a sting: The Sting of Death is Sin.
Secondly. That, to believers, this sting is taken out of death, and the venom taken out of that sting. They may take this cold and frozen snake into their bosoms; and, though it hiss against them, yet it cannot wound them.
And, to prove this, he asserts,
Thirdly. That all the malignity, which sin contains in it, it receives from the Law: The Strength of Sin is the Law. For it is the Law only, that gives sin its being : for the Scripture gives us this definition of sin, that it is a transgression of the Law: 1 John iii. 4: and expressly tells us, that where there is no law, there is no transgression : Rom. iv. 15. And it is the Law, that gives sin its condemning power, by virtue of that threatening of death and eternal destruction, which God hath denounced against all that shall dare to violate and transgress it: In the day that thou ealest thereof, thou shalt surely die: Gen. ii. 17. and the soul, that sinneth, it shall die : Ezek, xviii. 4.
And, therefore, it necessarily followeth,
Fourthly. That, if the Law, which gives power and malignity to sin, be abolished, we may then confidently triumph over death, whose sting, and all whose power, consists in sin. And,
Fifthly. The Apostle concludes, v. 57. That God hath given us the victory, through Christ; for he hath abrogated the Law, so far as it gave strength to sin to condemn us. He hath taken away the damning and the cursing power of the Law, by bearing its punishments, and being made a curse for us. Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
So that the whole sum of the argument lies in this, That Christ hath taken away the sting of death, which is sin, because he hath abolished the Law, whence sin received all its power and virulency
These words offer to us these Two Propositions.
That there is a Sting in death.
But before I can treat of either of these, I must somewhat more fully explain what is meant by that metaphor, the sting of death. It is an allusion to venomous and noxious creatures, whose power to do mischief lies in their stings: there, usually, lies the stock and treasure of their poison, which they diffuse into those, into whom they dart their stings; thereby inflaming their blood, corrupting the whole mass of their humours, causing inexpressible anguish and dolours, and sometimes death and destruction itself. So that, because the sting is the instrument, which conveys so much pain and so much mischief; because it is that, which makes those creatures so formidable and dreadful unto us that are thus naturally armed: therefore the Apostle elegantly transfers this to death; and atfirms, That there is something in death, that makes it terrible, painful, and destructive to us; and this he calls the sting of death. So that, in brief, whatsoever makes death frightful and grievous to us, that is this sting of death.
I. THERE IS A STING IN DEATH.
i. That there is SUCH A STING IN DEATH, and that it is thus formidable and pernicious, appears from these following particulars.
1. In the horrors of wicked and ungodly men, when they come to die.
Indeed some, who, by long custom and continuance in sin, have utterly spent and wasted their consciences, go out of the world in a desperate stupidity ; senseless of what they are, and careless of what they are like to be: and, with a mad rashness, daringly leap out of life, without ever considering how infinitely deep that dismal precipice is, down which they throw themselves; and that nothing is under them to receive them, but only the lake of fire and brimstone. But, take a man, who hath his sense about him and his reason awake, and who can exercise his consideration and reflection upon his present and future state; stand by the sick-bed of such a one, who hath worn out his life in the service of the Devil, and whose luxury, riot, drunkenness, and uncleanness have been the only grand business of his life, and the diseases that these have brought upon him the causes of his death; what a sad scene of misery will be there represented to thee! how dreadfully doth he exclaim against himself! what estuations, what outeries, what despair and blackness of horror then seize upon him, when death is haling and rending his soul out of his body! how doth he pull and struggle, and cannot yield to that, which, wretched creature, he cannot avoid! Certainly, death must needs be very terrible to those, who have so soaked and softened themselves by sensuality, that its sting enters deep into them: and, as poison operates most banefully upon them, whose blood and spirits were before heated and inflamed; so, when death comes to diffuse its venom into those, who are set on fire and inflamed. with lust and intemperance, the rage and pain, the horror and despair, that it will work in such, will be unspeakably hideous and dreadful.
2. It appears likewise, in the unwillingness, even of the dearest of God's children, to undergo this last, rude, and violent shock of death.
Yea, and though they have not only comfortable hopes and persuasions, but the clearest evidence and the fullest assurance, that Christ Jesus shall be unto them, both in life and death, inconceivable gain and advantage: yet, there is such an aversation in human nature itself against this last and dreadful enemy, that it startles at its approach; and would willingly be excused from entering into the lists, and engaging in that sore conflict. Who ever enjoyed a greater plerophory than St. Paul; who was, even in his lifetime, caught up into the Third Heaven, and admitted as a spy into the Heavenly Canaan, the Land of Promise; who there saw and tasted the ineffable glory and joy, which was prepared for him ? and, though he knew the full fruition of them could not otherwise be obtained than by dying, yet he tells us, 2 Cor. v. 4. We, that are in this tabernacle, do groan; being burdened : not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. As we find a strong antipathy working in us, and nature itself recoiling, when we are to take some bitter potion, though we be well assured the effects of it will be salutary, and that it will conduce to our health afterwards : so, even in those who are fully assured that death will be to them an inlet into everlasting life and bliss, yet there is such a natural antipathy against it, that, though the consideration of that eternal happiness into which they are