"The faith of a true Christian is the same as that of Moses and the Prophets."
Letter 1. The Resurrection of the Dead
My Dear Benjamin,
Having in the preceding part given you a brief statement of the second advent of the Messiah, I will now invite your attention to his coming to judge the world, which solemn transaction will be preceded by the general resurrection of the dead, and which is proposed as the subject of the present letter.
1. By the resurrection, is meant the restoration, by the power of God, of the same identical body which died, in all the essential and integral parts of it, rendering it, in a reunion of, or with the soul, immortal, or of an eternal duration in blessedness or misery.
This doctrine is a fundamental article of faith with our people, as well as Christians. You will recollect the 13th article, which reads thus:"I believe with a perfect faith, that the dead will be restored to life, when it shall be so ordained by the decree of the Creator; blessed be his name, and exalted be his remembrance for ever and ever."And the apostle placed it among "the principles of the doctrine of Christ" (Heb 6:2). And we are not so sure to rise out of our beds, as we are to rise out of our graves. But as there are still some Sadducees amongst our people, and too many infidels amongst Christians, who do not believe this doctrine, I will endeavor to prove it.
2. There are probably but few who will deny the possibility of a resurrection. Surely all things are possible with God. His knowledge is infinite.
It is easy for God to give to every one his own body.
If it be possible for a gardener that has 30 several seeds in his hand, to be able to distinguish between seed and seed; and for a chemist to extract the elements out of an herb and separate them one from the other; and for a watchmaker to take a watch in pieces, and unite the pieces together again as before; much more is it possible for the omniscient God to distinguish one particle of dust from the other, as well as one man from another, and one stone from another.
3. God is also almighty in power. He can more easily raise the body out of the grave, that we can raise a man out of sleep.
He that believeth the first article of the creed, that God is almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, will believe this article also, viz. that God can raise the dead. For if he can make a body, being nothing, out of the dust of the earth, he certainly can repair it out of the dust when it is something. It is as easy for God to restore a body to a soul at the resurrection, as to breathe a soul into the body at the creation. God has an unlimited power, and raises the dead, not according to natural laws and measures, but according to the efficacy of his own will, which does not stand in need of any to accomplish what he pleases.
Nor is there any thing connected with this subject that is absurd or contradictory. Farther, my dear Benjamin, consider that a resurrection is not only possible, but highly probable. This may be argued,
4. From analogy of both inanimate and animate objects. The constant vicissitudes that are in the world preach to us a resurrection; such as the revolution of seasons, the dying and reviving corn, and the various changes in creatures that have life. Both philosophers and divines write of the phoenix, that first she is consumed to ashes by the heat of the sun, that afterwards of her ashes arises a young one, which is the same phoenix risen from the dead. The apostle tells us, that the corn must first be cast into the ground, and then die and rot, before it will spring up; which showeth that a resurrection from the dead is possible even in nature. Add to this, that swallows, flies and worms, which lie dead in the winter season, revive again in the spring by virtue of the sun's heat. What is every night but the grave (as it were) of the daylight, and the morning but the resurrection of the day? What is the winter but the death of the fruits of the earth, and the spring but the resurrection of them? What is death but the pulling down of the house of the body? And what is the resurrection, but the rebuilding of the same house? And why then should any one think it a thing incredible for God to raise the dead? It may further be argued,
5. From the view of man, as the proper subject of reward and punishment. If, therefore, the body did not rise, it would have no part either in reward or punishment. Hence the justice and the mercy of God require the resurrection of the body. The former requires that the wicked should be punished in the same bodies that they sinned in; and the latter makes it necessary that the righteous should be rewarded in the same bodies in which they performed their good actions; and therefore, in order to these different ends, the bodies of both must rise again. Hence says the apostle, "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every man may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it is good or bad" (2 Cor 5:10). But I will proceed to show that the resurrection is not only possible and probable, but,
6. Absolutely certain.
It is not only a truth which God can make good, but a truth which he cannot but make good. As there must be a day of judgment (2 Cor 5:10), so there not only may, but there must be a resurrection of the body. But although nature and reason may teach us the possibility and the probability of a resurrection, yet it is divine revelation only that gives us a full assurance of its reality, and a satisfactory account of its nature and properties. Hence, when our Lord reasoned with the Sadducees on the subject, he said, "Ye err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God" (Matt 22:29). We have several proofs of this doctrine in the Old Testament.
7. We have a very remarkable and explicit declaration of the resurrection of the dead in the book of Job 19:25-27, "For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me."
Many sublime and interesting passages in various parts of this book arrest our attention, but this is one of the most dignified and important. It contains a remarkable declaration of faith and hope in a divine Redeemer, and of a triumphant expectation of a resurrection from the dead, to the immediate vision and everlasting enjoyment of God. That Job is not speaking of a temporal deliverance from his present afflictions, is very evident.
From the solemn and impressive manner in which these words are introduced. "O that my words were now written! O that they were printed in a book! that they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!" (vv 23,24). It was his earnest wish that what he was about to utter might be recorded in the most public and durable manner, not handed down by oral tradition, but written, not on a loose leaf, but in a book; not on perishable materials, but engraven in a rock, and filled out with lead, according to the several methods then in use of registering remarkable transactions: and observe, my dear Benjamin, that God granted and exceeded his desire; for being written in the sacred Scriptures, his words will continue to the end of time, and be made known and useful to multitudes in all ages and nations. Now, such a passionate preface would become no other matter so well, as the great and all-important truth concerning the Redeemer and a future life.
Further, the word Goail, Kinsman, Redeemer, will suit with no person so well as the Messiah, and the spiritual redemption by him. He was promised to be a Redeemer, and Christ the Messiah is said to have redeemed us, and hence the saints on earth and in heaven bless and praise him as their Redeemer. Read carefully the following passages: Isaiah 49:25, 59:20; Jeremiah 31:11; Galatians 3:13; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; Luke 1:68-70; Revelation 5:9.
Some of our ancient Rabbins understood the Messiah by the Redeemer.(1) 1. Targum. R. Hackodesh. Aben Ezra. Many of the ancient fathers and most of the modern divines apply it to Christ and the future resurrection.
Besides, it is evident, from several declarations of Job before he uttered this, that all his hope of a temporal recovery was clean gone. See chapter 6:11, 7:7, 8, 10:20, 16:22, 17:1, 14, 15; and chapter 19:10, 11.
We may therefore consider him as saying, I profess and believe that, through the merits of the Messiah my Redeemer, I shall after death be restored to life, and that the very self-same body shall rise; and that in this my own flesh I shall see God my Redeemer; and these eyes shall behold him, and not another; i. e. I shall appear in my own person, and in this individual fleshly body; and though worms shall destroy it, and my reins shall be consumed within me, yet by faith I am assured of this great and comfortable truth.
8. The Prophet Isaiah also speaks of the future resurrection of the dead in this manner: "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, arid the earth shall cast out the dead" (Isa 26:19). Says Bishop Lowth,"It appears from hence that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was at that time a popular and common doctrine; for an image which is assumed, to express or represent any thing in the way of allegory or metaphor, whether poetical or prophetical, must be an image commonly known and understood; otherwise it will not answer the purpose for which it is assumed."This passage is applied by our Rabbins to the resurrection of the dead.(2) 2. Aben Ezra, and Kimchi in loco, Tal. Bab. Sanhed, fo, 90. 2. There are several other passages of similar import in the Old Testament, some of which are referred to in the New Testament, such as Hosea 13:14; Daniel 12:2, &c. No wonder, therefore, that the saints under the Old Testament believed the resurrection of the dead. Hence they took especial care about their dead bodies and their burial, not merely out of respect to natural order and decency, but to express their faith of the resurrection. Hence saith the apostle, "By faith Joseph gave commandment concerning his bones" (Heb 11:22).
From these passages, and perhaps also from tradition, our people, with the exception of the Sadducees, were fully convinced in the days of our Lord of the resurrection of the body. John 11:24; Matthew 22:29-32.
Hence, saith the apostle, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" (Acts 26:8); with you, O king Agrippa, and the rest that I speak to, who are Jews, and believe the Scriptures, and therefore cannot be averse to this doctrine? On this account also he calls the resurrection "the hope of Israel" (Acts 28:20), because it was hoped for by our people, as well as believed.
9. In the New Testament, the resurrection of the dead is taught still more frequently and more explicitly. I will cite but a few passages: "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). "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor 5:10). See also the whole of the 15th chapter 1 Corinthians
1 Corinthians 15
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.
Now if Christ 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: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.
But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. 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. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. 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 bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
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. 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. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
10. The resurrection may also be proved from the several instances mentioned in the Old and New Testaments, of persons raised from the dead. Such as the widow of Sarepta's son by Elijah; the Shunamite's son by Elisha; the man in Elisha's sepulchre; Jairus' daughter; the widow's son; Lazarus, and many at the death of Christ.
11. Another proof of the resurrection of the dead is taken from the resurrection of Christ.
This is Paul's great argument to prove the resurrection of the righteous. "Now if Christ 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, then is Christ not risen. And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your hope is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised. And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (1 Cor 15:12-17). Christ rose as a public person, and as the head of his church; but if the head be risen, all the members must rise also; and therefore he is called "the first fruits of them that sleep" (v 20). As the first fruit is a sure evidence that the harvest is coming, so the resurrection of Christ is a sure evidence of the rising of the bodies of the saints. Hence Christ is also called the "second Adam" (vv 21,22). Now, as in the first Adam all his natural posterity died, not only spiritually but corporeally, so in the second Adam all his spiritual seed must be made alive, both spiritually and corporeally.
12. Having proved the reality of the resurrection, I shall now proceed to point out its nature.
I observe first, that
The same identical body that has died, shall rise again.
This is evident from the very name resurrection; for if it were not the same identical body, but a new body, it would be a creation, and not a resurrection. The places from whence the dead will be raised prove the same: "All that are in the graves shall come forth" (John 5:28,29). See Daniel 12:2;
Revelation 20:13. They shall come forth. Who? They who are in the graves, i. e. men, with regard to their bodies, the same bodies wherein they lived on earth, and which were laid in the graves. "He that raised up Christ from the dead shall quicken your mortal bodies" (Rom 8:11); so that it is this mortal body which is quickened again; "for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Cor 15:53). Not that another body shall succeed in place of this, but this very body shall be changed, not in substance, but in qualities. The same argument, derived from the justice and the mercy of God, as stated before, proving the necessity of the resurrection of the body, proves also that it must be the same identical body. As our bodies are partakers with the soul in good and evil actions, it is just that they should be partakers also in rewards and punishments. This argument holds good both with respect to the righteous and the wicked. We cannot think that God gave bodies to the holy martyrs, only to endure inexpressible tortures and miseries to death for the sake of Christ, and then to perish for ever. Does God require services of the body, and will he not reward those services? It cannot be imagined that the souls of believers should be glorified and not their bodies. They have served God with their bodies, which have been instruments of holiness. Their eyes have flowed with tears for sin, their hands have relieved the poor, their tongues have celebrated God's praises; therefore justice and equity require that their bodies should be crowned as well as their souls; and how can that be, unless the same identical bodies are raised from the dead? And as the same body that served him well will be rewarded, so also the same body that sinned will be punished. For a just God will never punish a body that never was connected with the first Adam, nor was guilty of actual transgression. The identity of the raised body appears also from the pattern; such a body as Christ had in the resurrection and ascension shall the saints have; "for our vile body shall be made like his glorious body" (Phil 3:21). Now, the body in which Christ rose, was the same body which was assumed of the virgin, which was nailed to the cross, and laid in the grave; and with the same body he entered into heaven, and there remaineth the same, according to the substance, that was here upon earth, only changed in qualities. So our body remains the same in substance, only freed from the pollutions, and endowed with glorious qualities fit for the heavenly state. As the decays and separations of our bodies do not make them cease to be the same bodies we bring with us into the world; so neither does the change they undergo by death, nor the glorious qualities wherewith they are endowed when raised again, make them other bodies, for substance, than they are now.
13. The bodies of the righteous will be invested with unspeakable glory. The greatness of this glorious change is inconceivable and indescribable. But although "it doth not yet appear what we shall be, yet we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2); for "he shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body" (Phil 3:21). Of this wonderful change the apostle has given us an epitome in the following manner: "Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall 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. For this corruption 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 15:51-54). In the morning of the resurrection, all deformity and imperfections will be left in the grave.
During the persecution in the reign of Queen Mary, a lame and a blind man being brought to the stake to be burned to death, the former threw away his crutch, and addressing his fellow-sufferer, said, "Be of good comfort, my brother, for my lord of London is our good physician; he will heal us both shortly, thee of thy blindness, and me of my lameness." They shall also be freed from all the necessities of nature: "They shall hunger and thirst no more" (Rev 7:16). Moses on the mount was so filled with the glory of God that he needed not the recruits of nature; how much more will the bodies of the saints be filled with the glory and felicity of heaven when raised from the dead, re-united with their perfect souls, and introduced into the presence of Jesus, to dwell with him for ever! "Then shall the righteous shine forth like the sun" (Matt 13:43). I will now proceed to show,
14. That the resurrection of the dead will be general and universal. All that are in their graves, whether godly or ungodly, whether just or unjust, shall be raised up. I am aware, my dear Benjamin, that although our people believe a resurrection from the dead, as I have shown by one of their fundamental articles of faith, yet there is a great variety of opinions amongst the Rabbins with respect to the extent of the resurrection. Some suppose that the pious Israelites will be raised at the coming of the Messiah, and the rest of the nations at the end of the world. According to some, the pious will rise to be rewarded, and the wicked to be punished; but those who have been neither pious nor wicked will not be raised at all. Some expect all Israelites to be raised, except those who disbelieve a resurrection, deny the divine authority of the law, or become epicureans. Others extend the privilege to the pious among the Gentiles, who observe the precepts which the Rabbins say were given to the sons of Noah. But none of the Rabbins allow the resurrection to include all mankind.(3) 3. Buxtorf. Synag. Jud. c. 3. p. 31-35. Huls. Theol. Jud. p. 173. Hoornpeck contra Jud. p. 433-445. 551-553.
But the sacred Scriptures put the subject beyond all doubt. The Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught its universality. "For the hour is coming, in which all that are in their 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). The apostle also declared, that "there should be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust" (Acts 24:15). And John, in the Revelation, saith, "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" (20:12). The earth and the sea are God's stewards, with whom he has intrusted the bodies of men, and when he shall call them to give him an account of their stewardship, they will faithfully discharge their trust, and not one shall be left behind.
15. With respect to the author of the resurrection, I scarcely need to inform you that it is the work of God. He only who could create the world out of nothing, is able to raise the dead out of their graves. Yet it will be proper to observe that this work is ascribed to each of the persons in the blessed Trinity: to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as will appear from the following passages: "For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will" (John 5:21,27-29). "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself" (Phil 3:20,21). "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Rom 8:11). As the resurrection of Christ is ascribed to the Father, so also the resurrection of the dead: "And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will raise up us also" (1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14).
Christ is "the resurrection and the life"; i. e. the author of the resurrection to life. He is the Prince of life, has the keys of hell and death in his hands; at whose all-powerful and commanding voice, all that are in the graves shall come forth. Christ Jesus is able to perform this glorious work. He formed the universe with all its rich variety (John 1:3; Col 1:16,17). He formed the body of man out of the dust of the earth (Gen 2:7); and surely the same power which originally formed man's body, can raise it again (Acts 26:8). He has already conquered the world (John 16:33); and has triumphed over Satan (Col 2:14,15); and also over death and the grave (Rom 1:4); and he shall finally complete the destruction of both (Hosea 13:14; 1 Cor 15:52-54). His power, therefore, is equal to this grand design, and we are assured that he will do it (John 5:28,29).
God the Holy Ghost has a joint concern with the Father and the Son in this amazing work. The bodies as well as the souls of saints are united to Christ; by virtue of which union the Spirit of Christ dwells in them; not in their souls only, but in their bodies also. "What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you?" (1 Cor 6:19). Now, as the union between Christ and his people is not dissolved by death, so neither does the Spirit of God forsake the dead bodies of the saints, or neglect to take care of them; the dust of the saints is under his peculiar care and guardianship; and at the last day, the spirit of life from God shall enter into them, and they shall live and stand upon their feet (Eze 37
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.
16. The design of the resurrection, my dear Benjamin, is worthy of God; it will greatly display the glory of his perfections; it will advance the happiness of the saints, and make way for the just punishment of the wicked. But, as the resurrection of the dead is inseparably connected with the general judgment and its consequences, the subject of the following letter, I shall close with a few observations.
17. After the proofs produced from the Old Testament of the resurrection of the dead, we should think it almost incredible, my dear Benjamin, that a learned divine should have asserted "that there is not so much as a plain hint of the resurrection to be found in the Old Testament." Surely the Apostle Paul was of a different opinion on the subject; for he declares that many, before the coming of Christ, suffered martyrdom, "not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection" (Heb 11:35). Now, as faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, it is evident that the word of God must have contained a revelation of the resurrection of the dead: indeed it is abundantly evident that it was the faith of Abraham (Heb 11:17); of Joseph (Heb 11:22); of Moses (Heb 11:24); of David (Psa 16:10,11); of Hannah (1 Sam 2:6); as well as of Job, Isaiah, Daniel, and others.
Let us, however, my dear Benjamin, be thankful for the clearer revelation of this, as well as of all other truths contained in the New Testament; "for Christ hath abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel" (2 Tim 1:10).
18. In the next place I would observe, that a firm belief of this doctrine is calculated to support us under afflictions, and deliver us from the fear of death. This was the sweet and supporting cordial of Job under his afflictions, and in the prospect of death: "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me" (Job 19:25-27). And the Psalmist says, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Psa 27:13).
The body, though it drop into the sepulchre, shall revive and flourish as an herb, in the morning of the resurrection. The grave is a bed of dust where the saints sleep, and they shall be awakened by the trump of the archangel. Our nearest and dearest friends leave us in the grave and depart, but God will never leave nor forsake his people, even in death. As he said to Jacob, "I will go down with thee into Egypt, and I will surely bring thee up again" (Gen 46:4); so the Lord will go down with us, as it were, into the grave, and will surely bring us up again. J. King, the Bp. of London, ordered in his last will that nothing but the word Resurgam, I shall rise again, should be written on his grave-stone. This was a full and just epitaph, because it contains the comfortable doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. We shall rise, is sufficient to animate and revive us in the anticipation of death. The believer may look on death and the grave, as on an enemy that lies disarmed and bleeding before his feet; and like Abraham, who rescued Lot from the hands of the kings and took the spoil, so shall the believer, in the morning of the resurrection, receive his body from the grave, to be reunited with his soul. Oh, how great will be the joy of this union! Great was the mutual joy and felicity when good old Jacob embraced his son Joseph; but infinitely greater will be the joy and felicity of the saints, when their bodies and souls shall meet each other in the morning of the resurrection: then they will rejoice with singing, as it was foretold; "Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust" (Isa 26:19). As our fathers, when they came safely out of the Red Sea, but saw their enemies all dead, sung a new song; so will the redeemed at the morning of the resurrection. "Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 15:54-57).
The consideration of our rising again, my dear Benjamin, should inspire our minds with invincible courage and magnanimity, and enable us to submit to the greatest sufferings for the sake of Christ and his cause. Thus the pious sufferers and martyrs of old submitted to be tortured, "not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection" (Heb 11:35), i. e. a resurrection to a better life than they were to lose.
19. But let it be remembered, my dear Benjamin, that none can derive comfort from the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, but those who have evidence that they have part in the first resurrection from sin; that they have been quickened by the Spirit of God, regenerated and brought to repent towards God, and to exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He who lies buried in sin, can have no hope of a joyful resurrection. If your body and soul are spiritually dead to sin and alive to God, then you may rejoice in the prospect of the resurrection of a glorious body, which "shall shine as the stars in the kingdom of heaven"; for "when Christ, who is your life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col 3:4).
20. How awful, tremendously awful the state of the wicked and their future prospects! The time will surely come, when those who now stop their ears and will not hear the voice of God speaking in his word, and by his ministers, shall hear his voice whether they will or not; and shall come out of their graves to the resurrection of condemnation, like a malefactor led to the place of execution. Happy for such if there were no resurrection, that their souls did die as the brute beasts; but let such be assured that there shall be a resurrection of the unjust as well as the just; all in their graves shall come forth, but they shall be raised to damnation (John 5:28,29); their terror will be great (Rev 6:15-17); and their end dreadful (Matt 25:41). "Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" to renounce their evil ways (2 Cor 5:11), to repent of their sins, to believe on Jesus Christ, to live devoted to him, and their end will be glorious. May you and I, my dear Benjamin, upon scriptural evidence and happy experience, be enabled to say, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5). Farewell.
Letter 2. The General Judgment
My Dear Benjamin,
Agreeably to promise, I will now invite your attention to the General Judgment day; an event, beyond all others, the most solemn and important: the coming of the Messiah to judge the whole world in righteousness, and fix unalterably the eternal condition of every individual of the human race, either in happiness inconceivably great, or misery inexpressibly awful. This truth, however, is denied by the scoffer (2 Peter 3:3,4); dreaded by the wicked (Acts 24:25); but believed, nay, earnestly desired by the saints (2 Tim 4:8; Titus 2:13; Rev 22:20). I will endeavor,
1. To prove the fact, that there will be a general judgment. This may be proved from the relation men stand in to God, as creatures to a Creator, and subjects to a King. He has a right to give them a law, and to make them accountable for a breach of it. Hence saith the apostle, "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom 14:12).
2. The certainty of a future judgment appears from the justice of God, which requires it; for it is evident that this attribute is not clearly displayed in the dispensation of things in the present state.
Things seem to be carried on in this world with an unequal balance. The candle of God shines upon the wicked. They that tempt God are delivered (Mal 3:15). The wicked and disobedient persons are often as happy as if they were rewarded for their iniquity, whilst the innocent and religious are often as miserable as if they were punished for their innocency. Hence Asaph tells us, in the 73d Psalm
, that he almost stumbled and fell at the prosperity of the wicked and the adversity of the righteous; till he considered their latter end, their different situations in a future life, when Jehovah's message, sent by the prophet Isaiah, will be fulfilled: "Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Wo unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him; for the reward of his hands shall be given him" (Isa 3:10,11). King Solomon also said in the days of his vanity, "there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness" (Eccl 7:15). But when he had grown wiser by experience, he said, "know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment; for God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Eccl 11:9, 12:14).
Psalm 73 (A Psalm of Asaph)
Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.
If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.
Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.
Diogenes, seeing Harpalus, a noted thief, going on prosperously, said,"sure God has cast off the government of the world, and minded not how things went on here below."But the day is coming, when God will vindicate his justice. Says Cyprian,"The saints are put into the wine-press, and often the blood of these grapes is pressed out; God will therefore have a day of judgment, that he may reward all the tears and sufferings of his people; they shall have their crown, and throne, and white robes; though they be losers for Christ, they shall lose nothing by him."3. The next proof of a general judgment is derived from the dictates of conscience. God has implanted a presumption and sense of a future judgment in the minds and hearts of men by nature, from whence it is absolutely and eternally inseparable. Says Dr. Owen,"Conscience is nothing but that judgment which men do make, and which they cannot but make, of their moral actions with reference unto the supreme future judgment of God. Hence the apostle assures us that the heathen, who had nothing but the dim light of nature to guide them, had a conscience that accused them and forced them to own a judgment to come: 'For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel'" (Rom 2:14-16).Now, what is this private passion, kept in the court of conscience, but a certain forerunner of that general day of judgment when all the world shall be summoned to God's tribunal?
Conscience, awakened by sharp afflictions, by sudden dangers, and the approaches of death, makes a sad detection of past sins, and forecasts cruel things; it cites the offender before the enlightened tribunal of heaven, scourges with remorse, and makes him feel, even here, the strokes of hell. Though the sin be secret, and the guilty person powerful, not within the reach or cognizance of human justice: yet conscience has a rack within, and causes pain and anxiety, by fearful expectations of judgment to come. Hence the mere handwriting on the wall made King Belshazzar tremble, as much as Felix did at the preaching of St. Paul (Dan 5:6; Acts 24:25).
4. Another proof of a future judgment is to be derived from some partial instance of judgment which God has already executed.
It is not without a reason that God has sometimes gone out of the usual way of providence. He does it, to intimate unto the world that they are not always to pass at their present rate, but are one day to be called to another account. In great judgments, the "wrath of God is revealed from heaven against the ungodliness of man" (Rom 1:18), and an intimation is given of what he will farther do hereafter. For as he "leaves not himself without witness," in respect of his goodness and patience, "in that he doeth good and giveth rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling men's hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:17); so he gives testimony to his righteousness and holiness, in the "judgments that he executes" (Psa 9:16). And thus, in some particular instances, he has given us a pledge of a future judgment. Such was the flood whereby the world was destroyed in the days of Noah, which the apostle affirms expressly was a type, to shadow out the severity of God in the last final judgment (2 Peter 2:5, 3:5-7). Of the same nature was his "turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemning them with an overthrow and making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly" (2 Peter 2:6). In like manner the apostle Jude says expressly, "they are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (v 7).
We next appeal for another proof of a general judgment;
5. To the sacred Scriptures. God has not only impressed this truth on the minds of men, and written it in their consciences, and exhibited it by some extraordinary judgments; but he has also clearly and repeatedly revealed it in the word of God.
Before the flood, Enoch, in the early age of the world, foretold it. "Behold, the Lord cometh, with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all" (Jude 14,15). Solomon, under the law, repeats this doctrine; "that every secret thing shall be brought into judgment, whether good or evil" (Eccl 12:14); and God himself speaks in the sublimest style of majesty; "I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear" (Isa 45:23); from whence the apostle infers that "we shall all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ" (Rom 14:10,11). In the Gospel we have distinctly described the person of the Judge, the glorious attendants of his coming, and the manner of his proceedings in that day. Now, the many predictions in Scripture, so clearly and exactly accomplished in the person of Jesus Christ, and by him, give infallible assurance that all his promises and threatenings are equally certain, and shall be fulfilled. As sure as our Savior has come in his humble state, and has accomplished the prophecies of his sufferings; so sure will he come in his glory to judge the world.
6. It may not be improper, my dear Benjamin, to observe that the heathen, although they ridicule the idea of the resurrection of the body, yet believed in the day of judgment. Hence, when Paul preached at Athens both the resurrection and the judgment, they mocked at the former, but said nothing against the latter (Acts 17:31,32). Notable are the words of Lucian,"God brought men out of nothing to something, and is in heaven beholding the just and the unjust, and writing down in books every man's actions; and he will recompense all men according to their deeds, in that day which he himself has appointed."And as it respects our own people, you well know that a belief of a future judgment constitutes one of their thirteen fundamental articles of faith, which reads thus:"I believe with a perfect faith that the Creator (blessed be his name) rewards those who observe his commands, and punishes those who transgress them."7. With respect to the person who is to be judge, it is very evident that it must be Jehovah himself; for he alone is qualified for the work. For it certainly requires infinite knowledge, perfect rectitude, and almighty power.
8. It is however certain, that Jesus Christ is to be the Judge, "And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it was he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead" (Acts 10:42). There are wise and just reasons for this appointment.
God being invisible in his own nature, has most wisely ordained the last judgment of the world to be transacted by a visible person; because men are to be judged, and the whole process of judgment with them will be for things done in the body. The person appointed for this work is Jesus Christ the Son of God united to the human nature; "for the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son; that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father" (John 5:22,23).
As there was none found in heaven or on earth who could open and reveal the book of redemption but Jesus Christ; so none but He is fit to open the book of judgment. He only is perfectly qualified to pronounce a just or righteous sentence and carry it into execution. His wisdom is infinite and his power almighty.
9. Christ Jesus was invested with this high office as a reward for his humiliation and sufferings. The Father "has given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man" (John 5:27). We must distinguish between the essential and economical power and authority of Christ. The Son of God, considered in his divine nature, has an original power and authority of judgment equal with the Father; but, considered as Mediator, he has a power and authority committed by delegation.
Now Christ Jesus humbled himself so far as to take upon him our nature, endured all the infirmities which that nature was capable of, with all the miseries of the present life, endured all the pains and sorrows due to our sins; and therefore, in regard of his humiliation, did God exalt him; and part of that exaltation was his appointment of Judge both of the living and the dead. Hence saith the apostle, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross: wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:5-11).
10. Another just and wise reason for this appointment may be, that Christ might be glorified as much in his kingly office as he has been in either of the others as prophet and priest. We find some few glimpses of his kingly office breaking forth during his life-time: such as his riding into Jerusalem in the midst of hosannas; his driving the buyers and sellers out of the temple; the title King of the Jews written on his cross, &c. But these were only faint beams; on the day of judgment that office will shine in its glory, brighter than the sun in the midst of the firmament; for what were the hosannas of little children in the streets of Jerusalem, to the shouts and acclamations of thousands of angels and ten thousands of saints? What was the driving of the profane out of the temple, to his turning the wicked into hell, and sending out of his angels to gather out of his kingdom every thing that offendeth? What was the title written by his judge, and fixed on the ignominious tree, to the name that shall be seen on his vesture and on his thigh, "King of kings, and Lord of lords" (Rev 19:16).
11. The manner in which Jesus Christ will appear to judgment, will be glorious, majestic and awful. He will appear in the glory of the Father (Matt 26:64), and his own glory (Luke 9:26; Matt 24:30), with a glorious retinue of all the angels and saints (2 Thess 1:7; Jude 14), and be seated on a glorious throne (Matt 19:28; Rev 20:11).
As it is considered the glory of a prince to have many following him as his train, so it will be the glory of Jesus when he comes to judgment, to have all the saints and angels, the glory of creation, to be his attendants. The Apostle Paul informs us, "that he shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels" (2 Thess 1:7). Lest any should think that the number will be but small, the Apostle Jude informs us that the Lord shall come "with Ten thousand of his saints" (v 14); and if this be not large enough, the Prophet Daniel informs us that "a thousand ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him" (7:10); and that each and all of these shall attend him, we are assured of by the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who said, "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory" (Matt 25:31).
When the law was given from Mount Sinai, the mountain was covered with fire, and the voice of God, as loud as thunder, proclaimed it from the midst of the flames, so that the whole army of the Israelites was prostrate on the plain, struck with a sacred horror and almost dead at the amazing sights and sounds; and if the Lawgiver appeared in such terrible majesty at the proclaiming of the law, how much more when he shall come to revenge the transgressions of it! It is set forth in the Scripture, in the most lofty and magnificent expressions.
The saints shall sit with Christ in judicature, as justices of the peace with the judge. They shall applaud Christ's righteous sentence on the wicked. This, as it will be a great honor to the saints, so it must needs add to the sorrows of the wicked, to see those whom they once derided and hated sit as judges upon them (1 Cor 6:2; Jude 13,14).
12. The persons to be tried are all men, both good and bad; "for we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ" (2 Cor 5:10).
"It is appointed for all men once to die, and after this the judgment" (Heb 9:27). As none can escape death, so none can escape judgmentall men (Isa 45:23, comp. Rom 14:9, 10; Matt 25:31); all the godly, all such as have believed and obeyed the Gospel (Luke 21:36; Rom 14:22; 2 Tim 4:8); all the ungodly and impenitent sinners (Deut 32:35; 2 Peter 2:3; Jude 15).
It will be such an assize as never was seen before; kings and nobles, counsellors and armies; those who were above trial here below, will have no charter of exemption in that day; they must appear before Christ's tribunal and be tried for their lives. Neither power nor policy can be a subterfuge. They who refused to come to a throne of grace, shall be forced to come to a bar of justice. The dead as well as the living must make their appearance (Rev 20:12). We cannot cite the dead to human, tribunals; but at that day the dead will also be called to the bar of Jesus.
Fallen angels also will be judged. They are said "to be reserved unto the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6). They shall receive their final sentence, and be shut up in the prison of hell (Matt 8:29, 25:46; 1 Cor 6:3; 2 Peter 2:4; Rev 20:10).
13. The matter for which men will be judged will be their actions, words and thoughts (Pro 24:17; Eccl 12:14; Matt 12:36; Rom 2:16; 1 Cor 4:5; Jude 15).
All sins, whether secret or open and visible, shall be accounted for; for "God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ" (Rom 2:16). The sins of omission as well as commission will be charged on the conscience of the sinner. Men are generally more sensible of the guilt contracted by sins committed than by duties omitted; but in that awful day they will be convinced of their error; for ''to him who knoweth to do good, and doth it not, to him it is a sin" (James 4:17). The Judge himself will say, "I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not" (Matt 25:42,43).
The neglect of improving all the means, advantages and opportunities of doing or receiving good, will be a great part of that judgment. The Lord called his servants to an account for the talents committed to their trust, and required profit in proportion to their number and worth; and he who had buried his talent, though safely kept and not wasted, yet, because he had not improved it, was severely punished.
14. The rule of judgment is the Divine constitution. "We are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shall escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God Ieadeth thee to repentance? But, after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasured up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds" (Rom 2:2-6).
The heathen will be judged by the light of nature: "For as many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law" (Rom 2:12). Our people the Jews will be judged by the law of Moses: "Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust" (John 5:45). "As many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law" (Rom 2:12). Those who are favored with the means of grace will be judged by the Gospel. "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). Saints will be judged by the book of life (Luke 10:20; Rev 3:5, 20:12,15).
15. The evidence produced in judgment will be abundantly clear and convincing. The temper of divine justice is very observable in particular judgments recorded in Scripture. In the first process of justice on earth, we read that God made inquiry of Adam, "Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat?" (Gen 3:11); and by palpable evidence convinced him before he condemned him. Thus, before the fiery vengeance upon the wicked cities, the Lord said to Abraham, "Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it that is come unto me" (Gen 18:20,21). Thus we read of the profane king of Babylon, Belshazzar, "that he was weighed in the balance and found wanting" (Dan 5:27), before he was sentenced to be deprived of his kingdom and life. And in the last day the righteousness of God's proceedings shall be universally manifest and magnified. It is therefore called "the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Rom 2:5).
In allusion to the proceedings in human judgments, where the information and charges are produced from writings for the conviction of the accused, the Scripture informs us that the evidence is to be produced by opening the books.
We read that God keeps a book of remembrance (Mal 3:16).
On the day of judgment, contrary to the practice of human tribunals; the Judge himself will be a witness against the criminals. For thus says the Lord, "I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me" (Mal 3:5). Then shall the Lord Jesus Christ say "unto them at the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them saying, Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me" (Matt 25:41-45).
The omniscience of God will give most convincing evidence to all our works. "All things are marked and open to his eyes with whom we have to do" in judgment (Heb 4:13). He discovered the sacrilege of Achan, the lie of Gehazi, and the deceit of Ananias. Saul's disobedience in sparing the spoils of the Amalekites, devoted to destruction, had the colorable pretence of piety, and a sacrifice was laid on the altar; and David's murder of Uriah was imputed to the chance of war as a sufficient excuse; but though they might have deceived others, they could not deceive God. Hence says the wise man, "Doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works" (Pro 24:12).
Another book that will be laid open is every man's own conscience.
Now the records of conscience are often obliterated, and the sins written therein are forgotten; but on the day of judgment they will appear in so clear an impression, that the wicked will be inexcusable to themselves, and conscience will subscribe to the sentence of condemnation, and the sinner become speechless.
16. Other numerous witnesses will appear. Not as if God, who knoweth all things, wants information; but for the public conviction of the wicked, many of their own friends and ministers will have to appear against them.
The righteous will hear witness against the ungodly. They will rehearse the several circumstances which prove their earnest desire and endeavor to reclaim and reform them. They wilt repeat the advice and counsel which they once tendered them; they will relate how often they reproved them, how earnestly they entreated and besought them, and how affectionately and importunately they prayed for them.
17. Yea, even the wicked will bear witness against their wicked companions (Luke 16:27,28).
In this world, fellow-sinners usually conceal one another's wickedness, restrained by their own obnoxiousness to punishment; but all that have been jointly engaged in the commission of sin will impeach each other. In all sins of combinations, the inferior instruments will accuse their directors and tempters for their pernicious counsel; like Adam, who laid the blame upon Eve, and Eve upon the serpent. This awful subject, my dear Benjamin, reminds me of the story about the Lucian Lamp, of which a heathen writer relates thus:"That the soul of a very guilty wretch was after death arraigned before one of the severe judges below. At his trial, because his atrocious crimes were done in secret, he stood upon his defence, denying all. The judge demanded his lamp to be produced, that was an eyewitness of his wickedness. The lamp appeared, and being demanded what it knew of him, answered with a sigh, 'O that I had been conscious of nothing, for even now the remembrance of his villanies makes me to tremble. I wish my light had been extinct, that the oil that maintained it had quenched it. But I burned with disdain and cast about some sparks to fire his impure bed, and was grieved that my little flame was so weak as not to consume it. I said within myself if the sun saw these villanies it would be eclipsed, and leave the world in darkness. But I now perceive why I was constrained to give light to him, that, being a secret spy of his uncleanness, his thefts and cruelties, I might reveal them.'"18. Devils too will appear as witnesses against the wicked.
As it respects the righteous, Satan, the accuser of the brethren, will be silenced by the Judge himself, who is their advocate. This we have represented to the prophet Zechariah; "Joshua the high priest," a type of the church, "standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him: and the Lord said unto Satan, the Lord rebuke thee, O Satan, even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee" (3:1,2). But he will prevail against the wicked. Perhaps this is intimated in the words of David, (which ought to be considered more as a prediction than an imprecation,) "Let Satan stand," or rather Satan shall stand "at his right hand; when he is judged, let him be," or he shall be, "condemned" (Psa 109:6,7).
Devils are able to rehearse long catalogues of their crimes; they can bring to light their secret and unseen practices, and they have malice enough to urge them home against them. Devils will then accuse those whom they now tempt; and they who now solicit them to vice, will appear and prove against them the commission of it. How great the madness, my dear Benjamin, to give ear to diabolical suggestions! For this false and treacherous friend, after he has prevailed with souls to commit sin, will make good the charge which he will bring against them for it, and torment them for what they have done.
19. With respect to the trial itself, we may be sure that it will be impartial. Jesus Christ will do every man justice; "he will judge the world with righteousness" (Psa 96:13). The Thebans represented their judges as blind and without hands; blind, that they might not respect persons; without hands, that they might take no bribes. In human courts, the judges sometimes extend and amplify, sometimes contract or smother the evidence, and are more rigorous or favorable in their sentence, as they are biased towards the persons before them. But the righteous judge of the world is incapable of being inclined to favor or severity upon such base motives. Christ's sceptre is a sceptre of righteousness. He is no respecter of persons (Rom 2:11; 1 Peter 1:17). It is not nearness of blood that prevails; many of his kindred will be condemned; nor is it a glowing profession; many will go to hell with Christ in their mouth (Matt 7:22). Things will not be carried on in that day by parties, but weighed in a most just balance. There are no fees taken in that court, nor will the judge be bribed by a hypocritical tear or a Judas' kiss. "The rich and the poor shall then meet together without distinction, before God the Maker and Judge of them all" (Pro 22:2). "There shall be neither Greek nor Jew, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free" (Col 3:11); but he that has done wrong shall receive for the wrong he has done; and there is no respect of persons.
20. As there will be no partiality to persons, so there will be a perfect distinction of causes, and every man be judged according to his works, the tenor of good works and the desert of bad. The apostle assures us that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap: he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting" (Gal 6:7,8). "To them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honor, and immortality, eternal life; but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil; of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God" (Rom 2:7-11).
Says the sweet writer, Dr. Bates,"It is more rational to conceive that things may be congealed by the heat of fire, or turned black by whiteness, than that the least act of injustice can be done by the righteous Lord. The apostle rejects with extreme detestation the blasphemous charge of unrighteousness in God's proceedings: 'Is God unrighteous that taketh vengeance? God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?' (Rom 3:5,6). He may as soon renounce his nature and cease to be Godfor, as such, he is necessarily judge of the worldas violate his own perfections in his judicial proceedings with us."21. Every individual will be perfectly convinced of the fairness of the proceedings, and the justice of the sentence. Not only will "every mouth be stopped, and the sinner become speechless," but every one will be convinced that the sentence is just. The sinner himself shall clear God of injustice; God's taking vengeance is doing justice. Sin makes God angry, but it cannot make him unrighteous. The wicked shall drink a sea of wrath, but not a drop of injustice. If Christ should say, "Sinner, what apology canst thou make for thyself? Are not thy sins written in the book of conscience? Hadst thou not that book in thine own keeping? Who could interline it?" The sinner, being self-condemned, would clear his Judge and say, "Lord, though I be condemned, yet I have no wrong done me; thou art clear when thou judgest" (see Psalm 51:4).
22. Thus, my dear Benjamin, I have endeavored in as brief a manner as possible to prove the certainty of a general judgment, pointed out the Judge in his person and in the manner of his appearance, and mentioned some of the most important circumstances connected with the trial, such as relate to the subject, to the rule and evidence, and the nature of the trial itself; you will doubtless be anxious to hear of the sentence to be pronounced and its consequences, which I propose to describe in my next letter. In the meantime let me beg of you to read carefully and prayerfully the 25th chapter in St. Matthew's Gospel, from verses 31-46
. I am aware, my dear Benjamin, that there are a variety of questions that present themselves to the mind whilst contemplating this all-important subject, such as respecting the place, the time, &c. &c. which the limits of this letter will not permit me to notice; but as the event is certain, and will be universal, decisive and eternal as to its consequences, let us rather be concerned for the welfare of our immortal interests, flee to the refuge set before us, improve our precious time, depend on the merits of the dear Redeemer, and adhere to the duties of the divine word, that we may be found of him in peace. Farewell.
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, 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. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Letter 3. The Misery of the Wicked
My Dear Benjamin,
1. Agreeably to promise, I will now notice the sentences pronounced and their consequences. At the close of my last letter I recommended to your serious attention the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, from 31st verse, where you will have observed that our blessed Lord has given us a lively description of the solemn process of the final judgment and the different sentences that shall be passed on the righteous and on the wicked. To the righteous, those at his right hand, he will say, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." But to the wicked, those at his left hand, he will say, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt 25:34,41). And these sentences will be immediately executed; for it follows: "these," i. e. the wicked, "shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal" (Matt 25:46). In the present letter I propose to consider the nature and duration of the misery of the wicked.
2. With respect to its nature, you must not expect, my dear Benjamin, more than some general account. A particular and accurate description of that misery can only be given by those miserable wretches that already feel it. The torments of hell, as well as the joy of heaven, are yet in a great measure unrevealed, and we can then only expect any accurate notion of them when the veil of mortality is rent, and the great objects of an unseen state are presented to our view.
The nature of the future punishment and misery of the wicked has usually been divided into the punishment of loss, and the punishment of sense. In describing the former, viz, the punishment of loss, I would observe,
3. That the wicked will be for ever debarred from the blessed presence of God, the only fountain of life and light, of joy and blessedness: "Depart," says the Judge, "from me," in whose "presence is fullness of joy, and at whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psa 16:11). All attempts to reclaim and reform them will cease for ever. No invitations to return, no offers of pardon and peace, no merciful entreaties to accept of them shall be any more addressed to them. All cries for pity and commiseration (how importunate soever) are now fruitless, and come too late, for ever.
4. Further observe, my dear Benjamin, that as the wicked and impenitent will be debarred from the beatific vision of God, so likewise they will be for ever excluded from his heavenly court, the place where he manifests his ravishing glory and communicates his felicitating love to all the happy attendants of his exalted throne.
Says the silver-tonbued Mr. Boyce,"They must be for ever shut out from that bright habitation of holiness, and become perpetual exiles from those amiable mansions of light, into which none but the children of light shall be received. And consequently they must be thrust out of the society of the saints in light, and excluded from the desirable conversations and entertainments, from the noble work and the satisfying joys, from the transcendent perfections and blessedness of that blessed and holy community. The gates of the heavenly Jerusalem, shall be for ever barred upon them. An unpassable gulf shall cut off all possibility and hope of returning to these forfeited regions of endless bliss (Luke 16:26; Rev 21:8,27). While they behold those holy souls, whoso serious piety they here scorned and despised, admitted with honor and triumph to sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with the patriarchs, prophets and apostles, in the kingdom of heaven, they shall see themselves thrust out, to their eternal shame and confusion (Luke 13:28,29). Their eyes shall never behold the beauties of the heavenly world, their ears not hear the triumphant songs of the celestial choir; not one drop from those ever-flowing rivers of divine pleasure and joy shall be afforded to cool their inflamed tongue."5. The next part of their misery is the punishment of sense. This is expressed in the sentence pronounced under the notion of fire. "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." As it is usual for the Scriptures to represent to us the felicity and joy of heaven by what is most pleasing and glorious to our senses, as by a feast, a kingdom, a crown, a marriage, &c. so it is no wonder that the miseries of hell should also be set forth by what is most dismal and terrible; or what occasions the most exquisite pain and torture; as by the unquenchable fire, the never-dying worm, outer darkness, chains of darkness, an infernal prison.
The metaphor fire is frequently used to represent the torments and miseries of the wicked. "Who among us shall dwell with devouring fire? who shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" (Isa 33:14). Fire, brimstone, and an horrible tempest are said to be the portion of the wicked's cup (Psa 11:6). Jude calls it "the vengeance of eternal fire" (v 7); and in Revelation it is called "the lake of fire and brimstone, whose torment is for ever and ever" (20:10). The metaphor fitly represents to us the anguish of an accusing, despairing conscience, the tormenting sense of the inexorable wrath of God, and the rage of their own unsatisfied lusts.
6. The bitter anguish and torment of an accusing and despairing conscience is that which our Lord chiefly intended by the "worm that never dieth, and the fire that never goes out" (Mark 9:44,46). Conscience, in its enraged reflections, will be to the sinner as a worm that is perpetually gnawing his vitals, like a flame that is incessantly scourging his inward parts. And doubtless Christ refers to this part of the misery of the damned, when he so often speaks of hell as the place where there is ''weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth" (Matt 13:42,50); expressions that denote the most piercing grief arising from the utmost degree of desperation and rage. And no wonder that this should be the wretched condition of the wicked, says Dr. Boyce,"when we consider that wherever a condemned sinner turns his thoughts, he finds nothing but what administers to his inward vexation and despair. If he look backward to this world he has left, and the life he has here led, what abundant matter occurs of bitter and grievous reflections; if he reviews his actions, what a scene of perpetual and shameful folly appears to his eye; how numberless, detestable and hateful sins stare him in the face, the remembrance whereof fills him with horror and confusion! If he look back on his earthly enjoyments and sensual delight, and especially on the past momentary pleasures of sin; alas! they are fled and gone, and have left nothing but a tormenting sting behind. If he reflect on the compassionate offers of divine grace, and his merciful methods to recover and save him; alas! these slighted offers are now recalled, and shall never be tendered more; those opposed methods are finally frustrated; and the day of abused patience and grace is at an end, and the day of final retribution and vengeance has now succeeded it. If he look upwards, what can he there fix his thoughts upon but that righteous God, whose long-suffering he has now turned into inexorable fury; that blessed society from whose converse he is perpetually banished; that heavenly Father and glory, which once indeed was proposed to his choice, but the proposal being ungratefully despised and rejected, he is now by a peremptory sentence eternally excluded from it!I mean such as Francis Spira and others, that have been driven to the utmost desperation; (not to mention the scriptural examples of Cain and of a Judas;) and we may reasonably suppose that these bitter reflections of an enraged, accusing conscience, will be more restless and grievous in that future state, where wretched sinners will have nothing else to entertain their busy thoughts.
"If he look round about him, whom has he to commune with, but those accursed fiends that will now prove his tormentors, as they were once his tempters; and those other companions of sin here on earth, the very sight of whom calls his past guilt to his unwelcome remembrance? If he look forward, he sees nothing before him that can administer any hope of relief; on the contrary, the certain prospect of a miserable eternity does, above all things, amaze and confound him. So that his own uneasy, perplexed thoughts are a continual spring of new anguish and terror to him. He carries a perpetual hell in his own conscience, whose unanswerable challenges, and wounding reproaches, and direful lashes are intolerable. Of this we have some lively representations in the horrid agonies and unsupportable fury of some despairing sinners on earth, when they had nothing left them but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation."
7. Another ingredient of the misery of the condemned, expressed by the metaphor fire, is the affrighted sense of the inexorable displeasure and wrath of an incensed God. The Apostle Jude calls it the "vengeance of eternal fire" (v 7). And God is said to be a consuming fire (Deut 4:24). Again, the apostle speaks of a "certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" (Heb 10:27). God's wrath against his adversaries is frequently compared to fire, on account of its irresistible, tormenting, and devouring nature. How terrifying, my dear Benjamin, must the apprehension of an Almighty God be to a condemned sinner that has now fallen into his avenging hand, when he considers he can no way resist his power, nor escape the utmost effects of his tremendous indignation. How, indeed, a just and sin-avenging God will execute his wrath, is what we are now wholly ignorant of; but sure we are, those must be extremely miserable that are remedilessly exposed to it. Well might the Psalmist say, "Who knoweth the power of thine anger? According to thy fear so is thy wrath" (Psa 90:11). Our fears, under the strong alarm of a guilty conscience, are next to boundless and infinite; but the wrath that is armed with infinite power must needs exceed our most unbounded fears themselves. With what deep wounds will the sword of justice pierce the sinner's heart, when wielded by an irresistible, omnipotent hand! How inconceivably dismal must be the case of those "vessels of wrath fitted for destruction," on whom so terrible a majesty resolves "to show his wrath, and to make his power known" (Rom 9:22).
8. Permit me, dear Benjamin, to mention one more ingredient of the future punishment of the wicked, viz, the continued rage of their own unsatisfied lusts. Those impure and brutish desires, which in the condemned sinner will be as vehement as ever, and must needs create a continual torment to one that can find no objects to gratify them with; and their impure flames are fitly compared to a fire, a fire that will furiously prey upon the soul itself, when it has no external fuel to feed upon. What a torment must it be, to burn always in the flames of his own unquenchable desires, and to covet perpetually that vile fuel of his former luxury, pride, intemperance, lust, covetousness, and other inordinate affections, that are now withdrawn for ever! in a word, to find all those things vanished on which his hopes and happiness were placed, and to which his heart yet inseparably cleaves, yet he despairs ever to enjoy them. This will be a most just but truly dreadful part of the sinner's punishment. Thus, my dear Benjamin, I have endeavored to give you a general scriptural account of the punishment and misery of the wicked; but I must adopt the words of the apostle, and say, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive" the terrible things that a righteous God has prepared for them who finally hate, and impenitently provoke and disobey him.
9. From the consideration of the nature of the punishment of the wicked, I proceed to invite your most serious attention to its duration. This our Lord himself has told us is to be eternal: "These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal" (Matt 25:46). The words everlasting and eternal in this passage are synonymous, and signify an endless duration. It is much to be regretted that the translators used two different words, when the original word is the same in both places. Dr. Doddridge says,"As the original word Aionion is the same in both places, I thought it proper to use the same word in the translation of both."As none disputes the happiness of the saints to be eternal, without interruption and without end, so none ought to doubt that the duration of the punishment and misery of the wicked will be without intermission and without end. Besides, we are told that "the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever" (Rev 14:11): and our blessed Lord also declareth that "their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:44,48). In the greatest miseries of this life, God is graciously pleased to allow some intervals of rest; but of those in hell it is said, "they have no rest, day nor night" (Rev 14:11). The rich man in hell asked but a momentary alleviation of his torture, when he desired that Lazarus might be sent "to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his tongue" (Luke 16:24); but even this was denied him. It is the immutability of the future state that bespeaks it eternal. They can no more flee from the bitter reflections of an enraged conscience, than flee from themselves; and no more interrupt the misery that springs from them, than extinguish their life itself.
10. As their misery is without intermission, so also it is without end. This ingredient will inconceivably increase their anguish. If, when a duration equal to many millions of ages were past, condemned sinners might have any assurance of redemption from their misery, even that slender hope would be some, though a small mitigation of the horror of their state. It were some relief to their torments to foresee any possible end of them, at however remote a distance.
But oh! what an amazing and insupportable thought, that all the vast space of time that arithmetic can compute or their thoughts measure, is but as a moment in comparison to eternity; and when that is passed, their misery will be as far from ending as ever! Oh! that solemn and awful sound, Eternity! eternity! It is related by several authors, of a lady who was fond of gayety, that after spending the afternoon and evening with a party at cards and other vain amusements, she returned home late at night, and found her waiting-maid diligently reading a religious book; happening to look over her shoulder, she saw what it was, and said, "Poor, melancholy soul, why do you sit so long poring upon your book?" After this she retired to bed, but could not sleep; she lay sighing and weeping for several hours. Being repeatedly asked by her servant what was the matter, she burst into a flood of tears, and said, "Oh! Mary, it was one word that I saw in your book which troubles me; there I saw the word Eternity." The Lord grant, my dear Benjamin, that we may so consider the word Eternity, that it may not be a trouble, but a pleasure unto us. May we flee for refuge to Jesus, as the man-slayer to the city of refuge, and the great High Priest of our profession will receive and defend us from the sword of the avenger; "for there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom 8:1); and on that day, when the good Shepherd shall "divide his sheep from the goats" (Matt 25:32), he will say unto us, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt 25:34). Then, with all the "righteous, we shall enter into life eternal" (Matt 25:46). The nature of that felicity will be the subject of the next letter. Farewell.
Letter 4. The Future Happiness of the Righteous
Agreeably to promise, I now invite your attention to the happiness of the righteous, or the felicity of heaven. Heaven is considered as a place in which the Omnipotent Deity is said to afford a nearer and more immediate view of himself, and a more sensible manifestation of his glory than in the other parts of the universe.
1. I freely acknowledge, my dear Benjamin, that the felicity of the righteous, as well as the misery of the wicked, far exceeds our comprehension. We are, at present, at a great distance from those superior regions of eternal light, and there is a thick veil of flesh that hides the glory of them from our eyes. We have, indeed, a clear and satisfying assurance of an endless felicity, and some notices in general of its nature; but as to the particulars of it, it is a glory yet to be revealed, and we cannot expect a clear and distinct view of it till we enter within the veil, and are admitted into the heavenly sanctuary. Should the external glory of the heavenly state be laid open to our naked view, it would be too dazzling a sight for weak mortality to bear. If the Israelites could not endure to behold the face of Moses when it shone, upon his descent from the mount; and if the disciples of our Lord could not bear the sight of his transfigured body without great confusion and fear; how much more should we be confounded at the view of that celestial brightness, of which this was but an emblem or glimpse.
Yet, though we cannot here expect any adequate conception of the heavenly state, we are not left wholly in the dark. The Holy Spirit has, in condescension to our weakness, described it to us in expressions which allude to present and sensible things. Thus the future blessedness of the righteous is often represented under the notion of a kingdom, a throne, a crown, a house and city; sometimes it is represented as a great treasure, a pearl of great price, and a glorious inheritance; sometimes it is represented under the emblem of white robes, palms, or under the similitude of a great supper or marriage-feast; it is called the heavenly paradise, full of light, life and glory. By these, and other affecting, sensible allusions, does the Spirit of God insinuate to our minds some sensible thought of the transcendent honor and dignity, the complete perfection and excellency, the ravishing and truly satisfying pleasure and joy of that happy state. For method's sake, I will, however give you a brief description of the character of the righteous, and then consider their happiness both in the negative and positive.
2. With respect to the righteous, the Scriptures declare "there is none righteous" on earth, "no not one," i. e. in himself (Rom 3:10). To be righteous, in the proper and strict sense of the word, is to keep the law perfectly, which no mere man ever did, and no fallen man ever can; for "all have sinned" (Rom 3:23); sin being "the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). The righteous, therefore, who shall enter into life eternal, are not such in themselves, but are dealt with by God as such, through the righteousness of Christ put to their account. This righteousness Christ wrought out by his perfect obedience, even unto death; and it is revealed in the Gospel; and when the sinner is convinced that he wants it, and must perish without it, he comes to God for it, and God gives it to him; he receives it by faith, puts it on and wears it, lives and dies in it; and being "found in Christ," he is admitted in this wedding garment to the marriage-supper of the Lamb.
3. I proceed to consider the negative part of the happiness of the righteous, which consists in an entire exemption and freedom from all evils, both moral and natural, both those of sin and misery; they will be freed from all inward and spiritual evils, such as the guilt of sin; the depravity of their nature, the temptations of Satan, from divine desertion; from fear of the wrath of God and the punishment of sin; from all distresses arising from connection with others, such as from the sufferings of friends, country, or the church, or from the sins of others. Here the relics of indwelling sin make our life a tedious warfare, the violent struggles of this body of death often extort such bitter complaints of our wretched condition as that of the apostle, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom 7:24). These spiritual enemies within us are like those in the Israelites' bodies, "as thorns in our sides and pricks in our eyes" (Num 33:55); they wound a gracious soul in its most quick and sensible part; but in the heavenly Canaan all these cursed remains of sin are entirely extinguished. There "the spirits of the just made perfect" (Heb 12:23) have no more occasion to lament the sinful darkness and distraction of their minds, the rebellion of their unruly passions, the irregularity of their desires, the carnality and dullness of their affections, the weakness of their graces, and the woful defects and failures of their best obedience: happy they whose wearisome warfare is ended in perfect victory and eternal triumph.
4. And as the saints in glory are freed from indwelling sin, the temptations of the world, and the assaults of Satan; so also they are freed from all the evil consequences of sin. All the spiritual doubts, fears and sorrows will be buried in the grave of sin, to rise no more. In those regions of perfect light and purity there are no clouds to intercept the ravishing beams of divine love; no spiritual storms of desertion to disturb the serenity and calm of an innocent soul; no frowns on the face of our Heavenly Father to awaken our jealous fears; no anguish of an accusing conscience to allay our spiritual joy. There we shall hear no more such grievous complaints as now sometimes drop from the lips of a desponding Asaph: "Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favorable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Does his promise fail for evermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his tender mercies?" (Psa 77:7-9). Or as those of Heman, "Why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me? I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted" (Psa 88:14,15). The perfect love of heaven will entirely cast out all relics of such disquieting fear (1 John 4:18).
5. Further, the saints enter those peaceful mansions, where "the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest" (Job 3:17). They are freed from the noise of this malignant world, where the voice of scoffing Ishmaelites, cursing Shimeis, and railing, blasphemous Rabshakehs, is heard no more; where there is no terrible inquisitorial tribunal, no treacherous and bloody massacres, no fire and faggot, no prison or gallies to be dreaded any more; they are landed safe on the shore of eternity, from whence they can behold, with a fearless eye, the storms of this tempestuous sea whereon they have so long been tossed, and from which they have now happily escaped.
6. The saints in heaven are freed from evils and sufferings; hence heaven is called a place of rest; they are freed from all bodily and outward sufferings, from disease and pain: "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away" (Rev 21:4; Isa 25:8). There will be no more complaint of poverty or want; they will have a glorious inheritance, and be as rich as heaven can make them. He who has a promise of an estate after the expiration of a few years, though at present he is poor, comforts himself with this, that he will shortly have his estate. "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe all tears from their eyes" (Rev 7:16,17). They shall be freed also from toil and hard labor; "all things," says the wise man, ''are full of labor" (Eccl 1:8). God has made a law, "in the sweat of thy brow thou shall eat thy bread." But death gives the believer a discharge from all his labor (Rev 14:13). Nor shall they any more sustain the loss of comforts and enjoyments. In this present life, many things occasion sorrow, law-suits, treachery of friends, disappointment of hopes, and the loss of property. The world is a "Bochim," i. e. a place of weeping: Rachel wept for her children. Some grieve that they have no children, others because they are undutiful. Thus we spend our years in sighing; but in heaven all tears will be wiped away. Then Christ's spouse will put off her mourning; for how can the children of the bridegroom mourn when he is with them? Thus, my dear Benjamin, you will easily perceive that even the negative part of the happiness of the righteous, the happiness that flows from the absence of the evils of sin and corruption, exceeds all the pleasures this world can afford. As none feel more the pleasures of health than those just recovering from long and painful maladies; as none prize more highly the sweets of liberty than those that are rescued from the miseries and hardships of captivity; so the fresh remembrance of all the afflictions that we have passed through during this short scene of mortality and misery will greatly enhance the joys of our happy deliverance from them, and give a sweeter relish to the positive part of the future blessedness.
7. I will therefore proceed to the consideration of the positive part of the happiness of the righteous. This is called by the Lord Jesus Christ, "Eternal Life" (Matt 25:46). And in many other parts of the Scripture the future happiness is called Life, by way of eminence, as opposed to this present state of mortality, and denotes the affluence of all that can render our being and state truly desirable (Matt 7:14, 19:17; John 3:36, 10:10). The blessedness of their heavenly and happy life results partly
From the perfection of our nature, and the most vigorous exercise of our perfected powers upon the noblest and most agreeable objects. How great will be the change with respect to the soul and all its rational powers! The perfection of our knowledge is by the Apostle Paul plainly intimated to be the noble and peculiar privilege of our heavenly state (1 Cor 13:10,12). Our knowledge will then be large in its compass and extent, and conversant about the most glorious objects, the contemplation and discovery whereof is capable of yielding the highest satisfaction to our minds. We shall then fully "know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent," whom to know fully, is indeed "life eternal" (John 17:3).
8. Next to the understanding, is the perfection of the will, as another source of happiness. Our will will be entirely moulded into a sinless conformity to the nature and will of God; this being the happy and necessary result of our perfect vision of him (1 John 3:2; 2 Cor 3:18). Oh! happy souls, whose wills are thus entirely moulded into the perfect will of God! If the perfect fulfilling of our wills can make us happy, those must needs be so who have no will different from his; for his will shall always stand.
As the philosophers say, the reason that iron cleaves to the load-stone so constantly is because the pores of both are alike, and there are affluxes and emanations that slide through and unite them together; so will be this magnetism; our wills shall perfectly fall in with the divine will, and nothing will appear good to us but what is good in God's esteem; so that we shall then need no threatenings to drive us, no, promises to draw us; but divine goodness will so attract us, that we shall be naturalized to God and goodness; and be no more able to turn off from that ineffable sweetness than the loadstone to point to the west.
Here grace is very imperfect. We cannot write a copy of holiness without blotting it. Believers are said to receive but the first fruits of the Spirit (Rom 8:23). But in heaven the saints shall arrive at perfection. Their life clear, their sanctity perfect, their sun shall be in his meridian splendor; they need not then pray for an increase of grace; they will then love Christ as much as they would love him, and as much as he desires them to love him. They shall be then, in respect of holiness, as the angels of God.
9. As the understanding will be light without darkness, and the will conformed to that knowledge, so all the powers of the soul will be engaged in cheerful exercise. Here our souls are miserably impotent, weak and sluggish, being imprisoned in a frail and feeble body, and clogged with an unwieldy lump of clay. But how great will be the vigor and activity of the soul, when disencumbered from this load of flesh and re-united to a body whose agility is suited to the quickness of its motions! We shall then be like the angels, those swift messengers of the heavenly King; we shall then, indeed, in the highest sense, "mount up with wings as eagles; we shall run and not be weary, walk and not faint" (Isa 40:31).
10. The perfection of our nature relates to our body as well as our souls. At death the happiness of the righteous is merely begun; but, after the general resurrection and judgment, it will be completed. One part of the righteous still remains the spoils of death and the prey of the grave; till then, that last enemy continues his seeming victory and triumph, our bodies being detained as captives in his dark prison and ignominious chains; and it is not till this last enemy is conquered, and our bodies rescued from his dominion and power, that "mortality is entirely swallowed up of life" (2 Cor 5:4), and the happiness of a glorified saint fully consummated. The glory and nature of this change, as far as revealed to us in Scripture, I have already considered in a former letter on the general resurrection; and therefore proceed to mention another part of the happiness of the righteous, arising from
11. The society of the heavenly inhabitants. Man is a social creature, framed for converse, and capable of relishing all the entertaining pleasures of it. The more excellent and communicative those are with whom we converse, the greater are the advantages of it: now there is every thing in the heavenly state that can conspire to render the converse of it beneficial and pleasurable to us. There we shall be admitted to the most intimate and endeared communion with the blessed God, the fountain of all light and life, love and joy. We shall then satiate our souls with the "fullness of joy" that is in his beatific "presence," and let them run adrift in that "ocean of pleasure that is at his right hand for evermore." All the influences and effects of the felicitating love of God which we now partake of, are but like the glimmering light of the sun that pierces through some crevices of the closed windows. But there, all obstruction shall be removed, our own capacities enlarged, and we shall with open eyes behold the face of glorifying love for ever. Oh! what a life of inconceivable and unknown delight we shall live for ever, in the presence and bosom, and under the incessant influence of his diffusive, eternal love, the true source of all perfection and blessedness! Besides, my dear Benjamin, how great will be the joy and felicity of the righteous, when admitted to the presence and converse of the exalted Redeemer, as clothed in our nature. If good old Simeon, was so transported at the sight of our blessed Lord in the flesh, that he was willing to close his eyes on this world when he had "beheld the salvation of God" (Luke 2:28,30), how much more ravishing then will it be to behold him enthroned in heaven, when he has completed that great work of the salvation of his Israel which he here came to lay the foundation of! If Peter, when he beheld but a transient glimpse of the glory of Christ in the transfiguration on the mount, felt such an astonishing transport as made him forget the world and himself, and speak he knew not what; how much more surprising and ravishing will his glory appear, when we see it in its brightest lustre, and we ourselves shall feel the transforming efficacy of that glorious sight, to render us like to him! (1 John 3:2).
The righteous will also be blessed with the company of angels and saints. Although the nature, order, and rank of the angels is superior to that of men, yet they will not disdain our company. Those that now account themselves our fellow-servants will not refuse to make us their happy associates in heaven. Those that now rejoice in our conversion will then triumph in our final salvation. There also we shall be admitted to the society of the patriarchs, prophets and apostles, and all those eminent servants of God who, in every successive age, have shone as lights in this dark world, and are now translated to a higher orb. There we shall also regain the society of our Christian relations and friends that have been our fellow-soldiers here in the same spiritual warfare, but are now possessed of the immortal crown, and have before us entered into everlasting rest. O the joyful meeting, when all the children of God that were dispersed abroad shall be gathered into one general assembly and church! when the vast convention of all whose names are listed in the heavenly rolls shall be completed, not one member being wanting in the mystical body of Christ! If now it be so "pleasant to behold brethren dwell together in unity" on earth (Psa 133:1), how much more to behold the perfect unity of the concordant, heavenly society, when the prayer of Christ for them shall be fully answered, "that they may be all one in God and him" (John 17:21).
12. Another part of the future blessedness of the righteous will result from the noble employment and work of the heavenly society. Angels and saints are frequently represented in the Scriptures as joining in joyfully celebrating the divine praises. See Revelation 5:8-14
, 7:9, 10. Says the pious Mr. Baxter,
And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshiped him that liveth for ever and ever."Methinks when we are singing or speaking God's praise in the great assemblies with joyful and fervent souls, I have the liveliest foretaste of heaven upon earth; and I almost wish that our voices could reach through all the world, and to heaven itself. Nor is there any exercise in which I would rather end my life."And if it be so sweet to join in the imperfect praises of the church here below, how ravishing will it be to bear our part in the triumphant hallelujahs of the heavenly community. How justly may we say with the Psalmist, "Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they will be still praising thee" (Psa 84:4).
And no doubt there are various works besides, in which the heavenly King will employ all that are the happy attendants at his throne above. It is expressly mentioned as one part of the felicity of heaven, that "there the servants of God shall serve him" (Rev 22:3). And these services will be as much more honorable and delightful than those on earth, as their capacity and zeal to perform them shall be greater. But I proceed to name,
13. Another part of the future happiness of the righteous, as resulting from the beauty and glory of the place where they shall enjoy it. The future habitation of the righteous is called by different names, such as the paradise of God, the third heaven, the heaven of heavens, a building not made with hands, into which our blessed Savior has entered to prepare mansions for his faithful followers; the Jerusalem above, a city whose builder and maker is God. Says Dr. Boyce,"And if there be such a ravishing beauty in the accurate frame of this lower world; if this earth, which is but comparatively as the sink of this inferior creation, be full of the glory of God; what must we conceive that highest heaven to be, which is as it were the court of the eternal King, the place of his peculiar abode, and the seat of his glorious empire!"Well may it be called, "the heaven of heavens." To represent its amazing amplitude and splendor, he employs the lively emblem of his immensity and glory who dwells there, (i. e. there peculiarly manifests himself,) and who would not long to see the beauty and glory of God shining with the brightest rays in that eternal sanctuary! Who would not account it the highest honor to be admitted into the presence-chamber, and to stand before the "blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords!" (1 Tim 6:15).
14. To what has been said, my dear Benjamin, I will add but one thought more, viz. that the future happiness of the righteous arises from its duration. It is "Eternal Life," both without interruption and without end. It is an immortal crown, whose glory never fades; an "inheritance incorruptible" (1 Peter 1:4), that suffers no diminution by the longest possession of it. There are none of those alloying ingredients in the heavenly felicity that abate and extinguish the pleasure of our sensual enjoyments. Glorified saints have no temptation to be weary of their heavenly work and joys, either from any defects in the objects they enjoy, or any weakness in their own perfected faculties. Their felicity is, in a lower degree, like that of its blessed author, fixed and invariable.
Thus, my dear Benjamin, I have endeavored to give you a description of the future happiness of the righteous, but let us be more anxious to realize it than simply to know it; may it be our felicity to know and serve God here below, and afterwards to be permitted to sit down with our venerable fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God; and join with all the redeemed in singing "the song of Moses and the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen." Farewell.
Letter 5. Conclusion
1. By the good hand of Providence I have been upheld and enabled to complete the series of letters on the controversy between our dear people and Christians. I have endeavored to lay before you the evidences which convinced me that the Bible, i. e. the Old and New Testaments, is a book of divine revelation, worthy of God to reveal, and absolutely necessary and perfectly sufficient to make us wise unto salvation, by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have given you an account of the necessity, appointment and revelation of a Messiah, or Mediator. I have endeavored to illustrate and confirm, both from the sacred volume and from the writings of our Rabbins, of blessed memory, all the prophecies contained in the law, in the prophets, and in the book of Psalms concerning the Messiah, and shown their literal accomplishment in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, both in his state of humiliation and exaltation. I have further detained you with several letters on the all-important subject of the divinity of the Messiah, and I hope that, instead of being "a stone of stumbling and rock of offence," it will be "for a sanctuary" to your precious soul. In conformity with your repeated solicitations and my frequent promises, I have endeavored to give you a brief statement of the different sentiments and opinions on the interesting but most difficult subject, the second advent of the Messiah, or the millennium, and have concluded the series by a few letters on the subjects generally called the "four last things," i. e. the resurrection of the dead, the general judgment, the misery of the wicked, and the happiness of the righteous. I have also endeavored to answer the few objections which you have been kind enough to suggest, and hope that, instead of making an apology for troubling me with them, you will read over carefully the whole series in its connection, and let me know all your doubts and objections on the different subjects; and if life and health be spared, I will with pleasure endeavor to remove them out of the way of your embracing Jesus Christ as your Lord and your God. At the close of the first series I mentioned that it was my intention to add a few select sermons to this work; but as the matter necessarily connected with the one great object, the Messiah, has already exceeded the proposed limits, I must defer them until a more convenient opportunity.
2. I cannot lay down my pen without addressing a few words to you,
My beloved brethren and kinsmen after the flesh. Although, these letters are addressed to Benjamin, my natural brother, yet at no time during the composition of them did I lose sight of you and your precious souls; "for my heart's desire and prayer to God for you is, that you might be saved" (Rom 10:1). And now, brethren, permit me to propose them to your careful perusal and attention; and after you have read them dispassionately and attentively, and properly reflected on the many and important truths which they present to your view, tell me candidly whether they do not clearly prove that Jesus Christ is the Messiah; not indeed such an one as you have figured to yourselves, but such an one as the prophets describe; who was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea, in an humble condition, "like a root out of a dry ground," to become "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," who was to suffer and to die, being "smitten and stricken of God, wounded and bruised for our transgressions, that by his stripes we might be healed" (Isa 53:2-5).
It is an unquestionable truth, that you all expect a Messiah and Redeemer; you daily pray for salvation through him, and you have prayed for his coming for nearly two thousand years; but when the precious cup is presented to you, you dash it from your lips; when Jesus Christ appeared to our fathers, they rejected and crucified him exactly as it was foretold by the prophets, merely because he came not in the manner in which they had imagined he would come and you my beloved brethren continue to this day to do the same. That our forefathers thus treated Jesus of Nazareth is to me no such surprising thing as it appears to others. I mentioned in a former letter, that but few of our nation in Christ's time had an opportunity of knowing the Scriptures, being then only in manuscript, and therefore exceedingly scarce. But how different are your circumstances! You have the means of obtaining a knowledge of the Scriptures both of the Old and New Testament, none daring to disturb you. Compare then what I have written with the law, and the prophets, and the book of Psalms. If it does not agree with them, let the mistakes be publicly pointed out in the spirit of meekness and brotherly love, and I will give them all the attention in my power. But, as I have reason to fear that comparatively few of you make a point of searching the Scriptures, permit me to ask you, to what purpose do you imagine did the prophets predict so clearly and circumstantially the coming of a Messiah, and foretell every event that should happen during his existence in this world, and every circumstance of his birth, his mission and death, if not to instruct and prepare us to receive such a Messiah as God taught them to describe?
I cannot but hope that if you will candidly read and examine the prophecies that I have presented to your view, which you profess to believe implicitly, you will see that Jesus Christ is the very Messiah they speak of; he who was in the world at the very time when the Messiah was expected to appear, and no other either at that time or since, proved to be such; he, who was born of the same family, and after the same manner, and in the same place, which the prophets foretold of the birth of the Messiah; he who taught all those truths and wrought all those miracles; he who suffered all those indignities; received all that glory, which the Messiah was to teach, perform, suffer and receive; whose doctrine was received in all nations, according to the character given to us of the Messiah; he was certainly the true Messiah; and it having been demonstrated that all these things were exactly fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and in him alone, we surely must acknowledge him to be the promised Messiah.
But if the prophets and the other sacred writings do not convince you, if you are determined to acknowledge no other Messiah but such as you have figured to yourselves, majestic and of resplendent glory, and will reject the true Messiah, the meek and lowly King of Zion, certainly nothing I can say will make a sufficient impression upon your minds so as to remove your fatal infatuation. Yet, such is my earnest desire to promote your spiritual and eternal welfare, that I would beg your attention a few moments longer. Suppose, for mere argument's sake, Jesus Christ to have been a mere man, and take his character as you find it, immaculate and replete with zeal for the service of God, and ever studying the good of mankind; who, after having taught a doctrine truly divine, was willing to confirm and seal it with his own blood; and exhibit to mankind, by his death, the brightest example of moderation, patience, charity, and many other sublime virtues; can the reason of the greatest sceptic withhold itself from believing such a man, one, too, of our own nation, not entitled to the warmest love and reverence? Surely not. We find the Grecians and many of the ancients worshiped the heroes who, during their lives, possessed extraordinary virtues, and in the end generously sacrificed their lives for the good of the country; but when we read the sacred pages of the Old and New Testaments, and find the clearest and most evident proofs that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Creator of the universe; the object of worship of all the angelic hosts, who condescended to assume our nature, and make himself of no reputation; that he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities; suffered himself to be led like a lamb to the slaughter; was numbered with transgressors, and poured out his soul unto death, even the ignominious and accursed death of crucifixion, to deliver us from the wrath to come, from the curse of the law, and free us from the tyranny of sin and Satan, to restore us to the image of God, and fit us for the enjoyment of eternal felicity and glory; what impressions ought such transcendent goodness to stamp upon our hearts? How greatly does it behoove us to offer up our most grateful thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for the inestimable blessing thus bestowed upon us, in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace and the hope of glory! I close, my dear brethren, with my most earnest prayer, that the God of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, would incline your hearts to read and examine calmly, and without prejudice, those all-important truths which I have laid before you, that you may be enabled to reflect seriously upon them, and finally be convinced, like myself and many others of our dear people; and thereby, at the coming of our blessed Savior, obtain the felicity of that kingdom promised to the believing Jews as well as Gentiles.
"Who is wise? and he shall understand these things; prudent? and he shall know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them; but the transgressors shall fall therein" (Hosea 14:9).
3. Christian readerYou who profess to know and believe that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God," permit me to close this letter with a word of exhortation. Let me recommend to you to read carefully and prayerfully the 11th chapter of Romans
. Rejoice in the prospect of the Jews being grafted again into the good olive-tree, if they continue not in unbelief. "But how then shall they call on him whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent?" (Rom 10:14,15). But who shall send missionaries and the means of grace to the Jews, if Christians do not? Consider therefore the design of the rejection of my beloved people, and your adoption in their stead. "For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief; even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy" (Rom 11:30,31). Remember also, that "salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22); "who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises, whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen" (Rom 9:4,5). Should it be asked in what way can we show mercy unto them? What can we do to convince them that Jesus is the true Messiah? I answer for the present, you may aid the committee appointed by the board of the Jewish Society to carry into effect their resolutions prefixed to this work; namely, to circulate it amongst the Jews in this country, and in England, and to get it translated into the German language, for the use of the Jews in Europe. For this purpose, a distinct fund has been opened, and donations are thankfully received by the treasurer of this society, Mr. E. Burrill, No. 5 Broad-street. To promote this good cause, I have offered to the Society as many copies as they may want at cost, and should be happy once more to travel over the United States to solicit aid for this object, as I have heretofore for other objects. But I am now old and grey-headed; and with the loss of my hair I am losing my strength also, and shall have to spend the remainder of my days at home, in the publication of the Jewish Intelligencer. But I hope many will send their mite to the treasurer of the Society, which will save traveling expenses. "And now unto him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (Rev 1:5,6).
I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
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