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members," as it were, “of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.”
3. As an effect of this, they believed also that death had to them and all true believers lost its sting; that it was now only like a sleep intervening between the evening shades of this dark life and the morning of the resurrection. This expression,
sleeping in Jesus," is one of the most tender that can be conceived. Death was never described as a sleep in the sense of a natural and short repose, to be succeeded by the morn of a new and glorious day, till the gospel so proclaimed it. The image of sleep, indeed, in the sense of an iron, interminable state of inactivity and silence, had been long known; but that of sleep, as of a child in the arms of a mother. nurse, to be followed by the trump of the blessed resurrection dawn, was first announced in the Christian revelation. Death now is only as a brief repose ; the body resting from its labors, and the soul being present with the Lord in holiness and felicity.
4. That their Savior would come again in glory at the last day, was another result of the great fact of the resurrection in which the Thessalonians believed. They knew that “the Son of man would come in his glory and all his holy angels with him." They knew that this “ day of the Lord would be as a thief in the night.” They knew that their Lord would thus return “ to receive them to himself."
5. For this was to be a further step in their felicity"them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” This is indeed the most direct conclusion from the fact of the Resurrection, and for the sake of which the argument was adduced-“for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” God would raise their bodies again incorruptible, that they might be produced with Jesus, and presented by him at the last day. Though slain in martyrdom,
though dishonored by rude and cruel injuries, though buried in obscure retreats, or consumed by animals of prey, yet these torments and indignities would neither render their death other than a sleep, nor prevent the resurrection of their bodies at the voice of the archangel and the trump of God.” “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord ; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”
6. The union of all the faithful, both of those who will be found living at the coming of the Lord, and those who shall have previously slept in Jesus in various ages of the Church, in one state of glory, will augment the happiness of the entire multitude. “ For this we say unto you," proceeds the apostle,
by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent," or go before, “ them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” After this all the rest, also, in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God and shall come forth.” “Then we that are alive and remain"-the apostle says, we, including himself, not personally perhaps, but as one who made the cause of the entire Church his own, and annihilated by faith and love petty individual differences—“shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air;" that so the whole company, being changed into the glorious image of their risen Savior, and approved as heirs of the kingdom, may first be his assessors in judgment, and then, all of them, both those who had previously slept in Jesus and those who were found alive at his coming, enter the glorious abodes of heaven with him, sharing his triumph and partaking of final felicity in his presence.
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7. And so shall we ever be with the Lord,” adds the apostle, as the concluding blessing which the faith of the Thessalonians was to rely on, as the consequence of “ Jesus having died and risen again.”
The mind labors in following out this succession of glorious events, which will follow on the resur. rection of the Lord. But the humble believer looks most assuredly for them all, through that Savior who shall “change his vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things to himself.”
And with these blessings the child of sorrow feels relief under the anticipations of death, under the loss of friends, the disappointments, separations, and sicknesses of this mortal life. The ught of Christ's death and resurrection takes off the fearful character of his own dissolution. The thought of pardon, peace, reconciliation; the thought of a brief sleep only after the termination of this life; the thought of Jesus coming again, and bringing with him all them that have slept in him; the thought of all the faithful being united in one company, and entering the glorious abode with him; the thought of being for ever with the Lord-this softens and mollifies the otherwise fearful meditation of death and judgment. The humble foresight of the blessings on the other bank of Jordan makes him forget, like Moses on the mount of Pisgah, the intervening pains and separations, and long to pass over into the good land. Thus the child of sorrow is in the way to abiding consolation under the thought of death.
II. Let us, then, next behold him by faith contem. plating and realizing the prospects which the facts and blessings thus received, open to his view.
For“ faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” “ Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what God hath prepared for them that love him."
But who can follow the victorious Christian after death? Who penetrate the veil of Eternity? Who form the slightest adequate conception of his manner of existence, of his glorified body, of his place of abode, his employments, company, felicity? We can only humbly follow the language of inspiration on such a subject. And in doing even this, we must be much on our guard lest we go beyond the exact authority of Holy Scripture. The passage however which we have been considering, and many similar ones, would lose much of their effect if faith did not muse on the several particulars of them, and if hope and love were not enkindled and elevated by the con. templation.
1. The first part of the heavenly happiness we may safely consider as consisting in our being for ever with the Lord. What must it be, brethren, to be with Christ and like him ; to “see him as he is ;" to view him “in the midst of the throne, as it were a lamb that had been slain ;" to behold “ the glory which he had with the Father before the world was.” What a prospect that of beholding him, no longer
through a glass darkly,” but “face to face ;' of seeing that very human form which he assumed for us ; which endured the agonies of the garden and the torments of the cross ; and with which he rose again from the dead. Even on earth some rays of his glory, "the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth," have filled our souls with joy, and extinguished the fear of death; what consolation, then, must the unclouded brightness of that Sun of righteousness diffuse around the glorified spirit. And to be for ever with this Lord of our affections; to be always near him ; to be ever in his society and love; to have no dread any more of
grieving him, of being separated from him, of losing his presence throughout eternity-all this is a ravishing prospect indeed.
2. But we are at liberty to meditate also on the freedom from the various pains and sorrows of our mortal state which heaven will bring with it. The Scriptures very much abound in negatives in their description of its felicity. “There shall be no temple therein; nor shall the city have need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it;" “ the gates shall not be shut at all by day; for there shall be no night there ;" “ there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie;" “they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more ;" there shall be no curse there, neither death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.” What a prospect is this. What a deliverance from our spiritual enemies, and from sin, the greaiest of all foes ; from defects, omissions, negligences and ignorances in our service of God; from dark ness, confusion and sorrow ; from personal and family afflictions, separations and griefs; from toil, labor and trouble ; from temptations and snares; from weakness and sickness; from error and misapprehension ; from de- . jection of natural spirits, and decays of faith, hope, and love. What a consolation is the very thought of that assurance, which is the most tender of all, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes”- ?-as if the saints might have to weep all the way to heaven, and come up with tears even to its very gates, but then would have them for ever removed by the hand of their heavenly Father himself.
3. The positive felicity and holiness of the heavenly world, however, so far as we can gather any light from Seri;ture, must not be mitted in these con. templations. Not only shall we be for ever with the