Page images

a restitution of our flesh and blood and bones, and is called "resurrection," as the entrance into the state of resurrection may have the denomination of the whole; yet, in the sense of Scripture, the resurrection is the restitution of our life, the renovation of the whole man, the state of re-union; and until that be, the man is not, but he is dead, and only his essential parts are deposited and laid up in trust: and, therefore, whatsoever the soul does or perceives in its incomplete condition, is but to it as embalming and honourable funerals to the body, and a safe monument to preserve it in order to a living again; and the felicities of the interval are wholly in order to the next life. And therefore, if there were to be no resurrection, as these intermedial joys should not be at all; so, as they are, they are but relative and incomplete and therefore all our hopes, all our felicities, depend upon the resurrection; without it we should never be persons, men or women; and then the state of separation could be nothing but a fantasm, trees ever in blossom, never bearing fruit, corn for ever in the blade, eggs always in the shell, a hope eternal, never to pass into fruition, that is, for ever to be deluded, for ever to be miserable. And therefore it was an elegant expression of St. Paul', "Our life is hid with Christ in God;" that is, our life is passed into custody, the dust of our body is numbered, and the spirit is refreshed, visited, and preserved in celestial mansions: but it is not properly called a life; for all this while the man is dead, and shall then live, when Christ produces this hidden life at the great day of restitution. But our faith of all this article is well wrapped up in the words of St. John: "Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." The middle state is not it which Scripture hath propounded to our faith, or to our hope; the reward is then when Christ shall appear: but, in the mean time, the soul can converse with God and with angels, just as the holy prophets did in their dreams, in which they received great degrees of favour and revelation.

d Coloss. iii. 3.

e 1 John, iii. 2.

† Ὅταν ἐν τῷ ὑπνοῦν καθ ̓ ἑαυτὴν γενήσεται ἡ ψυχὴ, τότε τὴν ἰδίαν ἀπολαβοῦσα φύσιν, προμαντεύεται τέ καὶ προαγορεύει τὰ μέλλοντα. Τοιαύτη δέ ἐστι καὶ ἐν τῷ κατὰ τὸν θάνατον χαρίζεσθαι τῶν σωμάτων. -- Arist. apud Sextum Empiric.

But this is not to be reckoned any more than an entrance or a waiting for the state of our felicity. And since the glories of heaven is the great fruit of election, we may consider that the body is not predestinate, nor the soul, alone, but the whole man; and, until the parts embrace again in an essential complexion, it cannot be expected either of them should receive the portion of the predestinate. But the article and the event of future things is rarely set in order by St. Paul: "But ye are come unto the Mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all;" and then follows, after this "general assembly," after" the Judge of all" appears, " to the spirits of just men made perfect;" that is, re-united to their bodies, and entering into glory. The beginning of the contrary opinion brought some new practices and appendant persuasions into the church, or at least promoted them much. For those doctors, who, receding from the primitive belief of this article, taught that the glories of heaven are fully communicated to the souls before the day of judgment, did also upon that stock teach the invocation of saints, whom they believed to be received into glory, and insensibly also brought in the opinion of purgatory, that the less perfect souls might be glorified in the time that they assigned them. But the safer opinion, and more agreeable to piety, is that which I have now described from Scripture and the purest ages of the church.

16. When Jesus appeared to the apostles, he gave them his peace for a benediction; and when he departed, he left them peace for a legacy, and gave them, according to two former promises, the power of making peace, and reconciling souls to God by a ministerial act; so conveying his Father's mercy, which himself procured by his passion, and actuates by his intercession and the giving of his grace, that he might comply with our infirmities, and minister to our needs by instruments even and proportionate to ourselves; making our brethren the conduits of his grace, that the excellent effect of the Spirit might not descend upon us, as the law

s Heb. xii. 22, 23.

upon Mount Sinai, in expresses of greatness and terror, but in earthen vessels, and images of infirmity: so God manifesting his power in the smallness of the instrument, and descending to our needs, not only in giving the grace of pardon, but also in the manner of its ministration. And I meditate upon the greatness of this mercy, by comparing this grace of God, and the blessing of the judgment and sentence we receive at the hand of the church, with the judgment which God makes at the hour of death upon them, who have despised this mercy, and neglected all the other parts of their duty. The one is a judgment of mercy, the other of vengeance: in the one, the devil is the accuser, and heaven and earth bear witness; in the other, the penitent sinner accuses himself: in that, the sinner gets a pardon; in the other, he finds no remedy: in that, all his good deeds. are remembered and returned, and his sins are blotted out; in the other, all his evil deeds are represented with horror and a sting, and remain for ever: in the first, the sinner changes his state for a state of grace, and only smarts in some temporal austerities and acts of exterior mortification; in the second, his temporal estate is changed to an eternity of pain in the first, the sinner suffers the shame of one man or one society, which is sweetened by consolation, and homilies of mercy and health; in the latter, all his sins are laid open before all the world, and himself confounded in eternal amazement and confusions: in the judgment of the church, the sinner is honoured by all for returning to the bosom of his mother, and the embraces of his heavenly Father; in the judgment of vengeance, he is laughed at by God, and mocked by accursed spirits, and perishes without pity: in this he is prayed for by none, helped by none, comforted by none, and he makes himself a companion of devils to everlasting ages; but in the judgment of repentance and tribunal of the church, the penitent sinner is prayed for by a whole army of militant saints, and causes joy to all the church triumphant. And to establish this tribunal in the church, and to transmit pardon to penitent sinners, and a salutary judgment upon the person and the crime, and to appoint physicians and guardians of the soul, was one of the designs and mercies of the resurrection of Jesus. And let not any Christian man, either by false

opinion, or an unbelieving spirit, or an incurious apprehension, undervalue or neglect this ministry, which Christ hath so sacredly and solemnly established. Happy is he that dashes his sins against the rock, upon which the church is built; that the church, gathering up the planks and fragments of the shipwreck, and the shivers of the broken heart, may re-unite them, pouring oil into the wounds made by the blows of sin, and restoring with meekness, gentleness, care, counsel, and authority, persons overtaken in a fault. For that act of ministry is not ineffectual, which God hath promised shall be ratified in heaven; and that authority is not contemptible, which the holy Jesus conveyed by breathing upon his church the Holy Ghost. But Christ intended that those, whom he had made guides of our souls, and judges of our consciences in order to counsel and ministerial pardon, should also be used by us in all cases of our souls, and that we go to heaven the way he hath appointed, that is, by

offices and ministries ecclesiastical.

17. When our blessed Lord had so confirmed the faith of the church, and appointed an ecclesiastical ministry, he had but one work more to do upon earth, and that was the institution of the holy sacrament of baptism, which he ordained as a solemn initiation and mysterious profession of the faith, upon which the church is built; making it a solemn publication of our profession, the rite of stipulation or entering covenant with our Lord, the solemnity of the paction evangelical, in which we undertake to be disciples to the holy Jesus; that is, to believe his doctrine, to fear his threatenings, to rely upon his promises, and to obey his commandments all the days of our life; and he, for his part, actually performs much, and promises more; he takes off all the guilt of our preceding days, purging our souls, and making them clean, as in the day of innocence; promising withal, that if we perform our undertaking, and remain in the state in which he now puts us, he will continually assist us with his Spirit', prevent and attend us with his grace; he will deliver us from the power of the devil; he will keep our souls in merciful,

h Mark, xvi. 16. &c. 1 Cor. xii. 13. iMatt. xxviii. 20.

Acts, ii. 38, and xxii. 16.
Coloss. ii. 12. Gal. iii. 17.

Rom. vi. 3, 4. Eph. iv. 5, 1 Pet. iii. 21.

joyful, and safe custody, till the great day of the Lord; he will then raise our bodies from the grave; he will make them to be spiritual and immortal; he will re-unite them to our souls, and beatify both bodies and souls in his own kingdom, admitting them into eternal and unspeakable glories. All which that he might verify and prepare respectively, in the presence of his disciples he ascended into the bosom of God, and the eternal comprehensions of celestial glory.


O holy and eternal Jesus, who hast overcome death, and triumphed over all the powers of hell, darkness, sin, and the grave; manifesting the truth of thy promises, the power of thy divinity, the majesty of thy person, the rewards of thy glory, and the mercies and excellent designs of thy evangelical kingdom, by thy glorious and powerful resurrection; preserve my soul from eternal death, and make me to rise from the death of sin, and to live the life of grace; loving thy perfections, adoring thy mercy, pursuing the interest of thy kingdom; being united to the church, under thee, our Head; conforming to thy holy laws; established in faith, entertained and confirmed with a modest, humble, and certain hope, and sanctified by charity; that I, engraving thee in my heart, and submitting to thee in my spirit, and imitating thee in thy glorious example, may be partaker of thy resurrection; which is my hope and my desire, the support of my faith, the object of my joy, and the strength of my confidence. In thee, holy Jesus, do I trust: I confess thy faith, I believe all that thou hast taught; I desire to perform all thy injunctions, and my own undertaking my soul is in thy hand; do thou support and guide it, and pity my infirmities; and when thou shalt reveal thy great day, show to me the mercies and effects of thy advocation, and intercession, and redemption." Thou shalt answer for me, O Lord my God; for in thee have I trusted; let me never be confounded." Thou art just, thou art merciful, thou art gracious and compassionate; thou hast done miracles and prodigies of favour, to me and all the world. Let not those great

« PreviousContinue »