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pastors or brethren, he did not direct them to be satisfied with their decisions, but “to examine themselves, and so eat of that bread," &c. (1 Cor. xi. 27—31.) It was incumbent on them to examine diligently, whether they were in the faith? Whether they did truly repent and believe the gospel? Whether their professions were sincere, and their motives pure? Whether their hearts and lives were consistent with the holy religion they had em- braced ? Whether they did cordially accept of the whole salvation of Christ, and yield themselves to his service ? And whether they came to the Lord's table, “ discerning his body,” “ remembering his love," and seeking communion with him and his saints ? Such self-examination must always become professed Christians ; not to find out some excuse for neglecting to obey the dying command of their loving Saviour, but in order to remember him with more fervent affection, and more exalted thanksgivings. It is very useful, when we have the opportunity, to set apart some time, previous to the administration of the Lord's Supper, thus to re-examine ourselves, to inquire into our progress in vital godliness, and to renew our secret cordial consent to the new covenant in the blood of Christ. Such a preparation is especially important to the new convert, when (with the instructions and prayers of ministers and pious friends) he first approaches to make this profession; and to the backslider, when he is recovered from his wanderings, and desires to renew the solemn transaction. In all cases, such self-examination should be considered merely as introductory to the exercise of repentance and faith, the practice of works meet for repentance, and fervent prayers for divine teaching and grace to enable us more profitably to attend on the ordinances of God; for should any one discover, that at present he could not approach the Lord's table in a suitable manner, he ought by no means to rest satisfied with absenting himself, but should rather be more earnest in using every means of becoming an acceptable communicant. The believer, however, who habitually examines himself, and daily exercises repentance and faith, may very properly receive the Lord's Supper, without any further preparation, when an unexpected opportunity presents itself.
It is evident, both from Scripture, and the earliest records of the primitive church, that this ordinance was administered to the professed disciples of Christ in general, every Lord's day at least. This frequent recollection of that great event, which is the central point of our holy religion, was exceedingly suited to increase humility, hatred and dread of sin, watchfulness, contempt of the world, faith, hope, love, gratitude, patience, compassion, meekness, fortitude, and all other holy dispositions. These are obvious and intelligible advantages of frequent communicating, if it be done in a serious, considerate, and reverential manner: for the Lord's Supper as directly tends to strengthen and refresh the believing soul, as the bread and wine do to nourish and invigorate the body. At the same time, due honour is rendered to the Lord by this repeated profession of our faith and love; the sympathy of pious persons uniting in so affecting an ordinance promotes edification; the great truths of Christianity are thus brought before the minds of increasing numbers; and the presence and blessing of the Lord may confidently be expected, whilst we thus meet in his name, and present our prayers and thanksgivings before him. Indeed, this institution was expressly intended " to shew forth the Lord's death till he come ;” and this proves, that the doctrine of the atonement is the most essential part of Christianity; and an habitual dependence on a crucified Saviour, the grand peculiarity of the Christian character. The abuses that have taken place in respect of this ordinance, have at length produced a lamentable neglect of it; to the dishonour of the Redeemer, and the increase of that lukewarmness, of which it is a manifest indication. No doubt the pharisaical, hypocritical, avaricious, and profane approaches of numbers to the Lord's table, constitute à most heinous sin, which, unless repented of, will vastly increase their final condemnation. But they, who through ignorance, impiety, carelessness, malice, or secret crimes, are unfit for this holy ordinance, are equally unprepared for death and judgment: and when they withdraw, as Christians are about to commemorate their dying Redeemer, they should consider that they allow themselves to have no part or lot in the matter. Nay, indeed, they are as incapable of praying, acceptably as of communicating worthily, whilst they live in wilful opposition to the commands, and neglect of the salvation of Christ. Some persons withdraw, apparently, lest they should make too avowed a profession of religion, or bind themselves too closely to a holy life! As if this instance of disobedience would excuse their conformity to the world, and contempt of the favour and authority of their Judge! Others are harassed with groundless scruples, lest a well-meant but unsuitable approach to the Lord's table shonld exclude them from future pardon ; when even the scandalous profanation of the Corinthians was only visited by tem. poral corrections, “ that they might not be condemned with the world.” Or they fear, lest some subsequent fall should be irremediable ; when Peter denied Christ, the very night in which he had both celebrated the Passover and the Lord's Supper, and yet was graciously restored! This remaining unbelief induces many io hesitate, and often to refuse obedience to this plain command, during their whole lives : whilst others seem afraid of communicating too frequently; or make the languor of their affections a reason for absenting themselves, by which it is exceedingly increased. But let the new convert, who would thrive in his profession, speedily begin to consider this institution, and deliberately prepare for attending on it, as soon as he can do it sincerely : and let the believer gladly embrace every opportunity of communicating; avoid whatever may unfit him for it; and daily remember the vows of God that are upon him, to live to him, who died for his salvation.
On the State of Separate Spirits, the Resurrection of the Body, Judgment,
and Eternity The grand design of revealed religion is, to draw off our attention and affections from things present and temporal, and to fix them on things future and eternal. But yet, such is the constitution of the universe, and such the plan of the gospel, that the regulation of our pursuits and actions, in subordination to the interests of the unseen state, tends to produce by far the greatest measure of happiness to individuals, and to society, which can possibly be attained in this present life. Whatever conjectures or discoveries the more rational of the heathens had made in this interesting concern; or whatever intimations God had given about it to the ancient church ; it may with the strictest propriety be said, that “ life and immortality have been brought to light by the gospel.” For the new Testament revelation, elucidating and confirming that of the Old, has removed all doubt and uncertainty about this future state of existence, except what arises from our want of faith, or acquaintance with the holy Scriptures: it hath given every needful instruction on the important subject; and hath annexed to it that authority which is suited to render it influential upon our whole conduct. This information is of the greatest moment to us; for all error, obscurity, or uncertainty in this respect, must proportionably enfeeble and unsettle the mind; and deduct from the efficacy of those motives, which excite or animate the soul to vigorous exertion, self-denying obedience, patient sufferings, or courageously meeting dangers, in adhering to the truth and will of God amidst the opposition of this evil world: this concluding Essay, therefore, will contain some thoughts on the intermediate state, the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the body, and the process, rule, and event of -udgment.
The immortality of the soul is established by the uniform testimony of Scripture; which fully declares, not only that it is created capable of endless existence, but also that it is the unalterable purpose of the Creator, it should exist to eternity. This can never be proved by any abstract or metaphysical arguments; as the intention of God can only be known by express revelation. The language of holy writ constantly implies, that the soul is capable . of exerting its powers and faculties, in a state of separation from the body; the apostle could not tell," whether," during his vision," he were in the body, or out of the body," (2 Cor. xii. 1-3;) and he spoke of "being absent from the body and present with the Lord," (2 Cor. v. 8.) We frequently read of "the things done in the body;" which implies, that the same agent is capable of doing things out of the body. It is called "the earthly house of our tabernacle, which must be dissolved, that we may have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." Then the body "shall return to the dust, and the spirit to God," (Eccles. xii. 7.) Accordingly we read of "the spirits of just men made perfect," as well as of 66 an innumerable company of angels,” (Heb. xii. 22, 23.) So that these hints may suffice to shew, that the system of modern materialists cannot be supported (any more than the other doctrines of the same school,) except by rejecting the word of God, and treating the sacred writers as men who espoused and propagated vulgar errors, whilst they professed to "speak as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." The Scriptures, moreover, teach us, that both the righteous and the wicked, immediately on leaving the body, enter upon their state of happiness or misery. Lazarus was carried, as soon as he died, into Abraham's bosom; and when "the rich man's body was buried, in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments;" whilst his brethren, in his father's house, were following him to the same state of misery. Should it be urged, that this is a parabolical representation; we answer, that he, who is truth itself, would never have spoken those things, even in a parable, which have a direct tendency to mislead the reader, and to raise an expectation of a state which has no existence. But, indeed, our Lord was pleased to confirm this inference by his address from the cross to the dying thief, "this day shalt thou be with me in Paradise," (Luke xvi. 22—31; xxiii. 43;) which could not be unless his soul existed in a state of happiness, whilst his body lay buried with that of the other malefactor. They, therefore, who deny this distinction between soul and body, must suppose our Lord, as well as his apostles, to have been mistaken. His answer to the Sadducees, who cavilled about the doctrine of the resurrection, is equally decisive against those who deny the intermediate state: for "if God be not the God of the dead, but of the living," how can he be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who have been wholly dead during so many revolving centuries? (Matt. xxii. 29-32.) The apostle "desired to depart and to be with Christ, as far better" than living on earth: but he would not have been any sooner with Christ for departing hence, if he were to lie entirely under the power of death until the resurrection; nor could he "be present with the Lord, when absent from the body," if he were never made capable of beholding him till his second coming. The souls of those, to whom Christ, by his Spirit in Noah, preached during the term of God's long-suffering while the ark was preparing, are represented as being in prison at the time when Peter wrote, (1 Pet. iii. 19, 20:) and John was directed to write, "blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord, from henceforth," &c. (Rev. xiv. 13:) yea, he saw an innumerable company before the throne, who were crying for vengeance on their persecutors; but were required to wait till the rest of their brethren had finished their testimony; which, however it may be interpreted, must precede the resurrection of the dead, (Rev. vi. 9—11.) And here it may be proper to repeat the observation, that the God of truth and love would not arrange the circumstances of a vision in such a manner, as directly tended in the most obvious interpretation to mislead men in so material a point. These are a specimen of those Scriptural argu
ments, by which we are induced to expect an immediate entrance into happiness or misery, as soon as we leave this world, by an anticipation of that sentence, which will be publicly pronounced at the day of judgment.
Various absurd notions and curious speculations have been formed about this intermediate state ; which the use of the word, translated hell, for the place of separate spirits, may have in part occasioned. Thus Christ by the prophet expressed his confidence in the Father, " that he would not leave his soul in hell
, neither suffer his Holy One to see corruption" (Psalm xvi. 10; Acts ii. 27—31.) Some persons, indeed, would explain both these expressions to denote the grave, by a very unnatural tautology: but scarce any thing can be more evident, than that by hell is meant the place of separate spirits, to which the human soul of Christ repaired, as soon as his body was laid in the grave; till their re-union at his glorious resurrection. The Scripture seems in general only to inform us, that the souls of the righteous, when their earthly tabernacle is taken down, are made perfect in knowledge, purity, and love ; being freed from all remains of sin, removed from every temptation, made conquerors over all their enemies, exempted from all labours, sorrows, fears, and distresses, and admitted into the presence of Christ, to behold his glory and enjoy his love; that they are qualified to join the rapturous worship of angels, and to share their felicity, in the full completion of all their spiritual desires, in communion with God, and in the society of holy beings; that their joys far exceed all that they could on earth conceive or imagine, and are fully adequate to their most enlarged capacities, though proportioned to the degree of their grace and fruitfulness on earth ; that nothing is wanting to the absolute completion of their happiness, but that re-union with their bodies, for which they wait in joyful hope, assured, that then "mortality shall be swallowed up of life;" and that, with adoring acclamations, they witness the Redeemer's triumphs on earth, and the accomplishment of those prophecies, for which they fervently prayed, whilst here they fought the good fight of faith. On the other hand, it is manifest from the sacred oracles, that the souls of the wicked, when they leave the body,“ are driven away in their wickedness," under condemnation and the wrath of God, and under the power of their vile affections, now freed from all restraint: and that thus they immediately sink into a state of despair and punishment proportioned to their crimes, in which they will continue till the day of judgment, in dire expectation of that event to complete their misery, by reuniting them to their bodies, as the instruments of their crimes, and sharers with their souls in the righteous vengeance of their offended Creator.
After the souls of successive generations have been thus gathered to their own company, and their bodies have returned to the ground whence they were taken, the end will at length arrive; when “ the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ : who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power ; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe” (2 Thess. i. 7–10.) The Divine Saviour will then personally appear in the clouds, even as the apostles beheld him when he ascended into heaven (Acts i. 11.) This his second advent shall be ushered in “ by the voice of an archangel, and the trump of God” (1 Thess. iv. 16, 17;) and shall immediately be followed by the resurrection of “ the dead in Christ,” and the change of all such believers as shall then be found alive upon the earth (1 Cor. xv. 51, 52:) afterwards by the resurrection of all others, who shall have died from the creation of the world to this grand consummation of all things: and then the earth and all its works shall be burnt up by one general conflagration. No words, however, can possibly explain, illustrate, or enable the reader to frame an adequate conception of this majestic, tremendous, yet most delightful scene ; or of the different emotions of the righteous and the wicked
during this astonishing catastrophe. What a spectacle of grandeur and horror would the conflagration of one large city present, were it all at once in flames! What then will be the prospect exhibited to the innumerable spectators, when “ the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and all the works that are therein, shall be burnt up,” (2 Pet. iii. 10–13). When universal nature shall, as it were, expire in convulsions ! when the haughtiest rebels shall call in vain for rocks and “ mountains to fall on them, and hide them from the face of their offended Judge !” and when all possibility of escape or mercy shall vanish for ever!
The resurrection of the dead is more especially connected with this second advent of Christ : “ 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 to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation,” (John v. 28, 29). The multitudes that sleep“ in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt,” (Dan. xii. 2): and “there shall be a resurrection, both of the just and of the unjust.” For, as the body is a part of our nature, and the instrument of the soul in doing good or evil; so it is meet that it should be raised from the dead, to share the happiness or misery which shall be awarded to every one, according to his works, by the righteous Judge of the world. Little, however, is spoken in Scripture concerning the resurrection of the wicked, compared with the copious information there afforded concerning that of the righteous. By the omnipotent word of him," who is the resurrection and the life,” the bodies of his redeemed people shall first be raised from the dust of the earth, from the depths of the sea, and from every place in which they have been deposited ; and being restored to life, incorruptible, immortal, and glorious, they will be reunited to their immortal spirits, to participate and increase their unspeakable felicity. For, “ the Lord Jesus shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like to his glorious body, according to the working, whereby he is able even to subdue all things to himself,” (Phil. iii. 20, 21). We know what appellation the apostle bestowed on those, who, cavilling at his doctrine, inquired, “ how are the dead raised, and with what bodies do they come?” (1 Cor. xv. 35). Questions about identity, and difficulties started about the possibility of a resurrection, may answer the purposes of a proud sceptical philosophy; but the humble disciple, sitting as a little child at the Saviour's feet, will allow, “ that such knowledge is too high for him, he cannot attain unto it:" and perceive that it is meet to answer all such objections by saying, “ hath God spoken, and shall he not do it?” “ Can any thing be too hard for the Lord ?" We are sure, that our bodies will be so far raised the same, that we shall know ourselves to be the same persons, who did such and such things on earth : but
as we must all be changed, our bodies will not be in all respects the same. “ There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body;" the image of the first, and of the second " Adam :” and as we have borne the image of the “ earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly :" “ that which is sown in corruption, dishonour, and weakness, shall be raised in incorruption, glory, and power.' “ Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God;" but he will give every one his own body, even as he gives to every seed an increase of the same kind that was sown, (1 Cor. xv). When we reflect on the resplendent appearance of Christ on the mount of transfiguration ; and further recollect, that the beloved disciple, who leaned on his breast at table, fell at his feet as dead, when he appeared to him in glory; we shall find our views enlarged, and expect to receive a body at the resurrection beyond expression glorious and beautiful, and as much superior to these bodies of our humiliation, as the heavens are above the earth. They will be liable to none of the wants, decays, disorders, or grossness of our present animal frame; no longer will they retard our motions, or impede us in contemplation and devotion : but they will be suited to assist and increase the most sublime and