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- The only way by which these comfortable declarations can be reconciled with the fact with which we are daily conversant, viz. the dissolution of believers, is a distinction to be made between death in its primary and proper sense, as threatened to Adam and his posterity on account of sin, and that change which the redeemed experience. The earthly house of the believer's tabernacle must be dissolved, but the believer can never die. That dissolution is not a branch of the curse, but a part of the blessing which redemption secures.
The believer begins to live so soon as he believes; but it is a dying life which he leads while united to a sinful body. The dissolution of the body is an advanced stage of that eternal life which, commencing at regeneration, can know no interruption nor end. *
From these premises it will appear that the grave is called in our collect “ the gate of death" with strict propriety. With respect to believers it has changed its nature. The bodies of unregenerate unjustified persons are confined in the grave as in a dungeon against the judgment-day. But to the members of Christ the grave is a privileged and sanctified dormitory; nay, it is the gate of life. The Christian believer may joyfully say, “ Though I pass through the val
ley of the shadow of death, I will fear no
evil;" for there is no evil in death, since all, that was penal in it was exacted from Christ my surety.
It is further to be considered, that as the union between the body of Christ and His Divine nature was not dissolved, while His body lay in the grave, so neither is the union between Christ as the head, and the body as a constituent part of a believer in Him, dissolved, when the believer's body is consigned breathless to the tomb. The natural union between Christ's body and soul ceased for a time; but the hypostatic union between His Godhead and both the constituent parts of His manhood remained indissoluble. And in like manner Christ and His members are united as to their whole man, and can never be separated.
* See the extract from the Homily against the fear of death, quoted in the following essay.
The body of our Lord rested in hope. The grave could detain its illustrious prisoner no longer than the appointed moment. By virtue of the covenant of redemption our Redeemer, predicting His own resurrection, could say, “ I have set the Lord always before me: because “ He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. “ Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory “ rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope. “ For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nei“ther wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see cor
ruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: “ In thy presence is fulness of joy, and at thy
right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Ps. xvi. 8-11.) The believer also sleeps in Jesus with an assurance of awaking again. “ The righteous hath hope in his death.” (Prov. xiv. 32.) In a strain of exultation similar to that which his Lord has used, the believer is enabled to say, “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 who giveth us the « victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. xv. 55, 56.) “ The grave and gate of « death” is nothing else but a passage “ to a
joyful resurrection.” For Christ rose as the first fruits of them that sleep, and by His resurrection hath afforded an earnest, pledge, and assurance of ours. The bodies of believers, being the members of Christ, can no more be detained by death than Christ Himself was. He may be considered as addressing His saints in the consolatory words with which Jacob was cheered on his descent into Egypt: “ Fear not “ to go down into the grave; for I will go down “ with thee, and I will safely bring thee up “ again.'
Our ground for confidence in praying, “that through the grave and gate of death we may
pass to our joyful resurrection," is solid and immovable. For we plead “ His merits, who “ died, was buried, and rose again for us.” By His death, burial, resurrection, and glorification, as the federal head and representative of His redeemed, their justification, sanctification, resurrection, and glorification, are secured. For they are one with Him, and He is one with them. He is the head, and they the members of His mystical body.
The use of our collect supposes that “ we are o risen with Christ” through the reviving power of His Spirit, “and our affections set on things “ above.” Let us closely examine the correspondence that exists between our affections and our prayers, and determine, according to the dictates of conscience, whether the charitable hope of our church concerning us be justified by our experience. And if it should appear that we are destitute of internal evidence that we are interested in the glorious Saviour of sinners, O let us lose no time in seeking for union with Him by faith, that we may
participants in His death, burial, and resurrection. If on the contrary we have the witness in ourselves that Christ hath died, been buried, and is risen again, let us study our inestimable privileges consequent thereon. Every fresh review of them will increase our holiness and happiness.
If to be a Christian is to be dead, buried, and risen with Christ, o how few real Christians are to be found! How few know any thing of “ the power of Christ's resurrection, the fellow
ship of His sufferings, and a conformity to “ His death!” Multitudes, it is to be feared, who are called, and who call themselves Christians, have only “ a name to live,” while in fact they are « dead;” not « dead to sin,
" " but “ dead in trespasses and sins." “ Awake, thou “ that sleepest and arise from the dead, and “ Christ shall give thee light."
Almighty God, who through thine only begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life ; we beseech thee, that as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
VHE Christian church, from its earliest
age, * hath set apart a day for the commemoration of our Lord's resurrection from the dead, and has paid a peculiar respect and honour to it. “ Gregory Nazianzen after his
manner stiles Easter-day the Queen of days " and the festival of festivals, which excells all " others not only human but even those which
are instituted to the honour of Christ, as far “ as the sun goes beyond the other stars. It “ was a day of extraordinary rejoicing upon the
account of our Lord's resurrection; being, as Chrysostom stiles it, the desirable festival of
our salvation, the day of our Lord's resur“rection, the foundation of our peace, the oc“ casion of our reconciliation, the end of our
* There was an amicable dispute about the time of keeping Easter between Polycarp a disciple of St. John and Anicetus Bishop of Rome. VOL. II.