"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." (1 Corinthians 15:22,23)
We are met together this morning for the purpose of worshipping our Maker in the sanctuary service, and on this occasion to pay a tribute of respect to the Lord's servant, and your late pastor, Mr. Parsons, by preaching what is generally called a Funeral Sermon. It will not be necessary for me to make frequent allusions in this discourse to the last illness and death of Mr. Parsons; as many things that dropped from his lips, during his illness up to the time of his death, were taken down, which I will read to you at the close of the discourse, that you may see and know, having it from his own mouth, what was the state of his mind; the object of his faith; the ground of his hope; and the joy and consolation of his soul, even in the prospect of speedy dissolution; and what his views were of those great and glorious truths of the everlasting gospel, which he had preached among you, and elsewhere for many years. It is very blessed and satisfactory to know that he found those great things of God all-sufficient to support his soul, and to cause him to triumph over death, with a good hope through grace, full of immortality and glory.
In his removal from you, you sustain a great loss; and are now left as sheep having no shepherd, which, I doubt not, you feel very keenly. But notwithstanding, there is cause to be thankful that his labor among you was not in vain in the Lord. And having finished his work, and accomplished as an hireling his day, the Lord has called him from the field of action; taken him from a sinful, disordered, confused and miserable world, no longer to bear the heat and burden of the day; for ever freed from a body of sin and death; out of the reach of a tempting devil, with a final farewell to all the trials in life, which in his case were neither few, nor small; and to finish his course with joy, shouting "Victory through the blood of the Lamb." These things, rightly considered, we can but thank God on his behalf. I need not tell you that his ministry among you was not in the mere letter of truth, but in the spirit and with power, as I have no doubt there are several in this large assembly this morning who are living witnesses that the gospel he preached was the power of God to salvation, inasmuch as it came with power, in the Holy Ghost, and with much assurance to your hearts. And in your case it may be said of your late pastor, as Paul said in his appeal to the Corinthians, "If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you; for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord." (1 Cor. 9:2) And those here this morning, who are so many seals to the ministry of your late pastor, will be the crown of his rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus. Then he who sowed the seed, and you who reaped the fruit of his labor, will both rejoice in the Lord of the harvest.
I will not occupy the time this morning in speaking on the verses preceding our text, although this chapter contains many great and important things. The principal thing treated on is, the doctrine of the resurrection, which Paul advocates and maintains in the face of all opposers. And this is such an essential doctrine, that our salvation depends upon it; as Paul clearly proves; "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; and they which have fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 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." (1 Cor. 15:16-18,20,21)
The text contains three leading features; First; death that came upon all through Adam's transgression: Secondly; the blessing of life that comes upon all through the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ: and Thirdly; the order that is observed: "but every man in his own order; Christ the firstfruits, afterward they that are Christ's at his coming."
As I hope to get through the text this morning, I must be brief on each particular head. But before I commence the subject, perhaps there are some here this morning who may ask, 'why there has been such a lapse of time between the death of Mr. Parsons, and the preaching of his funeral sermon?' In reply, I can only say, that my many previous engagements (and not the want of inclination to comply with your request in paying this tribute of respect to the memory of a brother in Christ Jesus, and fellow laborer in the Lord's vineyard) have been the cause of the delay.
The First thing we have to consider in the text, is, death by Adam. When the Lord created Adam out of the dust, and placed him in the garden, he gave him free liberty to eat of all the trees, excepting the one in the midst of the garden; and told him, that in eating of that one tree he should "surely die." But Adam broke through the bounds set him by his Maker, and ate the fruit of the tree of which the Lord told him he should not eat, and by this act entailed death upon himself and all his posterity; for by this one man's disobedience many, yea, all are made sinners. In this way sin entered into the world; and as sin is a transgression of the law, and the crime visited with death, death is passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. And this awful sentence is not confined to the body, "for the soul that sinneth it shall die." (Ezek. 18:4,20)
There appears to be three branches of death in this sentence. 1. Temporal death of the body. 2. Spiritual death of the soul, And 3. Eternal death of both body and soul.
1. In respect to the body, "It is appointed unto all men once to die, and after that the judgment." (Heb. 9:27) Therefore, we may all say with Job, "I know that thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living." (Job 30:23) "For what man is he that liveth and shall not see death?" (Ps. 89:48) And it is certain our time is short, and our days numbered; the bounds fixed which we cannot pass. For there is a "time to be born, and a time to die." (Eccle. 3:2) And Job, reflecting on the short space of time allotted man on the earth, saith, "Are not my days few? cease then from me, and let me alone that I may take comfort a little." (Job 10:20) And it is certain, that the short passage between the womb and the grave, is a very stormy passage; a path strewed with sorrows; for we not only spend our days as a tale that is told, but they are spent in grief. For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief." (Eccle. 2:23) Thus, "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble; he cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and continueth not." (Job 14:1,2) "Man dieth, and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?" (Job 14:10) Thus, man "lieth down, and riseth not till the heavens be no more; he shall not awake nor be raised out of his sleep." (Job 14:12) But these things are so self-evident, that I need not enlarge on this branch of death; therefore, pass on,
2. To speak next of the spiritual death of the soul, a death in trespasses and sins; which, I understand, to mean a total alienation of the soul from God, his truth, and ways. For man naturally goes astray from God as a lost sheep. "We turn," as the Prophet saith, "each to our own evil way." We make to ourselves crooked paths, and in them we walk, and are strangers to peace; in fact spiritual death consists in a total and absolute estrangement from God, and everything that is spiritually good. Every faculty of the soul is turned as it were out of its original channel, consequently in man there is not one spiritual good thing towards the Lord God of Israel. And not only is the whole head sick, and the whole heart faint; but man is even as a corpse, motionless Godward, hence we are told, that "The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God; and there was none, for they are gone aside; they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." (Psalm 14:2,3) Fallen man, as touching his understanding, is blindfolded through the ignorance that is in him. In respect to wisdom, in the important matter of salvation, he is a fool; but, being wise in his own conceit, like Solomon's fool, he hates knowledge, and despiseth all teaching. In respect to sight, he is absolutely blind; consequently, is incapable of judging aright in spiritual things. The gospel is hid from him; the way to the kingdom he cannot discern; nor can he see any beauty in Christ for the want of sight. In his will he is opposed to God, and to everything the Lord has in his word enjoined to his children to be by them observed, saying, "We will not have this man to reign over us." (Luke 19:14) In mind, he is enmity against both God and his law. As touching his affections, he is a lover of the world, and in heart a hater of God, his children, of all vital godliness, and a despiser of that narrow path that is above to the wise that he may depart from hell beneath. He has no desire for God, or a knowledge of his ways; but a serving of diverse lusts, and seeking to gratify the desires of his fleshly mind. In heart he is an enemy to God, a rebel, and traitor to his kingdom, fighting against the God of armies, and stout-hearted in the cause of sin and Satan. In fact, fallen man is in league with the devil, in bondage to the world, and in love with sin; he is Satan's vassal; and sin, in one form, shape, or other, reigns within even unto death; and in many cases, the heart of man is so dreadfully hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, that he neither fears God nor regards man. This is the portrait the scriptures draw of fallen man; and a frightful and awful picture it is; and as the Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots, neither can man alter his state, nor change his character. (Jer. 13:23) He is an alien from God by birth and practice, without Christ, without hope, and without God in the world. (Eph. 2:12) In this state he lives in the world; and in this state he will go out of the world, if not made alive by Christ. It is true, there are some in their natural estate who are not to be classed with the ungodly world; but then, they are in character either hypocrites in Zion, or those who serve God in the oldness of the letter and not in the newness of the spirit; (Rom. 7:6) or, they who have the form of godliness, a knowledge of the truth in the letter, but not the power of it in their hearts. (2 Tim. 3:5) The hypocrite in Zion, who is the worst character, draws nigh to God with his mouth, but his heart is far from him. (Matt. 15:8) They who serve God in the oldness of the letter, are seeking the kingdom of heaven in a way it never can be obtained. And they who have only a knowledge of the truth in the letter, are destitute of the essential thing, namely, life. Therefore, view man in which way or character you may, he is in the things of God a lifeless corpse. In this image, Adam begat his children; and in this state, we are all born into this world.
3. The third branch of death is eternal death of both body and soul; and this sentence is passed upon all men through Adam's transgression, as the apostle declares in his epistle to the Romans, "That by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation." (Rom. 5:18) Under this awful sentence, every one is born into this world. And his case in this respect is not very unlike the case of a criminal at the bar of justice, put upon his trial; witnesses have been examined, his guilt established, and the judge having passed the sentence of death upon him he is taken back to prison, shut up in the condemned cell to be brought forth to be executed at the time appointed. So man, being born into the world under this sentence, he is dead in law; he is condemned by the law as a transgressor, and by the gospel as an unbeliever; for "He that believeth not is condemned already." (John 3:18) And the lapse of time between man's birth and death, is like the short space of time between the sentence being passed on the criminal and his being brought forth on the day of execution. And as God is a just God, and will in no wise clear the guilty; (Num. 14:18) unless we are delivered from this awful state and condition, this sentence will be faithfully executed; for God is faithful to his threatenings, as well as to his promises; for "He is not as man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent;" (Num. 23:19) not one jot or tittle of the law shall pass away till all be fulfilled. (Matt. 5:18) This being the case, what an awful and solemn state is man placed in through the Adam transgression? This sentence in the case of those who die in their sins, will be executed when they depart this life, so far as the soul is concerned; and at the resurrection at the last day, both body and soul will be cast into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone. This is the second death. (Rev. 20:13,14) And in every sense of the word, man in Adam dies.
The word "all" in the text, as it relates to Adam and Christ, must be viewed as relating to each as the head of each body. The word "all," in respect to Adam, and death by him, must be taken in an unrestricted sense; it must have its full latitude. Therefore, in Adam, all, every individual dies; even so in Christ shall all be made alive. And the word "all" as it relates to life by Christ, must be taken in an unrestricted sense, and in respect to the resurrection of the body, for "there will be a resurrection both of the just and of the unjust," (Acts 24:15) "all who are in their graves shall hear his voice, and come forth." (John 5:28,29) But, as it respects being delivered from the sentence of death in a broken law, from a death in trespasses and sins, and from going down into the pit of hell, the word "all" must be restricted to that body of which Christ is the head, namely, the church. For as the man is the head of the woman; so is Christ the head of the church. (Eph. 5:23) Therefore, the church of the living God, the bride the Lamb's wife, shall assuredly be made alive by Christ, as she died in Adam in common with all others, which is,
The Second thing we have to notice in the text, "Even so in Christ shall all be made alive." Life is the gift, promise, and blessing of God, entailed to Christ and all the seed in him; even as death, the wages of sin, is entailed to Adam, and all his posterity in him, "for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 6:23) And again, "In hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began." (Titus 1:2) And David saith, in allusion to Christ, "Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into thy lips, therefore God hath blessed thee forever:" (Ps. 45:2) and tells us furthermore, that "Men shall be blessed in him." (Ps. 72:17) And we know that the Lord's blessing commanded on Mount Zion is "life for evermore." (Ps. 133:3) This being the case, they are not only made alive by Christ; but by virtue of their union, they inherited this blessing in Christ even before they died in Adam; and to the enjoyment of this blessing, they were, by the Father of mercies, and God of comfort, ordained. Hence we read, that they which were "ordained to eternal life believed;" (Acts 13:48) and "he that believeth is passed from death unto life, and shall never more come into condemnation." (John 5:24) And Paul tells the Colossians, that their "life is hid with Christ in God; and that when Christ who is their life shall appear, they shall appear with him in glory." (Col. 3:3,4) And Christ saith, "I am the resurrection and the life." (John 11:25) He is the head of influence, the life of the body the church; yea, the fountain of life from whence the streams flow to make glad the city of God. (Ps. 46:4)
But, as these all died in Adam in common with the rest, they must be delivered from this state, in order to possess and enjoy this blessing, to which as heirs they were ordained before the world began: and to deliver them from death, that they might possess life, Christ came into this world. Hence, He saith, "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death;" (Hos. 13:14) "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) The wise man tells us how this was accomplished, "Riches profit nothing in the day of wrath; but righteousness delivereth from death." (Prov. 11:4) This righteousness is the one obedience of Christ to the law of God; for Paul saith, "For, if by one man's offence, death reigned by one; much more they which receive the abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so, by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience on one shall many be made righteous." (Rom. 5:17-19) And with the obedience of Christ unto righteousness, the Father is well-pleased.
But still the sentence in the law is, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." The law will not forego its claim; nor can the justice of God be sacrificed to make way for mercy. Hence the necessity of the death of Christ for the sins of his people, to whom he stood in the character of bondsman and substitute. In the death of this substitute the law receives its due; and, as "without shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin," (Heb. 9:22) Christ, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, offered himself without spot to God, and put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. In this way, the law is magnified and honored; with the price justice is satisfied; and as sin, which is both the cause and sting of death, is put away; and the law, which is the strength of sin to condemn the sinner, is obeyed, God is just in passing the sentence of justification to eternal life on the sinner. In this way the life of the firstborn is redeemed. And this blessed branch of redemption was figured forth to Israel in Egypt when the Passover was instituted; for Paul applies this ordinance to Christ, and saith, "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us." (1 Cor. 5:7) If you read the history in the Book of Exodus, ch. 11 and 12, you will find Moses, being instructed of God, tells the people that the Lord had hardened Pharaoh's heart, and that at midnight the Lord would smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt from the king upon the throne unto the maid behind the mill, and all the firstborn of beasts. Moses points out to them the way and means by which they are to be preserved from this general slaughter. They were to take a male lamb of the first year without blemish, they were to kill it in the evening, roast it with fire, and eat it with their loins girded; they were also to take the blood of the lamb, and sprinkle it on the side and upper door-posts of their several houses. "And this blood, saith the Lord, shall be to you a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you when I smite the land of Egypt." In this manner the life of the firstborn of Israel were preserved, when all the firstborn of Egypt were cut off. Therefore the Lord said to Moses, "Sanctify unto me all the firstborn: whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast, it is mine." The firstborn male of clean beast was offered a sacrifice to the Lord; the firstborn male ass was to be redeemed with a lamb or have his neck broken: and the firstborn of Israel was to be redeemed with a lamb without blemish.
The firstborn of Israel figures forth the church of God, called "the church of the firstborn," (Heb. 12:23) and "first fruits of God's creatures;" (James 1:18) even so, in like manner, the lamb figures forth Christ, "the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) David had a clear view, and a blessed experience of this redemption in his own soul; for he saith, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases, who redeemeth thy life from destruction." (Ps. 103:2-4) And so had King Hezekiah; for he saith, "Thou in love to my soul hath redeemed me from the pit of corruption." (Isa. 38:17) And another saith, "Into thy hand I commit my spirit; for thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth." (Ps. 31:5) And Peter tells us, that we are "not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without spot or blemish." (1 Pet. 1:18,19) To this sin-bearing and sin-atoning Lamb of God we are wholly indebted for redemption. And mark, how John pointed him out to the people as "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!" For, he not only bore our sins in his own body on the tree, but put them away by the sacrifice of himself. And they are put away for ever, blotted out as thick cloud, cast behind the Lord's back, and drowned in the depth of the sea; so that "when the sins of Judah shall be sought for, they shall not be found." (Jer. 50:20) And this is figured forth by the goat brought to the door of the tabernacle; on his head the priest laid the sins of the congregation; when the ceremony is gone through, the goat is let go into the wilderness, bearing away the sins of the people into a land not inhabited. (Levit. 16:21,22) And, as it has been before observed, that sin is both the cause and sting of death, take away the cause, and the effect ceases; remove sin from man, and he is left a righteous man: and the law does not condemn a righteous man; here lies his security from the sentence of death in a broken law. Impute the righteousness of Christ to him, and he becomes the righteousness of God in it: this is his title to the kingdom of heaven. And thus, by this Almighty ransomer are ruined sinners redeemed from death, delivered from going down into the pit of hell, and redeemed unto God. Well may it be said that "the redemption of the soul is precious, (for the ransom of a man's life is his riches,") and it ceases for ever."
In addition to this, the redeemed of the Lord are delivered from death in trespasses and sins, and put in possession of spiritual life in their souls; and as spiritual life is the firstfruit and earnest of eternal life, it secures to them this blessing, and at the same time is their security from going down into the pit of hell, which is "the second death." And Christ himself tells us how this is brought about, saying, "For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will." (John 5:21) Therefore, "the dead hear the voice of the Son of God;" (John 5:25) and life is the effect of it--for "it is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." (John 6:63) Therefore, as King in Zion he speaks to the heart of an elect vessel of mercy; life and power attend the word spoken, and the soul is brought forth into spiritual existence. The incorruptible seed of grace is sown in the heart: in this way they pass from death unto life, and shall never more come into condemnation. And this is such an essential thing, that without this change none can enter the kingdom of heaven, for Christ declares, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven." (John 3:3) There is, therefore, a necessity for a person to be born of water and of the Spirit. David speaks of this under the idea of a person raised from the grave, saying, "Thou hast brought up my soul from the grave; thou hast kept me alive that I should not go down into the pit." (Ps. 30:3)
But perhaps some of you may be ready to say, the great question with me is, 'Am I in possession of this blessing?' Well, my friends, let us examine this question a little. What do you know about it? The great, the grand, the essential difference between a mere empty professor of the truth, and a real saint of God is life. The latter has it; the former has it not: and we are told, that God is "not the God of the dead but of the living." (Matt. 22:32) If you and I, with all our profession, are not in possession of this invaluable blessing of life in our souls, God is not our God. If we do not possess it, whether we can claim God or not to the comfort of our disconsolate minds, he is our God. Time will not admit of my going into this subject to any extent today, I shall therefore only mention a few particular things which relate to the life of God in the soul of a sinner.
We are told, that "the Lord made man out of the dust of the earth;" therefore, our bodies, the exterior of man, is dust, and to dust it must return. And after the body was framed, cast as it were in a mold, "the Lord breathed into Adam's nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul." (Gen. 2:7) Now it is exactly so in respect to spiritual life. Adam's body was lifeless until the Lord breathed into it the breath of spiritual life. This is set forth in Ezekiel's vision; the valley of dry bones is the whole election of grace in the figure in their Adam state, dry, barren, yea, dead; the wind is figurative of the Spirit of God; the blowing of the wind upon the slain, and the effect of it, is a representation of the Spirit and power of God the Holy Ghost in quickening a sinner to newness of life. (Ezek. 37:14) And, as in consequence of the Lord's breathing into Adam's nostrils the breath of life, Adam breathed in natural: so, in a spiritual sense, the breathing of our souls to God in prayer is the effect of the breath of God being breathed into our souls: for what is prayer but the breathings of the soul to God in desires, cravings, hungerings, and thirstings after the Lord? In these breathings are fervent prayer and supplications, ardent desires and longings: "O that I knew where I might find him!" (Job 23:3) "As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, so my soul thirsteth for God, yea, the living God." (Ps. 42:1,2) "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none on earth I desire beside Thee!" (Ps. 73:25) In all these cases, we see the breath of life in the soul in operation. Feeling, as well as seeing we are sinners, is the effect of life; and a spiritual appetite for spiritual food, a spiritual palate to taste, and a spiritual relish for the provision which the Lord hath made, is a proof of life in the soul; and in feeding by faith on this provision, the soul is kept alive.
But my time being short, I must pass over many important things which relate to life in the soul, and go on to notice the next leading feature in text, which is, the order observed; "But every man in his own order; Christ, the first-fruits, and afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." Christ is the first-begotten from the dead; (Col. 1:18) the first fruits of them that slept; and his resurrection secures the resurrection of all his seed. "For thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise," saith Christ. (Isa. 26:19) "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." (John 11:25) "For this is the Father's will who hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but raise it up again at the last day." (John 6:39) But, in other respects, this order is observed. It appears there was some in the Corinthian church who did not believe in the resurrection; but Paul had received this doctrine from the Lord; and as he knew that the salvation of the church depended on it, he made this glorious doctrine a leading and prominent feature in his ministry; and having, in this chapter, established in a blessed and most masterly manner this doctrine he presupposes they will say to him, "How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come?" Paul's reply is, "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 some other grain; but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body." (1 Cor. 15:36-38) Here is the order, "to every seed his own body." Paul's drift appears to me to be this, that whatever may be the different appearance of the body in the resurrection from that in which it was sown, they will rise from the dead the same in grain. If I sow wheat on my farm, I do not reap barley; if I sow barley, I do not reap wheat. Now, as God giveth to every seed his own body, it conveys this idea to me, that the dead will be raised, and come forth in the same identical body that it was sown, the selfsame person, and in the same state in respect to character; for "there is no work nor device in the grave" whither we are all hastening, to alter the case, or change the character of the dead; for although the body molders into its native dust and sees corruption, every particle of dust is preserved, and the body will at the resurrection be reconstructed of the very same material, and the same body and soul reunited; and whatever difference there may be in the appearance, formation, or construction of the body, it will be the same person and character in the resurrection as in death. And this will apply both to the just and the unjust. Neither the grave in respect to the body, nor hell in respect to the souls of the wicked, will change their character; they die in union with Adam, in union with him they will arise; they die under the law and its curse; they die with the wrath of God in their tabernacle; and in this state they will appear in the resurrection. They die in the image of Adam, and in that image they will arise, which image the Lord will despise. They die enemies to God, and enemies they will rise from the dead; they die in enmity against God and his law, and this will be their state and character when they are summoned to appear at the judgment seat of Christ: they die in rebellion against God, despisers of his truth and children, and haters of his ways, and in this state and character they will appear in the resurrection at the last day. Thus every man will appear in his own order.
In respect to the righteous, they die in union with Christ; and this union will not be dissolved in death. They die in the image of Christ, and in this image they will appear in the resurrection; for "as we have borne the image of the earthly, so shall we also bear the image of the heavenly." (1 Cor. 15:49) They die righteous persons in the righteousness of Christ, and in that wedding garment they will appear in the resurrection. They die perfect and complete in Christ, and in the resurrection they will appear without fault, spot or blemish before a just and holy God. They die in possession of the blessing of justification, and pardoned sinners they will appear in the resurrection. They die lovers of God, his children, truth, and ways; and such will be their character in the resurrection. In a word, they die in peace; with a good hope through grace, full of immortality and glory; and in the resurrection, they will lift up their heads with joy, knowing that their redemption is come. And it is very encouraging and comforting to surviving friends to know that your late beloved pastor died not only in possession, but in the sweet enjoyment of these things. And his body, which is now moldering into its native dust not many feet from where I now stand, is resting in hope of "the appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who shall change his vile body, and fashion it like unto his glorious body." (Phil. 3:21) "It is now sown in corruption, but will be raised in incorruption; it is sown in weakness, but will be raised in power; it is sown a natural body, but will be raised a spiritual body; it is sown in dishonour, but will be raised in glory." (1 Cor. 15:42,43) It was a pleasing and blessed anticipation of these great and glorious things that enabled him to meet death without fear: and "this honour have all the saints." Thus "every man in his own order."
"Afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." Christ will have his own. No blunders nor mistakes will be made in seeking them out; for "he knoweth his own sheep, and calleth them by name." (John 10:3) 'But,' say you, 'O that I did but know that I am one of the Lord's sheep!' And perhaps, the following lines of the Poet describe the exercise of your mind:
"When thou, my righteous Judge, shalt come,
To call thy ransom'd people home,
Shall I among them stand?
Shall such a worthless worm as I,
Who sometimes am afraid to die,
Be found at thy right hand?"
It is a great thing to say 'We are thine!' And personally to say, 'I am thine!' Is a blessing indeed. I am now and shall be thine, when time shall be no more!'
In bringing the subject to a close, I will make a few remarks in respect to those who will be found to be Christ's at his second coming. The first thing I shall notice is this: "If the spirit of Him who raised up Christ from the dead will also quicken your mortal body by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." (Rom. 8:11) Therefore, the indwelling of the Spirit proves us to be his. But "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his;" (Rom. 8:9) for the promise is, "I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thy offspring." (Isa. 44:3) And "as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God; and if sons, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. If so be we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." (Rom. 8:14,17) Now what do you know of these things? What mark, proof, or evidence have you that the Spirit of Christ dwelleth in you? 'How shall I know,' say you, 'that I have the Spirit of Christ?' Why, the Spirit of Christ is a spirit that giveth life; it is a spirit of grace and supplication. The spirit leads the ruined, guilty, condemned sinner to Christ; reveals Christ to him, takes of the things that are Christ's, and makes them known to him. It is a spirit of power to bring and keep us from the world; it is a spirit of love, and draws forth our affections to Christ, his children, truth, and ways; and, in due time, as a spirit of adoption, bearing witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. Do you know anything of these things? And how can you account for that peace, quietness, and composure of mind in your late pastor, when on the brink of dissolution, but in this way? He knew what the sentence of acquittal was by happy experience; he knew what he was in himself, a vile polluted sinner; but he knew also a precious Jesus, who had put away his sin, and through faith was enabled to realize and enjoy in his soul the blessing of justification; joy, peace, and calmness of mind was the blessed effect, and in possession of these blessings fell asleep in Jesus: and "they which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." Do you know, my dear friends, what these things are by experience? Do you know what it is to feel yourself a guilty, condemned sinner? Do you know what the bondage of the law, the wrath of God, and terrors of the Almighty is from experience? And do you know what it is to cry from your heart, "God be merciful to me a sinner?" Has he stripped you of your own righteousness? And are you seeking, praying and wrestling to obtain a blessing from the Lord? Will nothing short of this satisfy the desires and cravings of thy soul? If this be thy case, then you have the scriptures of truth on your side to encourage you; therefore, go on, and give the Lord no rest till he arise and have mercy on you.
But again. Paul said at the close of his life, "I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course: I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me in that day: and not to me only, but to all them also that love his appearing." (2 Tim. 4:7,8) Do you love his appearing at a throne of grace, in answering your prayers to the joy and rejoicing of your heart? Do you love his appearing in the sanctuary in blessing the word to your edification and comfort? Do you love his appearing in trouble to help, strengthen, and uphold you, and in due time to deliver you? Do you love his appearing at the mercy-seat, in communing with you, in shedding his love abroad in your heart, manifesting himself unto you, and blessing you? Then, sure I am, you will love his appearing when He shall come in the clouds of heaven, to be admired in all them that believe. But time fails me. The Lord grant this may be our happy end and state for his Name's sake. Amen.