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THE KNOWLEDGE OF ONE ANOTHER IN A FUTURE
Colossians, i. 29.
Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching
every man in all wisdom, that we may present every
man perfect in Christ Jesus. THESE words have a primary and a secondary use. In their first and most obvious view, they express the extreme earnestness and anxiety with which the apostle Paul sought the salvation of his converts. Το bring men to Jesus Christ, and when brought to turn and save them from their sins, and to keep them stead. fast unto the end, in the faith and obedience to which they were called, was the whole work of the great apostle's ministry, the desire of his heart, and the labour of his life : it was that in which he spent all his time, and all his thoughts; for the sake of which he travelled from country to country, warning every man, as he speaks in the text, and exhorting every man, enduring every hardship and every injury, ready at all times to sacrifice his life, and at last actually sacrificing it in order to accomplish the great purpose of his mission, that he might at the last day “present his beloved converts perfect in Christ Jesus.” This is the direct scope of the text. But it is not for this that I have made choice of it. The last clause of the verse contains within it, indirectly and by implication, a doctrine certainly of great personal importance, and
I trust also of great comfort, to every man who hears
The clause is this, “ that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus :" by which I understand Saint Paul to express his hope and prayer that, at the general judgment of the world, he might present to Christ the fruits of his ministry, the converts whom he had made to his faith and religion, and might present them perfect in every good work. And if this be rightly interpreted, then it affords a manifest and necessary inference that the saints in a future life will meet and be known again to one another; for how, without knowing again his converts in their new and glorious state, could Saint Paul desire or expect to present them at the last day?
My brethren, this is a doctrine of real consequence. That we shall come again to a new life; that we shall by some method or other be made happy or be made miserable, in that new state, according to the deeds done in the body, according as we have acted and governed ourselves in this world, is a point affirmed absolutely and positively in all shapes, and under every variety of expression, in almost every page of the New Testament.' It is the grand point inculcated from the beginning to the end of that book. But concerning the particular nature of the change we are to undergo, and in what is to consist the employment and happiness of those blessed spirits which are received into heaven, our information, even under the Gospel, is
limited. We own it is so. Even Saint Paul, who had extraordinary communications, confessed “ that in these things we see through a glass darkly.” But, at the same time that we acknowledge
" that we know little, we ought to remember that, without Christ, we should have known nothing. It might not be possible in our present state to convey to us, by words, more clear or explicit conceptions of what
will hereafter become of us ; if possible, it might not be fitting. In that celebrated chapter, the fifteenth of the ‘Corinthians,' St. Paul makes an inquisitive person ask, “How are the dead raised, and with what body do they come ?”—From his answer to this question we are able, I think, to collect thus much clearly and certainly : that, at the resurrection, we shall have bodies of some sort or other : that they will be totally different from and greatly excelling our present bodies, though possibly in some manner or other proceeding from them, as a plant from its seed; that, as there exists in nature a great variety of animal substances, one flesh of man, another of beasts, another of birds, another of fishes ; as there exists also great differences in the nature, dignity, and splendour of inanimate substances, “one glory of the sun, another of the moon, another of the stars ;" so there subsist, likewise, in the magazines of God Almighty's creation, two very distinct kinds of bodies (still both bodies), a natural body and a spiritual body; that the natural body is what human beings bear about with them now, the spiritual body, far surpassing the other, what the blessed will be clothed with hereafter. “ Flesh and blood,” our apostle teaches, “ cannot inherit the kingdom of God;" that is, is by no means suited to that state, is not capable of it. Yet living men are flesh and blood ; the dead in the graves are the remains of the same : wherefore, to make all, who are Christ's, capable of entering into his eternal kingdom, and at all fitted for it, a great change shall be suddenly wrought. As well all the just, who shall be alive at the coming of Christ (whenever that event takes place), as those who shall be raised from the dead, shall in the twinkling of an eye be all changed. Bodies they shall retain still, but so altered in form and fashion, in nature and substance, that “this corruptible shall put on incorruption;" what is now necessarily mortal and necessarily perishable shall acquire a fixed and permanent existence. And this is agreeable to, or rather the same thing as what our apostle delivers in another epistle, where he teaches us that Christ shall change our vile body, that it may be like his glorious body; a change so great, so stupendous, that he justly styles it an act of Omnipotence, “according,” says he, “to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.” Since, then, a great alteration will take place in the frame and constitution of the bodies with which we shall be raised, from those which we carry with us to the grave, it requires some authority or passage of Scripture to prove that, after this change, and in this new state, we shall be known again to one another; that those who know each other on earth will know each other in heaven. I do allow that the general strain of Scripture seems to suppose it; that, when Saint Paul speaks “of the spirits of just men made perfect,” and of their “coming to the general assembly of saints,” it seems to import that we should be known of them, and of one another ; that, when Christ declares “ that the secrets of the heart shall be disclosed,” it imports that they shall be disclosed to those who were before the witnesses of our actions. I do also think that it is agreeable to the dictates of reason itself to believe that the same great God, who brings men to life again, will bring those together whom death has separated. When his power is at work in this great dispensation, it is very probable that this should be a part of his gracious design. But for a specific text, I know none which speaks the thing more positively than this which I have chosen. Saint Paul, you see, expected that he should know and be known to those, his converts ; that their relations should subsist and be retained between them; and with this hope he laboured and endeavoured, instantly and incessantly, that he might be able at last to present them, and to present them perfect, in Christ Jesus. Now what Saint Paul appeared to look for as to the general continuance, or rather revival, of our knowledge of each other after death, every man who strives, like Saint Paul, to attain to the resurrection of the dead, may expect as well as he.
Having discoursed thus far concerning the article of the doctrine itself, I will now proceed to enforce such practical reflections as result from it. Now it is necessary for you to observe that all which is here produced from Scripture concerning the resurrection of the dead relates solely to the resurrection of the just. It is of them only that Saint Paul speaks in the fifteenth chapter of the ‘Corinthians. It is of the body of him, who is accepted in Christ, that the apostle declares “that it is sown in dishonour, but raised in glory ; sown in weakness, raised in power.” Likewise, when he speaks in another place of “Christ changing our vile bodies that they may be like his glorious body;" it is of the bodies of Christ's saints alone of whom this is said. This point is, I think,
, agreed upon amongst learned men, and is indeed very plain. In like manner, in the passage of the text, and I think it will be found true of every other, in which mankind knowing one another in a future life is implied, the implication extends only to those who are received amongst the blessed. Whom was Saint Paul to know ? even those whom he was to present perfect in Christ Jesus. Concerning the reprobate and rejected, whether they will not be banished from the presence of God, and from all their former relations ; whether they will not be lost, as to all happiness of their own, so to the knowledge of those who