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On the same subject.
Sermons on important Subjects.
LIFE AND IMMORTALITY REVEALED IN THE GOSPEL,
2 TIM. 1. 10.
And hath brought life and immortality to light by
SO extensive have been the havock and devastation which death has made in the world for near six thousand years, ever since it was first introduced by the sin of man, that this earth is now become one vast grave-yard, or burying-place for her sons. The many generations that have followed upon each other, in so quick a succession from Adam to this day, are now in the mansions under ground. And there must we and all the present generation sleep ere long. Some make a short journey from the womb to the grave : they rise from nothing at the creative fiat of the Almighty, and take an immediate flight into the world of spirits, without an intermediate state of probation. Like a bird on the wing, they perch on our globe, rest a day, a month, or'a year, and then fly off for some other regions. It is evident, these were not formed for the purposes of the present state, where they make so short a stay ; and yet we are sure they are not made in vain by an all-wise Creator ; and therefore we conclude they are young immortals, that immediately ripen in the world of spirits, and there enter upon scenes, for which it was worth their while coming into existence.
Others spring up and bloom for a few years ; but they fade away like a flower, and are cut down. Others arrive at the prime or meridian of human life ; but in all their strength and gaiety, and amid their hurries and schemes, and promising prospects, they are surprised by the arrest of death,
• This Sermon was preached at the funeral of Mr. William Yuille, and is dated Sept. 1, 1756. VOL. II.
A few creep
and laid stiff, senseless, and ghastly in the grave. into their beds of dust under the burden of old age and the gradval decays of nature. In short, the grave is the place appointed for all living ; the general rendezvous of all the sons of Adam. There the prince and the beggar, the conqueror and the slave, the giant and the infant, the scheming politician and the simple peasant, the wise and the fool, Heathens, Jews, Mahometans, and christians, all lie equally low, and mingle their dust without distinction. There beauty in all its charms putrifies into stench and corruption, and feeds the vilest insects. There the sturdy arme of youth lies torpid and benumbed, unable to drive off the worms that crawl through their frame, and riot upon their marrow. There lie our ancestors, our neighbours, our friends, our relatives, with whom we once conversed, and who were united to our hearts by strong and endearing ties; and there lies our friend, the sprightly, vigorous youth, whose death is the occasion of this funeral solemnity. This earth is overspread with the ruins of the human frame : it is an huge carnage, a vast charnal-louse, undermined and hollowed with the graves, the last mansions of mortals.
And shall these ruins of time and death never be repaired ? Is this the final state of human nature ? Are all these millions of creatures, that were so curiously formed, that could think, and will, and exercise the superior powers of reason, are they all utterly extinct, absorbed into the yawning gulf of annihilation, and never again to emerge into life and activity ? If this be the case, the expostulation of the psalmist upon this supposition, seems unavoidable ; Lord, wherefore hast thou made all men in vain ? Psalm Ixxxix. 47. It was not worth while to come into being, if it must be resigned so soon. The powers of reason were thrown away upon us, they were given only for the low purposes of the present life.
But my text revives us with heavenly light to scatter this tremendous gloom. Jesus hath abolished death, overthrown its empire, and delivered its captives ; and he hath brought life and immortality to light by the gospel.
Life and immortality here seem to refer both to the soul and the body, the two constituents of our person. As applied to the body, life and immortality signify, that though our bodies are dissolved at death, and return into their native elements, yet they shall be formed anew with vast improvements, and raised to an
immortal existence; so that they shall be as though death never had had any power over them; and thus death shall be abolished, annihilated, and all traces of the ruins it had made forever disap. pear, as though they had never been. It is in this sense chiefly that the word Immortality or Incorruptibility,* is made use of in my text. But then the resurrection of the body supposes the perpetual existence of the soul, for whose sake it is raised : therefore life and immortality, as referring to the soul, signify that it is im. mortal, in a strict and proper sense ; that is, that it cannot die at all, or be dissolved like the body ; but it lives in the agonies of the dying animal ; it lives after the dissolution of the animal frame in a separate state ; it lives at the resurrection to re-animate the new formed body; and it lives forever, like its mortal Parent, and shall never be dissolved nor annibilated. In this complex sense we may understand the immortality of which my text speaks.
Now it is to the gospel that we owe the clear discovery of immortality in both these senses. As for the resurrection of the dead, which confers a kind of immortality upon our mortal bodies, it is altogether the discovery of divine revelation. The light of nature could not so much as give a hint of it to the most sagacious philosophers in the heathen world. They did not hope for it as possible, much less believe it as certain. And when, among other important doctrines of pure revelation, it was first preached to them by St. Paul, their pride could not bear the mortification of being taught by a tent maker what all their studies had not been able to discover ; and therefore rejected it with scorn, and ridi. culed it as a new-fangled notion of the superstitious Jews. This seems to have been an entire secret to all nations (except the Jews) till the light of christianity dawned upon the world. They bade an eternal farewell to their bodies, when they dropped them in the grave. They never expected to meet them again in all the glorious improvements of an happy resurrection. But that divine revelation from whence we learn our religion, opens to us a brighter prospect; it strengthens our eyes to look forward through the glooms of death, and behold the many that sleep in the dust awaking ; 8ome to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Dan. xii. 2. It assures us, that the hour is coming, when all that are in the grave shall hear the voice of the Son of God, 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,
* αφθαρσία. .