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They would shrink into a point compared with eternity; and all that we have ever thought interesting would appear insignificant, compared with the offered salvation of the gospel of Christ. This would call out our energies. This would cheer our spirits. This only, and at all times would, like the ark to Noah, rise up before us, with all the interest of a prepared and appointed shelter, from an otherwise inevitable destruction.
And you, my Christian friends, be comforted. It is awful to think that the vengeance of God, which slumbereth not, will come suddenly, terribly, unexpectedly, and fatally upon the world: that the portion of creation in which we dwell, shall be involved in annihilating flames; and that if we have not something that can outlive the destructive power of almighty vengeance, that doom, sudden and unlooked for, must be ours.
This is awful. But you have a sure word of prophecy—a sure foundation of hope. In that day that shall burn as an oven, God will spare his redeemed children, “as a father spareth his own son that serveth him." Your shield against all evil, is everlasting love, omnipotent mercy —the eternal covenant of peace in Christ Jesus. The blood of Jesus speaketh better things than the blood of Abel. This cries for mercy with a louder voice than that for vengeance. And your garments washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb, shall pass harmlessly through the fire of judgment, so that their lustre shall not be changed, nor the smell of fire pass upon them. In looking forward, my friends, to that awful day, we have no other confidence but the righteousness of him who was slain, and who is now at the right hand of God. But rest assured, that they who by his grace have really found refuge in his mercy, shall never perish. Whatever are the horrors of that last conflagration, they shall float innocently by the true servant of Christ; they shall bear him subserviently and peacefully to the eternal palaces of light.
THE SECOND ADVENT OF CHRIST DESIRABLE TO
By the Rov. JAMES HALDANE STEWART, A. M.
PHILIPPIANS, iii. 20. Our conversation is in heaven; whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord
THESE words, my friends, are taken from a chapter in which St. Paul, writing not only with the authority of an inspired Apostle, but with the tender affection of a spiritual father, declares to the Philipians his personal experience,--his principles, his desires, his practice. After relating different steps in his progress, he mentions this as his own happy state, and as the point to which he would lead his spirital children,-to be looking for the coming of the Saviour; or, as those who were citizens of “ a better country, that is, a heavenly,” to be expecting, and earnestly desiring, the day when the Lord Jesus should be manifested, and the privileges of his eternal kingdom be fully enjoyed.
This expectant state was habitual to the Apostles, and to the Christians in general of those early days. This St. Peter speaks of himself, “ as a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed.” St. John also mentions this as the general hope of the church of Christ: “ It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know, that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is.” And St. James directs his brethren to 6 stablish their hearts for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” They were all like men who were waiting for their Lord.
I proceed, then, to unfold some of the PRINCIPLE EVENTS, connected with the Advent of our Lord, which may RENDER HIS
COMING DESIRABLE TO HIS FRIENDS.
First, I would notice, that, when He comes, “ He will change our dile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body."
This is one of the blessings, which, as mentioned in the verse immediately following the text, He will then confer upon his people.
That we may the more highly value this privilege, let us briefly refer to some of the evils we suffer from our bodies as at present formed.
Their weakness. For though some are favored with so large a portion of health as to be enabled to perform much labor and to endure great fatigue, who is there amongst us who does not feel the weakness of his body as an incumbrance to the soul? Its frequent demands for food, for rest, for sleep, disable the spirit for the continued service of God. How soon is the with reading, the ear with hearing! We only serve our God a few hours, and, however pleasing the occupation, the necessities of the bodies require us to pause.
We are as creatures 66 driven before the moth.” A little pain, a little languor, a little discomposure of frame, unfits us for duty, and compels us to cease from our employment.
This, however is not the only evil. The corrupt appetites of the body are frequently inlets to sin.—These are so well known, that I need not detain you by entering on this painful theme. How delightful, then, is the truth, that when He comes, “ He will change our vile body!" that it will be no longer a hindrance, but as a help-mate to the soul; enabling it, through its medium, more perfectly to comprehend, more readily to serve, and more devoutly to adore, the great and glorious Jehovah! Those happy saints who were revealed to St. John in this glorified state, “ rest not day nor night,” but uninterruptedly continue their blessed ser-vice. They behold Him with perfect vision, without weariness, and without suffering. They adore him with constant abasement, and chaunt his praises through an eternal day.
This, my beloved friends, will be the first act the Lord will perform at his coming. I mention it, to remove the fear of the timid Christian when meditating upon this great event. The grand solemnities of that day, will at times appal the mind.
“How can I stand,' the Christian says, in the midst of melting elements and dissolving worlds ? or how can I endure the noise of the passing heavens; or retain the least composure, when all around is one general tumult?' It is this universal crash of nature that unnerves the spirit. Let it, however, be recollected, that the first work the Lord will perform on that great day, is to change the bodies of his people; and thus to assure them, before this general dissolution, that He is coming as their Friend, and their Redeemer.
How strikingly is this stated by St. Paul, in his First Epistle to the Corinthians! “Now, this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” Here you observe, that, as the trumpet sounds, it is said “we shall be changed;" even " in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”
So in the Epistle to the Thessalonians: “ For this we say unto you, by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we, which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall be ever with the Lord.” That is to say, the saints on earth when our Lord shall come will be immediately transported to a place of safety. Whilst the fire of God is about to dissolve the carth, and the elements are ready to melt with fervent heat, the followers of Christ are caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. They are 6 with him," far above the terrors of the scene, in the full possession of the favor and protection of the Lord.
This consideration may at once dissipate the fears of the timid Christian; for well may he say, Why should I fear the trumpet's sound, when that sound is to change my vile body, that it may be like to His glorious body? No rather I may rejoice, yea, greatly rejoice. For, if one who, at the season of repose, had retired to
his uneasy couch weak and feeble, the subject of disease and racking agony, would rejoice at the dawn of day to perceive his pain and debility removed, even if this healthy state should continue but for a short period; how much greater joy may fill his heart who sees that this corruptible is about to put on incorruption, and this mortal to put on immortality! The trumpet's sound will indeed be a joyful sound to him.
I mention this first privilege, also, to remove an error, into which Christians sometimes íall. Their ideas are so entirely spiritual, that, in contemplating their future blessedness, they detach from their thoughts all respect for the body. They are apt to say, • As to my body, I care not what becomes of this: when I depart, my spirit will be with the Lord; and this is all my desire. My beloved friends, however spiritual this may appear, it is not so scriptural. Let it be recollected, that, although our bodies, in their present fallen state, are a bindrance to the soul, they will be otherwise in their glorified state. As it has been well observed, when God first created man, he gave him a body: when he specially honored Enoch and Elijah, he took them body and soul to heaven: and when the heavenly gates were opened to admit the King of Glory, it was not as an unclothed spirit he passed the celestial portals; it was as one arrayed in a body like our own. Nor, my friends, will the happiness of his children be fully complete, till, like their risen Saviour, their souls are reunited to their glorified bodies, and, thus reunited, be " forever with their Lord.”
This was the hope of the pious patriarch Job. “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though, aster my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and minc eyes shall behold, and not another.” This, again, was the consoling promise addressed to the church by the Prophet Isaiah:-“ Thy dead men shall live: together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is the dew of herbs; and the carth shall cast out the dead." It is for this, also, that “ the whole creation groans and travails in pain; waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body."
This blessedness, the friends of Christ may say, shall be ours, at his coming; for then “ he will change our vile body, and fashion it like to his own glorious body."