Resurrection— Christ the Firstfruits
“ But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”— 1 Cor. 15:20
THE fact of Christ’s resurrection is exceedingly well attested. It was needful that it should be beyond dispute, since it lies at the very basis of our holy faith; it is consoling to think that it is so; for thus our foundation standeth most secure. Our Lord was careful to show himself after his resurrection to those who, having known him before his decease, would be able to answer for the identity of his person. Had he merely showed himself to strangers who had not known him before, they might have been able to say that they had seen such an one, but they could not have affirmed that he was the selfsame person who had been buried; but showing himself to men like Thomas, and bidding them put their fingers into the print of the nails and thrust their hand into his side, he gave to men the most absolute proofs of his resurrection, and received from the most competent witnesses the most assured evidence that no deception had been practiced. “Handle me, and see that it is I myself,” was a challenge of identity all the more conclusive because it was addressed to the men who had known him intimately during the whole period of his ministry. The witnesses were men who had nothing to gain by giving their evidence, but everything to lose; they were unlearned men, utterly unfitted to found or promulgate an imposture, and their evidence was so clearly borne out by the absence of the body of Christ from the tomb that it was found necessary to invent an impossible story in order to account for that absence. The eye-witnesses were just the right men, such as prudence would select if we had now to hand down such a transaction to future faith and history. Our Lord, to put the matter beyond controversy, took care to appear many times, and to numerous companies. Our apostle gives a summary of those appearances which had most fully come under his own notice. “He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”— 1 Cor. xv. 5 —8. From the evangelistic reports we are led to believe that Christ appeared no less than twelve times to his disciples; for some of these instances which the apostle Paul mentions under one head, may include two or three appearances; as, for instance, “then of the twelve” may denote his two visits to the apostles; for you remember he first appeared to them when Thomas was absent, and afterwards when Thomas was present. Isaac Ambrose gives a summary of these appearances to this effect. He shewed himself to Mary Magdalen apart, then to all the Maries, next to Simon Peter alone, afterwards to the two disciples journeying to Emmaus; to the ten apostles when the doors were shut; to all the disciples when Thomas was with them; to Peter, John, and others while fishing in the lake of Tiberias; to five hundred brethren at once; to James, the Lord’s brother; to the eleven disciples in Galilee; to all the apostles and disciples at Olivet before his ascension; and lastly to the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus. There may even have been more than these, for we have no proof that all his appearances are on record Enough, however, we have, and more would answer no useful end.
So clear is the evidence of Christ’s resurrection, that when Gilbert West— a celebrated infidel— selected this subject as the point of attack, sitting down to weigh the evidence and to digest the whole matter, although filled with prejudice, he was so startled with the abundant witness to the truth of this fact, that he expressed himself a convert, and has left as a heritage for coming generations a most valuable treatise, entitled “Observations on the Resurrection of Christ.” He laid down certain laws of evidence to begin with, and then went to the matter as though he had been a lawyer examining the pros and cons of any matter in dispute; and this, which is the fundamental doctrine of our faith, seemed to him so exceedingly clear that he renounced his unbelief, and became a professor of Christianity.
Does it not strike you that very man events of the greatest importance recorded in history, and commonly believed, could not in the nature of things have been witnessed by one-tenth as many as the resurrection of Christ? The signing famous treaties affecting nations – the births of princes – the remarks of cabinet ministers – the projects of conspirators – and the deeds of assassins – any and all of these have been made turning points in history, and are never questioned as facts, and yet but few could have been present to witness them. I venture to assert that even the most recent political events, which has caused so much sorrow to our whole nation – the death of the lamented Prince Albert – had not nearly so many witnesses as the resurrection of Christ; that if it came to a matter of dispute, it were far easier to prove that Christ is risen, than to prove that the Prince is dead; if it came to the counting of the witnesses who saw the Prince die, and could attest the identity of the body now resting in the royal vault with that which they saw fever-stricken in the bed-chamber, it strikes me they would turn out to be far fewer than those who saw the Lord after he had risen, and were persuaded that it was Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified, and had burst the bonds of death. If this fact is to be denied, there is an end to all witness, and we have said deliberately what David said in haste: “All men are liars;” and from this day forth every man must become so sceptical of his neighbour, that he will never believe anything which he has not himself seen; the next step will be to doubt the evidence of his own senses; to what further follies men may then rush, I will not venture to predict. We believe that the very best attested fact in all history is the resurrection of Christ. Historical doubts concerning the existence of Napoleon Buonaparte, or the stabbing of Julius Caesar, or the Norman Conquest, would be quite as reasonable as doubts concerning the ressurection of the Lord Jesus. None of these matters have such witnesses as those who testify of Him — witnesses who were manifestly truthful, since they suffered for their testimony, and most of them died ignominious and painful deaths as the results of their belief. We have more and better evidence for this fact than for anything else which is written in history, either sacred or profane. Oh! how should we rejoice, we who hand our salvation wholly upon Christ, that beyond a doubt it is established that, "now is Christ risen from the dead."
But you may ask the question at the outset, “Why is it that the resurrection of Christ is of so much importance?” Upon it we have said that the whole system of Christianity rests; for “If Christ be not risen then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain; ye are yet in your sins.” — 1 Corinthians xv. 14, 17. The divinity of Christ finds its surest proof in his resurrection, since the apostle tells us in the first chapter of the Romans, at the fourth verse, that Christ was “Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead.” It would not be unreasonable to doubt his deity if he had not risen. Moreover, Christ’s sovereignty also depends upon his resurrection for Scripture affirms: “To this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.”— Romans xiv. 9. Again, our justification, that choice blessing of the covenant, hangs upon Christ’s resurrection. “He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”— Romans iv. 25. Nay, more, our very regeneration depends upon his resurrection, for Peter, speaking by the Holy Ghost, exclaims, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”— 1 Peter i. 3. And most certainly our ultimate resurrection rests here; for “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”— Romans viii. 11. If Christ be not risen, then shall we not rise; but if he be risen, then they who are asleep in Christ, have not perished, but in their flesh shall surely behold their God. It would not be difficult to enlarge this catalogue. The fact is, that the silver thread of resurrection runs through all the blessings, from regeneration onward to our eternal glory, and binds them together.
It is time to pass on, and come more fully to the text. “ But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” Let me draw your attention, first of all, to the pictures here given of the death of the saints. Further, we shall observe the singular relationship which exists between Christ's resurrection and the resurrection of the saints; and ere we leave the subject, we shall suggest certain practical considerations arising from the doctrine before us.
I. First of all, then, THE TEXT GIVES A VIEW OF DEATH VERY COMMON IN SCRIPTURE, BUT NOT SUFFICIENTLY ACCEPTED AMONG US.
The representations of the text, I take it, are twofold. Death is here compared to a sleep— “The firstfruits of them that slept;” but moreover, you will plainly perceive it is compared also to a sowing; for Christ is pictured as being “the firstfruits.” Now, to a harvest there must have been a sowing. If the resurrection of Christ be the firstfruits, then the resurrection of the elect must be looked upon as a harvest, and death would therefore be symbolized by a sowing.
1. First, then, we have before us the picture so commonly employed in Scripture of death as a sleep. We must not make a mistake by imagining that the soul sleeps. Such a heresy was once received by a large number of persons: it has long ago been rejected, as being inconsistent, as well with natural as with revealed religion. The soul undergoes no purgatorial purification or preparative slumber in the limbo of the fathers; beyond a doubt, “To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise,” is the whisper of Christ to every dying saint. They sleep in Jesus, but their souls sleep not; they are before the throne of God, praising him day and night in his temple— singing hallelujahs to him who has washed them from their sins in his blood. It is the body that sleeps in its lonely bed of earth, beneath the coverlet of grass, with the cold clay for its pillow.
But what is this sleep? We all know that the surface idea connected with sleep is that of resting; that is doubtless just the thought which the Spirit of God would convey to us. The eyes of the sleeper ache no more with the glare of light or with the rush of tears; his ears are teased no more with the noise of strife or the murmur of suffering; his hand is no more weakened by long protracted effort and painful weariness; his feet are no more blistered with journeyings to and fro along a rugged road; there is rest for aching heads, and strained muscles, and overtaxed nerves, and loosened joints, and panting lungs, and heavy hearts, in the sweet repose of sleep. On yonder couch, however hard, the labourer shakes off his toil, the merchant his care, the thinker his difficulties, and the sufferer his pains. Sleep makes each night a Sabbath for the day. Sleeps shuts too the door of the soul, and bids all intruders tarry for awhile, that the royal life within may enter into its summer garden of ease. From the sweat of his brow man is delivered by sleep, and the thorn and thistle of the curse cease to tear his flesh. So is it with the body while it sleeps in the tomb. The weary are at rest; the servant is as much at ease as his lord. The galley-slave no more tugs the oar, the negro forgets the whip. No more the worker leans on his spade, no more the thinker props his pensive head. The wheel stands still, the shuttle is not in motion, the hand which turned the one and the fingers which threw the other are quiet also. The body and all its members find the tomb a couch of sufficient length and breadth. The coffin shuts out all disturbance, labour, or effort. The toilworn believer quietly sleeps, as does the child weary with its play, when it shuts its eyes and slumbers on its mother’s breast. Oh! happy they who die in the Lord; they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them. We would not shun toil, for though it be in itself a curse, it is when sanctified a blessing; yet toil for toil’s sake we would not choose, and when God's work is done we are too glad to think that our work is done too. The mighty Husbandman, when we have fulfilled our day, shall bid his servants rest upon the best of beds, for the clods of the valley shall be sweet to them. Their repose shall never be broken until he shall rouse them up to give them their full reward. Guarded by angel watchers, curtained by eternal mysteries, resting on the lap of mother earth, ye shall sleep on, ye heritors of glory, till the fulness of time shall bring you the fulness of redemption.
Moreover, we look upon sleep as a season of forgetfulness, and in this too it images death. “Their memory and their love are lost;” they are “alike unknowing and unknown.” Their sons come to honour, and they know it not; or their seed degenerates, but it causes them no grief. Let armies march over their tombs— their tramp shall disturb them no more than the crawling of a worm; let the vault of heaven blaze with the flaming bolts of God, let the earth shake at the awful voice of the thunder, let the cedars be broken, let the rocks be shivered, let the sea roar and the fulness thereof; there, under their green hillocks they slumber as peacefully as though it were a soft summer evening when the hum of a bee or the flitting of a fly were the only sounds. The dead may be remembered by their kinsfolk; but they remember not. They have forgotten the joys and the sorrows, the peace and the strife, the defeats and the victories of time. The soul forgets not, and we have no reason to believe that the glorified are ignorant of what is going on below. We have far more presumptive evidence that they “know even as they are known”— that they still have communion with the living Church on earth, and that the Church victorious is not sundered from the Church militant in point of knowledge; but as to their bodies, what do their bodies know? What does the human organism now understand? Take up the skull; see if there be memory there. Look at the place where once the heart was, and see if there be any trace of present emotion. Gather into your hands the bones; see if they are still obedient to muscles which could be moved at will as passing events might affect the mind. Try to discover any live coals amid your heap of ashes, a heart still quivering with delight, or an eye moistened by a sorrow. These dry bones are forgetful indeed; steeped in lethe these decayed skeletons know nothing.
But yet once more: sleep has its intent and purpose. We do not close our eyes without aim and open them again without benefit. The old cauldron of Medea has its full meaning in sleep. In the old tradition we read of Medea the enchantress casting the limbs of old men into her cauldron that they might come forth young again. Sleep does all this in its fashion. We are old enough oftimes, after hours of rows! what narrow headlands has he left! We say, they are there buried; I say, they are sown. They are dead, say we; no, say I, they are put into the earth— but they shall not abide there for ever. In some sense these holy bodies of the just are dead; “For that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die,” but it is not a death unto death, but rather a death leading unto life. That mouldering body is no more dead than yonder decaying seed which you have just now disturbed in its bed of earth, it shall soon spring up again and thou shalt see a harvest. We do lose sight, it is true, of those who have gone from us, for there must be a burial, how else can the seed grow? Truly it is never a pleasant sound, that rattle of the clay upon the coffin-lid, “Earth to earth, dust to dust, ashes to ashes,” nor to the farmer, for it’s own sake, would it be a very pleasant thing to put his grain into the dull cold earth; yet I trow no farmer ever weeps when he sows his seed. We have not heard the husbandman groan and sigh when they scatter their baskets of seed-corn; rather, we have heard them cheerly singing the song of mirth, and have heard them anticipate the reaper’s joy, when they have trodden the furrows. Have ye seen them robed in black, or wearing the dull weeds of mourning, while they tread the brown ridges of the fertile earth? We grant you that in itself considered, it were no wise or gladsome thing to bury precious grain amid dead clods of earth, but viewed in the light of harvest, since there must be a burial, and after the burial a rottenness and a decay, both of these lose all traces of sorrow, and become prophets of joy. The body must become worms’ meat; it must crumble back to its former - elements, for “dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” but this is no more our sorrow, for “In Christ shall all be made alive.”
Nor will we even mourn because of the stench and rottenness of death. The life-germ in the grain of wheat must begin to feed on the food laid up in store for it; a kind of decay must seem to take place; but I trow no farmer ever weeps because the seed which he has put into the ground has swollen and lost its former size and shape. He mourns if he be told the seed he has put into the ground is undergoing the death that is necessary for its future up-growth, but he rejoiceth in patient hope. Wherefore, then, ye worms, should ye force me weep? and why, corruption, shouldst thou make me sigh? Rather will I call ye my brothers and my mother, for your kindly glooms are but part of the road to immortality.
After sowing and decay comes an up-springing, and the farmer soon perceives, in a few short weeks, the little green blade the son of the buried life. So with the dead. There is soon to come, and how soon we do not know — the up-springing; we shall thus perceive that they were not lost, but only committed to the grave, in readiness for “the redemption”— put there that our souls might, when re-united, receive them in a better and nobler form.
Dear friends, if such be death— if it be but a sowing, let us have done with all faithless, hopeless, graceless sorrow. “The granary is empty,” says the farmer. Yes, but he does not sigh over it; for the seed is put into the ground, in order that the granary may be filled again. “Our family circle has been broken,” say you. Yes, but only broken that it may be re-formed. You have lost a dear friend: yes, but only lost that friend that you may find him again, and find more than you lost. They are not lost; they are sown; and as “light is sown for the righteous,” so are the righteous sown for light. The stars are setting here to rise in other skies to set no more. We are quenched like torches only to be re-lit with all the brilliancy of the sun.
II. We will not tarry longer on this point, but rapidly carry you to the second— viz., THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST AND THAT OF BELIEVERS.
The text tells us that Christ is “the firstfruits of them that slept.” Some professors take very great delight in the hope that they may be “alive and remain” at the coming of Christ, and so may never die. I confess I greatly rejoice in the hope that Christ will come; but the prospect of never dying has no sort of charms for me, for methinks those who never die lose a great privilege; at least, to our comprehension it seems so, for Christ is “the firstfruits of them that slept.” Oh, then, it is a blessed thing to sleep, that Christ may be to us in the relationship of first-fruits. They who never die can hardly know so much of fellowship with Christ in his death as those who fall asleep in Jesus. Whereas, you and I, who feel the pin’s prick of the dart of death, will be able to say in eternity, “I too passed through the grave. He was with me passing through the valley of the shadow of death; I, in my own proper person, knew a death and a resurrection too, even as did my Lord, which you who never died can only understand by hearsay and report.” Oh! happy they who die. They that are alive and remain shall not precede them in any privilege or honour.
But what is meant by Christ being “the firstfruits?” You will recollect that there was a feast of the Jews called the feast of firstfruits, when the first sheaf was brought out from the harvest as a token of the whole, and first of all heaved upward as a heave-offering, and then waived to and fro as a waive-offering, being thus dedicated to God, in testimony of the gratitude of the holders of the soil for the harvest which the Lord had given. Now, this happened on the first day of the week. You will remember that the Passover was celebrated first; then came a Sabbath-day; then after that came the feast of firstfruits. So Christ died on the Passover day; he, as the slaughtered Lamb of God, of God’s Passover, died exactly at the Passover season; the next day was the Sabbatic rest: Christ’s body therefore tarried in the grave; then early in the morning of the first day, ere it was yet light, while yet the sun was rising upon the earth, Christ rose— on the morning of the feast of the firstfruits; and so he is revealed as the blessed wavesheaf preceding and consecrating the whole harvest.
But the uninstructed believer asks me to explain at greater length. Beloved, remember then, that Christ was the first that rose from the dead in order of time. You will mention to me Enoch and Elijah. We answer that they never died, but were translated that they should not see death. You will remind me of the widow’s son who was raised by Elijah, and the young man restored by Elisha. Yes, but these are not cases in point. They were raised, but they died again. All the instances in the Old Testament are only temporary restorations, and so also those in the New. In no instance, save in that of Lazarus, were any of them buried at all, so that none of them came out of their graves; and even in the case of Lazarus, he lived but to die; he had a furlough from the tomb; but at the expiration of the due time, his body was yielded to the appointed keeper. Christ was the first who really rose no more to die. He leads the vanguard through the dark defile, and his brow first salutes the light of the plains of heaven beyond the gloom. Men admire the man who is first to discover a new country; the name of Columbus shall ring in the ears of ages, because he first crossed the stormy sea to win another world; the name of the man who climbed the mountains, and first saw the broad Pacific with exceeding great joy, is well remembered. Oh, then, sing it in songs, sound it with voice of trumpet to the ends of the earth, — Christ is the first who returned from the jaws of death to tell of immortality and light.
He is also first in point of cause; for as he comes back from the grave he brings all his followers behind him in one glorious train. We read of Hercules in the old mythology descending into Hades and bringing up his friend. Verily, went Christ thither, and he gave no sop to Cerberus, but cut off his head. Like a sun he suddenly flashed upon the night of death and scattered its darkness. Like Samson in Gaza, he tore up the gates of death and carried away the bars of the grave. Like David, he delivered his flock out of the jaw of the lion, and took the monster by the beard and slew him. Like Abraham, he returned triumphantly from the slaughter of the kings. Like Moses, he led his Israel out of the house of bondage. With ten thousand times ten thousand he came forth with a high hand and an outstretched arm. Who is this that cometh up from the land of darkness— from the gates of the grave? Who is this that draggeth behind him captive the grim prince of the realms of death-shade? Who is this, so strong, so mighty, that adamantine walls give way before him, and gates of brass are broken in twain? ’Tis he! ’tis he! ’Tis the selfsame conqueror who erst came from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah. The victory on the cross is succeeded by a victory in the tomb. He who won heaven for earth when he died, wins heaven for the dead when he descends into the grave. Sound ye his praises; tell ye his victories; let heaven itself take up the strain; he hath “led captivity captive,” rifled the grave, and robbed death of his sting. He is the death of death and hell’s destruction.
But then again, he is first in point of pledge. The firstfruits were a pledge of the harvest. “Whence, O husbandman, whence hast thou brought yonder sheaf?” “I gathered it,” saith he, “from the fields that are waving with plenty.” “Verily,” saith the priest, “the harvest is plenteous this year, and full and many are the ears for this sheaf beareth good witness.” Whence, O power divine, didst thou bring this glorious sheaf, this body of our Lord, so bright and glorious? Whence didst thou bring it, O Spirit of the Lord? Is there a harvest of many shocks of corn such as this? “Ay, verily,” saith the teacher; “this is but one among many, the firstborn among many brethren.” We know right well that there must be a glorious harvest of resurrection-forms and immortal bodies, since Jesus Christ, clothed in immortality and light, walks among the sons of men the pledge of all the rest.
He was, again, the firstfruits, not only as a pledge, but as the representative of the whole. When the firstfruit sheaf had been waved before God, it was considered that all the harvest had been brought into the sanctuary; it was all dedicated, all consecrated, from that very hour. So when Christ rose as a heave-offering from the sepulchre, and when he went about among the people as a wave-offering, moving among his disciples, he consecrated the whole harvest. All the righteous dead were virtually risen in him; all the chosen members of his body had a resurrection when their head appeared as “risen indeed;” and moreover, they were all dedicated and consecrated to God, by his dedication as the firstfruits to the Most High. Triumph, ye children of God, triumph in this. You are risen in Christ to-day. We see not the saints as yet ascended; rather, we see their bones dried in the valley, and we ask, “Can these dry bones live?” But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, and we know that he is risen, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father, and by faith we perceive that as our covenant head he hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places even in him, for he is the head over all things to his Church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. Never doubt, believer, of your resurrection, since the second Adam was loosed from the bands of the tomb.
III. And now, lastly, we will close by noticing THE INFLUENCE OF THE WHOLE DOCTRINE OF THE RESURRECTION AND CHRIST’S CONNECTION WITH IT UPON OUR OWN SPIRITS.
First, let us look well to the holiness of our bodies. “Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost? If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy.” We do not believe in consecrated Churches; we think it altogether absurd to talk of holy bricks and mortar; but we do know by Scriptural authority that the body is holy— that the body of the saint is as really holy as men pretend that Churches and temples may be. Now, brethren, if our eyes look upon vanity, we have defiled the windows of God’s house; if our tongues speak that which is evil, have we not desecrated the gates of the temple of the Lord? Let us see to it that our feet carry us nowhere but where our Master can go with us, lest the pillars of our house become our destruction, like the pillars of the Philistine temple of old. Let us mind that our hands be outstretched for naught but that which is pure and lovely, lest like Belshazzar we profane the vessels of the Lord’s temple. They who pamper the body, they who look to its adornment, they who regard its physical health more than its moral purity, forget the higher end of their being; for what is beauty after all? what the comeliness which human skill can give? See you that skull? “Go, take that to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, though she paint herself an inch thick, to that complexion must she come at last.” And say to all who think so much of comeliness and goodliness, — That deadly brown which worms and earth shall bring upon you, that is the natural complexion of man, and to that the fairest must be bronzed at last. But there is another way of minding your complexion, by seeing that your cheek never need be reddened with shame, and that your hands are never black with evil deeds, and that your flesh is not soiled by laciviousness, or contact with that which is evil. “Will ye take the members of Christ and make them members of an harlot?” saith the apostle Paul, when he biddeth men see to it that their bodies be chaste and pure. Know ye not that your very flesh, if ye be Christians, has been bought with Christ’s blood, and that precious is your very dust in his sight. Mind ye, O mind ye, that the slime, of the serpent come not here, and that ye defile not the members of your body, lest the Lord abhor you, and cast you out from his presence, as things he careth not for, being none of his.
Let us look at things in this light, and so by the Holy Spirit escape from sin. What! shall these eyes that are one day to “See the king in his beauty,” be delighted with vanity? Shall these lips that are to be tuned to melodious sonnets “sung by flaming tongues above,” talk that which is light and frivolous, and ministreth not unto edification? What! shall these fingers that are to strike the golden harps be given up to work unrighteousness with greediness? Nay, as we are to be fellows with the angels, and more glorious than they, and as these bodies are to be made like unto Christ’s body, let us keep them pure, washed with clean water by his Spirit, renewed and preserved, that we go not astray unto sin.
But, secondly, another thought arises here. Are we among those for whom Christ thus stood as firstfruits? For Christ is to rise first, as the firstfruits, “afterwards they that are Christ’s, at his coming.” Then when do the wicked rise? There are two resurrections; and “blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power.” When the Lord shall come from heaven, with the trump of the archangel and the voice of God, then the dead in Christ shall suddenly start from their sleep, and shall be offered to God as the great harvest, the great Pentecost, of which Christ’s resurrection was the firstfruits. What then shall become of the wicked? They shall continue rotting in their graves; the worm shall feed upon them; they shall be ashes beneath the feet of the saints; and while the righteous tread this earth, and on the scene of their conflict enjoy a thousand years of triumph; while Christ’s feet shall stand in the latter day upon Mount Olivet; while his people shall bow around him, and shall reign with him triumphant over the creature that was once subject to vanity, beneath their feet shall be the dead bodies of their ungodly persecutors, and deep down in their graves shall rot those infamous kings and princes, and those careless crowds and nations who knew not Jehovah, and would not be obedient unto his Son. They said, “Let us break his bands asunder; let us cast his cords from us.” And now where are they? “Death hath dominion over them in the morning, and the righteous triumph over them, while they lie ignominiously like those who fall in battle, a portion for foxes.” But what then? When the splendours of the millennial age are over, then cometh the end. The king shall ascend the judgment seat; he who came to reign with his people, shall suddenly, sitting upon his throne, bid his angel proclaim the last assize. Then unwillingly shall souls tormented in hell come back from Tophet to be re-united with their equally guilty bodies, and he who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell, shall say, “Gather them together in bundles to bum them.” He shall pronounce their sentence, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire in hell, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Oh! that you and I may be among the harvest, and not the vintage. There are two ingatherings mentioned, you remember, in the Revelation. The harvest is the gathering in of the righteous; they are carefully housed in God’s barn. The vintage is the gathering of the wicked; they are cast into the wine-press of the wrath of Almighty God, “and they are trodden under foot till their blood runs forth up to the horses’ bridles.” Now, how am I to know whether I belong to that portion of which Christ is the firstfruits? Why, thus: If Christ rose for me, and if I rose in him, then I died in him. Oh! soul, dost thou believe that Christ died for thee? Hast thou a part in his passion? Dost thou hope in his agonies? Dost thou rest on his cross? If so, he that died for thee rose for thee too, and thou art a part of that holy lump of which Christ was the holy offering. Hast thou died with Christ thyself? Art thou dead to the world? Dost thou hate the things that thou didst once love? Art thou weaned from thine old pleasures? Dost thou seek for something higher and better? Ah! then, if thou hast died with him, thou art risen with him. Say now, dost thou desire to be one with Christ? For if thou art one with him in heart, thou shalt be one with him in all his trophies and his glories. Dost thou say, “Nay, I care not for Christ?” Soul! Soul! If thou diest in that mind thou shalt have no part in the first resurrection; but when the wicked rise, then shalt thou “Awaken to shame and everlasting contempt.” But, and if thou sayest in thy heart this morning, “I believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead according to the Scriptures, and I put my sole and only trust in him; he is to me all my salvation, and all my desire,” go thy way; thou shalt “stand in thy lot at the end of the days;” thou shalt have thy portion among them that are sanctified; thou shalt rejoice together with him, and sit down at his marriage banquet for ever.
God add his own blessing, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.