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I believe that after a short separation, my soul and body shall be united together again, in order to appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, and be finally sentenced according to my deserts.
I KNOW this body, which, for the present, I am tied to, is nothing else but a piece of clay, made up into the frame and fashion of man; and therefore, as it was first taken from the dust, so shall it return to dust again: but then I believe, on the other hand, that it shall be as really raised from the earth, as ever it shall be carried to it; yea, though perhaps it may go through a hundred, or a thousand changes, before that day come. There are, I confess, some points in this article, which are hardly to be solved by human reason; but, I believe, there are none so difficult, but what may be reconciled by a divine faith: though it be too hard for me to know, yet it is not too hard for God to do. He that should have told me some years ago, that my body then was, or should be a mixture of particles fetched from so many parts of the world, and undergo so many changes and alterations, as to become 94in a manner new, should scarce have extorted the belief of it from me, though now I perceive it to be a real truth; the meats, fruits, and spices, which we eat, being transported from several different places and nations, and, by natural digestion, transfused into the constitution of the body. And why should not I believe, that the same almighty power, who made these several beings or particles of matter, by which I am fed and sustained, can as easily, with his word, recall each particle again from the most secret or remote place that it, can possibly be transported to? Or, that he who framed me out of the dust, can with as much ease gather all the scattered parts of the body, and put them together again, as he at first formed them into such a shape, and infused into it a spiritual being.
And this article of my faith, I believe, is not only grounded upon, but may, even by the force of’ reason, be deduced from, the principles of justice and equity; justice requiring that they who are co-partners in vice and virtue, should be co-partners also in punishments and rewards. There is scarce a sin a man commits, but his body lath a share in it; for though the sin committed would not be a sin without the soul, yet it could not he committed without the body; the sinfulness of it depends upon the former, but the commission of it may lawfully be charged upon the latter: the body could not sin, if the soul did not consent; nor could the soul sin, especially so oft, if the body did not tempt to it. And this is particularly observable in the sins of adultery, drunkenness and gluttony, which the soul of itself cannot commit, neither would it ever consent unto them, did not the prevalent humours of the body, as it, were, force it to 95do so. For in these sins, the act that is sinful is wholly performed by the body, though the foulness of that act doth principally depend upon the soul.
Neither is the body only partner with the soul in these grosser sins; but even the more spiritual sins, which seem to be most abstracted from the temperature of the body, as if they depended only upon the privity and corruption of the soul: I say, even these are partly to be ascribed to the body. For instance, an atheistical thought, which, one would think, was to be laid upon the soul, because the thought takes its rise from thence; yet if we seriously weigh and consider the matter, we shall find, that it is usually the sinful affections of the body that thus debauch the mind into these blasphemous thoughts; and that it is the pleasures of sense that first suggested them to us, and raise them in us. And this appears, in that there was no person that ever was, or indeed ever can be, an atheist at all times; but such thoughts spring up in the fountain of the soul, only when mudded with fleshly pleasures. And thus it is in most other sins; the carnal appetite having gotten the reins into his hand, it misleads the reason, and hurries the soul, wheresoever it pleaseth. And, what then can be more reasonable, than that the body should be punished, both for its usurping the soul’s prerogative, and for its tyrannizing so much over that, which, at the first, it was made to be subject to?
But further, it is the body that enjoys the pleasure, and therefore, good reason, that the body should likewise bear the punishment of the sin. Indeed, I cannot perceive, how it can stand with the principles of justice, but that the body, which 96both accompanies the soul in sin, enjoys the pleasures of it, and leads the soul into it, should bear a share in the miseries which are due to, and inflicted upon it. For what doth justice require, but to punish the person that offends, for the offence he commits? Whereas if the soul only, and not the body, were to suffer, the person would not suffer at all, the body being part of the person, as well as the soul, and therefore the soul no person without the body.
Hence it is, that though the Scriptures had been silent in this point, yet methinks I could not but have believed; how much more firm and steadfast, then, ought I to be in my faith, when truth itself hath been pleased so expressly to affirm it? For thus saith the Lord of hosts, ‘Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise.’144144 Isaiah, xxvi. 19. ‘And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.’145145 Dan. xii. 2. And thus saith the Saviour of the world, ‘who is the way, the truth, and the life: the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.’146146 1 John, v. 28, 29. The same hath it pleased his, divine Majesty to assert and prove with his own mouth, Matt. xxii. 31, 32, and by his Spirit, 2 Cor. xv., and in many other places: from all which, I may, with comfort and confidence, draw the same conclusion that holy Job did, and say, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the 97earth; and though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another, though my reins be consumed within me.’147147 Job. xix. 25, 26, 27.
And, as I believe my body shall he thus raised from the grave, so I believe the other part of me, my soul, shall never be carried to it; I mean it shall never die, but shall be as much, yea, more alive, when I am dying, than it is now; so much my soul shall be the more active in itself, by how much it is less tied and subjected to the body.
And further I believe, that so soon as ever my breath is out of my nostrils, my soul shall remove her lodging into the other world, there to live as really to eternity, as I now live here in time. Yea, I am more certain, that my soul shall ‘return to God who gave it,’ than that my body shall return to the earth, out of which I had it. For I know, it is possible my body may be made immortal, but I am sure my soul shall never be mortal. I know, that at the first, the body did equally participate of immortality with the soul, and that had not sin made the divorce, they had lived together, like loving mates, to all eternity. And I dare not affirm that Enoch and Elias underwent the common fate; or, suppose they did, yet, sure I am, the time will come, when thousands of men and women shall not he dissolved and die, but be immediately changed and caught up into heaven, or to their eternal confusion, thrust down into hell; whose bodies, therefore, shall undergo no such thing as rotting in the 98grave, or being eaten up of worms, but, together with their souls, shall immediately launch into the vast ocean of eternity. But who ever yet read or beard of a soul’s funeral? Who is it? Where is the man? Or, what is his name, that wrote the history of her life and death? Can any disease arise in a spiritual substance, wherein there is no such thing as contrariety of principles or qualities to occasion any disorder or distemper? Can an angel be sick or die? And, if not an angel, why a soul, which is endowed with the same spiritual nature here, and shall be adorned with the same eternal glory hereafter? No, no, deceive not thyself, my soul; for it is more certain, that thou shalt always live, than that thy body shall ever die.
Not that I think my soul must always live, in despite of omnipotence itself, as if it was not in the power of the Almighty, to take my being and existence from me; for I know, I am but a potsherd in the potter’s hands, and that it is as easy for him to dash me in pieces now, as it was to raise it up at the first. I believe, it is as easy for him to command my soul out of its being, as out of its body; and to send me back into my mother’s nothing, out of whose womb he took me, as it was at first to fetch me thence. I know he could do it, if he would, but himself hath said, he will not, and therefore, I am sure, he cannot do it; and that, not because he hath not power, but because he hath not will to do it; it being impossible for him to do that which he doth not will to do. And that it is not his will or pleasure even to annihilate my soul, I have it under his own hand, that my ‘dust shall return to the earth as it was; and my spirit 99to God that gave it.’148148 Eccles. xii. 7. And if it return to God, it is so far from returning to nothing, that it returns to the Being of all beings; and so death to me, will be nothing more than going home to my father and mother; my soul goes to my Father, God; and my body to my mother, earth.
Thus, likewise, hath it pleased his sacred Majesty to assure me, that if ‘our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,’149149 2 Cor. v. 1. so clearly hath the great God ‘brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.’150150 2 Tim. i. 10. The light of nature shows the soul can never perish or be dissolved, without the immediate interposition of God’s omnipotence, and we have his own divine word for it, that he will never use that power, in the dissolution of it. And therefore I may, with the greatest assurance, affirm and believe, that as really as I now live, so really shall I never die; but that my soul, at the very moment of its departure from the flesh, shall immediately mount up to the tribunal of the most high God, there to be judged, first privately, by itself, (or perhaps with some other souls that shall be summoned to appear before God the same moment,) and then, from these private sessions, I believe that every soul that ever was, or shall be separated from the body, must either be received into the mansions of heaven, or else sent down to the dungeon of hell, there to remain till the grand assizes, the ‘judgment of the great day, when the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, 100and we shall be changed.’151151 1 Cor. xv. 52. And when our bodies, by the word of the almighty God, shall be thus called together again, I believe that our souls shall be all prepared to meet them, and be united again to them, and so both ‘appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, to receive sentence according to what they have done in the flesh, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. And though it is very difficult, or rather impossible, for me to conceive or determine the particular circumstance of this grand assize, or manner and method how it shall be managed, yet, from the light and intimations that God has vouchsafed to give us of it, I have ground to believe, it will be ordered and carried after this, or the like manner.
The day and place being appointed by the King of kings, the glorious Majesty of heaven, and Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ, who long ago received his commission from the Father to be the ‘judge of the quick and dead,’152152 John, v. 22; Acts, xvii. 31. ‘shall descend from heaven with the shout of the archangel, and with the trump of God,’153153 1 Thess. iv. 16. royally attended with an innumerable company of ‘glorious angels.’154154 Matt. xxv. 31. These he shall send with the great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the one end of heaven to the other,155155 Matt. xxiv. 31. yea, and the wicked too, from whatsoever place they shall be in; and then shall he ‘sever the wicked from the just.’156156 Matt. xiii. 49. So that all nations, and every particular person, that ever did, or ever shall live upon the face of the earth, shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate 101 the one from the other, as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats, and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, and the goats upon the left.157157 Matt. xxv. 32, 33.
Things being thus set in order, the judge shall read his commission, i. e. declare and manifest himself to be the judge of all the earth, sent by the God of heaven to judge them that had condemned him, and, in that very body, that was once crucified upon the cross, at Jerusalem, for our sins. So that all the world shall then behold him shining in all his glory and majesty, and shall acknowledge him to be now, what they would not believe him to be before, even both God and man, and so the judge of all the world from whom there can he no appeal.
And having thus declared his commission, I believe the first work he will go upon, will be to open the book of God’s remembrance, and to cause all the indictments to be read, that are there found on record against those on his right hand; but behold, all the black lines of their sins being blotted out, with the red lines of their Saviour’s blood, and nothing but their good works, their prayers, their sermons, their meditations, their alms and the like, to be found there; the righteous judge, before whom they stand, turning himself before them, with a serene and smiling countenance, will declare to them before all the world, that their sins are pardoned, and their persons accepted by him, as having believed in him; and therefore will he immediately proceed to pronounce the happy sentence of election on them, saying, ‘Come, ye 102blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’
The sentence being thus pronounced, the righteous (and I hope myself amongst the rest) shall go up with shouts of joy and triumph, to sit with our blessed Redeemer, to judge the other parts of the world, who sit at the left hand of the tribunal, with ghastly countenances and trembling hearts, to receive their last and dreadful doom. Against these all the sins that they committed, or were guilty of, shall be brought up in judgment against them, as they are found on record in the book of God’s remembrance, and the indictments read against every particular person, high or low, for every particular sin, great or small which they have committed.
And the truth of this indictment shall be attested by their own consciences, crying, Guilty, guilty; I say, by their own consciences, which are as a thousand witnesses: yea, and by the omniscience of God too, which is as a thousand consciences. And therefore, without any further delay, shall the judge proceed to pronounce the sentence, the doleful sentence of condemnation upon them, Depart ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’
This, I believe, or such like, will be the method of Christ’s proceeding with us in that great and terrible day of trial and retribution.
“Oh! may those awful thoughts and ideas of it always accompany me, and strike such a deep and lively impression upon my heart, in every action of life, as to deter me from offending this just and Almighty being, in whose power it is to 103‘destroy both soul and body in hell;’ and engage me in such a regular, strict, and conscientious course of life, as to be always ready, whenever he shall please to summon me, to give in my accounts at the great audit, and with an holy assurance fly for mercy and succour into the hands of my Redeemer, and be permitted to ‘enter into the joys of his rest?’”
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