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ings of St. Paul, that he should be "WITH CHRIST" (Phil. i. 23), and in some way "AT HOME WITH THE LORD" when he died (2 Cor.v. 8). For observe, that it makes no difference what kind of presence with the Lord we understand by these texts to be intended. Let it be corporeal and visible, or spiritual and internal, there is no interference with our argument. If St. Paul intend a corporeal or bodily presence, then he cannot otherwise be understood at all in this passage than as speaking of the resurrection (the interval of death being esteemed by him as a nothing), for the most obvious reason, that the spirit cannot in possibility have an outward and bodily presence with Christ, while it is without a body. From the very nature of things, and from the nature of truth, it is impossible. If, therefore, the Apostle understood a presence of this kind, he evidently treats the period of separation, or (if I may be allowed to use such a word) the period of his lying asleep, as a thing not even worthy to come into the account. In his mind the periods of death and the resurrection are intimately united, as two events which cannot be separated, on account of the certainty of their connection, and the imperceptibility of their distance in time from each other. And, indeed, I am the less adverse to the present explanation of the Apostle's meaning, when I call to mind the constant representation to be found in his Epistles of the Lord's second advent as an event equally sudden and near at hand. For example, in the first verse of this very chapter to the Corinthians; in which he unites the putting off of our terrestrial body, and the putting on of our celestial, as though the space of time intermediate between them were not worthy of account: "We know," saith he, "that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God (EK OEOV), an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens :" thus conjoining immediately the possession of the two, although fifteen hundred years and more have passed since his death, and we know that St. Paul is not yet in possession of his celestial body *.
Any lapse of time in which no change happeneth, nor can happen (e. g. a sleep, a swoon, or a fit of delirium, in which no change is remarked), is of necessity imperceptible, not to be
*For he himself tells us (1 Cor. xv. 51), that "WE shall ALL be changed, IN A MOMENT (all in a moment), in the twinkling of an eye, AT THE LAST TRUMP" and in 1 Thess. iv. 16, "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel's voice, and the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first "-(so that the whole church universal shall be brought into the estate of body and spirit united)-" THEN WE, which are alive, and remaining, TOGETHER WITH THEM, shall be caught up, &c. &c." And in Romans viii. 23, the whole church is described as "WAITING for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body:" and in Rev. xxii. 12, the Lord saith, "My reward is WITH ME "namely, not before I come!
accounted of, and, as it were, but a point of duration : and accordingly, in 2 Cor. v. 4 the Apostle says expressly, that he does not desire to be "unclothed;" while at the same time, in Phil. i. 23, he expresses his desire to "depart," that is, to be dismissed from his body. Certainly the latter of these two phrases must be interpreted in some way or other compatibly with the former; and the only position upon which they can be reconciled, is the fact of the Holy Spirit's intentional inadvertence to the interval of the separate state. And indeed, if the phrase "to be with Christ" be used by the Apostle in those places in the same sense as elsewhere (and for example, as in Eph. ii. 6, 7 *; 1 Thess. iv. 17), he cannot otherwise be understood than as referring exclusively to the one event and to the one time of the resurrection, in all the above passages.
When Christ ascended to heaven, he did not promise his disciples that he would receive them there t; nor that he would at any time" receive them to himself" until he should "come again" (John xiv. 3). And lastly it is to be observed, that the Lord Jesus is ascended into the highest heaven, having first been invested with his glorious body; and, in the nature of things, his saints shall not ascend thither until they likewise shall have received theirs. And seeing that this is granted unto no one before the resurrection (unless, if it be so, to Enoch, and others like him, translated from the earth), the reason of the thing, as well as the Divine order and economy, constrains us to believe that in the above passages the Apostle cannot refer to a corporeal and literal presence with Christ, unless indeed it be yet future.
But now, if you prefer to understand the Apostle's words as referring to a spiritual and internal presence of Christ with his saints, during their state of separation, I agree with you. A presence of this sort, every believer experiences, even in this life (2 Cor. xiii. 5); and in many ways he shall experience the same in the life to come; and in all, he may be said most properly "to be with Christ." For, in the first place, we are with
*In doctrine (that is, as relates to WORD and IDEA, or to the spirit of the believer, which concerns itself only with word or idea) we are now "risen with Christ" (Colos. ii. 12), and,we do sit with him already "in heavenly places" (Ephes. ii. 6); but none for a moment can pretend, upon Scripture authority, that we are the one, or that we do the other, outwardly and completely (unless indeed in the individual personality of our Head), at any time present or future, before the resurrection.
+ St. Stephen saw Christ at the right hand of the glory of HIM, who is "the true and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which NONE can approach unto; whom No ONE hath seen, nor CAN SEE.' To be with him (in the mechanical sense) we must approach that light, which none can approach; which is absurd: and therefore the departed are NOT with him in that sense. Q. E. D. (1 Tim. vi. 15, with Acts vii. 55.)
Christ, as being in his safe-keeping. The Lord himself, being at the point of death, commits his spirit into his Father's hands; that is, into his safe-keeping and guardianship (Luke xxiii. 46): but when He by dying had conquered death, and had so been constituted the Lord of life and death, his dying servant commits himself into his hands, saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts vii. 59). And in the same manner the spirit of St. Paul was with Christ, and is in his guardianship; with him deposited, until the resurrection from death unto everlasting life. In the next place, the spirits of believers may, with all propriety, be described as 66 with Christ," by reason of that internal conIsolation and joy which they receive from him. For, indeed, I cannot doubt that there was an accession of felicity to the dead in Christ, when he came into the world and overcame death; as well by a communication of Divine virtue, as by an intuition and assured hope of the resurrection imparted to them. And in this sense also, without doubt, it may be said that we are present with Christ-namely, since we live and move in perfect communion with him, during the interval of death.
Again, in such expressions as we are considering, the object is evidently an antithesis: as indeed may easily be remarked, both in the Corinthians and in the Philippians; the words "to be with Christ," being contrasted with our continuance in this world. For, indeed, when we quit this life, we are not extinct, we are not annihilated; and where are we? With God, with Christ we live unto God (Luke xx. 38). We are present to Christ; and he will bring us back, flourishing and full of life, with himself also, to the theatre of this world. We therefore shall not wonder to find St. Paul exclaiming, " For me to die is gain" (Philip. i. 21). We are surprised rather that he says so little, than that he says so much, in favour of death, when so many evils, so many troubles, so many perils, so many labours encompassed him; who had endured both hunger and thirst, with cold, and nakedness, and wounds, and stripes, and prisons, and rocks, and shipwrecks, and every sort of affliction, both by sea and land. That death should be esteemed more desirable than such a life, who can wonder? If it be only rest, and a remission of trials, still it is so far "gain."-Let us, then, learn to think somewhat more moderately concerning our wretched selves, and our rewards; and no longer promise to ourselves and others the beatific vision of God, upon the instant of our eyes being closed; when we see the Apostle of the Gentile, (who of all men best merited any reward which the Christian religion holds forth) presenting no such hope, either to himself or to others. We may well be content with less, in that intermundane state, if I may so term it: neither should we esteem it a light thing for our spirits, conscious of their immor
tality, and full of divine love, to be at peace with God and with themselves, and possessed of the joyful and stedfast hope of a participation in the advent of Christ and the glory thereof.
They who attribute to the departing spirits of men an immediate enjoyment of the beatific vision, and of the glory of Christ, do both enervate the Christian doctrine of the resurrection, and render the actual occurrence thereof unnecessary. For what need of a body to spirits already entered into the highest light? If you say that the body, having been in this life implicated in the spirit's sufferings, and the instrument of her good works, should therefore, in due propriety and fitness, participate her glory and reward in the life to come; this is mere trifling: Animus cujusque is est quisque;” νούς εφορᾷ και νους επακουει : "It is the mind which sees and hears the body perceives nothing either of good or evil. Matter can neither enjoy pleasure nor suffer pain, whatever its form, whatever its adjuncts. In vain would you crown with glory a thing insensible; having neither understanding nor will, it cannot be the author of good or of evil. And, moreover, from among the many bodies which we wear in the course of our lives (in the opinion of physicians, a new one every seven years), which will you select to be the consort of the spirit, and to share her glory? that which she wore in old age, or that of her youth? that which had possession of the spirit last; or that with which she is best pleased? and by what right either, in preference to the other? Upon such reasoning, the others also would justly put in their claim too ("in due propriety and fitness") for their share in the reward. Suppose a Christian who had lived a whole life of piety, still suffering evil, still distributing his all, and at length dying a martyr at eighty years of age; how much of this man's body would you have to be received into glory? To all such idle quibbles, we do well to return our Lord's reply, when he was asked To how many of seven successive husbands their common wife should belong in the resurrection of the dead? "Ye do err," he answered; "ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God." The resurrection is appointed of God, not for the sake of the body, but of the spirit; and to every spirit (as to every seed that grows out of the earth) God giveth its own body (1 Cor. xv. 37, 38). This body being dissolved, we shall be clothed with a building of God. But on this point we' shall say more hereafter. We have already remarked, that the whole efficacy of the resurrection is invalidated by the suppo
* Philosophers say that the material of our bodies is in a state of perpetual waste and renovation; so that after the lapse of a certain number of years not a particle of matter in all the human body is the same that we formerly possessed.
Namely, in chap. v. which we do not at present translate.
sition of supreme bliss before the resurrection: for, as St. Augustin properly inquires "What need can there be that our spirits should receive their bodies in the resurrection, if it can be accorded to them (while without a body) to enjoy the highest blessedness?" And hence among the ancients, in the first ages of the church, this opinion, of the premature glorification of the human spirit, was maintained chiefly, if not exclusively, by those heretics who denied the resurrection of the body altogether.
Who does not see that this article of modern creeds has been introduced by the Roman apostasy, from motives of prudence and policy? And, truly, for the purpose of supporting their invocation of the saints, and all that class of inventions, with the many lucrative dogmas dependent upon them, a more convenient fable could hardly have been invented. Bellarmine justly observes (de Beat. Sanct. Ord. Disput.) that this doctrine is the foundation of all those relating to the SAINTS: for example, the worship paid to them, their canonization, the reverence of their images and of their relics, the pilgrimages, and vous performed in their service, &c. Behold what a large and weighty chain of silver and gold the dogma hath drawn out; and if you add to those enumerated above, the abomination of their PURGATORY (or the state of those human spirits which, according to them, do not enter into heaven immediately, but are kept dependent on the prayers of the living and the suffrages of the deceased for their arrival there sooner or later), you have a mine more prolific of gold than India itself. But woe be to such as adulterate for money the word of the living God!
Those who, without any hope of advantage, would comfort and animate the dying, as though they were about to enter forthwith into supreme glory, deserve not so severe a censure. The deceased believer is gone from prison into liberty; and what may have been uttered with a pious intention, for the purpose of alleviating the fears of a departing friend, is not to be examined so rigorously as an article of faith. The spirits of the pious, when they depart this life, do abide in security, without affliction, without chastisement, without fear or peril of wandering from the truth and although they enjoy not yet an outward and sensible heaven, nor any kingdom, yet have they the inextinguishable and immediate right to possess it in its appointed season; and therefore, by anticipation, they may be said to enjoy it already. We all are liable to anticipate and forestal an expected inheritance, and to precipitate our thoughts into expected felicity or glory. Many of the early Christians believed that the second advent of our
* Quid opus est spiritibus corpora sua in resurrectione recipere; si potest iis, etiam sine corporibus, summa illa beatitudo præberi?-Gen. ad lit. l. 12. c. 35.