IV. A Discourse delivered at the Church of the Annunciation, on the First Sunday after Easter, 1850. THE CHANGE PROM THE NATURAL LIFE, DERIVED FROM ADAM, TO THE SPIRITUAL LIFE, DERIVED FROM CHRIST.
"The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.
"As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
"And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood can not inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
"Behold, I shew 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." --1 Cor. xv. 47-52.
THERE are several things in these words that deserve our serious consideration:
I. First, that there are two heads, so to speak, of the human race; here called the first man and the second man, and a little before called the first Adam and the last Adam.
II. That one of these is from the earth, and that the other came down from heaven.
III. That they who are derived from the earthly head have the same earthly nature with him, and that they who are derived from the heavenly head have the same heavenly nature with Him: "As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly."
IV. That of those who possess the earthly nature, they who are Christ's will be changed into the heavenly nature; and that the change will be completed by the resurrection. Now from all this it appears that there is something deeper in the Christian religion than a revelation of doctrine. That our Lord Jesus lived a holy life, and taught a pure and heavenly doctrine; that He died to set us an example of patience, to seal the truth of His doctrine, and to make atonement for our sin; that He rose from the dead according to previous prophecies, to assure us of a future life, and of His being the Person before marked out and appointed by God to lead us to it, is all true, but by no means the whole truth of the Christian religion. For the apostle, in our text, and in the verses which follow it, opens up to us deeper and larger views, a knowledge of which is necessary to ascertain to us our true state in this world, and the nature and extent of our obligations to Jesus, the Saviour of men. And,
1. He points us to our common origin from Adam, according to the account given us in the Book of Genesis. He says nothing of Adam being our federal head; i. e., of all mankind being put on trial in the person of Adam, of their sinning in him, and being condemned in him, and having his disobedience imputed to them. But he speaks of Adam as being, agreeably to the Scripture history, our natural head; i. e., the person from whom we and all mankind derive our earthly nature.
He points us, also, to the Lord from heaven, evidently referring to our Saviour Christ, whom he calls the last Adam, and the second man, whose birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension are recorded in the Gospel. He speaks of Him, also, as, equally with Adam, a head of the human race; not a federal head; not one with whom we or any number of us are so connected that His righteousness is counted our righteousness; but a bead who is a quickening or life-giving spirit, and unto whose likeness the true followers of Christ are to be brought by the energy of the same Holy Spirit which dwelt in Jesus and raised Him from the dead.
2. Of these beads he tells us that the one is of the earth, earthy. Such was Adam; God created his body out of the . dust of the earth. He made it a living body, animated with a rational soul. His body was naturally subject to decay, and his soul was liable to be weakened by the disorders of the body. In the course of nature, to the laws of which, after his disobedience, he was left, he died; and at death his body returned to the dust of which it was made.
The other head is the Lord from heaven; i. e., the Son of God who descended from heaven. He, as we learn from the Gospels, took on Him the human nature from the Virgin Mary. He, however, was not like Adam, naturally subject to death, for He says, I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again; this commandment, or, more literally, this power or authority, I have received of my Father. In virtue of this power, He did lay down His life, submitting to the course of nature, and not exerting his divine power to avert that violent death which His enemies contrived. In virtue, also, of the same power, He took again the human life which He laid down; rising from the dead, showing Himself after death to His disciples, convincing them of His resurrection by the most infallible proofs, and, finally, in their presence ascending into heaven.
3. The apostle also gives us to understand, that as our derivation from Adam makes us like him, so our derivation from CHRIST makes us like CHRIST. By our natural birth we inherit the nature of Adam. Our bodies, like his, are subject to decay; our souls, like his, are weakened by the disorders of the body. Like him, too, we are subject to the laws of nature; and in the course of nature we die, and at death our bodies return to the dust of which they are made.
But Christ is as much a head to us by grace as Adam is by nature. From Christ we receive the life of Christ; for as the first Adam was a living soul, so the second is a quickening, or, more literally, a life-giving spirit. As Christ lived a holy life, so we, in virtue of the spirit which He gives us, are enabled to keep our bodies in subjection, and to live agreeably to the will of God in true holiness and righteousness. As Christ laid down His life that He might take it again, so we shall lie down in the grave in order that we may rise again by the energy of His Spirit. As Christ after His resurrection died no more, but ascended gloriously into heaven, and there sitteth on the right hand of God, so we, having once risen from the dead, shall die no more, but shall forever be with Him in glory.
Now the fact that we are by nature children of Adam, and that we are made by grace children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven, plainly implies a great change in our condition; for flesh and blood, as the apostle tells us, can not inherit the kingdom of God; neither can corruption inherit incorruption. We can not inherit the kingdom of God in virtue of the fleshly and corruptible nature which we derive from Adam; we can only inherit it in virtue of that spiritual and incorruptible nature which is derived to us from Christ. There, must, therefore, be a change, a great and stupendous change in us from the earthly to the heavenly. What is done in this world on God's part, or on our part toward this change, the apostle does not here state; his subject does not require him to state; but it requires him to point, and accordingly he does point, to the completion of this change; i. f., the resurrection of our bodies from the power of the grave. "Behold," he says, "I shew 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." Then, indeed, our redemption will be consummated; then we shall be completely changed; our very bodies will be like the body of Christ, our Head, since He has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven; like Him, we shall then live and die no more; our corruptible nature will have put on incorruption, our mortal, immortality, and the saying will be brought to puss which is written in the prophet Isaiah: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
So that the Christian religion is something more than a revelation of doctrine to govern us in this world, and to fortify us in the hope of a future state. It opens to us the design and economy of GOD in our creation and redemption. It shows us that we are linked in with two different states of being; the one, visible and earthly; the other, invisible and heavenly: and that these states, though opposite, have, nevertheless, a certain correspondence the one to the other; so that Adam becomes an offset to Christ--our life from Adam to our life from Christ, our natural birth to our heavenly birth, our natural food a type of our heavenly food. It is the revelation of a wonderful economy now and from the beginning in progress, whereby we who believe in Christ are changed from natural men to spiritual, from earthly to heavenly; from children of Adam and heirs of corruption and death to children of Christ and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. It gives us to understand that our present earthly nature is to be in some manner dissolved, so that out of it shall proceed a new and heavenly nature. "In this tabernacle, in this body," says the apostle, "we groan, being burthened; not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life." Out of Christ, we bear the image of the earthly; in Christ, we bear the image of the heavenly.
Of our present and earthly state we have clear and distinct ideas; we know what is meant by our natural body, our natural birth, our natural food. Of our future and heavenly state we have no direct and immediate perception. Only we know that something real is intended; for we see that Christ rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, with a body of very different capacities from that which He had before His death; and we find it declared that they who are Christ's shall receive bodies like that in which He rose and ascended, bodies which are incorruptible and immortal. We can not doubt, therefore, that the spiritual is as real as the natural, the heavenly as real as the earthly. We see, too, that God has so ordered the natural and the spiritual, that there is a certain correspondence between the two, and that the language of God in Holy Scripture is founded on this correspondence. For example, as there is a natural head, Adam, to the human race, so there is a spiritual head to the Church, Christ; as there is a natural birth, so there is a spiritual birth; as there is natural food, so there is spiritual food; as there is a natural body, so there is a spiritual body. So that, although we have no direct and immediate perception of the spiritual and heavenly world, yet by means of this correspondence, the Holy Scriptures impart to us ideas respecting it which, though inadequate to the realities, are yet perfectly clear, and amply sufficient to answer all the purposes of those who walk by faith and not by sight. Thus we can understand, that as Adam is the head of the human family, all of whom derive from him their earthly nature, so Christ is the head of the Church, all the members of which derive from Him their spiritual life; that as there is a natural birth, so there is a spiritual birth; and though we do not know what a spiritual birth is, in its own nature, yet we can understand, that as by our natural birth we enter into this world, so by our spiritual birth we enter into the kingdom of heaven; that as there is natural food, so there is spiritual food; and though we do not know what spiritual food is in its own nature, yet we can understand, that as our natural food sustains our natural life, so our spiritual food sustains our spiritual life; and that as there is a natural body, so there is a spiritual body; and though we do not know what a spiritual body is in its own nature, yet we can understand that as our natural body is serviceable for many great and excellent ends in this world, so our spiritual bodies will answer many great and excellent ends in that eternal and glorious kingdom, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of the Father.
Now if these things are so (and, I confess, I see not how any Christian can deny them), then it evidently follows that what is spiritual is a very different thing from what is metaphorical or figurative, in the sense of metaphorical. The terms, indeed, in which the Scriptures speak of the spiritual world are in a certain sense figurative, because they are all borrowed from nature and because the natural world is a figure or representation of the spiritual world. But though the language be in this sense figurative, yet the spiritual things intended are real, more real, if possible, than those things which are the objects of sense. Thus Christ is as really the Head of the Church as is Adam of the human family, our spiritual birth is as real as our natural birth, our spiritual food as real as our natural food, the spiritual and glorified bodies in which we shall ascend into heaven are as real, if possible, more real than the corruptible bodies which we now possess.
When, therefore, we read in the Scriptures of Christ being the Head of the new creation, of our being born from above, of our being fed with the bread of heaven, and of our being clothed upon after death, with bodies incorruptible or spiritual, we are not to understand that these are metaphorical expressions; i. e., expressions which denote resemblances, that are imaginary and unreal (and this is what is commonly meant by figurative); but we are to understand that they denote certain realities in the spiritual world, corresponding to those spiritual things from which their names are taken in the natural world. Again: As the spiritual world is beyond our cognizance, as the economy of grace is that of which we can possibly know nothing except what God reveals to us, it is plain that we are in no sort judges as to the mode or means in which its ends will be accomplished, and can have nothing to guide us but the directions and commandments of God. We know that by believing and embracing a certain doctrine, we become the followers and disciples of the first author and propagator of that doctrine, and that by meditating and acting on this doctrine we become, in a metaphorical sense, united to its author. But it would be fallacious thence to argue, that by believing in the doctrine of Christ we are made Christians, or that by meditating on His doctrine we become spiritually united to Christ. And the reason is, because our spiritual union with Christ is something more than a metaphor, something more than a moral union, or a union of sentiment and affection: it is a union which involves a real, substantial change, the mode of effecting which is quite above our present comprehension. We can not so well understand this while we limit our views of the Christian economy to its imperfect and inchoate state in this world. But let us consider it in its perfection and completeness, and as including the resurrection of the body, and then we see at once that the change wrought in us from the natural to the spiritual man, is one which it is quite beyond the power of natural means to effect, and that even our belief and conformity to the doctrine of Christ can have no efficacy in the production of this change, except so far as they are appointed to this end and made effectual by His Holy Spirit.
If we would know, then, by what means we are to be admitted into union with Christ, and by what means we are kept by Him unto eternal life, we must lay aside all notions drawn from the efficacy of natural causes in producing natural changes, and take our directions from Christ Himself, and those evangelists and apostles whom He inspired to convey His doctrine to the Church. Now Christ Himself says: "Except a man be born of water and the Holy Ghost, he can not enter into the kingdom of God;" and He directs His apostles to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. In our judgment, and according to our human way of thinking, repentance and faith are more like a new birth than baptism in the name of the holy Trinity. And the reason is, because we are apt to take the new birth or regeneration in a metaphorical or merely moral sense; and we find that repentance and faith do make a change in us for the better, which is aptly enough denoted by such a metaphor. But Christ does not use the language of metaphor. He repeats His words with the most solemn asseveration: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and the Holy Ghost, he can not see the kingdom of God." So that, if we would be born again or gain admission into the spiritual kingdom of Christ, we must not only believe, but be baptized also, by the ministers of Christ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. To do otherwise, to rest in our repentance and faith as if they alone constituted the new birth, is to lose sight of the real thing intended by Christ, and to resolve His language into a metaphor.
So again our Lord says: "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." Here again, in our judgment, and after a human way of thinking, repentance and faith would seem to be all that is necessary to keep us in union with Christ. And the reason is, because we are apt to conceive of union with Christ as a metaphorical expression, to denote an agreement or resemblance like that which we have with some human teacher whose doctrines we believe and follow. Hence it is that men are so ready to regard the bread and wine in the Eucharist as bare signs or emblems to keep up among them the memory of Christ and His doctrine. But if we consider that the economy of God in the Gospel of His Son contemplates a real change in us; that the earthly nature which we derive from Adam is that on which is to be superinduced a new and heavenly nature, which is derived from Christ; that the change is utterly unlike any that is effected by a human reformer or teacher, and that our corruption must put on incorruption, and our mortal immortality, we must see that it is neither safe nor reasonable to resolve the language of Christ into metaphor, especially when He repeats His words with the most solemn emphasis. "In truth, in truth, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." What the body and blood of Christ, now risen and ascended into heaven, are in their own nature, or how they are wrought in us to make us like Christ, we do not know, for we have no powers or faculties in our present state to enable us to understand these matters. Nor need we know and understand them; it is enough for us to know that Christ has said of the bread of the Holy Eucharist, "This is my body," and of the wine, "This is my blood; " and that if we partake of them with true repentance and lively faith, we are preserved and nourished in that spiritual and heavenly nature which is derived from Christ, in as true and real a way as by common bread and wine we are preserved and nourished in that earthly nature which is derived from Adam.
I am unwilling to turn aside from this plain statement, as I suppose it to be, of Christian doctrine, to a controversial topic; but, for fear of being misunderstood, I think proper to add, that what I have hero said of the bread and wine being made, by operation of the Holy Ghost, the body and blood of Christ to the faithful, involves no sanction of the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation. This I regard, with our Church, as overthrowing the nature of a sacrament, and contradicting the Scriptures; for the nature of a sacrament requires that there be an outward and visible sign, as well as an inward and spiritual grace; and our Lord, taking the bread, says, "This is my body," and taking the cup, He says, "This is my blood;"' and St. Paul says that the bread which we cat is the communion of the body of Christ, and the cup which we drink is the communion of His blood; thus showing that the bread and wine, though made in a sacramental way the body and blood of Christ, do not cease to be bread and wine, but still retain their own nature. But the modern Roman Church affirms that the bread and wine in the sacrament are destroyed, and cease to exist, and that the body and blood of Christ are substituted in their place, and exist under their appearance; it denies and brands as heresy the declaration that the bread after consecration, is the body of Christ, and the wine the blood of Christ; affirming that the bread and wine cease to exist, and thus, as our Church truly says, it overthrows the sacrament, and contradicts the words of Christ Himself. In rejecting this error, however, the Church never intended to run into the opposite extreme, which affirms that the bread and wine are mere signs or emblems designed to keep up among men the memory of Christ; but taking the words of Christ in their plainest and fullest sense, and without any curious refinements and carnal abatements, she would have us believe that the bread and wine remaining such in their natural substance, are, by the energy of the Holy Ghost, and in a manner incomprehensible to us, to all who worthily receive them, that body and blood of Christ which preserves our bodies and souls unto eternal life. But to return from this digression.
When the apostle tells us that we shall be raised from the dead, that our corruption shall put on incorruption, and our mortal immortality; that we shall receive new and spiritual bodies, and shine like stars in the firmament for ever and ever, he evidently points us to the completion of that change which is begun in this world. And this completion, we ought always to bear in mind: for though we can not understand what these spiritual bodies are, and only know that they will give us capacities for blessedness and glory, which we do not possess in this world, yet the knowledge that we shall receive them, serves to convince us of the reality and wonderful nature of that change, whereby, of children of Adam, we are made "members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven." This change is said to be made in us in our Baptism, because it is then begun, and it is again said to be made in us by the Resurrection, which is also called in Scripture our Regeneration, because it is then completed, and we then enter on the state of eternal blessedness and glory. Now, by carrying the mind forward to the Resurrection, and so considering the change, as far as we can, in its completeness, we see how unlike it is to any such changes as take place in this world; how incompetent we are to think, and discourse of it, except in the words of Holy Scripture; how very likely it is that these words may have a fuller and deeper meaning than any that we can grasp or fathom; how dangerous it may be to explain away the words of Christ, where they are plain and express, by resolving them into metaphors and figures of speech; how utterly feeble and inadequate we are to work this change by any powers or acts of our own mind; how totally unfit we are, to say how or by what means it shall begin and proceed in us; and how entirely dependent we are on the Holy Spirit, to begin and carry forward the change in this world, as well as to complete it in the world to come. We literally know nothing on the subject, except what God has revealed to us; and He has revealed to us, only that which is intended for faith and practice.
If we are wise, then, we shall resolve to believe what God says, and to do what He requires. We shall forsake our sins, for this is repentance; we shall believe, and do the words of Christ, for this is faith; we shall love God above all things, and our neighbour as ourselves, for this is charity; without which, repentance is a mockery, and faith is dead and worthless; and we shall come to the Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, because our Heavenly Father has given His Son Jesus Christ not only to die for us, but to be our spiritual food and sustenance in that Holy Sacrament; and because, coming to it with, penitent hearts and lively faith, we receive by means of it, that Body and Blood of Christ, which make us one with Christ in this world, and fit us for a blessed resurrection in the world to come.