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ment is incompatible with the belief of an intermediate state of consciousness; but he carefully avoids identifying this particular view with the scriptural doctrine of a day of judgment. Being under no necessity, therefore, of departing from the line of interpretation which has been so long followed, we prefer to stand in the old path, where alone, in this and in many other instances, we can “find rest for our souls.”
But still the question returns, Why introduce a figure at all ? What is to preclude us from understanding the phrase, not with reference to the body, but as denoting the unconscious state of the soul, out of which it is to emerge at the resurrection ? And the reply is furnished by our text; which is unintelligible, not to say misleading, upon the supposition we are now considering. “That, whether we wake,” that is, live on earth; “ or sleep," that is, fall into unconsciousness; “we should live together with Him;" that is, as the words plainly denote, at the same time and place with, and in the society of, our Lord Jesus Christ. But to speak of living together with One of whose presence you are not conscious, and with whom you have no intercourse, would be absurd. An unconscious human being may exist in your presence, may lie under your cognizance; and so may the remains of extinct species of animals : but is this kind of relation to Christ, think you, what the Apostle describes as the “salvation” which believers are “appointed to obtain ?” And, let it be remarked, not only does the literal interpretation of this word "sleep" vitiate the phraseology of the text, and reduce our “living together with Him” to an empty sound; but it perverts the scope of the passage. St. Paul's object was to console his brethren. (Verse 11.) He exhorts them to put on “for an helmet the hope of salvation," and exhibits the privileges of believers with this view. If, however, the soul sleeps at death, there is not until the resurrection any distinction between the righteous and the wicked. The enemies of our Lord, though “appointed to wrath,” are on an exact equality with those appointed to salvation,-each equally living together with Christ in the separate state ; and the consolation which these pious and suffering Thessalonians were to administer to each other amounts to this,-that in a short time they would be alike incapable of pleasure and pain.
Some interpreters, indeed, admit that the word “ sleep” is a figure to denote death, but do not perceive any reference to a separate state in the text. “Whether we wake or sleep,” they would paraphrase by, “Whether we are alive or dead at His second coming." But the words appear most naturally to express a continuous state of life, rather than a life suddenly and miraculously restored ; and we accordingly prefer the exposition already given. The sense thus rises as the Apostle proceeds :—At first he warns them against supposing that the living saints should have any advantage over the departed at Christ's return; and here, secondly, he prevents the fear that they should be separated from Christ until the resurrection, and assures them that they should live with Him on their departure hence.
Having thus endeavoured to exhibit and vindicate the sense of the text, we may proceed shortly to consider some other Scriptures which appear to furnish certain proof of the same blessed doctrine.
(1.) I ask you, first of all, to remember what passed between our blessed Saviour, in His hour of agony, and the suppliant "felon at His side.” (Luke xxiii. 42, 43.) The malefactor “said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” These words would amount to a deception, upon the supposition that he was to pass into a state of unconsciousness, upon recovering from which, after the lapse of untold years, he should find himself with Christ. Yet they are the words of the “Faithful and True Witness," and are introduced with his most solemn form of affirmation, “Verily I say unto thee.” Formerly, therefore, it was sought to evade their just force by altering the punctuation of the sentence, and reading it, “I say to thee to-day," instead of, “To-day thou shalt be with me;" as though the words “to-day” expressed the time when the promise was given, and not the time when it should be fulfilled. But criticism never descended to a more unworthy artifice. There could be no conceivable necessity to declare, with so much solemnity, that the promise was made at that particular time; for the parties were dying, and not likely to converse again. At the best, therefore, the word is converted into mere surplusage. There is, however, reason to hope that the advocates of the doctrine have become ashamed of the reading; for a new method of meeting the argument has been devised. We are now told that this malefactor exercised “a most peculiar and pre-eminent faith, such a faith as even the Apostles did not then possess,—the most extraordinary of any that is recorded ;” and “that he must have been previously a believer, and an accepted follower of Jesus, though we cannot tell how long before his crucifixion.” * This explanation pre-supposes that the words are to be literally taken, and that the immediate blessedness of the penitent thief was the peculiar recompence of his pre-eminent virtue. We ask for the proof of this peculiar privilege ; but we ask in vain. When we learn by what means it came to pass that this man of pre-eminent faith suffered death as a malefactor, and that justly, according to his own confession, —we may be better able to appreciate his peculiar privileges ; but, in the meantime, it may be remarked that a doctrine which requires such remarkable (not to say extravagant) suppositions for its support and defence, can scarcely be admitted as true by sober-minded men. We conclude, therefore, that, as there is no evidence that this converted malefactor was peculiarly privileged, all those who repent, believe, and confess Christ as he did, shall, like him, be with Christ in paradise as soon as they die.
(2.) We may now examine that solemn and delightful passage from St. Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians, in which he lays bare the springs of action both in himself and his brethren in the Apostleship.
how long beforan accepteand, that hers, the mos; such a fi
* View of Scripture Revelation, pp. 65, 321.
(Chap. iv. 15–18; v. 1-10.) “We walk by faith ;" “we look at the things which are not seen;" and among them we discern a future state of blessedness, of which the Spirit in our hearts is the earnest. (This state of blessedness he describes, figuratively, as a house in the heavens ; and literally, as a being with the Lord.) The frailty of the flesh, and the labours and persecutions of the Apostleship, would make us earnestly desirous to enter upon it at once; but death stands in the way. Could we so enter upon it as to escape death, we should indeed be happy; for nature shrinks from this greatest of all infringements of our original constitution. We would not, therefore, be “unclothed,” but, if possible, “clothed upon” with the glorious covering which awaits us, that “mortality” might be “swallowed up of life.” Yet, notwithstanding this natural reluctance to die, you find him perpetually incurring the danger of death, and undaunted in the prospect of it. “I die daily.” (1 Cor. xv. 31.) “We are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake.” (2 Cor. iv. 11.) Yet “we faint not.” (Chap. iv. 16.) “We are always confident,” full of comfort and courage. (Chap. v. 6.) The reason of this is found, not in a stoical insensibility to suffering, not in any contempt of the material portion of his nature; but in his knowledge that death would introduce him to a higher degree of fellowship with Christ, such as he was now incapable of. “Knowing that, while we are present in the body, we are absent from the Lord,” we are well-pleased “rather to be absent from the body," that we may be “present with the Lord.” (Verses 6, 8.) The gain of dying makes us fearless of the pain, and willing to encounter it whenever God may appoint.
Such I take to be the general sense of this remarkable passage ; and the argument which it supplies is obvious and conclusive. If the dissolution of “the earthly house” does not immediately introduce us to the “house not made with hands,”—if to be “absent from the body” is not to be thereupon and at once “present with the Lord,”
-it fails to convey any consistent sense. To be “absent from the body” and from the Lord at one and the same time, was an alternative never contemplated by the Apostle, though it is now held up as the true case and condition of departed saints. Alas for them, if this doctrine be true! They will be “found naked” through a measureless interval of time. And alas for us! Our sorrow for the departed must become deeper and more piercing every day, as we are enjoying the good of which they are deprived, if indeed our anticipations of soon losing it ourselves will permit us to enjoy it at all. But we have not so learned Christ. “Having the same spirit of faith” as the Apostles, we know what “by faith "they knew; and having the same “earnest” of the inheritance, we too may be of good comfort.
(3.) A third passage, and the last that will now be adduced as bearing on this point, is to be found in Philipp. i. 23, 24. Here “to depart” stands opposed to “ abiding in the flesh,” and must therefore mean to die. This, on personal grounds, the Apostle would have greatly preferred ; but public considerations caused him to heșitate. On the supposition that he would become insensible at death,
it as his, any perplexed which to the character of Peacut
and continue so for many years, there would be no room for this hesitation. The advantage would have been all on the side of abiding in the flesh. His choice would then lie between entire inactivity on the one hand, and benevolent and useful (though laborious) occupation on the other. Can any man who knows the character of Paul suppose that he could be perplexed which to choose ? Surely to a mind so ardent as his, any lawful employment had been better than lying “in cold obstruction ;” and to promote the highest welfare of the churches, their “furtherance and joy of faith,” would excite and gratify all the kindness of his heart. He could not have hesitated, unless there had been, awaiting him at death, something greatly superior even to the blessedness attendant on his apostolic labours ; and that which caused and justified his perplexity, was to “be with Christ,” which he pronounces to be “ far better.”
When pressed with the argument which arises from these words, the opponents of our doctrine resort to a metaphysical distinction. “ The interval between the loss and the return of consciousness," say they, “is to the patient himself nothing at all. To the bystanders who witness his condition, it may be tedious and distressing; but to him a long and a short space of time are exactly the same.” “And in this sense the faithful Christian may be, practically, in paradise the day he dies. The promise made to the penitent thief, and the Apostle Paul's wish to depart and to be with Christ, which he said was far better than to remain any longer in this troublesome world, would each be fulfilled to all practical purposes, provided each shall have found himself in the state of happiness in the presence of his Lord the very instant (according to his own perception) after having breathed his last in this world.” *
According to his own perception ! But here we have to do with realities. It is an unquestionable fact that his desire of abiding in the flesh, was with a view to the profit of the church. “If I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour.” Nor did it at all depend upon his apprehension whether, for the service so rendered to the church, he should receive a reward hereafter, according to that gracious word of our Divine Master, “He that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal.” (John iv. 36.) Doing the work of Christ, and earning the wages of Christ as long as he lived, were the things which he undervalued in comparison of departing to be with Christ. If he would not be with Christ when he departed,
* View of Scrip. Revel., pp. 91, 94. The writer from whom these citations are made, and who is probably the ablest modern defender of the opinions in question, gives no name, but styles himself “A Country Pastor,” and dedicated his labours to the Parishioners of Halesworth; from which it may be presumed that he is a clergyman of the Established Church. Rumour, indeed, identifies him with one of her highest dignitaries, but it is to be hoped incorrectly ; for, sad as it is to find any minister contradicting a statement to which he has declared his unfeigned assent and consent, it is sadder still to find one who is officially bound to give “diligence to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's word,” inculcating and defending them.
at least as really as he would be really working for Him here, then his choice lay between a real and an unreal thing; and, strange to tell, he preferred the unreal. Practically, the effect of such reasoning is to represent him as deceived himself, and to make him a party to the deception of his readers. His words must be corrected if this doctrine stands : To me to live is Christ ; but to die is loss, -real, eternal, only not apparent, or apprehended, loss.
We are not prepared to accept such a conclusion. We give him credit for competent knowledge. We take his words in their unsophisticated meaning, and we gather from them additional and most conclusive evidence in favour of the blessed truth affirmed in our Burial Service, that “the souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, are” with the Lord " in joy and felicity.” And this brings us to the consideration of,
II. Our second proposition : namely, That one essential part of the salvation to which believers are appointed consists in their living together with our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. In the present life Christ manifests Himself to believers, and dwells in them. “I will see you again,” said He, on His departure from the world, “I will not leave you comfortless : I will come to you.” (John xiv. 18.) “I will manifest myself to him” that “ loveth me.” (Verse 21.) And again, “ My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (Verse 23.) This is accomplished by the agency of the Blessed Comforter, of whom Jesus said, “He shall abide with you for ever :" (Verse 16 :) “He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” (Verse 17.) Consequently believers are represented as “the temples of the living God,” (2 Cor. vi. 16,) being “the temples of the Holy Ghost," (1 Cor. vi. 19,)—and are assured that “ Jesus Christ is in them, except they be reprobates.” (2 Cor. xiii. 5.) And our Apostle uses the phrases, “If Christ be in you," and, “If the Spirit dwell in you," interchangeably. (Rom. viii. 9–11.) Christ, received and retained in the heart by faith, is the earnest of future glory.
2. In the next stage of being, believers will be brought nearer to Him, and will know Him more fully. Our knowledge obtained by faith, though correct and comfortable as far as it goes, is necessarily limited and imperfect. Verbal descriptions, even when aided by sensible images and illustrative emblems, are addressed to feeble and often beclouded minds; and they reveal a depth of meaning which we can admire, but cannot fathom. But TO BE with Him will clear up many questions, and satisfy many longing desires after fuller information. This (if I do not mistake the drift of the passage) He intimated to His disciples when some strangers came from a distance to inquire concerning Him: “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour :” (John xii. 26 :) q. d., “You would see Jesus ; but to see him clearly, properly, and to the greatest advantage, you must see Him above; as He only can show Him to you, who has known Him and delighted in