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in other resources that until we see an end to these barriers faith has not scope, and there is no answer. We are taught this in the example of the man who goes unto his friend at midnight saying, “ Lend me three loaves." The friend at first refuses because of all the inconvenience it would entail; but he yields to importunity what he does not to mere friendship. He rises and gives him as many as he needs. The moral of this is not that the Lord answers and succours because of our importunity. But importunity discloses not only to God but to ourselves, that we have no other resource but Him, or we should not continue importuning. We very often mention in our prayers matters which we scarcely remember having alluded to; and if our desires are granted we are distressed at the small conviction we have that it is in answer to our prayers. Hence how necessary is the exercise this importunity expresses ! In fact, we shall not go on praying earnestly and continuously for any thing unless the soul has got some confidence in God respecting it. There may be a superstitious recital of our necessities and desires before God; but this seldom lasts, and is not evidently of faith. If the soul is growing in confidence in God respecting any thing, or has confidence-if it can ask in faith and reckon on His succour— I assuredly believe that except in communion with Him, this confidence is not retained; and to express it when out of communion and in the flesh is but revealing the riddle to the Philistines to their own destruction and our confusion. God's dealings with us are not communicable. There are some things impossible for a man to utter; and the really believing soul that has known what it is to trust God, magnifies Him and not His gifts to it.
FRAGMENTS. “ If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go to the Father”-here the Lord counts upon the highest tone of feeling, the unselfishness which He only can give.
The question of sin was settled at the first coming of Christ the question of blessedness will be settled when He comes again, VOL. V. PT. III.
1 THESSALONIANS IV. 13—18. “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord 'shall not prevent them which are asleep.
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
“Wherefore comfort one another with these words." On entering upon the consideration of the above passage, the first question is—What were these saints of Thessalonica sorrowing about? They were not, I believe, mourning because they feared lest their brethren might possibly have perished. They knew them to be believers, and hence such a suspicion could not enter their minds. Neither were they indulging themselves in mere natural grief because of their loss. This with them was altogether a secondary point. Their sorrow arose from neither of these two causes. From whence then did it arise? It arose, I believe, as the Apostle intimates, from their being ignorant with regard to these saints, of something touching the hope of the kingdom. They did not, in truth, understand how they who had fallen asleep could partake with themselves of the coming glory of Christ. This fear, therefore, the Apostle meets with a positive declaration, that so far from their, in
any measure, coming short of the blessing, that when God bringeth in the first begotten into the world, when He introduces Christ to that kingdom which he is to receive as the meed of his humiliation on the earth, He (God), will bring with Him (Christ) those who, previous thereto, shall have died in the faith.
Ah! but the Thessalonians might have replied, “ Our brethren are dead, how then can they come with Christ ?" This, therefore, St. Paul meets in ver. 15, by saying “ that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep.” And then he goes on, in verses 16, 17, to show that in order to come with Him, they must be previously raised; that, as in the case of a sovereign visiting some city or province of his dominions, the nobles dwelling therein must go forth to meet him, in order to mingle among his retinue as he enters the place, so the saints (at least those of whom he is speaking—those who have fallen asleep), must ascend in order to descend with the Lord when He comes in his glory. Having, in ver. 14, spoken of the ultimate thing, he then turns back, and in ver. 16, 17, he shows what, previous thereto, must of necessity happen.
The point on which the Thessalonians were ignorant, and on which they needed to be thus enlightened, was the doctrine of a first resurrection." Like Martha, when she said of her brother, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day;" and like many in our own day, they had some vague thought of general resurrection of the righteous and the wicked at the end, but of “the resurrection of life" contrasted with “the resurrection of judgment,” they knew nothing. They thought that the dead and the living would meet and be equally blest in the end, but that in the interim there would be a difference; they fancied that they who were alive would "prevent,” or get the start of the others. So that in proportion to the duration of the kingdom, the latter would lose the honour reserved for the former.
& " The coming of the Lord,” in this 15th verse, does not refer, I believe, to his descent into the air, but to His coming in glory. What the Thessalonians were doing was this—they were drawing a false contrast between those who should be alive and remain” up to the time of the kingdom, and those who had died. This was the mistake which the apostle was here called to meet. Hence the "coming” in question must be His coming to reign. Of His previous descent and the ascent of the church, they knew nothing as yet. He had not taught them the truth revealed in the two subsequent verses ; hence he would not surely refer to it here, as though they were already instructed therein.
Probably, indeed, they had little or no idea of any of the saints, either the dead or the living, coming with Christ, but supposed, according to the notion of many at present, that He is to come and establish His kingdom on earth, as we know will really be the case with regard to His earthly people the Jews; while His Church will at the same time be manifested in heavenly glory, reigning with Him over the earth in close connection therewith. All this, then, the Apostle was called on to meet, and he does meet it, as I have said in this
passage. But it may be objected, that ver. 14 cannot apply to the Lord coming in His kingdom, because the saints spoken of here are only a part of those who are to accompany
Him then. True it is, they are but a part, but this does not at all interfere with the interpretation here given. The fears of the Thessalonians, be it remembered, concerned the dead, not the living, for which cause St. Paul confines himself to the former, without (ver. 14) alluding at all to "the latter; he speaks of those which sleep in Jesus, without deeming it needful to say what is true, that God will bring with His Son the rest of the redeemed, even the living, as well as those who have died, at the very same time.
True it is, when he comes to treat of the rapture of the saints in verses 16, 17, he speaks of the living as well as the dead. But why does he do so ? Because the time was come for a new revelation to be made, not to these Thessalonians alone, but to the whole Church of God. And hence he takes occasion, from the circumstances of their sorrow, to bring this new unrevealed truth to light. He shows them “by the word of the Lord,” the order of events in reference to the resurrection and ascension both of the dead and living. He tells them that when Christ descends into the air, the first thing which will happen will be that the dead will be raised, next that the living will be changed, and then that they will, in their glorified bodies, both be caught up together to heaven; all which we might be tempted to think would take some time to effect, but which, being God's work, will be done, as we read,“ in the twinkling of an eye”will be the work of a moment.
The foregoing remarks were written for the purpose
of meeting a view of this passage which I find is more general among Christians than I was at all prepared to expect. “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." This, it is said, applies to the coming of Jesus when He shall descend from heaven into the air, accompanied, as is thought, by the spirits or souls of those who have fallen asleep. Now after what I have said, it is needless for me to add, that I believe this view of the passage to be wholly mistaken, and that unless we allow that ver. 14 applies to the ultimate thing, as I have said, even the coming of Christ when He appears in His kingdom, and verses 16, 17, to what will previously happen, namely, the resurrection, the change, and ascension of the saints, we do not catch the object and mind of the Spirit through the Apostle.
And here, with regard to the separate spirit, before I conclude I would say a few words. True it is, that the souls of those who are asleep are now with the Lord; and equally true, that when Christ descends from heaven, they will take possession again of their bodies. But observe, the Apostle says nothing at all in this passage of spirits. He speaks of the saints as individuals, neither viewing the spirit apart from the body, nor the body apart from the spirit. What he treats of is the whole man—the believer. His word is not " the spirits of them which sleep in Jesus,” but “ them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” If, indeed, he at all speaks of one more than the other, it must be of the body, that part of us which dies — which ceases to act, in contrast with the spirit which cannot sleep, but which becomes more actively alive, more energetic than before, as soon as it is freed from our present bodies of sin and death. This, however, I say merely to strengthen my assertion as to the silence of Scripture with regard to the re-entrance of the spirit into the body; because, whether St. Paul speaks in verse 14 of the coming of these saints with the Lord, or in verses 16, 17, of their previously leaving their graves, he views them, as I have said, in the totality of their existence as men raised to life-as beings composed both of body and spirit.