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mourneth for the death of her children, she is comforted with a promise, that they shall come again from the land of the enemy: their death is expressed as a captivity; and the region of departed spirits, is the country, in which the grand, or the last enemy, detains his prisoners. But, saith the Lord, there is hope in thine end, that is, in thy death, that thy children shall come again to their own border; that is, that they shall return at the resurrection, as captives are brought back from the land of the enemy, and restored to their native country. See Jer. xxxi. 15, 16, 17. In the same language doth the widow.of Tekoah plead with David. She takes the metaphor which arises from the occasion of Absalom’s banishment; and argues, that though. death is appointed to all men, yet God deviseth means, that his banished be not expelled from him. 2 Sam. xiv. 14.
Now if death and life are thus spoken of in the Prophets, under the similitude of leaving and returning to our native land; this is the land which God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; who never enjoyed the earthly Canaan, but were pilgrims and strangers upon earth. This is the land wherein dwelleth righteousness, in which shall be found the true taber
nacle of God, the city of God, the new Jerusalem, where saints and angels shall dwell together All this, as the Apostle assures us, was intended by the promise in the text. God is there called the God of those who are dead in body, because they are still alive in spirit; and have ing prepared for them a city, which they shall enjoy at the resurrection, he is not ashamed to be called their God; as he would have been, if his covenant with them had extended only to the present life. Because he gave an earthly land, and a city built by men, we think he meant nothing else; whereas these things never were more than similitudes and pledges; the one of an heavenly country, the other of a city, whose builder and maker is God. Of that place which is reserved for the blessed after the resurrection, we can have no conception, but from what we see upon earth; and therefore, God doth not describe it in vords of its own to Jews or Christians, but gives it to both in sign and figure. Our Saviour Jesus Christ tells us, that he is gone before to prepare a place for us. What that place is, he does not say. If we would know something more of it, we must look back to his fore-runner, the Joshua or Jesus of the law, who went before the people of God, to
prepare prepare a place for them in Canaan, and settle tliem in possession of it. Thence we shall learn, that the place prepared for us is preferable to that we now live in, as the freedom of Canaan was preferable to the bondage of Egypt: that there are many mansions in the heavenly land, as Canaan was divided and laid out into many quarters, for the orderly reception of the several tribes of Israel. That as they all went up to worship at Jerusalem, so shall all the tribes of the earth, who shall be saved, assemble together to worship in the heavenly city of God. Other particulars we might gather; but this is the only way in which we can learn; and we can go no farther than this method will carry us, in understanding the promises of God. Jewish priests and prophets, even though they had taken their lesson from the philosophers of heathenism (who thought their deities delighted in good eating and drinking) could have come no nearer than they have done: for the things of another life are not to be described, as they are, in words which man can understand : it is, therefore, never attempted : since the beginning of the world, men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen -what he hath prepared for him that waiteth
. XII. Promise of the Law. 267 for him. Isaiah, xiv. 4. Our present life is not a state of knowledge, but of expectation, on which alone the Patriarchs and friends of God subsisted so long as they were here. In the want of due conception, Jews and Christians are all upon a level : all the information they can receive is conveyed under the words, life, rest, a promised land, redemption from enemies, a city of God, new heavens and new earth, and such-like signatures of visible things; for which reason the doctrine of the prophet is taken up and reasserted by the Apostle. See 1 Cor. iii. 9.
I might add other things, if the time would permit, on the character of Enoch and Elijah, and the idea given of death to the priests, and rulers, and kings of ancient times. A . state of life after death could never be unknown to those, who knew that Enoch was actually taken into it. His character was handed down to the times of the Gospel, as that of an evangelical prophet, who warned the people of the old world of a judgment tu come-Behold the Lord cometh, &c. See Jude ver. 14.—Elijah went up alive into heaven; whence it was known to all those who knew the fact, that men may live in heaven : and $0, the Jews must of necessity have learned
SER. XII. from the rapture of Elijah, what we learn from the ascension of Christ; though of heaven itself we know nothing but from the sky which we behold with our eyes. When it is said of the saints of old, that they slept with their fathers, what could be meant, but that they should awake; as it is actually applied in the prophet Daniel, chap. xii. 2. Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame, and everlasting contempt. So when it is said of Moses and Aaron, that they should be gathered to their fathers, it is therein affirmed, that their fathers were still alive : which sense is so obvious, that I find it insisted upon even by Jewish commentators.
From what has been said, I hope you will see farther than some learned men have done into the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting, as they were promised under the law of Moses; to shew us which, against the blindness and perverseness of the Sadducees, was the design of our blessed Saviour in the text. i
It may be proper now to clear up a difficulty or two, and make some reflections to render this subject of moral use to us.