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THE FIRST RESURRECTION.
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.-PHILIPPIANS ïïi. 2.
In the verse preceding our text, the apostle Paul summed up the Christian religion, with application to himself, in a most fervent and devout wish—" that I may know him (Christ) and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death." This was all he desired for this life : still he had an object beyond-a desired object beyond the grave; the hope of attaining which, engaged his heart, and animated every power of soul and body. This dear object is expressed in the text—THE RESURRECTION OF THE
A subject so interesting to the apostle must be of the highest importance. May we all believe in it as such, and be influenced by it as he was. Attending to which, we may
I. Observe by what means the apostle Paul endeavored to obtain his desired end the resurrection of the dead.
II. Inquire what the apostle must mean, in this place, by the resurrection of the dead.
III. Show the propriety of our subordinating every pursuit in life to this end; and of striving to the utmost, if by any means we may attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
I. To obtain his desired object, our apostle strove in a manner that shows what the hope of the resurrection of the dead is capable of effecting in man.
He made a sacrifice of all his advantages, natural, acquired and religious; which were many, and, he thought, equal, if not superior, to any man's whatever. See the 4th verse of this chapter, and the following in connection:
“Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more; circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;" brought up at the feet of Gamaliel ; for zeal acquiring great reputation; "touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless."
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless; and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found of him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righeousness
which is of God by faith ; that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made comformable unto his death, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."
This was striving indeed; these were exertions worthy of the noblest cause. Nor did he think of stopping here, as he immediately added, “ Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended : but this one thing I do; forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”-the resurrection of the dead.
This was, indeed, to strive by all means; this is the Christian heroism, which no losses, labors, distresses, nor perils could ever match, nor the king of terrors overcome, and which owes its existence to the hope of the resurrection of the dead. But,
II. What is meant, in this place, by the resurrection of the dead ?
Not regeneration, which is sometimes called a resurrection.
For, undoubtedly, the apostle had the best evidences that by the grace of God he had passed this resurrection already-that, in this sense, he had passed from death unto life. The things he had done, and still proposed to do, were all the highest evidences of regeneration. It could not
be regeneration; for the means he proposed for the attainment of this desired end, were all the works of faith-the exertions of the new heart -the fruits of regeneration.
Not merely the resurrection of the body, for the apostle Paul fully believed there would be a resurrection, both of the just and the unjust. Acts xxiv. 15: “ And have hope towards God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a "resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” But the resurrection of the dead, for which the holy apostle strove, if by any means he might attain unto it, is something, we must think, not to be attained by all-not by the unbelievers and the disobedient.
This resurrection, therefore, must be some peculiar privilege of the faithful. And may we not conclude, that this giorious privilege of the faithful is what in the Scriptures is called the first resurrection, in which he that haih a part is pronounced blessed ?
We read, 1 Thess. iv. 16, “ The dead in Christ shall rise first." If we may understand the 20th chapter of Revelation, without cramping its literal force and meaning by making it figurative, allegorical, &c., there will be two resurrections, and one a thousand years before the other.
“ And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and
reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again, until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection : on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God, and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."
Upon this passage I will give you an extract from Dr. Burnet. “ These words do fully express a resurrection, and a reign with Christ a thousand years. As for that particular space of time, of a thousand years, it is not much material to our present purpose ; but the resurrection here spoken of, and the reign with Christ, make the substance of the controversy, and in effect
* Since the image of the beast rose up in the world, notwithstanding his appearance is so lamb-like, yet, by his mouth-his flatteries, opinions, and all levelling popular influence—the people of God suffer as much, and perhaps more, than they did by his ferocious bloodymouthed predecessor : and, as all believers do verily give up their lives for the Lord's sake; and also, as there is here a particular reference to those who suffered by the image of the beast; we may conclude that the people of God now, as well as in all ages of the world, come within this description, and are really included in the tender and glorious appellation, “ The souls of the beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God ;” and enduring to the end, resisting the reigning spirit and power of the world, through rich grace, will receive this blessed and holy crown of martyrdom--the first resurrection.
And, as this beast is double horned, it may be that we shall yet feel his sword, as well as his tongue; for, notwithstanding his mild looks and professions of moderatism, he has the heart of the beast; and his power is undiminished.