For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 1 Cor. 15:53
OUR present existence is one of deep humiliation and certain decay. In the strong and emphatic language of Scripture, this physical structure, which we adorn with so much care, and which others so extravagantly admire, is described as a “vile body,” as “corruption,” as “mortal.” Has the fact with many—perhaps, my reader, with you—become so common-place as to have changed its character, from one of the most affecting and humbling, to one the existence and contemplation of which awakens in the mind no deep and serious reflection? Have you grown so familiar with disease, and become so conversant with death—the inanimate clay, the shroud, the coffin, the hearse, the grave—those sad emblems of our mortality, as to feel sensible of no solemn emotions when the Holy Spirit brings the fact before the mind? Is it with you a light matter to die? Ah! death is no trifle; and he will find it so who knows not Him who is the “Resurrection and the Life.”
But, display the Stoic and act the philosopher as you may, give place to mirth and hilarity and thoughtlessness as you will, in all your vivacity, your pomp and power, you are mortal, and must die. “Dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.” You shall “say to corruption, You are my father; and to the worm, You are my mother and any sister.” To this humiliating end all are tending: and although some of our race move to the tomb in greater state and luxury than others, yet “The grave is my house” is the affecting exclamation of all. There the rich and the poor meet together—Dives and Lazarus side by side. “There the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.”
Yet how few feel the solemnity and admit the force of this truth! How few pause to consider, that this body which they now pamper with such studied luxuriousness, and adorn with such refinement of taste, will before long need no clothing but the winding-sheet, no house but the coffin, and no home but the grave! And that so changed will be the countenance, once lined with beauty and radiant with thought—and so decayed the body, once so graceful and athletic—that those who regarded it with the fondest love, and even worshiped it with the deepest devotion, will be the first to exclaim, “Bury my dead out of my sight.”
Oh, how dire the humiliation of our present existence! “The body is dead because of sin.” But there glows around the grave of the believer in Jesus the halo of a blessed hope. “He that raised up Christ rom the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies.” No pomp or circumstance may attend him to the tomb, no marble monument may rear its chiseled form to record his virtues, to perpetuate his name, or mark the spot where his ashes repose. Those ashes the ocean’s cave may contain; his only tombstone the crested billows; his only requiem, chanted to the wild sea-bird, the solemn music of the waves as they dash and die upon the shore—but He sleeps in Jesus, and slumbering thus, his flesh rests in hope of a glorious resurrection and a blissful immortality. What a new and impressive character does Christianity give to the entire scene of the believer’s departure out of this world to go unto the Father!
To the eye of sense, the outer door of the tomb appears hideous and for bidding. The deadly nightshade and the overshadowing ivy entwine darkly and thickly over its dismal arch, while the trail of the worm and the time-gathered mold upon its bars deepen the air of its repulsiveness. But viewed by faith, how changed that tomb! As seen by its piercing eye, it is all radiant around, and all refulgent within. The Redeemer has been there, touching and gilding all with life and glory. And when the inner door opens upon heaven, what a scene of grandeur bursts upon the spirit’s view! Glory, streaming from above, bathes it in its celestial beams, and lights its pathway to the skies. This is the tomb of a believer in Jesus. No; it is no longer a tomb—it is a triumphal arch, all radiant and garlanded, through which the spiritual conqueror, laden with the spoils off his last victory, passes, amid the acclaim of angels and the welcomings of kindred spirits, to his crown and his rest.