Saturday, October 17, 2009
He's heavy, he's fat, he has his own grav -ita -tional field - He's The Blob. He remains one of the more enduring and popular villains in the X-men universe for reasons that completely escape this writer. He even warranted an appearance in this summer past's Wolverine pic. They have slimmed the Blob down of late, but where is the fun in that?
You know, the physics here could be fascinating, but then such was never the real strong suit of guys writing comic books - well except maybe those that wrote the old Barry Allen Flash, in the days before the Speed Force - and even they got a bit inventive, if you know what I mean. Any way. If the Blob's power is to generate a gravity filed, is his power proportional to his actual mass? In which case, why lose weight? Why not go for planetary proportions?
And can he make his own black hole?
Conclusion, here we have a guy thrown in becasue some artist thought a fat guy would look good the pic somewhere, and well, the rest, as they say, had to be written.
Friday, October 16, 2009
The myth of the secular Shakespeare continues to cast a long shadow over most people's perception of Shakespeare's plays. Until I inherited the Shakespeare course in my department halfway through my career, I assumed that despite certain Christian patterns and occasional biblical allusions in the tragedies, Shakespeare's plays were broadly humanistic in their intellectual allegiance. Nothing has been a bigger surprise in my scholarly career than my gradually coming to regard Shakespeare as a Christian writer.Perhaps it is the friendship I have developed with David Allen White in recent years, but I find it surprising that anyone would find Shakespeare's faith surprising.
There are two factors involved here. For one, I think most people think things need to be explicitly Christian to somehow be Christian. The other factor is that I wonder how many people have the necessary literary training to distinguish the themes and motifs that run through someone like The Bard. This later factor is one of the few objections I have with home schooling. Not all parents have that training and it is hard to pass on what you do not have. But then, of course, such a problem can be solved at the University.
I am more concerned with the issue of Christians that think Christianity is some sort of bludgeon. I think such is yet another indicator of how shallowly we hold our faith in Jesus.
Jesus did not come to change things around us - he came to change us - to remake us. That process may or may not change what we do, or how we do it. We don't become Christians to write about Christianity, we become Christians to write as a Christian.
It is as if we forget that just becasue the Bible does not discuss the minutiae of Christ's earthly life, we forget he had one. He ate, he wrote checks, he went to the bathroom - and somehow he did all these things in a "Christ-like" fashion as well.
Or, maybe we don't forget, maybe we avoid. Maybe we want to keep Jesus a bludgeon becasue it is a way of keeping Him at arms length. We may want to change a few things around the edges, but the kind of radical change Jesus has in mind for us, well, maybe we find that a bit daunting and even scary.
Next time you think about what it means to be a "Christian" writer, or a Christian anything else - return to the simple question of what it means to be a Christian. You work that one out and I think the rest of it will just sort of fall in line.
NOPE! - They're going to burn Bibles! That's right - anything that ain't KJV is "satanic."
Here's the report:
Was upset when I first read about it - but then I decided to laugh. (consider) You're allowed to believe what you want in America - even if it is silly. And just think of all the Greek and Hebrew classes I could have avoided in seminary!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
In Search Of Radical Faith
Your danger and mine is not that we become criminals, but rather that we become respectable, decent, commonplace, mediocre Christians. The twentieth-century temptations that really sap our spiritual power are the television, banana cream pie, the easy chair and the credit card. The Christian wins or loses in those seemingly innocent little moments of decision.Agreed. Christians are supposed to be radically different - somehow. The question is how. Is having a piece of banana cream pie wrong? - or using a credit card? - or even watching television? Not of themselves. But if that is what a Christian does, how are they different than everybody else? We talk about transformed lives - that's radical stuff. What does that look like.
It's not about what we do - it's about who we are. Consider:
Gal 5:22-24 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.What that says is that if we chose to sit in the easy chair and watch TV eating a banana cream pie that we bought with our credit card, there should be something about such that shows those attributes. So, for example, did you offer to share the pie with everyone else? - Kindness. Are you really enjoying yourself, or are you doing all this simply out of boredom? - Joy. Is your piece of pie too big? - Self-control. Are you leaving important things undone? - Faithfulness.
And yet, as I write that paragraph I find my unease growing. Each example I give runs the risk of becoming legalistic, which is something we are called to avoid.
There is a real chicken and egg question here. Real radical faith is about making such things natural. The difference between being legalistic about them and not, is not in what we do, but in whether it is a natural expression of who we are or not. If we are truly transformed in Christ, then our behavior will not be a matter of effort, but expression.
As usual, I must turn to my weight loss. As I write this, I am recently off of a cruise where I gave myself permission to eat. With one notable exception, I find that I am in fact becoming more normal in my eating, less of a fat person. In the afternoon the ship had cookies laying about. I found them nearly impossible to leave alone. That's a clear sign that I am not yet completely transformed in my eating habits. And yet, none of the other food that was plentifully and readily available tempted me at other than mealtime - and that is a good thing.
To a reasonable extent, eating is no longer my default activity. It is not longer the most natural expression of who I am. It is still a very natural expression, but it is no longer THE predominant one. That is the kind of radical change Christ is trying to produce in us.
It's hard and it's slow.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
In some circles, the term "church programs" has become an epithet for all that is wrong with the institutional church. For a generation hungry for authenticity and community, "programs" feel staged, impersonal, and cold. For a generation increasingly skeptical of government, big business, and corporate machinery in general, "programs" reek of institutionalism, bureaucracy, and insensitivity to human need. Programs may not be the problem, but they are certainly a symptom. They give us something to throw stones at.Brandon O'Brien offers some ideas that can make programs more acceptable:
- It begins with a community need that is theologically justifiable.
- It is overseen by qualified folks.
- It leads to the expansion of the Kingdom.
I am not in love with his word choice here, and were it me, I would have stopped after the first two, but I want to expand rather than quibble here.
"Theologically justifiable" means, we don't want to stress a point too much. Let's face it - some good things are not really the point of a church program. A fitness class is a good thing, undeniably, but should it be a church program? I don't think so. One has to go through any number of contortions about bodies as temples and fellowship to make a case that such is a church function.
That doesn't mean, by the way, that a church facility is not a legitimate place to conduct such a class, I just mean it should not be taking church resources. If a private individual wanted to rent church facilities for that purpose during the week, that is a different matter altogether, given a couple of caveats.
Caveat one - the person chose to locate in the church facility as a means of providing income from which they can pay the rent for the benefit of the church. In other words, I don;t think one should chose to locate such a class in the church because the rent is cheaper than a private building - it's too self-serving. Rather, their goal should be to aid the church coffers because they can supply rent in abundance.
Caveat Two - the person seeks to serve the individuals in the class, not show off how in shape they are. Which leads me to the second point.
"Qualified folks" is about being a mature Christians. The bottom line is this. I think any person in whom Christianity has taken sufficient root will seek to serve their students and the church naturally. Too often programs are started becasue "It's my ministry, it's what I am good at." Or thy simply want the attention of being up front. Too often a church allows such people to have ministry becasue they are more concerned about keeping people in the fold than they are about making mature Christians.
It seems to me, it always has, that the problem is that the program becomes an end unto itself. A program should be put on or taken off more easily than a suit of clothing. It is not about the program. It is about making mature Christians. We meet people where they are and we help them become mature - whatever form it takes.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The Gospel Fix
There is always a danger of making the gospel out to be something that does not touch your every day life. A good portion of Christians live as if the gospel has no effect upon every square inch of their life. That is sad. But it is equally dangerous to present the gospel as the effects of the gospel.Look, I get the point here, even agree with it to a pretty large extent, but we have got to find a better way to talk about it. Just a couple of points.
You know what…you may love Jesus, seek to follow him in all things, be obedient to him for all the days of your life and your marriage be in shambles. You may be faithful at tithing, a sacrificial giver, love Jesus deeply and be broke living from home to home without a place to lay your head at night (for an example of this see Jesus).
Let me say this loud and clear: THE GOSPEL IS NOT ABOUT FIXING YOUR LIFE! The gospel might fix your life. John Piper is absolutely correct, the greatest gift of the Gospel is God Himself. Anything else is an overflow of that.
I look at this very differently - it's true, coming to Christ may not cure my poverty, but it will make me content in it. Which means, that in a very real sense the gospel will fix my life. And that is my essential point. The gospel will always fix your life becasue it will always fix us.
Which brings me to my second point - if the gospel does not fix us, and therefore fix our lives, then I have significant doubt if we have actually accessed the gospel, at least all of it. Christ said:
John 3:8 - "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."The gospel cannot be separated from its affect on our lives - which is why I have a problem with saying things the way this post says them. While it is true the gospel may not affect our lives in the ways we anticipate, or even desire, it simply must affect our lives or it is something less or other than the true gospel.
Further, if the affect it has cannot be considered "a fix" then it is less than good and therefore definitionally not the gospel.
The essential point trying to be made here is that becoming a Christian does not change our circumstance, it changes us - who we are.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Is This Silly?
“Mission is a word that originated with the church. Business has stolen it. We need to take it back.” I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard or read this recently. I heard it again during a workshop at the Presbyterian Big Tent event in Atlanta. The speaker mentioned seeing a business mission statement at Taco Bell. He quipped, somewhat incredulously, “Who knew Taco Bell has a mission statement?” He then noted that mission was an idea that originated with the church and we need to recover it within the church.Kruse goes on to defend business:
While this instance was rather benign, such remarks often are not. “Stealing back mission” isn’t just about recovering it for the church. It is about getting it out of the hands of evil. There is a strong intimation, if not explicit declaration, that the idea of mission has been co-opted by something profane. The idea that a business would have a mission statement is mocked. After all, we all know that businesses are rooted in greed. Business mission statements are ultimately disingenuous attempts to dress up sinful motives.I agree with him, but I want to attack this from a slightly different angle. The entire concept of dividing "the world" from "the church" is, in some sense really, really a silly one. Now, of course, I don't disagree that there are things of this world we are to put behind us as we mature as Christians - that's not my point.
Greed has been present with humanity throughout recorded history. It is present in our modern economies as well. But at its core, business is not about greed. Business is about people creating goods and services, and then participating in endless win-win exchanges. It is about people irrepressibly exhibiting the image of their creator. The idea of businesses being intentional and focused in their mission as they corporately reflect the image of God (which they do despite their intentions) should prompt affirmations and encouragement from the church. Sadly, for all too many church leaders, it merely elicits ridicule and scorn. It is viewed as the defilement of something sacred.
My point is the idea of somehow cordoning off every thing around us into these realms of some sort. For example. The idea that a business has a "mission statement" could be viewed as a point of influence of the church on culture and is that not a good thing.
Besides, most things are morally neutral. Their worldliness, or lack thereof, relies primarily on how WE approach them. As an example, my office is decorated with a lot of things like what you see here - statues of super-heroes...my love of comics being no secret to regular readers of this blog.
I am quite certain the kind of person that is concerned about "taking mission statements back from business" would accuse me of worshiping idols. They have a point if I don't tithe and instead spend the money on the statues, or if staring at them stands in the way of my personal devotions, or I skip church to dust them. They can be idols -- or they can simply be decoration. It is my attitude towards them that makes them idols or not.
My real point is this. Jesus Christ came, died, and was resurrected to transform us. And when we are transformed we become his agents for saving the world, and often we act as those agents simply by being transformed individuals.
People that think my statues are idols or that want to "take back mission statements from business," are people that I believe as avoiding the real issue. They are trying to change things around them so they can avoid the work that the Holy Spirit is trying to do in their hearts.
How do you hide from the work the Holy Spirit is trying to do in you?
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Sermons and Lessons
Delivered at Dorchester April 23, 1732.
Hic neque concepto fetu, nec semine surgit: secunda morte reformat Et petit alternam totidem per funera vitam. - CLAUD. PHOENIX
If any enquire into the Reasons of this Publication; the Importunity of some Friends, and the Judgment of others, together with some Desire to do good, are the general Arguments of a modern Preface: And the Author hopes he has some Right to this common and useful Train of Thoughts.
The Sermons are Plain, & adapted to a popular Audience. They were composed without any Thought of the Press, and when they were persuaded out of the Author’s Hands, he could not find Leisure from his other Studies to transcribe them: for which Cause the Reader will not expect to find anything labored or uncommon. The Author imagines that lively Descriptions, a clear Method, and pathetic Language best become the Desk: And this possibly may be one Reason why he insisted no more upon Philosophical Arguments in his Discourse upon the vile Body changed. Though he believes the Doctrine of the Stamen will as easily account for a Resurrection, as for Generation, yet he supposes such Talk in the Pulpit serves more to amuse the Auditory, and complement the Preacher himself than to honor CHRIST, or do good to Souls.
If by looking over the ensuing Pages, any Christian shall have one more holy or proper Thought, the Writer will think his Pains well rewarded.
PHIL. 3:21 - Who shall change our vile body, that it may he fashioned like unto his glorious body
The Apostle Paul in the Chapter open before us, after some Precepts laid down, concludes with Two Motives to persuade Men to the Practice of them: And these are, the Coming of CHRIST, in the Verse preceding my Text; and the Resurrection of the Saints now read unto you. Both of them are very solemn and sublime Thoughts: But it is only the latter which comes immediately within the Compass of our present Meditation.
The Resurrection of the Dead, and, which is much the same thing, the Transformation of these found alive at the coming of CHRIST, are very clearly revealed in the New Testament, especially by the Apostle Paul. But the Glory of a Believer’s Raised Body is not, nor indeed can it be anywhere more fully expressed, than in the Words under our immediate View. Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.
The Apostle tells us, Our Bodies are now vile; our vile Bodies shall be changed; it is our Lord JESUS CHRIST who shall change them; and they shall be fashioned like unto his glorious body. How much is crowded into a few Words! how emphatical are they! how copious! how sublime! How amply do they fill the Mind, and exhaust the Imagination, inspire our Faith, and awaken our Joy!
In handling these Words, I shall only have Time to speak to Three of the Four Articles (or if you please, Doctrines) which you see are plainly contained in them.
I. These Bodies of ours, in their Present State, are VILE BODIES. Who shall change our vile bodies? Shall we here let our Thoughts loose upon a few Particulars, which will render it plain, and humble us with the sad Conviction. These Bodies, of whose Beauty and Vigor we are so apt to boast, alas, they are vile Bodies.
1. Their Original is mean and despicable. In the Sense of the Greek Text, our Body was vile, even in the Purity of its first Creation. The Word which we translate vile, is ταπεινώσεως: The Body of our Humility. ‘Tis a humble Body. It carries Humiliation even in its Origin and Constitution. It comes from Humus; the moist Ground; The Clay, the low Earth. The First Principle of Humans; is Humus. Humiliation and Vileness is thus entailed upon our Body, even from the primitive Materials out of which it was framed. Even Adam in Paradise and Innocence, might in this sacred sense, have owned a Vile Body.
And now; Let the Proud Creature look down to the Earth, & view the Dust from which he sprung, & then confess his Body Vile. And the Lord God firmed man out of the dust of the ground. Out of the Clay was this living Frame fashioned; here it had its humble Original; and from this abject Earth, did it arise and shoot up, thus curious in its Form and Constitution. This beauteous Arrangement of finer Dust, was taken from the common Glebe, into which it must quickly fall, and resolve again. The Limbs which now show the exactest Symmetry and Proportion, the Pulses which beat with the strongest Energy and Life, and the Aspect that is flushed with Health and Beauty, owe all their Existence to the same Clods of Earth which harbor our Brethren, the Worms: The Worms, which wait to Feast upon our molding Carcass; and riot in our wasting Flesh. The Body is of the Earth, earthy. Dust it is, and to Dust it shall return. Let us reflect thus, & then confess, This VILE BODY.
2. It is a sinful Body, and therefore a vile Body. It has in it a Body of Death; and no wonder it looks ghastly, and loathsome, and vile. All its Appetites are vitiated, and disordered, and it leads the Soul about like a Malefactor in Chains. The Spirit which God infuses is depraved and polluted by it and Original Sin is communicated through the Veins of the guilty Parent. The several Senses of the Body, prove so many Traitors to the nobler Faculties of the Mind, and continually captivate and debase it. How many Sins enter at the Eyes? and how many idle Ideas pass in at the Ears, forever open to the Vanity of empty and corrupted Air. The Luxuries of the Palate debauch the enslaved Mortal, and drag him on to Excess and Intemperance. He wanders among sensible Appearances, and forgets spiritual and divine Realities. He is hardly brought to consider, that the things which are SEEN are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. Is not the Body, that thus abuses the Soul, the Rational principle within, a vile Body? The Body, the beautiful Workmanship of an Alwise Artificer, how is it sunk beneath the Level of the brutal World, by its Sin against God? 0 wretched that we are! who shall deliver us from the Body of this Death?
3. Our Body is a weak, infirm Body, and therefore a vile Body. It is a feeble House of Clay, that totters to every Blast. Disease and Mortality lurk in every Member, and Vein, and Muscle. It is liable to Contagions and Distempers of all Sorts. They March silent and unseen, in the fine Air about us. They lie brooding in their Venom, through all the Fluids within: Latent Destruction! Death in Ambuscade! A Thousand different Fevers stand ready to seize this Body; to torment it, and to burn away its Life: To lick up the finer Spirits, and snap the Vital Cord. It may be at once blinded by a Defluxion of Rheum, fettered with the Tortures of the Gout, and broken in the Agonies of the Stone: Like Sampson in the Philistine Prison-house, at the same Time blinded, and shackled, and grinding. Every Nerve about us, is capable of Pains too great for us to bear, too strong for us to resist, and too subtle for us to escape. The Strength of the most athletic Body, is still on the Wing; may fly away suddenly; will do it speedily; and must at last wholly leave it. The Beauty of the most amiable Body, is every Day hasting to fade, and go out in obscure Darkness. Our daily eating and drinking, proclaim a feeble Body, that would faint and die if these were omitted. Every Time we set down to a Table, or take a Cup in our Hand, we confess we are Creatures that need constant Support and Nourishment. When we lie down to the necessary Sleep of the Night, we own the Sleep of the Night must relieve us a little from the long Slumber of the Grave. Every Breath we draw insinuates, in a silent Whisper, our Frailty, our Dependence on God, and our short Continuance: It warns us that our Life is Wind. - So Weak is our Body, that it take away much of our Thought from our Souls, to contrive for its Life, and Health, and Sustenance - Let us look now upon the brittle Frame, and exclaim, 0 the vile Body!
4. It is a dying Body, & therefore a vile Body. Here our Bodies now stand, perhaps flourishing in all the Pride and Bloom of Youth: Strong our Sinews; moist our Bones; active and supple our Joints; our Pulses beating with Vigor, and our Hearts leaping with a Profusion of Life and Energy. But oh! Vain Appearance and gaudy Dream! Surely every Man at his best Estate, is altogether Vanity. He walks in a vain Show; he glitters with delusive Colors; he spends his Years as an Idle Tale. What avails it, that he is now hardy and robust, who must quickly pant upon a Death-bed. What avails it, that his Limbs are sprightly in their easy Motions, which must quickly stretch in the dying Agony. The Lips now flushed with a Rosy Color, will anon quiver and turn pale. The Eyes that roll with a sparkling Vivacity, will fix in a ghastly Horror. The most musical Voice will be stopped; and the tuneful Breath fly away The Face where Beauty now triumphs, will appear cold, and wan, and dismal, rifled by the Hand of Death. A Cold Sweat will chill the Body; a hoarse Rattling will fill the Throat; the Heart will heave with Pain and Labor, and the Lungs catch for Breath, but gasp in vain. Our Friends stand in Tears about our Bed: They weep; but they cannot help us. The very Water with which they would cool and moisten our parched Mouths, we receive with a hollow Groan. Anon we give a Gasp, and they shriek out in Distress, ‘Oh! He’s gone, — He’s dead!’ The Body in that Instant stretches on the Sheets, an awful Corpse. This is the End of our Body for this World: Pronounce now; Is it not a Vile Body? But this brings me to the last Article.
5. Our Body will quickly be a dead Body, and this proclaims it a vile Body. The Silks and soft Linnen which now fold and adorn these Bodies, must be changed for a winding Sheet. The Applause and Complement which now flatter us, are not heard in the Retirements of the Grave, to disturb its awful Silence: Nor shall Reproaches and Revilings break in upon our Rest there. Our pleasant Habitations will be left for others, while we have no Apartment left us, but a Coffin, or a Tomb at most. We shall forsake our Dishes and our Tables; and our selves become Food for the crawling Vermin of the Dust. How quickly shall we hasten to Clay and Ashes, in the solitary, and dark, and cold Grave?
In a few Years, the most beauteous, or learned, or pious Head will grin a hideous Skull. Our broken Coffins will show nothing but black Bones, and black Mould, and Worms & Filth. The Places that knew us shall know us no more. The Persons who were most intimate in our Acquaintance; who soothed us with their Visits, or caressed us in their Bosoms, will now forget us. When they shall perhaps enter our Tombs and take up our Bones in their Hand, they’ll not suspect the frightful Carcass to be Ours, save by the Letters on the broken Coffin, or the Inscription on the mouldering Monument.
And now, Man giveth up the Ghost and where is he? What becomes of the Dream of Worldly Happiness? Where are the Houses, and the Coffers? The Great Name, the loud Applause, and the Brutal Pleasure? His Riches are left to others: And to whom he knows not; whether a Wise Man or a Fool. He forsakes his numerous Houses, and is confined to a narrow Coffin, in a lonely Vault. Out of all his Lands he retains but a few Foot of Earth to cover him from the Sight. His boasted Name is forgot among the living, and scarce once in an Age casually read upon his Grave-stone. His Breath goeth forth, he returneth to his Earth, in that very Day his Thoughts perish.
The Spirit is given up; and see the Body drops down, pale, and stiff, and cold. The Eyes are fixed; the Teeth are set; the Breath is fled. Is this the Face we once gazed upon with so much Pleasure? Are these the Cheeks that glowed so fresh, and bloomed so lovely? Are these the Lips that smiled so graceful, and poured out such a gliding Stream of Eloquence and Music? Where’s the tuneful Voice that once held the listening Ear, and raised the attentive Eye? Where are the proportioned Limbs, the supple Joints, the vigorous Pulses, the beating Heart, the working Brain, and the breathing Breast? Lo, the Body is laid in the Dust, and the Worms cover it. Polluted Vermin crawl over every Part of the elegant Form, and the beauteous Face. It is folded in a winding Sheet, it is nailed in a black Coffin, and it is deposited in a silent Vault, amidst Shades and Solitude. The Skin breaks and molders away; the Flesh drops in Dust from the Bones; the Bones are covered with black Mould, and Worms twist about them. The Coffins break, and the Graves sink in, and the disjointed Skeleton strows the lonely Vault. This shapely Fabric must leave its Ruins among the Graves; lie neglected and forgot; molder away without a Name, and scatter among the elements. ‘And were these Bones once living like ours? and must ours be as they’? This hideous Skull, the frightful Jaw fallen, and the black Teeth naked to the Eye, was it once a thinking Frame, covered with a beauteous Skin? Strange Alteration made by Death! And are not our Burying-Grounds full of such Spectacles? What do they but illustrate and confirm the Doctrine? Methinks every Grave, with open Mouth, preaches upon my Text, This Vile Body. 0 Vile Body! under what in famous Dishonors of Loathsomeness and Corruption art thou? Thou must be laid away in the dusty Galleries of the Grave, the gloomy Chambers of Death, unregarded and unknown; lost in deep Retirement, and awful Silence. 0 Vile Body!
Thus we have seen with what Propriety Vileness belongs to these Bodies. How suitable and emphatical the degrading Epithet? Let us here pause, and improve, and set Limits to the Description.
Is this Body so Vile and Wretched? How vain and foolish is it to be Proud of our Body. τό σώ μα τής ταπεινώ σεως ήμών: The Body of our Humiliation. Vain Men! Proud of the very Body of Humiliation Vile, debasing, sinful Clay~ Why should we set our Eyes upon that which is not; or in a little rune will not be? Why should we prefer our Bodies, and forget our Souls? Clothe and adorn those, while we are regardless of the Salvation of these? Why, ye Fair, should ye be proud of a Beauty destined to the embrace of Worms? Or why, ye Strong, should ye boast the hardy Nature, which must quickly faint, and drop down breathless. 0 far be the Thoughts from us, to be vain of such vile Bodies! May, the haughty Mein, and the disdainful Glance; the conscious Smile, and the assuming Brow Away the artful Movements and managed Airs of Wantonness and Pride. No more let airy Fashions and looser Modes of Dress expose the Body. Nor let it be lost in the studied Disproportions of an ambitious Garb. Why need we affect an Apparel, fantastically Demure, on the one hand or choose on the other, Pomp, and Glitter, and empty Show? We may appear decent in the Polite World, without running through all the quick Succession of Fopperies: The round Attire like the Moon, in a perpetual Circle of Changes. Let the vile Body, be CLOTHED with HUMILITY: Modesty and Sobriety are the best Ornaments.
But let us set Limits to the Exclamation, and not carry ft too thr. No; our Bodies, vile as they are, are to be honored and respected by us. They are the wonderful Production of Omnipotence, the curious Workmanship of an alwise Artificer. La the Body of the Sinner be as vile as it will, your Bodies, ye happy Believers, are raised above the common Clay in a nobler Honor. What; know ye not, (says the Apostle) that your Bodies are the Members of JESUS CHRIST? Know ye not, that your Bodies are the Temples of the Holy Ghost that dwelleth in you. Our Bodies, ft is true, are in many respects vile; But yet, under all their Humble Circumstances, they are the Members of our Lord JESUS. Let us always then, when we call our Bodies vile, remember that they are noble too, and intituled to the sublimest Honors. La us take Care of them, cherish them, view them in the Light in which CHRIST looked upon his own Body. For he spake concerning the Temple of his Body, John 2:21. Let us respect and reverence our Bodies, as the Temples of the HOLY SPIRIT; the Members of JESUS CHRIST, and the Candidates of a glorious Resurrection. When we wash, or feed, or clothe, or adorn our Bodies, let such Meditations as these, produce, and sanctify the Act.
But we come to the second Doctrine.
II. These vile Bodies of ours shall be CHANGED. The greatest Part of Believers on CHRIST shall be changed at a Resurrection from the Dead: But not all. Some shall never die, but be found alive at the Appearance of CHRIST: These shall be caught up to meet the descending Judge, and shall be changed in the shining Ascent. See in the 1st Epist. Cor. 15. Chap. where the Apostle treats this Subject at large, ver. 51,52. Behold I show you a mystery, we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment; in the twinkling an Eye at the last Trumpet; (for the Trumpet shall sound) and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. So that in the End, there will be very little Difference between the dead Believers, and those whom our Lord finds alive at his coming. Both shall be changed at our Lord’s descent; caught up to meet him in the Regions of Air, as his fiery Chariot rolls down amidst Thunder, and Clouds, and Whirlwinds. The Living Saints shall be snatched from the Earth, and changed from the feeble State they are now in: Those who are Dead, and sleep among the Tombs, shall shake off the Dishonors of the Graves, and be changed from the Vileness of Dust and Worms. Of these in their Order.
1. This vile Body shall be changed from the STATE of DEATH. What though our Bodies die; they shall revive from the Condition of Curse and Corruption. If a man die, shall he live again? Yes; at the Resurrection of the Dead shall he be raised. GOD shall raise the Dead, by the Man whom he hath ordained, whereof he has given Assurance unto all Men in that he raised him from the Dead. So long ago as the Time of Job, the holy Man could look to a Redeemer, who should call him from the corruptions of the Grave, and renew his consumed Limbs to Strength, and his Eyes to Light. [Job 29:25,26, 27] For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter Day upon the Earth. And though after my Skin, Worms destroy this Body, yet in my Flesh shall I see GOD; whom I shall see for my self and my Eyes behold, and not another though my Reins be consumed within me. We must die, but what then, we are as sure of a Resurrection as we are of Death. But Oh! what a blessed Change will the Resurrection make upon our dead Bodies. Perhaps the Worms have feasted themselves upon our Last Dust; But they shall refund it, and give back every Atom: All that really belongs to our numerical Body. The Fishes perhaps have eaten the Carcass, buried in the Waves, and lost in the Depths of the Ocean: But the Sea also shall return it back, and give up the Dead that is in it. These Bodies may dissolve, and scatter among the Elements. Our fluids may forsake their Vessels the Solid contract, and fold up in its primitive Miniature. And even after that the little invisible Bones may molder to finer Dust, the Dust may refine to Water, wander in a Cloud, float in a River, or be lost in the wide Sea, and undistinguished Drop among the Waves. They may be again sucked up by the Sun, and fall in a Shower upon the Earth; They may refresh the Fields with Dew; flourish in a Spire of Grass; look green in a Leaf or gaudy in a Flower or a Blossom. For we know Matter is continually changing, and one Element perpetually loosing it self in another. But let our Dust wander where ft will, throughout the whole material Creation, yet at the first Blast of the last Trumpet, it shall all at once rush together, and start up a complete Man. The vile Body shall be changed, whereever it lay hid: The Dust shall be called together; the Bones shall harden, and the Joints connect; a new; unknown, incorruptible fluid suddenly fill the Vessels; the Sinews shall brace with an immortal Strength, no more to be parted; and the Skin cover all with everlasting Beauty; never to fade any more. This shall be the Change from the State of Death, which our vile Bodies shall pass through. - The prophetic Vision of Ezekiel shall be literally fulfilled at that day. Ezek. 37:14.
2. This vile Body shall be changed from its PRESENT STATE. Though it shall be raised from the Dead, it shall not revive to its present mean and dishonorable Condition, but shall be changed. Now it is a Body full of Uncleanness and Corruption, Disease and Death. But it shall be changed. Though it is sown in corruption, it shall be raised in incorruption. Now our Body is mean and vile, and upon many Accounts dishonorable; But it shall be changed. Though it is sown in Dishonor it is raised in Glory Now they are weak, and faint, and soon exhausted, and spent with long and close Labour. But they shall be changed from their feeble state. It is sown in Weakness, it is raised in Power Now how gross and heavy are our Bodies? How sluggish and unactive the unweildy Flesh? But it shall be changed. This I say Brethren, Flesh and Blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, neither doth Corruption inherit Incorruption, ver. It is sown a natural Body, it is raised a Spiritual Body, ver. What can we say more to illustrate the blessed Change? Our Body is now in a thousand respects an infirm and dying Body: But, 0 glorious Transformation! This corruptible must put on Incorruption and this mortal must put on Immortality ver. This is the Change from the present State, of which these very vile Bodies are the Candidates. But we will not prevent our selves from saying
III. This vile Body of ours shall be FASHIONED LIKE UNTO CHRIST’S GLORIOUS BODY. They shall be changed from the corrupt and unclean State of Death. More than this: they shall be changed from all the Dishonors and Meanness of the Present life: But 0 sublimest Glory of all! 0 divine Expectation, and sacred Hope! They shall be fashioned like unto his glorious Body. like the illustrious and immortal Body of our blessed LORD JESUS CHRIST Observe; CHRIST still has a Body. His Body has a Form and Shape belonging to it. It is not our Bodies shall be made like unto CHRIST’S glorious Body; but shall be fashioned; σύμμορφον, shall receive a like Figure and Shape, and be changed into the same Image. So says the Apostle, I Cor. 15:47,49. The first man is of the Earth earthy the second Man is the Lord from Heaven. And as we have born the Image of the Earthy, we shall also bear the Image of the Heavenly.
But what is this Image? and what is implied in that most expressive Idea, our vile shall be changed; and fashioned like unto CHRIST’S glorious Body? I shall just hint at a few Particulars very briefly.
1. To have the vile Body fashioned like unto CHRIST’S glorious Body, implies in it, that it be made splendid and illustrious. The Body of CHRIST is a shining Body, and scatters Light and Glory round about it, Saul was struck blind, dazzled with the unsufferable Blaze, that rushed in a Tempest upon his Eyes, from the Body of the Son of GOD. John beheld him, with his Face shining like the Sun in its meridian Flame, and his Body beaming in an answerable Glory. The Angels and the glorified Saints beheld him, as the great Ornament and the Light of Heaven: For the Lamb is the Light of it; and they need no Sun, or Moon, or Candle.
If CHRIST’S Body be thus splendid, ours shall be so too; for they shall be fashioned like unto his glorious Body They shall put on a shining Form; shoot like a Flame from the Grave, and glitter like a Ray of Light up the Ether. Dan. 12:3. They that be wise, shall shine as the brightness of the Firmament, and they which turn many to Righteousness, as the Stars forever and ever.
2. It implies that our Bodies shall be immortal. CHRIST’S Body is immortal; Being raised from the Dead, he dieth no more, Rev. 6:9. He pronounces with a Voice of Triumph, Rev. 1:18. I am he that liveth, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore; Amen.
Is the Body of CHRIST immortal? our Bodies shall be fashioned like unto his own immortal Body. This Mortal must put on Immortality. We must all die; we shall die but once. Being raised from the Dead, Death shall be swallowed up in Victory; and there shall be no more Death.
3. It implies that our Bodies shall he glorified with very mysterious and astonishing Powers. The Body of Christ could ascend and descend with equal ease. It could stand aloft in the Air, without any visible Support; So he looked down through the opened Heavens, upon the expiring Stephen; Act. 6:56. So he dazzled the Eyes of Saul in the Road to Damascus; Act. 9:3. It could rise up gradually from the Ground, and tower away through the upper Skies, to the World above. So he ascended in the View of the Men of Galilee, till a Cloud sailed under his Feet, and ravished him from their gazing Eyes; Act. 1:9. The Body of CHRIST could shift its form as their was Occasion, and vary its Shape and Dress, according to the Disposition of his Soul. To Mary Magdalene he assumed the Form and Habit of a Gardener; John 20:15. While the same day, the Two Disciples going to Emmaus, mistook him for a Traveler, from his Air and Dress. For after that he appeared in another Form unto two of them as they walked, and went into the Country. In a Word, the Body of CHRIST could appear or vanish just as he pleased, and it should seem without Resistance from grosser Matter. Thus to his Disciples met together, with the Door shut, on a sudden, he stood confessed in the midst of them, to their Wonder and Amazement. I can see nothing tending to Heresy in this conjecture: Nor do I think we have any reason to read the Passage, after the Time of shutting the Door But it is indifferent to our present Head, whether the Body of our Lord penetrated through the Pores of the Wood, as light, which is a Body, does through the much finer Pores of Glass; or whether it had a power so marvelous, as to open and shut the Door, at once so swift, and so soft, as to be entirely unperceived both by their Sight and Hearing. Either the one or the other, shows the wondrous Powers of the raised Body.
And are these the Glories of CHRIST’S Body? our’s shall be fashioned like it. When we are raised from the Dead, our Bodies will be active as the Flames, and vigorous as the Sunbeams. They will be able to command their Shape, or to shift their Place as they please. To glide over Oceans, rise through the Clouds, dart like a Stream of Lightning from East to West, and range suddenly over the whole Creation.
4. It implies, That our Bodies shall be renewed, holy Bodies. CHRIST’S Body is holy and always was so. He knew no Sin, and though he was made in the likeness of sinful Flesh, yet without Sin. He was holy, harmless, undefiled seperate from Sinners. His Body was sacred, and consecrate, and perfectly holy from its Birth. So the Angel blessed the Womb of the pregnant Virgin, The Holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son GOD.
Is the Body of CHRIST holy? our’s shall be so too; shall be fashioned like unto his own holy Body These Senses shall be refined, these Passions rectified, and these Appetites adjusted to a perfect Order and Oeconomy. 0 divine Felicity; when this sinful Flesh, shall be changed into a perfectly holy Temple! Our Sanctification displays it self upon Spirit, Soul, and Body. But in this Life, we are sanctified but in Part, in each of these. But our Souls are wholly sanctified, upon the last happy Gasp of Death: Our Bodies will be so too, at the final Note of the great Trumpet, that shall call them from the dusty Bosom of the Grave. Then shall they be raised holy Bodies, fashioned like unto CHRIST’S most glorious Body.
But why should we proceed any further? Shall our Bodies be fashioned like to CHRIST’S glorious Body? It is enough! We can go no higher; can wish no more! We make a vain essay to describe the Glory, which the Fancy cannot paint, nor the Heart conceive. Our raised Bodies will shine with a Splendor, which, at present, we can have no equal Idea of Beloved, now are we the Sons of GOD; and it doth not appear what we shall be: But we know, that when he shall appear; we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. It does not yet appear what we shall be: We can’t imagine or conceive the Brightness of our future Glory No matter; It is enough fur us, that we shall with these Eyes behold the beauteous and majestic Face of JESUS, and see him as he is. If we may but with open Face behold the Glory of the Lord, we shall irresistibly catch the Beams, and he changed into the same Image from Glory to Glory. The Vision will be a transforming Vision. We shall be like Him, for we shall see him as he is. Be like Him; How? who can say how? It is above our mortal Language to declare how. It does not appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 0 happy Vision! 0 blissful Change! 0 mysterious Glory!
The Fourth Proposition of the Text, is, It is our LORD JESUS CHRIST who shall change our vile Body, and fashion it like His glorious Body. This is the Work of the great GOD our SAVIOR. He can do it, and he will do it, Here is the Power; here is the Goodness of a GOD. He is able and he will keep, and raise, and glorify, even the Dust committed to Him. From the Hints of the Context I might fetch Arguments enough to enlarge here—But I see the Time expires, and I desist.
I come now to make a short Improvement of the noble Doctrines.
I. How unhappy are Wicked Men! He shall change OUR vile Body that it may he fashioned like his. Ours; none but ours. The Unbeliever and Impenitent has no Interest at all in this blessed hope none but the sincere Christian can apply it to himself It is true, the wicked must be raised from the Dead, as well as the holy. But Oh! how wide the Difference between the one and the other, at the great decisive Day! The wicked shall be raised to shame and everlasting Contempt No Glory shall shine about them, no Image of CHRIST shall appear upon them. They shall be changed, ‘tis true, but 0 the dreadful Change! Their feeble Bodies must be changed into Bodies strong to bear the Wrath of an Almighty GOD. Their dying and dead Bodies shall be changed into Bodies of an immortal Constitution; Bodies that must live forever in insufferable Anguish! That must measure Eternal Ages with Groans and Out-cries, and Execrations and Despair. Their corrupt and filthy Bodies shall be changed into ten thousand Times more hideous and loathsome Figures: Fit to be Inhabitants of Hell, and Companions for Devils. Their healthy and pleasurable Bodies shall be changed, be seized and racked with an unknown Variety of Pains and Torments; shall feed the Flames of the horrible Furnace; kindled with the Wrath of GOD, that burneth as an Oven, and endureth for ever. And Oh! who can dwell with devouring Fire? who can inhabit everlasting Burning? The darkness of a Grave shall be changed for the outer Darkness where shall be weeping and gnashing of Teeth. Instead of being fashioned like unto CHRIST’S glorious Body; they shall be blackened with the finished Image of the Devil, and be consigned over to everlasting Fire, prepared for the Devil and his Angels 0 the fearful Change, which the Resurrection will make upon the Bodies of the wicked!
II. Let us learn to set a due Value upon our Bodies. Though we may not idolize them, as the Crime generally is, we ought to honour them, and cherish them with a proper Care. What Honors are they coming to in a future State? They shall be raised, and changed, and fashioned like to CHRIST’S glorious Body.
III. Learn the Honor of our Lord JESUS CHRIST. 'Tis HE who shall raise these vile Bodies, and fashion them like his glorious Body Herein is the dear Savior mighty as a GOD; Herein he is good as a GOD too. Not only can he, but he will do this for us. 0 what Love should beat in the Hearts of these Bodies, to him who shall change them, and be the Strength of these very Hearts, and their Portion for ever. What Thanks shall we pay this adored JESUS! What grateful Returns shall we make him! Let every Breath arise tuneful in his Honors, who shall quickly inspire these Nostrils with Breath that will never scatter or gasp away. Let every Pulse in our Blood, beat Time to Music of his Praise, who will anon give the Pulses to leap through this living Frame, unfainting and immortal. Let every Member of these vile Bodies, grow honorable, by Employment in his Service, who shall change our vile Bodies, and fashion them like his own. Our Eyes, be ye exhausted in viewing the Works of GOD, in Reading his Word, and be lifted up to Heaven in his Praise! These Eves which shall see GOD! Our Ears, employ all your curious Organs in hearing his dear Voice. These Ears which shall quickly be changed; which shall hear the Voice of the Son of GOD, in the Graves where they lie, and be transported with endless Hallelujahs. Shall not these Tongues of ours be redeemed from the silent Grave, and utter the Anthems of Heaven? Awake up then, our Tongue, our Glory; and bless and praise the LORD. These Lips shall forget the Pale of Death, and be changed, and bloom afresh: what can we do less than praise thee aloud with joyful Lips, who shall renew their faded Beauty. 0 Let all the Body which shall be changed by CHRIST, be employed in the Service of CHRIST. How was CHRIST’S Body employed upon Earth? Let our Bodies be employed like his now, which shall be fashioned like his hereafter.
IV. And to conclude. Rejoice, 0 Believer. Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead Body shall they arise; Awake, and sing ye that dwell in the Dust: for thy dew is as the dew of Herbs, and the Earth shall cast out her dead. Shall our Body be raised from the Grave, let us not be afraid to put off this Body; Let us meet Death with Triumph! Death! which shall only change this vile Body for a glorious one. What glories are to come even upon this vile Body of ours. Our Souls, the noblest Parts, they are safe. Nay, but our body too, the vile Body, shall be all glorious. Now, perhaps, these Bodies are in Pain; hut quickly they shall know no more Pain. Now they are weary with Labor; quickly, they shall rest from their Labor and rise to constant Exercise without Weariness. Now they weep and sigh in many Sorrows: Quickly, all Tears shall be wiped from our Eyes, and Sorrow and Sighing shall flee away. Now they shall die, and go down to the Graves which wait for us: But though we die, yet shall we live; we shall be redeemed from the Power of the Grave, and arise to die no more. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my Soul in the Grave; nor suffer thy holy one always to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of Life, in a Resurrection from the Dead; In thy Presence is Fullness of Joy, and at thy Right hand are Pleasures for evermore.