THE OFFICE AND DIGNITIES OF THE REDEEMER EXPLAINED.
Q. What do you mean by the Office of the Redeemer?Return to Table of Contents
A. I mean all that Jesus Christ did, said, and suffered, for the redemption of mankind, in quality of our Redeemer; which contains all the mysteries of his birth, life, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension.
THE BIRTH OF OUR SAVIOUR.
Q. Where was our Savior born?Return to Table of Contents
A. In a stable of Bethlehem, of which the scriptures give this account: "In those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city: And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he as of the house and family of David, to be enrolled, with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass, that, when they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered; and she brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn," Luke ii. 1.
Q. What are we principally to observe in this account of the birth of Jesus?
A. First, The wonderful and overruling providence of God, which makes use of the very vices and passions of men to accomplish his own designs. Augustus Caesar, the Roman Emperor, was moved by his pride and avarice to cause all his subjects to be numbered throughout his vast empire. In obedience to this decree, Joseph and Mary, who were living in Galilee, at a great distance from Bethlehem, the city of their family, came to that city to be numbered with their own family, just about the time of her being delivered; all which was so disposed by Divine Providence, in order to accomplish what had been foretold by the prophets, that Christ should be born in that city; "And thou, Bethlehem, Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Judah; out of thee shall be come forth unto me that is to be the ruler of Israel," Mich. v.2.
Secondly, The infinite love of Jesus Christ to us, in beginning at so early a period, even at his very first entrance into the world, to suffer for us, and to give us, in his most tender infancy, the most perfect example of poverty, humility, and mortification; those darling virtues of his, which he knew were so necessary for us to practice, in order to cure all the spiritual maladies of our soul.
Q. How did he practice these virtues at his birth?
A. He practiced humility in being rejected by all the rich and great ones in Bethlehem, none of whom would admit his Virgin Mother to their houses, notwithstanding her condition of being great with child, which obliged her to take up her abode in a stable, where he chose to be born. He practiced poverty, in ordering matters so by his divine providence, that he should be born at a distance from the place where his mother dwelt, and on that account be deprived of all those conveniences which the poorest people have on such occasions; so he chose to be born in a stable instead of a palace, and laid in a manger instead of a soft bed. He practiced mortification, in being exposed to much pain from the inclemency of the weather at that cold season, from the open stable in which he was born, and the hard manger in which he was laid.
Q. What became of him after he was born?
A. In his infancy he was circumcised in obedience to the law, Luke ii. 21. He discovered himself to the shepherds by an embassy of angels from heaven, to show that he came to be the Saviour of the Jews, Luke ii. 9. He afterwards manifested himself to the Gentiles by a star from heaven, to show he was also come to be the Saviour of the Gentiles, Matth. ii. And he was persecuted by King Herod, who hearing of his birth from the wise men, sought to destroy him; - Matth. ii. After this he lived in private with his Virgin Mother and St. Joseph, her spouse and guardian, and "subjected himself to them," Luke. ii. 51.; and continued to live in a poor, private, and retired manner, till he was thirty years of age, faithfully observing all the law of Moses, to give us an example of humility, submission, and obedience; and because he came, as he himself tells us, "not to destroy the law but to fulfil it," Matth. v. 17.
THE PUBLIC LIFE OF OUR LORD.
Q. At the thirtieth year of his life what did he do?Return to Table of Contents
A. He then began his public life, preaching the gospel, doing good to all, healing their diseases, casting out devils, and working the most stupendous miracles, to prove his divine mission, and that he was the Messiah, or Saviour of the world, promised to mankind from the beginning: "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed with the devil," Act x. 38. He was a prophet mighty in work and word before God and all the people," Luke xxiv. 19. "The spirit of the Lord, saith he himself, is upon me, wherefore he hath anointed me; to preach the gospel to the poor he hath sent me, to heal the contrite of heart, to preach deliverance to the captives, and sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of reward," Luke iv. 18. And when St. John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to him to ask if he was the Christ, he appealed to the miracles which he then wrought in their presence; "and answering, he said to them, Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, to the poor the gospel is preached," Luke vii. 22. Hence the testimony given of his public employment in the gospel is this: "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness, and all manner of diseases among the people - And they brought to him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and such as were possessed by devils, and lunatics, and those that had the palsy, and he healed them," Matth. iv. 23. "And there came to him great multitudes, having with them the dumb, the blind, the lame, the maimed, and many others; and they cast them down at his feet, and he healed them," Matt. xv. 30. "And whithersoever he entered into towns, or into valleys, or cities, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch, but the hem of his garment, and as many as touched him were made whole." Mark vi. 56.
THE MIRACLES AS PROOFS.
Q. Were the miracles wrought by Jesus Christ a full and sufficient proof of his divine mission, and of his being the Redeemer?Return to Table of Contents
A. They certainly were a full and convincing proof of it, for several reasons:
First, Because the very miracles he wrought had been foretold many ages before by the prophets, as the signs of the Redeemer. Thus Isaiah says, "Behold your God will bring the revenge of recompense, God himself will come and save you; then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf be unstopped; then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be free," Is. xxxv. 4. All which are the very things that Jesus did, as proof of his being Redeemer.
Second, Because the works which Jesus did were done in the name of god the Father, on purpose to prove that he was the Messiah. Thus when "the Jews came round about him, and said to him, How long dost thou hold our souls in suspense; if thou be Christ, tell us plainly? Jesus answered them, I speak to you, and you believe not; the works that I do in the name of my Father, give testimony of me" Jo. x. 24. Now it is impossible that Almighty God should allow any miracles to be wrought in his name in favor of falsehood.
Third, Because the works he did were such, as none but God alone could perform; and therefore he appeals to them as the highest proofs that he is the Son of God. "Do you say," says he, "of him whom the Father hath Sanctified, and sent into the world, thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not; but if I do, though you will not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and believe the father is in me, and I in the Father," Jo. x. 36. "The works," says he again, "which the Father hath given me to perform, the works themselves which I do give testimony of me that the Father hath sent me; and the Father himself who hath sent me, hath given testimony of me," Jo. v. 36. Also, "The words that I speak to you, I speak not of myself. But the Father who abideth in me, he doth the works. Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? otherwise believe for the very work sake," Jo. xiv. 10. Lastly, because Christ declares that the Jews were inexcusable for not believing him on so glaring a proof as his miracles were. "If I had not come and spoken to them they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He that hateth me, hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no other man hath done, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hateth both me and my Father," Jo. xv. 22.
PASSION AND DEATH.
Q. How long did Jesus Christ continue in his public ministry?Return to Table of Contents
A. For about three years; and then he delivered himself up the will of his enemies to be put to death for the sins of the world.
Q. How did this happen?
A. From the beginning of his public life; the chief priests and princes of the Jews had conceived an implacable hatred against him; the sanctity of his life, the purity of his doctrines, and the splendor of his miracles, which gained him the hearts of all the people, embittered their with the most malignant envy, and they continually sought an opportunity to destroy him.
Q. How could they destroy or hurt him, who was God as well as man, and had all creatures at his command?
A. So long as he pleased, they could not touch a hair of his head; for though "they sought to apprehend him; yet no man laid hands upon him, because his hour was not yet come," Jo. viii. 20. But, when his own time was come, he said to his disciples in the garden, "It is enough, the hour is come; behold the Son of Man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners," Mark xiv. 41. And when he was taken in the garden, he said to his enemies, "This is your hour, and the power of darkness," Luke xxii. 53.; that is, the hour in which he was pleased to deliver himself up to their will; for, as St. Paul assures us, Christ loved us, and delivered himself up for us an oblation and a sacrifice to God, for an odor of sweetness," Ephes. v. 2. St. Peter also declares, that "he delivered himself to him that judged him unjustly," 1 pet. ii. 23, and Christ himself declared to Pilate, "Thou shouldst not have any power against me, unless it were given thee from above," Jo. xix. 11.
Q. When, therefore, his hour was come, what did he suffer for us?
A. To show the greatness of his love for us, and the plenteous redemption which he brought us, he was pleased to suffer, during his passion, every kind of torments with which human nature could be afflicted. He suffered in his soul, in his body, in his goods, in his honor, in his reputation. He suffered in all his senses, and in all his members; he suffered from all kind of persons, from the highest to the lowest, all were combined against him; he suffered also from his own friends, being betrayed by one of his bosom friends, denied by another, and forsaken by all the rest. - Having gone through all these different torments, with the most amazing patience, meekness, and charity, at last, to crown the whole, he was nailed to a disgraceful cross, and died a cruel and ignominious death, between two thieves; as is related at large in the four gospels.
Q. What became of him after his death?
A. Death is the separation of the soul from the body; and to assure us that Christ died a true and real death for us, all the four gospels declare, that after hanging in torments on the cross for three long hours, "He bowed down his head, and gave up the ghost," Jo. xix. 30; that is, gave up his soul, and died. now, after his death, "Joseph of Arimathea, who also himself was a disciples of Jesus, went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus, and Pilate commanded that the body should be delivered; and Joseph taking the body, wrapt in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new monument, which he had hewn out in a rock, and he rolled a great stone to the door of the monument, and went his way," Matth. xxvii. 57. In what manner this was done, is thus related by St. John. And Nicodemus "also came, he who at first came to Jesus by night, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight. They took, therefore, the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen cloths with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein no man had yet been laid; there they laid Jesus; because the sepulchre was nigh at hand," Jo. xix. 39.
Q. And what became of his soul when it left his body?
A. It descended into hell; which word, in the original Hebrew language, is sheol and signifies a place below or in the bowels of the earth. It is thus interpreted by St. Paul, when he said, that "Christ descended to the lower parts of the earth," Ephes. iv. 9. And, therefore, hell is applicable to all the different places that are there.
Q. How many places does the scripture point to us, as in the bowels of the earth, which go by the general name of hell?
A. Chiefly these three,
First, The place of the damned, which is also called in scripture Gehenna, and the abyss or bottomless pit, and hell-fire; this is hell properly so called, as being the deepest of all, and at the greatest distance from heaven. St. John, describing a vision he had of this place, says, that when "a star that fell from heaven opened the bottomless pit, the smoke of the pit arose, and the smoke of a great furnace," Rev. ix. 2. And again, "the beast - shall come out of the bottomless pit, and go into destruction; and the inhabitants of the earth shall wonder," Rev. xvii. 8
Second. The prison of Purgatory, where the souls of those "who have not made agreement with their adversary, whilst in the way with him; and therefore, are cast into this prison," are detained till they are cleansed from all smaller stains and imperfections, and have fully satisfied for what they owe to their adversary, the Divine justice, by "paying the utmost farthing," Matth. v. 16
Third. The prison of Limbus, where the souls of those saints were detained, who died before Christ came into the world. To this last place it was, that the soul of Christ descended at his death, to preach redemption to these blessed souls, to free them from their long captivity, and carry them upon with him to heaven.
Q. Had none of the ancient saints gone to heaven at their death?
A. They had not; and this is expressly declared by Jesus Christ himself, who, in his conversation with Nicodemus, says, "No man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven." Jo. iii. 13. In which words he positively says, that at that time when he was speaking, no man had ever gone to heaven, but he himself alone, who he calls "the Son of Man," and whose blessed soul, from its union with the Divine Nature, was always in heaven, that is, was always enjoying the clear vision of God. This is also declared by St. Peter, in his first sermon to the Jews, after receiving the Holy Ghost; where, proving the ascension of Jesus Christ to the right hand of God, from the prophecy of David, "the Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand," he shows that this prophecy could not be understood of David himself; "for," says he, "David did not ascend to heaven," Acts ii. 34. Now, if David did not ascend to heaven, neither did any other who died before our Savior. And St. Paul, speaking of all the saints before Christ, expressly affirms, that "All these being approved by the testimony of faith, received not the promise, God providing some better thing for us, that they should not be perfected without us," Heb. xi. 39, 30.
Q. Are we not told in scripture that Elijah was taken up to heaven when he left this world?
A. As all the places beneath us in the bowels of the earth go by the general name of Hell; so, in scripture language, all the places above us go by the general name of Heaven. Hence St. Paul tells us, that he was "taken up to the third heaven," 2 Cor. xii. 2.; which shows that there are different places above that go by that name. Now the most noble of all these is that glorious heaven where God shows himself in all his majesty and beauty to the blessed; for the scripture tells us that Christ, at his ascension, "is set on the right hand of the throne of Majesty in the heavens," Heb. vii. viii. 1. "At the right hand of God." Rom. viii. 34. Of which throne he himself says "To him that shall overcome, I will give to sit with me in my throne, as I have overcome, and am set down with my Father in his throne," Rev. iii. 21. Before which throne, St. John saw a great multitude, "which no man could number, standing in the sight of the Lamb;" and adds, that "they are before the throne of God, and serve him night and day in his temple," and that "they shall no more hunger nor thirst, neither shall the sun fall on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb, which is the midst of the throne, shall rule them, and lead them to the living fountains of water, and God shall wipe away ll tears from their eyes, Rev. xii. now that this heaven of heavens is above all other places that go by the name of heaven, St. Paul assures us, when he says that the place to which Christ ascended was "above all the heavens," Eph. iv. 10. When, therefore, our Saviour declares, that "no man hath ascended into heaven" before him, he means the highest heaven, where God is seen and enjoyed by the blessed; where he himself, as man, always was, in this sense, that he enjoyed the beatific vision, by reason of his union with the Divine Nature; but Elijah, and also Enos, were only taken upon to some of the lower heavens, where they shall remain till the last days, when they shall come again, and be put to death by antichrist; but where they do not enjoy the vision of God.
Q. Why had no man gone to that heaven where God is seen and enjoyed before Christ?
A. Because the gates of heaven were shut to man by Adam's sin, and could not be open to us till the price of our redemption should be paid, which was the blood of Jesus shed upon the cross.
Q. Were these blessed gates opened again to man when that price was paid?
A. Yes they were; and hence in the hymn called Te Deum, acknowledged and used by the church,
"OLD TYRANT DEATH, DISARMED; BEFORE THEE FLEW
THE BOLTS OF HEAV'N, AND BACK THE FOLDINGS DREW,
TO GIVE ACCESS AND MAKE THE FAITHFUL WAY."
Q. What is that place called in which the souls of the saints were detained, who had died before our Saviour had paid the price of our redemption?Return to Table of Contents
A. In the Creed and in the scripture, it is called by the general name of Hell. Thus, when Jacob believed that his son Joseph was dead, and that a wild beast had devoured him, he said in his grief, "I will go down to my son into hell mourning," Gen. xxxvii. 35.; where it is evident that, by the word hell, he could not mean the grave, since he believed that his son was devoured by a wild beast; and, therefore that even his body was not in the grave, much less his soul; and he says, he "would go down to him," to be with him, to be where he was, to enjoy his company. The same language was spoken by joseph's brethren when he wanted to detain Benjamin, that, if they should return with them to their father, "thy servants," said they, "shall bring down his gray hairs with sorrow into hell," Gen. xliv. 31. It is also in scripture called the "lower part of the earth;" so St. Paul, speaking of Christ's going down to this place, says, "He descended to the lower parts of the earth," Eph. iv. 9. Hence, when the soul of Samuel appeared to the witch of Endor, and she was astonished and cried out, Saul asked her, "What hast thou seen? The woman answered, I saw a god ascending out of the earth. And he said, What form is he of? and she said, An old man cometh up, and he is covered with a mantle - And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disturbed my rest, that I should be brought up?" I Kings (or Samuel) xxviii. 13. Which expressions show that the place of rest where the soul of Samuel had been, was in the bowels of the earth. The wise man also, giving the praises of Samuel, concludes thus, "And after this he slept, and he made known to the king, and showed him the end of his life, and he lifted up his voice from the earth in prophecy," Ecclus. xlvi. 23. Lastly, It is called in scripture Abraham's bosom, because it was a place of rest and peace; for the blessed souls there had no sufferings, but rather were comforted after all their sufferings in their mortal life. Thus the rich glutton in hell, "lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom - And Abraham said to him, Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented," Luke xvi. 22. Finally, in the language of the church; this placed is called Limbus, to distinguish it from the hell of the damned, and from Purgatory.
Q. How does it appear that Christ went down to this place?
A. The Creed affirms, that, at his death "he descended into hell." Christ himself expressly foretold it when he said, "As jonas was in the whale's belly three days and three nights; so shall the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights," Matth. xii. 40. St. Paul also declares it thus, "Now that he ascended, what is it, but because he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth," Ephes. iv. 9. And St. Peter assures us, that, "in his spirit, he went and preached to those spirits who ere in prison," 1 Pet. iii. 19.
Q. For what purpose did Christ descend to this place?
A. First, That he might preach the gospel to these holy souls, and bring them happy tidings that the price of their redemption was paid, and the time of their deliverance was come, which they had for so long a time desired with so much ardor. Thus St. Peter having told us, that "he went and preached to those spirits that were in prison," 1 Pet. iii. 19, a little after adds, "That the gospel was preached also to the dead, that they might judged indeed, according to men, in the flesh, but may live according to God in the spirit," 1 Pet. iv. 6. And this the Divine Wisdom, God the Son, foretold long before, by the mouth of the wise man, saying, "I - wisdom - will penetrate to all the lower parts of the earth, and will behold all that sleep, and will enlighten all that hope in the Lord," Ecclus. xxiv. 45.
Secondly, That he might deliver those blessed souls from their long imprisonment in which they had been detained, as was foretold by the prophet, saying, "Thou also by the blood of thy testament hast sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water," Zachar. ix. 11.
Thirdly, To carry them up with him to heaven, at his ascension, as the first fruits of his redemption, and the triumphs of his victory over sin and death, as was foretold by David, saying, "Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive," Ps. lxvii. 19.; which prophecy is also cited by St. Paul, Ephes. iv. 8., who also says, that after his death, "having soiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them confidently, triumphing openly over them in himself," Coloss. ii. 15.
Q. Did his presence occasion great joy to those holy souls?
A. Most undoubtedly. These holy souls had nothing more at heart than to be delivered out of their long confinement, and admitted to their clear sight and enjoyment of God. This was the great object of all their desires; and the delay of this was the only thing that could give them any pain, according to that of the wise man, "Hope that is deferred afflicteth the soul," Prov. xiii. 12. But, as it is there immediately added, "Desire when it cometh is a tree of life;" so the sight of the Redeemer coming in among them, he beholding the beauty of his Divine presence, and getting from him the happy tidings that their redemption was paid, and the day of their release was come, was indeed a tree of life to them, filled them with the most exquisite joy and gladness, and turned their dreary prison into a paradise of delight, according to what our Saviour said to the good thief upon the cross, "This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise;" because he was, at his death to follow Jesus Christ to this place, and there enjoy his Divine presence, and all the fruits of his redemption.
THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.
Q. How long did Christ continue dead?Return to Table of Contents
A. Part of three days, to wit, from Friday about mid afternoon, till Sunday morning.
Q. On the third day after his death, what did he do?
A. He rose again from the dead; that is, his blessed soul by his own Divine power, returned into his body, was re-united to it, and raised it to life again; "I lay down my life," said he, "that I may take it up again. No man taketh it away from me, but I lay it down of myself; and I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again," Jo. x. 17. And when the Jews asked a sign from him of his authority for cleansing the temple of those who profaned it, "Jesus answered and said to them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up - But he spoke of the temple of his body; when, therefore, he was risen again from the dead his disciples remembered that he said this," Jo. ii. 19. The history of what happened at this great event is thus given by St. Matthew; "And behold there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and coming, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it: and his countenance was as lightning, and his raiment as snow; and for fear of him the guards were struck with terror and became as dead men. - And the angel answering said to the women, Fear not you, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified; He is not here, for he is risen, as he said. Come and see the place where the Lord was laid," Matth. xxviii. 2.
Q. Is the resurrection of Jesus and important article of the Christian faith?
A. It is one of the most important and fundamental articles of the Christian religion, and the ground work and proof of all the rest. heart how St. Paul speaks of it on occasion of some that denied the resurrection of the dead, in order to confirm and show the importance of this article of our faith: "I deliver to you first of all what I also received, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures; and that he was buried and rose again according to the scriptures; and that he was seen by Cephas, and after that by the eleven; then was he seen by more than five hundred brethren at once, of whom many remain until this present, and some are fallen asleep - Last of all, he was seen also by me. - Now if Christ be preached that he rose again from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead, for if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen again. And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because ewe have given testimony against God, that he hath raised up Christ, whom he hath not raised up, if the dead rise not again; for if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again; and if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins - But now Christ is risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that sleep." Cor. xv. 3.
Q. How comes the resurrection of Christ to be of so great importance to the Christian faith?
A. Because it is of the most convincing proof that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that his doctrine is divine and true. For,
First, During his public ministry, he often foretold that he would be put to death, but that he would rise again the third day; "I lay down my life" said he, "that I may take it up again," Jo. x. 17. "From that time forth Jesus began to show to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the ancients, and the scribes, and chief priests, and be put to death, and the third day rise again," Matth. xvi. 21. "And Jesus said to them, The Son of Many shall be betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall rise again," Matth. xvii. 21. Now this prediction was spread among the people before his death, insomuch that, after he was laid in the grave, "the chief priests and the Pharisees came together to Pilate, saying, Sir, we have remembered that that seducer said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command, therefore, the sepulchre to be guarded till the third day, lest his disciples come and steal him away, and say to the people, he is risen from the dead, so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said to them, God guard it as you know; so they departing made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting guards," Matth. xxvii. 62. Seeing, then, that he did rise again as he had foretold, this evidently shows that he is the very person whom he called himself, the messiah, the Son of God, made man for the redemption of the world; for who other but God could raise himself to life? who other but God could foretell beforehand that he was to do so?
Second. When the Pharisees pressed him to give them a sign of his being the Messiah, and of the authority by which he acted, he referred them to his resurrection, as the most convincing sign of any: "An evil and adulterous generation," said he, "seeketh for a sign; and a sign shall not be given it but the sign of Jonas the prophet; for as Jonas was in the whale's belly three days and three nights," Matth. xii. 39. "Destroy this temple of my body and in three days I will raise it up again." Jo. ii. 19.
Third. Because the Apostles were most assiduous and earnest in establishing this point as the most essential article of Christianity, and alone sufficient to convince the world of the truth of it. This was the great scope of their preaching, and the miracles they wrought were chiefly intended to confirm and establish this article. Thus, when St. Peter cured the lame man, he said to the people, "But the author of life you killed, when God hath raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses, and his name, through the faith of his name, hath made this man strong," Acts. iii. 15. Again, "with great power did the Apostles give testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord," Acts iv. 33. And in the first sermon which St. Peter preached to the Jews on Pentecost, after the coming of the Holy Ghost, at which no less than three thousand were converted, he insists in a particular manner on this article, and proves it from the prophecy of David, which he cites at large, and especially from these words: "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor suffer thy holy one to see corruption;" on which he speaks thus: "Him God hath raised up, having loosed the sorrows of hell, as it was impossible that he should be holden by it." Then reciting the prophecy, he goes on, "Whereas, therefore, he (David) was a prophet - foreseeing he spoke of the resurrection of Christ, for neither was he left in hell, neither did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up again, whereof all we are witnesses." Acts ii.
Q. How long did Christ continue upon earth after his resurrection?
A. For the space of forty days, and then he ascended up, in a glorious manner, into heaven, in the sight of his apostles and other disciples,, of which the scripture give this account: "He showed himself alive (to them) after his passion, by many proofs, for forty days, appearing to them, and speaking of the kingdom of God, and eating with them," Acts. i. 3. And on the fortieth day, after having instructed them in all the mysteries of his kingdom, "opening their understandings that they might understand the scriptures," Luke xxiv. 45. he gave them commission to preach the gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," Matth. xxviii. 19.; and power to work all miracles in confirmation of their doctrine, Mark vi. 17. He then, "led them out as far as Bethania, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them; and it came to pass, whilst he blessed them, that he departed from them, and was carried up into heaven," Luke xxiv. 50.; and a cloud received him out of their sight. "And while they were beholding him going up to heaven, behold two men stood by them in white garments, who also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? this Jesus, who is taken from you into heaven, shall so come as ye have seen him going up to heaven," Acts. i. 9.
THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD.
Q. Why did Christ ascend to heaven?Return to Table of Contents
A. First, To take possession in heaven, as the reward for which his Father had prepared for him in heaven, as the reward for all he had done and suffered for his Father's glory, and in obedience to his will, according to what he said himself to the two disciples going to Emmaus, "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into his glory?" Luke xxiv. 26. How great this glory was, he also shows by the prayer he made to his Father, when he said, "I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do, and now glorify me, O Father, with thyself, with the glory which I had, before the world was, with thee," Jo. xvii. 4. To receive this Divine, this infinite glory, Jesus Christ "ascended above all the heavens," Eph. iv. 10.; his Father "setting him at his own right hand to the heavenly places, above all principality and power, and virtue and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this world, but also in that which is to come, and he hath put all things under his feet," Ephes. i. 20.; and bestowed the highest dignities upon him, suitable to that immense glory which he enjoys, and conformable to all he did and suffered in obedience to his Father's will.
Second, To prepare a place in his kingdom for all his faithful followers, and draw upon our hearts to heaven after him. Thus comforting his apostles, who were in great affliction at the news of his going to leave them, he said, "Let not your hearts be troubled - in my Father's house there are many mansions; if not, I would have told you, that I go to prepare a place for you. And if I shall go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you also may be," Jo. xiv. 1. And in his prayer for his followers, he says to his Father, "Father, I will that where I am they also whom thou hast given me may be with me, that they may see my glory which thou has given me," Jo. xvii. 24.
Q. What are these dignities which Jesus Christ, "as man, is honored with in heaven by "his Father?"
A. Chiefly these following:
First, His very name itself; for as "He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, therefore God hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above every name, that is the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father," Phil. ii. 8.
Second, The royal dignity of being King over all creatures, with the most absolute power and dominion over them. This he foretold by the royal prophet, saying, "I am appointed King by him over Zion his holy mountain. - The Lord said to me - ask of me and I will give thee the Gentiles for thy inheritance, and the utmost parts of the world for thy possession, and thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron," Ps. ii. 6. "He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth," Ps. lxxi. 8. And in the gospel he says to his Apostles, "All things are delivered to me by my Father," Matth. xi. 27.; "all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth, Matth. xxiii. 18. And to his Father he says, "Father - glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee, as thou hast given him power over all flesh," Jo. xvii. 2. Hence St. Peter concludes his first sermon to the Jews thus: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know most assuredly, that God hath made this same Jesus whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ," Acts ii. 36.; and in his epistles he says, that "he is on the right hand of God swallowing down death, that we might be made heirs of life everlasting; begin gone into heaven, the angels, and powers, and virtues, being made subject to him," 1 Pet. iii. 22. St. Paul also assures us that to this end Christ died and rose again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living," Rom. xiv. 9. And how great and tremendous his majesty is, appears from this description given of him by St. John: "And I saw heaven opened, and beheld a white horse, and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and with justice does he judge and fight; and his eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns, and he hath a name written which no man knoweth but himself; and he was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood, and his name is called The word of God - And out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword, that with it he may strike the Gentiles; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness of God the Almighty; and he hath on his garment and thigh written King of kings, and Lord of lords," Rev. xix.
CHRIST THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH.
Q. What are the other dignities of Jesus Christ?Return to Table of Contents
A. They are, First, That he is the head of the church, which is his body, and of which we all are members: He hath put all things under his feet, and "hath made him head over all the church, which is his body," Eph. i. 22. "That - we may in all things grow upon in him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, compacted and fitly joined together, by what every joint supplieth, according to the operation in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body," Eph. iv. 15. "We being many, are one body in Christ, and members one of another," Rom. xii. 5. "Now you are the body of Christ, and members of members;" 1 Cor. xii. 27. "Christ is the head of the church, he is the Saviour of the body - Christ cherisheth the church, for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones," Eph. v. 23, 30. "For he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in all things he may hold the primacy," Col. i. 18.
Second, He is the sovereign Judge of all mankind; "neither doth the Father judge any man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son, that all men may honour the Son as they honour the Father - and he hath given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man," John. v. 22 27. Hence St. Peter declares, that he and the other apostles received an express command from God, to preach to the people, and to testify, that he (Christ) it is, who is appointed by God to be the judge of the living and of the dead," Acts. x. 42.
Q. In what manner does Christ perform the office of Head of his Church?
A. In several way, but particularly these following:
First, By the continual protection of his Divine providence; of which the royal prophet says, "Behold he shall neither slumber nor sleep that keepeth Israel. The Lord is thy keeper; the Lord is they protection upon thy right hand. The sun shall not burn thee by day, nor the moon by night; the Lord keepeth thee from all evil," Psal. cxx. 4. And Zacharias, speaking of the glories of the church, and the providence of God over her, says, "I will raise upon thy sons, O Sion, above thy sons, O Greece, and I will make thee as the swords of the mighty; and the Lord God shall be seen over them - and the Lord of hosts will protect them - the Lord their God shall save them in that day," Zach. xiii. "In that day shall the Lord protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and he that hath offended among them shall be as David (to wit, shall return to God by sincere repentance as David did,) and the house of David as that of God, as an angel of the Lord in their sight. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and prayers," Zach. xii. 8. Now this continual protection is exercised by ordering and disposing all things for the good of his church, and the sanctification of her members, establishing her in justice and judgment, defending her from all her enemies, preserving her in peace, and increasing her dominion to the utmost bounds of the earth; all of which was foretold by the prophets many ages before Christ came into the world. Thus, "of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it with justice and with judgment, from henceforth, even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this," Is. ix. 6. "Fear not for thou shalt not be ashamed; neither be thou confounded, for thou shalt not be put to shame - For thy maker is thine husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer, the holy One of Israel, the Lord of the whole earth shall be called. _ And thou shalt be founded in justice; depart far from oppression, for thou shalt not fear, and from terror, for it shall not come near thee - No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that resisteth thee thou shalt condemn," Is. liv. "I will make thee to be an everlasting excellence, a joy unto generation and generation; and thou shalt sup the milk of the Gentiles, and thou shalt be nursed with the breasts of kings, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob," Is. lx. "This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord, I will give my law in their bowels, and I will write in their heart; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people," Jer. xxxi. 33. These and many other such glorious promises made to the Church, Jesus Christ fulfils as head of the church, by his Divine providence, watching over her at all times, "loving her and cherishing her," as St. Paul expresses it, Eph. v. 25, 29.
Second, By the continual communication of his Divine grace to all her members, according to her wants and necessities; for, "To every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the giving of Christ," Eph. iv. 7. And, "of his fulness we have all received, and grace for grace," John i. 16. He being always ready on his part to communicate his grace to their souls, to beautify, nourish, and enliven them, and to enable them to bring forth good fruit in abundance; just as the trunk of the tree always sends forth the nourishing fruit to all its branches, in order to beautify them with leaves and flowers, and enable them to produce good fruit in its season: and this is the similitude which Christ himself makes use of to explain this matter to us, when he says, "Abide in me and I in you; as the branch cannot bear fruit itself, unless it abide in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you the branches; he that abideth in me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit," John xv. 4.
Third, By the special protection which he has over her pastors, who are her principal members, and to whom the care of all the others is committed. Over these he watches with a most particular providence, to assist them in their important office of preserving and propagating the great truths of his holy Faith, and conveying them pure and undefiled to the latest posterity; for this purpose he has passed his sacred promise, that he himself, "will be with them all days, even to the consummation of the world," Matt. xxviii. 10. And, soon after his ascension into heaven, he sent down his holy spirit upon them, "the Spirit of Truth, on purpose that he might abide with them for ever, and teach them all truth," John xiv. 16, 17; and xvi. 13.
Q. In what manner did the Holy Ghost come down upon the Apostles and Christians?
A. Ten days after our Savior went to heaven, during which time the Apostles, and other disciples, "continued with one accord in prayer, with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren," Acts i. 14. "When the days of Pentecost were accomplished - suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting; and there appeared to them parted tongues, as it were of fire, and sat upon every one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak." Acts ii. 1.
THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH.
Q. What were the principal ends for which our Savior sent the Holy Ghost to his church?Return to Table of Contents
A. The scripture points out these following:
First, To comfort her members in all their distresses and afflictions; "I will ask the Father," says he, "and he will give you another Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, nor knoweth him; but you shall know him, because he shall abide with you and be in you," John xiv. 16.
Second, To purify and cleanse them from their sins, and strengthen their souls against all temptations; "but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God," 1 Cor. vi. 11.; "for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath freed me from the law of Sin and Death - that the justification of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit - likewise the flesh helpeth our infirmity," Rom. viii. 2, 4, 26.
Third, To teach and enable them to pray, by which they may obtain all good things from God; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings; and he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what the Spirit desireth, because he asketh for the saints according to God, Rom. viii. 26.
Fourth, To adorn the souls with divine charity, or the love of God, and with all manner of virtues, "because the charity of God is poured abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us," Rom. v. 5; and "and the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity," Gal. v. 22.
Fifth, To enlighten their understandings with the knowledge of heavenly things; for "the things that are of God no man knoweth, but the Spirit of God; now we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit that is of God, that we may know the things that are given us from God," 1 Cor. ii. 11. And "the Comforter," says our Savior, "the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you," John xiv. 26. Hence he is called by Isaias, "the Spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, counsel, and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of godliness, and the Spirit of the fear of the Lord," Isai. xi. 2, which are the sevenfold precious graces which that Divine Spirit bestows upon those in whom he dwells, in such measure and proportion as he feels fitting, and the disposition of their souls is capable of receiving.
Sixth, To raise them up to the glorious dignity of being the appointed children of God, "for whosoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God: for you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons whereby we cry, Abba, (Father;) for the Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God," Rom. viii. 14. So that if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his," Ibid. 9.
Seventh, To make them the temples of God and of his Holy Spirit; "Know ye not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you; but if any man violate the temple of God, him God will destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which you are," 1 Cor. iii. 16. "Know you not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?" 1 Cor. vi. 19.
Eighth, To bear witness to, and give testimony of Jesus Christ; for, says our Saviour, "when the Comforter cometh, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me, and you shall give testimony, because you are with me from the beginning." John xv. 26. Now the apostles gave testimony of Jesus Christ, because they declared to the world, as eye-witnesses, what they knew concerning him, and the truths they had heard from him. And the Holy Ghost gave testimony of Jesus Christ, by confirming what the apostles preached, with numberless miracles, which he wrought through them; for, "by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people - insomuch that they brought the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that when Peter came, his shadow at least might overshadow them, and they might be delivered from their infirmities," Acts v. 12, 15. Hence St. Paul declares, that "he was the minister of Christ Jesus among the Gentiles - by the virtue of signs and wonders in the power of the Holy Ghost," Rom. xv. 16, 19.; that "his speech and his preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in the showing of the Spirit and in power, that our faith might not stand in the wisdom of men, but on the power of God," 1 Cor. ii. 4.; that though he himself was nothing, yet the signs of his apostleship were wrought in all patience, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds," 2 Cor. xi. 11, 12. "And that his Gospel was not in word only, but in power also, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much fulness," 1 Thes. i. 5.; for this is the way that the Holy Ghost gave testimony to, or confirmed the doctrine of Christ, preached by the pastors of his church, according to that, "the Lord gave testimony to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands," Acts. xiv. 3.; and "they going forth preached every where, the Lord working with all, and confirming the world with signs that followed," Mark xvi. 2.; for, "the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy," Rev. xix. 10.; which is one of the greatest of miracles. Now, the Holy Ghost bestows these miraculous powers to whom and in what manner he pleases; to some he gives one kind, to others another, as St. Paul observes at large, 1 Cor. xii.; but "the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto profit," verse 7.; and "all these things the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will," verse 11.
Lastly, One of the principal ends for which Christ sent down his Holy Spirit upon his church was, to confirm her and establish her forever, building her upon the rock of his divine protection, so that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her, Matt. xvi. 18; "to abide with her for ever, and teach her all truth," John xiv. 14., and to enable her to preserve the purity of the doctrine of Jesus Christ unstained, unaltered, uncorrupted, to the end of ages; so that the words once put into her mouth, should never depart from her to the end of time, according to that glorious promise made by the Almighty God, many ages before, and recorded by the prophet Isaias, of the continual assistance of his Holy Spirit, and preservation of the doctrine of the Redeemer for ever: "And there shall a Redeemer come to Sion, and to them that return from iniquity in Jacob, saith the Lord: my spirit that is in thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever," Isa. lix. 20.
THE APOSTLES AND FIRST CHRISTIANS.
Q. Did the Holy Ghost produce all these glorious effects in the Apostles and first Christians, when he came upon them?Return to Table of Contents
A. He did in a most eminent degree: for,
First, Immediately upon his descent, the Apostles became altogether new men: of the poor ignorant fishermen that they were before, they were enlightened by that Divine Spirit, with the utmost sublime knowledge of all divine truths, and became the masters and teachers of the whole world. Their hearts were inflamed with an ardent love of God, and zeal for the salvation of souls, and all manner of Christian virtues, humility, meekness, patience, brotherly love, and the like, shone forth in them in the highest perfection; whereas before they were afraid to stand by their master in his sufferings, and "all forsook him and fled," when he was taken in the garden; and, during his passion, shut "Themselves up, for ear of the jews." Now they thought it their greatest glory to lay down their very lives for his sake, and went away rejoicing, to be "counted worthy to suffer ignominy for the name of Jesus," Such was the fortitude and grace with which the Holy Ghost endowed them!
Second, The Jews themselves, the hardened Jews, who had for three years resisted all the charms of the sanctity, eloquence, and miracles of the Son of God, immediately upon the coming of the Holy Ghost, were converted from their evil ways in great numbers, renounced their errors, adored as their God that Jesus whom a little before they had crucified upon a tree, embraced his heavenly doctrine with all their souls, and became his most zealous followers. No less than three thousand were converted at once on hearing that first sermon St. Peter preached to them, and give thousand at hearing another. Such power and force did the Holy Ghost give to the word, such light and understanding to those who heard it.
Third, The sanctity of their lives, after their conversion, was no less conspicuous that their conversion itself. The account the scripture gives of them is most affecting; "and they were persevering in the doctrine of the Apostles, and in the communication of the breaking of bread, and in prayers - And all they that believed were together, and had all things in common. They sold their possessions and goods, and divided them all according as every one had need; and were continuing daily, with one accord, in the temple - praising God, and having favor with all the people," Acts ii. 42. "And the multitude of the believers had but one heart and one soul; neither did any one say that aught of the things which he possessed was his own, but all things were common to them - for neither was there any one among them that wanted. For as many as were owners of lands and houses sold them, and brought the price of the things they sold, and laid it down before the feet of the Apostles; and distribution as made to every one according as he had need," Acts iv. 32. "And every day they ceased not in the temple, and from house to house, to teach and preach Christ Jesus," Acts v.42.
Q. By what means may we invite and draw down the Holy Ghost to our souls, so as to receive the blessed effects of his presence?
A. The scripture points out to us these following:
First, We must live innocent lives, flying from all sin, and all breaches of charity to our neighbor, and all duplicity and deceit; for the Holy Spirit, who is the spirit of "wisdom, will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins; for the Holy Spirit of discipline will fly from the deceitful, and will withdraw himself from thoughts that are without understanding, and he shall not abide when iniquity cometh in," Wisd. i.4.
Second, By self-denial, and mortification of our passions, we must divert ourselves of the wisdom of the flesh; for, "the wisdom of the flesh is death; but the wisdom of the Spirit is life and peace; because the wisdom of the flesh is an enemy to God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither can it be, and they who are in the flesh cannot please God," Rom. viii. 6. Consequently, so long as we willingly adhere to the wisdom of flesh, we cannot expect the Spirit of God will come to dwell in us. Now, the wisdom of the flesh is that which esteems and seeks after all the pleasures of the flesh, and in eating and drinking, and all carnal delight and sensual enjoyments, and seeks satisfaction and happiness in them. This, therefore, we must mortify and destroy: for, as the scripture declares, "the sensual man perceiveth not the things that are of the spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot understand," 1 Cor. ii. 14.; and, therefore, "If you live according to the flesh, you shall die; but if by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live," Rom. viii. 13.
Third, We must also divest ourselves of the spirit of the world, which bears an essential opposition to the Spirit of God. St. Paul shows this opposition, when he says, "we have received not the spirit of this world, but the spirit which is of God," 1 Cor. ii. 12. Nay, our blessed Lord declares, that "the world cannot receive the Comforter, the spirit of truth," Jo. xiv. 17. Again, the scripture assures us that "the wisdom" of this spirit "of the world, is foolishness with God," 1 Cor. iii. 19.; that "the friendship of this world is enemy of God; whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of this world, becomes an enemy of God," Jas. iv. 4. And the beloved disciple exhorts us in this earnest manner, "Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in this world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world; and the world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof," 1 Jo. ii. 15. We must therefore mortify all inordinate love of the world, all pride, vanity, and ambition, and all attachment to riches and honors, to all which the spirit of the world strongly inclines and ties us, if we wish the Spirit of God should come and dwell in our souls.
Fourth, Another powerful means to draw down this divine spirit to our heart is, to have a sincere love for Jesus Christ, and to give proof of it by keeping his commandments; this being the very condition he requires of us for this purpose. "If you love me," says he, "keep my commandments; and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, the spirit of truth," Jo. xiv. 15.
Fifth, Lastly, by fervent and earnest prayer, we must endeavor to move the Father to send his holy spirit upon us, prayer being a most powerful means for obtaining this holy spirit from the Father; for, "if you being evil," says our Savior, "know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the good spirit to them that ask him!" Luke xi. 13.
JESUS CHRIST THE SUPREME JUDGE.
Q. In what manner does Jesus Christ exercise the office of judge of the living and the dead?Return to Table of Contents
A. Chiefly in three ways.
First, While men are in this life, Jesus Christ, as supreme judge, rewards those who serve him faithfully, and improve the talents and graces he gives them, both by the temporal rewards he often bestows upon them, and also by giving them still more abundant graces; according to what is recorded by St. Luke, when he ordered the pound (a piece of money) to be taken from the slothful and unprofitable servant, and given to the faithful servant, who had doubled what his Lord had given him, by his diligence, and industry; "To every one," says he, "that hath shall be given, and she shall abound," Luke xix. 26. That is, to every one that hath, and makes a good use of what he hath, as that profitable servant did, more shall be given, that he may still more and more abound. In like manner he punishes those who abuse his graces, both by temporal miseries which he often sends upon them, and especially by withdrawing these graces from the, and leaving them to the hardness of their own hearts, to follow their own inventions, according to what he adds on the same occasion; "and from him that hath not," (that is, who is unprofitable in what he hath, as that slothful servant was) "even that which he hath shall be taken away from him," Ibid. Now to bestow rewards and punishments, is an act of judicial power, and pre-supposed a judgment made of the merits of the persons.
Second, At the particular judgment of each one immediately after death, when the soul shall be presented before the tribunal of Jesus Christ, and receive that sentence from him which his justice sees fit.
Third, At the day of general judgment, when he shall come "with great power and majesty," to judge all mankind, and confirm their eternal doom.
Q. Shall every man be judged immediately after death?
A. Yes; for the scripture says, "It is easy before God, in the day of death, to reward every one according to his ways; the affliction of an hour maketh one forget great delights, and in the end of a man is the disclosing of his works," Ecclus. xi. 28. And still more expressly, "It is appointed for men once to die, and after this the judgment," Heb. ix. 27. The same truth is also strongly pointed out to us by the parable of the unjust steward, whom his master called to account, and put out of his stewardship at the same instant of time. now when we die, our stewardship is at end; therefore, then is the time when we must give an account. Besides, it is certain that the rich glutton was condemned to hell immediately at his death, and likewise Lazarus, at his death, was carried by angels to Abraham's bosom, a place of rest and peace; but, to punish, or reward according to justice, necessarily requires a previous act of judgment, which therefore must have happened at the hour of their death to the rich glutton and to Lazarus.
Q. If each one be judged at his death, what need is there of the general judgment of the last day?
A. Several causes are assigned for this,
First, to vindicate the Divine Providence before all creatures. In this life, "the works of the Most High are glorious, and secret, and hidden," Ecclus. xi. 4. Proud, haughty man, not being able to comprehend them, impiously presumes to call the conduct of the Almighty to be bar of his human reason, and often proceeds so far in his censures upon it, as sometimes "to say in his heart, there is not God," Psal. xiii. 1; sometimes to deny his Divine Providence and concern about his creatures, and "to say in his heart God hath forgotten, he hath turned away his face, not to see to the end," Psal. x. 11; or to doubt of his providence, by say,g "how doth God know? - he judgeth as it were through a mist; the clouds are his cover, and he doth not consider our things," Job xxii. 13; and sometimes even to deny his justice, and greatly "provoke God, by saying in his heart he will not require it," Psal. x. 13. Nay, the secrets of his Divine providence are so amazing, especially in the adversity of the good, and the prosperity of the wicked,that even holy people are confounded, when they consider it, as David was when he said "Behold these are sinners, and yet abounding in the world, they have obtained riches; and I said, then have I in vain justified my heart, and washed my hands among the innocent - I studied that I might know this thing; it is a labour in my sight, until I go into the sanctuary of God, and understand concerning their last ends," Now it is at the last end, that all this mystery will be discovered; at the general judgment, when God will appear in all his majesty in the presence of all mankind, and when all the wondrous ways of his Divine providence shall be revealed, and his justice manifested in all his doings; for "he hath prepared his throne in judgment; he shall judge the world in equity, he shall judge the people in justice - the Lord shall be known when he executeth judgment," Psal. xi. 8, 17.
Second, To do justice to Jesus Christ himself in his human nature, and to fulfil the promises made to him by his Father for this end; for, whereas "he became a worm and no man, the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people, so that all that saw him laughed him to scorn," Psal. xxi. 7; and was despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity," Is. liii. 3, "so as at last to humble himself to death, even the death of the cross," Philip. ii. 8; and suffered all this for the glory of his heavenly Father; justice requires that he who was so much humbled before men, should also be glorified before them according to that promise related by the prophet, "Behold thy servant shall understand, he shall be exalted, and extolled, and exceeding high" Is. lii. 13. This will be done before the whole universe at the general judgment, as foretold by the same prophet, "Behold my servant, I will uphold him; my elect, my soul delighteth in him I have given my spirit unto him; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles - he shall bring forth judgment unto truth - he shall set judgment on the earth," Is. xlii. 1. At that great day will fully be accomplished these sacred promises made to him by his Father, "The Lord, said to my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, till I make thy enemies thy footstool. The Lord will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion, rule thou in the midst of thy enemies; with thee is the principality in the day of thy strength, in the brightness of thy saints," Psal. cix. 1; for "this man offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sitteth on the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting until his enemies be made his footstool," Heb. x. 12. Again, "One in a certain place hath testified, saying - thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet: for, in that he subjected all things to him, he left nothing not subject to him. But now we see not as yet all things subject to him," Heb. ii. 6, 8; But this shall be completely done at the end, at the day of judgment, "when he shall have brought to nought all principality, and power, and virtue, for he must reign until he hath put all enemies under his feet; and the enemy death shall be last destroyed," 1 Cor. xv. 24. At that great day then all things shall be perfectly subjected to him, and at the sacred "name of Jesus every knee shall bow" before him, "of those that are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father," Philip. ii. 10.
Third, To do justice to all his holy saints, that they who in this life have, for his sake, suffered numberless afflictions and calamities before men, might be glorified and rewarded by him before the whole universe, in a manner worthy of himself, and so as to justify, in the eyes of all mankind, the whole of his conduct towards them. At present, by a particular disposition of the Divine providence, the elect of God, who are the righteous, are often confounded with the wicked, and not to be distinguished from hypocrites; his saint, who are the meek and humble of heart, far from being honored and respected, are often despised and insulted: his servants, who are the poor in spirit, instead of being relieved and comforted, are abandoned and neglected. but will it be always so? By no means; "The poor man shall not be forgotten to the end, the patience of the poor shall not perish for ever," Psal. xix. 12; " thou wilt be a helper to the orphan - the Lord hath heard the desire of the poor; thy ear hath heard the preparation of their heart, to judge for the fatherless and for the humble," Psal. x. 14, 17. At that great day the just shall be separated from the wicked and placed on the right hand of the Judge in great glory; all their glorious virtues and acts of piety shall be manifested to men and angels, and they shall be enriched with eternal treasures; and so admirable will their exaltation be, that their enemies, the wicked, who oppressed and afflicted them in their mortal life, seeing their great glory, shall be troubled with terrible fear, and shall be amazed at the suddenness of their unexpected salvation; saying within themselves, repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit, These are they whom we sometimes had in derision, and for a parable of reproach; we fools esteemed their life madness and their end without honour; behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints," Wisd. v. 1. 4. To execute judgment upon the whole man; for at the particular judgment after death, the soul alone is judged; but, as both soul and body are companions, in all men does in his mortal life, it is fitting that, at the resurrection, when both shall be rejoined, both shall be judged, and both together receive their eternal doom.
Q. What account does the scripture give of the general judgment?Return to Table of Contents
A. As this is one of the most important truths revealed by God to man, he has been pleased to give a most minute and awful description of every thing concerning it: "The great day of the Lord is near," says the prophet Sophonias, "It is near and exceeding swift, the voice of the day of the Lord is bitter, the mighty man shall there meet with tribulation. that day is a day of wrath, a day of tribulation and distress, a day of calamity and misery, a day of darkness and obscurity, a day of clouds and of whirlwinds, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high bulwarks; and i will distress men, and they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord, their blood shall be poured out as earth, and their bodies as dung," Soph. i. 14. in like manner the prophet Isaiah describes it in these awful terms, "Behold the day of the Lord shall come, a cruel day, and full of indignation, and of wrath, and fury, to lay the land desolate, and to destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and their brightness shall not display their light; the sun shall be darkened in his rising, and the moon shall not shine with light; and I will visit the evils of the world, and against the wicked for their iniquity, and I will make the pride of infidels to cases, and will bring down the arrogance of the mighty - for this I will trouble the heaven and the earth shall be moved out of her place, for the indignation of the Lord of hosts, and for the day of his fierce wrath," Is. xiii. 9. And how justly it deserves this awful description will appear from the history given of it; whether we consider the signs that will go before the judgment itself, or the sentence of the Judge which shall conclude the whole.
Q. What are the signs that shall go before the day of judgment?Return to Table of Contents
A. The scripture lays them down as follows: "When you shall hear of wars and seditions, be not terrified; these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet presently; nation shall arise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be great earthquakes in divers places, and pestilences and famines, and terrors from heaven, and there shall be great sings," Luke xxi. 9. "Now, all these are the beginnings of sorrows." Matth. xxiv. 8. "And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold - and this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the consummation come," Ibid, vers. 12, 14. "And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves. Men withering away for fear and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world," Luke xxi. 25; for, "I will show wonders in heaven and in earth, blood and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood," before the great and dreadful day of the Lord doth come," Joel ii. 30. "And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be moved," Matth xxiv. 29. And the heavens departed as a book folder up; and every mountain, and the islands were moved out of their places; and the kings of the earth, and the princes, and the tribunes, and the rich men and the strong men, and every bond man, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountain; and they say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall upon us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" Apoc. vi. 14. After all those dreadful forerunners of this great day, a ranging fire like a torrent shall spread over the whole world, and execute the final sentence of destruction over the whole world, and execute the final sentence of destruction upon all creatures that shall then be upon the face of the earth, and reduce the whole to smoke and ashes. "Our God shall come manifestly, our God shall come and not keep silence; a fire shall burn before him, and a mighty tempest round about him," Psal. xlix. 3. Clouds and darkness are round about him, justice and judgment are the establishment of his throne; a fire shall go before him, and shall burn his enemies round about. His lightnings have shone forth to the world, the earth saw and trembled, the mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord of all the earth," Psal. xcvi. 2. "The day of the Lord shall come as a thief, in which the heavens shall pass away with great violence, and the elements shall be melted with heat, and the earth and the works that re in it shall be burnt up," 2 Pet. iii. 10. "The day of the Lord cometh, because it is nigh at hand; a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of cloud and whirlwinds, - Before the face thereof a devouring fire, and behind it a burning flame; the land is like a garden of pleasure before it, and behind it a desolate wilderness; neither is there any one that can escape it," Joel ii. 1. These are the forerunners of this great day, which shall precede the judgment, and bring along with them the final destruction of this world.
Q. What account does the scripture give of the judgment itself?
A. The account given of the judgment contains the resurrection; the appearance of the judge, and the judgment. For, first the angel of God will come down from heaven to summon all the posterity of Adam to rise from the dead, and come to judgment; "And he shall send his angels with a trumpet and a great voice, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the farthest parts of the heavens to the utmost bounds of them," Matth. xxiv. 31. For the Lord himself shall come down from heaven with commandment, and with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God," 1 Thess. iv. 15. "And in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible - And this corruption must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality," 1 Cor. xv. 52. "And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and hell gave up the dead that were in them," Apoc. xx. 13. Apoc. xx. 13. "The hour cometh wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that have done good shall come forth unto the resurrection of life, but they that have done evil unto the resurrection of condemnation," Jo. v. 28. "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and in the last day I shall rise out of the earth, and I shall be clothed again with my skin, and in my flesh I shall see my God, whom I myself shall see, and my eyes shall behold, and not another," Job. xix. 25.
Then all mankind shall be assembled together in the valley of Josaphat, within sight of Mount Calvary, that where he underwent the greatest excess of his sufferings and humiliations, there he may appear in full splendour of his majesty and glory, according to that of the prophet, "and I will gather together all nations, and will bring them down to the valley of Josaphat - for there will I sit to judge all nations round about, Joel iii. 2, 12. "And then shall appear th sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with great power and majesty," Matt. xxiv. 30. For "Jesus Christ shall be revealed from heaven with the angels of his power in a flame of fire, yielding vengeance to them who know not God, and who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ," 2 Thess. i. 7. "Behold he cometh with the clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also who pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth shall bewail themselves because of him," Apoc. i. 7. "Behold the Lord cometh with thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to reprove all the ungodly for all the works of their ungodliness, whereby they have done ungodly, and for all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against God," St. Jude, verse 14. "He put on justice as a breast- plate, and a helmet of salvation upon his head: he put on the garments of vengeance, and was clad with zeal as with a cloak - As unto revenge as it were to repay wrath to his adversaries, and a reward to his enemies," Is. lix. 17. And so great will be the splendour of his majesty, that "the moon shall blush, and the sun shall be ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and be glorified in the sight of his ancients," Is. xxiv. 23.
The judge being now seated in his glory, the grand separation shall be made of the good from the bad. At present, the kingdom of Christ in this world is likened in scripture, to a barn floor, in which the good corn and chaff are mixed together in one heap; to a field of corn, in which the good grain and the tares grow up together till the harvest; to a net cast into the sea, and inclosing all kind of fishes, both good and bad; and to a flock composed both of sheep and goats; because in this life the just and the unjust, the saints and the sinners, the children of God and the children of Satan, are mixed together in one body, and are seldom to be distinguished the one from the other; but at that great day, the judge, "whose fan in his hand, will thoroughly cleanse his floor, and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire," Matth. iii. 12.; and when the harvest comes, "the Son of Man shall send his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all scandals, and them that work iniquity," Matth. xiii. 41; "for at the end of the world the angels shall go and separate the wicked from among the just," Ibid. ver. 49; which is thus particularly described in st. Matthew. "And when the Son of Man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty and all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left;" Matt. xxv. 31. This separation will be made without any respect of persons, and purely according to what each one deserves; so that parents and children, husband and wives, friends and companions, shall then be separated from one another for ever and the one placed on the right hand, the other on the left; for, "in that night there shall be two men in one bed (intimate friends,) the one shall be taken and the other left; two women shall be grinding together (fellow servants, ) the one shall be taken and the other shall be left; two men shall be in the field (dear companions,) the one shall be taken and the other shall be left," Luke xvii. 34. What joy and delight will then fill the hearts of the righteous! but what anguish shall pierce the souls of the wicked "the wicked shall see and shall be angry, shall gnash with his teeth and pine away," Ps. cxi. 10. "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out." Luke xiii. 28.
THE SEPARATION OF THE JUST AND UNJUST.
The separation being made, the judgment shall follow, which is thus described in scripture; "I beheld till thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days sat down: his garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like clean wool; his throne like flames of fire, and the wheels of it like a burning fire; a swift stream of fire issued forth from before him; thousands of thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before him: the judgment sat and the books were opened," Dan. vii. 9. "And I saw a great white throne, and one sitting upon it, from whose face the earth and the heavens fled away, and there was no place found for them: and I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne, and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works," Rev. xx. 11. These books are the books of conscience, from which the whole conduct of every one during his mortal life, all the sins he has ever been guilty of, however secret and hidden from the eyes of the world, shall then be manifest in their most glaring colors, before the whole universe, before God and his holy angels; for, "every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account of it in the day of judgment," Matth. xii. 36. "There is not any thing secret that shall not be made manifest, nor hidden that shall not be known, and come abroad," Luke vii. 17; for, "we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ - and then every one of us shall render an account to God for himself," Rom. xiv. 10, 12. The Lord will come, "who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsel of hearts," 1 Cor. iv. 5; and then shall be fulfilled what was spoken by the prophets against sinners, "thy nakedness shall be discovered, and thy shame shall be seen; I will take vengeance, and no man shall resist me," Is. xlvii. 3. "Behold I come against thee, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will discover they shame to thy face, and will show thy nakedness to the nations, and they shame to kingdoms, and I will cast abominations upon thee, and will disgrace thee, and will make an example of thee," Nahum iii. 5. Oh, how miserable a condition must the Christian sinner be in at that day; when he shall find himself thus covered with all his sins, and condemned in this great judgment as a traitor to his God, a rebel against the King of heaven, and a murderer of Jesus Christ! when the men of Nineveh and Gomorrah shall be more mercifully dealt with than he!
Q. What effect will all these things have upon the just?
A. Our Saviour, after describing to the apostles the signs that shall go before this great day, says to them, "But when these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand." Luke xxi. 28. And the scripture says that at that day "the just shall stand with great constancy against those that have afflicted them, and taken away their labours - they shall live for ever more, and their reward is with the Lord, and the care of them is with the Most High," Wis. v. i. 16. Every circumstance of this awful day will contribute to their honor and happiness, and they shall be exalted in great glory; "for behold the day shall come kindled as a furnace, and all the proud, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall set them on fire, saith the Lord of hosts; it shall not leave them root nor branch. But not you that fear my name the Sun of justice shall arise, and health in his wings, and you shall go forth, and shall leap like calves of the herd, and you shall tread down the wicked, when they shall be ashes under the sole of your feet, in the day that I do this, saith the Lord of hosts," Malach. iv. 1. And this their happiness shall be completed beyond expression, when the sentence of eternal bliss shall be pronounced by the great Judge upon them.
Q. What account does the scripture give of the last sentence?
A. Christ himself declares to us in these words: "then shall the King say to them that shall be on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom, prepared for you from the foundation of the world. - Then shall he say to them also that shall be on his left hand, Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels." - And immediately shall these two sentences be executed; for "these last shall go into everlasting punishment, but the just into life everlasting," Matth. xxv. 34. "At the end of the world the Son of Man shall send his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all scandals, and them that work iniquity, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth; then shall the just shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," Matth. xiii. 41. Thus the whole posterity of Adam shall receive their eternal doom either in heaven or hell, in eternal happiness or eternal misery.
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