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incapable of giving them much pain or uneasiness, as the apostle more fully declares in the close of the preceding chapter. And being unwilling to leave such an agreeable subject, he further enlarges upon it in the words of my text : “ For we know, that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Death itself can do us no real prejudice ; on the contrary, we have reason to welcome it as a friend, because, when it beats down these tenements of clay in which we are lodged, or rather imprisoned upon earth, it only opens a passage for us into a far more commodious and lasting habitation, where we shall possess the greatest riches, the highest honours, and the most transporting pleasures, without intermission, and without end.
I. He compares the body to an earthly house, yea to a tabernacle or tent, which is still less durable, and more easily taken down; and therefore the dissolution of such a frail thing ought not to be reckoned a very great calamity. To this he opposes, in the
II. place, The glorious object of the Christian hope, which he calls a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.And,
III. He expresses the firm persuasion which he had, in common with all true believers, of being admitted into that glorious and permanent dwell
ing-place, as soon as the earthly tabernacle should be dissolved.
Each of these particulars I shall briefly illustrate, and then direct you to the practical improvement of the whole.
I BEGIN with the first of these heads, which re. spects our state and condition upon earth.
earth. And in the description here given us, there are several things that deserve our notice.
1st, The body is called a house; and it may well get this name, on account of its curious frame and structure, all the parts of it being adjusted with the greatest exactness, insomuch that there is not one member redundant nor superfluous, nor any thing wanting that is necessary either for or. nament or use.
But it is principally with relation to the inward inhabitant that the body gets the name of a house in the text. It is a lodging fitted up for the soul to dwell in. It is the residence of an immortal spirit, and from thence it derives its chief honour and dignity. As God created this earth, before he made any of the creatures which were to inhabit it, and as the world was completely furnished with every thing necessary and desira. ble, before man, its intended sovereign, was introduced ; so likewise, in the formation of man, God began with the body, and first completed the outward fabric, before he breathed into it a living
soul. How foolish then are they who spend all their thoughts and cares upon the bodies, and overlook those immortal spirits within, for whose use and accommodation they were solely intended; especially when it is considered, in the
2d place, That the body was not only made for the service of the soul, but that it is likewise composed of the meanest materials, even of that dust which we trample under foot. Upon this account the apostle calls it in the text, not merely a house, but an earthly house. Thus we are told, Gen. ii. 7. “ that the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.” None of us can claim an higher extraction. We may all say to corruption, Thou art my father, and to the worm, thou art my mother and my sister. And as the body is an earthly house with respect to its original, so it is constantly supported and repaired by that which grows out of the earth, “ The king himself,” saith Solomon, " is served by the field;" yea, after a little time, we must all be reduced unto earth a. gain. These bodies will shortly mix with the common clay. Dust we are, and unto dust we shall return. This, I confess, is a very humbling representation ; but as it is true, it ought not to be slightly regarded by any of us; and young people, in a peculiar manner, may reap much advantage from it. You perhaps are strong and healthy, and, with respect to outward form, either have, or fancy you have, advantages beyond others.
Come hither, then, and view yourselves in the glass of my text, Your bodies, in their highest perfection, are but earthly houses ; and after all the pains you can take upon them, their beauty will shortly consume like the moth. If age do not wrinkle it, death will dissolve it. The comeliest body sball ere long be as loathsome as the dirt on the streets, and must be buried several years out of sight too, before it can be borne with as well. Need I tell you then, that the noble inhabitant within is by far most worthy of your care and attention. Here your labour can never be lost ; for when the dust shall return to the earth as it was, the spirit shall return to God who gave it; it survives the ruins of this earthly tenement, and, if adorned while here with the beauties of holiness, it shall flourish eternally in the presence of God, in whose presence is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore. Be persuaded, then, my dear friends, to make the improvement of your souls your principal study. They were made at first after the likeness of God, and herein consisted both their glory and felicity. Let this then be your highest ambition, your constant unwearied endeavour, to get this divine image re-instamped upon them, that being purged and refined from all your dross, you may become meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.
3d, It deserves our notice, that the apostle not only calls the body an earthly house, but ihe earthly
house of a tabernacle, to make us still more sensible of its meanness and frailty. A tabernacle or tent, you know, is a very slender habitation-a few slight poles put in the ground, and a piece of canvass, or painted cloth, thrown over them ; yet such is the body of a man, a fair but frail tenement, liable to be thrown down, or torn in pieces, by every blast of wind.
At any rate, we are told, in the
4th place, That these earthly tabernacles must at length be dissolved. Death will soon piant its batteries against them; this king of terrors will storm them with troops of pains and diseases, and shall in the issue so far prevail, as to dislodge the soul from the body, and throw down the house of clay, crumbling it into that dust from which it was taken. This is not a bye-law that binds only a few, but an universal royal statute that stands in force against the whole human race. “ It is appointed for all men once to die,” saith this apostle; hence the road to the grave is called the way of all the earth, and the grave itself is styled in Scripture, the house appointed for all living. Even the bodies of the saints, which have been the temples of the Holy Ghost, are subject to this awful decree; they too must be dissolved and see corruption ; but with this material difference, that in due time they shall be raised up again in glory and incorruption. Nor shall their souls for any space be destitute of an habitation; for, as the VOL. III.