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The Mortal and the Immortal

By Horatius Bonar


      1867

      "All your life you will sweat to produce food, until your dying day. Then you will return to the ground from which you came. For you were made from dust, and to the dust you will return." Genesis 3:19

      "Neither can they die any more." Luke 20:36

      "They will never again be hungry or thirsty, and they will be fully protected from the scorching noontime heat. For the Lamb who stands in front of the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to the springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe away all their tears." Revelation 7:16-17

      I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them--and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever." Revelation 21:3-4

      Ours is a dying world. Immortality has no place upon this earth. That which is deathless is beyond these hills. Mortality is here; immortality is yonder! Mortality is below; immortality is above. "Neither can they die any more," is the prediction of something future, not the announcement of anything either present or past. At every moment one of the sons of Adam passes from this life; and each swing of the pendulum is the death-warrant of some child of time. "Death," "death," is the sound of its dismal vibration. "Death," "death," it says, unceasingly, as it oscillates to and fro. The gate of death stands ever open, as if it had neither locks nor bars. The river of death flows sullenly past our dwellings; and continually we hear the splash and the cry of one, and another, and another, as they are flung into the rushing torrent, and carried down to the sea of eternity!

      Earth is full of death-beds. The groan of pain is heard everywhere--in cottage or castle; in prince's palace or peasant's hut. The tear of parting is seen falling everywhere. The rich and poor, good and evil, are called to weep over the departure of beloved kindred, husband or wife, or child, or friend. Who can bind the strong man that he shall not lay his hand upon us or our beloved ones? Who can say to sickness--'You shall not touch my body!' Or to pain--'You shall not come near me!' Or to death--'You shall not enter my home!' Who can light up the dimmed eye, or recolor the faded cheek, or re-invigorate the icy hand, or bid the sealed lip open, or the stiffened tongue speak once more the words of warm affection? Who can enter the death-chamber, and speak "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" Who can look into the coffin, and say, "Young man, arise!" Who can go into the tomb, and say, "Lazarus, come forth!"

      The voice of death is heard everywhere. Not from the coffin alone, nor the funeral procession, nor the dark vault, nor the heaving churchyard. Death springs up all around. Each season speaks of death. The dropping spring-blossom; the scorched leaf of summer; the ripe sheaf of autumn; the chill winter cold--all tell of death. The wild storm, with its thick clouds and hurrying shadows; the sharp lightning, bent on smiting; the dark torrent, ravaging field and valley; the cold sea wave; the ebbing tide; the crumbling rock; the up-torn tree--all speak of dissolution and corruption. Earth numbers its grave-yards by hundreds of thousands; and the sea covers the dust of uncounted millions, who, coffined and uncoffined, have gone down into its unknown darkness.

      Death reigns over earth and sea; city and village are his. Into every house this last enemy has entered, in spite of man's desperate efforts to keep him out. There is no family without some empty seat or crib; no fireside without a blank; no circle out of which some brightness has not departed. There is no garden without some faded rose; no forest without some sere leaf; no tree without some shattered bough; no harp without some broken string.

      In Adam all die. He is the head of death, and we its mortal members. There is no exemption from this necessity. There is no discharge in this war. The old man dies; but the young also. The grey head and the golden head are laid in the same cold clay. The wicked dies; so also does the godly; the common earth from which they sprang receives them both. The fool dies; so also does the wise. The poor man dies; so also does the rich. "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass." Isaiah 40:6-7

      The first Adam died; so also died the second Adam, who is the Lord from heaven. But there is a difference. The first Adam died, and, therefore, we die. The second Adam died, and therefore, we live; for the last Adam was made a quickening spirit; and this is the pledge of final victory over death and the tomb. Thus, the grave is the cradle of life; night is the womb of day; and sunset has become sunrise to our shaded and sorrowful earth. Yet, this is not yet realized. We are still under the reign of death, and this is the hour and the power of darkness. The day of the destruction of death, and the unlocking of sepulchers is not yet. It will come in due time. Meanwhile we have to look on death; for our dwelling is in a world of death--a land of graves.

      If, then, we would get beyond death's circle and shadow, we must look above! Death is here--but life is yonder! Corruption is here, incorruption is yonder. The fading is here, the blooming is yonder. We must take the wings of the morning and fly away to the region of the unsorrowing and the undying; where "that which is sown in weakness shall be raised in power, and death be swallowed up in victory."

      It is not that God loves death, or desires to see the extension of its gloomy reign. It was not because he loved it that he let it loose upon the world at first; nor, after so many ages, has he begun to love it now, or to become familiar with it, or to look with indifference upon the ills which attend it--the sorrow, the weeping, the pain, the desolation, the breaking in pieces of the great temple of humanity, and the undoing of all that divine handiwork which at first he pronounced so very good. No! But sin has entered; and law, unchangeable, remorseless, righteous law, demands the execution of the lawful sentence, "In the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die!" "All your life you will sweat to produce food, until your dying day. Then you will return to the ground from which you came. For you were made from dust, and to the dust you will return." Genesis 3:19

      Man has only himself to blame for a mortal body and a ruined earth. God hates death, and all that death has done--as truly as he hates sin. He abhors the grave and its corruption. He did not make man to be the prey of worms, nor create earth to be either a sepulcher or a hell. The eye weeps, yet God did not make it to weep--but to sparkle with gladness. And the lips utter sorrow, yet God did not make them to speak anything but praise and joy. So man dies; but God made him not to die--but to live. Earth is a vast grave-yard; yet God made it a paradise of life. His soul loathes the corruption of mortality, with which our world is overspread. He abhors death, and will, before long, arise and avenge himself upon it for the ravages of six thousand years. No stronger language of abhorrence could be used, no more solemn purpose of divine vengeance could be indicated than the following--"I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?" Hosea 13:14

      We look forward to the day of incorruption; but not so earnestly nor so sincerely as God himself. It is on resurrection that his heart is set; and not an hour longer than is absolutely needful shall that glorious consummation be delayed. The Church desires it; this body groans for it; all creation longs for it; but God still more than all. His object is not to perpetuate--but to terminate the reign of death; through death to destroy him that has the power of death. His purpose is to abolish death, to bind Satan, and to give his saints glorified bodies, and introduce the new heavens and new earth, wherein dwells righteousness. All heaven above is interested in resurrection. It is a thing such as angels have never seen, except in the case of the risen Son of God, the gate of whose rocky sepulcher they descended to open. They long for the resurrection-glory, as truly as they join in the joy over one sinner who repents.

      Blessed words are these--"Neither can they die any more." It is not simply, Neither shall they die any more--but neither can they die any more. Death, which is now a law, an inevitable necessity, shall then be an impossibility. Blessed impossibility! Neither can they die any more! Oh, the security which these words give! Oh, the comfort, the unutterable gladness which they diffuse through the soul! Neither can they die anymore! Death and the grave are cast into the lake of fire! They who are partakers of the first resurrection and of the world to come, are made forever immortal. They live forever. They cannot die. They have put on incorruption. They are clothed with the immortality of the Son of God; for as the Head is immortal, so shall the members be. Ah, this is victory over death! This is the triumph of life! It is more than resurrection; for it is resurrection, with the security that death can never again approach them throughout eternity.

      All things connected with that new resurrection-state shall be immortal, too. Their inheritance is unfading. Their city, the new Jerusalem, shall never crumble down. Their paradise is as much beyond the power of decay as it is beyond the reach of a second serpent-tempter. Their crowns are all imperishable; and the white clothing in which they shine shall never need cleansing or renewal. No failing of eyesight; no wrinkles on their brow; no hollowness in their cheeks; no grey hairs upon their heads; no weariness of limbs; nor languor of spirit; nor drying up of their rivers of pleasure.

      The evil days shall never come nor the years draw near when they shall say, 'We have no pleasure in them.' Your limbs will not tremble with age, and your strong legs will not grow weak, nor shall your eyes be darkened. The silver cord shall not be loosed, nor the golden bowl be broken, nor the pitcher be broken at the fountain, nor the wheel at the cistern. One generation shall not pass away, nor another come. There shall be a time to be born--but not a time to die; a time to plant--but no time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to heal--but no time to kill; a time to build--but no time to break down; a time to laugh--but no time to weep; a time to dance--but no time to mourn; a time to get--but no time to lose; a time to love--but no time to hate; a time of peace--but no time of war. Never again shall it be said, The days of darkness are coming; for the sun shall no more go down, neither for brightness shall their moon withdraw itself, for the Lord shall be their everlasting light, and the days of their mourning shall be ended. Then shall the wise man's maxim be out of date forever, "The day of death is better than the day of birth;" and never more shall his lament over a fading world be heard, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." Here they sing, "Ah! I shall soon be dying--time swiftly glides away."

      But then their song is only of life, for they know that they cannot die any more. Here they say, as one, feeling his mortality, has plaintively sung,

      Go and dig my grave today,
            Homeward does my journey tend;
      And I lay my staff away
            Here, where all things earthly end;
      And I lay my weary head
            In the only painless bed.

      But there they shall sing, not their death-dirge but their resurrection-song, with resurrection-voice, in the glorious resurrection-land!

      "They will never again be hungry or thirsty, and they will be fully protected from the scorching noontime heat. For the Lamb who stands in front of the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to the springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe away all their tears." Revelation 7:16-17

      I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them--and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever." Revelation 21:3-4

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