Wholly Changed

From “On the Resurrection of the Dead” (1732)

What frail things these bodies of ours are! How soon are they disordered! To what a troop of diseases, pains, and other infirmities are they constantly subject! And how does the least distemper disturb our minds and make life itself a burden! Of how many parts do our bodies consist, and if one of these be disordered, the whole man suffers. If but one of these slender threads, whereof our flesh is made up be stretched beyond its due proportion, or fretted by any sharp humor, or broken, what torment does it create! Nay, when our bodies are at the best, what pains do we take to answer their necessities, to provide for their sustenance, to preserve them in health, and to keep them tenantable, in some tolerable fitness…

And what time we can spare from our labor is taken up in rest, and refreshing our jaded bodies, and fitting them for work again… But our hope and comfort are, that we shall shortly be delivered from this burden of flesh, when “God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.”…

As our Lord tells us, those who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world “neither marry nor are given in marriage, neither can they die any more, but they are equal to the angels.” … This is that perfect happiness which all good men shall enjoy: a mind free from all trouble and guilt, in a body free from all pains and diseases. Thus our mortal bodies shall be raised immortal. They shall not only be always preserved from death, (for so these might be, if God pleased,) but the nature of them shall be wholly changed, so that they shall not retain the same seeds of mortality — they cannot die any more.

Our bodies shall he raised in glory. “Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” A resemblance of this we have in the luster of Moses’s face, when he had conversed with God on the mount. His face shone so bright, that the children of Israel were afraid to come near him, till he threw a veil over it. And that extraordinary majesty of Stephen’s face seemed to be an earnest of his glory. “All that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.”…

How glorious the body of Christ is, we may guess from his transfiguration. St. Peter, when he saw this, when our Lord’s face shone as the sun, and his raiment became shining and white as snow, was so transported with joy and admiration, that he knew not what he said. When our Savior discovered but a little of that glory which he now possesses, and which in due time he will impart to his followers, yet that little of it made the place seem a paradise; and the disciples thought that they could wish for nothing better than always to live in such pure light, and enjoy so beautiful a sight…

Our bodies shall be raised in power. This expresses the sprightliness of our heavenly bodies, the nimbleness of their motion, by which they shall be obedient and able instruments of the soul. In this state, our bodies are no better than clogs and fetters, which confine and restrain the freedom of the soul. The corruptible body presses down the soul, and the earthly tabernacle weighs down the mind. Our dull, sluggish, inactive bodies are often unable, or backward, to obey the commands of the soul. But in the other life, “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” Or, as another expresses it, “they shall run to and fro like sparks among the stubble.” The speed of their motion shall be like that of devouring fire in stubble; and the height of it, above the towering of an eagle; for they shall meet the Lord in the air when he comes to judgment.

John Wesley (1703-1791) was an Anglican priest and evangelist, and the founder of the Methodist movement. After experiencing a profound conversion in 1738, he began a ministry of itinerant evangelistic preaching, travelling an average of 8000 miles a year and making thousands of converts. He sparked a renewal in preaching and discipleship that swept across the Anglo-American world and is one of the fathers of evangelicalism. He is commemorated on March 3 on the liturgical calendars of several Anglican churches. This sermon is believed to have adapted by Wesley from a 1702 sermon of the same title by Benjamin Calamy, vicar of London’s Church of St. Lawrence, Jewry.

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