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whom they have pierced, and being as one that is in bitterness for his FIRST-BORN: that is, they shall feel distress and anguish as those who had lost their most beloved child. So the church triumphant in the kingdom of God are called, Heb. xii. 23, the general assembly and church of the FIRST-BORN, i. e. the most noble and excellent of all human, if not created beings. So Homer, Il. iv. v. 102, Αρνων πρωτογονων ρεξει κλειτεν ἑκατομβεν. "A hecatomb of lambs, all firstlings of the flock." That is, the most excellent of their kind.'

The connection in which our motto is found, is exceedingly grand and striking: 'For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven.' Here we find the doctrine of the reconciliation of all things in connection with the doctrine that Jesus is the first-born from the dead. How consoling! This, too, is said to 'please the Father.' What other sentiment could please him? Addison, in one of his Spectators, speaking of the future state, and the progress of the soul, has this beautiful language: 'To look upon the soul as going on from strength to strength, to consider that she is to shine forever with new accessions of glory, and brighten to all eternity; that she will be still adding virtue to virtue, and knowledge to knowledge; carries in it something wonderfully agreeable to that ambition, which is natural to the mind of man. Nay, it must be a prospect pleasing to God himself, to see his creation forever beautifying in his eyes, and drawing nearer to him, by greater degrees of resemblance.' Indeed, such a view

of things must be desirable and pleasing to every benevolent being in the universe.


In Jesus every want is supplied. When on earth, he healed the sick, gave feet to the lame, hearing to the deaf, and life to the dead, and hereafter, he will give man an immortal existence; for he is the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.' What a glorious subject is now presented to our view! But we must leave it, for our limits remind us that we must be brief. In Jesus is presented to the world a grand exhibition of the resurrection. He met death in the most cruel form, and though conquered by the king of terrors' on Calvary, yet on the third day he made a complete triumph over him and every earthly power, and came forth and stood before the world as 'the first-born from the dead!' The apostle adds, ' that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.' Yes, our Saviour is pre-eminent in every moral excellence, and more especially in that he was the first to rise from the dead, to die no more; thus bringing life and immortality to light. He has gone before us into heaven; for he is our Forerunner; our Hope, our Resurrection; 'the first fruits of them that slept;' the first-born into the kingdom above. What can be more glorious? My soul longs to break away from its frail tenement, and join him who is the first-born from the dead!


'But ah! still longer must I stay,

Ere darksome night is changed to day;
More crosses, sorrows, conflicts bear,
Exposed to trials, pains and care.'


'But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of
them that slept.'
1 Cor. xv. 20.

THIS phrase occurs thirty-six times, and is applied to Christians as well as to the Saviour. Thus Paul, after showing that the creation was 'to be delivered from the bondage of corruption,' says, 'And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.'* He calls the house of Stephanus, the first fruits of Achaia.'t James uses the word in a similar form: 'Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.' The Revelator, speaking of the hundred and forty-four thousand that sung the new song, says, 'These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb.'S

We will now show the original use of the phrase, and then the propriety of the application will be better understood. First fruits were presents made to God, as part of the coming harvest, to express the submission, dependence and thankfulness of the offerers. 'These were offered both as an acknowledgment that the whole crop was God's, and as a pledge and assur

*Rom. viii. 23.
James i. 18.

† 1 Cor. xvi. 15.

§ Rev. xiv. 4.

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ance of their enjoying the whole crop from God, and as a mean by which the whole crop was consecrated and sanctified to their use." '* All the first fruits, both of fruit and animals, were consecrated to God.† From the Jewish custom of offering first fruits to Jehovah, the heathen borrowed a similar rite. There were different kinds of first fruits. When the bread in the family was kneaded, a portion was set apart for the priest or Levite of the place; if there were none, it was cast into the oven and consumed.§ Those offerings were often called first fruits, which were brought by the Israelites from devotion, to the temple, for the feasts of thanksgiving.

When the wheat harvest was over, i. e. the day of Pentecost, first fruits were again offered of another kind in the name of all the nation, which consisted of two loaves of two tenth-deals, i. e. three pints of flour each, made of leavened dough.


Horne presents us with a very animating description of the custom of offering the first fruits, which shows it to have been a very solemn and impressive ceremony. At the beginning of harvest, the sanhedrin deputed a number of priests to go into the fields and reap a handful of the first ripe corn: and these, attended by great crowds of people, went out of one of the gates of Jerusalem into the neighboring cornfields. The first fruits thus reaped were carried with

*BURKITT'S Commentary

the First Fruits.

† Exod. xxii. 29. Numb. xviii. 12, 13. Deut. xxvi. 2. Neh. x. 35, 36.

See Pliny, Nat. Hist. lib. xviii. c. 2. Horace, Sat. lib. ii. Sat. v. 12. Tibullus, Eleg. lib. 1. El. i. 13.

Numb. xv. 19-21.

great pomp and universal rejoicing through the streets of Jerusalem to the temple. The Jewish writers say that an ox preceded them with gilded horns and an olive crown upon his head, and that a pipe played before them until they approached the city: on entering it they crowned the first fruits, that is, exposed them to sight with as much pomp as they could, and the chief officers of the temple went out to meet them. They were then devoutly offered to God in grateful acknowledgment of his providential goodness in giving them the fruits of the earth. These first fruits, or handful of the first ripe grain, gave notice to all who beheld them that the general harvest would soon be gathered in.'*

How beautiful and striking is the allusion of the apostle to this religious ceremony. From this, he illustrates the resurrection of Christ, and represents him as the first fruits of a glorious and universal harvest of all the sleeping dead. 'But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept.' The use which the apostle makes of this image is very extensive. 'In the first place, the growing of grain from the earth where it was buried, is an exact image of the resurrection of the body: for, as the one is sown, so is the other, and neither is quickened

*Although,' says Dr. Lightfoot, 'the resurrection of Christ, coinpared with some first fruits, has very good harmony with them; yet especially it agrees with the offering of the sheaf, commonly called omid, not only as to the thing itself, but also as to the circumstances of the time. For, first, there was the pass-over, and the day following was a Sabbath day, and on the day following that, the first fruits were offered. So Christ, our pass-over, was crucified; the day following his crucifixion was the Sabbath; and the day following that, he, the first fruits of them that slept, rose again.'

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