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except it first die and be buried. Then the whole harvest, from its relation to the first fruits, explains and ensures the order of our resurrection. For, is the sheaf of the first fruits reaped ? then is the whole harvest ready. Is Christ risen from the dead ? then shall all rise in like manner. Is he accepted of God as an holy offering? then shall every sheaf that has grown up with him be taken from the earth and sanctified in its proper order :-" Christ the FIRST FRUITS, and afterwards they that are Christ's at his coming." **
Every view we take, shows the extreme beauty and force of the imagery employed by the apostle. It will be seen that the passage contains two declarations; the fact of the resurrection of Jesus, and the resurrection of all the dead. The latter, however, by the critic may be considered rather as inferential than as positively established. But if all are not raised, then the illustration brought by the apostle is altogether inappropriate. “If the first fruit be holy, the lump also is holy. The apostle everywhere presents the resurrection as a joyful theme; but how can this be, unless universal happiness was connected in his mind with the event? Better let the trump pass silently over the grave of man, than to awaken him to be struck out again from existence, or to be forever miserable. But whoever will follow out the apostle in this most consolatory and closely reasoned chapter, will learn that the idea of a judgment day, or of misery of any kind, succeeding the resurrection, was perfectly foreign to his mind; and if not found here, in vain shall we find it in Revelation.
* An Introduction to the Scriptures, by Thom. H. Horne, vol. iii. p. 288. Phil. ed. Jones's Works, vol. iii. p. 64. Harwood's Introd. to the New Test. vol. ii. p. 307. Michaelis's Commentaries, vol. iii. pp. 146–149. Beausobre's Introd. to the New Test. (vol. iii. p. 200. of Bishop Watson's Collection of Tracts.) Dr. Lightfoot's Works, vol. i. p. 984. vol. ii. pp. 184, 306, 307. folio edit. Lamy's Apparatus, vol. i. p. 204. Ikenii Antiq. Hebr. part i. c. 15. pp. 210—224. Schulzii Archæol. Hebr. pp. 287–292. Lamy's Apparatus Biblicus, vol. i. pp. 203-206.
How consoling! How grand and elevating! Christ, the first fruits, has arisen from the dead. The harvest must follow ! It seems that the offering of the first fruits was always a joyful occasion among the Jews. Calmet says, 'The first fruits were of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, apricots, olives, and dates. Each carried his basket. The rich had gold or silver, the poor had wicker baskets. At
At Jerusalem, the citizens came out to meet and to salute them. When they arrived at the mountain on which the temple was situated, each one, even the king himself, if he were there, took his basket on his shoulder, and carried it to the court of the priests, the Levites singing, "I will magnify Thee, O Lord, &c. Psal. xxx." ;
If there was so much joy at the gathering in of the fruits of the earth, then how great must be the joy when the grand harvest shall arrive, when all the sleeping dead will come forth, and be gathered into the great garner above! What a joyful theme ! My soul longs to revel in the glory now before me. But the subject is overpowering to the mind. We must enter upon the grand scene before we can fully realize its glory and blessedness.
Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a high
priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.' Heb. vi. 20.
This is the only instance where this word occurs, though in the Septuagint it is found in Isa. xxviii. 4, where it signifies the first fruits of the fig-tree, or first ripe figs. The word prodromos does not merely signify one that goes or runs before another, but also one who shows the way; he who first does a particular thing; also the first fruits. The application to Jesus is more extensive than might at first be supposed. A reference to the ancient custom of sending forerunners will very much illustrate the passage. See the beautiful allusions of Isaiah.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
The writer of the apocryphal book of Baruch, makes a fine use of this ancient practice. 'For God,' says he, 'hath appointed that every high hill, and banks of long continuance, should be cast down, and valleys filled up to make even the ground that Israel may go safely in the glory of God.'
That which ancient forerunners did in the natural world, John the Baptist was to do in the moral world. "The Jewish church was a desert country to which John the Baptist was sent (Matt. iii. 1–4.), to announce the coming of the Messiah. It was at that time destitute of all religious cultivation, and of the spirit and practice of piety; and John was sent to prepare the way of the Lord by preaching the doctrine of repentance. The desert is therefore to be considered as a proper emblem of the rude state of the Jewish church, which was the true wilderness meant by the prophet, and in which John was to prepare the way of the promised Messiah.'*
But in what sense is Jesus a forerunner? The connection in which the passage stands will, to some extent, inform us. The apostle had just introduced the immutability of God, the firmness of his promise, and the hope inspired by the gospel. He then illustrates this hope by an anchor. He then carries the mind 'within the veil,' and points to Jesus, as our great Forerunner. The whole is striking and full of interest. We are then to follow Jesus, or else the name here given is without meaning; for in ancient times the company always followed the forerunner.
* Bishop Lowth on Isaiah xl. 3. vol. ii. pp. 252-254. A practice, similar to that above described, is recorded by the chaplain to Sir Thomas Roe, ambassador to the Mogul court in the reigns of James I. and Charles I. ; who says (p. 128.) that, making a progress with the ambassador and emperor, they came to a wilderness “where (by a very great company sent before us, to make those passages and places fit for us) a WAY WAS CUT OUT AND MADE EVEN, broad enough for our convenient passage.” See similar instances in Dr. Clarke's Travels, vol. viii. p. 277. 8vo. Mr. Forbes's Oriental Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 450, and Mr, Ward's View of the History, &c. of the Hindoos, vol. iii. p. 132.'
The very word forerunner signifies an earnest of something to follow. How blissful the thought then that Jesus has passed through the tomb, and that in that blessed country where he is gone we shall all ultimately arrive! The way is prepared, not merely made possible, but certain. For as the forerunner did not go till it was certain the monarch or his company would follow, so Jesus did not leave the earth for heaven, till it was made certain that the human race would ultimately follow him to an everlasting world of peace and joy.