Page images
PDF
EPUB

perfpicuous and familiar illuftrations. He enters at confiderable length into the nature of the change, which shall be experienced by the glorified bodies of just men made perfect: fuddenly breaks forth into a triumphant strain of gratitude to God, who giveth us through our Lord Jefus Chrift the victory over our laft enemy armed with the mortal dart of fin and ftrong in the penal fanctions of the violated law and clofes the subject with a fhort but impreffive and animated exhortation to that ftedfaftness, that joyful patience in faith and holiness, to which by the promife and through the blood of Chrift, the reward of everlasting happiness is enfured.

Thefe, my brethren, are the leffons which I would attempt to unfold for your your encouragement in your pilgrimage through an evil world, in your paffage through the valley of the fhadow of death.

Elfe what fhall they do, which are baptifed for the dead; if the dead rife not at all? Why are they then baptifed for the dead? And why fand we in jeopardy every hour? I proteft by your rejoicing which I have in Chrift Jefus our Lord, I die daily. If, after the manner of men, I have fought with beafts at Ephefus: what advantageth it me, if the dead rife not? Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die!

In the nineteenth verfe St. Paul had already affirmed concerning himself, and the other apostles and preachers of the gospel: If in this life only we have hope in Chrift; wẹ are of all men moft miferable. Most truly might he make this declaration. What was their fituation as you find it reprefented in the Acts of the Apoftles, and incidentally described in the Epiftles of St. Paul and of the other facred writers? One continued scene of toil, forrow, anxiety, danger, and perfecution. Chafed from region to region, odious alike to the Jews and to the Romans, in afflictions, in neceffities, in diftreffes, in ftripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in faftings, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the fea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in hunger and thirft, in cold and nakedness (a), and under perpetual hazard of a violent and torturing death; if they were not juftified in looking forward through Chrift to a future recompence, they were indeed the most miserable of mankind. If then they knowingly and willingly expofed themselves to uninterrupted dangers and fufferings by preaching the refurrection of their crucified Mafter; by preaching a gofpel depending on the truth of His re

(a) 2 Cor. vi. 4, 5. xi. 26, 27.7

furrection,

[ocr errors]

1

furrection, and announcing the future refurrection of all men: what was the neceffary conclufion? That they knew whom they had believed; that they knew that Jefus Chrift had arifen, that all men should rise, that the gospel was true. To this argument St. Paul now recurs. What confideration, he enquires, except a firm conviction that there remaineth beyond the grave a hope for the righteous, could induce men to encounter a certain

profpect of wretchednefs in the prefent life, and to be baptifed for the dead: to be baptifed into a religion established on the doctrine of the refurrection; or, as this difficult expreffion is not unfrequently interpreted, to be baptifed in the place of those who are dead; to take upon themselves the Christian profeffion which had proved before their eyes the cause of deftruction to numbers, and eagerly to offer themselves to fill up thofe vacancies which martyrdom had occafioned in the ranks of the foldiers of Chrift? What other confideration, he demands, could perfuade us, the apostles, to ftand in jeopardy, cheerfully to expofe our lives to extreme danger every hour? To ftrengthen his reasoning, St. Paul appeals to his own fufferings, to his own perils. On another occafion we find him applying to himfelf and his affociates the prophetical expreffions.

15

fions of the Pfalmift: For thy fake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the flaughter (b). And now he folemnly records his proteftation that he was in daily hazard of death for preaching the gospel. And he refers to a special inftance of perfecution, well known to the Corinthians, which had overtaken him in Afia, and is recorded in the nineteenth chapter of the book of Acts; and is again mentioned by St. Paul in his fecond Epistle to the Corinthians (c), as a danger in which he was preffed out of measure, above his ftrength, infomuch that he despaired even of life, regarded the fentence of death as about to be executed upon him, and had no hope remaining except the fure and never-failing confidence that God would raife the dead. If, faith he, after the manner of men, to adopt a proverbial form of expreffion in ordinary ufe among you, I have fought with beafts at Ephefus: if I have dared the ungovernable fury of a frantic multitude, outrageous and cruel as favage beafts: What advantageth it me, if the dead rife not? What poffible benefit could I derive from all the labours and afflictions, which I bring upon myself by preaching Christianity; by what poffible inducement could I be impelled to incur them;

(6) Rom. viii. 36.

(c) 2 Cor. i. 8, 9.

if there were no refurrection? If there were no future life, after this fhort scene of exiftence; we, the apoftles of Chrift, should employ our perfonal exertions, we should recommend it as the only rational object of the exertions of others, to make the moft of the present state of being. We should not exhort you to fet your affections on things

above, to be crucified unto the world, to be dead unto its pleasures. Our language would be the language prevalent in the mouths of your unbelieving and fenfual philofophers. Let us eat and drink, we should say; for to-morrow we die. Life is fhort; life is uncertain. Seize every gratification of the paffing hour. Lose not present enjoyment in the hope of future bliss for beyond the tomb no futurity remains.

But be not deceived, the apoftle continues: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and fin not: for fome have not the knowledge of God. I fpeak this to your fhame. He admonishes the Corinthians. to be upon their guard against the deceitful influence, the enfnaring fociety, and the corrupting converfation of their false teachers, who maintained that there was no judgement nor life to come. He excites them to a vigilant felf-examination, to an unfhaken adherence

« PreviousContinue »