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of mankind in this world; yet carried the matter no farther, and seem to have been corrupted by the strange Doctrine of the Sadducees, who maintained the Self-sufficiency of Virtue, and denied or doubted a future Resurrection of the Dead, or any state of Rewards or Punishments hereafter.
But the Apostle plainly tells them—that if their hopes in Christ, were limited only to this world; if they could be drawn aside by the gloomy and uncomfortable Doctrines of the Sadducees; if they did not bear their views forward to Eternity; if they did not believe that the same Christ, whom they acknowledged to have come once in the flesh, would also come again to judge the world in Righteousness; they were of all men most miserable. They might as well renounce their profession of Christianity at once; for to them, Christ had come in vain, and shed his Blood in vain. Nay, he implies farther, that if their views were limited in this manner, Christ's coming had put them in a worse condition than all other men. For, to profess the belief of his holy Name, in a bad world, is attended with many temporal Inconveniencies, to which Christ never would have subjected his Followers, if there were no state of Retribution and Reward afterwards. This powerful argument, reduced the Corinthians to this dilemma; either to acknowlege Christ to have been an Impostor, contrary to their own avowed Belief and Profession; or else to renounce this most gloomy and destructive doctrine of the Sadducees.
Though the words were spoken as immediately applicable to Christians, in the first ages of the
Church, who in their state were certainly of all men most miserable, if they renounced the comfortable hopes of Christ's second Coming, and their rising with him from the Grave to the Life immortal; yet they are also applicable to Christians, in all ages, and at all times: who, in many respects, would be in a worse Condition than other men, by acting up to their Profession, unsupported by the Hopes of future advantages.
This argument may be stated without denying that Virtue and Religion would be an eligible Course, even if there was no Happiness, nor Hopes of it, hereafter.
In this world a social Life is necessary, and the Christian is obliged to be connected with other men. The adhering, therefore, to the Gravity and Strictness of his Profession, exposes him to many temporal inconveniencies among the Vain and Wicked, which he cannot avoid.
The Christian is also called to mortify the Flesh'; to consult the interest of others, sometimes prefera. bly to his own; to forgive injuries, to bear them patiently; and even repay them with kind offices. But if Futurity is out of the Question, the Wicked would take advantage of these kind actions, and return Evil for Good; so that Christians might be ready to cry out—why should we subject ourselves to these rigid precepts, which tend to our immediate hurt? Let us rather comply with the Current of the World. Let us make the most of this present life; and as the Apostle says, in allusion to this very argument“Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die.”
The Christian, in the last place, is called to deny himself, to cut off a right Hand, to pluck out a right Eye, and to take up the Cross and follow Christ as their great Leader-But whither shall we follow him? Christ the great Captain of our Salvation, after having been perfected through Suffering, ascended up on High to the Glory of his Father; and on this Scheme there is no place on High for the Christian! Nothing to compensate his Sufferings, but the dreary state of Annihilation!
Hath Christ mocked his Followers ? Hath he commanded them to renounce this World, and to set their affections wholly on Things Above; if there are no Things Above, in which they are to have any Interest or Share?
But the belief of a Portion in Christ, gives us strong footing against the fear of another world. • Were we even to shew a Child a suit of new Clothing, which he was to put on; how cheerfully would he put off his old Rags? Or were we to tell him that to-morrow, he would rise up from a state of Childhood, into a perfect Man, how happily would he go to Bed, anxious about nothing but the speedy Dawn of the coming Morn?”
Or could we, to use the words of one,* who was once a shining Light of our Church, “ unfold the golden Doors of Heaven, and open to you the pros. pect which the blessed Martyr St. Stephen enjoyed; could I shew the ever-living Jesus seated at the right Hand of Glory, and open your Ears to hear the eter
Sherlock, Bishop of London.
nal Anthems of Praise, which the Blessed above sing to Him that was and is and is to come; to the Lamb that was slain and is alive forever; could I lead you through the unbounded Regions of eternal Day, and give you to taste the never-fading Joys of the Saints who rest from their Labour!” Or, “ could I, on the other hand, unbar before your Eyes the Iron-Gates of Hell, and carry you through solid Darkness to the Fire that never goes out, and the worm that never dies; could I shew the fallen Angels fast bound in eternal Chains, or the Souls of the Ungodly overwhelmed in Misery and Despair; or could I open your Ears, and make you hear the Deep itself groan with the continual cries of their misery-Cries which never can reach the Throne of Grace, but return back in sad Echoes, and render even the Horrors of Hell more horrible! Could I but shew these two states distinctly, it would convince you what manner of persons you ought to be in all holy Conversation and Godliness; that you have much at stake in this Life, and that Religion is, at least, a most serious concern!”
May these truths make a deep impression upon us, through Jesus Christ our Lord; to whom, with the Father and holy Spirit, one God, be Glory and Dominion and Praise, forever and ever! Amen!