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If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all
men most miserable.
THESE words contain an irrefragable argument to prove a life to come, and a resurrection. It is improbable, yea, morally impossible, that the best men should always fare the worst, contrary to reason and scripture, Isa. iii. 10, 11. The words contain these two things : à supposition, and an assertion.
1. If our hope in Christ be not stretched beyond the limits of this life :* for we are bound to fix our hopes upon Christ while we live; and even for the things of this life, as well as for the other, according to 1 Tim. iv. 8. But if we did not expect from Christ the good things of a future state in the world to come, then
2. “ We are of all men most miserable.” Here is the comparative for the superlative, édesivótkpoi, more miserable than worldly men, that have their portion in this life, Psal. xvii. 14.
But whom doth the Apostle mean, when he saith “ We?"
• Si spes nostra non porrigitur ultra terminum hujus vitæ.
(1.) We apostles, ministers of the gospel, that sell all for Christ, and preach the doctrine of eternal salvation by him. If this gospel be not true, we are the veriest arrant cheats among men, and shall fare accordingly; but we know what we do and say, we are no fools to be deceived, nor knaves to deceive the world with a fiction of our own brain : no, no, we know what we believe, and whom we have believed ;* we are sure of the reality, certainty, and excellency of what we preach, we have suffered great hardships already, and dare venture our souls upon his authority, and our Lord Christ's resurrection gives us full assurance of it.
(2.) We believers, who renounce the pleasures, profits, and honours of this world, who are daily obnoxious to the cross, and exposed to persecutions; surely we are no better than madmen if we did not believe the immortality of the soul, and life to come: for the Sadducees that denied the resurrection, said, “there was neither angel nor spirit,” Acts xxiii. 8, and indeed our hope depends on Christ's resurrection, 1 Pet. i. 3, for who would believe in a dead Christ, never to live and rise again?
Hence this doctrine, That none are so miserable as real saints, if all their hopes and happiness were in this lower world.
The Hebrew Rabbies divide the world into three parts:
1. Inferior, the lowest world : this terrestrial globe consisting, (1.) of sea, lakes, and rivers ; (2.) deserts, and solitary, uninhabited places; (3.) the inhabited part.
2. Middle, or inmost world ; that is, the spheres, containing the aerial region and starry heavens, where the vast luminaries are placed in their orbits.
+ 2 Tim. i. 12.
3. The superior world, where God himself manifests his immediate presence to his glorious angels and glorified spirits. This is called the heaven of heavens, paradise, the high and holy place, whither the glorified body of Jesus is advanced. It is true that God's children centre their spirits and best affections there, of which state it is said, 2 Cor. iv. 18, “ While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
In the prosecuting of this doctrine, I shall speak to it by way of explication, confirmation, vindication, and application.
1. For explication, observe these four maxims :
(1.) The expression in the text implies, that the church of Corinth was deluded with the imagination of an allegorical resurrection, such as Hymeneus fancied, saying, “ that the resurrection is past already,” 2 Tim. ii. 17, 18, importing that it was to be understood, in a spiritual sense, of regeneration, which indeed is called a resurrection with Christ; t but this is a preparative to the second, which the apostle here asserts and proves.
(2.) The text doth not favour their unscriptural doctrine, that think souls sleep with the bodies till the general resurrection; or as though Paul dreamed of the heathen's Elysian fields, or Mahomet's paradise: but he takes it for granted, that the only hope of Christians refers to the last judgment, as completing the happiness of soul and body together; for the thief on the cross was to be with Christ in paradise, the day of his
• 1 Kings viii. 27. 2 Cor. xii. 4. Isa. lvii. 15.
death ; and Paul was to be with Christ at his dissolution.*
(3.) Possibly this expression was directly calculated for the apostle's days, wherein the christian name was most infamous amongst the grandees of the world; so that none durst give up themselves to Christ, but such as reckoned upon death: for the apostles and their followers were as it were appointed to death. † In all public calamities, heathens laid the blame on Christians, and cried out, Cast the Christians to the lions. I Doubtless it was a very calamitous time, and this sentence was best adapted to it.
(4.) We must not think, that God's children have not in this life better things than wicked men have. They have God's favour, pardon of sin, peace of conscience : but these are not the things of this life, though enjoyed in this life. Faith in Christ feteheth down precious treasures from heaven, and lifteth up the soul to heaven. Spiritual delights are transcendently better than sensual pleasures.
The meaning of the text then is this: if we had trusted Christ for worldly riches, pleasures, or honours, placing the advantageof our faith in worldly enjoyments; if our hope did not exceed the bounds of this mortal life, we should be very miserable: but we are not of the opinion of the Jews, or even some of Christ's disciples, who would erect a temporal kingdom in this world; no, no, our expectation is of the enjoyments of a better world.
2. For confirmation of this great truth, I shall demonstrate it by some particular instances, in an enumeration of difficulties which good men pass through
* Luke xxiii. 43. Phil. i. 23. + 1 Cor. iv. 9, 10.