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able wisdom interposed, who, alone knowing the fittest means of reconciling justice with goodness, pitched upon this : that, as a terrifying monument of the ill desert of iniquity, his beloved Son should in our nature, and in our stead, suffer death: and for an eternal demonstration of the divine benignity, his undergoing it voluntarily should be rewarded with the highest glory to himself; and with pardon, and grace, and life eternal to all who made their humble claim to them, by repentance, faith, and love. Thus did God shew himself just, and the justifier of them which believe in Jesus* : thus did mercy and truth meet together ; righteousness and peace kiss each other t.
Assuredly so extraordinary a method would never have been taken without extraordinary need of it. That we should fully discern the need, is no way necessary: it suffices that God did. Our concern is no more, than to accept salvation, his own gift, on his own terms : renouncing all merit in ourselves, laying hold, by a lively faith, on the merits of our Redeemer's obedience, thanking our heavenly Father from the bottom of our souls, for sending his blessed Son into the world, and esteeming most highly the Christian creed, the Christian worship, the Christian Sacraments. God forbid then, that we should glory in any thing, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ I: or ever be ashamed of that, for all the scorn and ridicule of a thoughtless and profane world. But God forbid also, that while we profess to believe on him, we should crucify him to ourselves afresh, and put him and his religion to shame ġ, by transgressing and neglecting any obligation of piety towards our Maker, * Rom. iii. 26.
+ Psal. Ixxxv. 10. | Gal. vi. 14.
§ Heb, vi. 6.
our Saviour, our Sanctifier; of justice or goodness towards our fellow-creatures; of humility, sobriety, temperance, chastity, in the government of ourselves. For in vain do we call him Lord, unless we do the things* which he commands us : in vain do we trust in his sacrifice, unless we present our souls and bodies, a sacrifice acceptable unto Godt: in vain do we imagine our peace is made through him in heaven, unless on earth we follow peace with all men, and that universal holiness of life, without which no man shall see the Lord I.
I COR. XV. 19.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of
all men most miserable.
In the words preceding these, the Apostle, after setting forth in several particulars, the evidence of our blessed Lord's resurrection, goes on to prove from it the important doctrine of a general resurrection to eternal life.
It may seem to us now very strange, that any, who called themselves Christians, could make the least doubt of so known and essential an article of the Christian faith. But if we consider the state, in which the world was then, we shall wonder no longer, that, of professed believers, there should be some, who did not believe the dead would be raised again. Among the Jews, the Pharisees indeed were firmly persuaded of this truth. But the Sadducees, a considerable sect, though not for the numbers, yet for the rank of those who embraced it, rejected the doctrine of a future life intirely; and looked on the resurrection, as a thing peculiarly incredible. Notwithstanding which, as they held a present providence that rules the world, they might many of them, reading the predictions of the Old Testament concerning the Messiah, seeing the accomplishment of them in the person of Jesus, and struck with the
miracles, which he and his followers performed, be persuaded, on the whole, that he was sent from God; and yet be very backward to understand what he taught, when it contradicted their former prejudices. But the heathens were still more likely to act thus. For amongst them, even the steadiest believers of a future state all disbelieved the raising again of the body, as a thing both impossible and unfit: for their men of learning thought it only the prison of the soul ; which must always be an impediment instead of a help to it. Suppose then Christianity preached, with proper evidence, to such persons as these; they would receive very gladly what was said of the remission of sins, the obligations to virtue, the future life of the soul, happy or miserable, according to every one's deeds. But when the resurrection of the body was taught, there must evidently be great danger, either that they would reject the whole of the gospel, because of this one seemingly incredible part; as the philosophers at Athens did, who are mentioned in the Acts; or else, that they would so interpret this part, as to reconcile it with their pre-conceived opinion. Accordingly, the history of the Church informs us, that several, in the first ages thought our Saviour died and rose again, not in reality but in miraculous appearance only. And others had equally wild fancies in other articles of religion: as indeed it was very natural for them to entertain surprising imaginations, about matters so entirely new to them : especially when, in all likelihood, great numbers were converted to the belief of Christianity in general, by seeing or being informed of the miracles wrought in its favour; who perhaps had no opportunity, for some time, of hear
ing the particular doctrines of it explained so distinctly, by those who thoroughly understood them, as to be set right in every point. And this may possibly have been one chief reason of the many strange notions, that we find some of the early Christians embraced.
Besides, they might the more easily be mistaken, in the case before us, on this account: that the Apostles, imitating the language already in use concerning the Jewish proselytes, expressed the change, which Christianity made in the tempers and condition of men, by the phrases of dying to sin, being buried with Christ in baptism, and rising again to newness of life. The ignorant or prejudiced might hastily conclude from hence, that no other rising again was intended to be taught : and that therefore the resurrection was past already, as we are told by our Apostle, some affirmed *.
Now this error, if it comprehended the denial of a future state, subverted the main purpose of Christianity: which was, influencing the world to piety and virtue, from the expectation of that state t. And where only the future life of the body was denied; even that, by consequence, made the Gospel of no effect. For if the resurrection of it was a thing impossible, which all, who rejected it, seem to have held; then the resurrection of Christ was a thing impossible. Yet this was the main fact, to which the Apostles were appointed to bear witness,
• 2 Tim. ï. 18.
+ Origen, Com. in Matth. xxii. 23. tom. 17. p.811. insists that the Apostle writes here against persons disbelieving a future life ; and that his arguments are not conclusive against those, who disbelieve a resurrection only. I have endeavoured to shew the contrary in what follows.