Page images

respects become a reward. The joys of heaven, you will observe, are assigned, not arbitarily, not unconditionally, not promiscuously, but to the spirits of just men made perfect - to moral agents, who have endeavoured to qualify themselves for the company of apostles and martyrs, of angels and archangels, and the glorified Mediator of the new covenant. The promise of those joys must excite our gratitude, and gratitude must manifest its sincerity and its efficacy by animating our efforts to obey the will of God. Doubtless, with such bright prospects as have been opened to us, we must learn to raise our affections from all earthly objects, and to set them upon those which are heavenly. We must encourage ourselves and others in well doing, not merely by professing to believe, but by acting as men who sincerely do believe that they are to live for ever in the kingdom of their Redeemer.

The body in which we are now invested is liable to be maimed or crushed by outward accidents-to be destroyed by acute or sudden disease—to be wasted by slow and lingering sickness, or dissolved by the gentle, but inevitable and progressive decays of old age. But upon the change, which, as accountable beings, and therefore conscious of previous merit or demerit in a previous mode of existence we are to undergo, the declarations of Scripture, when general are literal, and when particular are figurative. They indeed set before us no abstruse, or contentious, or ostentatious phraseology of metaphysics--no mystical traditions of mythology-no illusory visions of fanaticism -no sombrous colourings of superstition-no glowing exaggeration or arbitrary invention, admitted, and indeed adınissible only, in the boundless and trackless range of poetical imagery. They bear not the smallest resemblance to those opinions which, descending froin remote antiquity, and variously modified by allegorical interpretation or philosophical refinements, were retained among the Greeks and Romans in their most polished ages, or those which prevailed among the ruder inhabitants of Northern Europe, or those which delighted the vivid fancy of many oriental authors. Destitute of the artificial decorations which human ingenuity has bestowed upon subjects most interesting to the human mind, whether in barbarous or civilized countries, they are adapted to the more salutary purpose of influencing our conduct—they are sufficiently perspicuous to direct our faith—sufficiently definite to animate our hope, and sufficiently authoritative to leave us no plea for our deliberate disobedience.

That, as we learn from St. Paul, which is sown in dishonour will be raised in glory, and that which is sown in weakness will be raised in

power. This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. Thankful, therefore, let us be to God, who hath thus given us the victory over death and the grave, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us be steadfast, my beloved brethren, let us be immoveable — let us always be abounding in good works, forasmuch as we know that our labour will not be in vain. If Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, let us so walk in newness of life, that when he who is our Saviour shall summon us to his tribunal as our Judge, we may appear before him in glory, and dwell together with him in the presence of God and the Father through endless ages.




1 CORINTH. xv. 58.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

In some preceding parts of the chapter whence my text is taken, the Apostle establishes the doctrine of a future state with such force of reasoning, and such copiousness of illustration, as have ever commanded attention from the intelligent and the pious. He first insists upon the fact of our Lord's resurrection from the grave. On this event he founds a clear and irresistible argument in favour of the general resurrection, and in metaphorical terms taken from the customs, opinions, and familiar idioms of his Jewish countrymen, he shews that the ascent of Christ from the grave prefigured

He then refutes all the cavils which popular superstition, or specious sophistry, might

our own.

* April 1800.

[ocr errors]

suggest upon the manner in which the dead are raised up. In the ardour of a mind enraptured with the grandeur, and expanding with the magnitude, of the topics that were before him, he pushes on from statement to deduction, from deduction to analogy, and from analogy to luminous and animated description. In a noble strain of exultation, he exclaims, “Death is swallowed up in victory;" or, as the words have been more properly understood by some learned critics, and pertinently explained by corresponding passages in the Septuagint “ Death is swallowed up for ever.” With the eagerness of a writer who felt unfeignedly what he taught authoritatively, he seizes, as indeed he often does upon other occasions, the accessory idea conveyed by that expression — “O Death,” says he, “ where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?" He contends that the Gospel, giving us the victory through Christ, is an object more worthy of our gratitude and admiration than the Law, which was the strength of sin, and of that sin which was the sting of death. Having thus elicited the point upon which our fondest hopes and most precious interests depend, he immediately makes an application of the doctrine highly instructive. He exhorts the Corinthians to steady perseverance in the faith of a Redeemer, who had perished indeed upon the cross, but who, by the extraordinary dispensation of God, had triumphed over death. He encourages them to abound, or “excel," * in all the

* Pearce.

« PreviousContinue »