AND if this day had not been, we had been so miserable indeed, and without hope of being other. If Christ had not risen there had been no resurrection, and if no resurrection no hope but here; then "most miserable" we Christians, to be sure, who were sure to find nothing but hard usage here, tribulation in this world, and could expect no other, or no better there.
Happy then this day to us; happy we that this day came, which opens to us a door of hope--have reason, therefore, to remember it, and with joy to keep it, as the first dawning of a better hope, the day-spring of all our happiness. This day our head is risen, and with him our hope has enlarged its borders, and made a prospect into the other world, sees some comfort there for our sorrows here. This day's bright -shining beams have lightened our eyes, that now we shall not sleep in death; a Sunday indeed, the first true Sunday that ever shone, wherein the Sun of righteousness arose out of the chambers of the grave, to guide our feet out of misty darkness into marvellous light--out of the paths of the dead into the land of the living--out of this miserable into a blessed life by Christ's resurrection.
[148/149] I know the Apostle gathers his argument somewhat other-wise. If there be no resurrection, says he, then is Christ not risen; if Christ had not, be not risen, say we, there is not, will not be a resurrection. To the same purpose both he and we, both of us making Christ's rising the cause, the ground of ours. If he, then we; if not he, not we neither. Our grounds the same.
And the inferences the same too. For whether we say, If there be no resurrection Christ is not risen; or, If Christ he not risen there is no resurrection, we affirm both-Christ's rising and our own. And if either be false, we are found false witnesses, -both, nay all. Not S. Paul only, who saw him last, but those also that saw him first-but "Cephas also and the twelve"--but "five hundred brethren" at a clap, who saw him all at once. S. James too, and all the Apostles, who both eat and drank with him after his resurrection, who bare witness of it, and preached it to the world, preached our resurrection from it. False witnesses,--bars all,--all the Fathers, all the preachers ever since, who preached nothing so much as both the one and the other. So if either he false, "our preaching is vain," (but that, perhaps, is little in the world's account, who could peradventure willingly spare both preachers and preaching too,) nay, but "your faith is also vain," your hope is vain, "you are yet in your sins;" and which you die you perish, and "miserable" you are, both alive and dead. Miserable deceivers we, to preach,--miser-ably deceived, you, to trust a Saviour who could not save himself, but is dead and perished; miserable both you and we, to continue in a religion so groundless, so unprofitable, so troublesome, so uncomfortable, so hopeless, whence little good is to be expected here and less hereafter, as it must needs be, if there be no other hope in Christ, but only here.
But the comfort is, the text is but a supposition,--what would become of us, if our hope were only here? Now, a mere supposition, as it infers a necessary consequence upon the supposal: so, being but a mere supposition, it as evi-dently proves a real truth contrary to the supposal. "If in this life only we have hope" supposes that so it is not truly, though, truly, so it might be. And we were "most miserable" [149/150] says, in effect, that so we are not, though upon the supposal so it would be.
So that by this we have two general parts to handle in the text: (1,) What our "hope" might be, and what then might be the issue. It might be only "in this life'' (such hopes there are); and then the issue wound he misery. Then, (2,) what our " hope" is, and what, therefore, the success. It is not "in this life," therefore in the other; or not "in this life only," then in both -- a double hope, a lasting and ever-lasting hope. And then the effect sure will he good; if the other end in misery, happiness must be the close of this. The first of these is true only upon supposal, the second true without it. The first the Apostle only supposes, to prove the absurdity of denying a resurrection, or our hope in Christ concerning it; the second he truly means,--that the Chris-tian's hope in Christ is not only here, and he is therefore the most happy of the world, because it is not, though if it were, he of all were the most desperately "miserable."
The sum must be to teach us, (1,) where not to place our hope; and, (2,) where to place it; (3,) what is the effect of an ill-placed hope; and, (4,) what of that which is rightly set. By both, showing us even the necessity of a resurrec-tion, and of a faithful expectation of it.
And two kinds of "hope," now, with their several effects shall divide the text -a false one, and a true one.
I. A false hope. In Christ, " in this life only."
And its effect: Misery--misery, both in this life and in the other. "Most miserable;" "of all men most miserable," then, in both lives, to be sure.
II. A true hope. Not only in this life only."
With its edict: Happiness--double happiness, here and hereafter both; that also, not "in this life only;" for if the other makes its owners the most miserable, this then, by the law of contraries, makes must happy in this world, as well as in the other; though there most, because there is most,--yet here too, because here is some.
The first, "hope," and its effect, more plainly expressed; the second, and its effect, as necessarily implied; both of them together, the full contents of the text.
I shall, for once, begin with the false hope, because the [150/151] Apostle's purpose here seems more especially to be, to beat down that; which once done, a few words and a little time will serve for the other. And as the Apostle here does but only intimate it, so it shall serve us anon but to touch it, lest we too much transgress the bounds both of text and time.
To search then thoroughly into the vanity and misery of a hope that reaches short of heaven, we shall consider these four particulars:--(1) That such a "hope" there is--a false hope in Christ. That (2) that which is in him " in this life only" is such a one. That, (3,) the effect of it is misery--all those that have it "miserable;" they that "have hope in Christ," "in this life only," miserable they. Yet, (l,) of those, some more miserable than others, some "most miserable;" we, of all,--we apostles, we the ministers, we the preachers of it,---"most miserable" of all, of all the rest. "If in this life only we have hope; we, of all," &c.
That a false hope there is, even in him who is "the, hope of all time ends of the earth," I would we could not say. But a false belief there is in him, nay, many false ones; therefore a false hope too, yea, many such. For all hope presupposes a belief; and such as our belief, such is our hope also.
We could easily, peradventure, bear it, were that hope only false which is in timings below, in things transitory. Why? They deceive themselves, are inconstant to themselves, no wonder then if so to us. Health loses itself when it fails its master; riches decrease not more to their owner than to themselves; pleasure fades at the same time wherein it leaves the pursuer; honour becomes but air, when it is departed from him it honoured; all earthly hopes only therefore fail us, because their _wn natures fail them; the things we hope for perish, and we therefore lose them. All this might be endured to be failed by failing hopes.
But that a hope in him who cannot fail should fail us-a hope in him that cannot deceive should delude us, who could think it? Yet, too true it is. Such a hope, many such a one there is. When, though the object be right, or at least ma-terially so, even Christ our Saviour; yet either (1) the for-mality, or way of apprehending him is wrong, or (2) the ground false, or (3) the reason none, or (4) the order ill, or (5) the managing of it naught, or (6) the nature of it not [151/152] right, or (7) the strength of it not competent, or the continuance too short. W e shall best understand what this false hope in Christ is, by considering what is required to make up that which is the true one. And to it are required, (1) a right apprehension, (2) sure grounds, (3) good reason, (4) order, (5) discretion, (6) purity (7) steadfastness and constancy.
True hope should have a right apprehension of its object, as well as an object that is right. It is not enough to justify our hope that we say it is in Christ, unless it be in Christ truly apprehended. To conceive Christ so to be the Saviour of sinners, as remaining sinners; to imagine he will give us heaven because we imgaine it; to expect he should violently draw us thither whether we will or no; to hope that he will save us without doing anything ourselves, is presumption, at the easiest I can speak it; but some part of it is blasphemy, viz, to make Christ so to receive sinners as even to approve the sins, by taking the persons into favour, and justifying them, _r declaring them to be just and righteous whilst they wilfully continue in them; and so far from truth it is, as that himself professes he came not to save them otherwise than by "calling" them "to repentance." Yet, as bad a hope as it is, it is too common now, commonly professed and preached too, as well as practised, though most injuriously to Christ, and as dangerously to themselves.
(2.) "Hope," that is, true hope, should be well grounded. Now there is a groundless one,--that must needs be naught. The ground of hope is the word of God. "In the word do I hope," says David; and, that in the Scripture ye "might have hope," says S. Paul. That which hath other foundation is without foundation. God's word, not man's comment; Christ's promise, not man's fancy, must ground our hope. To hope we shall be saved only because he is merciful, to hope God will save us only because he is merciful, infinitely merciful; or that we shall to heaven because we persuade our-selves we are elected and predestinated, or conceive ourselves the only saints and darlings of the Most High; to make either our own groundless and sudden hopes, or God's general mercies only, or temporal successes and prosperities (which are common also to the most wicked), or rash and obscure [152/153] fancies of predestination and election, or our own mercy imagined holiness and saintship; or, yet, some new revelation or inspiration, or some extraordinary--strange light and motion within us, (which may as well proceed from him who too often changes himself into an angel of light, as from the Father of lights, for aught we know; nay, for we know it does so, if it be contrary to any parcel of God's revealed will in Scripture, that from God it is not, if it be so;) upon any of these, I say; nay, upon all of them together, (yea, though the prophets we have chosen to ourselves, add their word to it to assert it,) to found our hope is to build it upon the sand, that when any storm shall come front heaven, any wind or tempest of God's displeasure beat upon it,--when temptations, afflictions, or persecutions, sickness, or death, shall smite the corners of this specious building of our hope, down it falls, and in the dust, there lies our hope; yea, the fall is great; so much the greater by how much the higher, the larger built, he that will ground his hope aright must not be too sudden. Qui crediderit ne festinet, says the Prophet: Let him not be too hasty to believe. "He that believeth shall not make haste." To God's general goodness and promises he must add some inward feelings; for his opinion of being predestinated or elected, he in must find some ground from his effectual calling, inward sanctification and renovation, con-stancy of faith and resolution, as well as from God's goodness and mercy. His holiness and saintship too he must not measure by his own conceit, but by the square of God's commandments. Does he do that which is holy and just? Then a saint--not otherwise, in the Scripture phrase. New revelations beyond the word of God he must renounce, if he mean not to reject the word of God as insufficient; and his new lights and inspirations he must bring to the light of God's written word,--his teacher's doctrines must be tried also by the same evidence and rule, and answer to it too, or his hope will be as groundless as his who never heard of Christ or God,--only serve to make him miserable. For so he is, and so will be, who thus fixes not his ground, who has nothing else but those foresaid imaginations to go upon.
Nay-, (3) reason, too, is required to our "hope." "Be ready," says S. Peter, "always to give an answer to every [153/154] man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in you." Hope without reason is an unreasonable hope, fit for beasts, not men; unreasonable to be required of reasonable men. He that requires me to hope contrary to reason, requires of me either an impossibility or a folly. I cannot truly hope that which is impossible to my reason, that which I really conceive impossible; or I am a fool to go about, desire, or pursue it, whilst I think so. Hope above hope I must; nay, " hope against hope" I may too, sometimes, as Abraham is said to have done; that is, against the ordinary course of nature or affairs; but then only though, which greater reason persuades me to hope against it than to fear with it; when God expressly sends me word, or some other way assures me he will transcend the ordinary way with me, and not bind himself to laws of inferior for nature and course, and then indeed it is greater reason that I should believe God than rely upon natural reason and ability or ordinary providence and common course. But then I must have either an Angel from heaven to tell me so, or an evidence from God which I can neither resist nor deny; a full evidence, besides, that it is God that so assures me, that he it truly is who requires my belief; otherwise I am to trust no further than reason will assure me, nor hope more, nor otherwise from Christ or God that true reason grounded upon God's holy word and possibilities, and probabilities, too, will move me to. To hope other is but to be our own deceivers.
(4.) True "hope in Christ" should be rightly ordered. First faith, then hope, then rejoicing in hope, then assur-ance,--not assurance at the first dash, nor rejoicing neither. hope hath a kind of torment with it at the first, when the thing we hope for is either delayed or a great way off. The nearer we draw to it the lesser is our torment, the nearer are we to our rejoicing. Whatsoever joy rises before we cone somewhat nigh the thing we hope for, is either none or very little: and if faith enter us not into our hope, if hope be grounded upon opinion only, not on faith, it will scarce hold a shaking fit; see the Apostle's order, first, "tribulation," then "patience," then "experience," then "hope," then, and not before, that "hope" which "maketh not ashamed." Till you have been tried and tried again, patiently endured [154/155] affliction and temptation, till your patience be grown into experienxce, toll you are become an experienced Christian, have had experience both of God's favours and his frowns, anti are become an exprienced soldier in the Christiani warfare, one will versed in that holy trade, you cannot have tl_e hope whtiehi maketh not ashamed." All hope that rises not in this method will but shame you. In a word, first, the "hope" of righteousness, in the order I have told you; then the the blessed "hope" of glory. All other is preposterous and no better than that which is in this life only; for it will not hold, or not hold beyond it, though it talk never so mucht of another. No, without the hope of righteousness here,--a hope that expresses itself by righteousness herea hope that expresses itself by righteousness in this life,--no hope, no true hope, I am sure, of glory in the other.
(5.) There is a fifth "hope" that is as vain, which neither knows how to go about nor pursue its ends, nor entertain them neither when they come. A kind of people there are who lay claim to much "hope in Christ;" yet, when good motions arise within them to beget this hope, they either carelessly neglect or wifully quench them; when God shows them ways to confirm it they mind it not; nay, when salvation itself seems to knock at their very doors they sit still, and stir not so much as to open and let it in; or if it fall out that they enertain it, it is with so much vanity and self-conceit, so much empty prattle and boasting of itself, so much show andi specious profession, that Christ, in whom it is pretended to be all, is least of all seen in it. True hope is never without humility and discretion; it takes all oppor-tunities to confirm and raise itself; manages its motions with all carefulness, sobriety, humility and godly fear; expects nothing but what in prudence it may; slips no time but what of necessity it must; uses whatsoever means it possibly can, yet without the least vain ostentation, to attain what it wishes and desires.
(6.) To this end, sixthly, it endeavours after holiness. The "hope" that does not so is no true ''hope in Christ '' at all. "Every one that hath this hope purifies himself,'' says S. John; -"hath his soul purified in obeying the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren," adds S. Peter. S. Paul [155/156] calls it a "hope of righteousness;" and the Psalmist joins to it doing good. "hope, and be doing good," as if there could be no good " hope" without doing good, unless it did purify us to all obedience and love. This is the only "hope in Christ" we read of for approved and sound; a pure, holy, obedient, operative, charitable hope. Whatever hope else is said to be in Christ does but usurp the name, and is no such, and brings us no whither but to the end of the verse, to be "most miserable."
Yet, (7.) steadfastness and constancy must be added to make "hope" complete. Upon faith it must be grounded, as we told you, and faith can admit no wavering. "Sure and steadfast," the Apostle calls it;--"hope without wavering," anchor-hope, and helmet--hope, strong and sure. Sure! nay, "sure and tiny unto the end," too. So sure as that it carries rejoicing with it, as if it had already obtained. No doubtful, sad, melancholic, wavering or unconstant piece of business, as the hopes of the world are, now up, now down, now merry, now sad; nor as those false hopes in Christ without ground taken up, without discretion pursued, and with impurities and impieties daily defiled, will one day prove. No, nor yet any impatient expectation, but a "hope with patience," as the Blessed Apostle; a quiet and "patient waiting for Christ," to be content to endure anything, though never so hard, any tine, though never so dung, and think nothing too much for his sake. There are so many men's hopes of the contrary nature, so impatient of any service or hardship, or endurance for Christ, that with most it is come to more than an "if;" if they have only a false hope in Christ, so it is without an "if" too evident, too common, the more the pity.
I have been somewhat long in discovering the false hopes we have in Christ, which little differ either from impudence or presumption, to say the least, because the religious world, as they would be accounted, is too full of them; because so many deceive themselves with their false glitterings, and will needs be, forsooth, the saints, the only saints who "have hope in Christ," who neither know the nature nor feel the power of it. More false hopes even in Christ there are, but such as may well be reduced to these heads; as many [156/157] false hopes as false beliefs, and they are more than I can tell you, more than any can; more, however, than the day would give us leave to tell you, if we would or could.
A "hope in Christ," (1) that misconceives him; (2) a groundless, (3) untreasonable, (4) preposterous, (5) indis-creet, (6) unholy, (7) a wavering, inconstant, and impa-tient hope, are the only false hopes I have informed you of; you may reduce all others to them but this one behind, which the Apostle seems to imply by the rule of contraries, when he tells us of a "hope" he had, which made "him use great plainness of speech," whereby he insinuates, that the hope "through Christ to Godward" "by the ministration of the Spirit, not the letter," as he styles it, delights not in a kind of canting language, which nobody understands but those of the same craft and occupation, none but themselves; no, nor themselves neither,--though by an uncouth kind of holy language, through spiritual pride, they would fain seem to speak mysteries. No, "the Father of lights " uses no dark- lantern language. If they mean good why may we not understand them? If they fear not the detection of their falsehoods, why do they cloud themselves and meanings in unscripture-like phrases? if they hoped like Christians they would speak like such, not like barbarians, and then should we plainly understand them. For S. Paul's hope in the place forementioned, and the hope of the Fathers ever since, was in plainness of speech,--we know what it means,--from which these men so professedly swerving, we may justly suspect they are swerved also from the hope of the Apostles and all Christian Fathers,--have set up also a new hope dif-ferent from theirs, and are become a kind of Christians different from them. This is a note you shall scarce meet with; but the observation of the hopes of our times com-pared with those of the Apostles' times, and S. Paul's words, brought it to my hands; and it almost scents the symptom, by thoroughly examining it, of all false, heretical and ground-less hopes through all ages in sects and heresies, as they rose; the changing the Catholic and received phrase into other terms: a new uncouth language for new and uncouth faiths and hopes.
By what has been said you may now easily find out [157/158] whether your "hope in Christ" be as it should be, whether it will make happy or miserable. And by the same you may as easily perceive how false hopes generally delude the world. Yet, to give you only; a short prospect of them all together now at last, that you may see them fully and yet briefly too, take it thus:
For men to play the devils and yet pretend to hope in God; to study schism, factious, and contention, and yet pre-tend hope in the "Prince of Peace;" to run all the ways of destruction and yet hope salvation; to strive for nothing but this world, this only in all their carriages, and yet hope for another; to look for their portion and happiness hereafter, and yet will needs have all that is here; to hope for another life and lead this no better; to be so solicitous to place Christ's kingdom here, and yet mind none other but their own; to keep ado to set up "King Jesus" here, as they love to speak, and yet not suffer him to reign or rule in any of themselves; to hope for the reward of peace-makers, to he called the saints and children of God, and yet be the only peace-breakers, peace-disturbers in Church and State, nay, and the great war-makers too; to hope for the reward of being persecuted for Christ, and yet daily persecute him in his members, and that even for his sake too, for his religion and a good conscience; to hope for the reward of the meek, the poor in spirit, the pure in heart, which amounts to as much as heaven and earth, and yet be the most impure and proud and haughty, exalting themselves "above all that is called God," proud of virtues and braces, and proud of sins, enormous sins too,-are such riddles and contradictions, are such groundless, senseless, impudent hopes, that, whatever they pretend of Christ, they are not only such as are in this life only, fading, vanishing and vain, but so only in Christ, as in the mere sound and noise and echo of the name, and even the greatest injury that can be done it, the vilest abuse that ever the name of Christian hope yet suffered.
Yet are we to proceed to another still. A hope in Christ, only for this life, the second particular we propounded, a hope that pretends no further than this present life. In this so much the more modest than the other, in that it pretends no further than it acts; in this only different from the other. [158/159] This denies the resurrection, the other the power of it; this more expressly, the other implicitly; this sometimes both in the words and deeds, (so much the honester,) the other in deed only, in words never, so much the proner to deceive us. But who are they, now, whose hope in Christ is only in this life? Or, what is it to hope in Christ in this life only? Let us see a little.
(1.) They plainly "have hope in Christ in this life only," who deny his resurrection. For if he be not risen, if he be yet in the grave, and his body among the atoms of the dust, alas! there must needs our hope end too,--thither must it go, and sleep there for ever, he was no more than a poor man as we, if he be not risen; and if our hope be in man "whose breath is in his nostrils," then when God takes away his breath he dies, and our hopes die with him. The point of Christ's resurrection, then, is the hinge of all our hope. Best to keep close to that article, or we lose all our religion quite, and must go seek some other. If he that should save us be not able to save himself; if our hope be laid in him, and he hid for ever in his ashes; if he that should deliver us, delivered not himself from death, we have no reason to ex-pect beyond it, and then little comfort to look beside it, upon any good we can here get by it.
(2.) They who deny our resurrection, can hope no further in Christ than in this life only. If we rise no more, here is all we look for. And if Christ, in whom we hope, can do us any good, it must be here, for he has nowhere else to do it, if when we die we perish. So to deny a resurrection, is plainly to confine our hope within this present world, to the narrow limits o£ an uncertain life. Yet such there were in the Apostles' times, as appears, some among the Corinthians, who "said there was no resurrection of the dead." Of which sort also were Hymenæus and Philetus, who affirmed "the resurrection was past already,"--nothing more to be expected; and thereby, says S. Paul, "overthrew the faith of some.'' I cannot punctually point out to you, amidst the confused rout of errors and heresies, which now swarm and reign amongst us, any such who dare yet expressly say so much. Yet if they who are so hot for Christ's temporal reign upon earth, (of which there are good store,) be not such, they look [159/160] very like them; like men, I am sure, who "have hope in Christ in this life only," or at least too much in it, more than they should; and it we may guess at them by their actions, they and many other of that pious rabble seem to mean it, and would express it, if it were time to do it; or it may be, do it already in their congregations and private meetings, if we could cone to hear them. I am sure it con-cerns them much, that there be no resurrection, and to think so too, if they desire to go on confidently and quietly, With-out the throbs of an accusing and condemning conscience in the courses they are in.
(3.) Such are they also truly in effect, who deny Christ's satisfaction, who will acknowledge no other benefit from his life, or death, or resurrection, than good example. If he be risen only for himself, or not risen at all, it is all one to us; all one, I say, to us, if we have no benefit by his resurrec-tion. I think they will not say themselves, we can rise out of the grave, only by a pattern. If there be no power in his resurrection that extends to us, well may he be risen, but we shall not rise if he raise not us. We know then quickly where is all our hope.
(4.) Such are they again, who only follow Christ for loaves, who only therefore embrace or follow the Christian faith, and take up Christ's religion only to maintain themselves, and such or such a sect thereof, because it is the only way they see to live and thrive by. Here at this prospect, now, you see there are more hopes in Christ in this life only, than perhaps before you did imagine; whilst you behold so many change their religion, new form their faith, new model their profession, alter and assume opinion after opinion, for this poor thing we call a life, for the poorest things of it, to save the skin or gain a penny. An act so unworthy of a Christian, that it blasphemes the name, and makes us yet put another "if" to the Apostle's. If this be faith in Christ, any is. If this be true, there is none vain. If these be Chistii fideles, who are infideles? If these be Christ's faithful ones, who are infidels? Who, but those who look for another world, who believe that Christ is risen, and they shall one day rise after him, and therefore in the interim, rise above this foolish world and the things of it in all their thoughts?
[160/162] (5.) Many other hopes there be, which have too much tincture of this life in them, too much infected with the interests of this present life; which seem so much to be possessed with it, that upon loss of friends, or liberty, or estate, or honour, or the fear of such probable or threatened losses, the men that have these hopes only, they grieve, and moan, and fear, and are perplexed, and troubled, and amazed, as men "without hope," as the Apostle styles them, without hope of a recompence of a reward,--as if Christ either could not, or else would not, make them a recompence for all their sufferings, all their losses; and therefore go like men forsaken and forlorn, not weighing how infinite ways Christ can at any time both return them here, and beyond desire or imagination reward them all hereafter,--but grieve as if there were no other world but this,--nothing to make amends for ever. I say not, that these kind of hopeless hopes are any thing near so bad as the other, yet bad they are, and have too much both of distrust and worldly interest in them. Though they deny not a resurrection, they seem to fear it; though they reject not quite the thoughts of another world, yet they seem to doubt it; though they now and then think well of Christ, they dare not trust him, unless they can feel him and his reward in present with him. The other indeed bid defiance to him, or else march impudently against him in his own colours; these only shrink from him, yet do enough to make us see too much of their hope in Christ is fixed here, enough to embitter all their lives, and make them miserable, if they settle not their souls a little better, and rouse up their spirits to eternal hopes.
(6.) Nay, more than so. Those very spiritual joys and inward comforts which we feel within us, and which sustain us in all our miseries, are but delusions, dreams, and fancies, if there he no resurrection, if we or they must end here; poor slender hopes to uphold us, if they rest only in present complacencies. The Turk, for aught we can say,--has as much in the service of his Mahomet. The idolater feels the same, if perhaps not more, when he has done his sacrifice to his idol; he is pleased, no doubt, and munch rejoices in it when lie has done his worship. Every false sect, no doubt, has some like complacencies within, whereby it is confirmed [161/162] in its superstitions; and, it may be, the more to fasten them, Satan, that metamorphosed angel of light, does, by adding somewhat of sensible pleasure to them, make those inward illusions and delights far sweeter in the apprehension than the true Christian's, many times. Nay, and the reso-lute sinner shall find a kind of subtle delight and appearing contentment in the custom of his sins, (especially of spiritual sins, false zeal, heresy, schism, singularity, or the like); does so commonly for awhile, till conscience begin a little to remember him; would do so for ever but for the tang and touch of conscience, which ever and anon strikes in on a sudden and thwarts or allays them, which yet it could not do if there were no resurrection to call them to account. So that those great pledges and forerunners of our eternal happiness would be either none, or not what they are, or but the fading glances of a perishing hope, if they had not a relish from those infinite and everlasting joys we look for. And whoever he is, that shall endure what a Christian must, only for those slender (and peradventure uncertain) con-tentations here, (which yet truly are not so much, or it may he, none at all to fully reasonable souls, if they bring not with them the promises of a fuller stream of a yet-to-be- expected satisfaction,) whoever he be, he does but vainly place his labour. It is the glances of the other world, that make any thing look beautiful in this. It is only those eternal sweetnesses above, which give the taste to all these below, of what kind sower, if they relish truly well. And be our hopes, though in Christ himself, fed with any thing but them, or with things that have relation to them, we may put them all into this number, that the Apostle reckons only to make " most miserable."
Be they hopes in Christ without an eye (i.) to his rising out the grave; or, (ii.) without our rising thence: (iii.) do they deny the power of Christ's resurrection; or, (iv.) mind him only for worldly things, not regarding other; or, (v.) through infirmity, fix too much upon things of this life; or, (vi.) please themselves only in some inward complacencies and delights, without reference to eternal blessings,--they are no other. If any of these ways only we have hope in Christ, we have hope in him in this life only, and are of [162/163] all men most miserable; which close puts me in mind now of the third particular. The effect of all these if-hopes, these but supposed, vain hopes, misery, and the worst the most misery. "We are then of all men most miserable."
"Miserable!" But what should make us so? What, but that which makes us misery? Pain and loss. Lost joys, deluded hopes, and real pains, troubles, and infelicities. We shall not need to go out of this very chapter, which has given us the text, to find enough to make up a bulk of misery.
i. For loss.
(l.) We have lost our head. Christ is not risen, if our hope be only here. He is dead still, if there be no resurrection, and we are at the best but walking ghosts, horrors to others and to ourselves. We may well go with the disciples to Emmaus, a word that signifies forlorn people; go among forlorn people indeed, if he be dead still. We have lost our spirits, our senses, our life and all, if our head be gone; we are a generation of senseless, lifeless, silly people to be Christians still.
(2.) We have lost our labours and our sufferings too. What availeth it that "we stand in jeopardy every hour" if the dead rise not at all? "If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it if the dead rise not?'' What are all S. Paul's labours and travels, watchings and fastings, whippings and imprisonment's; his suffering cold and nakedness, hunger and thirst, contumelies and reproaches; his journeys and his shipwrecks, his so many perils both by sea and land; his chastening his body and keeping it under; his so often perils of death by treachery, by hostility, many other ways; his so many persecutions, and after them even death itself? To what purpose all these if there be no place or opportunity hereafter to reward them? What mean these foolish Christians so to subject themselves to cruel mockings and scourgings, to bonds and imprison-ments, to stoning, burning, sawing in sunder, to swords, and racks, and gibbets? What mean they to wander up and down in sheepskins and goatskins, which they may have better clothing fair cheaper? To wander up and down from house to house, when they may at an easier rate have houses of [163/164] their own? To wander up and down in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth, when they may with greater ease have stately buildings and glorious palaces to dwell in? Why are they so foolish to be thus "tortured" and tormented, and "accept of no deliverance," if it were not that they might "obtain a better resurrection?" as the Apostle speaks, and so on. Else if there be no such business, "Let us eat and drink," says S. Paul, " for to-morrow we die." Let us crown our heads with rose-bids in the spring and take our fill of loves; let us stretch ourselves upon our beds, and drench ourselves in pleasures, deny nothing to our desires, abridge ourselves of no delights, care not by what means we rush into riches, pleasures, lusts, and honours: if there be no other world let us take our portion here, and let us not be such fools and madmen to lose all here and hereafter too. This is better doctrine than the cold precepts of Christianity, if there be no other hope than what is here. But "be not deceived" for all this, says our Apostle; it is but "evil communication" this; though so it were not, but good wise counsel rather, if there were nothing beyond this life. But awake, awake to righteousness, for there is a resur-rection, where both our labours and our sufferings shall be remembered all.
(3.) We have lost our faith if our hope in Christ be only here; "your faith is vain;" our religion is gone, there is no such thing as that in Christianity, then. Religion is our business towards God, but if Christ be not risen,--as he is not, if we can hope in him no further than this life only,- then he is no God, so our religion is but foolery, and we miserable fools to busy our heads so much about it; about the name, and nature, and worship, and service, and trusting of a dead Redeemer, that can neither help himself nor us; no, nor hear a prayer, not grant a request, nor reward a duty, nor punish an injury done to him.
Nay, (1.) we have lost our very hope too. If we have no hope but here, we have none at all, we can hope for nothing that flees not from us. Do we hope for honours or riches by following Christ? We see daily we are deluded. Do we hope for happiness by it upon earth? We see nothing but misery about us, and death before us. Nay, do we hope [164/165] indeed for any good by Christ yet lying in the grate? What is it that a dead Saviour can give us more than the dead idols of the heathen? We see and feel our hopes in this life already vain, and for hereafter we can see nothing at all without a resurrection.
Yes, say some now-a-days. If the soul live we may be happy without a resurrection, though the body rise not, if the soul be but immortal. Fond men! who consider not how " if the body rise not, then Christ is not risen," (the Apostle's own way of arguing, ver. 15,) and then our faith which was in Christ being perished, as being no other than in a helpless, hopeless man, the soul can neither enjoy, expect a happiness from him, and has lost all other by following him already. Not considering, again, how the greatest misery that can betide the soul is to wander desolate and disconsolate for ever without both her body and her Christ, deprived eternally of all kinds of hopes. Not considering, lastly, that the soul's immortality necessarily infers a resurrection, it being but a forerunner and a harbinger for the body, to which it hath so natural a reference and inclination, that happiness it could have none w-hems separated front the body, if it did not perceive the certainty of its body's rising awhile after to accompany it. It could not without that certificate but be incessantly tormented with its own unsatisfied and ever-to-be-unsatisfied longings, which it could throw off no more than it could its own nature and essence, it being essentially created and deputed to the body.
But loss makes not all our misery. Not only loss of good but sense of evil concurs also to make us miserable. And here is enough of this, too, for us, if in this life only be our hope. "You are yet in your sins"-that first. And what greater evil, I pray, than sin? What greater misery than to be under the dominion of it? To be torn in pieces with the distraction of our sums, to be tormented with inordinate desires, to be hurried up and down with exorbitant lusts, to be enslaved to the drudgeries of so base commands, to be racked with the terrors of a wounded conscience, to be distracted quite with the horrors of inevitable damna-tion, to be at war continually with ourselves, to be commanded by every petty lust, to be a drudge to every [165/166] filthy sin, to have a soul and body full of nothing but pollution, nothing clean, nothing pure, nothing quiet, nothing peaceable within it thus to persist and continue, thus to live and die, neither our own masters nor our own men,--no misery more miserable. You talk of slavery and tyranny; there is none like this of sin and lusts. "Ye shall die in your sins," says Christ to the Jews, as the greatest misery he could leave them under. Sinned we have all, and die in them too we must all of us as well as they, for all Christ, if we have no hope in him but here. He is not such a Saviour as can deliver us, if he have not delivered himself; or if he have, and we yet will not hope in him beyond this life, and the things of this life, we shall also die in our sins and be miserable as well as they.
This is ill enough, yet there is a worse misery behind: we shall perish, too. "Then all they also who are fallen asleep in Christ are perished,"--perished for ever; whether you take it for annihilation, or for damnation; whether for being dissolved into nothing, or being damned for ever, either of them is misery enough.
Let the best befall you that can, it is to perish into nothing, and yet there are that say it is the worst; that to be annihilated is worse than to be damned; perversely, I fear, more to maintain a cruel opinion against God's good-ness,--which in some men's favour merely they have under-taken obstinately to defend,--by setting up an absolute reprobation, than that either sense or reason can persuade any unprejudiced judgment that it is so. Well, be that kind of perishing what it will, let that be it, to have our breath vanish into the soft air, as the wise man phrases it, and have our bodies disperse into insensible atoms, or rather to become truly nothing, you cannot think it but a misery; if for nothing else, yet for this, that men of honour and under-standing should become no better than the beasts that perish, to have so fair and glorious a building as man's moulder into nothing. And if death alone be terrible, to die into nothing is to nature much more, insomuch as it is further from the principles of it than any the most horrid corruption or putrefaction. "If a man die, shall he live again?" in Job's worst agony was but a question: but if a [166/167] man once fall into nothing, he, the same he, cannot live again, is no question at all. He shall not-- cannot. Something may be made of nothing, but the same thing cannot be re-made out of it. There is not anything, hell only excepted,--for we, however, for our parts will except that, can be so bad, so far from all the properties of all kind of good, metaphysical, physical, and moral too, as this non ens, this "nothing" we must resolve into at the best that call befall its if there be no resurrection.
But I may go a strain higher, and tell you but the truth. If there he no resurrection, yet they that "sleep in Christ," sleep (if I may use so soft a word) in damnation too. The soul is immortal,--however some in this worst of ages are so impudent to give out it is not, because they truly wish it were not, and it much concerns them that it should not, yet--the soul, I say, is immortal, and cannot die, must therefore upon necessity be miserable, if it depart its lodging without hope either of seeing its expected Saviour, or her beloved body ever again; must needs wander, and pine, and fret, and desire, and despair, and be never satisfied, find no content in anything, no ease in any turn of thought, or motion of desire; restless and unsatisfied every way, every where for ever.
Nay, again, whether there be any resurrection or no, "if Christ be not risen" too, we may yet perish everlastingly, amidst the everlasting fires. For our Saviour will prove none, our religion none, our recompense no other than those burnings.
Nay, lastly, if there be a resurrection, and if Christ be risen too, yet if our hope be not risen also,--if we believe, and hope, and desire, no further than this life only,--if our endeavours and labours be only for this life we live,--if our hopes be none other than one or other of those false ones which I have told you of, the place of eternal torment and despair is only what we can expect, even so to perish, there to be miserable for ever.
Sum up now the issue of our hopes, without relation to another life, and tell me what they are all else but misery. To lose our head, our life, our Saviour, our pains and labour, all our sufferings too; to lose our faith, our religion, our [167/168] hope and all, to live and die without it; to live perpetually under the tyranny of sins and lusts, and devils, and in death to depart uncomfortably into torments, or, at the best, to be no more, to become mere nothing; to live a miserable, wretched, tedious life, full of rigours and austerities, denying ourselves the freedom and pleasure that all others take; a life full of afflections and miseries too, for no better a recompence than mere nothing at the last, nothing at the best, yea, worse rather, than what we can imagine nothing at the most, and that without any hope for ever, has all the ingredients of the utmost misery.
And yet in miseries there are degrees, and of miserable persons degrees too: some more miserable than others, some "most miserable." It is the last of the four particulars of the first general. "We, of all men, are most miserable."
We Christians, that you have heard,--we, of all religions, the most miserable. But of all Christians, we, the Apostles,--we, the ministers of Christ,--we, the "most miserable" of those who are the most miserable company,--we more miserable than all the world beside. This is still behind.
Two things the holy Apostle, in this very chapter, adds to make it so. We are then "found false witnesses of God." What could be said more to our dishonour To be nothing else but a company of base, impudent liars, to make a trade and profession of it to gull people into misery, to be the devil's own ambassdors aid agents to bring in souls daily into hell; to add this dishonour to our misery, not only to be miserable Christians, but both the causers of their miseries by so dishonourable a baseness as a perpetual course of lying, and the wilful authors of our own, is that which adds much height to our already too great misery.
To this there is an additional yet, "our preaching" is also "vain" and needless. We are persons of whom there is no use; our function so far from holy, that it is but folly; our labour and studies (from the first of those tedious days and broken nights of studies, of our exhausted spirits, and neglected fortunes and preferments, to attend our work) to no purpose at all. Thus, besides those common miseries of a hopeless life, with other Christians, we have most vile [168/169] dishonour, and a whole lost life, and a whole vain course of labour added to increase our misery.
A third addition we have by the same pen in this Epistle, and so forward to augment our misery beyond a parallel. We are men "appointed unto death,'' "made a spectacle unto tl_e world,'' unto "angels," unto "men;" "fools for Christ's sake," "weak" and "despised," hungry and thirsty, and "naked," and "buffeted," and without any "certaint dwelling-place,'' outed at any body's pleasure; labouring day and night; reviled, persecuted, defameded by every tongue; made "the filth" and "off-scouring" of the world, and "of all things, even to this day;" hated and envied of all kind of men; "the world hateth you" says our Master, for whose sake it does so. Hated of all men, said I? yea, hated of God too, if our preaching be vain, and there be no hope in Christ but here. Miserable fools, sure; no such fools in the world again as we, to endure all this in vain, to place, or keep ourselves in so slavish, so dishonourablele, so troublesome, so afflictive, so contemptible a condition, when with the same, or easier pains, less cost, fewer broken sleeps, more worldly content, larger liberties, fuller friendships, freer entertainments, greater hopes, we might take many several ways and courses of life more profitable, more pleasurable, more honourable. Nor can we be so ignorant of ourselves and parts, many of us find we else any other reason to distrust, but that we might in any other way- promise to ourselves as much power to manage other means of thriving than books and papers, as any others, if we would apply ourselves to the same ways and undertakings with them. And had we no other hope but here, you should quickly find we could do so, were we not confident we serve a Master, the Lord Christ, "whose service," as it "is perfect freedom," so it is perfect honour, whatever the world imagine it or please to call it; were it not for the hope of a resurrection, when we shall find a sufficient recompence for all the affront, contempts, and ill-usages we suffer here, where these ragged blacks shall be gilded over withl the bright beams of glory ,--where we, whose office it is to "turn many unto righteousness" (whatever be the success), if we do our duty, shall shine like "stars for ever and ever." So now you see the scene of the text is [169/170] altered quite; there is evidence enough by our willingly and knowingly subjecting ourselves to all these fore-mentioned sufferings, that our "hope in Christ" is not only here, and we no longer, never, "miserable.'' All before but a suppo-sition; this the truth, (which I told you should be the second general, though only summarily and exceeding briefly,) that our hope, the true Christian's hope, is not in Christ for this life only; and therefore whoever is, he, to be sure, is not "miserable."
That our hope is not only here, is evident by so many signs, that I shall only heed but show and name them as I pass. We willingly stiffer hardships, bear restraints, deny our freedoms, debar ourselves many lawful liberties, lay by our hopes of worldly honour, think not of the most profitable and probable preferments; we contend to rigours and austerities; we watch our paths, we mark our steps, we make scruples where the world makes none; we accept restrictions in our lives, that the worldling and gallant laugh at. The whole business of our life is to be accepted of Christ our Saviour; we remember his benefits, we observe his days, we believe his resurrection, and keep this feast upon it; we solemnize the memory of all his other glorious actions, suf-ferings, and mercies, with all holy reverence and godly fear, with thankfulness and love; we hear his word, and study it; we strive to do his will, amid fulfil his commandments, at every point passing by the satisfactions of our own inclina-tions and desires; we receive his sacraments and believe their power; we by this day's solemnity confess his rising, and profess our own; we leave all worldly interests for his, his adieu to all contentations which stand not with that which is in him; we nothing gladly for his sake--to be counted fools and madmen, despised and trampled on, reviled and persecuted, exiled and tortured, and slain for his sake, for our hope in him, for that we fear to displease him, to lose his reward. These are full manifestoes of the true Christian's hope, what it is he looks for, what he means. For who now can think by the very naming of these doings and sufferings, truly acted and willingly undergone, that our hope is either not in Christ, or not in him beyond this life, who so easily contemn this, all the glories and pleasures of it, and choose [170/171] with deliberation and full consent that only in it which the world counts misery or affliction? Especially if he but consider that we are not crazed men that do so, but have our senses perfect, our understanding clear--clearer, many of us, than the greatest part even of understanding men--the same passions with other men, as sensible of any evils or afflictions, naturally, as any others, and yet notwithstanding choose all this for our hope's sake in Christ only.
And when all these shall be new heaped, and more embittered to the ministers of the Gospel, above others, through the spite of the world and the malice of the devil, on purpose to drive them from their hope, and they daily see and know it, are they such miserable fools and madmen, think you, not only to persuade others to these courses, but themselves also so readily to undergo them, when they might enjoy all liberties and pleasures at an easier rate, as well as others, did they not verily believe and hope, and even see and feel already, by evident testimonies both within find without, an abundant recompense hovering over them, laid up for them, super- abundant, in a resurrection?
World, now do thy worst against us, thou canst not make us miserable, do all thou canst, not miserable at all. We scorn thy spite, we contemn thy malice: we shall have an-other world when thou art none; we shall outlive thy malice, thyself. Whilst thou art in thy greatest pride and glory, lo! we trample on thee; and when thou thinkest thou hast laid both us and all our honour in the dust, we are above thee; thou art made our footstool; and thou thyself, as scornfully as now thou lookest upon us, shalt be one day forced to vomit up those morsels of us which thou hast swal-lowed, and wilt thou, nilt thou, bring all our scattered ashes and least atoms of our meanest parts together, and humbly offer them at the feet of the meanest Christian soul whom thou at any time despoiledst of them, and either shrink away confounded with our glory, or else be glad of a resur-rection as well as we; whilst those miserable wretches that thou so much courtedst and delightedst in, and that thy prince, who ruled and abused thee to all his lusts, shall down together into eternal misery, when those poor, despised Christians, whom thou so much malignedst, shall reign in glory.
[171/172] Miserable they were not here, mangre all the world could do against them ;they had that peace, that joy, that contentment still within, which the world could neither give nor take away. They found an unspeakable, as well pleasure as glory, in their very afflictions and bitterest sufferings, being exceeding glad, and counting all joy to be made so like their Master , whose ministers or whose servants they were; with him, "despising their shame" and trouble of a contemptible and afflictive life or death, for " the joy set before them," for the hope they saw at the right hand of the throne of God. Thus feeling nothing that could truly or properly called misery , whilst they "took pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distress for Christ's sake," as S. Paul professes he did; whilst it all served only to the ir contentment here, and augment their happiness and glory hereafter, they sure lost nothing then, they are not miserable now , who are so fallen asleep. An d lift up your heads, ye drooping Christian; still, they shall not be miserable, that so at any time fall asleep, but rise and live again, and be yet more happy, every out in their order, every star their glory, every star a different ray, according to their hope and sufferings here; as no men so little miserable here, if all things be truly pondered, so no men so happy hereafter as the Christians they, "of all men" above all men ,souls and bodies ,both pastor and people, all that live and die under the glorious hope of a resurrection by Christ, who place not their hopes or affections in this life, but in him and in the other, - of all men, thy, most blessed, most eternally blessed.
To which blessed estate, after this life ended, h e who is our "hope," and who, we hope, will keep us in it,--he in whom we trust, and I trust shall be so still, not for this life only, but the other too--but for ever,--he, of his mercy, convey and br ing us all, every one in his due time and order, even our Lord Jesus Christ. To whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be all praise, and glory, not in this life only, but for ever and ever. Amen.