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true: he has, I say, given us assurance of this in raising our Lord from the dead.
To this the apostles and first christians appealed, as to a matter of fact, of which they had been eye-witnesses, for the truth of which they were ready to lay down their lives, and at last did so. And the providence of God so ordered matters, that the enemies of christianity should have nothing in reason to say against the truth of Christ's resurrection. They set a watch upon his grave; their own watch informed them of what had happened when he rose from the dead; they were forced to give them money to stifle the truth, and set about a lie; and yet they themselves had not the assurance to persist in this lie, when Peter and John* told them that to their own certain knowledge he was risen from the dead; they had not then the face to say, that his disciples had stolen him away; but only, you would bring this man's blood upon us. Nay, they themselves were so far from believing their own lie, that they consented to the counsel of Gamaliel, lest, if what the apostles affirmed should be true, they should be found at the last to fight against God.
In short; in those days in which these things were done, the truth of Christ's resurrection was not questioned. The circumstances of the thing, the number of witnesses, their resolution to die rather than to deny what they had seen and heard, in the mean time the great power of God attending them in signs and wonders, and surprising miracles, stopped the mouths of
• Acts iv.
gainsayers; and the gospel, founded upon this truth, spread over all the world.
They believed Jesus Christ to be a divine person sent from God; and sent from God to reveal his will and purposes to men. They therefore thought themselves obliged to inquire diligently what he had taught while he lived amongst men, what he had promised to his faithful followers, what men might expect by embracing his gospel. And upon the whole they found, that Jesus Christ had not gained disciples by vain promises of worldly advantages. No: he told them plainly, that the next world was the place where Christians were to expect their reward; that in the mean time they were to live by faith in his promises. He assured them likewise, that, to try the sincerity of their faith, they should meet with a great many troubles, that their faith and hope might be in God; that he expected nothing from them but what he himself would undergo: and he did do so; for, for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame; for which God hath highly exalted him; and so he will do all his faithful followers: They shall be equal to the angels; they shall be the children of God; that is, they shall be immortal and happy.
These are happy circumstances which all good Christians shall be placed in at the resurrection.
And God (you see) has been most surprisingly careful and merciful to us, not to let us want all the evidence that our hearts can desire, that this shall be our portion, if we are not want
ing to ourselves; this being one of the most powerful motives to fit us for such a státe.
For a firm belief of the unspeakable happiness of those who die in the Lord, and whose portion shall be with the spirits of just men made perfect, who shall be the children of God, and equal unto the angels, a firm belief and expectation of this will have these three excellent effects:
1st. It will help to sweeten all the bitter passages of this mortal life.
2dly. It will help to cure us of a too great fondness for this world, which we are too apt to doat on, and which hinders us very much in our way to heaven.
3dly. It will help us to run with patience the race that is set before us; that is, to perform all the duties of christianity with cheerfulness.
I. Afirm belief of immortal happiness will help to sweeten all the bitter passages of this mortal life.
Whatever the world promises, sad experience, as well as the wisest of men, assures us, that all is vanity and vexation of spirit. But this is not the worst of it; there are afflictions which are unavoidable, and would be intolerable, if we had no hopes of seeing an end to them.
But death, you will say, will put an end to all the troubles of this life. Be it so. But then this very remedy is itself the greatest of all afffictions; for a man to know that he must die, and not to know what his condition shall be after death. Well might the apostle say, such
Heb. ii, 15.
men, through fear of death, are all their life long subject to bondage.
God be praised, this is not the case of Christ. ians, unless they are very much wanting to themselves. They may suffer, but if they keep in their eye the rewards of a future state, and live like men that do so, they cannot be miserable.
When a man can see an end of his miseries, and by bearing them as becomes a Christian, can be sure of a reward, and of such a reward as the best and wisest of men have willingly laid down their lives to obtain; this will support his spirits, and fill his soul with comfort, while his body is in pain; while disasters follow one another; when friends forsake him, and enemies oppress him; while the world frowns upon him, and poverty threatens him like an armed man.
In all these cases, a good Christian labours to support his soul with such considerations as these:-A time is coming when these afflictions will be over. Though I am now beset with infirmities, yet hereafter I shall have a body entirely free from pain and disorders of all kinds. Though I am poor now, yet I have this comfort, that God can make me sufficient amends in the next world for what I want in this. In the meanwhile, I know this to my comfort, that God has very often tried the faith of his best servants after a more severe way, in order to fit them for greater glory. It was thus he dealt with Job, whom he suffered to become the most miserable of men, before he would reward his patience and piety with a crowd of un
expected blessings. It was thus that God visited the man after his own heart, even after he had designed him for the greatest happiness. In short; it was thus the Son of God himself was dealt with; this was the way which he hath sanctified by his blessed example, commanding his disciples to follow his steps, encouraging them in their sufferings with the promises of eternal blessings.
II. Secondly; A firm belief of what we shall be after the resurrection, will help to cure us of a too great fondness for the world.
What would an angel give for the best estate or place upon earth? Why do not we believe that a time is coming, when we shall be as much above all, the glories of this world as the angels are now? Yes, we believe this: but our fault is, we do not lay it to heart; we do not compare the happiness of heaven with the present advantages we either aim at or enjoy. We do not, as the apostle tells us all true believers do, 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;* that is, A true believer keeps his eye upon what he expects hereafter, and will not be diverted from pursuing a crown of glory, that fadeth not away, by every tempting trifle he meets with in the way.
Thus, when Abraham had God's promise that he should have a son, that his seed should in after-ages possess that land in which he was a stranger, he was as well satisfied as if the thing were already come to pass, and he acted accord
2 Cor. iv. 19.