« הקודםהמשך »
self-denial, by which Christians are obliged t» walk, to govern their inward thoughts as strictly as their outward actions, to resist their dearest appetites and most natural inclinations, and to taste even the innocent and allowed pleasures of life but sparingly; in a word, to live, as it were, cut of the body, even while they continue in itt and are chained to it. Now, no struggle of this kind can be joyous, but grievous, while it lasts t and it lasts usually, in some degree or other, as long as life itself; a complete mastery of our appetites being what the best of men in this life do very rarely attain. So that the state of Christians, even when they are not actually persecuted, is yet a perpetual state of warfare and voluntary sufferings; such as neither the professors of the Jewish religion, nor of any other religion but that of Christ, were ever bound to undergo. And thit consideration, added to that of the external sufferings to which Christians are exposed, is indeed sufficient (though those susserings, in themselves considered, be not sufficient) to justify the apostle's assertion, that, without hope in another Ufe\ Christians would be the (least happy or) most miserable of all men.
But if the apostle's argument (when limited to a state of persecution) be not conclusive in general; it is much less so with respect 10 thole C»rinthiani, to whom it'is particularly addressed, and who gave rife to •that supposition in the text, on which his inference is there founded For how tan an assertion, " relating merely to a bitter state of persecution," include the case of those Coring thiahs, who neither then were, nor had ever
been, been, in such a state, since the gospel was sirst planted among them? That the Corinthians had been then grievously (or at all) persecuted, appears not from ecclesiastical history or the facred writings. On the contrary, they arc represented by the apostle himself in this very epistle, as abounding in wealth and cafe, and free from all external pressures and troubles. "Now ye are full, now ye are rich (fays he) ye have reigned as kings without us," i Cor. iv. 8. The schisms and divisions, the heinous impurities, the intem* perance and litigiousness, with which he reproaches some of them, are sufficient evidence that they had not as yet been under any general persecution; for these are the vices of prosperity and abundance *. The only difficulty they seem then to have laid under, was a temptation to partake of the public feasts of their fellow-citizens, in which they fed upon the facrisices offered to idols. These entertainments were very grateful to a people naturally lovers of pleasure, and bred up in ealc and luxury, as those of Corinth were: and perhaps the Christians of that place might sind themselves tinder some little inconveniences, for refusing to partake of them.
But surely nothing of this kind could deserve the name of an affliction, much less of a persceu
• Os their ea!m plenrisul, and prosperous estate, many years asterwards, St Cltmtnt, in his epistle to the Corinth.ant, witnesses - Otto Jo?a g vrKalvtruDtr (rays he) tMit uyuiv (and tha ill use they made oi it as sollows) £ iri7iMa'&» rt yiygxii/ttvm,
«»»<&•. E» 7.wtw J**®-, 5 '(•(, Mi t.ariir, 8t». Clem Ep, iun. »• 4 *.
tk>n ; and therefore with relation to these, and all other trials of their stedfastness which they ■. had hitherto met with, the apostle expresly affirms, that no temptation (i. e. no afflictions; for so the Word, »*pc)t—, often signisies in the N. T.) had taken them but fitch ss was tomm-'n to men, Chap*. X. 13. that is none but what what was Ordinary, and easy to be born.
These being the circumstances nnder which the Corinthians then were, and the argument, which the apostle here advances in behalf of a future state, being intended to reach their pai titular casei can we think it poffible, that he should draw it merely from a state of "grievous sufferings, and bitter persecutions," to which those Corinthians were litter strangers? No; certainly, when he coneludes the Corinthian Christians more miserable than other men, who had not embraced Christianity i it must be on the account of somewhat, which, as Christians, they had actually felt i at least not purely for a reason, the force of which they had no ways experienced.
He argues indeed afterwards, in the fame chapter, (ver. 30, 31. 32.) from the head of persecution. But when he doth so, we may observe, that, with great propriety and justness, he confines his reflexions of that kind to himself, and his own particular sufferings. Tis he that fought with beasts at Ephefus, ver. 30. that died daily, ver. 32. that was in jeopardy every hour, ver. 31. and it is his own folly that he there proclaims, and condemns, if he suffered all this, without a well-grounded hope of a future reward; but he doth not endeavour (there, or elsewhere) to prove die Corinthians, fools, oh the account (much less, solely on the account) of sufferings which they had never undergone.
Upon the whole therefore, I conclude, thatj when St. Paul fays, "If in this life only wt hav« "hope in we areof all then most miserable;''
he there considers Christians, as denying themselves in the pleasures and advantages of this world, for the fake of Chrji) and not merely as persecuted for their Christianity.
Nothing now remains towards tnaking good this interpretation of ist Paul's words, but to (hew that the stream. of Expositors falls in with it. And so indeed it doth : for this text hath been thus expounded by writers both antient and modern; Griek and Latin; by Papists and Protestants; Lutherans and Calvin i/ls: by Divines of the Church df Enghnd and by those who separated from her communion^ What our Own Divine* have faid in this cafe (even where they professed to explain the text) I have amply shewn *: At to other authorities, the narrow bounds of a Preface (already too much extended) will not allow me to recite them in terms. I can only refer the Reader to the Authors themselves f, who speak very home to the point, and do all of them represent the apostle's decision as built on the
* I mtv add to. them, Ass:mb!ies ATc/fi upw the fact. Oataker, Advers cap xiii Jackson, Vol iii p
\ Theophylact. in 'oe. Psrutio Amlirofius, Hieronymus, Ahsclm. Remig Ef Rcm Eraimus, Calvin, Luther, Mar. lorat, Juihnianus, Arclius, Hugo de Sancto Charu, Musculas, Comelius a Lap Claud. Guilliaud. David Parxus, Tileman. He!h»iii», Fiseatur, Ipiseopiu* tit lib. Are. t iv, Mr Lotke
VoL^ II. h peculiar peculiar difadvantages, which Christians lie undeiy in point of worldly enjoyments, and not as restrained merely to a State of persecution. And these (had I room to produce them) would be so many fresh evidences of the rashness or insincerity of my accuser, where he represents the Assertions, by me laid down, to be such as "were "never before seriously maintained by any person "of virtue and understanding," L. p..ro.
III. Having now fully considered the two sirst Articles of his charge, and shewn, that my doctrine is so far from being new, that it is main* tained by the most pious and judicious pens, and is exactly agreeable to the sense of Sfc Paul 1 I am the less concerned thoroughly to examine what is faid os it under the 3d Head of Accufation, viz. that it is "false and pernicious m itself." For if the authority of these eminent Writers, and of the blessed apostle himself, will not justify it in that respect, nothing else will. Besides, in the passages which 1 have before eked at large from our own Divines, most of the reflexions and reasonings, which make out the truth of both my positions, are already suggested ;. and therefore need not here be repeated and applied to every little exception made by this author. Nor hath he himself put me under any necessity of doing it, by his method of attacking my doctrine: for he pretends only to prove it r false, by offering some 'observations on my manner of proceeding in the « argument I have undertaken :' L. p. 6. 20. As if * Observations on my manner of proceeding' in argument, would determine the truth or falshood of the argument itself! And yet this is the mark,