Page images

after the manner of men I have fought with

beast at Ephesus, what profiteth it me if the dead • rife not? Let us cat, and drink, for to-morrow (we die.' That St. Paul, in thefe verfes, argues for the resurrection and a future state, from the grievous suffering of Chriftians, is indeed evident ; but it is evident from hence, that he argued from the very same topick, cleven verses before, where nothing of that kind is expressed, or inimated ? I should rather think, that he proceeds here to prove his point by a new medium, nor before particularly infifted on. This, as it is in it. Felf most probable, so it is most agreeable to St. Paul's manner of handling the present argumene. For however his reasonings in theft, and oche rparts of this chapter may, upon a flight view of them, seem to fall in with each other; yet ua pon a closer examination, we fhall find them to have been proposed by him with great variety and distinction.

But we will suppose, that the apostle argues from the fame medium in both these places, and that the 30th, 31ft, and 32d, verses are a bare comment on his affertion in the 20th; it will even from hence appear, that his affertion is not limited to the case of perfecution, because, in the laft of these three verses, there is somewhat laid down, inconsistent with the fupposal of such a liinitation. For the apostle there plainly allows, that, if the dead rise not,' it might be reasonable to refolve with the men of this world, Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. Let us please and gratify ourselves with what we like best, and be VOL. II.


as easy as we can in this world, since we have at • prospect of another.”

His doctrine here is far from being pointed on the particular case of persecution : it relates to the ordinary and quiet course of things; and manifestly implies, that, without hope in another life, the austerities of religion would be an unnecessary entrenchment on the happiness of those, who tyed themselves up to the strict practice of them : that is, the best men would by this means (as well as by reason of the sufferings to which they are exposed] become the least happy, or the] most milerablc. And this is the very thing that I have affirmed, in my second proposition, except only, that I have qualified it with the word, often ; thereby making allowance for those cases, wherein men of excellent minds may possibly, by a long practice of virtue, have rendered even ihe heights and rigours of it delightful, and brought their duty and happiness to be in every case consistent, with out attending to the rewards of a future ftate. But these instances are so rare, that the apostle seems to have overlooked them in his decision; and therefore declares in general, that, if the

dead rise not,' the inference would be just; "Let us eat and drink for to-morrow we die.* And his steps, therefore, I followed, his doctrine I re-afferted, When I thus explained these words in my fermon, ‘Supposing the present to be the

only life we are to lead, I see not but that 6 happiness or misery might be measured from • pleasing or painful sensations.” Which being

granted, it will follow, that, since beasts have a - manifest advantage of men, in these respects, they


li may be called the happier creature of the two, as enjoyinig greater pleasures, allayed with fewer pains: and so, even my first proposition, tho' it be not contained exprefly in St. Paul's words, yet will be found perfectly agreeable to his doctrine, and manner of reasoning.

Let me add one thing, to prevent any cavil, which may be raised about the sense of these, words; that this verse is pointed wrong in our Engly translation ; for in the original it was read otherwise, the first member of the sentence ending with the words, What advantageth it me? and the next beginning with those, If the dead rife not, [lf after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me? If the dead rise not, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die..] This way of reading the words completes the sense of the last clause, which would otherwise be too abrupt, and disburthens the first of a double if, whereby the construction is rendered intricate.

Thus therefore most of the Greek expositors divide the verse, particularly St. Chryfoftome and Theophylact. Thus the Pseudo-Ignatius (and his two ancient interpreters) in the epifle ad Tarsenfes, read it *; thus St. Jerome cites it, in his comments t; thus the Araibck version hath rendered it; nor doth it appear that the vulgar La. tin read it otherwise: for, the oldest MSS. of that version being in capitals, without any distincton of words, the present way of pointing them is of

Edo Cleric.

Pat. Apoft. Vol. ii. p. 107. 138. 156. # Ifaiab xxii. 13. '

no authority. Daniel's edition of Beza's N. T. so divides the verse, both in the Greek, and in his version. * Pifcator, therefore, * Crellius, and others, justly contend for this division; and who pleases may, in the latter of these, fee very convincing reasons for it. However, without such a division, the sense of the apostle is still the same, and sufficiently plain; as I might fhew from the testimony of various expositors, if that were requisite. I shall only place their names at the bottom t; and the reader may be assured, that all of them, though they followed the usual way of pointing this verle, yet suppose the apostle to have allowed the Epicure's maxim to be good, if so be there were no resui rection. And the terms, in which several of them deliver his meaning in this cafe, are much fuller and stronger than any I have employed to that purpose in my fermon.

As far therefore as the context can guide us into the meaning of St. Paul, we may now rest assured, that he did not intend to " limit the al“ fertion of the text merely to the times of most grievous persecution."

Indeed, were his asertion so limited, his argument would not be conclusive; Chriftians not ben ing f all men most miserable, merely on the account of their perfecutions and sufferings; for the Jews

* In loc. + Theodoret. Pet. Martyr. Oecumenius, Tilem. Helhusius. E:atmus.

Vorstius. Luther.

Andr. Hynerius. Zuinglius. Annot. Author Syn Dodr. Marlorat. Epifcopius, de lib. Arbitr. cap. iv.


had been then, and have been fince, persecuted for adhering to their religion in (at least, an equal degree with the Chriftians. No one can doubt of this, who knows the story of that people, their sufferings, during their leveral captivities, and under their several conquerors, and particularly in the times of the Maccabees. Of these sufferings St. Paul hath given a very copious and inov. ing description in the with chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews, in order to fortify che new-converted jows, by proposing to them the heroic patterns of patience under affliction, and constancy in religion, which had been set by their foreia. thers; implying certainly, that the instances of sonftancy and patience which he proposed, were as remarkable as those to which he invited Chriftians by the means of them. In later ages, tho' the persecutions of Chriftians were very great, yet those of the Jews were not less violent. For, af. ter the miserable flaughter made of them at the destruction of Jerufalem, they were scattered in. to all corners of the earth, driven from one kingdom to another, oppressed, spoiled, and detested every where; and fometimes even massacred and extirpated. Persecutions therefore having been the common and equal lot of Jews and Christians; Christians cannot by St. Paul be represented as of all men most miserable, merely on the account of those persecutions It must be somewhat peculiar to the evangelic institution, fomewhat that diftin. guisbes the Christian scheme of duty from all others, which gave rise to this decision of the apostle: and that plainly is, the fublimity and rigour of those precepts of mortification and


« PreviousContinue »