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mean, of each one of us in particular,—brought on us by our choosing to continue in wilful disobedience, and scorn of God's heavenly assistance.
It is sad to think, how very nearly the actual state of CHRIST'S Kingdom on earth is, as far as we are able to discern it, come to this last supposition ; that all Christians together are greatly fallen away. Very, very few, in comparison, seem to live in any measure answerably to their glorious privileges. Hence a whole world of error and mischief besetting the Church on every side ; divisions, scandals, false doctrines without end; and all, or nearly all, plainly to be traced to the bad lives of those who know better, and are offered grace to do better. I will just mention now two sorts of errors in particular, into one or other of which, without true Christian watchfulness, you and all men are sure to fall, on comparing the Christian Scriptures with the lives and conversation of the generality of Christians.
The first and most obvious of these errors, and that which I fear the greater part of mankind give into, is turning away lightly from the whole subject, with some such thoughts as the following. “ Į see, after all, the Bible cannot mean what it says ; it seems indeed to be very strict; but the conduct of the whole Christian world shows that they do not so understand it. I cannot suppose they are all going wrong; and, at all events, I shall not think of setting up to be wiser or better than they." Such are people's thoughts, or rather their impressions, on beholding the fallen state of the Church; they eagerly avail themselves of it to excuse their own bad passions, their own covetousness, sloth, or irreligion. Thus they hurry along the stream, and help in their turn to carry away others; and so the sad prophecy of the Apostle is accomplished, “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
Nor is the matter much mended on the whole, though, doubtless, of the persons concerned we may and ought to judge more favourably, when we take into consideration the other set of errors, to which, as I was saying, corrupt Christians give occasion. . Persons not light-minded, like those just mentioned, nor wholly swallowed up in worldly affairs, when they read, as in the text, of Christians being dead to sin, and compare it with what they see in the world, easily fall into the notion that the Christians, of whom such great things are spoken, the elect, the children of God, dead to sin and new born unto righteousness, cannot be the whole body of baptized persons, many of whom they see going on so ill. Those expressions, they soon come to think, must denote a favoured few, on whom God, for whatever reason, looks more kindly than on the rest. When men have once got this notion, especially if they are of a fanciful and restless turn, liking to hear and read strong words, and to have their fears and hopes eagerly excited ;-or, again, if they are naturally proud, and like to set themselves up above others;—they are apt to dwell a good deal on the thought, who they are whom God thus highly favours ; how they may be known from others; whether they are themselves of the number; with other imaginations of the same kind. The plain ordinary duties of common life are too apt to be forgotten or negligently performed, while they are wholly taken up with imaginations of this kind regarding themselves or others. The Holy Church, the Blessed Sacraments, the commissioned Ministers of our Divine MASTER, are slighted, as though He had not given His word to be with them. Every man invents for himself, or takes from others who have invented for themselves, certain marks or tokens of God's peculiar favour, instead of abiding by the plain ordinances of Scripture, as interpreted by the Holy Universal Church. The end is strife, perplexity, confusion; one might almost say, every evil work. But the particular purpose for which I mentioned this sort of error at this time, was to show you how naturally it arises out of the bad conduct of those whom the Scriptures affirm to be dead unto sin. When baptized persons generally are careless of religion, how can it be expected that men will think worthily of baptism? They will judge by the event, however unreasonably; and God's most Holy Sacrament will be dishonoured, because we do not use the grace which He most surely conferred on us there.
However, amidst all these dangers, we have, God be thanked, a safe way open before us. We have but to abide
simply and seriously by the rules which our conscience tells us we might have kept from our youth up, the plain rules of Christ and His Holy Church. His grace, duly sought in His own ordinances, will be sufficient for us; only let us not wander after novelties, nor ever deal lightly with sacred things.
CHRIST OUR RESURRECTION FROM DEATH.
PREACHED ON EASTER TUESDAY
1 CORINTHIANS xv. 20. “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and is become the firstfruits of them
This is the third part of our Easter anthem ; in which Holy Scripture teaches how we may learn of our Lord's Resurrection to look forward to times future.
As He is our Passover, sacrificed for us, we know the meaning of the old Jewish law : we see how, in times past, God prepared the way for our great deliverance by the Gospel
As He, being raised from the dead, dieth no more, we under-, stand our own present condition, that we, being raised in Baptism from the death of sin, are henceforth enabled and expected to lead a new life after Christ's pattern.
And now, lastly, as Jesus Christ was the first who rose from the dead, no more to return to corruption, we know for certain that we too shall rise again. He is the firstfruits of them that sleep; which expression may be thus understood :--According to the Jewish law, on the Sunday of the week of the Passover, a sheaf of corn was to be solemnly offered up before God AlMIGHTY in His Tabernacle, as an acknowledgment of all His mercy, and a token of faith in Him for ever. That sheaf was called the firstfruits, because it was the first sheaf of the harvest; the corn of the Jews being always ripe just about the time of the Passover. Now as this wave-sheaf was a kind of sample
of the coming harvest, so the Body of our crucified REDEEMER, raised from the dead, and taken up into heaven, there to appear in the presence of God for us,this is a sure pledge and token of what is to happen to the faithful, when He comes again to judge the world. It is a truth which ought to be well known to every one who has ever stood by and heard the Burial Service. “HE will change our vile body, that it may be like unto His glorious Body, according to the mighty working, whereby He is able to subdue all things to HIMSELF.” And“ if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him."
Observe, it is said, “them which sleep in JESUS;” just as St. Paul in the text affirms, that our Lord rising from the dead was made the Firstfruits of them that slept. It is the common word for death-at least, for the death of the righteous--in the New Testament. Such death is no more, even with respect to our bodies, than a long and sound sleep. We are sure to be waked from it; much more sure, than we are of waking in this world when we go to sleep in our beds. For many have died in that slumber ; but they who lie down in the grave, whether bad or good, must rise again, all, without exception, in that dreadful unknown hour, when our LORD will appear to judge the world. They are not dead, but sleeping for awhile, just as He might be called not dead, but asleep, during the hours of that day which passed between His expiring and rising again--the last day of Passion week.
This is true, even with regard to men’s bodies, which do lie senseless for a while, and decay: even they are, properly speaking, only asleep. But as to the soul, the indying spirit, breathed into them at first by Almighty GoD HIMSELF, we have reason from the Holy Scripture to believe, that it is not even asleep, during the time that it is parted from the body. We have reason to believe that good men's souls depart immediately and are with Christ; as He promised the repenting thief, “To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise :" and that the spirits of the impenitent have their own place too, where they lift up their eyes, being in torments. Surely it is an awful thought, that whilst we are busy about the grave, the spirit of the dead is awake in some unknown place, and already knows its eternal doom.
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