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Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are

THESE seem strange words, when taken apart from what goes before and follows them; and I wish them to press upon our minds in all their strangeness. It would be well indeed if they appeared not only strange, but monstrous; the most unlikely, the most impossible thing which our minds can conceive. If we fully dwelt on them, and were quite aware of all their monstrousness, then our faith would stand far surer than it commonly does stand, and through that faith we should gain an undoubted victory over all the temptations with which we now find it so hard to struggle.

The Apostle means the words of the text to express what is most shocking and most impossible. It is the most impossible of all the consequences which would follow if there were no resurrection of the dead. "If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen. And if Christ be not risen, our preaching is vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ, whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not." This is one very shocking and unlikely consequence, that men should be found false witnesses concerning God. For what men say concerning God, surely they would say truly; they would not dare to speak falsely of Him who is truth itself. But yet some have so dared; else there would not have been so much folly and so much wickedness taught at different times under the name of religion. Again, if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. That, too, would be strange and shocking, that men in the honesty of their hearts should have followed what seemed to them a way of salvation, and yet should have been disappointed. Yet it might have been God's purpose to try their faith for a long

season; and though their first hope had been disappointed, yet they might still have learned, before they died, that there was another hope which should not fail. "But if there be no resurrection, then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." And this indeed would be so shocking, that if this were truth, truth itself would change natures with falsehood; it would be our duty and our best happiness to believe a lie. If they who had lived all their days in patience, and self-denial, and love, had done all this for nothing; if they had set their hopes upon a fond dream, purifying their hearts, and enkindling their best affections with the thought of Him to whom they were nothing, and who was nothing to them; if the only good men in the world should prove to have been the only foolish ones, the only ones who had lived in vain, then indeed our language and our very nature seem confounded; it would be well with us if we and all around us were but the creatures of a dream.

Now if this sounds so monstrous even to our outward ears, when we have had, perhaps, no experience in the matter ourselves, what, think we, must it be to those who have had experience; to those who have lived, and are

living, in real daily communion with Christ? Tell them that they are wasting their labour; that their prayers are offered to one who cannot hear; that their hope is fixed on one who died, and is dead still, who can neither save them nor himself; that their discipline of their thoughts and tempers to become like Christ is a fond labour which the first access of a brain fever or of bodily decay will render for ever useless; that the patience and resignation with which they suffer under God's hand is nothing better or wiser, and will do no more for them, than a spirit of hardness and obstinate pride; tell them, that the sin which they so fear, the holiness which they so desire, will, in fifty years hence, be no better and no worse the one than the other; that He, by whose mighty Spirit they have been enabled to do and bear so much, is no more than a phantom of their own minds; and see if any inconsistency, any contradiction most revolting to our natural reason, was ever received with such instant, such overpowering conviction of its falsehood, as the word which should say to such true servants of their Lord, that they "who had fallen asleep in Christ were perished."

But many of us, who feel our faith to be

weak, and whose lives show that it is so, have in their own case no such argument of experience on which to rest it. God has ordered, that those proofs of the truth of the gospel, whose force the mere understanding can perceive, even with no moral experience, should be enough to justify the good from the charge of credulous folly in believing, and to convict the bad of unreasonableness in rejecting, what has so much ground of reason for its truth; and if true, brings to them so infinite a condemnation. But we only deceive ourselves and others if we say that such proofs as these, when left to stand by themselves, as addressing our understandings only, are capable of keeping alive our faith, or of reviving it whenever we choose, after a long habit of careless living. We have allowed all the difficulties in the way of our faith to become strong by our own wilfulness; we have not known God ourselves by loving him, and therefore it does not seem to us so impossible that we should go on without him for ever, even as we have gone on so long, and are going on without him still.

Now, all such persons lessen by their conduct, both for themselves and others, the argument for belief in the resurrection: they so live, that when they are gone, it would not

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