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those who have improved to the utmost their present light and advantages, to purify and perfect themselves in true piety and all virtue for their appearance hereafter before thee.
And forasmuch as it hath pleased thee, who ever doest what is best, to bring us at first into this our difficult and hazardous state of trial, to fit us the better for all that
intends for us beyond it,
O God, thy wisdom from above; and incline us to listen to its sacred dictates, to guide us safely to thee at the last.
And since we are all creatures of the same nature and origin, thy children, descended also from the same common earthly parent, inhabiting the same spot in thy great universe, and destined to live together for ever:
Inspire us with such a real benevolent concern for our brethren of mankind, as may carry to use every means in our power to promote their virtue and true happiness with thee, and especially to save them from being swallowe up and borne away by the torrent of vice and worldly things, so as to be unfit for their future intended happiness, which thou hast promised to us by Christ our Lord.
November 16, 1788.
1 Cor. xv. 29, 30.
Moreover, what must they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead are not to be raised up at all? Why are they then baptized for them? and why are we exposed to dangers every bour ?
A GREATER variety of interpretations of this passage is to be met with than of
other in the whole New Testament; which shows that there must have been some difficulty in it. There is, however, one* which seems to arise so naturally out of the circumstances and connexion in which it is placed, that it makes it likely to have been the apostle's meaning.
This I shall propose to you, not as a matter of mere curiosity, but as being in its nature most serious and edifying, and such as may yield many useful reflections. .
One of the congregation at Corinth, who
* Given by Ezekiel Spanheim, and J. Edwards, B.D. fellow of St. John's college, Cambridge.
denied a resurrection, gave occasion to the fine enlargement upon the important subject in this chapter.
We find our apostle (2 Tim. ii. 18.) very severely censuring two persons by name, who maintained that the resurrection was already past.
It seems most singular to us, that any one holding such sentiments should continue members of the christian society, as on the face of the thing it appears to be giving up all hopes of and reference to a future life, which is the principal doctrine of the gospel.
But we shall misjudge concerning the persons in both these places mentioned by St. Paul, in making such conclusions for them. For, from the accounts that we have of those early times, there is cause to apprehend, that it was only a resurrection of the body to which these men objected, their false nocions in philosophy leading them to condemn every thing relating to the body, to matter, which they held to be the source of every thing evil, from which the disciples of Christ were to be entirely redeemed. And one of the first christian fathers* thus relates the opinion of some heretics against * Irenæus, l. . c. 56.
whom he writes, that they beld the resurrection from the dead to be only acknowledging of the truth which they taught. In short, they explained the resurrection of the dead to be a moral and spiritual change and renovation made in them on receiving the knowledge of the gospel in this life.
Whether the man was misled by philosophical notions of this sort, or by whatever other delusions, it was an error of such magnitude, tending, with weak minds, to annihilate the resurrection of Christ himself, the very foundation of the gospel, and of all our hopes; or, at the least, to make a thing of that importance less attended to by introducing such fanciful ideas of a resurrection, that St. Paul determined to destroy the fallacy at once, by first pointing to the irrefragable evidence of the recent fact, that Christ himself was raised to life, from the testimony of his apostles, who had frequent opportunities given them of examining his person, and satisfying themselves about the reality; and in his being afterwards seen by more than five hundred persons, many of whom were alive to attest it at the time of the apostle's writing his epistle; and last of all seen by Paul himself.