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1 THESS. 13, 14.
I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, con
cerning them which are asleep; that ye sorrow not even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
CHRISTIANITY founds her claim to general reception upon doctrines most abasing to human pride, and facts calculated rather to repel than to invite human credulity. Her cardinal doctrine, which all the rest subserve, is the justification of a sinner, his deliverance from the bondage of his sin, and perfect happiness in heaven, through faith in a Saviour who himself fell a victim to his enemies, and expired, is a malefactor, under the infamy of the cross. Nothing more repugnant to their preconceived notions was ever proclaimed in the ears of men. It is the object of their dislike, their derision, and their scorn. We preach, says the apostle, we preach Christ crucified; unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness !” So it was at the beginning; so it is at the present hour; and so it will remain to the end.
The cardinal fact of Christianity, without which all her other facts lose their importance, is the resurrection from the dead of this same crucified Saviour, as the prelude, the pattern, and the pledge of the resurrection of his followers to eternal life. Against this great fact the children of disobedience, from the Pharisees of Jerusalem down to the scoffers of New York, have leveled their batteries. One assails its proof; another, its reasonableness; all, its truth. When Paul asserted it before an audience of Athenian philosophers, some mocked--a short method of refuting the gospel; and likely, from its convenience, to continue in favor and in fashion.
Yet with such doctrines and facts did the religion of Jesus make her way through the world. Against the superstition of the multitude--against the interest, influence, and craft of their priesthood--against the ridicule of wits, the reasoning of sages, the policy of cabinets, and the prowess of armies--against the
axe, the cross, and the stake, she extended her conquests from Jordan to the Thames. She gathered her laurels alike upon the snows of Scythia, the green fields of Europe, and the sands of Africa. The altars of impiety crumbled before her march—the glimmer of the schools disappeared in her light-Power felt his arm wither at her glance: and, in a short time, she who went, forlorn and insulted, from the hill of Calvary to the tomb of Joseph, ascended the imperial throne, and waved her banner over the palace of the Cæsars. Her victories were not less benign than decisive. They were victories over all that pollutes, degrades, and ruins man; in behalf of all that purifies, exalts, and saves him. They subdued his understanding to truth, his habits to rectitude, his heart to happiness. In an appeal to that of which they were unexceptionable judges, their own experience, Paul thus ex. claims to the believers of Thessalonica: They themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you; and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
The change from pagan to Christian character; from midnight darkness to light in the Lord, was abundantly visible, and not to be explained but upon the principles of Christianity itself. Yet without detracting from its magnitude, or from the glory of those divine influences which produced it, we may be allowed to question whether we are not prone to look upon the primitive converts as having reached an eminence in knowledge and purity, consistent, under their circumstances, neither with the general laws of our nature, nor with the testimony of holy writ. Falling far short of them in zeal, in love, in promptitude of action, in patience of suffering, we regard them as a sort of human angels with whom we may not venture to claim connection. But when emotion yields to thought and reason balances facts, we recover from the fond illusion. We see them to have been men of like passions with ourselves; subject to erroneous conceptions, to rash judgments, to groundless fears, to irregular conduct. Let the Thessalonian Christians be our example. Collected from Jews and Gentiles, they could not rid themselves, at once, of their old prepossessions. Now and then, the Jewish tradition or the pagan feeling would obtrude into the sanctuary of their consolation in Christ. Some of them, led by a then popular opinion, that their Lord was shortly to appear, and tinctured with the doc
trine of the Rabbins, mourned over the sup-
1. The counsel of the text is, so to cherish the knowledge of the gospel, as that our hearts