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Considerations on St. Paul's Wish to depart and to be

with Christ.

WITH AX

Appendix on the Intermediate State.

OUR nature teaches us to look upon Death as the greatest of evils; there being planted in the breast of every man living a love of Life and dread of Death; therefore the man, who gives himself up to the ways of this world, drives from him the thought of Death, as a bitter ingredient, which would render every 'cup of earthly pleasure not worth the tasting.

But alas! it is a thing that must and will be thought of; for it is the portion of every child of Adam; and, bitter as it is, the surest way to make it more bitter is to live and act without the remembrance of it. But he who renders this subject familiar to his mind, and examines it by the light of the Scripture, has it in his power (with the grace

of God) to change the nature of it, and turn its bitterness into sweetness. Nay, it is even possible for him to desire that as a blessing, which in itself is naturally a curse, and justly regarded as such by the greater part of mankind.

We have an example of this in the Apostle St. Paul, who desired Death as far better than life; not better in itself, but better to him in his circumstances. I am in a straight, says he, betwixt two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. The reasons upon which he proceeded in this case will be worth our considering; for if we reason as he did, and follow the example of his faith, no doubt is to be made but that we shall conclude and determine in the same manner. And when this bitterness of death is conquered by the understanding, this life, so long as it lasts, will be less interrupted and better worth the possessing.

I must allow indeed that a person, who brings himself to this frame of mind, will be more serious, and have less enjoyment of that noise, and madness, and folly which the world falsely calls by the names of mirth and happiness. But this I will be answerable for, at the same time, that he will gain more happiness than he loses, even in this life. It may be hard to convince any person of this; because human life is never well understood but by those who look back upon it. While the imagination is crouded with untried objects, and the judgment over-ruled by passion, the whole prospect is falsely represented: But at the hour of Death, men are undeceived by the experience of their past life; and all those vain shadows disappear, which used to darken and deceive the understanding

Let us enquire then into the reasonableness of the Apostle's choice in wishing rather to depart than to abide in this world.

This will appear" plainly enough, if we examine what his life was, and what his death was like to be:

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in other words, what he lost by living, and what he was likely to gain by dying.

We shall find by what goes immediately before the words in which he expressed his desire of departing, that when he wrote this Epistle to the Philippians, he was in a prison at Rome for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ: with allusion to which he says, if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour. I was appointed a teacher of the Gentiles, to turn them from the power of Satan unto God. I have preached unto them in season and out of season; I have compassed sea and land for the salvation of souls, and the honour of him that put me into the ministry: I have laboured more than the Husbandman for his bread, the Miser for his gold, or the Sinner for the gratification of his lusts: and what is the fruit of it? This dungeon in which I am confined, and these chains I wear upon my feet-If I live in the flesh, this imprisonment and bondage is the fruit of my labour.

On another occasion he describes his life in the ministry as a course of labour, stripes, 'scourgings, shipwrecks, hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, poverty and persecution, weariness and painfulness of body, with constant care and perplexity of mind. And speaking elsewhere of himself and his brethren, he applies to them that passage of the Psalmist-For. thy sake are we killed all the day long, we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

I think he also affirms of the Christians of those days that they were introduced to a sort of Death by the conditions of their baptism : they were baptized, not for the dead (as the English gives it us) but for dead themselves; that is, as * men thenceforward alive unto God, but dead to the works of the flesh; to whom riches, and honour, and pleasure were lost and gone: to whom the world was crucified, and they unto the world. And of himself in particular he speaks under the same figure-I protest by your joicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. All the primitive saints had the same opinion of themselves; and Ignatius had a way of expressing it with an ambiguity in which there is a singular elegance-Emos Eqws Es&upWTQ.-My Love is crucified.

* The Greek preposition untep is not usually taken in this sense ; but it doth not appear why it may not be so taken, as the Latin pre in these expressions-pro sive se gerit-he behaves as if he were & citizen-pro suno loqueris--you speak as a man of sense.

Thus we are prepared to determine upon the case already; that it was better to die once, than to die every day. And this perhaps would be true, if death were considered only as a deliverance from temporal evils. But the Apostle does not argue in this inanner: he does not say, I am weary of my life, and would be gone at any rate; as some desperate people have said in their hearts, and acted accordingly, by laying on violent hands, and sending themselves as fast as they could out of the world (which in this miserable age is a prevailing fashion with rich and poor): but he compares the present and future together, and then gives his judgment upon the whole I desire to depart and to be with Christ. To depart is one thing; to be with Christ is another. And this latter was the object of the Apostle's desire: he gave the preference to death, for the sake of those blessed things to which it would certainly introduce him; the chief of which, and under which all the rest are included, is the Society of Christ. When our Lord made that promise to the expiring Malefactor on the Cross, this day shalt thou be with me in Paradise, we

may be in some doubt about the meaning of the word Paradise, but we all believe that, by virtue of this promise, that man was immediately translated from the misery of the Cross to the enjoyment of peace. The company and presence of the Saviour of the world would of itself constitute a state of happiness. While he was conversant here below, he said to his disciples and followersBlessed are the eyes, which see the things which ye see~ Many prophets and kings hare desired to see the things which ye see, and have not seen them. And if those Eyes were blessed which saw him darkly through the veil of mortal flesh, when he sat upon a Colt, the foal of an ass, and made his entry into the earthly Jerusalem; what must their portion have been, who saw him triumph over principalities and powers, and enter upon all the glories of his spiritual kingdom?

These are the things, of which the Apostle's faith gave him a prospect, when he said, I desire to depart and to be with Christ.

If we now compare the present with the future, as he did when these words were first written, our purpose will be answered at once. His life then, so long as he continued in the flesh, was a state of labour, his departure would bring him to a state of rest. His feet were bound with chains, and his body shut up in a prison; but his chains and his body also would then be left behind, and his Spirit set at liberty for ever. While he lived, the Holy Ghost witnessed ia every place, that imprisonments, bonds, and afflictions, awaited him; at his death, that Paradise, which he had already seen in vision, would be ready to receive him. Here he was tossed about upon the waves of the sea, and those of a more tempestuous world; there he would be above the reach of all storms and VOL. II.

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