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posed to every species of insult and obloquy, could have few of those worldly enjoyments or distinctions which captivate the affection of the sensual, greedy, or ambitious. It is certain indeed that the humble stations which many of them had quitted at the divine call promised a more assured competence of the good things of this life than the new course into which they entered. At the earlier period also of their attendance on our Saviour their faith, which was but young, must have been proportionably weak and wavering. They must have been frequently haunted with apprehensions of the doubtful issue of so singular an enterprise. But doubts gave way to certainty after that inspired declaration of St. Peter to the inquiry made by his Master,
“ Whom say ye that I am ? And Simon Peter
answered and said, Thou art the Christ, “the Son of the living God." "Then Simon “ Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall
we go? thou hast the words of eternal “ life: and we believe and are sure that
a St. Matt. xvi. 15, 16.
thou art that Christ, the Son of the living 6 God.”
Yet even from henceforth what was their worldly condition ? Not one which could be contemplated without dismay, or of which the prolongation could be courted, except from the hope of the eternal reward which was to come hereafter. They were present with their Divine Master during all his sufferings and agonies; they saw the close of them in a death of ignominy and torture. And what then must have been their reflections, when he who had never deceived them on any other subject had also pointed out to them individually and collectively a life of want and insult like his own, to be terminated by a death such as they had then witnessed; a death, the apprehension of which had, in a moment of predicted weakness, made the most zealous among them shrink from his duty, and deny all fellowship with him on whom it was about to be inflicted ? “ Behold,” says our Saviour, whilst yet with them, “I send you forth as
b St. John vi. 68, 69.
" sheep in the midst of wolves : be ye there“ fore wise as serpents, and harmless as “ doves.” “Remember the word that I said
unto you, The servant is not greater than his “ Lord. If they have persecuted me, they “ will also persecute you"." “ Ye shall be “ hated of all men for my name's sake."
There would hardly, therefore, be any period in the lives of our Saviour's disciples and adherents at which each one might not have said for himself and for the rest, in the words of the text, Behold, to us “to die is
gain.” And accordingly we find frequent aspirations after a change in the writers of the New Testament, but always mingled with expressions of perfect resignation to the will of heaven, and an ardent desire to finish the work which they had undertaken, by planting the pure knowledge of God and Christ in the midst of a corrupt and benighted world.
“For in this,” says St. Paul, “ we groan, earnestly desiring to “ be clothed upon with our house which is * from heaven.. For we that are in this ta.
St. Matt. x. 16. d St.
St. Matt. x. 22.
“ bernacle do groan, being burdened; not for “ that we would be unclothed, but clothed
upon, that mortality might be swallowed “ up of life! .”
But the conflicting passions, of the desire to die, and the wish to be spared long enough to establish the Gospel, are yet more accurately described in the following passage : “ What I shall choose I wot not:
for I am in a strait betwixt two, having a “ desire to depart, and to be with Christ;
which is far better : nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you ?."
Thus, then, might each of our Saviour's Apostles say with peculiar strength and propriety, “ For me, to die is gain :" both as being exposed in a remarkable degree to persecutions and sufferings here on earth, and as having reason to hope through the divine favour for a peculiar reward hereafter .
St. Paul thus expresses himself a short time, it should appear, before his martyrdom,
f 2 Cor. y. 2_4.
8 Phil. i. 22-24. h St. John xiv. 2.
in his second Epistle to Timothy :
Watch " thou in all things, endure afflictions, do “ the work of an Evangelist, make full proof “ of thy ministry : for I am now ready to be
offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith : henceforth there is laid
for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, “ the righteous judge, shall give me at that
But, my brethren, there is an humbler. sense in which each of us should be able to apply to himself the words of my text, “For me, to die is gain;" and in which sense if we cannot apply them at the close of our earthly career, it were better (for the denunciations of God's vengeance must be proclaimed in men's ears as well as the promises of his love) it were better that we had never been born. We have neither the persecutions of the first preachers of Christianity to sustain, nor are we entitled to their eminent rewards in that house in which are said to be
many mansions";" but we have i 2 Tim. iv. 5–8.
j St. John xiv. 2.