Verse 58. "Be ye steadfast" - Ĉedraioi, from edra, a seat; be settled; confide in the truth of this doctrine of the resurrection, and every thing that pertains to it, as confidently as a man sits down on a SEAT, which he knows to be solid, firm, and safe; and on which he has often sat.
"Unmovable" - ametakinhtoi, from a, negative, and metakinew, to move away; let nothing shake your faith; let nothing move you away from this hope of the Gospel which is given unto you. What I tell you I receive from God; your false teachers cannot say so: in a declaration of God you may unshakingly confide.
"Always abounding in the work of the Lord" - The work of the Lord is obedience to his holy word; every believer in Christ is a workman of God.
He that works not, to bring glory to God and good to man, is not acknowledged as a servant of Christ; and if he be not a servant, he is not a son; and if not a son, then not an heir. And he must not only work, but abound in that work; ever exceeding his former self; and this, not for a time, but always; beginning, continuing, and ending every act of life to God's glory and the good of his fellows.
"Your labour is not in vain" - Your labour in the Lord is not in vain; you must not only work, but you must labour-put forth all your strength; and you must work and labour in the Lord- under his direction, and by his influence; for without him ye can do nothing. And this labour cannot be in vain; you shall have a resurrection unto eternal life: not because you have laboured, but because Christ died and gave you grace to be faithful.
1. THE chapter through which the reader has passed is a chapter of great importance and difficulty; and on its difficulties much has been written in the preceding notes. Though I have used all the helps in my power to guide me in explaining it, I have, upon the whole, been obliged to think for myself, and claim only the praise of severe labour, ever directed by honest intention and an earnest desire to find out the truth.
2. There are many questions connected with the doctrine of the resurrection which I could not introduce here without writing a book instead of short notes on a very long chapter. On such subjects, I again beg leave to direct the reader to Mr. Samuel Drew's Essay on that subject.
3. One remark I cannot help making; the doctrine of the resurrection appears to have been thought of much more consequence among the primitive Christians than it is now! How is this? The apostles were continually insisting on it, and exciting the followers of God to diligence, obedience, and cheerfulness through it. And their successors in the present day seldom mention it! So apostles preached, and so primitive Christians believed; so we preach, and so our hearers believe. There is not a doctrine in the Gospel on which more stress is laid; and there is not a doctrine in the present system of preaching which is treated with more neglect! 4. Though all men shall rise again, yet it will be in widely different circumstances: some will rise to glory and honour; others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those alone who here received the salvation of God, and continued faithful unto death, shall have a resurrection to everlasting glory; not every believer, but every loving obedient believer, shall enter into the paradise of God, and have a body fashioned like unto his Lord's glorious body.
5. All glorified spirits will not have the same degree of glory. Two things will necessarily cause great difference:
1. The quantum of mind; and 2. The quantum of grace.
(1.) It is idle to suppose that God has made all human souls with the same capacities: he has not. There is an infinite diversity; he who has the greatest mind can know most, do most, suffer most, and enjoy most.
(2.) The quantum of grace will be another great cause of diversity and glory. He who received most of Christ here, and was most devoted to his service, shall have the nearest approach to him in his own kingdom. But all equally holy and equally faithful souls shall not have equal degrees of glory; for the glory will be according to the capacity of the mind, as well as the degree of grace and improvement. The greater the capacity, provided it be properly influenced by the grace of Christ, the greater will be the enjoyment.
6. That there will be great diversity in the states of glorified saints is the apostle's doctrine; and he illustrates it by the different degrees of splendour between the sun, moon, planets, and stars. This needs little application.
There are some of the heavenly bodies that give heat, light, and splendour, as the SUN; and are of the utmost service to the world: some that give light, and comparative splendour, without heat, as the MOON; and yet are of very great use to mankind: others, again, which give a steady but not a splendid light, at the PLANETS; and are serviceable in their particular spheres: and lastly, others which twinkle in their respective systems, as the stars of different magnitudes.
7. One star, says the apostle, differs from another in glory, i.e. in splendour, according to what is called their different magnitudes. I will state a remarkable fact: The northern and southern hemispheres of the heavens have been divided into 102 constellations, and in these constellations Professor Bode has set down the places of 17, 240 stars; simple, nebulous, conglobate, and double. The stars have been distinguished by their apparent magnitudes or rather splendour, into stars of the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, &c., magnitudes: of these 17, 240, only sixteen are, by astronomers in general, agreed to be of the first magnitude, all of which are set down in the following catalogue, with some of those that are remarkable in the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth magnitudes. The reader will observe that the name of the constellation or star is first mentioned; the Greek letters, &c., are those by which they are distinguished on maps and globes; and they are, by astronomers, referred to by these letters and numbers. My inferences follow the table.
A TABLE of the most remarkable FIXED STARS, from the FIRST to Observations on the preceding Table.
The five stars of the second magnitude in the above list, marked with an asterisk, are by some writers denominated of the first magnitude; and those named of the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth magnitudes, (the stars of the last-mentioned order being barely visible to the naked eye,) are such as the moon can occult, or make a near appulse to; except the last sixteen, in the column of stars of the third magnitude, and the last twenty-nine in that of the sixth magnitude, which never set in the latitude of London. The stars Algol and o Ceti are set down according to their brightest appearance; the former varying from the second to the fourth magnitude every two days, 20 hours, 48 minutes, 58 seconds, 18 thirds, and 25 fourths; and the latter, from the second to the seventh, and sometimes to the tenth, every 331 days, 10 hours, and 19 minutes. The stars of the first magnitude, Capella and Lyra, never set in the latitude of London; Acharnar, Canopus, b in Argo, and a in the Cross and Centaur, never rise. Of the stars of the second magnitude in the preceding list, b in Medusa's head, or Algol, a in Perseus, the two Pointers, the Dragon's tail, and the Swan's tail, never set; the head of the Phoenix and the bright star in the Crane never rise. The stars marked with an asterisk in the third column are between the third and fourth magnitudes; and those in the last column with the same mark are between the fifth and sixth magnitudes. Stars fainter than those of the sixth magnitude cannot be discerned without the help of a glass, and are therefore called telescopic. The 2h, and 3h, in Aquarius, are of this last description, both of the seventh magnitude, and such as the moon can occult.
8. This subject, as far as it concerns the present place, admits of few remarks or reflections. It has already been observed, that, of all the stars which our best astronomers have been able to describe and lay down in tables and maps, only sixteen are of the first magnitude; i.e. appear more luminous than any other stars in the firmament: some, indeed, increase the number to twenty-one, by taking in Castor and Pollux, the upper Pointer, Atteer, or Atair, in the Eagle, and b in the ship Argo, which I have placed among those of the second magnitude, because astronomers are not agreed on the subject, some ranking them with stars of the first magnitude, others, with stars of the second.
The reader is probably amazed at the paucity of large stars in the whole firmament of heaven! Will he permit me to carry his mind a little farther, and either stand astonished at or deplore with me the fact, that, out of the millions of Christians in the vicinity and splendour of the eternal Sun of righteousness, how very few are found of the first order! How very few can stand examination by the test laid down in the 13th chapter of this epistle! How very few love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength; and their neighbour as themselves! How few mature Christians are found in the Church! How few are, in all things, living for eternity! How little light, how little heat, and how little influence and activity are to be found among them that bear the name of Christ! How few stars of the FIRST magnitude will the Son of God have to deck the crown of his glory! Few are striving to excel in righteousness; and it seems to be a principal concern with many to find out how little grace they may have, and yet escape hell; how little conformity to the will of God they may have, and yet get to heaven! In the fear of God I register this testimony, that I have perceived it to be the labour of many to lower the standard of Christianity, and to soften down, or explain away, those promises of God that himself has linked with duties; and because they know that they cannot be saved by their good works, they are contented to have no good works at all: and thus the necessity of Christian obedience, and Christian holiness, makes no prominent part of some modern creeds. Let all those who retain the apostolic doctrine, that the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin in this life, press every believer to go on to perfection, and expect to be saved, while here below, into the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Jesus.
To all such my soul says, Labour to show yourselves approved unto God; workmen that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth; and may the pleasure of the Lord prosper in your hands!-Amen.