1 Corinthians 15:19
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
If human life, redeemed by Christ, be limited to this world, God has committed a cruel mistake in creating man. The greatness of man becomes a terrible charge against God. He has created appetites which He cannot satisfy, excited hopes which must perish, built a great ship and must destroy it because He cannot create a sea in which it can float. What would be thought of a man who built a splendid chariot and could not get it out of the workshop? A man believes in Christ, and so becomes identified with all that is known of purity, joy, and hope. He rejects the promises of the world; he gets all that the world can give and finds that it is a stone, not bread; his whole life becomes a hunger after something higher. Having thus developed he is told that his grave is dug, and that into it must be thrown every dream, hope, desire. This world is enough for creatures destitute of aspiration — for the lion and the eagle. They cannot hope, pray, aspire. One life only is an argument against —
I. GOD'S GOODNESS. Take men like the psalmists. They often sang as if they had laid hold of eternal life. They declared Jehovah to be all their salvation and all their desire. To all this God's answer is extinction. Can a more revolting blasphemy be conceived?
II. HIS WISDOM. Could not man have been made so as to be satisfied with the present world? We know how our generosity may become a pain and temptation to those upon whom we have bestowed it. Our gifts may be large enough to create dissatisfaction with our daily lot, yet too small to secure contentment with another. If it is not God's purpose to continue the consciousness with which He has endowed us, He has, so to speak, overbuilt Himself in creation. He should either have gone farther, or not so far.
III. HIS POWER. But herein is God unlike His creatures. Impair one of God's attributes and you overturn the whole Godhead. Man may have special excellences and redeeming points of character; but in the case of God every point must be of equal strength and glory. Suppose His goodness to be infinite, and His power limited; then He is Jehovah no more. When He created man, did He not know that His power was incomplete? Has He been taught the insufficiency of His strength by results which He failed to foresee? Conclusion:
1. We have before us, then, a strong presumptive argument in favour of another and higher life. That life suggests itself as the required complement of our present existence, and urges itself upon us in vindication of all that is Divine in God. Whatever speculative difficulties may arise in connection with immortality, the practical difficulties of the negative theory are insurmountable.
2. The theory of our life only bears more vividly up m the mediation of Christ. How bitter the irony of His appeals, how wasteful the sacrifice of His life, if a few pulsations be the measure of our existence. He spoke much of the life eternal: did it all mean that His most loving followers must be blotted out of existence? If so, His attempts at redemption aggravated the original injustice of our creation.
3. Granted that you never doubted the existence of the future life, this discussion is of the first importance. We may be called upon to give to others a reason for the hope that is in us, and we may feel more keenly the obligations which another life imposes on us to live nobly in this present world. If there is another life —
(1) In what relation does our present existence stand to it? Is it disciplinary?
(2) What will be its effect in regard to, the moral confusion and restlessness of our present existence. Here virtue is often undervalued and vice successful. Is the glory of the Divine righteousness to shine through all the obscurities of the Divine government? Christian hope answers, Yes!
(3) Can they be wise who exhaust themselves within the limits of the present world? What a fool is the mere money-gatherer! How deluded is he who mistakes the part for the whole.
(4) Is not he the wise man who regulates the present by all that is solemn and sublime in the future?
(J. Parker, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.