1 Corinthians 7:29-31
But this I say, brothers, the time is short: it remains, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;…
I. I begin with remarking the wisdom of the apostle in teaching us now TO BEAR THE LOSS OF FRIENDS, BY FIRST TEACHING US HOW TO ENJOY THEM. These two points are very closely connected. If a man has enjoyed prosperity in a proper Christian manner, he will be prepared to suffer adversity with the least degree of distress. As he will not rejoice, like one intoxicated, with extravagant joy, so he will not be depressed by a grief that overwhelms him with intolerable anguish. On the other hand, I would remark also, that the proper use of adversity teaches us to bear prosperity aright. The Christian principle, then, to which I have alluded as equally enabling us to bear prosperity and adversity, is faith. By this we are taught to feel the vanity, the shortness, the emptiness of everything in this world, and to realise the views of eternal things which are given us in Scripture. A Christian is one who looks not at things which are seen, but at those which are unseen. But in order that this view of eternal things should have any considerable influence upon the mind, it is necessary that it should have two qualities.
1. It should be abiding. However vivid our impression of eternal things may be for a time, yet we know that such is the nature of the human mind that the very strongest impression will soon wear away if not repeated. Nay, a very slight impression, frequently repeated, will have more effect upon us than any single impression, however strong. New the things of this life are perpetually before our eyes. They are, in this respect, like a force which is constantly acting. Will not the consideration of eternal things, therefore, require to be often set before the mind in order to counteract this force? From this constitution of things arises ,the necessity of continually hearing and reading the Word of God. It is therefore of the utmost importance to keep up a lively impression of eternal things on the soul; and this cannot be done without daily retirement, meditation, and prayer.
2. But in order that the things of the eternal world may become frequently the objects of contemplation, it is absolutely necessary that the view of them should be pleasant to us. No man loves to dwell upon painful or unpleasing objects: no man loves to meditate upon the shortness of life, whose prospects of happiness terminate here below. A man must therefore have a good hope beyond the grave before he can accustom himself to extend his view to this close of his earthly, hopes. He that is afraid of God will not often meditate upon His power and His omnipresence. Now it is the business of the gospel, and of the gospel alone, to render the thoughts of death, of eternity, and of God, pleasing to the soul. Christ is there held up to our view as having made atonement for our sins and procured reconciliation with the Father, in order that "whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." But it will be asked, What has the consideration of the next world to do with our concerns in this? I answer, Much. The proper use of this world depends wholly upon our "views of that which is to come.
II. THIS PRINCIPLE, THEN, RIGHTLY FELT, WILL TEACH US HOW TO USE THE WORLD WITHOUT ABUSING IT; HOW TO ENJOY THE SOCIETY OF OUR NEAREST CONNECTIONS, AND HOW TO SORROW IN THEIR LOSS. In the enjoyment of domestic relations, the rule laid down, "Let those who have wives be as though they had none," is not to be understood as if it excluded the gratification of social feeling, the pleasures of tenderness, or the indulgence of domestic happiness. But how, then, are we to be preserved from worldliness of mind, and from misery when we are deprived of our comforts? I answer, By the principle already laid down; by a deep and abiding impression of the superiority of things spiritual and eternal. Let me, therefore, while I enjoy all my domestic and temporal comforts with pleasure, and with additional pleasure because I receive them from Thee; let me still consider them as but subordinate and inferior to the blessings which Christ has purchased. While I have them, let me consider well their nature: they are transitory and vain; let the chief desire of my soul, therefore, be towards those things that are above. Apply the same principle to the losses we must expect to meet with in life. Let me address your feelings. You know that you hold all your temporal enjoyments by a precarious tenure. You that have wives, and in them all that gives enjoyment to life, consider how soon the stroke of death may tear them from you.
(J. Venn, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;