« PreviousContinue »
schism in the body; but that the members if religion be any thing, it is every thing f should have the same care one for another." it be important at all, it is all important And indeed if it be impartially considered, with regard to prosperity or adversity, life or death, time or eternity, it will appear to be, in the eye of reason, as well as in the testimony of Scripture, "the one thing needful Hence it becomes necessary to know wherei it consists-to examine its qualities-and to trace its effects.
Lastly. ALL THE COMFORT AND ADVANTAGE WE DERIVE FROM CREATURES SHOULD AWAKEN GRATITUDE TO GOD.-It is said, "he thanked God." Doubtless the Apostle was sensible of his obligations to these brethren, and thanked them for their civility and tenderness in coming, unasked, so far to meet him. But says Paul-Who made these Christian friends? Who inclined them to favour me? Who rendered them the means of restoring my soul? "Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be Amen." glory for ever.
A fuller representation of genuine religion was perhaps never given than we have in the words before us. For you will observe that the inspired writer does not here speak of himself as an Apostle, but as a Christian, and therefore, that what he describes as his own experience, will apply to all the subjects of divine grace. It leads us to consider-the TRUE CHARACTERS-the GRAND PRINCIPLEand the ALLOWED CONFIDENCE of real religion. I. Let us attentively observe the SEVERAL CHARACTERS here given us of true godliness, and see whether we have any thing like them in ourselves. Says Paul, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."
It has then a character of MYSTERY, of wonder, or (shall I say?) paradox. How strange is it to see a bush burning with fire, and unconsumed!" How marvellous is it to find that the poor only are rich, the sick only How are well, and that a broken heart is the greatest blessing we can possess! surprising is it to hear persons saying, We are "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; having nothing, and yet possessing all things: as dying, and behold we live"-to hear a man say, "I am crucified," though he has the use of all his limbs-crucified with Christ, though Christ had been crucified on Calvary long before-and to add, "nevertheless I live"then with the same breath to check himself, and deny this-" yet not I"-and to crown the whole, "Christ liveth in me," though he was then in heaven! What unintelligible jargon is all this to the carnal mind! For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." A Christian is "a wonder unto many." How absurd, and ridiculous did all this once appear to us-but it is our mercy that the darkness is past and the true light now shineth-that we begin to perceive beauty and harmony and worth, where once nothing struck us but confusion and discord and insignificance—that we can say, with the man in the Gospel, "One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.' "I
It has a character of MORTIFICATION. am crucified with Christ." The grace of God has to pull up, as well as sow; to destroy, as well as build. It has much to slay in us -it has to slay our vain confidence, our selfrighteous hopes, our pride, our depraved af
"Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." He uses channels to convey blessings to us, but all our springs are in him. The heathen made gods of every thing that afforded them pleasure, and we are too prone to do the same. Instruments sometimes intercept the praise that is going to be offered to God; and when this is the case, he often lays them aside or renders them useless-for the divine jealousy will not endure a rival.
And here is the difference between a carnal and a spiritual mind. The man who possesses the former, lives without God in the world. Though he divine perfections surround him, and a thousand voices continually address him, he walks on, all careless and insensible. Whereas the Christian is disposed to acknowledge God in all his ways. The stream leads him to the fountain. The gift reminds him of the giver: the instrument, of the agent. He holds communion with God in common things. He is thankful for common mercies. He sees and adores him in the springing of the earth, in the rain, and fruitful showers, in the refreshments of sleep, and He grieves in the pleasures of friendship. with Archbishop Leighton that a world so full of his mercy should be so empty of his praise. He cries with David, "O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul!" Which of these characters do we resemble?
THE CHRISTIAN INDEED!
(BEFORE THE LORD'S SUPPER.)
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I
fections. It finds us alive to the world and to sin, and it leaves us dead to both. To die to any thing, in the language of Scripture, is to have no more connexion with it, no more attachment to it: "how shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein" -if we were alive to it, we might be enticed-but what are allurements presented to a dead corpse? "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin: for he that is dead is freed from sin." It has no more dominion over him; he loves it no longer.
natural and easy. Hence they drudge and toil on, often exclaiming, What a weariness it is to serve the Lord!-and drop one thing after another, till they give up the whole. But where there is spiritual life, there is an inward propensity to holiness, there is a savouring the things which be of God: there is nothing of that ignoble and slavish devotion which springs from custom, or is impelled by external motives only-they find his service to be perfect freedom; his yoke easy, and his burden light; such a burden as a pair of wings to a bird; they would be awkward and troublesome, and useless, if tied on, but, as living parts of his body, they are graceful and pleasing, and the instruments of flight towards heaven.
It has a character of HUMILITY." Yet not
But to crucify, is not only to destroy; it signifies a peculiar kind of death-a violent, unnatural death: and sin never dies of its own accord, nor from weakness, nor from age; it must be put to death by force. It sig-"-This is the unvarying strain of the Aposnifies a painful death-think of a body fast- tle. "Not by fleshly wisdom, but by the ened to a tree, suspended in torture, nails grace of God, we have our conversation in driven through the hands and feet, (parts so the world. By the grace of God I am what susceptible of pain, by reason of the concur- I am: and his grace, which was bestowed rence of nerves and sinews)-who was ever upon me, was not in vain; but I laboured crucified without anguish? Whoever was a more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but Christian without difficulty, self-denial, sa- the grace of God which was with me. I have crifices, and groans, and tears? Though cru- learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith cifixion was a sure death, it was a slow and to be content: I know both how to be abased, a lingering one. And our corruptions, though and I know how to abound; everywhere, and doomed to be destroyed, are not despatched in all things, I am instructed both to be full, at once. We shall have to mortify the deeds and to be hungry; both to abound, and to of the body as long as we are here; but sin is suffer need-I can do all things through nailed to the cross, and shall never gain an Christ, who strengtheneth me.” ascendency over us again;—its death is inevitable.
Compare with this language the sentiments of the Pagan philosophers. Take one as a specimen of the rest. Cicero says, "We are justly applauded for virtue, and in virtue we rightly glory, which would not be the case if we had virtue as the gift of God, and not from ourselves. Did any person ever give thanks to God that he was a good man? No; but we thank him that we are rich, that we
It has a character of LIFE-"nevertheless I live." And life brings evidence along with it. "I compare," says the believer, "my present with my former dispositions. I was once dead to a certain class of objects; for they could no more affect me than natural things can impress a dead body; but now, for the very same reason, I know that I am alive-are honourable, that we are in health and because they do impress me; they do interest safety." Now this argues not only the most me; they do excite in me hopes and fears; I dreadful pride, but the grossest ignorance, am susceptible of spiritual joys and sorrows. and it would be easy to prove that goodnessI live, for I breathe prayer and praise; I live, is much less from ourselves than any thing for I feel the pulse of sacred passions; I live, else. The material creation has not such defor I have appetites, and do hunger and thirst grees of dependence upon God as the animal; after righteousness; I live, for I walk and I the animal world has not such degrees of dework; and though all my efforts betray weak-pendence upon God as the rational; and raness, they prove life-I live." A real Chris- tional beings have not such degrees of detian is not a picture-a picture may accu- pendence upon God as pure and holy beings rately resemble an original, but it wants life: -beings reconciled from rebellion, renewed it has eyes, but it sees not; lips, but it speaks from depravity, and preserved, all weakness not. A Christian is not a figure: you may as they are, in the midst of temptation. Petake materials and make up the figure of a netrate heaven-there "they cast their man, and give it the various parts of the hu- crowns at the feet" of their deliverer, and man body, and even make them move, by acknowledge that if they reign at all, it is by wires; but a Christian is not moved in reli- mere favour. This disposition must enter us gion by machinery, but life-nothing is forced before we can enter heaven. "He that abasand artificial. eth himself shall be exalted; but he that exalteth himself shall be abased." Dependence is the only proper condition of a creature, especially of a fallen creature, and the Gospel
Why is religion so burdensome to many? The reason is, they have nothing in them to render these things like the functions of life,
hold of him.
is designed and adapted to produce self-anni- | faith be a hand, it is only by this we can lay hilation, that "no flesh should glory in his presence, but that, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." Finally, it has a CHRISTIAN characterbut "Christ liveth in me." This life is indeed formally in me: I am the subject of it, but not the agent. It is not self-derived, nor self-maintained; but it comes from him, and is so perfectly sustained by him, that it seems better to say-not "I live," but "Christ liveth in me."
He is the food of our souls, but it is by faith that this food is converted into aliment: they are his own words: "he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." Place all the motives of Christianity around a man-if he does not believe them, they cannot touch him; this is the only medium by which they can operate. How can the threatenings of our Lord produce fear-How can the promises which he has given excite hope-but by being believed? By this the various parts of the whole system are brought to bear upon the conscience, and the practice. Therefore says the Apostle, "the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
III. This brings us to notice the confidence, THE APPROPRIATION which this religion allows. Now what we mean to establish here -is not that every real Christian can use this language as boldly as the apostle Paul. Then we should make some "sad," some whom God has commanded us to make "merry:" there are degrees in grace; and there is weak faith as well as strong faith.
But I would intimate, first, that genuine religion always produces a concern for this appropriation. It will not suffer a man to rest in distant speculations and loose generalities, but will make him anxious to bring things, home to himself, and to know how they affect him. With regard to duty, he will say, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" When he hears of promises and privileges, he will ask, Am I interested in these; may I claim them?" Say unto my soul, Í am thy salvation."
I mean also to intimate, secondly, that a To explain this, it will be necessary to ob- Christian may attain this confidence, and serve, that the communication of grace from draw this conclusion. Let him take God at Christ, to maintain the Divine life, depends his word, and from the general language of on union with him, and that of this union the Gospel, make out a particular inference. faith is the medium. Let me make this-He loved sinners, and gave himself for the plain. It is well known that the animal ungodly. Let those who have no need of a spirits and nervous juices are derived from Saviour stand and debate; I need him; and the head to the body; but then it is only to I see he is come to save sinners, and I am that particular body which is united to it. one: to die for the ungodly, and this is my And the same may be said of the vine: the character. I see also that the Master calls vine conveys a prolific sap, but it is exclu- me, and invites me by name, or, which is sively to its own branches. It matters not much safer and better, by description: I am how near you place branches to the stock: oppressed with a load; and I am tired, strugif they are not in it, they may as well be a gling to get free; and he says, "Come unto thousand miles off; they cannot be enlivened me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, or fructified by it. "The branch cannot bear and I will give you rest." fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine: no more can we except we abide in him, for without him we can do nothing." Now he is the head, and we are the members: he is the vine, we are the branches.
He has a sovereign empire of grace, founded in his death, and he quickens whom he will. He is our life-not only as he procures it by redemption, but also as he produces it by regeneration; and he liveth in us as the sun lives in the garden, by his influence calling forth fragrance and fruits; or as the soul lives in the body, actuating every limb, and penetrating every particle with feeling.
II. Let us consider the GRAND INFLUENCING PRINCIPLE of this religion-"It is the faith of the Son of God." "If you ask," says the Christian, "how it is that I live so different from others, and so different from my former self, here is the secret. There is a faith which has immediately and entirely to do with the Son of God: of this faith I have been made the happy partaker, and in proportion as I can exercise this, I do well. This brings me supplies from his boundless fulness. This places me in the strong hold. This invigorates duty. This alleviates affliction. This purifies the heart. This overcomes the world. This does all. By faith I stand; by faith I walk; by faith I live-and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.""
And this union from which this influence flows, is accomplished by faith only: "he dwells in our hearts by faith." If faith be an eye, it is only by this we can see him. If
To enable you to decide this business, let me ask you-Have you not had a view of your lost condition by nature, and so of your absolute need of Christ? Have you not discovered his grace and his glory, in living and dying for you, so as to feel your soul powerfully drawn towards him? Under this attraction have you not been led to apply to him, throwing yourself down at his feet, "Here
is a blind sinner-be thou my wisdom; a
Thirdly, we would intimate that nothing can exceed the blessedness which results from such an appropriation of the Saviour in his love, and in his death. All evangelical consolation is wrapped up in it. Could each of you make it your own-How would eternity be disarmed of its dread! With what composure would you look forward to death! How cheerfully would you bear your trials! How pleasant would all your worship prove! With what lively and suitable feelings would you approach this morning the table of the Lord, where a dying Jesus is not only presented to your faith, but to your very sight, "evidently set forth, crucified, among you!"
"He loved me, and gave himself for me!" O my soul, think of these words. The Son of God, higher than the kings of the earth, the Lord of all, he has condescended to remember me in my low estate-He has loved me-and oh! how marvellous the expression of this love-he gave-nothing less than himself to be my teacher and example only? No, but to be my substitute, my ransom; to bear my "sins in his own body on the tree." And all this goodness regards unworthy, unlovely me!
Did he love me, and shall I not love him? Has he given himself for me, "an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweetsmelling savour"—and shall I be unwilling to give myself to him, "a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is my reasonable service?" And, O my soul, rejoice in him. What may I not expect from his hands-what will he deny, who did not withhold him
last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.-1 Cor. xv. 51, 52. HERE a scene opens upon us, in comparison with which every thing else becomes worthless, little, uninteresting. And let me tell you
It is a transaction in which you will be, not merely spectators, but parties concerned. It is an event the most certain.
THE FINAL CHANGE.
(EASTER.) Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in_the_twinkling of an eye, at the
It is a solemnity that is continually drawing near. For while I speak, you die-and after death the judgment!" Does not this subject therefore deserve, as well as demand, your most serious attention?
The chapter before us regards the resurrection. But those only can be raised who die
what shall become of those, who at this awful period shall be alive? "Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
Here we may observe the union there is among the followers of the Redeemer. Christians, however distinguished from each other, are inhabitants of one country, brethren of one family, members of one body. They are influenced by the same Spirit, and are traveling the same road. Diversity of circumstances, peculiarity of religious discipline, remoteness of situation, distance of time, do not affect the relation that unites them all together. The Apostle looks forward to the end of all things, and says, we who are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them who are asleep.-"Then we, who are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed."
Of the number of this universal Church, some die, but the representation that is given us of their death is very pleasing" they sleep." Death is often an alarming subject, even to Christians; to reduce this dread, they would do well to endeavour to view it under those images by which the Scripture has expressed it-a departure-a going home-a sleep. Man is called to labour. He goes forth in the morning, toils, with some little intermission, all the day, and in the evening retires, and lays himself down to sleep-and "the sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much." And such is every Christian. They have much to do; and they must do it "while it is day: for the night cometh wherein no man can work." Death brings them repose: "They rest from their labours." Sleep is a state from which you may be easily awakened. You look at the babe in the cradle; he neither sees you,
nor hears you; but you feel no uneasiness on Enoch and Elias carried their bodies along this account; by-and-by the senses will be with them to heaven: but though they did not unlocked, and he will be taken up, smiling die, they passed through a change equivalent and refreshed. "Our friend Lazarus sleep- to death. The same change which will be eth," says the Saviour; "but I go that I may produced in the dead by the resurrection, awake him out of sleep." And he called, will be accomplished in the bodies of the liv "Lazarus, come forth !" and, though he had ing by this transformation; and of this we been dead four days, he heard and came. have the clearest assurance: "So is the reFrom his throne in glory, Jesus, the resurrec-surrection of the dead. It is sown in corrup tion and the life, looks down upon the man- tion; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown sions of the dead, and at the appointed time in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown he will say to the heavenly hosts, Our friends in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown are sleeping in the dust-attend-I go to a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. awake them out of sleep: and lo! "all that As we have borne the image of the earthy, are in their graves hear his voice, and come we shall also bear the image of the heaforth!" venly."
Thus far the laws of mortality prevail. Death" is the way of all the earth;" and of all the righteous too: and this will continue to be the case to the end-but then many will be found alive. The language of the Apostle is instructive. The present system is unquestionably to be destroyed; but it will not wax old and perish through corruption. All the productions of the earth will be as fair as ever. The inhabitants of the earth will not be gradually consumed till none are left: the world will be full; and all the common concerns of life will be pursued with the same eagerness as before. And "as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all." Many of the Lord's people too will be found alive; and perhaps they will be much more numerous than at any former period. Now in what manner will these be disposed of? This is what the Apostle professes to teach.
"Behold," says he, "I show you a mystery." He means a secret: something unknown before; unknown to the Corinthians, and it is likely unknown to himself. But, probably, while reflecting upon this subject, and thinking what would be the destiny of those that should reach the end of time, he was informed, by inspiration, that they should not die, but be transformed.
"We shall all be changed." We are always varying now. We never continue in one stay: what vicissitudes do we experience in the lapse of a few years in our conditions, in our connexions, in our very frame! But what a change is here-a change from time to eternity, from earth to heaven, from the company of the wicked to the presence of the blessed God; from ignorance to knowledge; from painful infirmities to be "presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy!" But the change principally refers to the body: "for flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption."
Further, observe the ease and despatch with which all this will be performed" In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." What a view does this give us of the dominion and power of God! Think of the numbers that will be alive! Think of the inhabitants of one city-of one country-of all the nations of the globe-all these metamorphosed in one instant; immortal even in body, and capable of endless misery or happiness! And "why should it be thought a thing incredible?" Who said, "let there be light; and there was light?" Who "spake, and it was done; commanded, and it stood fast?" "Is any thing too hard for the Lord?" Let the work be-what it really is-the greatest of all miracles; we have an Agent more than equal to the execution of it: "He shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."
Finally, observe the signal: "At the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed!" When the Lord came down on Horeb to publish the Law, "the voice of the trumpet waxed exceeding loud." By the sound of the trumpet the approach of kings has been announced. Trumpets are used in war. Judges in our country enter the place of assize preceded by the same shrill sound. And those who have witnessed the procession well know what an awe it impresses, and what sentiments it excites. All feel; even those who are not to be tried catch a powerful sympathy. But think of the condition of the poor prisoners, whose fate hangs in suspense, and is now going to be decided!-What are their agitations, and forebodings, when they hear the judge is entering! But here is a trumpet whose clangour will be heard for thousands of miles-louder than a million thunders-which will awaken all the dead, and change all the living-cause heaven and earth to flee away-and leave us all before the Judge of the universe!
And what says Peter in reference to all this?" Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye