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ways; that henceforward his wisdom may be our only guide, and his glory, the only aim of all our pursuits, through Christ Jesus, our blessed Saviour, to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now and for evermore.
The Grace, &c.
THE TRUE CHRISTIAN IS BOTH DEAD AND ALIVE.
COL. III. 3.
Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
THE Scriptures mention three kinds of death; the first, a separation of soul and body, which is a natural death; the second, a separation of both soul and body from God, which is spiritual or eternal death; and the third, a separation of the soul and heart with its affections from the world, considered as an allurement to sin, which is a figurative death, and the immediate forerunner of the true, spiritual, and eternal life.
Opposite to these kinds of death, the same Scriptures frequently speak of as many sorts of life; and set forth these kinds of death, as so different among themselves, and these sorts of life, as so distinct from one another, that it is plain the same man may be dead in the third sense, who is alive in both the former. This will appear from my text, and various other passages, hereafter to be instanced.
It is this last kind of death, which St. Paul speaks to us of in my text, when he says to all true Christians, Ye are dead,' dead in the opinion of a wicked world, because ye no longer, as they do, make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof; but do through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body,' desiring, like this blessed apostle, as much as in you lies, to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.'
The whole world, properly so called, 'lieth in wickedness,' and through the universal corruption and guilt of mankind is subject not only to the first or natural death, but also to the second' death, or the eternal separation of soul and body from God. From this worst kind of death nothing can deliver us, but the 'death unto sin,' spoken of in the text and elsewhere; and a new birth unto righteousness' through Christ Jesus our Lord. By the first we 'put off the old man, we mortify our members which are on the earth,' and 'crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts.' By the second we are born again of water and the spirit,' and enter on a new life, a holy and spiritual life, that ‘life which is hid from' the eyes of an ignorant, undiscerning, and sinful world; but is hid and safely laid up with Christ, the author, and giver of this life, who is the very life itself,' and in whom every true believer lives, and lives in God, for he is, in soul, in heart, in faith, in practice, truly alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.'
In order to make the beauty, force, and use of the text more intelligible, let us enter a little into its several parts.
First, it tells the real believer, or Christian, that he is dead, a word of infinite comfort to him; and of no less terror to every one who is not yet a real Christian.
The first finds infinite delight in reflecting, that 'the bitterness of this death is past' with him; the other, equal fear and anxiety of soul in considering, that he must either suffer the agonies of this death unto sin, or fearfully expect the agonies of that death, which is never to find an end. The first knows, and the latter ought at least to know, that every man must die either to sin, or to God. There is no possibility of a middle way to be taken, although the generality of those who call themselves Christians do nothing else, during their whole lives, but attempt a middle way, if that may be called a middle way, which goes so much nearer to this world, than to the gospel, as to discover very little kindred to the one, and so great a likeness to the other, that, bating a little prudence and outward decency, no difference can be perceived between the lives of Christians in general, and the lives of such as openly disavow Christianity. But, to the infinite mortification and disappointment of these compounders between God and sin, they shall, one day, find there
are but these two ways mentioned by Christ, the narrow way,' and 'the broad,' and that every one is, and must be, either a good man, or a reprobate. He who is not for us,' saith Christ, is against us.'
What then is it to be dead in the sense of my text? It is to cease from sin, for he that is dead' in this sense, 'hath,' as St. Paul assures us, 'ceased from sin,' that is, hath denied himself,' his worldly and fleshly self, hath subdued his stubborn and unruly passions, pride, anger, revenge; and mortified his corrupt affections, lust, avarice, gluttony, and drunkenness. He walks no more in obedience to these passions and affections, so far as they are inordinate, than another man who is in his grave.
Our Saviour speaks of this man, as well as of his first disciples, when he says, they are not of this world as I am not of this world;' and the men of this world, for once agreeing to the words of Christ, say of him;
'He is no more like one of this world's people, than if he had just dropped from the moon. It is a poor dead creature. He hath neither life nor spirit in him. One seldom meets him at the public diversions. He makes no figure in the world. After all, he must have a good stock of vanity to countenance his contempt of the world in the midst of that universal contempt, wherewith he is repaid. As his life is a haughty censure on all mankind, a very few only, as singular and precise as himself, excepted, so the practice of a world is surely a sufficient censure on his. Were it possible for such a wretch to have friends, his whimsical indifference about wealth, and his equally ridiculous squeamishness of conscience in regard to justice, oaths, and the like, would make him wholly incapable of serving them. On a jury, or before a court as witnesses, the men of this stamp are always too nice and punctilious to give their souls for one another, as we do; and therefore the very best of them can neither be nor have a friend, but is cut out only for insignificance and obscurity; and lies like a mass of lead at the foot of that ladder, on which others -mount to titles and honours. And as to business, he is overrun with such scruples, is so mere a slave to superstition, which he calls religion, stands so much on ceremony with heaven, and is, in short, so great a fool in regard to the
world, that one might as well expect to see a child of three years old bustling at the bar, or wrangling on the exchange, or scheming and managing an election. For these reasons he is rarely heard of in the way of business; and never, as a thorough-going man. In the way of pleasure he is more rarely to be traced. Were he not absolutely dead, surely his bottle would sometimes be seen, or his mistress heard of. He hath nothing to do in this world, and is fit only to be laid aside, as a creature of no significance to it.'
Just so he thinks of himself, and takes this for the highest encomium the world is capable of bestowing on him, as the only allurement to vanity, wherewith it is able to tempt him. But that he may not hear it, like one really dead to the world, he buries, he hides himself; and where? Why, with Christ in God,' according to the words in my
He retires, as much as in him lies, into the obscurity of a life, wholly different from the rest of the world. He gives himself up to secret prayer, and to acts of charity as secret. In the depths of solitary meditation he labours to wean his heart from a vain and vexatious world, and to turn it with all its affections to God. If he throws an eye on the world, it is only to study the uncertainty and deceitfulness of all its ways. If he looks into himself, it is to examine, with more severity than malice employs on the faults of others, the corruption and vileness of his own nature. From objects of contemplation so very uncomfortable and unpleasing, it is the great relief and refreshment of his soul, to lift his thoughts to the one infinitely good; but not till he hath, in some tolerable degree, subdued his fleshly desires, banished the world from his esteem, and by both raised his soul to a taste for higher and better things, and to some hope of favour in the sight of God through Christ Jesus his inter
This, you see, is not the employment or pursuit of the world, nor is this the way to come at riches, honours, power, or pleasure. No, these must be hunted after, if hunted after at all, by quite other arts, than prayer, almsgiving, and religious meditation, which are the proper methods only of laying up those treasures, which neither moth nor worm can corrupt, nor thief break through and steal;' of arriving at
'those honours and that power,' which are sought for by a patient continuance in well doing;' and of enjoying those. rivers of pleasure which are at the right hand of God for evermore.' The good Christian aims his life at a future world; and therefore it is no wonder he should seem to live and act as if he were out of this world. He aims his life at ends and purposes invisible to the unregenerate; and therefore that life itself is hid from their eyes.
As the life of this man is hid from that world, to which he is dead, so his life, his new life, is fed and maintained by food, equally unknown to the irreligious world, for the Lord giveth him to eat of the hidden manna,' and guides the course of his life by the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory. This wisdom which is foolishness to the Greeks and all other men of this world, because they pursue such ends as it points not at, and think all other ends insignificant, directs the true Christian to the one only end worth pursuing; and therefore hidden as it is from the eyes of a self-blinded world, is the only wisdom.
You may now see how, and in what sense it is, that he who is dead to the world and to sin, is buried, or hid, in a great measure, from that world, and almost entirely from its praise and esteem. The artful, the covetous, the ambitious, the lawless, triumph on the stage of this world, and carry all before them, while the good are shuffled out of the way, and pushed aside, as strangers and foreigners, who have nothing to do here; so true is the saying of Solomon, 'when the wicked rise a man is hidden.
The world calls him a living man, whom it sees exercising the common functions of life, that is, using his eyes, ears, palate, stomach, with all his affections and passions, just as other men are wont to do. It pronounces him alive, whom it sees moving, as pleasure and interest draw; or moved, as custom and fear of worldly power push him backward, or forward. The world hath no other notion of life, but this; and therefore looks on the good Christian as dead, who does not appear to see the pomps, nor to hear the enchantments, nor to taste the pleasures, nor to regulate his motions by the fashions, or in the ways, of this world.
If such a one is sometimes seen in the world, he serves for nothing else, but a wonder and a gazing-stock to the rest