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CONFORMITY TO THE DEATH OF CHRIST.
Phil. iii. 10.
Being made conformable unto his death.
The death of Christ is a subject of so much importance in Christianity, as to be essential to it. Without this, the sacrifices. and prophecies of the Old Testament would be nearly void of meaning, and the other great facts recorded in the New Testament divested of importance. It is not so much a member of the body of Christian doctrine, as the life-blood that runs through the whole of it. The doctrine of the cross is the Christian doctrine. In determining not to know any thing--save Jesus Christ, and him crucified, the Apostle did not mean to contract his researches, or to confine his ministry to a monotonous repetition of a favourite point, to the neglect of other things ; on the contrary, he shunned not to declare the whole council of God. The doctrine of Christ, and him crucified, comprehended this: it contained a scope, which, inspired as he was, surpassed his powers; and well it might, for angels could not comprehend it, but are described as merely desiring to look into it. There is not an important truth, but what is pre-supposed by it, included in it, or arises out of it; nor any part of practical religion, but what hangs upon it.
It was from this doctrine, that the New Testament writers fetched their most powerful motives. Do they recommend humility? It is thus: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men : and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. enforce an unreserved devotedness to God? It is thus: Ye are not your own ; for ye are bought with a price ; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. If they would provoke Christians to brotherly love, it is from the same consideration : Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. Do they urge a a forgiving spirit? It is thus: Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Do they recommend benevolence to the poor? It is from this: For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.--Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift! Finally: The common duties of domestic life are enforced from this principle : Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.
It is in immediate relation to this great principle, that both the ordinances of baptism and the supper appear to have been instituted. As many as were baptized, were baptized into Christ's death; and in eating the bread and drinking the wine, they were directed to do it in remembrance of him. It was a wonderful instance of condescending love in the Lord Jesus, to desire to be remembered by us. Had we requested, in the language of the converted thief, to be remembered by him, there had been nothing surprising in it; but it is of the nature of dying love, to desire to live in the remembrance of those who are dear to us.
It was not, however, on his own account, but on ours, that he left this dying request.
He knew that to remember him, would answer every case that could occur. If afflicted, this would be our
solace; if persecuted, the consideration of him that had endured such contradiction of sinners, would prevent our being weary and faint in our minds; if guilty, this would point out the way of forgiveness ; or if tempted to turn aside, this would bind us to his name and cause.
It was by a believing view of this great subject, that the Apostle, at the first, counted all his former privileges and attainments loss ; and though, in consequence of rendering Judaism, he had exchanged all his earthly prospects for hunger, and thirst, and nakedness, and perils, and bitter persecutions, yet, after thirty years' experience, he does not repent, but in a tone of heavenly triumph, adds, Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may
win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the the righteousness which is of God by faith!
A mind thus imbued in the sacred theme, we should think, must have known much of Christ already, and, compared with us, he must ; yet, after all that he had thought and preached and written, he makes nothing of his attainments, but adopts the language of one that bad, in a manner, every thing to learn : That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellow ship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.
The last of these vehement desires seems to be explanatory of some, if not all that precede it. That is, he would know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, as being made conformable unto his death.
The sentiment bere conveyed appears to be, That the death of Christ is a model to which Christians must aspire to be conformed. This sentiment we shall endeavour to illustrate and confirm.
There are other models beside the death of Christ ; but they are included in this. The law of God is that to which we must be conformed. If we be born from above, it is written in our hearts.
But, as one great end of Christ's death was to honour the divine law, not only in its precept but its penalty, a conformity so the one must include a conformity to the other. The character of
God also is represented as a model to which believers are conformed. The new man is created AFTER God, in righteousness and true holiness : bat, as in the death of Christ God was glorified in the highest, a conformity to this must be a conformity to the divine character. The lives of holy men are also held up for our imitation, but, as this is only in proportion as they are followers of
Christ, a conformity to him includes all that is required of us res. 1 pecting them.
We sball consider the death of Christ in four views: namely, in respect of the principles on which it proceeded; the motives by which it was induced ; the spirit with which it was endured ; and the ends which it accomplished. Under each of these views, we shall find things to which we must be conformed. Observe,
1. THE PRINCIPLES ON WHICH THE DEATH OF CHRIST PROCEEDED. In them, we shall find a standard by which to form our principles, and shall be able to judge, wbether they be of God.
1. The death of Christ presupposes, that we deserved to die. A sense of this truth is at the foundation of all true religion; it requires therefroe, that we be made conformable to it. God, in the gift of his Son to die, judged us to have been worthy of death; Christ, in giving himself to die, evinced himself to be of the same mind : and such must be our mind, or we can have no interest in the glorious results. Until we see and feel that God is in the right; that we are in the wrong; and that, if he had cast us off forever, it had been no more than we deserved ; we shall be strangers to repentance, and as incapable of believing in Christ for salvation, as he that is whole is, of appreciating the value of a physician.
2. The death of Christ presupposes, that sin is exceeding sinful. If it were a matter of small account, it may be presumed, that the father would not have made so much of it, as to give his son to be made a sacrifice to atone for it; and that the Son of God would not have laid down his life for that purpose. The curses of the law, and the judgments inflicted at different times on sinners, furnish strong proof of the malignant nature of sin ; especially when the native goodness of God is taken into consideration : but the blood of the cross furnishes much stronger. It was a great thing