Click here to join the effort!
Baptism A Burial
Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, October 30th, 1881, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Romans 6:3-45.6.4 .
I SHALL not enter into controversy over this text, although over it some have raised the question of infant baptism or believers' baptism, immersion or sprinkling. If any person can give a consistent and instructive interpretation of the text, otherwise than by assuming believers' immersion to be Christian baptism, I should like to see them do it. I myself am quite incapable of performing such a feat, or even of imagining how it can be done. I am content to take the view that baptism signifies the burial of believers in water in the name of the Lord, and I shall so interpret the text. If any think not so, it may at least interest them to know what we understand to be the meaning of the baptismal rite, and I trust that they may think none the less of the spiritual sense because they differ as to the external sign. After all, the visible emblem is not the most prominent matter in the text. May God the Holy Spirit help us to reach its inner teaching.
I do not understand Paul to say that if improper persons, such as unbelievers, and hypocrites, and deceivers, are baptized they are baptized into our Lord's death. He says "so many of us," putting himself with the rest of the children of God. He intends such as are entitled to baptism, and come to it with their hearts in a right state. Of them he says, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?" He does not even intend to say that those who were rightly baptized have all of them entered into the fullness of its spiritual meaning; for if they had, there would have been no need of the question, "Know ye not?" It would seem that some had been baptized who did not clearly know the meaning of their own baptism. They had faith, and a glimmer of knowledge sufficient to make them right recipients of baptism, but they were not well instructed in the teaching of baptism; perhaps they saw in it only a washing, but had never discerned the burial. I will go further, and say that I question if any of us yet know the fullness of the meaning of either of the ordinances which Christ has instituted. As yet we are, with regard to spiritual things, like children playing on the beach while the ocean rolls before us. At best we wade up to our ankles like our little ones on the sea shore. A few among us are learning to swim; but then we only swim where the bottom is almost within reach. Who among us has yet come to lose sight of shore and to swim in the Atlantic of divine love, where fathomless truth rolls underneath, and the infinite is all around? Oh, may God daily teach us more and more of what we already know in part, and may the truth which we have as yet but dimly perceived come to us in a brighter and clearer manner, till we see all things in clear sunlight. This can only be as our own character becomes more clear and pure; for we see according to what we are; and as is the eye such is that which it sees. The pure in heart alone can see a pure and holy God. We shall be like Jesus when we shall see him as he is, and certainly we shall never see him as he is till we are like him. In heavenly things we see as much as we have within ourselves. He who has eaten Christ's flesh and blood spiritually is the man who can see this in the sacred Supper, and he who has been baptized into Christ sees Christ in baptism. To him that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundantly.
Baptism sets forth the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and our participation therein. Its teaching is twofold. First, think of our representative union with Christ, so that when he died and was buried it was on our behalf, and we were thus buried with him. This will give you the teaching of baptism so far as it sets forth a creed. We declare in baptism that we believe in the death of Jesus, and desire to partake in all the merit of it. But there is a second equally important matter and that is our realized union with Christ which is set forth in baptism, not so much as a doctrine of our creed as a matter of our experience. There is a manner of dying, of being buried, of rising, and of living in Christ which must be displayed in each one of us if we are indeed members of the body of Christ.
I. First, then, I want you to think of OUR REPRESENTATIVE UNION WITH CHRIST as it is set forth in baptism as a truth to be believed. Our Lord Jesus is the substitute for his people, and when he died it was on their behalf and in their stead. The great doctrine of our justification lies in this, that Christ took our sins, stood in our place, and as our surety suffered, and bled, and died, thus presenting on our behalf a sacrifice for sin. We are to regard him, not as a private person, but as our representative. We are buried with him in baptism unto death to show that we accept him as being for us dead and buried.
Baptism as a burial with Christ signifies, first, acceptance of the death and burial of Christ as being for us. Let us do that at this very moment with all our hearts. What other hope have we? When our divine Lord came down from the heights of glory and took upon himself our manhood, he became one with you and with me; and being found in fashion as a man, it pleased the Father to lay sin upon him, even your sins and mine. Do you not accept that truth, and agree that the Lord Jesus should be the bearer of your guilt, and stand for you in the sight of God? "Amen! Amen!" say all of you. He went up to the tree loaded with all this guilt, and there he suffered in our room and stead as we ought to have suffered. It pleased the Father, instead of bruising us, to bruise him. He put him to grief, making his soul an offering for sin. Do we not gladly accept Jesus as our substitute? O beloved, whether you have been baptized in water or not, I put this question to you, "Do you accept the Lord Jesus as your surety and substitute?" For if you do not, you shall bear your own guilt and carry your own sorrow, and stand in your own place beneath the glance of the angry justice of God. Many of us at this moment are saying in our inmost hearts
"My soul looks back to see
The burdens thou didst bear,
When hanging on the cursed tree,
And hopes her guilt was there."
Now, by being buried with Christ in baptism, we set our seal to the fact that the death of Christ was on our behalf, and that we were in him, and died in him, and, in token of our belief, we consent to the watery grave, and yield ourselves to be buried according to his command. This is a matter of fundamental faith Christ dead and buried for us; in other words, substitution, suretyship, vicarious sacrifice. His death is the hinge of our confidence: we are not baptized into his example, or his life, but into his death. We hereby confess that all our salvation lies in the death of Jesus, which death we accept as having been incurred on our account.
But this is not all; because if I am to be buried, it should not be so much because I accept the substitutionary death of another for me as because I am dead myself. Baptism is an acknowledgment of our own death in Christ. Why should a living man be buried? Why should he even be buried because another died on his behalf? My burial with Christ means not only that he died for me, but that I died in him, so that my death with him needs a burial with him. Jesus died for us because he is one with us. The Lord Jesus Christ did not take his people's sins by an arbitrary choice of God; but it was most natural and fit and proper that he should take his people's sins, since they are his people, and he is their federal head. It behooved Christ to suffer for this reason that he was the covenant representative of his people. He is the Head of the body, the Church; and if the members sinned, it was meet that the Head, though the Head had not sinned, should bear the consequence of the acts of the body. As there is a natural relationship between Adam and those that are in Adam, so is there between the second Adam and those that are in him. I accept what the first Adam did as my sin. Some of you may quarrel with it, and with the whole covenant dispensation, if you please; but as God has pleased to set it up, and I feel the effect of it, I see no use in my controverting it. As I accept the sin of father Adam, and feel that I sinned in him, even so with intense delight I accept the death and atoning sacrifice of my second Adam, and rejoice that in him I have died and risen again. I lived, I died, I kept the law, I satisfied justice in my covenant Head. Let me be buried in baptism that I may show to all around that I believe I was one with my Lord in his death and burial for sin.
Look at this, O child of God, and do not be afraid of it. These are Grand truths, but they are sure and comforting. You are getting among Atlantic billows now, but be not afraid. Realize the sanctifying effect of this truth. Suppose that a man had been condemned to die on account of a great crime; suppose, further, that he has actually died for that crime, and now, by some wonderful work of God, after having died he has been made to live again. He comes among men again as alive from the dead, and what ought to be the state of his mind with regard to his offence? Will he commit that crime again? A crime for which he has died? I say emphatically, God forbid. Rather should he say, "I have tasted the bitterness of this sin, and I am miraculously lifted up out of the death which it brought upon me, and made to live again: now will I hate the thing that slew me, and abhor it with all my soul." He who has received the wages of sin should learn to avoid it for the future. But you reply, "We never did die so; we were never made to suffer the due reward of our sins." Granted. But that which Christ did for you comes to the same thing, and the Lord looks upon it as the same thing. You are so one with Jesus, that you must regard his death as your death, his sufferings as the chastisement of your peace. You have died in the death of Jesus, and now by strange, mysterious grace you are brought up again from the pit of corruption unto newness of life. Can you, will you, go into sin again? You have seen what God thinks of sin: you perceive that he utterly loathes it; for when it was laid on his dear Son, he did not spare him, but put him to grief and smote him to death. Can you, after that, turn back to the accursed thing which God hates? Surely, the effect of the great grief of the Saviour upon your spirit must be sanctifying. How shall we who are dead to sin live any longer therein? How shall we that have passed under its curse, and endured its awful penalty, tolerate its power? Shall we go back to this murderous, villainous, virulent, abominable evil? It cannot be. Grace forbids.
This doctrine is not the conclusion of the whole matter. The text describes us as buried with a view to rising. "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism unto death," for what object? "that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Be buried in Christ! What for? That you may be dead for ever? No, but that now getting where Christ is, you may go where Christ goes. Behold him, then: he goes, first, into the sepulchre, but next out of the sepulchre; for when the third morning came he rose. If you are one with Christ at all, you must be one with him all through; you must be one with him in his death, and one with him in his burial, then you shall come to be one with him in his resurrection. Am I a dead man now? No, blessed be his name, it is written, "Because I live ye shall live also." True, I am dead in one sense, "For ye are dead"; but yet not dead in another, "For your life is hid with Christ in God"; and how is he absolutely dead who has a hidden life? No; since I am one with Christ I am what Christ is: as he is a living Christ, I am a living spirit. What a glorious thing it is to have arisen from the dead, because Christ has given us life. Our old legal life has been taken from us by the sentence of the law, and the law views us as dead; but now we have received a new life, a life out of death, resurrection-life in Christ Jesus. The life of the Christian is the life of Christ. Ours is not the life of the first creation, but of the new creation from among the dead. Now we live in newness of life, quickened unto holiness, and righteousness, and joy by the Spirit of God. The life of the flesh is a hindrance to us; our energy is in his Spirit. In the highest and best sense our life is spiritual and heavenly. This also is doctrine which is to be held most firmly.
I want you to see the force of this; for I am aiming at practical results this morning. If God has given to you and to me an entirely new life in Christ, how can that new life spend itself after the fashion of the old life? Shall the spiritual live as the carnal? How can you that were the servants of sin, but have been made free by precious blood, go back to your old slavery? When you were in the old Adam life, you lived in sin, and loved it; but now you have been dead and buried, and have come forth into newness of life: can it be that you can go back to the beggarly elements from which the Lord has brought you out? If you live in sin, you will be false to your profession, for you profess to be alive unto God? If you walk in lust, you will tread under foot the blessed doctrines of the Word of God, for these lead to holiness and purity. You would make Christianity to be a by-word and a proverb, if, after all, you who were quickened from your spiritual death should exhibit a conduct no better than the life of ordinary men, and little superior to what your former life used to be. As many of you as have been baptized have said to the world, We are dead to the world, and we have come forth into a new life. Our fleshly desires are henceforth to be viewed as dead, for now we live after a fresh order of things. The Holy Spirit has wrought in us a new nature, and though we are in the world, we are not of it, but are new-made men, "created anew in Christ Jesus." This is the doctrine which we avow to all mankind, that Christ died and rose again, and that his people died and rose again in him. Out of the doctrine grows death unto sin and life unto God, and we wish by every action and every movement of our lives to teach it to all who see us.
So far the doctrine: is it not a precious one indeed? Oh, if you be indeed one with Christ, shall the world find you polluting yourselves? Shall the members of a generous, gracious Head be covetous and grasping? Shall the members of a glorious, pure, and perfect Head be defiled with the lusts of the flesh and the follies of a vain life? If believers are indeed so identified with Christ that they are his fullness, should they not be holiness itself? If we live by virtue of our union with his body, how can we live as other Gentiles do? How is it that so many professors exhibit a mere worldly life, living for business and for pleasure, but not for God, in God, or with God? They sprinkle a little religion on a worldly life, and so hope to Christianize it. But it will not do. I am bound to live as Christ would have lived under my circumstances; in my private chamber or in my public pulpit, I am bound to be what Christ would have been in like case. I am bound to prove to men that union to Christ is no fiction, or fanatical sentiment: but that we are swayed by the same principles and actuated by the same motives.
Baptism is thus an embodied creed, and you may read it in these words: "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead."
II. But, secondly, A REALIZED UNION WITH CHRIST is also set forth in baptism, and this is rather a matter of experience than of doctrine.
1. First, there is, as a matter of actual experience in the true believer, death. "Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?" It must be contrary to all law to bury those who are yet alive. Until they are dead, men can have no right to be buried. Very well, then, the Christian is dead, dead, first, to the dominion of sin. Whenever sin called him aforetime he answered, "Here am I, for thou didst call me." Sin ruled his members, and if sin said, "Do this," he did it, like the soldiers obedient to their centurion; for sin ruled over all the parts of his nature, and exercised over him a supreme tyranny. Grace has changed all this. When we are converted we become dead to the dominion of sin. If sin calls us now, we refuse to come, for we are dead. If sin commands us we will not obey, for we are dead to its authority. Sin comes to us now oh, that it did not, and it finds in us the old corruption which is crucified, but not yet dead; but it has no dominion over our true life. Blessed be God, sin cannot reign over us, though it may assail us and work us harm. "Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under law, but under grace." We sin, but not with allowance. With what grief we look back upon our transgressions! How earnestly do we endeavour to avoid them! Sin tries to maintain its usurped power over us; but we do not acknowledge it as our sovereign. Evil enters us now as an interloper and a stranger, and works sad havoc, but it does not abide in us upon the throne; it is an alien, and despised, and no more honoured and delighted in. We are dead to the reigning power of sin.
The believer, if spiritually buried with Christ, is dead to the desire of any such power. "What!" say you, "do not godly men have sinful desires?" Alas, they do. The old nature that is in them lusteth towards sin; but the true man, the real ego, desires to be purged of every speck or trace of evil. The law in the members would fain urge to sin, but the life in the heart constrains to holiness. I can honestly say, for my own self, that the deepest desire of my soul is to live a perfect life. If I could have my own best desire, I would never sin again; and though, alas, I do consent to sin so that I become responsible when I transgress, yet my innermost self loathes iniquity. Sin is my bondage, not my pleasure; my misery, not my delight; at the thought of it I cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" In our heart of hearts our spirit cleaves steadfastly to that which is good, and true, and heavenly, so that the real man delights in the law of God, and follows hard after goodness. The main current and true bent of our soul's wish and will is not towards sin, and the apostle taught us no mere fancy when he said, "For he that is dead is freed from sin."
Moreover, in the next place we are dead as to the pursuits and aims of the sinning and ungodly life. Brethren, are any of you that profess to be God's servants living for yourselves? Then you are not God's servants; for he that is really born again lives unto God: the object of his life is the glory of God and the good of his fellow-men. This is the prize that is set before the quickened man, and towards this he runs. "I do not run that way," says one. Very well, then you will not come to the desired end. If you are running after the pleasures of the world or the riches of it, you may win the prize you run for, but you cannot win "the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus." I hope that many of us can honestly say that we are now dead to every object in life, except the glory of God in Christ Jesus. We are in the world, and have to live as other men do, carrying on our ordinary business; but all this is subordinate, and held in as with bit and bridle; our aims are above yon changeful moon. The flight of our soul, like that of an eagle, is above these clouds: though that bird of the sun alights upon the rock, or even descends to the plain, yet its joy is to dwell above, out soaring the lightning, rising over the black head of the tempest, and looking down upon all earthly things. Henceforth our grace-given life speeds onward and upward; we are not of the world, and the world's engagements are not those upon which we spend our noblest powers.
Again, we are dead in this sense, that we are dead to the guidance of sin. The lust of the flesh drives a man this way and that way. He steers his course by the question, "What is most pleasant? What will give me most present gratification?" The way of the ungodly is mapped out by the hand of selfish desire: but you that are true Christians have another guide, you are led by the Spirit in a right way. You ask, "What is good and what is acceptable in the sight of the Most High?" Your daily prayer is, "Lord, show me what thou wouldest have me to do?" You are alive to the teachings of the Spirit, who will lead you into all truth; but you are deaf, yea, dead to the dogmas of carnal wisdom, the oppositions of philosophy, the errors of proud human wisdom. Blind guides who fall with their victims into the ditch are shunned by you, for you have chosen the way of the Lord. What a blessed state of heart this is! I trust, my brethren, that we have fully realized it! We know the Shepherd's voice, and a stranger we will not follow. One is our teacher, and we submit our understandings to his infallible instruction.
Our text must have had a very forcible meaning among the Romans in Paul's time, for they were sunk in all manner of odious vices. Take an average Roman of that period, and you would have found in him a man accustomed to spend a large part of his time in the amphitheater, hardened by the brutal sight of bloody shows, in which gladiators slew each other to amuse a holiday crowd. Taught in such a school, the Roman was cruel to the last degree, and withal ferocious in the indulgence of his passions. A depraved man was not regarded as being at all degraded; not only nobles and emperors were monsters of vice, but the public teachers were impure. When those who were regarded as moral were corrupt, you may imagine what the immoral were. "Enjoy yourself; follow after the pleasures of the flesh," was the rule of the age. Christianity was the introduction of a new element. See here a Roman converted by the grace of God! What a change is in him! His neighbours say, "You were not at the amphitheater this morning. How could you miss the sight of the hundred Germans who tore out each other's bowels?" "No," he says, "I was not there; I could not bear to be there. I am totally dead to it. If you were to force me to be there, I must shut my eyes, for I could not look on murder committed in sport!" The Christian did not resort to places of licentiousness; he was as good as dead to such filthiness. The fashions and customs of the age were such that Christians could not consent to them, and so they became dead to society. It was not merely that Christians did not go into open sin, but they spoke of it with horror, and their lives rebuked it. Things which the multitude counted a joy, and talked of exultingly, gave no comfort to the follower of Jesus, for he was dead to such evils. This is our solemn avowal when we come forward to be baptized. We say by acts which are louder than words that we are dead to those things in which sinners take delight, and we wish to be so accounted.
2. The next thought in baptism is burial. Death comes first, and burial follows. Now, what is burial, brethren? Burial is, first of all, the seal of death; it is the certificate of decease. "Is such a man dead?" say you. Another answers, "Why, dear sir, he was buried a year ago." There have been instances of persons being buried alive, and I am afraid that the thing happens with sad frequency in baptism, but it is unnatural, and by no means the rule. I fear that many have been buried alive in baptism, and have therefore risen and walked out of the grave just as they were. But if burial is true, it is a certificate of death. If I am able to say in very truth, "I was buried with Christ thirty years ago," I must surely be dead. Certainly the world thought so, for not long after my burial with Jesus I began to preach his name, and by that time the world thought me very far gone, and said, "He stinketh." They began to say all manner of evil against the preacher; but the more I stank in their nostrils the better I liked it, for the surer I was that I was really dead to the world. It is good for a Christian to be offensive to wicked men. See how our Master stank in the esteem of the godless when they cried, "Away with him, away with him!" Though no corruption could come near his blessed body, yet his perfect character was not savoured by that perverse generation. There must, then, be in us death to the world, and some of the effects of death, or our baptism is void. As burial is the certificate of death, so is burial with Christ the seal of our mortification to the world.
But burial is, next, the displaying of death. While the man is indoors the passers-by do not know that he is dead; but when the funeral takes place, and he is carried through the streets, everybody knows that he is dead. This is what baptism ought to be. The believer's death to sin is at first a secret, but by an open confession he bids all men know that he is dead with Christ. Baptism is the funeral rite by which death to sin is openly set forth before all men.
Next, burial is the separateness of death. The dead man no longer remains in the house, but is placed apart as one who ceases to be numbered with the living. A corpse is not welcome company. Even the most beloved object after a while cannot be tolerated when death has done his work upon it. Even Abraham, who had been so long united with his beloved Sarah, is heard to say, "Bury my dead out of my sight." Such is the believer when his death to the world is fully known: he is poor company for worldlings, and they shun him as a damper upon their revelry. The true saint is put into the separated class with Christ, according to his word, "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you." The saint is put away in the same grave as his Lord; for as he was, so are we also in this world. He is shut up by the world in the one cemetery of the faithful, if I may so call it, where all that are in Christ are dead to the world together, with this epitaph for them all, "And ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."
And the grave is the place I do not know where to get a word of the settledness of death; for when a man is dead and buried you never expect to see him come home again: so far as this world is concerned, death and burial are irrevocable. They tell me that spirits walk the earth, and we have all read in the newspaper "The Truth about Ghosts," but I have my doubts on the subject. In spiritual things, however, I am afraid that some are not so buried with Christ but what they walk a great deal among the tombs. I am grieved at heart that it should be so. The man in Christ cannot walk as a ghost, because he is alive somewhere else; he has received a new being, and therefore he cannot mutter and peep among the dead hypocrites around him. See what our chapter saith about our Lord: "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." If we have been once raised from dead works we shall never go back to them again. I may sin, but sin can never have dominion over me; I may be a transgressor and wander much from my God, but never can I go back to the old death again. When my Lord's grace got hold of me, and buried me, he wrought in my soul the conviction that henceforth and for ever I was to the world a dead man. I am right glad that I made no compromise, but came right out. I have drawn the sword, and thrown away the scabbard. Tell the world they need not try to fetch us back, for we are spoiled for them as much as if we were dead. All they could have would be our carcasses. Tell the world not to tempt us any longer, for our hearts are changed. Sin may charm the old man who hangs there upon the cross, and he may turn his leering eye that way, but he cannot follow up his glance, for he cannot get down from the cross: the Lord has taken care to use the mallet well, and he has fastened his hands and feet right firmly, so that the crucified flesh must still remain in the place of doom and death. Yet the true, the genuine life within us cannot die, for it is born of God; neither can it abide in the tombs, for its call is to purity and joy and liberty; and to that call it yields itself.
3. We have come as far as death and burial; but baptism, according to the text, represents also resurrection: "That like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Now, notice that the man who is dead in Christ, and buried in Christ, is also raised in Christ, and this is a special work upon him. All the dead are not raised, but our Lord himself is "the firstfruits of them that slept." He is the first-begotten from among the dead. Resurrection was a special work upon the body of Christ by which he was raised up, and that work, begun upon the Head, will continue till all the members partake of it, for
"Though our inbred sins require
Our flesh to see the dust;
Yet as the Lord our Saviour rose,
So all his followers must."
As to our soul and spirit, the resurrection has begun upon us. It has not come to our bodies yet, but it will be given to them at the appointed day. For the present a special work has been wrought upon us by which we have been raised up from among the dead. Brethren, if you had been dead and buried, and had been lying one night, say, in Woking Cemetery, and if a divine voice had called you right up from the grave when the silent stars were shining on the open heath if, I say, you had risen right out from the green mound of turf, what a lonely being you would have been in the vast cemetery amid the stilly night! How you would sit down on the grave and wait for morning! That is very much your condition with regard to the present evil world. You were once like the rest of the sinners around you, dead in sin, and sleeping in the grave of evil custom. The Lord by his power has called you out of your grave, and now you are alive in the midst of death. There can be no fellowship here for you; for what communion have the living with the dead? The man out there in the cemetery just quickened would find none among all the dead around him with whom he could converse, and you can find no companions in this world. There lies a skull, but it sees not from the eyeholes; neither is there speech in its grim mouth. I see a mass of bones lying in yon corner: the living one looks at them, but they cannot hear or speak. Imagine yourself there. All that you would say to the bones would be to ask, "Can these dry bones live?" You would be a foreigner in that home of corruption, and you would haste to get away. That is your condition in the world: God has raised you up from among the dead, from out of the company among whom you had your former conversation. Now, I pray you, do not go and scratch into the earth, to tear up the graves to find a friend there. Who would rend open a coffin and cry, "Come, you must drink with me! You must go to the theatre with me"? No, we dread the idea of association with the dead, and I tremble when I see a professor trying to have communion with worldly men. "Come ye out from among them; be ye separate; touch not the unclean thing." You know what would happen to you if you were thus raised, and were forced to sit close to a dead body newly taken from the grave. You would cry, "I cannot bear it; I cannot endure it"; you would get to the wind side of the horrid corpse. So with a man that is really alive unto God: deeds of injustice, oppression, or unchastity he cannot endure; for life loaths corruption.
Notice that, as we are raised up by a special work from among the dead, that rising is by divine power. Christ is brought again "from the dead by the glory of the Father." What means that? Why did it not say, "by the power of the Father"? Ah, beloved, glory is a grander word; for all the attributes of God are displayed in all their solemn pomp in the raising of Christ from the dead. There was the Lord's faithfulness; for had he not declared that his soul should not rest in hell, neither should His Holy One see corruption? Was not the love of the Father seen there? I am sure it was a delight to the heart of God to bring back life to the body of his dear Son. And so, when you and I are raised out of our death in sin, it is not merely God's power, it is not merely God's wisdom that is seen, it is "the glory of the Father." Oh, to think that every child of God that has been quickened has been quickened by "the glory of the Father. " It has taken not alone the Holy Spirit, and the work of Jesus, and the work of the Father, but the very "glory of the Father." If the tiniest spark of spiritual life has to be created by "the glory of the Father," what will be the glory of that life when it comes into its full perfection, and we shall be like Christ, and see him as he is! O beloved, value highly the new life which God has given you. Think of it as making you richer than if you had a sea of pearls, greater than if you were descended from the loftiest of princes. There is in you that which it required all the attributes of God to create. He could make a world by power alone, but you must be raised from the dead by "the glory of the Father."
Notice next, that this life is entirely new. We are to "walk in newness of life." The life of a Christian is an entirely different thing from the life of other men, entirely different from his own life before his conversion, and when people try to counterfeit it, they cannot accomplish the task. A person writes you a letter and wants to make you think he is a believer, but within about half-a-dozen sentences there occurs a line which betrays the imposter. The hypocrite has very neatly copied our expressions, but not quite. There is a freemasonry among us, and the outside world watch us a bit, and by-and-by they pick up certain of our signs; but there is a private sign which they can never imitate, and therefore at a certain point they break down. A godless man may pray as much as a Christian, read as much of the Bible as a Christian, and even go beyond us in externals; but there is a secret which he knows not and cannot counterfeit. The life divine is so totally new that the unconverted have no copy to work by. In every Christian it is as new as if he were the very first Christian. Even though in every one it is the image and superscription of Christ, yet there is a milled edge or a something about the real silver that these counterfeits cannot get a hold of. It is a new, a novel, a fresh, a divine thing.
And, lastly, this life is an active thing. I have often wished that Paul had not been so fast when I have been reading him. His style travels in seven-leagued boots. He does not write like an ordinary man. I beg to tell him that if he had written this text according to proper order, it should run, "Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should be raised from the dead." But see; Paul has got over ever so much ground while we are talking: he has reached to "walking." The walking includes the living, of which it is the sign, and Paul thinks so fast when the Spirit of God is upon him that he has passed beyond the cause to the effect. No sooner do we get the new life than we become active: we do not sit down and say, "I have received a new life: how grateful I ought to be. I will quietly enjoy myself." Oh dear, no. We have something to do directly we are alive, and we begin walking, and so the Lord keeps us all our lives in his work; he does not allow us to sit down contented with the mere fact that we live, nor does he allow us to spend all our time in examining whether we are alive or no; but he gives us one battle to fight, and then another; he gives us his house to build, his farm to till, his children to nurse, and his sheep to feed. At times we have fierce struggles with our own spirit, and fears lest sin and Satan should prevail, till our life is scarce discerned by itself, but it is always discerned by its acts. The life that is given to those who were dead with Christ is an energetic, forceful life, that is evermore busy for Christ, and would, if it could, move heaven and earth and subdue all things unto him who is its Head.
This life Paul tells us is an unending one. Once get it, and it will never go from you. "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more."
Next, it is a life which is not under the law or under sin. Christ came under the law when he was here, and he had our sin laid on him, and therefore died; but after he rose again there was no sin laid on him. In his resurrection both the sinner and the Surety are free. What had Christ to do after his rising? To bear any more sin? No, but just to live unto God. That is where you and I are. We have no sin to carry now; it was all laid on Christ. What have we to do? Every time we have the headache, or feel ill, are we to cry out, "This is a punishment for my sin"? Nothing of the kind. Our punishment is all done with, for we have borne the capital sentence, and are dead: our new life must be unto God.
"All that remains for me
Is but to love and sing,
And wait until the angels come
To bear me to the King."
I have now to serve him and delight myself in him, and use the power which he gives me of calling others from the dead, saying, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." I am not going back to the grave of spiritual death nor to my grave-clothes of sin; but by divine grace I will still believe in Jesus, and go from strength to strength, not under law, not fearing hell, nor hoping to merit heaven, but as a new creature, loving because loved, living for Christ because Christ lives in me, rejoicing in glorious hope of that which is yet to be revealed by virtue of my oneness in Christ.
Poor sinner, you do not know anything about this death and burial, and you never will till you have power to become sons of God, and that he gives to as many as believe on his name. Believe on his name, and it is all yours. Amen and Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON Romans 6:1-45.6.23
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 775, 762, 646.
Christ's Resurrection and Our Newness of Life
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, March 29th, 1891, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Romans 6:4 .
I HAVE AFORETIME preached upon the whole verse,* so that this morning I shall take the liberty to dwell chiefly upon the latter part of it "Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
The idea that the grace of God should lead us to licentiousness is utterly loathsome to every Christian man. We cannot endure it. The notion that the doctrines of grace give license to sin, comes from the devil, and we scout it with a detestation more deep than words can express. "How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"
On our first entrance upon a Christian profession, we are met by the ordinance of baptism, which teaches the necessity of purification. Baptism is, in its very form, a washing, and its teaching requires cleansing of the most thorough kind. It is a burial, in which the man is viewed as dead with Christ to sin, and is regarded as rising again as a new man. Baptism sets forth, as in a picture, the union of the believer with the Lord Jesus in his baptism of suffering, and in his death, burial, and resurrection. By submitting to that sacred ordinance, we declare that we believe ourselves to be dead with him, because of his endurance of the death penalty, and dead to the world and to the dominion of sin by his Spirit; at the same time, we also profess our faith in our Lord's resurrection, and that we ourselves are raised up in union with him, and have come forth through faith into newness of life. It is a very impressive and vivid symbol, but it is without meaning unless we rise to purity of life.
The basis of this confession lies in the union of every believer with Christ Jesus. We are dead with him, because we are one with him. We are risen with him, because we are one with him. Every believer is, in the purpose of divine grace, identified with Jesus. He was given to the Lord Jesus from before the foundation of the world, and placed under his covenant headship. The Lord Jesus suffered for the believer as his substitute, and virtually each saved one died in Christ, who represented him. The believer rose in Christ by virtue of the eternal union which exists between the saint and his Savior. Therefore the believer continues to live, for the Lord has said, "Because I live, ye shall live also." Our destiny is identified with that of our covenant Head. His life is the model of our experience: he makes us to be conformed to his image now, and we shall be like him when we shall see him as he is. O my hearer, if you are not in Christ you have nothing. Out of Christ you are in the wilderness: with him you are in a paradise. In Christ believers possess all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and grace, and power, and love. All things are yours, if you are Christ's. From our union to Christ follows our sanctification: we cannot follow after sin, for Christ does not follow after it. He died unto sin once, and we are henceforth dead to it. He is risen by the glory of the Father, and we are risen with him into righteousness, and acceptance, and joy.
I. Follow me in the text, taking as your first thought the fact that THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD WAS ATTENDED WITH GLORY: he was "raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father." Christ's resurrection is linked with the fullness of eternal glory.
In itself it was a great marvel. Our Lord was assuredly dead: the Roman guards at the cross took care that no condemned person escaped the death penalty; in our Lord's case his heart was pierced with the spear to make sure that no life remained in him. Joseph begged his body, and by the loving hands of those who were sure that he was dead he was wrapped in spices and fine linen, and laid in the rocky tomb. There lay our Lord, in the grave, with a stone rolled at the cave's mouth, and a seal set upon it by those in authority, whose envy made them take double precautions. As when a prince lies slumbering in his pavilion he is watched by a guard, so was our Lord's sepulcher watched by a guard of Roman soldiers, that no man might steal his body. There he lay in the heart of the earth, for a portion of three days and nights. He was really dead, and in the grave he wore all the marks of decease: a napkin was bound about his head, and the linen clothes enrapped his limbs. On the morning of the third day it was truly said, "The Lord has risen indeed"; for he actually, literally, and in very fact awoke to life, unbound the napkin and laid it by itself, leisurely folded his graveclothes, and when the angel had rolled away the stone from the mouth of the sepulcher, the First-begotten from the dead came forth in a material body to live among his disciples for forty days. During the time of his sojourn, his resurrection was established by many infallible proofs: he was seen, and heard, and touched, and handled. One of his disciples put his finger into the print of the nails, and thrust his hand into his side. He possessed a real body, for he ate a piece of a broiled fish and of a honeycomb before them all. It was Jesus of Nazareth, and none other than he, who met his disciples at Galilee. On this firm basis of fact we build our holy faith; but, certain as it is, it is none the less a marvel. All glory be to him "that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant."
The resurrection of our Lord is glorious in contrast with his humiliation. It has in it sufficient of glory to redeem his passion from the shame which gathered about it. We read in Matthew 20:18-40.20.19 , how he was to be betrayed, condemned to death, delivered to the Gentiles, mocked, scourged, and crucified; but we note that all the gloom of that dread tragedy is removed by the few words with which our Lord ended the story: "And the third day he shall rise again." The blaze of resurrection lights up the whole length of the Valley of the Shadow. His death wears no dishonor on its brow, for his rising again hath set a diadem thereon. We celebrate Gethsemane and Calvary, and find no bitterness in all their grief, because death is swallowed up in the victory of resurrection. The whole earthly life of Jesus with its poverty, its slander, its sorrow, its scourging, its spitting, its crucifixion, is raised above all trace of dishonor by his glorious resurrection.
His resurrection is glorious in its effects. He was "delivered for our offenses", but "he was raised again for our justification." In death he discharged our debt: in resurrection he exhibited the receipt of all our liabilities. He was surety for us, and therefore he smarted and went down to the prison of the grave; but by death he discharged his suretiship and was set free. Our Lord has risen, and therefore we shall rise in the day of his appearing. The Breaker leads the way, and behind the mighty champion the whole company of his redeemed pass through the portals of the tomb in the power of his resurrection. The stone is rolled away for them as well as for him. They cannot be holden of the bonds of death, for he could not be detained a captive. What a glory there is in our Lord's resurrection, when we further remember that he ever liveth to make intercession for us, and, therefore, he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him! The fullness of salvation comes to us because he has risen from the dead, and is now making intercession for the transgressors. O brethren, the resurrection of Jesus is bright as the sun with glory! Faith in it thrills our hearts. Well might each line of our hymn end with a Hallelujah. When we say one to another, "The Lord is risen indeed", we feel like singing all the time, for now our faith is not vain, we are not in our sins, and those who have fallen asleep have not perished.
Our Lord's resurrection was glorious as to its cause, for it was a display of the glory of the Father. For "glory" you may read "power", if you please; for it was a great work of power to raise Jesus from the dead. But it was more than a miracle of power, for all the attributes of God united their glory in the resurrection of Christ. God's love came there, and opened those closed eyes; his delight bejewelled those deadly wounds; his wisdom set in motion that pierced heart. Divine justice claimed his loosing from the grave, and mercy smiled as she lit up his face with an immortal smile. There and then did Jehovah make all his glory to pass before us, and he proclaimed the name of the Lord. If you ask where God's glory most is seen, I will not point to creation, nor to providence, but to the raising of Jesus from the dead. It is true that in the silence of the tomb there were no spectators, but God himself was there. After the deed was done, there were many who beheld his glory; and when at the close of his sojourn below he ascended beyond the clouds all heaven came forth to meet him, and to behold the conqueror of death and hell. In his resurrection the glory of God was laid bare. The veil which concealed the sacred presence was rent from top to bottom; and the glory of the Lord was seen in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
That resurrection is glorious, because of its sequel in reference to our Lord. Of this I have already spoken in measure; only let me remind you that he rose to die no more. Once hath he suffered, but it is once for all. His victory is final. Like Samson, the fierce lion of death roared upon him in the vineyard. The monster had hitherto overcome everyone whom he assailed; but this time he met his match. Our greater Samson rent him as though he were a kid; and though our deliverer fell in the act of victory, he rose from the death struggle with fullness of life. Behold, he comes to us to-day, bearing handfuls of honey, on which he bids us feed. He has taken it from the carcase of the lion which he slew. Now is death a store of sweets, rather than a cup of gall. To the child of God, death furnishes a couch of rest, and is no longer a dark and noisome prison cell. Death is the refining pot for this poor flesh and blood: the body is sown in corruption, but it is raised in incorruption and immortality. We shall with these eyes behold our Lord when he shall stand in the latter day upon the earth. O glorious resurrection, which has turned our poison into medicine! O miracle of love, which has made death to be the gate of life! When you were singing the Easter hymn just now, it seemed to me as if we filled the whole earth with silver bells; and when you came to the last verse, you were so fully getting into the music of the truth, that I had half a mind to cry, "Let us begin again." In the rising of Jesus death itself is shut up in prison, and ten thousand Hallelujahs come flying down from heaven to teach us how to sing
Vain the watch, the stone, the seal
Christ has burst the gates of hell;
Death in vain forbids him rise,
Christ hath open'd paradise."
II. Let me introduce you to our second point, which is this THE PARALLEL IN OUR EXPERIENCE IS ALSO FULL OF GLORY. When the time of love had fully come, we also rose as to our spirits; that "like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Partakers of his death, we are also partakers of his resurrection. This body of ours will have its share in that blessing of adoption in due time. As yet, it remains subject to pain, and weakness, and death; for it is as the apostle puts it, "If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness." The spirit has its resurrection even now; but we are "waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." At the second coming of the Lord the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and the living shall be changed. We have the firstfruits of the Spirit, inasmuch as we are spiritually risen from the dead; and the rest will follow in due course.
It is a blessed thing that we should be made alive in Christ. As many of you as have believed in the Lord Jesus have been raised from among the dead. You were once without faith and without feeling. You had no sense of sin; you had no desire after holiness; you had no confidence in Christ; you had no love for the Father: but "you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." You live now even as Jesus lived when he was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." Why should the Lord of life have raised you from your death? Multitudes around you are still dead. You could not have made yourselves alive; for it is clear that the dead cannot rise by their own power. You were like the dry bones of Ezekiel's valley, without even the form or the moisture of life. You were more difficult to quicken than your Savior's body; for "he saw no corruption," but you were corrupt of heart. Ah, how much you saw of corruption! In you hath Jehovah repeated the miracle which he performed on his beloved Son.
Remember that quickening is a needful part of the process of sanctification. Sanctification, in its operation upon our character, consists of three things. First, we die unto sin. A wondrous death! By this Jesus strikes at the heart of evil. The death of Christ makes us die to sin. After this comes burial. We are buried with Christ, and of this burial baptism is the type and token. Covered up to be forgotten, we are to sin as a dead shepherd to his flock. As the sheep pass over the dead shepherd's grave, or even feed thereon, and yet he regardeth them not, so our old sins and habits come about us, but we, as dead men, know them no more. We are buried to them. To complete our actual sanctification we receive heavenly quickening. "If we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him." Yea, we do live in him, and by him, for "he that believeth in him hath everlasting life." I trust you know what this means. Have you been thus dead, thus buried with Christ? Are you now thus quickened in the likeness of his resurrection? This is your joyful privilege, if you are indeed believers in Christ, and joined unto the Lord in one spirit.
Being thus quickened you are partakers of a new life. You are not like Lazarus, who, when he was raised from the dead, had the same life restored to him. True, you have that same life about you. Alas, that you should have it! for it will be your burden and plague. But your true life has come to you by your being born again from above. "This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life." The Holy Ghost hath wrought in us a higher life than nature possessed. " We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not." We have received "a living and incorruptible seed which liveth and abideth for ever." In this there is a striking display of the glory of God. As in the resurrection of Christ we see all the glorious attributes of God, so is there in every believer's spiritual quickening a manifestation of the divine presence. I know not how much there is of God in the regeneration of each new-born soul; but I know this, that God likens it to a new creation, and to the resurrection; and therefore we may be sure that it is one of the highest displays of diving power. We talk of conversion, but how lightly do we estimate the full meaning of conversion! Know ye not that regeneration is one of the greatest miracles that God himself can perform? To be begotten again unto a lively hope is a mass of wonders. We who aforetime lay under spiritual death, have become possessors of a heavenly life; who shall fully comprehend this? This is a miracle indeed; and we ourselves are the subjects of it. Surely, we do not think highly enough of the notable deed which has been wrought upon our impotent selves. Lazarus raised from the dead was the object of wonder to everybody. The Jews came to Bethany, not to see Jesus only, but to see Lazarus, who was raised from the dead. What must Lazarus have thought of being thus brought back from the land of darkness to visit again the haunts of men? Lazarus must have felt himself a strange and singular man; even his sisters, Mary and Martha, could not understand his experience. Christian man, you have felt what you can never tell; you have received what you can never explain, you possess a secret something which can never be set forth in words. God help you to show it by your life!
In this parallel of our history with the story of Christ, in our being spiritually raised from the dead, we have a pre-eminent security for future perfection. "He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit." If he raised us up when we were dead in sin, will he not keep us alive now that we live unto him? If he called us out of our graves when we were under the bondage of death, will he not preserve us now by the life of him that dieth no more? If the life of God has really been infused into us, who shall destroy it? Hath not our Master said, "I give unto my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand"? He would not have given us this life unless he had intended to bring it to perfection. As surely as you live by the Father, you live as Jesus does, beyond the range of further death. "Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." Do you tremblingly ask me. "May I not go back unto sin." Listen to this. It is written in the covenant, "I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." The life which is in you springeth up unto eternal life. You shall surely behold his face whose life is already within your breast. What a blessed thing is this! I cannot declare to you the measureless glory of God which I perceive in this quickening of souls unto God; and yet that which I perceive is the bare fringe of the glory. He might have left us to our corruptions, and then at last he would have said, "Bury my dead out of my sight. Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." But instead thereof, in his free love he has come in the person of his dear Son and died for us that we might die in him, and he has quickened his Son that we should live in him. Soon he will say, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Wondrous grace! "He that sitteth on the throne saith, Behold, I make all things new"; and never is he to our hearts more truly on the throne than in this new creation of which we are this day the happy subjects.
"Raised from the dead, we live anew;
And, justified by grace,
We shall appear in glory too,
And see our Father's face.
If I gave you only those two things to dwell upon, you might, by God's blessing, find a good Sabbath's meal in them. God sanctify this teaching to all our hearts!
III. But now I want your special attention while I notice, in the third place, that THE LIFE THEN GIVEN IS EMPHATICALLY NEW. Read our text: "Like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father" I expected that we should then read, "even so we also should be raised by the glory of the Father"; but it is not so. Paul sometimes takes great leaps of thought. It is in his mind that we are raised together with Christ; but his thought has gone further, even to the activity which comes of life; and we read, "that we also should walk in newness of life." As much as to say, "I need not tell you that you have been quickened as Christ was; but since you have been made alive, you must show it by your walk and conduct." But he reminds us that this life has much newness about it.
"Newness of life" what does it mean? It means this. When we are born again, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ which things take place at the same time we receive a life which we never before possessed. We begin to feel, to think, and to act as we never did before. The new life is something foreign to our fallen nature: an exotic, a plant of another clime. The carnal mind knows nothing of spiritual things. The man who is not born again cannot understand what the new birth means. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned, and the carnal man is all abroad in reference to them. In your quickening you received a light which had never before shone in your bosom a life that came not from men, neither by men. It is not a development of something which was hidden in our constitution; it is not the evolution of a principle which really exists, only it is hampered and hindered. No: it is not written, "You hath he fostered, who had the germs of dormant life"; but, "You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." You had no life, you had nothing out of which life could come. Fostered you might have been; but all the fostering possible would only have developed your corrupt nature, and caused the evil within to grow at a greater rate. No seeds of eternal life lie buried in the dunghill of fallen nature. Eternal life is the gift of God.
This novel life is new in its principles. The old life at its very best only said, "I must do right that I may win a reward." Wage-earning is the principle of the old legal life when it tries to be obedient. Now you are moved by gratitude, and not by a mercenary motive. I hear you sing
Loved of my God, for him again
With love intense I burn:
Chosen of him ere time began,
I choose him in return.
Now, you serve not as a hired servant, but as a loving child. Grace reigns. The love of Christ constraineth you. It is your joy to obey out of love, and not from slavish fear.
This life is swayed by new motives. You live now to please God; aforetime you lived to please yourself, or to please your neighbors. Once you lived for what you could get for yourself; you lived for the passing pleasures of a fleeting life; but now you have launched upon eternal seas. Eternity holds your treasures; eternity excites your efforts; eternity elevates your desires. You live as seeing him who is invisible, and your conduct is controlled, not by the judgment of fallible men, but by the rule of the heart-searching God.
Your new life has new objects. You aim higher; yea, you aim at the highest of all; for you live for the glory of God, and seek that your light may so shine, that men may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." The will of God has now become your law. You count yourself only happy as you may fulfill his purposes, honor his name, and extend his kingdom.
Your inner life has made you conscious of new emotions. You feel now as you were not wont to feel. Your fears are new, your hopes are new; your sorrows are new, and your joys are new. If you were to meet your old self you would not wish to strike up an acquaintance with him, but would rather walk on the other side of the street. When I meet my former self I always quarrel with him, and he with me. I grieve to confess that I find another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and seeking to bring me again into captivity. Behold, all things are new to us. One said to me, when I asked her what kind of change she had undergone "Either the world is quite altered, or else I am." Yes, friends, the light is changed, because our eyes are opened to it. We feel the very opposite of what we felt by nature.
Now are we cheered by new hopes: we have a hope of immortality; a hope so glorious, that it causes us to purify ourselves in preparation for its realization. We wait for the glorious appearing of our Lord. We look for new heavens and a new earth. We have a lively hope which defies death.
Now have we new possessions. We used to wonder what the Christian meant when he spoke of "possessing all things." We know now. God has made us "rich in faith", and he has given us greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. When the Lord lifts up his countenance upon us, we no longer cry for corn and wine and oil. Though flocks die, and crops fail, our estate is entailed; our bread shall be given us, and our waters shall be sure. Instead of groaning that life is not worth having, we bless God for our being, because our well-being in Christ. Behold the desert now rejoices and blossoms as the rose. Where we heard only the hooting of the owl and the cry of the dragon, we hear music as of a song which has just begun, which is every moment swelling and increasing, and shall soon burst into a thunder of hallelujahs which shall never end. We are happy creatures now. Once we were doleful enough, save when we were in our cups and inflamed with a delirious mirth; but now we have peace like a river, and a secret joy which no man taketh from us. We drink of a well which none can dry up: we have bread to eat that the world knows not of. Truly our fellowship is with the Father; and this, even to ourselves, is so vast a joy that it overwhelms us. When we are nearest to God, and are absorbed in him, we cannot comprehend our own delight.
We have come into a new world altogether; a world far more grand than that which nature reveals. I often compare myself to a chick, which aforetime was imprisoned in the dark, narrow, and uncomfortable prison of its natural shell. In that condition I neither knew myself, nor aught that was about me, but was in a chaos, as one unborn. Do I not remember when the shell was broken and I came out into the open? Then, like a young bird, I was weak and strange, and full of wonderment at the life into which I had come. How strange was it to my soul to have the Godhead consciously perceived, and Christ and his redemption blessedly enjoyed! That young life begins to feel its wings and try them a little. It also moves with trembling footsteps, essaying a new walk. It sees things it never dreamed of when shut up in the darkness. The new-born soul beholds "new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness." That text has come true to some of us: "Ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." It is a wonderful thing, this new life. I beg to press home the inquiry, Do you know it? Do you enjoy it? Do not boast that you are being educated. Educate the old life as you will, it will remain natural, and cannot become spiritual. You have been, you say, religious from your childhood. Be it so; but even to you I must say, "Ye must be born again." There must be a passing from death unto life.
Does all I am talking about seem to be a confused maze? So far it will do you good to know that you do not understand the things of God. To know that you are a stranger to the inward life may be a blessing to you. It may be that a prayer will spring up in your heart, "Lord, implant in me this life." The Lord and giver of life is willing to bestow it. It is to be had through Jesus; for to "as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." May you be born this very day into this newness of life!
IV. I must close, though the subject is sweetly absorbing, and one would like to go further into it. Our fourth point is this THE WALK WHICH COMES OUT OF THIS LIFE IS NEW. You were dead, but you have been raised from among the dead, and now you walk in "newness of life."
The new life that God gives us is exceedingly active. I have never read that we are to lie down and sleep in the newness of life. It is true I have met with persons who professed to have been saved, and therefore they took matters easily, and made themselves religiously comfortable in idleness. I greatly question whether you have new life if you do not walk. God's children are not of a sluggish race. There is vigor and fervency about them. They cannot sleep, as do others. The new life is akin to the life of angels, and angels do not spend the day in slumber or sloth. I never heard of sluggish angels. They are as flames of fire. The new life in a Christian is quick, energetic, forceful. The new life produces a holy walk as soon as it is created. If you have been born unto God, you have cast off your lethargy, and are ready to run the race set before you. You may happen to be dull and sleepy occasionally through disease; but you will not choose this. When in spiritual health, you will glow with divine ardor, and burn with holy fervency, delighting yourself in serving the Lord.
This activity of life induces progress. If we are really quickened, we are to walk in newness of life: that is to say, we shall move on. We are not to take the goose-step in newness of life; but to march on, going from strength to strength. We are not at the end yet; we must advance. All that we have already attained is to lead on to the yet beyond. It is true we have the new life in us, but we have not yet obtained everything: we must climb higher, and go further. The new life grows.
This walk is to be in newness of life. We are not to act or grow in the energy of the old life, but in newness of life. The conduct of a Christian is in newness of life: and therefore others cannot understand him because he acts so differently from themselves. But, alas, all professors are not of this sort! I see a Christian man coming back one evening from a place of questionable amusement. Did he go there in newness of life? The old man used to go in that direction. When a man is doubtfully honest, and has made a bargain which will not bear the light; is that done in newness of life? When an employer grinds down the workman to the last farthing; is that done in the newness of life? Surely, you will see what I am aiming at. Brethren, have done with the things of the flesh. Put off the old man. If Christ has quickened you, walk in newness of life. Say to the old man, "Down with you, sir! I have done with walking in your way."
Let the new man come to the front, and do you follow his guidance. Say in your soul, "O life of God within me, be thou supreme. Take thou the upper hand, and let every thought be captive to thy power." Let us not live in oldness of spiritual death, but in newness of spiritual life. What a change is wrought by the perception and possession of better things! Dr. Chalmers, in his Exposition of Romans, pictures a man engaged with full and earnest ambition on some humble walk of retail merchandise. He cares about petty things, and makes great account of his little stock-taking. His hopes and fears range within his circumscribed trading; and he aspires to nothing more than to reach a few shillings a week to retire upon. But a splendid property is willed to him, or he is introduced into a sublime walk of high and honorable adventure. Henceforth everything is made new. The man's cares, hopes, habits, tastes, desires, are all new. His expenditure alters; his valuation of money alters; his fear about the state of the stock disappears; his joy in the prospect of a small competency is no more before his eyes. He has risen to a different level altogether. New conditions have silently changed all things. The whole man is built on a bigger scale: his house, his table, his garments, his company, and his speech, are all of another sort. In the same way the Lord, by all that he has done for us, and in us, has changed everything. No point is unaffected. Newness of life affects our manhood from head to foot. The Lord has made us rich in himself, by the gift of Jesus, and by the work of his Spirit, and he would not have us grieving and fretting about the little matters which once were so exceedingly great to us. "After all these things do the Gentiles seek." Let us have higher cares and diviner aspirations. Let us seek to live the life of heaven on earth. We are called unto righteousness; let us not follow after mammon. We are new creatures; may the Lord renew us day by day! Let us quit the old; for the time we have spent in it may well suffice. Now to a nobler destiny our soul aspires.
The Christian life should be one of joyful vivacity. We cannot always be what we should like to be, especially if we have a sluggish liver or an aching head; but I would now speak of our normal condition. The Christian man, living in newness of life, should find life fresh about him. Our inner man is renewed day by day. A healthy Christian is one of the liveliest creatures on earth. When he is at work you may hear him sing. He cannot help it; do not blame him for a little noise. Let him sing, and laugh till he cries. Sometimes he cannot help it; he will burst if his soul may not have vent. When he begins to talk about his Lord his eyes flash fire. Some people hint that he is out of his mind; but those who know best assure us that he was never before so sane as now. Of course, the world thinks religion is such poor stuff that nobody could grow excited about it. To my mind, cold religion is the nastiest dish ever brought to table. True godliness is served up hot. Newness of life means a soul aglow with love to God, and therefore earnest, zealous, happy. Let the believing man have space for his larger life, swing for his grander joy. Nay, do not gag him; let him sing his new song. If any man out of heaven has a right to be happy, it is the man who lives in newness of life. Come, beloved, I want you to go home to-day with the resolve that the newness of life shall be more apparent in your walk. Do not live the old life over again. Why should you? What good would come of it?
Come, my soul, if Christ has raised thee from the dead, do not live after the fashion of the dark grave which thou hast quitted. I am not so enamoured of the sepulcher as to return to it. Walk after the fashion of the new life, and it will conduct thee to God from whence it came. Live a God-like life; let the divine in thee sit on the throne, and tread the animal beneath its feet. It is easier said than done", cries one. That depends upon the life within. Life is full of power. I have seen an iron bar bent by the growth of a tree. Have you never heard of great paving-stones being lifted by fungi, which had pushed up beneath them? Life is a mighty thing, especially the divine life. If you choose to contract your souls by a sort of spiritual tight-lacing, or if you choose to bend yourselves down in a sorrow which never looks up, you may hinder your life and its walk; but give your life full scope, and what a walk you may have! Yield yourselves fully to God, and you shall see what you shall see. There is a happiness to be enjoyed by truly whole-hearted believers which some even of God's own children would think to be impossible.
Let me finish by a picture, which will show you what I mean by whole-heartedness. I have seen boys bathing in a river in the morning. One of them has just dipped his toes in the water, and he cries out, as he shivers, "Oh, it's so cold!" Another has gone in up to his ankles, and he also declares that it is fearfully chilly. But see! another runs to the bank, and takes a header. He rises all in a glow. All his blood is circulating, and he cries "Delicious! What a beautiful morning! I am all in a glow. The water is splendid!" That is the boy for enjoying a bath! You Christian people who are paddling about in the shallows of religion, and just dipping your toes into it you stand shivering in the cold air of the world which you are afraid to leave. Oh, that you would plunge into the river of life! How it would brace you! What tone it would give you! In for it, young man! In for it! Be a Christian, out and out. Serve the Lord with your whole being. Give yourself wholly to him who bought you with his blood. Plunge into the sacred flood by grace, and you will exclaim
Oh, this is life! Oh, this is joy,
My God, to find thee so!
Thy face to see, thy voice to hear,
And all thy love to know."
May we thus walk in newness of life! Amen.
Death and Life in Christ
Delivered on Sunday Morning, April 5th, 1863, by the
Rev. C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:8-45.6.11 .
THE apostles never traveled far from the simple facts of Christ's life, death, resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and second advent. These things, of which they were the witnesses, constituted the staple of all their discourses. Newton has very properly said that the two pillars of our religion are, the work of Christ for us, and his work in us by the Holy Spirit. If you want to find the apostles, you will surely discover them standing between these two pillars; they are either discoursing upon the effect of the passion in our justification, or its equally delightful consequence in our death to the world and our newness of life. What a rebuke this should be to those in modern times who are ever straining after novelties. There may be much of the Athenian spirit among congregations, but that should be no excuse for its being tolerated among ministers; we, of all men, should be the last to spend our time in seeking something new. Our business, my brethren, is the old labor of apostolic tongues, to declare that Jesus, who is the same yesterday to-day and for ever. We are mirrors reflecting the transactions of Calvary, telex scopes manifesting the distant glories of an exalted Redeemer. The nearer we keep to the cross, the nearer, I think, we keep to our true vocation. When the Lord shall be pleased to restore to his Church once more a fervent love to Christ, and when once again we shall have a ministry that is not only flavoured with Christ, but of which Jesus constitutes the sum and substance, then shall the Churches revive then shall the set time to favor Zion come. The goodly cedar which was planted by the rivers of old, and stretched out her branches far and wide, has become in these modern days like a tree dwarfed by Chinese art; it is planted by the rivers as aforetime, but it does not flourish, only let God the Holy Spirit give to us once again the bold and clear preaching of Christ crucified in all simplicity and earnestness, and the dwarf shall swell into a forest giant, each expanding bud shall burst into foliage, and the cedar shall tower aloft again, until the birds of the air shall lodge in the branches thereof. I need offer you no apology, then, for preaching on those matters which engrossed all the time of the apostles, and which shall shower unnumbered blessings on generations yet to come.
I. THE FACTS REFERRED TO IN THESE FOUR VERSES CONSTITUE THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL WHICH WE PREACH.
1. The first fact here very clearly indicated is that Jesus died. He who was divine, and therefore immortal, bowed his head to death. He whose human nature was alhed to the omnipotence of his divine nature, was pleased voluntarily to submit himself to the sword of death. He who was pure and perfect, and therefore deserved not death, which is the wages of sin, nevertheless condescended for our sake to yield himself up to die. This is the second note in the Gospel scale. The first note is incarnation, Jesus Christ became a man; angels thought this worthy of their songs, and made the heavens ring with midnight melodies. The second note is this, I say, that, being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He died as a sacrifice. Methinks, after many lambs from the flocks of men had poured out their blood at the foot of the altar, it was a strange spectacle-to see God's Lamb brought to that same altar to be sacrificed. He is without spot or blemish, or any such thing. He is the firstling of the flock; he is the only one of the Great Master; a right royal, heavenly lamb. Such a Lamb had never been seen before. He is the Lamb who is worshipped in heaven, and who is to be adored world without end. Will that sacred head condescend to feel the axe? Will that glorious victim really be slain? Is it possible that God's Lamb will actually submit to die? He does so without a struggle; he is dumb in the shambles before the slaughterers; he gives up the warm blood of his heart to the hand of the executioner, that he might expiate the wrath of God. Tell it. Let heaven ring with music, and let hell be filled with confusion! Jesus, the Eternal Son of God, the Lamb of Jehovah's Passover, died. His hands were pierced; and his heart was broken; to prove how surely the spear had struck the mark, the vital fluid flowed in a double flood, even to the ground: Jesus died. If there were any doubt about this, there were doubt about your salvation and mine. If there were any reason to question this fact, then we might question the possibility of salvation. But Jesus died, and sin is put away. The sacrifice smokes to heaven; Jehovah smelleth a sweet savor, and is pleased through Christ the victim to accept the prayers, the offerings, and the persons of his people. Nor did he die as a victim only. He died as a substitute. We were drawn as soldiers for the great warfare, and we could not go, for we were feeble, and should have fallen in the battle, and have left our bones to be devoured of the dogs of hell. But he, the mighty Son of God, became the substitute for us; entered the battle-field; sustained the first charge of the adversary in the wilderness; three times he repulsed the grim fiend and all his host, smiting his assailants with the sword of the Spirit, until the enemy fled, and angels waited upon the weary Victor. The conflict was not over, the enemy had but retired to forge fresh artillery and recruit his scattered forces for a yet more terrible affray. For three years the great Substitute kept the field against continual onslaughts from the advance guard of the enemy, remaining conqueror in every skirmish. No adversary dared to show his face, or if he shot an arrow at him from a distance, our substitute caught the arrow on his shield, and laughed his foes to scorn. Devils were cast out of many that were possessed; whole legions of them were compelled to find refuge in a herd of swine; and Lucifer himself fell like lightning from the heaven of his power. At last the time came when hell had gathered up all its forces, and now was also come the hour when Christ, as our substitute, must carry his obedience to the utmost length; he must be obedient unto death. He has been a substitute up till now; will he now throw down his vicarious character? Will he now renounce our responsibilities, and declare that we may stand for ourselves? Not he. He undertook, and must go through. Sweating great drops of blood, he nevertheless flinches not from the dread assault. Wounded in hands and in feet he still maintained his ground, and though, for obedience sake, he bowed his head to die, yet in that dying he slew death, put his foot upon the dragons' neck, crushed the head of the old serpent, and beat our adversaries as small as the dust of the threshing-floor. Yes, the blessed Substitute has died. I say if there were a question about this, then we might have to die, but inasmuch as he died for us, the believer shall not die. The debt is discharged to the utmost farthing; the account is cleared; the balance is struck; the scales of justice turn in our favor; God's sword is sheathed for ever, and the blood of Christ has sealed it in its scabbard. We are free, for Christ was bound; we live, for Jesus died. Dying thus as a sacrifice and as a substitute, it is a comfort to us to know that he also died as Mediator between God and man. There was a great gulf fixed, so that if we would pass to God we could not, neither could he pass to us if he would condescend to do so. There was no way of filling up this gulf, unless there should be found one who, like the old Roman, Curtius, would leap into it. Jesus comes, arrayed in his pontifical garments, wearing the breast-plate, bearing the ephod, a priest for ever after the order of Melchisidec: his kingly character is not forgotten, for his head is adorned with a glittering crown, and o'er his shoulders he bears the prophet's mantle. How shall I describe the matchless glories of the prophet-king, the royal priest? Will he throw himself into the chasm? He will. Into the grave he plunges, the abyss is closed! The gulf is bridged, and God can have communion with man! I see before me the heavy veil which shields from mortal eyes the place where God's glory shineth. No man may touch that veil or he must die. Is there any man found who can rend it? that man may approach the mercy-seat. O that the veil which parts our souls from him that dwelleth between the cherubims could be torn throughout its utmost length! Strong archangel, wouldest thou dare to rend it? Shouldest thou attempt the work, thine immortality were forfeited, and thou must expire. But Jesus comes, the King Immortal, Invisible, with his strong hands he rends the veil from top to bottom, and now men draw nigh with confidence, for when Jesus died a living way was opened. Sing, O heavens, and rejoice O earth! There is now no wall of partition, for Christ has dashed it down! Christ has taken away the gates of death, posts and bars, and all, and like another Samson carried them upon his shoulders far away. This, then, is one of the great notes of the Gospel, the fact that Jesus died. Oh! ye who would be save'd, believe that Jesus died; believe that the Son of God expired; trust that death to save you, and you are saved. 'Tis no great mystery; it needs no learned words, no polished plivases; Jesus died; the sacrifice smokes; the substitute bleeds; the Mediator fills up the gap; Jesus dies; believe and live.
2. But Jesus rises: this is no mean part of the Gospel. He dies; they lay him in the new sepulclive; they embalm his body in spices; his adversaries are careful that his body shall not be stolen away; the stone, the seal, the watch, all prove their vigilance. Aha! Aha! What do ye, men? Can ye imprison immortality in the tomb! The fiends of hell, too, I doubt not, watched the sepulclive, wondering what it all could mean. But the third day comes, and with it the messenger from heaven. He touches the stone; it rolls away; he sits upon it, as if he would defy the whole universe to roll that stone back again. Jesus awakes, as a mighty man from his slumber; unwraps the napkin from his head and lays it by itself; unwinds the cerements in which love had wrapped him, and puts them by themselves; for he had abundant leisure; he was in no haste; he was not about to escape like a felon who bursts the prison, but like one whose time of jail-deliverance has come, and lawfully and leisurely leaves his cell; he steps to the upper air, bright, shining, glorious, and fair. He lives. He died once, but he rose again from the dead. There is no need for us to enlarge here. We only pause to remark that this is one of the most jubilant notes in the whole gospel scale; for see, brethren, the rich mysteries, which, like the many seeds of the pomegranate, are all enclosed in the golden apple of resurrection. Death is overcome. There is found a man who by his own power was able to struggle with death, and hurl him down. The grave is opened; there is found a man able to dash back its bolts and to rifle its treasures; and thus, brethren, having delivered himself, he is able also to deliver others. Sin, too, was manifestly forgiven. Christ was in prison as a hostage, kept there as a surety; now that he is suffered to go free, it is a declaration on God's behalf that he has nothing against us; our substitute is discharged; we are discharged. He who undertook to pay our debt is suffered to go free; we go free in him. "He rose again for our justification." Nay more, inasmuch as he rises from the dead, he gives us a pledge that hell is conquered. This was the great aim of hell to keep Christ beneath its heel. "Thou shalt bruise his heel." They had gotten the heel of Christ, his mortal flesh beneath their power, but that bruised heel came forth unwounded; Christ sustained no injury by his dying; he was as glorious, even in his human nature, as he was before he expired. "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thy holy One to see corruption." Beloved, in this will we triumph, that hell is worsted; Satan is put to confusion, and all his hosts are fallen before Immanuel. Sinner, believe this; it is the Gospel of thy salvation. Believe that Jesus of Nazareth rose again from the dead, and trust him, trust him to save thy soul. Because he burst the gates of the grave, trust him to bear thy sins, to justify thy person, to quicken thy spirit, and to raise thy dead body, and verily, verily, I say unto thee, thou shalt be saved.
3. We now strike a third note, without which the gospel were not complete. Inasmuch as Jesus died, he is now living. He does not, after forty days, return to the grave; he departs from earth, but it is by another way. From the top of Olivet he ascends until a cloud receives him out of their sight. And now at this very day he lives. There at his Father's right hand he sits, bright like a sun; clothed in majesty; the joy of all the glorified spirits; his Father's intense delight. There he sits, Lord of Providence; at his girdle swing the keys of heaven, and earth, and hell. There he sits, expecting the hour when his enemies shall be made his footstool. Methinks I see him, too, as he lives to intercede. He stretches his wounded hands, points to his breastplate bearing the names of his people, and for Zion's sake he doth not hold his peace, and for Jerusalem's sake he doth not rest day nor night, but ever pleadeth "Oh God! bless thy heritage; gather together thy scattered ones; I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am." Believer, this it a cluster of camphire to thee, a bundle of myrrh be thou comforted exceedingly.
"He lives! the great Redeemer lives!
What joy the blest assurance gives!"
Trembling penitent, let a living Savior cheer thee. Exercise faith in him who only hath immortality. He lives to hear thy prayer; cry to him, he lives to present that prayer before his Father's face. Put yourself in his hands; he lives to gather together those whom he bought with his blood, to make those the people of his flock who were once the people of his purchase. Sinner, dost thou believe this as a matter of fact? If so, rest thy soul on it, and make it shine as a matter of confidence, and then thou art saved.
4. One more note, and our gospel-song need not rise higher. Jesus died; he rose; he lives; and he lives for ever. He lives for ever. He shall not die again. "Death hath no more dominion over him." Ages shall follow ages, but his raven locks shall never be blanched with years. "Thou hast the dew of thy youth." Disease may visit the world and fill the graves, but no disease or plague can touch the immortal Savior. The shock of the last catastrophe shall shake both heaven and earth, until the stars shall fall like withered fig-leaves from the tree, but nothing shall move the unchanging Savior. He lives for ever. There is no possibility that he should be overcome by a new death.
"No more the bloody spear,
The cross and nails no more;
For hell itself shakes at his name,
And all the heavens adore."
Would it not be a strange doctrine indeed if any man should dream that the Son of God would again offer his life a sacrifice. He dieth no more. This, too, reveals another part of our precious gospel, for now it is certain, since he lives for ever, that no foes can overcome him. He has so routed his enemies and driven his foes off the battle-field, that they will never venture to attack him again. This proves, too, that his people's eternal life is sure. Let Jesus die, and his people die. Let Christ leave heaven, and, O ye glorified ones! ye must all vacate your thrones, and leave your crowns without heads to wear them, and your harps untouched by fingers that shall wake them to harmony. He lives for ever. Oh! seed of Abraham, ye are saved with an everlasting salvation by the sure mercies of David. Your standing in earth and heaven has been confirmed eternally. God is honored, saints are comforted, and sinners are cheered, for "he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them."
Now I would to God that on one of these four anchor-holds your faith might be able to get rest. Jesus died, poor trembler; if he died and took thy griefs, will not his atonement save thee? Rest here. Milhons of souls have rested on nothing but Jesus' death, and this is a granite foundation; no storms of hell can shake it. Get a good handhold on his cross; hold it, and it will hold you. You cannot depend on his death and be deceived. Try it; taste and see, and you shall find that the Lord is good, and that none can trust a dying Savior without being with him in Paradise. But if this suffice you not, he rose again. Fasten upon this. He is proved to be victor over your sin and over your adversary; can you not, therefore, depend upon him? Doubtless there have been thousands of saints who have found the richest consolation from the fact that Jesus rose again from the dead. He rose again for our justification. Sinner, hang on that. Having risen he lives. He is not a dead Savior, a dead sacrifice. He must be able to hear our plea and to present his own. Depend on a living Savior; depend on him now. He lives for ever, and therefore it is not too late for him to save you. If thou criest to him he will hear thy prayer, even though it be in life's last moment, for he lives for ever. Though the ends of the earth were come, and you were the last man, yet he ever lives to intercede before his Father's face. Oh! gad not about to find any other hope! Here are four great stones for you; build your hope on these; you cannot want surer foundations he dies, he rises, he lives, he lives for ever. I tell thee, Soul, this is my only hope, and though I lean thereon with all my weight it bends not. This is the hope of all God's people, and they abide contented in it. Do thou, I pray thee, now come and rest on it. May the Spirit of God bring many of you to Christ. We have no other gospel. You thought it a hard thing, a scholarly thing, a matter that the college must teach you, that the university must give you. It is no such matter for learning and scholarship. Your little child knows it, and your child may be saved by it. You without education, you that can scarce read in the book, you can comprehend this. He dies; there is the cross. He rises; there is the open tomb. He lives; there is the pleading Savior. He lives for ever; there is the perpetual merit. Depend on him! Put your soul in his hand and you are saved.
If I have brought you under the first head of my discourse to a sufficient height; you can now take another step, and mount to something higher; I do not mean higher as to real value, but higher as a matter of knowledge, because it follows upon the fact as a matter of experience.
II. The great facts mentioned in our text represent THE GLORIOUS WORK WHICH EVERY BELIEVER FEELS WITHIN HIM.
In the text we see death, resurrection, life, and life eternal. You observe that the Apostle only mentions these to show our share in them. I will read the text again "Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye yourselves also to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Well, then, it seems that as Christ was, so we also are dead. We are dead to sin because sin can no more condemn us. All the sins which God's people have ever committed dare not accuse, much less can they condemn those for whom Jesus died. Sin can curse an unbeliever, but it has no power so much as to mutter half a curse against a man in Christ. I cannot claim a debt of a dead debtor, and although I be a debtor to the law, yet since I am dead, the law cannot claim anything of me, nor can sin infiict any punisliment upon me. He that is dead, as says the preceding verse, is freed from sin; being dead to sin we are free from all its jurisdiction; we fear not its curse; we defy its power. The true believer in the day when he first came to Christ died to sin as to its power. Sin had been sitting on a high throne in his heart, but faith pulled the tyrant down and rolled him in the dust, and though it still survives to vex us, yet its reigning power is destroyed. From the day of our new birth, if we be indeed true Christians, we have been dead to all sin's pleasures. Madame Bubble can no longer bewitch us. The varnish and gilt have been worn off from the palaces of sin. We defy sin's most skillful enchantments; it might warble sweetest music, but the dead ear is not to be moved by melodies. Keep thy bitter sweets, O earth, for those who know no better delicacies; our mouths find no flavour in your dainties. We are dead to sin's bribes. We curse the gold that would have bought us to be untrutliful, and abhor the comforts which might have been the reward of iniquity. We are dead to its threatenings, too. When sin curses us, we are as little moved by its curses as by its promises. A believer is mortified and dead to the world. He can sing with Cowper
"I thirst, but not as once I did
The vain delights of earth to share;
Thy wounds, Emmanuel all forbid
That I should seek my pleasures there.
It was the sight of thy dear cross
First wean'd my soul from earthly things;
And taught me to esteem as dross
The mirth of fools and pomp of kings."
I am compelled, however, to say that this mortification is not complete. We are not so dead to the world as we should be. Instead of saying here what the Christian is, I think I may rather say what he should be, for where am I to look for men that are dead to the world now-a-days? I see professing Christians quite as fond of riches; I see them almost as fond of gaiety and vanity. Do I not see those who wear the name of Jesus whose dress is as full of vanity as that of the worldling; whose conversation has no more savor of Christ in it than that of the open sinner? I find many who are conformed to this world, and who show but little renewing of their minds. Oh! how slight is the difference now-a-days between the Church and the world! We ought to be, in a spiritual sense, evermore Dissenters dissenting from the world, standing out and protesting against it. We must be to the world's final day Nonconformists, not conforming to its ways and vanities, but walking without the camp, bearing Christ's reproach. Do some of you recollect the day when you died to the world? Your friends thought you were mad. They said you knew nothing of life, so your ungodly friends put you in the sepulclive, and others of them rolled a great stone against you. They from that day put a ban upon you. You are not asked out now where you once were everybody. The seal is put upon you; they call you by some opprobrious epithet, and so far as the world is concerned, you are like the dead Christ; you are put into your grave, and shut out from the world's life. They do not want you any more at their merry-makings, you would spoil the party; you have now become such a Methodist, such a mean hypocrite, as they put it, that they have buried you out of sight, and rolled back the stone, and sealed it, and set watchers at the door to keep you there. Well, and what a blessed thing that is, for if you be dead with Christ you shall also live with him.
If we be thus dead with Christ, let us see that we live with him. It is a poor thing to be dead to the world unless we are alive unto God. Death is a negative, and a negative in the world is of no great use by itself. A Protestant is less than a nobody if he only protests against a wrong; we want a proclaimer, one who proclaims the truth as well as protests against error. And so, if we be dead to sin we must have, also, the life of Christ, and I trust, beloved, we know, and it is not a matter of theory to us I trust we know that in us there is a new life to which we were strangers once. To our body and our soul there has been superadded a spirit, a spark of spiritual life. Just as Jesus had a new life after death, so have we a new life after death, wherewith I trust we rise from the grave. But we must prove it. Jesus proved his resurrection by infallible signs. You and I, too, must prove to all men that we have risen out of the grave of sin. Perhaps our friends did not know us when we first rose from the dead. Like Mary, they mistook us for somebody else. They said, "What! Is this Wilham who used to be such a hectoring, proud, ill-humoured, domineering fellow? Can he put up with our jokes and jeers so patiently?" They supposed us to he somebody else, and they were not far from the mark, for we were new creatures in Christ Jesus. We talked with some of our friends, and they found our conversation so different from what it used to be that it made their hearts burn within them, just as Jesus Christ's disciples when they went to Emmaus. But they did not know our secret; they were strangers to our new life. Do you recollect, Christians, how you first revealed yourselves unto your brethren, the Church? In the breaking of bread they first knew you. That night when the right-hand of fellowship was given to you the new life was openly recognized, and they said "Come in thou blessed of the Lord, wherefore standest thou without?" I trust, in resurrection-life you desire to prove to all men that this is not the common life you lived before, a life which made you serve the flesh and the lusts thereof; but that you are living now with higher aims, and purer intentions, by a more heavenly rule, and with the prospect of a diviner result. As we have been dead with Christ, dear brethren, I hope we have also, in our measure, learned to live with him.
But now, remember, Christ lives for ever, and so do we. Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. The fourteenth verse is wonderfully similar "Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace." Sin made us die once in Adam, but we are not to be slain by it again. If Christ could die now, we could die, but since Christ can never die again, so the believer can never again go back to his old sin. He dies to sin no more; he lives, and sin hath no more dominion over him. Oh! this is a delightful theme! I know not how to express the joy my own heart feels at the sense of security arising from the fact that Christ dies no more. Death hath no more dominion over him; and sin hath no more dominion over me, if I be in Christ. Suppose, my brethren, suppose for a moment that Christ could die again. Bring out your funeral music! Let the muffled drums beat the Dead march! Let the heavens be clothed in sackcloth, and let the verdant earth be robed in blackness, for the atonement, earth's great hope, is incomplete! Christ must die again. The adversaries we thought were routed have gathered their strength again. Death is not dead; the grave is not open; there will be no resurrection! The saints tremble; even in heaven they fear and quake; the crowns upon glorified heads are trembling; the hearts that have been overflowing with eternal bliss are filled with anxiety, for the throne of Christ is empty; angels suspend their songs; the howlings of hell have silenced the shouts of heaven: the fiends are holding high holiday, and they sliviek for very joy "Jesus dies again! Jesus dies again! Prepare your arrows! Empty your Quivers! Come up, Ye legions of hell! The famous conqueror must fight, and bleed, and die again, and we shall overcome him yet!" God is dishonored, the foundations of heaven are removed, and the eternal throne quivers with the shock of Christ subjected to a second death! Is it blasphemy to suppose the case? Yet, my brethren, it were equal blasphemy to suppose a true believer going back again to his old lusts and dying again by sin, for that were to suppose that the atonement were incomplete. I can prove that it involves the very same things; it supposes an unfinished sacrifice, for if the sacrifice be finished, then those for whom it was offered must be saved. It supposes hell triumphant Christ had bought the soul, and the spirit had renewed it, but the devil wipes away the blood of Christ, expels the spirit of the living God, and gets to himself the victory. A saint perish! Then God's promise is not true, and Christ's word is false "I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish;" then the foundations are removed; eternal justice is a name, and the divine honesty is suspected; the purposes of God are frustrated, and the crown of sovereignty rolls in the mire. Weep angels! Be astonished, O heavens! Rock, O ye hills with earthquake! and hell come up and hold riot! for God himself has ceased to be God, since his people perish! "Because I live ye shall live also" is a divine necessity, and if dominion can ever be had by sin over a believer again, then, mark you, death can again have dominion over Christ; but that is impossible; therefore rejoice and be glad, ye servants of God.
You will notice, that as they live, so, like Jesus Christ, they live unto God. This completes the parallel. "In that he liveth he liveth unto God." So do we. The forty days which Christ spent on earth he lived unto God, comforting his saints, manifesting his person, giving forth gospel precepts. For the few days we have to live here on earth we must live to comfort the saints, to set forth Christ, and to preach the gospel to every creature. And now that Christ has ascended he lives unto God; what does that mean? He lives, my brethren, to manifest the divine character. Christ is the permanent revelation of an invisible God. We look at Christ and we see justice, truth, power, love; we see the whole of the divine attributes in him. Christian, you are to live unto God; God is to be seen in you; you are to show forth the divine bowels of compassion, longsuffering, tenderness, kindness, patience; you are to manifest God; living unto God. Christ lives unto God, for he completes the divine purpose by pleading for his people, by carrying on his people's work above. You are to live for the same, by preaching, that sinners may hear and that the elect may live; by teaching that the chosen may be saved; teaching by your life, by your actions, that God's glory may be known, and that his decrees may be fulfilled. Jesus lives unto God, delighting himself in God. The immeasurable joy of Christ in his Father no tongue can tell. Live in the same way, Christian. Delight thyself in the Lord! Be blessed; be happy; rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice. Our Redeemer lives unto God, that is he lives in constant fellowship with God. Cannot you do so too by the Holy Spirit? You are dead to sin; see to it that you live for ever in fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
Now I have been talking riddles to some of you. How many of you understand these things? If any are troubled because they understood the first part and they do trust in Christ's death, but they do not understand the second part ah! beloved, you shall comprehend one of these days; if you are resting on Christ's death, that death shall yet be made mighty in you. But you that have known something of this, I pray you struggle after more. Ask the Lord to mortify you altogether, to fill you with the divine life, and to help you to persevere unto the end. Pray that you may live unto God and unto God alone.
III. Having brought you thus far, there is only one other step to take, and then we have done; let us notice that the facts of which we have spoken are PLEDGES OF THE GLORY WHICH IS TO BE REVEALED IN US.
Christ died. Possibly we shall die. Perhaps we shall not; we may be alive and remain at the coming of the Son of man; but it may be we shall die. I do not think we should be so certain of death as some Christians are, because the Lord's coming is much more certain than our dying. Our dying is not certain, for he may come before we die. However, suppose we shall die: Christ rose, and so shall we.
"What though our inbred sins require
Our flesh to see the dust,
Yet as the Lord our Savior rose,
So all his followers must."
Do not, my brethren, think of the cemetery with tears, nor meditate upon the coffin and the shroud with gloomy thoughts. You only sojourn there for a little season, and to you it will not appear a moment. Your body will sleep, and if men sleep all through a long night it only seems an hour to them, a very short moment. The sleeping-time is forgotten, and to your sleeping-body it will seem no time at all, while to your glorified soul it will not seem long because you will be so full of joy that a whole eternity of that joy would not be too long. But you shall rise again. I do not think we get enough joy out of our resurrection. It will probably be our happiest moment, or rather the beginning of the happiest life that we shall ever know. Heaven is not the happiest place. Heaven at present is happy, but it is not the perfection of happiness, because there is only the soul there, though the soul is full of pleasure; but the heaven that is to be when body and soul will both be there surpasses all thought. Resurrection will be our marriage-day. Body and soul have been separated, and they shall meet again to be re-married with a golden ring, no more to be divorced, but as one indissolubly united body to go up to the great altar of immortality, and there to be espoused unto Christ for ever and ever. I shall come again to this flesh, no longer flesh that can decay, no longer bones that ache I shall come back to these eyes and these ears, all made channels of new delight. Say not this is a materialistic view of the matter. We are at least one-half material, and so long as there is material about us we must always expect joy that shall not only give spiritual but even material delight to us. This body shall rise again. "Can these dry bones live?" is the question of the unbeliever. "They must live," is the answer of faith. Oh! let us expect our end with joy, and our resurrection with transport. Jesus was not detained a prisoner, and therefore no worm can keep us back, no grave, no tomb can destroy our hope. Having he lives, and we shall rise to live for ever. Anticipate, my brethren, that happy day. No sin, no sorrow, no care, no decay, no approaching dissolution! Be lives for ever in God: so shall you and I; close to the Eternal; swallowed up in his brightness, glorified in his glory, overflowing with his love! I think at the very prospect we may well say
"Oh! long-expected day begin,
Dawn on these realms of woe and sin."
We may well cry to him to bid his chariots hasten and bring the joyous season! He comes, he comes, believer! Rejoice with joy unspeakable! Thou hast but a little time to wait, and when thou hast fallen asleep thou shalt leap
"From beds of dust and silent clay,
To realms of everlasting day;"
"Far from a world of grief and sin
With God eternally shut in,
Shalt be for ever blest!"
May the Lord add his blessing, for Jesu's sake. Amen.
The Doctrines of Grace Do Not Lead to Sin
Delivered on Lord's Day Morning, August 19th, 1883, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
"For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid." Romans 6:14-45.6.15 .
Last Sabbath morning I tried to show that the substance and essence of the true gospel is the doctrine of God's grace that, in fact, if you take away the grace of God from the gospel you have extracted from it its very life-blood, and there is nothing left worth preaching, worth believing, or worth contending for. Grace is the soul of the gospel: without it the gospel is dead. Grace is the music of the gospel: without it the gospel is silent as to all comfort. I endeavoured also to set forth the doctrine of grace in brief terms, teaching that God deals with sinful men upon the footing of pure mercy: finding them guilty and condemned, he gives free pardons, altogether irrespective of past character, or of any good works which may be foreseen. Moved only by pity he devises a plan for their rescue from sin and its consequences a plan in which grace is the leading feature. Out of free favour he has provided, in the death of his dear Son, an atonement by means of which his mercy can be justly bestowed. He accepts all those who place their trust in this atonement, selecting faith as the way of salvation, that it may be all of grace. In this he acts, from a motive found within himself, and not because of any reason found in the sinner's conduct, past, present, or future. I tried to show that this grace of God flows towards the sinner from of old, and begins its operations upon him when there is nothing good in him: it works in him that which is good and acceptable, and continues so to work in him till the deed of grace is complete, and the believer is received up into the glory for which he is made meet. Grace commences to save, and it perseveres till all is done. From first to last, from the "A" to the "Z" of the heavenly alphabet, everything in salvation is of grace, and grace alone; all is of free favour, nothing of merit. "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God," "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."
No sooner is this doctrine set forth in a clear light than men begin to cavil at it. It is the target for all carnal logic to shoot at. Unrenewed minds never did like it, and they never will; it is so humbling to human pride, making so light of the nobility of human nature. That men are to be saved by divine charity, that they must as condemned criminals receive pardon by the exercise of the royal prerogative, or else perish in their sins, is a teaching which they cannot endure. God alone is exalted in the sovereignty of his mercy; and the sinner can do no better than meekly touch the silver scepter, and accept undeserved favour just because God wills to give it: this is not pleasant to the great minds of our philosophers, and the broad phylacteries of our moralists, and therefore they turn aside, and fight against the empire of grace. Straightway the unrenewed man seeks out artillery with which to fight against the gospel of the grace of God, and one of the biggest guns he has ever brought to the front is the declaration that the doctrine of the grace of God must lead to licentiousness. If great sinners are freely saved, then men will more readily become great sinners; and if when God's grace regenerates a man it abides with him, then men will infer that they may live as they like, and yet be saved. This is the constantly-repeated objection which I have heard till it wearies me with its vain and false noise. I am almost ashamed to have to refute so rotten an argument. They dare to assert that men will take license to be guilty because God is gracious, and they do not hesitate to say that if men are not to be saved by their works they will come to the conclusion that their conduct is a matter of indifference, and that they may as well sin that grace may abound.
This morning I want to talk a little about this notion; for in part it is a great mistake, and in part it is a great lie. In part it is a mistake because it arises from misconception, and in part it is a lie because men know better, or might know better if they pleased.
I begin by admitting that the charge does appear somewhat probable. It does seem very likely that if we are to go up and down the country, and say, "The very chief of sinners may be forgiven through believing in Jesus Christ, for God is displaying mercy to the very vilest of the vile," then sin will seem to be a cheap thing. If we are everywhere to cry, "Come, ye sinners, come and welcome, and receive free and immediate pardon through the sovereign grace of God," it does seem probable that some may basely reply, "Let us sin without stint, for we can easily obtain forgiveness." But that which looks to be probable is not, therefore, certain: on the contrary, the improbable and the unexpected full often come to pass. In questions of moral influence nothing is more deceptive than theory. The ways of the human mind are not to be laid down with a pencil and compasses; man is a singular being. Even that which is logical is not always inevitable, for men's minds are not governed by the rules of the schools. I believe that the inference which would lead men to sin because grace reigns is not logical, but the very reverse; and I venture to assert that, as a matter of fact, ungodly men do not, as a rule plead the grace of God as an excuse for their sin. As a rule they are too indifferent to care about reasons at all; and if they do offer an excuse it is usually more flimsy and superficial. There may be a few men of perverse minds who have used this argument, but there is no accounting for the freaks of the fallen understanding. I shrewdly suspect that in any cases in which such reasoning has been put forward it was a mere pretence, and by no means a plea which satisfied the sinner's own conscience. If men do thus excuse themselves, it is generally in some veiled manner, for the most of them would be utterly ashamed to state the argument in plain terms. I question whether the devil himself would be found reasoning thus "God is merciful, therefore let us be more sinful." It is so diabolical an inference, that I do not like to charge my fellow-men with it, though our moralist opposers do not hesitate thus to degrade them. Surely, no intelligent being can really persuade itself that the goodness of God is a reason for offending him more than ever. Moral insanity produces strange reasonings, but it is my solemn conviction that very rarely do men practically consider the grace of God to be a motive for sin. That which seems so probable at the first blush, is not so when we come to consider it.
I have admitted that a few human beings have turned the grace of God into lasciviousness; but I trust no one will ever argue against any doctrine on account of the perverse use made of it by the baser sort. Cannot every truth be perverted? Is there a single doctrine of Scripture which graceless hands have not twisted into mischief? Is there not an almost infinite ingenuity in wicked men for making evil out of good? If we are to condemn a truth because of the misbehaviour of individuals who profess to believe it, we should be found condemning our Lord himself for what Judas did, and our holy faith would die at the hands of apostates and hypocrites. Let us act like rational men. We do not find fault with ropes because poor insane creatures have hanged themselves therewith; nor do we ask that the wares of Sheffield may be destroyed because edged tools are the murderer's instruments.
It may appear probable that the doctrine of free grace will be made into a license for sin, but a better acquaintance with the curious working of the human mind corrects the notion. Fallen as human nature is, it is still human, and therefore does not take kindly to certain forms of evil such, for instance, as inhuman ingratitude. It is hardly human to multiply injuries upon those who return us continued benefits. The case reminds me of the story of half-a-dozen boys who had severe fathers, accustomed to flog them within an inch of their lives. Another boy was with them who was tenderly beloved by his parents, and known to do so. These young gentlemen met together to hold a council of war about robbing an orchard. They were all of them anxious to get about it except the favoured youth, who did not enjoy the proposal. One of them cried out, "You need not be afraid: if our fathers catch us at this work, we shall be half-killed, but your father won't lay a hand upon you." The little boy answered, "And do you think because my father is kind to me, that therefore I will do wrong and grieve him? I will do nothing of the sort to my dear father. He is so good to me that I cannot vex him." It would appear that the argument of the many boys was not overpoweringly convincing to their companion: the opposite conclusion was quite as logical, and evidently carried weight with it. If God is good to the undeserving, some men will go into sin, but there are others of a nobler order whom the goodness of God leadeth to repentance. They scorn the beast-like argument that the more loving God is, the more rebellious we may be; and they feel that against a God of goodness it is an evil thing to rebel.
By-the-way I cannot help observing that I have known persons object to the evil influence of the doctrines of grace who were by no means qualified by their own morality to be judges of the subject. Morals must be in a poor way when immoral persons become their guardians. The doctrine of justification by faith is frequently objected to as injurious to morals. A newspaper some time ago quoted a verse from one of our popular hymns
"Weary, working, plodding one,
Why toil you so?
Cease your doing; all was done
Long, long ago.
"Till to Jesus' work you cling
By a simple faith,
'Doing' is a deadly thing,
'Doing' ends in death."
This is styled mischievous teaching. When I read the article I felt a deep interest in this corrector of Luther and Paul, and I wondered how much he had drunk in order to elevate his mind to such a pitch of theological knowledge. I have found men pleading against the doctrines of grace on the ground that they did not promote morality, to whom I could have justly replied, "What has morality to do with you, or you with it?" These sticklers for good works are not often the doers of them. Let legalists look to their own hands and tongues, and leave the gospel of grace and its advocates to answer for themselves.
Looking back in history, I see upon its pages a refutation of the oft-repeated calumny. Who dares to suggest that the men who believed in the grace of God have been sinners above other sinners? With all their faults, those who throw stones at them will be few if they first prove themselves to be their superiors in character. When have they been the patrons of vice, or the defenders of injustice? Pitch upon the point in English history when this doctrine was very strong in the land; who were the men that held these doctrines most firmly? Men like Owen, Charnock, Manton, Howe, and I hesitate not to add Oliver Cromwell. What kind of men were these? Did they pander to the licentiousness of a court? Did they invent a Book of Sports for Sabbath diversion? Did they haunt ale-houses and places of revelry? Every historian will tell you, the greatest fault of these men in the eyes of their enemies was that they were too precise for the generation in which they lived, so that they called them Puritans, and condemned them as holding a gloomy theology. Sirs, if there was iniquity in the land in that day, it was to be found with the theological party which preached up salvation by works. The gentlemen with their womanish locks and essenced hair, whose speech savoured of profanity, were the advocates of salvation by works, and all bedabbled with lust they pleaded for human merit; but the men who believed in grace alone were of another style. They were not in the chambers of rioting and wantonness; where were they? They might be found on their knees crying to God for help in temptation; and in persecuting times they might be found in prison, cheerfully suffering the loss of all things for the truth's sake. The Puritans were the godliest men on the face of the earth. Are men so inconsistent as to nickname them for their purity, and yet say that their doctrines lead to sin?
Nor is this a solitary instance this instance of Puritanism; all history confirms the rule: and when it is said that these doctrines will create sin, I appeal to facts, and leave the oracle to answer as it may. If we are ever to see a pure and godly England we must have a gospelized England: if we are to put down drunkenness and the social evil it must be by the proclamation of the grace of God. Men must be forgiven by grace, renewed by grace, transformed by grace, sanctified by grace, preserved by grace; and when that comes to pass the golden age will dawn; but while they are merely taught their duty, and left to do it of themselves in their own strength, it is labour in vain. You may flog a dead horse a long while before it will stir: you need to put life into it, for else all your flogging will fail. To teach men to walk who have no feet is poor work, and such is instruction in morals before grace gives a heart to love holiness. The gospel alone supplies men with motive and strength, and therefore it is to the gospel that we must look as the real reformer of men.
I shall fight this morning with the objection before us as I shall find strength. The doctrine of grace, the whole plan of salvation by grace, is most promotive of holiness. Wherever it comes it helps us to say, "God forbid," to the question, "Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?" This I would set out in the clear sunlight.
I wish to call your attention to some six or seven points.
I. First, you will see that the gospel of the grace of God promotes real holiness in men by remembering that THE SALVATION WHICH IT BRINGS IS SALVATION FROM THE POWER OF SIN. When we preach salvation to the vilest of men, some suppose we mean by that a mere deliverance from hell and an entrance into heaven. It includes all that, and results in that, but that is not what we mean. What we mean by salvation is this deliverance from the love of sin, rescue from the habit of sin, setting free from the desire to sin. Now listen. If it be so, that that boon of deliverance from sin is the gift of divine grace, in what way will that gift, or the free distribution of it, produce sin? I fail to see any such danger. On the contrary, I say to the man who proclaims a gracious promise of victory over sin, "Make all speed: go up and down throughout the world, and tell the vilest of mankind that God is willing by his grace to set them free from the love of sin and to make new creatures of them." Suppose the salvation we preach be this: you that have lived ungodly and wicked lives may enjoy your sins, and yet escape the penalty that would be mischievous indeed; but if it be this, you that live the most ungodly and wicked lives may yet by believing in the Lord Jesus be enabled to change those lives, so that you shall live unto God instead of serving sin and Satan, what harm can come to the most prudish morals? Why, I say spread such a gospel, and let it circulate through every part of our vast empire, and let all men hear it, whether they rule in the House of Lords or suffer in the house of bondage. Tell them everywhere that God freely and of infinite grace is willing to renew men, and make them new creatures in Christ Jesus. Can any evil consequences come of the freest proclamation of this news? The worse men are, the more gladly would we see them embracing this truth, for these are they who most need it. I say to every one of you, whoever you may be, whatever your past condition, God can renew you according to the power of his grace; so that you who are to him like dead, dry bones, can be made to live by his Spirit. That renewal will be seen in holy thoughts, and pure words, and righteous acts to the glory of God. In great love he is prepared to work all these things in all who believe. Why should any men be angry at such a statement? What possible harm can come of it? I defy the most cunning adversary to object, upon the ground of morals, to God's giving men new hearts and right spirits even as he pleases.
II. Secondly, let it not be forgotten as a matter of fact that THE PRINCIPLE OF LOVE HAS BEEN FOUND TO POSSESS VERY GREAT POWER OVER MEN. In the infancy of history nations dream that crime can be put down by severity, and they rely upon fierce punishments; but experience corrects the error. Our forefathers dreaded forgery, which is a troublesome fraud, and interferes with the confidence which should exist between man and man. To put it down they made forgery a capital offence. Alas for the murders committed by that law! Yet the constant use of the gallows was never sufficient to stamp out the crime. Many offences have been created and multiplied by the penalty which was meant to suppress them. Some offences have almost ceased when the penalty against them has been lightened.
It is a notable fact as to men, that if they are forbidden to do a thing they straightway pine to do it, though they had never thought of doing it before. Law commands obedience, but does not promote it; it often creates disobedience, and an over-weighted penalty has been known to provoke an offence. Law fails, but love wins.
Love in any case makes sin infamous. If one should rob another it would be sufficiently bad; but suppose a man robbed his friend, who had helped him often when he was in need, everyone would say that his crime was most disgraceful. Love brands sin on the forehead with a red-hot iron. If a man should kill an enemy, the offence would be grievous; but if he slew his father, to whom he owes his life, or his mother, on whose breasts he was nursed in infancy, then all would cry out against the monster. In the light of love sin is seen to be exceeding sinful.
Nor is this all. Love has a great constraining power towards the highest form of virtue. Deeds to which a man could not be compelled on the ground of law, men have cheerfully done because of love. Would our brave seamen man the life-boat to obey an Act of Parliament? No, they would indignantly revolt against being forced to risk their lives; but they will do it freely to save their fellow-men. Remember that text of the apostle, "Scarcely for a righteous (or merely just) man will one die: yet peradventure," says he, "for a good (benevolent) man some would even dare to die." Goodness wins the heart, and one is ready to die for the kind and generous. Look how men have thrown away their lives for great leaders. That was an immortal saying of the wounded French soldier. When searching for the bullet the surgeon cut deeply, and the patient cried out, "A little lower and you will touch the Emperor," meaning that the Emperor's name was written on his heart. In several notable instances men have thrown themselves into the jaws of death to save a leader whom they loved. Duty holds the fort, but love casts its body in the way of the deadly bullet. Who would think of sacrificing his life on the ground of law? Love alone counts not life so dear as the service of the beloved. Love to Jesus creates a heroism of which law knows nothing. All the history of the church of Christ, when it has been true to its Lord, is a proof of this.
Kindness also, working by the law of love, has often changed the most unworthy, and therein proved that it is not a factor of evil. We have often heard the story of the soldier who had been degraded to the ranks, and flogged and imprisoned, and yet for all that he would get drunk and misbehave himself. The commanding officer said one day, "I have tried almost everything with this man, and can do nothing with him. I will try one thing more." When he was brought in, the officer addressed him, and said, "You seem incorrigible: we have tried everything with you; there seems to be no hope of a change in your wicked conduct. I am determined to try if another plan will have any effect. Though you deserve flogging and long imprisonment, I shall freely forgive you." The man was greatly moved by the unexpected and undeserved pardon, and became a good soldier. The story wears truth on its brow: we all see that it would probably end so.
That anecdote is such good argument that I will give you another. A drunkard woke up one morning from his drunken sleep, with his clothes on him just as he had rolled down the night before. He saw his only child, his daughter Millie, getting his breakfast. Coming to his senses he said to her, "Millie, why do you stay with me?" She answered, "Because you are my father, and because I love you." He looked at himself, and saw what a sottish, ragged, good-for-nothing creature he was, and he answered her, "Millie, do you really love me?" The child cried, "Yes, father, I do, and I will never leave you, because when mother died she said, 'Millie, stick to your father, and always pray for him, and one of these days he will give up drink, and be a good father to you'; so I will never leave you." Is it wonderful when I add that, as the story has it, Millie's father cast away his drink, and became a Christian man? It would have been more remarkable if he had not. Millie was trying free grace, was she not? According to our moralists she should have said, "Father, you are a horrible wretch! I have stuck to you long enough: I must now leave you, or else I shall be encouraging other fathers to get drunk." Under such proper dealing I fear Millie's father would have continued a drunkard till he drank himself into perdition. But the power of love made a better man of him. Do not these instances prove that undeserved love has a great influence for good?
Hear another story: In the old persecuting times there lived in Cheapside one who feared God and attended the secret meetings of the saints; and near him there dwelt a poor cobbler, whose wants were often relieved by the merchant; but the poor man was a cross-grained being, and, most ungratefully, from hope of reward, laid an information against his kind friend on the score of religion. This accusation would have brought the merchant to death by burning if he had not found a means of escape. Returning to his house, the injured man did not change his generous behaviour to the malignant cobbler, but, on the contrary, was more liberal than ever. The cobbler was, however, in an ill mood, and avoided the good man with all his might, running away at his approach. One day he was obliged to meet him face to face, and the Christian man asked him gently, "Why do you shun me? I am not your enemy. I know all that you did to injure me, but I never had an angry thought against you. I have helped you, and I am willing to do so as long as I live, only let us be friends." Do you marvel that they clasped hands? Would you wonder if ere long the poor man was found at the Lollards' meeting? All such anecdotes rest upon the assured fact that grace has a strange subduing power, and leads men to goodness, drawing them with cords of love, and bands of a man. The Lord knows that bad as men are the key of their hearts hangs on the nail of love. He knows that his almighty goodness, though often baffled, will triumph in the end. I believe my point is proved. To myself it is so. However, we must pass on.
III. There is no fear that the doctrine of the grace of God will lead men to sin, because ITS OPERATIONS ARE CONNECTED WITH A SPECIAL REVELATION OF THE EVIL OF SIN. Iniquity is made to be exceeding bitter before it is forgiven or when it is forgiven. When God begins to deal with a man with a view of blotting out his sins and making him his child, he usually causes him to see his evil ways in all their heinousness; he makes him look on sin with fixed eyes, till he cries with David, "My sin is ever before me." In my own case, when under conviction of sin, no cheering object met my mental eye, my soul saw only darkness and a horrible tempest. It seemed as though a horrible spot were painted on my eyeballs. Guilt, like a grim chamberlain, drew the curtains of my bed, so that I rested not, but in my slumbers anticipated the wrath to come. I felt that I had offended God, and that this was the most awful thing a human being could do. I was out of order with my Creator, out of order with the universe; I had damned myself for ever, and I wondered that I did not immediately feel the gnawing of the undying worm. Even to this hour a sight of sin causes the most dreadful emotions in my heart. Any man or woman here who has passed through that experience, or anything like it, will henceforth feel a deep horror of sin. A burnt child dreads the fire. "No," says the sinner to his tempter, "you once deceived me, and I so smarted in consequence, that I will not again be deluded. I have been delivered, like a brand from the burning, and I cannot go back to the fire." By the operations of grace we are made weary of sin; we loathe both it and its imaginary pleasures. We would utterly exterminate it from the soil of our nature. It is a thing accursed, even as Amalek was to Israel. If you, my friend, do not detest every sinful thing, I fear you are still in the gall of bitterness; for one of the sure fruits of the Spirit is a love of holiness, and a loathing of every false way. A deep inward experience forbids the child of God to sin: he has known within himself its judgment and its condemnation, and henceforth it is a thing abhorrent to him. An enmity both fierce and endless exists between the chosen seed and the serpent brood of evil: hence the fear that grace will be abused is abundantly safeguarded.
IV. Remember also that not only is the forgiven man thus set against sin by the process of conviction, but EVERY MAN WHO TASTES OF THE SAVING GRACE OF GOD IS MADE A NEW CREATURE IN CHRIST JESUS. Now if the doctrine of grace in the hands of an ordinary man might be dangerous, yet it would cease to be so in the hands of one who is quickened by the Spirit, and created anew in the image of God. The Holy Spirit comes upon the chosen one, and transforms him: his ignorance is removed, his affections are changed, his understanding is enlightened, his will is subdued, his desires are refined, his life is changed in fact, he is as one new-born, to whom all things have become new. This change is compared in Scripture to the resurrection from the dead, to a creation, and to a new birth. This takes place in every man who becomes a partaker of the free grace of God. "Ye must be born again," said Christ to Nicodemus; and gracious men are born again. One said the other day, "If I believed that I was eternally saved, I should live in sin." Perhaps you would; but if you were renewed in heart you would not. "But," says one, "if I believed God loved me from before the foundation of the world, and that therefore I should be saved, I would take a full swing of sin." Perhaps you and the devil would; but God's regenerate children are not of so base a nature. To them the abounding grace of the Father is a bond to righteousness which they never think of breaking: they feel the sweet constraints of sacred gratitude, and desire to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. All beings live according to their nature, and the regenerated man works out the holy instincts of his renewed mind: crying after holiness, warring against sin, labouring to be pure in all things, the regenerate man puts forth all his strength towards that which is pure and perfect. A new heart makes all the difference. Given a new nature, and then all the propensities run in a different way, and the blessings of almighty love no longer involve peril, but suggest the loftiest aspirations.
V. One of the chief securities for the holiness of the pardoned is found in the way of CLEANSING THROUGH ATONEMENT. The blood of Jesus sanctifies as well as pardons. The sinner learns that his free pardon cost the life of his best Friend; that in order to his salvation the Son of God himself agonized even to a bloody sweat, and died forsaken of his God. This causes a sacred mourning for sin, as he looks upon the Lord whom he pierced. Love to Jesus burns within the pardoned sinner's breast, for the Lord is his Redeemer; and therefore he feels a burning indignation against the murderous evil of sin. To him all manner of evil is detestable, since it is stained with the Saviour's heart's blood. As the penitent sinner hears the cry of, "Eloi, sabachthani!" he is horrified to think that one so pure and good should be forsaken of heaven because of the sin which he bore in his people's stead. From the death of Jesus the mind draws the conclusion that sin is exceedingly sinful in the sight of the Lord; for if eternal justice would not spare even the Well-beloved Jesus when imputed sin was upon him, how much less will it spare guilty men? It must be a thing unutterably full of poison which could make even the immaculate Jesus suffer so terribly. Nothing can be imagined which can have greater power over gracious minds than the vision of a crucified Saviour denouncing sin by all his wounds, and by every falling drop of blood. What! live in the sin which slew Jesus? Find pleasure in that which wrought his death? Trifle with that which laid his glory in the dust? Impossible! Thus you see that the gifts of free grace, when handed down by a pierced hand, are never likely to suggest self-indulgence in sin, but the very reverse.
VI. Sixthly, a man who becomes a partaker of divine grace, and receives the new nature, is ever afterwards A PARTAKER OF DAILY HELPS FROM GOD'S HOLY SPIRIT. God the Holy Ghost deigns to dwell in the bosom, of every man whom God has saved by his grace. Is not that a wonderful means of sanctifying? By what process can men be better kept from sin than by having the Holy Spirit himself to dwell as Vice-regent within their hearts? The Ever- blessed Spirit leads believers to be much in prayer, and what a power for holiness is found in the child of grace speaking to the heavenly Father! The tempted man flies to his chamber, unbosoms his grief to God, looks to the flowing wounds of his Redeemer, and comes down strong to resist temptation. The divine word also, with its precepts and promises, is a never-failing source of sanctification. Were it not that we every day bathe in the sacred fountain of eternal strength we might soon be weak and irresolute; but fellowship with God renews us in our vigorous warfare with sin. How is it possible that the doctrines of grace should suggest sin to men who constantly draw near to God? The renewed man is also by God's Spirit frequently quickened in conscience; so that things which heretofore did not strike him as sinful are seen in a clearer light, and are consequently condemned. I know that certain matters are sinful to me today which did not appear so ten years ago: my judgment has, I trust, been more and more cleared of the blindness of sin. The natural conscience is callous and hard; but the gracious conscience grows more and more tender till at last it becomes as sensitive as a raw wound. He who has most grace is most conscious of his need of more grace. The gracious are often afraid to put one foot before another for fear of doing wrong. Have you not felt this holy fear, this sacred caution? It is by this means that the Holy Spirit prevents your ever turning your Christian liberty into licentiousness, or daring to make the grace of God an argument for folly.
Then, in addition to this, the good Spirit leads us into high and hallowed intercourse with God, and I defy a man to live upon the mount with God, and then come down to transgress like men of the world. If thou hast walked the palace floor of glory, and seen the King in his beauty, till the light of his countenance has been thy heaven, thou canst not be content with the gloom and murkiness of the tents of wickedness. To lie, to deceive, to feign, as the men of the world do, will no longer beseem thee. Thou art of another race, and thy conversation is above them: "Thy speech betrayeth thee." If thou dost indeed dwell with God, the perfume of the ivory palaces will be about thee, and men will know that thou hast been in other haunts than theirs. If the child of God goes wrong in any degree, he loses to some extent the sweetness of his communion, and only as he walks carefully with God does he enjoy full fellowship; so that this rising or falling in communion becomes a sort of parental discipline in the house of the Lord. We have no court with a judge, but we have home with its fatherhood, its smile and its rod. We lack not for order in the family of love, for our Father dealeth with us as with sons. Thus, in a thousand ways, all danger of our presuming upon the grace of God is effectually removed.
VII. THE ENTIRE ELEVATION OF THE MAN WHO IS MADE A PARTAKER OF THE GRACE OF GOD is also a special preservative against sin. I venture to say, though it may be controverted, that the man who believes the glorious doctrines of grace is usually a much higher style of man than the person who has no opinion upon the matter. What do most men think about? Bread-and-butter, house-rent and clothes. But the men who consider the doctrines of the gospel muse upon the everlasting covenant, predestination, immutable love, effectual calling, God in Christ Jesus, the work of the Spirit, justification, sanctification, adoption, and such like noble themes. Why, it is a refreshment merely to look over the catalogue of these grand truths! Others are as children playing with little sand-heaps on the seashore; but the believer in free grace walks among hills and mountains. The themes of thought around him tower upward, Alps on Alps; the man's mental stature rises with his surroundings, and he becomes a thoughtful being, communing with sublimities. No small matter this, for a thing so apt to grovel as the average human intellect. So far as deliverance from mean vices and degrading lusts must in this way be promoted, I say, it is no small thing. Thoughtlessness is the prolific mother of iniquity. It is a hopeful sign when minds begin to roam among lofty truths. The man who has been taught of God to think will not so readily sin as the being whose mind is buried beneath his flesh. The man has now obtained a different view of himself from that which led him to trifle away his time with the idea that there was nothing better for him than to be merry while he could. He says, "I am one of God's chosen, ordained to be his son, his heir, joint-heir with Jesus Christ. I am set apart to be a king and priest unto God, and as such I cannot be godless, nor live for the common objects of life." He rises in the object of his pursuit: he cannot henceforth live unto himself, for he is not his own, he is bought with a price. Now he dwells in the presence of God, and life to him is real, earnest, and sublime. He cares not to scrape together gold with the muck-rake of the covetous, for he is immortal, and must needs seek eternal gains. He feels that he is born for divine purposes, and enquires "Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do?" He feels that God has loved him that his love may flow forth to others. God's choice of any one man has a bearing upon all the rest: he elects a Joseph that a whole family, a whole nation, nay, the whole world, may be preserved alive when famine had broken the staff of bread. We are each one as a lamp kindled that we may shine in the dark, and light up other lamps.
New hopes come crowding on the man who is saved by grace. His immortal spirit enjoys glimpses of the endless. As God has loved him in time, he believes that the like love will bless him in eternity. He knows that his Redeemer lives, and that in the latter days he shall behold him; and therefore he has no fears for the future. Even while here below he begins to sing the songs of the angels, for his spirit spies from afar the dawn of the glory which is yet to be revealed. Thus with joyous heart and light footstep he goes forward to the unknown future as merrily as to a wedding-feast.
Is there a sinner here, a guilty sinner, one who has no merit, no claim to mercy whatever; is there one willing to be saved by God's free grace through believing in Jesus Christ? Then let me tell thee, sinner, there is not a word in God's book against thee, not a line or syllable, but everything is in thy favour. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," even the chief. Jesus came into the world to save thee. Only do thou trust him, and rest in him. I will tell thee what ought to fetch thee to Christ at once, it is the thought of his amazing love. A profligate son had been a great grief to his father; he had robbed him and disgraced him, and at last he ended by bringing his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. He was a horrible wretch of a son: no one could have been more graceless. However, he attended his father's funeral, and he stayed to hear the will read: perhaps it was the chief reason why he was there. He had fully made up his mind that his father would cut him off with a shilling, and he meant to make it very unpleasant for the rest of the family. To his great astonishment, as the will was read it ran something like this: "As for my son Richard, though he has fearfully wasted my substance, and though he has often grieved my heart, I would have him know that I consider him still to be my own dear child, and therefore, in token of my undying love, I leave him the same share as the rest of his brothers." He left the room; he could not stand it, the surprising love of his father had mastered him. He came down to the executor the next morning, and said, "You surely did not read correctly?" "Yes I did; there it stands." "Then," he said, "I feel ready to curse myself that I ever grieved my dear old father. Oh, that I could fetch him back again!" Love was born in that base heart by an unexpected display of love. May not your case be similar? Our Lord Jesus Christ is dead, but he has left it in his will that the chief of sinners are objects of his choicest mercy. Dying he prayed, "Father, forgive them." Risen he pleads for transgressors. Sinners are ever on his mind: their salvation is his great object. His blood is for them, his heart for them, his righteousness for them, his heaven for them. Come, O ye guilty ones, and receive your legacy. Put out the hand of faith and grasp your portion. Trust Jesus with your souls, and he will save you. God bless you. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON Romans 6:1-45.6.23 .
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 136, 980 645.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Romans 6". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent