Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

are exposed in following Christ are least to be dreaded. "Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer," saith he to the angel of the church in Smyrna; "behold the de"vil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tri"ed, and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful "unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”

Fourthly, The struggling and contention of the apostle with the rulers of the darkness of this world were near their end. Crucifixion is a painful and lingering death, and the metaphor taken from it to express his state with relation to the world, insinuates that he was still wrestling and suffering, but that his wrestlings and sufferings, like those of a man nailed to a cross, were near their end. In renouncing outward advantages for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord, flesh and blood felt themselves hurt. Denying himself the pleasure of ease, the honour of reputation, the enjoyment of relations, and a multitude of other objects in themselves innocent and desirable, occasioned pangs similar, in some of their circumstances, to the anguish of a man in the agonies of death; and hence, in the descriptions of his exercise, he uses the terms striving, wrestling, fighting, warring, and several others, all expressing contention. "For we wrestle not "against flesh and blood." The interests, and reasonings, and solicitations of animal nature, in ourselves and worldly men, are not all the enemies against which we are contending: "We wrestle also against principalities, "against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this "world, against spiritual wickedness in high, places." Christians, who count all things but loss for Christ, notwithstanding the differences in their ranks and situations, are engaged in the same warfare; and while their connection with the world is not dissolved, and while inclinations and propensities toward it work in their members, their contention with its lusts and desires is prolonged, and their vexation and anguish drawn out to the death of the body, when the crucifixion of each to it is completed by the triumphant virtue and glory of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the THIRD place, we shall illustrate the operation of the triumphant and gracious virtue of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and by which Paul was cra

[ocr errors]

cified, and by whom and by which christians are crucified unto the world. In order to illustrate more clearly and extensively the glory of this supernatural and divine operation, of which Christians in Christ Jesus are all conscious, in higher or lower degrees, these distinctions shall be observed: The Hand of an Agent; the Working of a Cause; and the Efficacy of a Mean.—We do not lay down the distinctions as separate foundations, nor shall we build upon them separate doctrines. They are introduced solely for the aid of memory, in retaining various illustrations of that triumphant and gracious virtue, which are condensed in the operation of the cross of Christ upon the crucifixion of believers unto the world.

First, In the operation of this triumphant and gracious virtue, there is the hand of the agent by whom our crucifixion unto the world is effected. Paul did not, and could not crucify himself unto the world. In himself he had neither strength nor courage for this action. The love of Christ was a reigning principle of action in his soul, and, by its sovereign ascendancy over his heart, restrained him from the attempt. To Christ living in hin he ascribed his own living unto God: "I live, yet not I, "but Christ liveth in me;" and to the crucifixion and death of Christ for him, this christian man ascribed his own crucifixion and death unto the world. To the operation of the same gracious and almighty hand, christians ascribe their crucifixion unto the world. This revolution in their heart is not effected by natural reason, nor the power of free will, which the vanity of man supposes to be capable of mighty achievements, but by his hand, and power, and spirit, who loved them, and gave himself for them. By his divine power the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him who created him, is formed, and raised to dominion over the affections and propensities of their hearts; and, by the same power, the old man is subdued, and deprived of dominion, and reduced to the condition of a crucified and dying body. "I am "crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but "Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the "flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved "me and gave himself for me." "Knowing this, that our "old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin."

Secondly, In the operation of this triumphant and gracious virtue, there is the working of the cause by which our crucifixion unto the world is effected. The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is an operating cause, adequate to the production of this great effect in the state of his people. Represented in his cross, and by union with him baptized into his death, they are conformed to his state with respect to the world. Of this conformation an apostle has given a just description in these simple and easy words: "As he is, so are we in this world;" and the description of our Saviour himself, in his prayer, is equally sim→ ple and easy: "They are not of the world, even as I am "not of the world." How gracious is the working of this invisible and effectual cause! The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ dissolves our sinful connections with this present evil world, destroys in us the dominion of its lusts and the force of its terrors, and gives virtue and effect to our struggles and contentions with its spirit, and principles, and manners, until our death unto it be completed. Of these gracious workings, christians, who live in the flesh by the faith of the Son of God, have sound experience, and hearken to the word of exhortation with pleasure. "Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us "in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same "mind, for he who hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased "from sin. That he no longer should live the rest of his "time in the flesh, to the lusts of men, but to the will of "God."

Thirdly, In the operation of this gracious and triumphant virtue, there is the efficacy of a mean, by which our crucifixion unto the world is effected. The doctrine of the humiliation and cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, received with faith and love, and engraven on the heart by the power of his Spirit, is the efficacious mean by which the dominion of worldly lusts is broken, and a shock given to the life of the whole body of sin, similar, in some circumstances, to that which is felt when a person is fixed to a cross with nails. By natural men the mean is despised, and charged with weakness and folly. Never having felt its power, they deny the existence of its power, and imagine, that rational considerations of earthly, compared with heavenly things, are wiser and better expedients for stopping the current of our affections to the world, and turn

ing it back toward the supreme good. But among believers this efficacious instrument of the power and wisdom of God, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a subject of experience, and a ground of triumph. Paul was not ashamed to preach it to the world; and, while Jews stumbled and fell, and Greeks mocked and perished in their own corruption, he both experienced and affirmed "Christ crucified to be the power of God, and the wisdom of "God, to them who are saved, whether Jews or Greeks." He had been alive to the world while a furious and self-righteous Pharisee. Riches, and honor, and pleasure, were the objects which he courted; and his own righteousness was the idol before which he bowed down himself every day. But this mighty instrument of the power of God, the revelation of the riches of the glory of the mystery of the cross of Christ, effected a revolution in his heart, which, under inspiration, is recorded and transmitted by himself for the instruction and admiration of succeeding ages, in this form of expression, "By whom I am crucified unto the world." In their union with Christ, christians enter into the fellowship of this mystery, and participate in the crucifying virtue of his cross. By the gracious and triumphant efficacy of this glorious instrument of wisdom and power, they are crucified unto the world. The stream of their affections is turned into an inverted channel, and, instead of descending to things below, is observed ascending to things above. Hence the exhortation and motive: "Set "your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. "For ye are dead," dead to the law and crucified unto the world, "and your life is hid with Christ in God."

A

After describing the character of the person who is crucified unto the world by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; explaining the nature of his crucifixion unto the world, which is a peculiarity in the christian state; and illustrating the gracious and triumphant virtue of the cross of Christ, by which his crucifixion unto the world is effected, some observations upon the whole shall be considered: Particularly-crucifixion unto the world is a peculiarity of the character of christians in Christ JesusConformation to Christ in crucifixion unto the world is the glory of christians-Conformation to Christ in our Frucifixion unto the world is effected in us by the opera

tion of the virtue of his cross-The virtue of his cross, which effects our crucifixion unto the world, is enjoyed by believing and glorying in his cross; and-From our crucifixion unto the world, as a work effected in us by the virtue of the cross of Christ, is derived virtue to crucify ourselves unto the world, as a duty of obedience to the law of Christ.-An illustration of each of these observations, will, by the blessing of God, be useful and edifying.

First, Crucifixion unto the world is a peculiarity of the character of christians in Christ Jesus. In the character of no other description of men doth it exist. Upon the face of the conversations of professors who are not in Christ, and even of heathens who are alienated from him, likenesses to the external part of it may be painted. But these are not deeper than fair shews in the flesh: Contempt of riches, indifference for rank and distinction, and deadness to fleshly lusts, denying ourselves some earthly pleasures, do not come up to crucifixion unto the world, which is a peculiarity of the christian character. This peculiarity transcends the paintings both of hypocrisy and philosophy, and appears no where but upon the face of conversations in Christ. None, except men in Christ, are crucified; and all in him are spiritually crucified unto the world. Their fellowship with the men of it is dissolved; their love to the things of it is expiring; their apprehensions of its ill-will toward them are dying; and their contention with its spirit, and powers, and manners, is hastening to the end. "This I say, brethren, the time is "short. It remaineth that both they who have wives, be "as though they had none; and they who weep, as though "they wept not; and they who rejoice, as though they re"joiced not; and they who buy, as though they possessed "not; and they who use this world as not abusing it; for the "fashion of this world, passeth away." "And the world "passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he who doth the "will of God abideth for ever." This crucifixion doth not obstruct the course of exchange, nor dissolve the duties of commerce. The comforts of life are not touched by it, nor christians rendered insensible of the blessings of ease, honour, and affluence. Our rank in the world is not affected by our crucifixion unto it, nor is the use of any good things furnished by the providence of God prohibited. Obligations to industry continue in their vigour,

« AnteriorContinua »