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how little attention is excited to the important subject! how few are disposed to profit by their instructions!
St. Paul wrote the epistle, from which our text is taken, when a prisoner at Rome for preaching the gospel: for in both ancient and modern times, and in almost every place, men are allowed, without disturbance, to corrupt the principles and morals of numbers; but he, who zealously lays himself out to make known “ the word of the truth of the gospel," and to “ call sinners to repentance, and works meet “ for repentance," must expect opposition and perse. cution: so, that, even in this favoured land of liberty, and under our good laws and mild governors, re. proach and contempt never fail to be the reward of such diligent labourers, however spotless their charac. ter, and unexceptionable their measures. What a striking proof and illustration of the scriptural doctrine, that Satan is the god and prince of this world!
But the apostle, besides his imprisonment, had other trials to support; and among the rest, there arose some teachers, who“ preached the gospel from “ envy and strife, supposing to add affliction to his “ bonds.”
Yet even this could not disconcert him; nay, he re. joiced that in every way Christ was preached. We must suppose that on the whole their doctrine was sound, though their motives were corrupt and their conduct base: and, provided Christ were honoured and sinners converted, the apostle was ready to submit to any personal degradation; nay, he knew, that even the misconduct of these teachers would turn to his salvation, through the prayers of his people, "and
* the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Thus far he was satisfied that all was gain to him. He then. breaks forth in these remarkable words: “ According “ to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing “ I shall be ashamed; but that with all boldness, as " always so now also, Christ shall be magnified in my “ body, whether it be by life or death; for to me to “ live is Christ, and to die is gain.” As if he had said, “Whether I be gradually worn out by incessant ·labours, hardships, and sufferings, or at once cut 'down by a violent death: provided this poor body
may be an instrument of honouring my beloved * Saviour, I am fully satisfied. This is all I desire to
live for; and as to death, I know that, that. too will
be my gain, my greatest gain!' “ For if I live in the ,“ flesh, this is the fruit of my labour,” (or this is worth my while) “ yet what I shall choose I wot not: “ for I have a desire,” (an ardent longing) " to de. “ part and to be with Christ, which is far better: ne“ vertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for “ you.” You observe, that the apostle expected to be with Christ, as soon as he ceased to abide in the flesh; and that he longed especially to be with Christ, as the source of his felicity.
A criminal justly condemned to an ignominious death, but pardoned and restored to full favour by the singular grace of his offended sovereign, longs for liberty, pure air, and all the comforts which he is warranted to expect on his release: yet, if his continuance in the prison, and enduring all its inconveniences, may conduce to the honour of his benefactor and the substantial good of his fellow prisoners; he is
willing to forego his own gratification, from pure motives of grateful zeal and compassionate love. This seems an apt illustration of the apostle's excellent frame of mind, when he wrote the words under our consideration. This attention to the context will, I trust, make way for our entering more readily and fully into the meaning of the words, which I first read to you: “ To me to live is Christ, and to die is " gain.” And in further discoursing on them I shall consider distinctly the two clauses of the sentence.
I. Then, To me to live is Christ.
The concise and energetick way, in which the sacred writers express themselves on subjects which are remote froni ihre apprehension of men in general, fre. quently causes them to appear obscure; and their language in some instances is of that nature, which, had it been first used by some modern teacher, would have been by many considered as words without ideas. For instance, were not this declaration, “ To me to “ live is Christ,” sheltered under the venerable name of the apostle Paul, who is generally spoken of with respect even by those who oppose his doctrines, it would doubtless have excited exclamations concerning the mystical language of enthusiasts. Yet the declaration, when soberly explained, by comparison with other parts of scripture, and of the apostle's writings in particular, contains the most important meaning, and conveys in a very emphatical manner the most valuable instruction. “But the natural man " receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for - they are foolishness to him; neither can he know " them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
A passage, in many respects like this part of our text, may open the way to our subject: “ I am cruci.
fied 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."'* This re. markable verse contains two particulars, which are implied in the clause “ To me to live is Christ.” Conscious of having forfeited the favour and incurred the wrath of God, by violating the divine law in his past life, and also, that his present obedience was very far from perfect: the apostle declares that he expected eternal life and all things pertaining to it, entirely by faith in the Son of God, by a firm belief of the record which God had given of his Son, and by an habituals reliance on him for all the blessings of salvation: so that while in the Aesh, and exposed to temptation through its weakness, he relied on Christ, and came to him for pardon, acceptance, and grace, as to that Saviour who “ loved him and gave himself for him.”
Thus he was enabled to maintain a joyful hope of heavenly felicity, and to persevere in his christian course, which in no other way could be ever have done.
In this sense, “ To me to live is Christ,” implies, that the righteousness, atonement, and intercession of Christ, embraced and habitually relied on, was the only foundation on which he rested his hope of finding mercy, escaping deserved urath, and obtaining eternal life. “This is the record, that God hath
* Gal. ii. 20.
có given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son; He “ that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the « Son of God hath not life.” “The wages of sin is “ death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through “ Jesus Christ our Lord.”_“God so loved the world " that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever “ believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal “ life.”
The former part of the same verse contains an idea, which he expresses with some variation in another place. “ If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those " things which are above:--for ye are dead, and your “ life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who “ is our Life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear " with him in glory."*
Christ was the Source of spiritual life to the apostle. “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” By the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, and by the instructions and encouragements of the gospel, he was risen to a new and divine life. His former principles of activity and sources of enjoyment were crucified, in conformity to the crucifixion of his Saviour. He was no longer actuated by ambition or covetousness, or by malignant or sensual passions; all these he hated, opposed, and mortified, “ Nevertheless he “ lived:” he was extremely active, and full of hope and joy: “ Yet not I," says he, “ but Christ liveth " in me." - The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” had so enlightened his mind, subdued his will, and purified his affections, that Christ lived in him, as the Owner and Director of all his powers and faculties,
* Col. iii. 1-4.