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lie to your words, and prayers, and professions, and even your feelings. When you find that by the blessing of God you are actually getting into a way of doing right things that are unpleasant to you, and refraining from pleasant sins, and all for Jesus Christ's sake, then come humbly yet cheerfully to His altar for grace to help you in that good way. Surely, if persevered in, it will prove the way of everlasting life.
SÉR MON CCXVI.
CHRIST OUR RÉSURRECTION FROM SIN.
PREACHED ON EASTER MONDAY.
ROMANS vi. 10, 11.
“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.”
The second part of the Church's Easter Anthem, (the beginning of which I tried to explain yesterday,) relates to the time present. It is St. Paul's account of what our Saviour now is, and what we ought to be. Our Saviour is once for all delivered from death, immortal and glorious in heaven with His FathĖR. We,. therefore, are to consider ourselves as once for all freed from the bonds and dominion of sin ; enabled, by God's grace, to serve Him faithfully. “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.”
So much of this Divine sentence as relates to our Lord and Saviour, we are ready enough to receive and acknowledge. That He rose from the dead, and is gone up into Heaven, never to die any more, but to reign in bliss with His Father for ever and ever, this the Scripture tells us plainly, and we find no difficulty in believing it. But the lesson, the instruction, which the holy Apostle draws from this truth, is by no means so easy
to be received. Because Christ is glorified in Heaven, we are to reckon ourselves dead unto sin. Because He never can die any more, God and His Church expect of us, that we should not pollute ourselves by wilful habitual sin. How is that? If it were not in the Scripture, I make no doubt it would seem to many at first sight like a kind of pleasant dream, a mere imagination of well-disposed persons, knowing nothing at all of the world. Dead to sin ! and alive to God only! How does such language agree with the ordinary course of things around us, with the conduct and temper of the Christian world ?
No doubt, things go on better than they would if the Gospel had never been known. The world is a much more comfortable world to live in, than it would be if our Saviour had never appeared in it. But still, looking at the ordinary sort of Christians, and considering the temptations they are placed in, is it not throwing words away to talk of such complete repentance, such thorough change of heart, as must be meant by a death unto sin ? Would it not be better to take a lower tone, and ask people for something more likely to be obtained from them? Is it not throwing them into despair, when the state and condition of a Christian is described as something so very much more perfect than any thing we really see or experience ?
Such is the way in which many persons would speak, if they dared, of the high language of Scripture; such is the censure which they really do pass on those who try to bring Scripture home to them, and speak to them in earnest of Christian perfection. They turn a deaf ear to such instructions, saying, It is more than human nature will bear. It is plain that they say one thing, and the Bible and the Church say just the contrary. These persons say, It is in vain to demand great things of mortal man, pent up in a frail body, and encompassed with the wants and cares of the world. The Bible and the Church say, (and they do but repeat the words of our Saviour and of His Holy Spirit,) “Be ye perfect as your FATHER in Heaven is perfect: You are dead to sin ; how should you live any longer therein ?"
Now, every Christian can judge for himself, whether it must not be much safer to take God at His own word, however contrary it may seem to the way of the world, than to bend and lower and pervert the Scriptures in accommodation to that world, acknowledged as it is to be corrupt and in enmity with God. You must see, that if the Bible says, A Christian as such is dead to sin, so it must be, in spite of objections and difficulties; and you ought, in spite of temptations and misgivings, to try and behave as if it were so.
What I mean will be better understood, if I try to show the exact meaning of this expression, “dead to sin.” And it is the more desirable to do so, as the expression is found in the Church Catechism. The spiritual grace of Baptism is there said to be “a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness.” What is this death unto sin ?
According to St. Paul's manner of speaking, a man is said to be dead to a thing, when he is quite cut off and separated from it, so that it is a matter not to be thought of, for him any longer to act or behave as if he had any concern with that thing. Thus he says, in one place, he was dead to the law of Moses ; meaning that it was out of the question, his being any longer under the Jews' religion. And here, “ Christ died once for all, to sin ;” meaning, that at that awful moment of our LORD's expiring on the Cross, sin, that is, our sin laid upon Him, ceased for ever to have dominion over Him. Of the stain and guilt of sin He never knew any thing, for He was a Lamb without blemish and without spot; and from that moment He knew no more of the punishment due to sin, which He had endured in such bitterness for our sake. In a word, when He died, He died to sin.
And we, when we are baptized, are said also to die to sin : because we enter then into a condition, by which God intends to separate us from sin, and gradually to improve our nature, so that it shall be as much out of the question for us to sin wilfully, as for a dead body to do the actions of a living one. That by which God graciously purposes so to improve our fallen nature, is the gift of His Holy SPIRIT : of which we know by His Son's own words that the water of Baptism is a lively and effectual sign. “ For except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Therefore Baptism is a death unto sin, because it seals to us the aid of that Holy Spirit, sin's deadly and prevailing enemy, and puts men in a way, by His grace, to destroy and abolish the whole body of sin.
But if this be so, it is very plain that a baptized Christian is put into a state, which makes it utterly absurd for him ever to use the plea of natural infirmity, by way of excuse for bad habits or wilful sin. A Jew or a Heathen might say, “To will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not,” A Christian, as a Christian, cannot, dare not, say so. When St. Paul used those words, he was showing how a Jew or a Heathen might speak : and in the very next sentence, he acknowledges God's mercy in having delivered him from that body of death. Let no baptized Christian imagine that he may go on meaning well and doing ill, and yet be as good as St. Paul was.
It is true, indeed, a baptized Christian, after continually grieving God's blessed Spirit, and inviting bad habits and evil spirits to make their abode in his heart, may feel as wretched and helpless as any Heathen : but he must not plead his wretchedness and helplessness as any kind of excuse for his sin, nor must he give way to the feeling of it, so as to slacken his endeavours to amend. As long as God gives him life and continues him in His Church, so long, depend on it, there is hope, let his feelings be never so wretched : only let him persevere night and day in real endeavours to amend his ways, real application to God for His grace. Let him not go by his feelings, but when he seems to himself coldest and most desolate, still let him cling, like a drowning man, to the promise made him in that Sacrament, and let him, with deep shame and humiliation, seek pardon through the Cross of our REDEEMER. The blessed Spirit, however grieved, will not be deaf to such prayers. He will return by little and little, and help such a penitent to amend his ways, and really and practically, in some good measure, to live like one dead unto sin.
But, I repeat it, if he continue hardened, or if he wilfully permit himself to relapse, let him not flatter himself that he is but where he would be, if he were a mere Heathen, ignorant of our Saviour. Christ has HIMSELF settled that point. “It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for those who knew Him and repented not.” A bad Christian is not a Heathen, but something a great deal worse, and more miserable. And if all Christians were bad together, this would not at all contradict the saying, that Christianity as such is dying to sin : it would not at all lessen our danger--the danger, I