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Scripture to be the old man; the man which only lived before the regeneration by Christ Jesus : Rom. vi. 6. Eph. iv. 22.
This is the state of nature described in Scripture. It is plain that this old man, or man of sin, must be destroyed on the appearance of Christ Jesus, to make way for the Spirit of righteousness : thus to destroy the old man, and to restore the decayed image of God, what is it but to new-make the man, and by a second creation restore him to the privileges of the first, forfeited by sin ? For this reason the Christian is said to be a new creature : 2 Cor. v. 17. Gal, iv. 23, 24. vi. 15. We are said even to put on Christ, from the similitude of will and affections between Christ and his true members : Gal. iii. 27. From this account it is easy to understand the propriety of the words or phrases made use of to express these two conditions. We read that we were dead before the knowlege of Christ ; that we died and were buried with Christ : again, that we rose with Christ, and are alive in him. The apparent inconsistency of these assertions may be reconciled by our taking the same view of man as the Scripture does. Man was created after the image of God; but on disobedience he became subject to sin. This then was the death of the man created after God's image, who lay buried under the ruins of sin and iniquity; and this was the death of the world before the knowlege of Christ. The life of the world at the coming of Christ was the life of sin, which he came to destroy: Gal. v. 24.; and we are said to die with Christ and to be buried with him, because we renounce that life. Thus dying to sin, we begin again to live unto God, and are therefore said to be made alive in Christ, and to rise together with him. This change, which we had no power even to wish for, was effected by Christ alone, who dying on the cross for all, all are said to be crucified with him : Heb. ii. 9. 2 Cor. v. 14. The way to attain to the benefits of Christ's death, as St. Paul tells us, is to be conformable unto his death; and to do this, we must put off the old man, and put on the new man, who is created after righteousness. This St. Paul, Rom. vi., styles, being planted in the likeness of his death, and in the likeness of his resurrection. To this he refers, Rom. viii. 29. and Rom xiii. Many other places also must be opened with this key. The very essence of Christianity consists in this conformity with Christ; and therefore baptism, which is our admission to the gospel, is only a solemn taking on ourselves this conformity, as we learn from St. Paul, Rom, vi. To walk in newness of life is our conformity to the resurrection of Christ, which was to new life and glory : Rom. vi. 9-12. As the resurrection of Christ was to perpetual life, so our first resurrection must be perpetual holiness. This account of the Scripture language, and of the reasons on which it is founded, will make clear to us many otherwise intricate passages.
For instance, when we read of two deaths and two resurrections, we shall understand the death of the body and the death unto sin ; the resurrection to life eternal hereafter, and the resurrection to righteousness in this world. I am crucified to the world, says St. Paul, and the world to me: and St. John says, whosoever is born of God, that is, whoever has attained the new life through Christ, overcometh the world. St. Paul tells us that the Spirit of God will quicken our mortal bodies, as well as our dead bodies. This is not to be understood without referring to the first resurrection, as explained above; and again, Phil. iii. 10. 11. can be explained only by what has been said of our being made conformable to the death and resurrection of Christ, by rising to holiness and righteousness. The power of Christ's resurrection in producing good effects on those that feel it, is described in v. 20.; and is what the Apostle to the Hebrews calls, tasting the powers of the world to come.
To understand St. Paul when he says, those that fall from their faith crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to open shame, we must have recourse to the Scripture representation as before explained.
By receiving the faith, we put on Christ, crucifying the old man and his deeds; by deserting the faith, returning to our former deeds, and again putting on the old man, we again crucify Christ with his deeds, and put him to open shame. The various expressions to this effect in the gospel are only to be understood by analogy to this notion. Our death, burial, and
, resurrection with Christ having been discussed, the Apostle in the text carries the metaphor still one degree higher ; arguing that, since we are dead to the world, and alive to Christ through the Spirit of holiness, we must act like members of Christ, and set our affections on things above, where Christ our life is ascended : hence it is that St. Paul so often exclaims against the absurdity of a Christian's living in sin ; for the Christian has crucified and buried the body of sin. How then, says he, shall we who are dead to sin, continue any longer therein? Sin alone has power to separate the Christian from his Saviour. Holiness is as necessary to our spiritual life as food to our natural life. How just therefore is the Apostle's conclusion in the text: If we be risen with Christ, that is, if we be with him, we must seek the things which are above.
COLOSSIANS, CHAP. III.-VERSE 1.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above,
where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
How much the metaphorical language of Scripture has been mistaken, and what errors and absurdities men have fallen into, under pretence of adhering to the literal sense, is well known. The words of the text are hardly capable of being so abused; for it is not possible to imagine that St. Paul should intend to tell the Colossians, or that the Colossians should believe him if he did, that they lived no longer in this world, but were, in the literal sense, men raised from the dead. But as our state and condition in this world is often set forth in the Scriptures in metaphorical language, it has not fared so well in all parts of it, but men have sometimes lost sight of the metaphor, and raised very absurd notions from a literal interpretation, as I shall have occasion to observe to you in treating on this subject.
The words now read to you are an inference from what had been before said, as is evident from the manner in which they are introduced : ' If ye then be risen with Christ.' It is plain likewise that they must refer to something which had been said of our resurrection with or in Christ : for this conclusion supposes that doctrine already laid down and established. To find this connexion, we must look back as far as the middle of the foregoing chapter, where the doctrine referred to in the text is plainly declared. At the tenth and following verses thus you will read : “And ye are complete in him, (that is, in Christ Jesus) which is the head of all principality and power. In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the
circumcision of Christ. Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead : and you, being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses. From this the inference in the text naturally follows; • If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.'
For the explication of these words, it will be necessary to set before you the representation which the Scripture makes of the natural state and condition of man, and of his gospel state on his becoming a Christian.
In the state of nature the Scripture represents men, Eph. iv. 17. 18. as walking in the vanity of their minds. Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through ignorance and blindness of heart.' As 'walking according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience:'chap. ii. 2. As 'children of wrath, having their conversation in the lust of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind :' ver. 3. As strangers to the covenants of promise, as having no hope, and without God in the world :' ver. 12. As 'servants of sin, yielding their members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity, unto iniquity: Rom. vi. 19. 20. And because the end of these things is death, therefore this state of sin is called likewise a state of death : You hath he quickened,' says our Apostle, who were dead in trespasses and sins :' Eph. ii. 1. The same he repeats at the fifth verse. Whilst men were thus dead to God and unto themselves, they lived only to sin and unrighteousness. Sin therefore is said to reign in them,' to have dominion over them.' The natural passions and affections in this state of corruption were but the instruments of sin, in all things subservient; and therefore are said to constitute the body of sin, that body over which sin, as the soul or active principle, had intire rule and dominion. Thus we read, Rom. vi. 6. • The old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.' And in the second of the Colossians, and eleventh verse, we are said to put off the body of the sins of the