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SERMON III. *
PHIL, i. 21.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
MANKIND universally seek for happiness. This is the end they have in view, in all their designs and in all their labours. The heathen philosophers endeavoured to find the “supremegood;" and various were the absurd fancies of fallen reason.
Like the world at the present day, they placed the greatest attainable happiness, in various modifications of created good and creature
This sermon was preached in support of parochial Schools --The subject corresponds to that of the first question in the Heidelberg Catechism; and from which the general idea was taken. Vide Appendix C,
enjoyments. Some conceived the supreme good to consist in sensual pleasure; and thus degraded man to the condition of the brute creation. Others accounted it to consist in the possession of riches : whilst some, of a more refined and delicate texture of mind, placed it in having attained a good reputation among mankind, and a character for the strictest morals and veracity; thus deifying the fallible opinion of mortal man. And the highest point to which these vain speculations of fallen reason ever ascended, consisted in ascribing true happiness to the habitual practice of moral virtues ; which, without a revealed code, would depend on the faint light of natural conscience. And as conscience depends on the judgment, and the judgment on knowledge, these exalted heathen delighted in the approval of reason, and thus ascribed to the created mind of man, the worship due to the Creator.
But, the glorious light of the gospel has shone amidst this midnight darkness.
The Sun of righteousness has arisen, “as a light to lighten the Gentiles, and as the glory of His people Israel.”
To be united to Christ by spiritual regeneration, is now revealed as the only supreme good, the only source of lasting happiness and of true comfort, either in life or in death. This is declared in the words of my text : “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” By neglecting, however, the arbitrary punctuation of the Greek, the Apostle's meaning would perhaps be better expressed, by translating the original thus: "For Christ is to me, both in life and in death, gain.” This translation may consequently be paraphrased in the following manner. CHRIST is the only source of true comfort and of lasting happiness, both in life and in death. And thus is He represented in the Proverbs, under the personification of Wisdom. “Happy is the man that findeth Wisdom, (or CHRIST,) for the merchandise of It is better than the merchandise of silver,
and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies : and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto Her. Length of days is in Her right hand ; and in Her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasanlness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon Her : and happy is every one that retaineth Her.”
In dividing the subject of my text, I sball consider :
1st, Wherein this gain consists.
2ndly, What is necessary to the attainment of this unspeakable blessing.
And 3rdly, I shall apply this subject, to the promotion of the scriptural education of the poor children among you; as a means for their attaining, by the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit, the gain mentioned in my text.
The great Apostle here declares, that Christ was gain to him, both in life
and in death. “For Christ is gain to me, in life and in death." And I am first to consider wherein this gain consists.
We have in Rom. xiv. 7, 8, 9, an exact parallel to the words of my text. "For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the LORD; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end CHRIST both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living." And again, in 1 Thess. v. 9, 10: "For God hath not appointed us unto wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus CHRIST, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him."
Hence it appears that the “gain," mentioned in my text, consists in the unspeakable blessing of belonging to Christ, in body, soul and spirit ; so that, whether we live in prosperity or