We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
I. ST. PAUL'S CONCEPTION OF OUR LORD'S LIFE. It had been a daily dying which nevertheless showed up himself, in the glory of his character and spirit. The dying manifested to men the life that was in him. St. Paul had, probably, never seen Christ in the flesh, but it was given to him, by his fellowship of suffering, to understand better than all the rest what a suffering Saviour Jesus was. It is St. Paul who writes so much about the cross of the Lord Jesus. He dwells oftener than any other early teacher upon our Lord's death, but when you apprehend his meaning, you find that he looked upon Christ's whole life as a dying. He saw that Jesus was every day dying to self, dying with shame, pain, exhaustion, conflict, and agony. And you do not read Christ's life aright unless you can see in it what St. Paul saw., even humiliation, limitation, suffering, burdening it every day, But that was not all St, Paul's conception of Christ. In that, standing alone, he could have found no rest, no inspiration. He saw also this, that our Lord's sufferings were just the dark background that threw out so perfectly, with such well-defined lines and graceful forms, his noble spirit, his Divine character, his sublime sonship, his blessed life. And so he could speak calmly, even triumphantly, of the suffering Saviour, and glory in the dying of the Lord Jesus, through which the life of Jesus found its highest and best manifestations. How much a picture depends upon its background! Fill the front with the most exquisite figures or landscape, still all the tone and character and impression of the figure will depend upon its background. You may so paint as to leave the forms and figures indistinct and uncertain. You may throw out into prominence the special thought or truth which you seek to embody in form; your picture may be calm morning, hot noonday, flushed evening, tender twilight, or gathering night, according to your background. St. Paul felt what shadows of suffering and woe lay all behind that life of his Lord; but they helped him to see the glory of Christ himself; they seemed to bring out so clearly the Divine and blessed life that was in him. Illustrate by the language of Isaiah 53. and Philippians 2:5-11. Also from the scenes of Gethsemane and Calvary. The Captain of our salvation was made perfect, to our view, through suffering.
II. ST. PAUL'S CONCEPTION OF HIS OWN LIFE. He could wish nothing better for himself than that what was true of Christ might be true of him, and that his sufferings, too, might show up his character and help to make him a blessing and a power for good. St. Paul never could glory in mere suffering. Suffering is grievance and loss. But if they could be like Christ's sufferings, not merely borne for him, and in the doing of his work, but actually like his, and ordained by God to be the same to him, and to others through him, as Jesus' sufferings did! The apostle felt he could glory in that. And this is the view of suffering that we also need to gain. Our troubles and sorrows are as the dying of the Lord Jesus. Once laying hold of this, we find that we have one thing to be supremely anxious about - it is that our dying shall show up Christ's life in us, shall make the Christly virtues and graces manifest in our mortal flesh. We have our sorrows. Does our character shine out clearly on the darkness of them? Do men see and feel our "whiteness" by the contrast of them? Are we beautiful with a Divine patience, and fragrant with a Divine sweetness, in the very darkness? On the background of our pain do men see our submission? In the hour of our disappointment do we show up to men our trust in God? When heart and flesh fail does the sanctifying Spirit of Christ make our very faces glow with the heavenly light? Is it true of us that the "life of Jesus is manifested in our mortal flesh"? - R.T.
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.
I. WE MAY BEAR ABOUT THE MEMORY OF IT.
1. Nothing can be more plain than that we ought never to forget our Redeemer's death. When some one very near to you died, even after the first shock was past, and you could once more with some measure of calmness set yourself to your common duties again, did you not still feel, in the greater sympathy with the sorrows of others, in the quieter mood, that you had not quite got over your trial, that you were still bearing about with you the dying of the dear one that was gone?
2. The remembrance of our Lord's death should influence all our views and doings. The kind mother who wore out her life in toiling for her child might well think that the child might sometimes come and stand by her grave, and remember her living kindness and her dying words when she was far away. And oh! when we think what our Saviour Christ has done for us by His dying — when we think that every hope, every blessing, was won for us by that great sacrifice — surely we might well determine that we never shall live as if that death had never been! You hear people say — truly enough, perhaps — that this world has never been the same to them since such a loved one died — that their whole life has been changed since then. It is sad to see a Christian living in such a fashion as to show plainly that he has quite forgot how his Redeemer died!(1) When we think of sin, let us see it in the light of Christ's death, and hate it because it nailed Him to the tree.(2) Or is it suffering and sorrow that come to us, and are we ready to repine and to rebel? Then let us call to mind the dying of our Redeemer, and it will not seem so hard that the servant should fare no better than the Master.(3) Or are we pressed with the sense of our sinfulness and the fear of God's wrath for sin? Then let us remember how Jesus died for us, the just for the unjust — how His blood can take all sin away.
II. WE MAY SHOW IN OUR DAILY LIFE ITS TRANSFORMING POWER. Our whole life, changed and affected in its every deed by the fact that Christ died, may be a standing testimony that there is a real power to affect the character in the death of the Saviour; and thus we may, in a very true and solemn sense, be always bearing about with us His death by bearing about with us a soul which is what it is mainly because He died.
1. When in the view of the Cross we see how bitterly and mysteriously evil and ruinous sin is, surely the practical lesson is plain that we should resolutely tread it down, and earnestly seek for deliverance from the curse of that fearful thing which brought such unutterable agony upon our Redeemer, and constantly pray for that blessed Spirit who will breathe new life into every good resolution, and vivify into sunlight clearness every sound and true belief.
2. When sorrow and suffering come, think of them as in the presence of the Redeemer's death, and you will learn the lesson of practical resignation.
3. And in days of fear and anxiety, when you do not know how it will go with you, look to Jesus on the Cross, and learn the lesson of practical confidence in God's disposing love and wisdom.
4. And, to sum up all, let us daily bear about His dying by dying to sin and living to holiness. That is the grand conformity which is open to all of us — that is the fashion in which we may be "crucified with Christ." Conclusion: "Always." Yes, always bear it; never lay that burden down. Always bear it; not in sourness — not in that hard, severe type of religion which we may see in some mistaken and narrow-hearted believers. Bear it in humility, kindness, charity, hopefulness, and cheerfulness.
(A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)
I. BY CHERISHING FAITH IN A CRUCIFIED SAVIOUR.
1. The death of Christ is —(1) The most wonderful of all facts, and we should not be warranted to believe it unless it were authenticated to us by Divine testimony.(2) The most interesting. It is the foundation of all that is dear to man. It is the most interesting of all the facts that are recorded, not only in human narrative, but in the Book of God and in the annals of the universe.(3) The most influential. It spreads itself through the whole revelation and economy of God, and pervades the moral government of the Most High. It is in the Book of God the first, if not in point of order, yet of importance. "I delivered to you, first of all, how that Christ died for our sins," etc.
2. To cherish faith in this fact, then, is the first duty of man, and by so doing we become partakers of the sufferings of Christ.
II. BY A CONTINUED REMEMBRANCE OF THIS GREAT EVENT. That which we believe most assuredly, in which we feel the deepest interest, and to which we give the highest placed will be best remembered by us; and the death of Christ, possessing all those requisites, with a good man will impress itself deeply on his mind. To help us in this great exercise is the most obvious design of the Lord's Supper. If we forget Jesus who died for us, whom and what shall we rationally and religiously remember?
III. BY A PROGRESSIVE IMPROVEMENT OF THIS GREAT EVENT. The decease of our Lord is set forth in the Word of God and in the Lord's Supper, not merely for contemplation, or for curious inquiry, but for deep meditation and practical improvement. Now, a good man is anxious to improve this death for all the purposes for which it was appointed of God and endured by Christ. Others may gaze upon the Cross; he glories in it. Others may cast a passing glance upon the Divine Sufferer; he hangs upon the Cross — he lives by it.
IV. BY IMBIBING MORE AND MORE OF HIS SPIRIT. And what was this spirit? It was a spirit —
1. Of holy love. "He loved us with an everlasting love," and thence "gave Himself for us."
2. Of holy submission to the Divine appointment. "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O My God"; and He well knew all that that involved.
3. Of determined decision in His great work. "I have a baptism to he, baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!"
4. Of holy purity. He was the Lamb of God, "without blemish and without spot."
5. Of invincible faith. "My God, My God!" He cried, claiming an interest in Him when the waters overwhelmed His soul.
6. Of entire resignation to God amid the agonies of death and the prospect of dying. "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit." Now, a good man bears about the dying of the Lord Jesus by seeking to drink continually into Christ's spirit, and by exemplifying it more and more.
V. BY A PRACTICAL ILLUSTRATION OF THAT GREAT DECEASE, OF ITS CHARACTER AND POWER. Although it was not the only, or even the main, end of His coming in the flesh to exhibit a sublime example of perfect morality, yet doubtless He came to present to us a pattern of all goodness and godliness. Hence we are told that He hath "set us an example that we should follow His steps."
VI. BY A FREQUENT SOLEMN COMMEMORATION OF HIM.
(J. Mitchell, D. D.)
That the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body1. There is something beautifully emphatic in the idea that it is the life of Jesus that is manifested in the Christian. Century after century hath rolled away, and He who won to Himself, by agony and death, the lordship of this lower creation hath not visibly interfered with the administration of its concerns. The time, indeed, will come when sensible proof shall be given, and every eye shall gaze on the Son of Man seated on the clouds and summoning to judgment. But we are free to own that, since under the present dispensation there are no visible exhibitions of the kingship of Christ, it is not easy, if the authority of Scripture be questioned, to bring forward satisfactory proof that Jesus is alive.
2. Yet we are not ready to admit the total absence of direct, positive, practical witness. We thus bring the statement of our text, that there is such a thing as the manifestation of the life of the Redeemer. It was possible enough that the malice of persecutors might wear down to the wreck the body of the apostle; but there were such continued miracles in his being sustained in the battle with principalities and powers that, if challenged to prove that his Lord was alive, he could point to the shattered tabernacle, and answer triumphantly, the life also of Jesus, as well as the death, was made manifest in that his body.
3. The doctrine of Christ's living for us is every whir as closely bound up with our salvation as that of His having died for us. The resurrection was God's attestation to the worth of the atonement.
I. THE PERSECUTIONS WHICH THE APOSTLES UNDERWENT, AS WELL AS THE PROCLAMATIONS WHICH THEY UTTERED, WENT TO THE PROVING THAT JESUS WAS ALIVE.
1. The rulers said the body was stolen; the apostles said the body was quickened. Who sees not that, by persecuting the apostles in place of proving them liars, the rulers themselves bore witness to the fact that Jesus was alive? They had no evidence to produce of the truth of their own statement, and they set themselves therefore to get rid by force of the counter-statement. Power was substituted for proof, cruelty for argument. We therefore contend that no stronger attestation could have been given to the fact of Christ's life than the persecutions to which the apostles were subjected for maintaining that fact.
2. We may yet further argue that by submitting to persecutions the apostles showed their own belief that Jesus was alive. There is a limit which enthusiasm cannot pass. Had not the apostles believed Christ alive they would not have joyfully exposed themselves to peril and death.
II. THE GRAND MANIFESTATION OF THE LIFE OF JESUS LIES IN THE SUPPORTS AND CONSOLATIONS VOUCHSAFED TO THE PERSECUTED.
1. When the malice of the ungodly was allowed to do its worst, there was administered so much of supernatural assistance that all but the reprobate must have seen that the power of the Lord was sustaining the martyrs. They went out of the world with gladness in the eye and with triumph on the lip, confident that their Master lived to welcome them, and therefore able to cry out with Stephen, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
2. Now, we maintain that, whenever God directly interposes to preserve an individual while publishing a doctrine, God virtually gives testimony to the truth of that doctrine. If the published doctrine were the reverse of truth He would never mark the publisher with His approval; and thus we have a decisive and vivid manifestation of the life of Christ in the sufferings of the apostles.
3. Whilst Christ sojourned on earth He told His disciples that persecution would be their lot, but also that He would be alive to act as their protector. When, therefore, all occurred as Christ had predicted, when the supports were administered which He had pointed out as the result of His life, what can be fairer than maintaining that the supports were a proof of the life?
III. WE WOULD NOT HAVE YOU THINK THAT THE MANIFESTATION OF THE LIFE OF THE REDEEMER WAS CONFINED TO THE APOSTLES. Take any one who now is walking by faith, and not by sight. He will tell you that his whole conduct is ordered on the supposition that he has a Saviour ever living to intercede in his behalf. He will tell you, further, that never has he found the supposition falsified by experience. He goes to Christ sorrowful, believing that He lives; he comes away comforted, and thus proves that He lives. He carries his burdens to Christ, supposing Him alive; he finds them taken away, and thus demonstrates Him alive. All, in short, that is promised as the result of Christ's life comes into his possession, and is, therefore, an evidence of Christ's life. If I am a believer, I look to Christ as living for me; I go and pray to Christ as living for me; and, if I am never disappointed in my reference to Christ as living for me, is there no strong testimony in my own experience that Jesus lives? In short, if the Christian live only by faith in the living Saviour, his life must be the manifestation of the life of the Saviour. If Christ be not alive, how comes it that they who act upon the supposition that He is alive find the supposition perpetually verified and in no instance falsified — verified by the assistance vouchsafed, by the promises fulfilled, by the consolations enjoyed in these mortal bodies, which are the theatres of truceless warfare with a corrupt nature and apostate spirits? Conclusion: What we wish for you is that you might manifest the life of the Redeemer — manifest it in the vigour with which you resist the devil, break loose from the world, and set yourself to the culture of holiness.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
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