Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

and as employing them all in his service and to his glory. Zeal and love now filled and animated his heart; "The love of Christ constrained him," and, combining with compassion for lost sinners and love to his fellow christians, formed a new and most powerful spring of exertion: so that the crucifixion of selfish and worldly principles, which had before prompted him to action, did not at all lead him to inactivity; but the humble, disinterested, and self-denying apostle was more earnest and unwearied.in his labours, and more bold and enterprizing amidst dangers and sufferings, than the ambitious and unrelenting persecutor Saul had been. Nay, his intrepidity and perseverance, in the most arduous attempts for the honour of his Saviour and the salvation of souls, were perhaps as great as ever were manifested by the ambitious warrior, in the full career of successful pursuit of glory and dominion. Thus he acted even as if Christ had lived in him, and dictated all his words, and directed every part of his conduct. And well might he, who was conscious that this was his habitual object and course of life, say, with unhesitating appropriation, "Christ loved mc, and gave himself M fa,. mC:"—" To me to live is Christ, and to die is "gain!"

But these leading ideas are rather implied, than directly intended, in the words of my text.

Let us, therefore, my brethren, consider in what

•sense the word Christ is used by the apostle in this

place. A few similar instances will greatly assist our

enquirv. "Ye have not so learned Christ." He is

l»ere spoken of as the Instruction, as well as the Teacher, and the single word Christ is put for the whole of Christianity. "Put ye on the Lord Jesus "Christ;" that is, be holy as he is holy; let your spirit and conduct be such, as those of Christ himself, placed in your circumstances would have been. "We preach Christ crucified." " The)- preached Christ unto them," as the central and grand subject of their instructions, yet not to the exclusion of other subjects, as connected with it. In these and other passages, a -single word, familiar and dear to believers, is put for a variety of ideas respecting the life of faith and holiness, and must be explained according to the context.

In the clause before us, Christ may be considered not only in his person, and in the character of our Prophet, High Priest, and King; but also in respect of his church, his cause in the world, the honour of his name, and the credit and prosperity of his gospel. In this enlarged view of the subject, we may consider the clause as relating to the business or employment of the apostle's life. There was but one thing which he had to do on earth, or for which he desired to live, and that was to honour his Saviour, and promote his cause among men. "None of us liveth to himself."— I •" live no longer to myself, but to him who died for "me and rose again." Having obtained an interest in his salvation, and experienced a new creation unto holiness, and being appointed to the apostleship; his sole business was, as animated by admiring love, and gratitude, and zeal, to feed Clirist's lambs and sheep; to gather the lost into his fold; to promote, by every means in his power, the purify, peace, and enlarge- •' ment of his church, and the stability, fruitfulness, and

comfort of his people; and to make known his salvation, as far as possible, to all mankind. 'This,' says 'he, ' is all I have here to do; and, as I greatly " de"sire to depart hence and be with Christ," when this 'is done, I shall long to change this evil world for 'heavenly felicity. In doing this work, the love of 'Christ is my motive, his glory and the glory of God 'in him my object; his gracious acceptance my re'ward: his commandments my rule; and his example, 'my pattern. "To me to live is Christ."

But you may perhaps say, ' this might be very proper for an apostle, or for any minister of the gospel; and the description brings to my recollection the manner in which our deceased pastor laboured among us: but we have farms or shops to mind, or trades to follow; we are labourers, or servants, and cannot be expected to adopt such language, or copy such an example.' I would, however, my brethren, wish you to remember, that " The Son of Man is as a man taking "a far journey, who left his house, and gave authoriu ty to his servants, and to every man his work, and *' commanded the porter to watch.*" Christ has many servants, and every servant has his proper work. In large families all are not stewards, or porters, or butlers; but some are employed in one business, and some in another: and the good order cf the family requires, that every one keep to his own work, and do oot neglect it to mind another servant's business. And if the servant who performs the lowest offices be diligent, faithful, and obliging, he will be valued by

. . . . ..' —. . '. .*» '»

* Mark xiii. 34,

all reasonable masters far more, than an unfaithful or slothful steward. In like manner Christ has “stewards of the mysteries of God,” and stewards entrusted with worldly riches, and servants of various orders: and if you are in the places assigned you by our common Lord, behaving in them according to his will, and giving up worldly advantages, or enduring hard usage, rather than disobey him; though your situation be low, he will more favour and honour you, than either the faithless steward of his mysteries, or the faithless steward of the unrighteous mammon; and while you are making it your one great business to honour and obey your gracious Saviour, each of you may with propriety say, “To me to live is Christ.” But should you, without the most solid and sufficient reasons, quit your present post, to become a preacher of the gospel, instead of a reward, it is probable, you would meet with a rebuke; as a servant would do, who neglected his own work, to intrude, contrary to his master’s will, into the proper business of the steward.—Nay, the servant of the minister, who performs his common household work, if she be faithful and conscientious on evangelical principles, and he preaches himself and not Christ the Lord, may properly say “what her master cannot, To me to live is Christ,” * I live to serve’him and to do his will.” 2. But again, the pleasure of life is generally considered as distinct from its business; and many speak, as if living in pleasure were exclusively worthy the name of life, though the apostle declares, that “she who liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.’ But speaking of superior pleasures, he says in another place. ** Now we live if ye stand fast in the Lord;" that is, life is pleasant and joyful to us. s.

In this sense likewise, the apostle doubtless meant the words under consideration, 'That which renders 'life sweet unto me, is "communion with the Fa"ther and with his Son Jesus Christ," and the de'light which I take in his pleasant ways. "It is my "meat to do his will and finish his work." I hutt'ger after this as my food, I relish it, I am refreshed 'by it. His love is better than life. I have lost my 'relish for sensual dissipated pleasures, and even for 'intellectual pleasures which have no connexion with 'Christ. Compared with rejoicing in Christ Jesus, I 'count them as nothing. Christ is my Joy, his ser'vice is my liberty, his smile my highest satisfaction; 'while the display of his glory, the prosperity of his 'people, the peace and purity of his church, and the 'conversion of sinners to him, cause me even on earth, 'in good measure, to participate the felicity, which 'angels more completely enjoy in heaven.'

3. But the reputation of a man's life may be distinguished from both the business and the pleasure of it: and accordingly numbers desperately risk their lives and souls, or even rush madly into eternity, rather than survive what they call their honour. Thus, in the superior circles, the word life means high life with its pomps and distinction, or in scriptural Ianguage, '' the pride of life." For these honours and distinctions, the apostle seems once to have been a candidate: and though probably not of high birth, yet his superior abilities and education, his vigour of mind, his enterprizing spirit and indefatigable activi

Vol. III. O

« IndietroContinua »