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ty, and his zeal against christianity, bringing htm into iavour with the chief men of his nation, gave him the prospect of enviable success. But in this respect also he could say, "For Christ Jesus my Lord I have "sufil-red the loss of all things, and do count them "but dung that 1 may win Christ:" "God forbid "that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord "Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to "me, and I to the world." Instead of seeking the honour that cometh from men, he willingly embraced scorn and ignominy. He gloried and rejoiced in being counted worthy to suffer shame for the sake of Christ. The sole honour after which he aspired, consisted in belonging to Christ; obeying him; enduring hatred, contempt, and persecution in his service; bearing his image, promoting his cause, turning many unto righteousness; and being welcomed at length by his Saviour, with "Well done, good and faithful serH vant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!" and "shining with Christ for ever, like the sun in the "kingdom of his Father."
We might branch out our subject still more.— The apostle had no interest on earth, distinct from that of Christ and his cause. As this prospered, he counted himself to prosper; and Christ was his Portion in another world.
Lay these things together. Christ in his person and mediation was the only hope of eternal life to his venerable apostle, who derived his spiritual life, and every increase of it, from the Spirit of Christ. He only valued life, that he might do the work of Christ. This was his sole pleasure, honour, and interest. The smiles and frowns of the world in vain assailed him; bonds and imprisonment could not move him; neither "Counted he his life dear to himself, so that he might "finish his course with joy, and the ministry which u he had received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the ** gospel of the grace of God."
Was he not then a perfect character? Hear his own words in this epistle: "Not as though I had already "attained, either were already perfect. But this one "thing I do; forgetting the things that are behind, "and reaching forth to the things that are before, I "press forward to the mark."
He knew himself to be far from perfect, according to the demands of the divine law, the holiness of angels, or the perfection of the man Christ Jesus. He exceedingly hated sin, and longed after perfect holiness; but not being able to reach what he longed after, he cried out amidst all bis attainments, " Ok "wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from *' the body of this death?" Amazing! Surely, say some, St. Paul does not speak of himself, but of some other man! My brethren, had we as much spiritual knowledge, as holy a taste, as tender a conscience, and as much humility, as the apostle had, we should better understand, and enter into his views and feelings, in this remarkable portion of Scripture.
If, however, he had attained to that degree of devoted obedience to Christ, zeal for his glory, and dolight in his service, which has been described, was he not tempted to self-preference, and to trust in his own righteousness? My brethren, self-righteousness is one kind of pride, but humility is a principal part of ho
liness; and can increasing humility render the christian proud? Love of Christ, and a proper state of heart towards him, are essential to holiness, especially that of a redeemed sinner: and can the Saviour become less precious in any respect to him, as he becomes more holy? It is probable, that no man on earth ever entered more fully than the aposde into the meaning and force of those words in this epistle—" I '' count all but loss for the excellency of the know"ledge of Christ Jesus—that I may win Christ and "be found in him,—having the righteousness of God "by faith:" yet the enraptured host before the throne, who, perfected in holiness, sing "Worthy is the "Lamb that was slain," enter still more deeply into the import and force of them, than even the apostle himself did when imperfect here on earth.
It will, I doubt not, be allowed, that Christianity is for substance what it was of old: and if so, no man is a real christian, who is not, at least in the habitual aim and purpose of his heart, and the general tenour of his conduct, a follower of the apostle in this particular. Yet few, very few indeed, can adopt his words, "To me to live is Christ," in that strong meaning, and with that full propriety, with which he used them. And though it is not improbable, that the subject has reminded many present of our dear departed friend; yet even he would have been very far from applying the words to his own case, without many concessions and deductions. The connexion, however, between the two parts of our text is inseparable: no man can reasonably hope that death will be gain to him, any further than he hai. a consciousness, and can give good evidence, that " to him to live is "Christ." Let no man then deceive himself; as all do who expect the christian's crown, while they neither bear his character, nor sustain his conflict. I proceed therefore—
II. To consider the other proposition of my text— "To me to die is gain." "To die!"—How much is contained in these short words, which we often speak and hear with little attention or emotion! yet who can express their momentous and awful import? "O death, where is thy sting?"—To die, is at once to be torn from all the possessions, distinctions, enjoyments, and endeared connexions of life! to lose in a moment every thing that a man has contrived and laboured for all his days. To die, renders his genius and wisdom, his exertions and success of no further avail to him. It rends asunder the bonds of friendship and the nearest ties of relationship. It separates the parent from his child, the minister from his floek, the wife from her husband, the friend from him who was to him as his own soul. 'Till death us do part,' is an affecting memento, even when we enter into the conjugal relation, how it must at last be dissolved. And can death be gain!
To die is to suffer either lingering and tedious pain and langour, or the acute, and in general more dreaded, anguish of sudden or violent dissolution. These bodies, which we are too prone to idolize, must then become lifeless clay, a prey to corruption and the reptiles of the earth: "Dust thou art, and to dust shalt "thou return." The countenance, which was scarcely ever beheld without sensible pleasure, can then no longer be endured. “Bury my dead,” even my beloved Sarah, “out of my sight.” And can death be gain! “The living know that they must die:” and the forebodings of the approaching certain stroke, connected with the uncertainty of the time, form too important a part of its terror to be passed over in silence; especially as the great business of life, to numbers, is to exclude reflection, and to escape these forebodings. But further, “Man dieth, and where is he?” To die implies also, in this view of the subject, ideas from which the mind naturally revolts—Few, very few can escape the conviction of a future retribution beyond the grave. Even profligates, blasphemers, and avowed infidels, on some occasions, betray their distrust of their own principles, and shew that they dread something beyond the grave. What that something is, cannot be known without revelation: but as the worst evil that we know of comes on us all in this world, the uncertain conjecture is replete with terror. It is not for man to know, except by revelation, whether a God of infinite justice will shew mercy to criminals; or whether he can do it, without dishonouring himself; and, in case he can and will pardon, to what extent, and in what way, mercy shall be extended. When excess has ruined a man’s constitution, or extravagance has squandered away his estate, rent ntance itself fails to reinstate him in health or in affluence: and the delinquent against the laws of his country is not entitled to a pardon by repenting, but must notwithstanding atone for his crimes by suffer