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That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death.—Phil. iii. 10.
PAUL goeth on enumerating his advantages by Christ. The first was his interest in Christ’s righteousness; now he mentioneth two other necessary to be added to the former; for whoever boasts of his justification must show it by his sanctification: ‘That I may be found in him, not having my own righteousness; and that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection.’
Here the double benefit is, a conformity to Christ in his life and in his death.
1. To his life, ‘That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection.’
2. To his death, ‘And the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.’
There is a spiritual inward conformity to the death of Christ, when we die unto sin; and outward, in bearing the cross. This is spoken here; and in this latter there is a double benefit which we have in our sufferings for Christ—(1.) Fellowship with Christ; (2.) Conformity to Christ.
[1.] Our conformity to his life, or ‘knowing the power of his resurrection,’ is mentioned first, before our conformity to his death, which in order of nature should have preceded, because we should first know what we should propound as our hope and scope before we resolve upon the way of dying to sin and dying to the world. Till we live the new life and are excited to the hopes of glory, we cannot encounter sufferings. The new life is the principle, and the hope of glory the end, and the patient continuance in well-doing the way.
Again, it is observable how the apostle increaseth the description of his self-denial, what he accounteth gain, and such gain that he esteemeth all things but loss and dung in comparison of it; not only to know Christ and privileges, but Christ and the sacred influence of his grace. To desire to be found in Christ, not having our own righteousness, will be assented unto by most. We all desire happiness and immunity, to be freed from the penalties of the law and the flames of hell; this point of submission will not be much scrupled at; few value the life of holiness, but the apostle ‘counted all things loss and dung, to know him and the power of his resurrection.’
[2.] Again, he reckoneth affliction for Christ’s sake among the advantages of Christ. Surely the afflictions of the gospel, when they are holily and patiently endured, are an advantage; not affliction as affliction, but partly from the cause: Phil. i. 29, ‘For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.’ Bare suffering is not more than believing, nor valuable with out believing; but suffering and believing too is more than single believing. A gift and an honour vouchsafed to a few of Christ’s choice servants; it is given to all to believe, but to some not only to believe, but to suffer. Partly from the manner, such as argues fellowship and conformity to Christ. To find what exceeding joy and comfort it is to suffer for Christ and with Christ is more worth than all the world. Partly from the end and fruit in this life, as these afflictions promote our dying to sin and the world; therein we feel the virtue of Christ’s death, and may glory in the cross of Christ: Gal. vi. 14, ‘But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.’ In the world to come, ‘if thereby we may attain the resurrection of the dead,’ ver. 11.
[3.] Once more; no affliction, though never so great, was excepted out of Paul’s resignation to Christ; for such a fellowship in his sufferings as maketh us conformable to his death doth also include the dying a violent and infamous death for Christ’s sake. Now if God call us to this, we must count it an honour, and all things but loss and dung for Christ’s honour’s sake. An infamous death for Christ is better than all the glory of the world; and we rejoice in the very disgraceful circumstances of our sufferings, and that we are put to shame for Christ’s sake: Acts v. 41, ‘And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.’ Now all these circumstances do mightily heighten his self-denial; and yet this is the true spirit of christianity, to count all things but loss and dung for Christ and his righteousness, for Christ and his grace, for Christ and his sufferings, even those which are most painful and disgraceful to us.
I begin with the first benefit, a conformity to the life of Christ, ‘That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection.’ Knowing is here put for sense and experience; and for the word ‘resurrection,’ there is a first resurrection and a second, with respect to the life of grace and glory. The Spirit first raiseth us up from the death of sin to the life of grace, and then from the death of nature to the life of glory. Christ raised from the dead, giveth us the Spirit, which beginneth that life of grace here which shall be perfected in heaven. We shall know him and the power of his resurrection fully hereafter, when we are raised by him to eternal life and glory. But we know him and the power of his resurrection here when we experience his virtue, and the sacred influence of his grace in renewing the heart. As we know the power of his death when sin is mortified, and the old man crucified, so we know the power of his resurrection when we feel the operation and virtue of his Spirit in quickening us to newness of life: Rom. vi. 4, 5, ‘Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.’
Two points from this clause are to be observed. The first is, that an experimental knowledge of Christ is so great a blessing that we should count all things but loss and dung to get it.
I take it for a granted truth that, besides the knowledge of faith, there is an experimental knowledge of Christ, whereby believers, from this effectual working in them, find that to be true which the word affirmeth of him. It is sometimes expressed by taste which is more than sight. Sight doth fitly express the knowledge of faith, and taste the knowledge of experience: 1 Peter ii. 3, ‘If so be that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.’ So Ps. xxxiv. 8, ‘Oh, come, taste and see how good the Lord is.’ When we either taste his goodness or feel his power, then we have an experimental knowledge of Christ. Many know Christ so as to be able to talk of him, his birth, life, and doctrine, of his death, passion, and resurrection; but feel nothing, have no real proof within themselves of what they speak, no lively, experimental knowledge of Christ. Many speak of his salvation from day to day, but have not the effects of it. When we find within our selves the fruits of his sufferings, the comfort of his promises, the likeness of his death, the power of his resurrection, then we know Christ experimentally. Now the benefits which we have by this experimental knowledge do show the value of it.
1. Experience giveth us a more intimate knowledge of things. While we know things by hearsay, we know them only by guess and imagination; but when we know them by experience, we know them in truth; as he that readeth of the sweetness of honey may guess at it, but he that hath tasted of honey better knoweth what it is: Col. i. 6, ‘Since the day that ye knew the grace of God in truth;’ that is, knew it indeed, and by sensible experience. Our understandings are much advanced by knowing the same truths more experimentally than we did before; it is a more satisfactory manner of knowledge. A man that has travelled through a country knows it better than he that knoweth it only by a map. When we have tasted of the sweetness of the promise, and pardon of sin, and peace with God, and hopes of glory; when we have lived awhile in communion with Christ, or the love of his people, or walked with God in a heavenly conversation, it is another thing than it was before.
2. Experience giveth a greater confirmation of the truth. Optima demonstratio est a sensibus—Sense giveth us the most sure and in fallible knowledge of things. A man needeth no reason to convince him that fire is hot who hath been scorched, or that weather is cold who feeleth it in his fingers; so when the promises of God are made good to us, and verified in our experience, we see that there is more than letters and syllables: Ps. xviii. 30, ‘The word of the Lord is a tried word; he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.’ So when the fruits and effects of the gospel are accomplished in us, and we have the impression and stamp of it upon our own hearts, it is past contra diction but that this is true: 1 Cor. i. 6, ‘Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you.’ It was confirmed among them by miracles, but within them by the gifts and graces of the Spirit: John viii. 32, ‘Then shall ye know the truth, and the truth shall make you free;’ John xvii. 17, ‘Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.’ When God hath blessed his word to free us from the bondage of sin and to cleanse and sanctify our hearts, that we may live in love to God, and all purity and holiness to his glory, you find it to be a powerful word, a word which God hath owned, by accompanying it by his Spirit. So 1 Thes. i. 5, ‘For our gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.’ That doctrine is certainly owned by God, and blessed to the conviction, conversion, and salvation of many souls, and therefore our assent is stronger. You cannot persuade men against their own sense. They that have felt the power of the Spirit inclining them to God and heavenly things have found the admirable effects which bare speculation could not discover do them in order to faith, certainty, and close adherence; their hearts are confirmed.
3. Experience giveth us greater excitement to the love of Christ and his ways; for though love be built upon the proper reasons of love, yet it is increased by experience. The proper reasons of love are necessity, excellency, and propriety; yet experience addeth a force to all these. And therefore it is said, Phil. i. 9, ‘This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in all knowledge and judgment.’ The word, ἐν αἰσθήσει, signifieth spiritual sense or experimental knowledge. This doth increase the love of Christ in us: the more we feel the necessity of Christ, and know his usefulness and excellency in binding up our broken hearts, and subduing our carnal affections, the more shall we love him, as being appointed a saviour for us, to relieve our necessities, and procure blessings for us. When Christ doth heal our diseases, remove our anguish, sanctify our natures, give us the promised help in temptations, relieve us in our distresses, and bridle our corruptions, then we know that he is ours; and so far as propriety conduceth to increase love, we have the more reason to love him. Now that is a notable enforcement: Gal. ii. 20, ‘I live by the faith of the Son of God, who hath loved me, and gave himself for me;’ 1 John iv. 19, ‘We love him, because he loved us first.’ We may know the truth of the gospel by other means, but we cannot know that it be longeth to us by any other means. The grace of the gospel remaineth where it was, in the hands of Christ, and the conditional offers of the gospel, till it be applied and brought into our hearts, and we are in part put in possession of it by the Spirit of sanctification; and when this is done, we know our interest, and so our sanctifier becometh our comforter, and we carry about in us the matter of our continual joy, confidence, and comfort; and therefore we have greater obligations to love God and Christ: Rom. v. 4, 5, ‘And patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us.’ Our particular interest is assured by experience, whether in ordinances or afflictions, either by the tastes of his love or the effects of his sanctifying grace.
4. The experimental knowledge of Christ doth more engage us to zeal and diligence in the heavenly life. Certainly reports and exhortations cannot do so much as experience. Partly—
[1.] Because when we have experience of the power of Christ’s resurrection, it begetteth a new life within us, which inclineth us to God and heavenly things; there is a principle to work upon. Indeed, in the tenders of the gospel there is a principle of reason to work upon, which, with a little common help of the Spirit, may convince us of the duty which we owe to God; but when this life is begun, there is a principle of grace to work upon, an inward mover striving with you, and inclining you to perform this duty. And there is a great deal of difference between blowing to a dead coal and a live coal: ‘If you live in the Spirit,’ you will more easily be persuaded to ‘walk in the Spirit,’ Gal. v. 25. Where there is life, it is soon excited to action.
[2.] When this life is gratified with the rewards of obedience, such as are peace of conscience, the comforts of the Spirit, and some tastes of God’s acceptance of us unto life by Christ, this is an argument of itself above all arguments to engage us to press on for more. As the Gauls, when once they tasted the Italian grape, could no longer be kept beyond the mountains, but they must get into that country where this plant did grow, or the liquor of it might be had. Or rather, let it be represented to you by a scriptural instance: There were some sent into the land of promise, to bring them the clusters of Canaan into the wilderness, to animate and encourage them to put in for the good land. So here; God giveth us the Spirit, and sweet foretastes of life eternal, not only as an earnest, 1 Cor. i. 22, to show us how sure, but as the first-fruits, to show us how good, Rom. viii. 23. Now surely this experience is more than all motives without the soul, to engage it in this heavenly pursuit.
[3.] When this life is obstructed by our folly and sin, you find more of the displeasure of your Redeemer in your inward man than can possibly be represented to you in your outward condition, by the suspension of his comforts, by a wounded spirit, by the troubles of the sensible soul upon the neglects of his grace; that it is worse to them than the loss of all temporal comforts when the grieved Spirit withdraweth. You know the anger of your Redeemer for the abuse of his grace: Eph. iv. 30, ‘And grieve not the Holy Spirit, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.’ The soul is more awakened by the interruptions of the acts of love, and his wonted quickenings and comforts; yea, by a sore sense of God’s wrath and displeasure; it is more than want of health, or loss of estate, or a breach upon our relations. Therefore experience of Christ’s dealing with us is a notable part of Christ’s spiritual government, and so a notable excitement to the heavenly life.
Use 1. To exhort us to get this experimental knowledge of Christ. An exhortation is discharged by motives and means.
Motives. Sometimes from the danger if you have it not, and the benefit you have had already.
1. If you have it not, you are in danger of atheism. To hear of such a mighty Christ, and feel nothing of the virtue of his death, or of the power of his resurrection, after so long a profession of his name, what is this but a temptation to us that christianity is but an empty pretence? We are told, 1 Cor. iv. 20, that ‘the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.’ It standeth not in notions, and proud boasts of knowledge, or empty discourses, but in the effectual force it hath upon the heart of man. There is a power, and an admirable virtue, which goeth along with the gospel for the changing of the heart. Now what a dangerous temptation is it when it cometh to you in word only! You hear of great things, but they have not their effect upon your hearts You meet with nothing but words and notions; nothing of this purifying and sanctifying virtue of the word by the Spirit of Christ. This must follow, either you settle in a cold form, which is practical atheism, and certainly produceth nothing of a divine spirit, or real inclination towards God and another world: 2 Tim. iii. 5, ‘Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof;’ or settle into an open denying of Christ and the excellency of his religion. The cold form may consist with the grossest sins, which is a practical denying of God; or else you live in doubt and irresolution, and know not what to make of religion, which is a more secret denying of him.
2. If you have not the practical experimental knowledge of Christ, how will you be able to carry on the spiritual life with any delight, seriousness, and success? This appeareth by a serious view of that context which you have, 1 John v. 3-10. In the 3d verse he saith, ‘This is love, to keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous.’ In the 10th verse, ‘He that believeth on the Son hath the witness in himself.’ How do we bring these together? I answer—By these propositions, all which are clear when you come to view that scripture. That the readiness of our obedience dependeth upon the fervency of our love, and the fervency of our love dependeth on the strength of our faith, which overcometh the world, the great impediment of obedience. The strength of our faith dependeth on the evidence of the object of our faith, which is, that Jesus is the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, the true Messiah and head of the church. The evidence of this dependeth on a double testimony—without us, from heaven, and by somewhat within us, which is the testimony of water, blood, and Spirit; and this testimony every sound and true believer hath in himself, and so loveth God and keepeth his commandments. Now judge you whether it doth not concern you to get an experimental knowledge of Christ, and whether you can carry on the spiritual life against the world, the devil, and the flesh, without it. Either you must suppose to meet with no temptations, or else that temptations will be vanquished by the evidence without us, without any experience of Christ in our own souls. The former is not likely; why else are we warned of enemies and assaults? Not the latter, because our temptations to unbelief are many and strong; for a guilty conscience is not easily settled, nor a man soon brought to trust one whom he hath wronged: sinning Adam is shy of God. Besides, the way of our deliverance is so strange and supernatural, that God should not spare his own Son, but give him up to die for us. Again, the main of our blessings lie in another world, and nature cannot easily look afar off; and for the present we are afflicted, and seemingly forsaken; and the duties of christianity are so opposite to a carnal heart, which would fain be pleased with what is grateful to present sense; besides, we have an opposition to that future and invisible felicity till grace doth overcome it. These and many more things which may be alleged would weaken our hands in duty, if we have not, besides the principles of faith and external confirmations, some experience in our own souls, to assure us that Christ is the Son of God, by his changing us into the divine nature. Surely that doctrine is of God which maketh poor creatures like unto God. This is more sensible and more affecting, as being more at hand. A soul that hath felt this power, findeth the wisdom, power, and goodness of God in it, whilst his conscience is quieted, heart changed, affections raised to heavenly things: you have a confirmation and testimony within you.
3. Without this experimental knowledge of Christ you can have no assurance of your own interest. Though Christ died for sinners, yet many perish for ever. Our certainty and assurance ariseth from a work of the Spirit upon our own hearts, if we have felt the power of his resurrection, if we be risen with Christ. Our sincerity is a far more questionable thing than the truths of the gospel. The stamp of God upon the gospel is more plainly to be seen, whatever thoughts we have of it; but our own case is more hard to be understood. But if Christ hath left his mark and impression upon us, if we be planted into the likeness of his death and life: Rom. vi. 4, 5, ‘Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.’ If we be such in the world as he was in the world, we may have boldness: 1 John iv. 17, ‘Herein our love is made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in the world;’ 1 John ii. 6, ‘He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also to walk even as he walked.’ In short, if Christ hath taken us into the communion of his life and Spirit, there is no scruple to be made of our condition. The more you feel the power of his resurrection, you will have not only some doubtful and slight conjectures, but may assure your hearts before him that he hath loved you, and will be and is your Lord and Saviour.
4. You will not honour christianity, and cannot propagate it to others with such effect, as when you yourselves have had an experimental knowledge of Christ, of his graces and comforts. You cannot propagate it either by word or deed.
[1.] By word. You cannot recommend the heavenly life, nor the comforts of entertaining communion with God, as when you have had experience of them in your own souls. David speaketh affectionately, and like a man of experience: Ps. xxxiv. 8, ‘Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that trusteth in him.’ You may the better invite them to Christ when you yourselves have found benefit by him. A report of a report at second or third hand is no valid testimony; none can speak with such warmth and confidence as those that have felt what they speak: 2 Cor. i. 4, ‘Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.’ They that speak feelingly and with a sense speak most effectually for Christ.
[2.] In deed and work. You do most honour Christ when you know him, and the power of his resurrection, and by him are converted to God; for though this power be within us, and be principally ordained for our comfort and satisfaction, yet the effects and fruits of it appear to others; for the new life cannot be altogether hidden, if it be in us in any power, and so maketh up an inducement and invitation to others to hearken after the ways of God, when they see that God is in you of a truth, and the work of his Spirit showeth itself by a holy and heavenly life. This discovereth the power and virtue of Christ to them: 2 Thes. i. 11, 12, ‘Wherefore also we pray for you, that God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: that the name o our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God, and the Lord Jesus Christ;’ 1 Thes. i. 4-7, ‘Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God: for our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sakes. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction with joy in the Holy Ghost: so that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.’ You sanctify God in their eyes, and glorify our Redeemer.
Means. It is the Spirit worketh all, as the fruit of electing grace: 1 Thes. i. 4, 5, ‘Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God: for our gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost.’ And also of redeeming grace, for it is the power o Christ’s resurrection; and the apostle telleth us that ‘the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe was according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead,’ Eph. i. 19, 20. We have it by the mediator, yet we must use the means. Now the great means are three—(1.) Sound belief; (2.) Serious meditation and consideration; (3.) Close application. If we would get this experimental knowledge, there must be—
[1.] A sound belief of the doctrine of the gospel; for we are told, 1 John v. 10, ‘He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself;’ which is the witness of the Spirit, and water, and blood: 1 Thes. ii. 13, ‘Ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.’ We cannot feel the power of the truth till we receive the truth. It is the impression of God on the word which begets faith, but his impression upon our hearts serveth to confirm faith. We discern it in the scriptures before we feel it in our hearts, for this experimental knowledge of Christ is not to begin faith, but to strengthen it and confirm it. We first have a rational proof of the truth of the gospel before we have a sensible proof of it in our own souls. The word must be let into the heart by some means or other before it can discover its effects. There is enough in the truth to discover itself, if the mind be not strangely perverted: 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4, ‘If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine upon them.’ Upon these grounds we believe, and afterwards feel what we do believe.
2. Serious meditation and consideration is necessary. If there be not a sober and impartial consideration of the things believed as necessary, they cannot work such a change on the heart and life, but will slide away and be ineffectual. Deep thoughts make truth operative; musing maketh the fire burn: ‘My heart is inditing a good matter; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer,’ Ps. xlv. 1. Men are biassed by contrary affections, and their hearts are hardened by carnal lusts; therefore till grace softens them we shall be as a stone, or wax that is not softened; they make no impression upon us. It is the great work of eternal grace to give us attentive and awakening thoughts: Acts xvi 14, ‘Whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things that were spoken by Paul.’ Many truths lie by, and are of no use for want of consideration. Serious thoughts of Christ and his salvation work most powerfully with us; but most men are not at leisure, and have not time to think of God, and Christ, and heavenly things, and never sit alone to bethink themselves, and then how can these things work upon them? They hear of Christ, his death, and resurrection; but because things pass lightly away, they feel nothing.
3. Close application. Things work not upon us at a distance, with out being applied; as the plaster doth not cure till laid close to the wound. We ourselves must take home the truth if we would feel the virtue of it. The comfort and the mercy must be brought near to us that was before afar off and at a distance. While it remaineth in the conditional offer, it is as fair for others as for us, and for us as for others. But take it home: Rom. viii. 31, ‘What shall we say to these things?’ Job v. 27, ‘Hear it, and know it for thy good.’ Every particular person must look upon himself as concerned in the offer of Christ, excite his own heart to it, live in him, and receive his benefits.
Use 2. Have we any experimental knowledge of Christ? Do we know him, and the likeness of his death, and the power of his resurrection? Search, but yet take these two cautions—
1. Look for experience in a way of sanctification and holiness rather than in a way of comfort and ravishing delight, for the one is not so necessary as the other. The Spirit may lay by his comforting office to promote his sanctifying work. God’s interest is above your own, and the new nature is the greatest evidence. Consolation is not the highest and most necessary part of Christ’s work. It is sin is the true cause of our trouble; get that mortified, and you have an experience of Christ working in you. Your cure may be working, though you have not present ease.
2. Look to the thing, not to the measure and degree. If the Spirit of God possesseth you, and ruleth you for God, and giveth you his nature and image, and inclineth you to God, there is a change, though not carried to such a degree.
Doct. 2. One great point or part of the experimental knowledge of Christ is knowing the power of his resurrection.
We have showed you before that the knowledge of Christ is not a slight and superficial knowledge, but such whereby we are made sensible of his power, to what ends he died and rose again. It is not a naked speculative knowledge. We know Christ aright when we feel his power, and have experience within ourselves of the things which we know.
Now I must show you more particularly what is the power of his resurrection.
1. This power is the Lord’s work in regeneration, whereby he bestoweth upon us a new life, a spiritual life of grace; for so it is explained: 1 Peter i. 3, ‘Hath begotten us to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’
2. This new life is not only an obligation to live in all purity and holiness to the glory of God, but an inclination or a power to do so, because it is from the Spirit of Jesus; for we live to God in the Spirit: ‘But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall quicken your mortal bodies, by the Spirit that dwelleth in you,’ Rom. viii. 11. The profession of the name of Christ, into which we are baptized, inferreth an obligation, but the actual indwelling of the Spirit in us implieth an inclination, power, or ability to walk with God in all newness of conversation.
3. This Spirit or renewing grace we receive from Christ: Titus iii. 5, 6, ‘By the renewing of the Holy Ghost, shed upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ We have it from Christ as the second Adam, or head of the new creation. Look, as the first Adam was by his sin the fountain cause of spiritual death, for ‘in him all sinned,’ Rom. v. 12, and through the merit of his sin we were deprived of original righteousness: Rom. v. 19, ‘For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners;’ in place whereof an universal inclination to all evil succeeded: Gen. vi. 5, ‘That every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually;’ and our own particular actual sins do lay us lower under the state of death, and make our deliverance more difficult: Jer. xiii. 23, ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil;’ so Jesus Christ is the beginning, root, and fountain cause of all the grace that we have; he is the second Adam.
4. This gift of the Spirit is procured for us by the intervention of Christ’s merit and mediation, whereby he satisfied divine justice, and acquired those things which divine love and mercy had prepared for us. They were lost in Adam, but purchased by Christ, who was made a curse for us, ‘that the blessing of Abraham might come on the gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,’ Gal. iii. 13, 14.
5. Though this Spirit and renewing grace were purchased by Christ’s death, it is conveyed and applied to us with respect to his resurrection, and so spoken of everywhere in scripture; as here it is called, ‘the power of his resurrection;’ so it is said, Eph. ii. 5, ‘He hath quickened us together with Christ.’ Not at the same time in our own persons, for so we are quickened a long time after Christ’s resurrection in our effectual calling; but by the same power by which Christ was quickened and raised we are quickened and we are raised also, every one of us in his own time. Our head and lord was dead, but is now alive and liveth for ever, for that end and purpose. By his resurrection it appeareth that God is satisfied and appeased, death subdued and overcome, and Christ in a capacity, and exalted, to give us this new life, Acts v. 31. Christ rose ‘as the first-fruits of the regenerate,’ 1 Cor. xv. 20; as ‘the first-born from the dead,’ Col. i. 18; ‘The first begotten of the dead,’ Rev. i. 5. He rose by his own power to immortality and life. So by the same power and virtue will he raise and quicken his members as the first-born among many brethren, and give the rest a share of the Father’s goods.
But more particularly, I shall show you how, by virtue of Christ’s resurrection, christians obtain the grace of a new life. [For this see sermon on 2 Corinthians v. 15.]
Secondly, The fellowship of his sufferings, ‘that I may be conformable to his death.’ Here is the second privilege, conformity to the death of Christ; so the apostle accounts it in this place. Here take notice—
1. Those that would be partakers of Christ must not fancy to themselves an easy life free from all sufferings, but such a condition as they may be conformable to the death of Christ: Rom. viii. 17, ‘If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.’ We must be partakers of his sufferings if we would be partakers of his kingdom. If we be dead with him, and suffer with him, ‘we shall also reign with him,’ 2 Tim. ii. 12. The way to eternal salvation is to tread in Christ’s steps, by the cross to come to the crown.
2. These sufferings for Christ should not seem grievous to God’s children, and they should be so far from shunning sufferings when God calleth them to it, or from any repining or heartless discouragement, that they ought rather to think it their glory, and their great honour and happiness; for Paul reckoneth it among his advantages. And else where in scripture we are bidden to rejoice in it, if we suffer anything for Christ and his truth; for indeed there is great comfort and joy to be had in suffering for him and with him in his mystical body. They that have tasted this sweetness count all things but loss and dung in comparison of it; and so might we rejoice and be exceeding glad if we consult with the privileges of the Spirit rather than the interest of the flesh: James i. 2, ‘Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;’ Mat. v. 11, 12, ‘Blessed are you when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my name’s sake: rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.’
3. The two grand things which lighten all our afflictions and sufferings for Christ are those mentioned in the text—fellowship with him, and conformity to him.
[1.] Fellowship with him, ‘That I may know the fellowship of his sufferings;’ 1 Peter iv. 13, ‘But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.’ How partakers of his sufferings? He suffereth with them, and communicateth his Spirit, and that in a larger measure of comfort than to the rest of his people. As a special measure of wisdom and strength, so a more liberal allowance of sup ports and comforts: Col. i. 24, ‘Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh;’ ̔στερήματα Χριστοῦ, the leavings. The sufferings of christians are the sufferings of Christ, and the filling up of his sufferings. Not as if his personal sufferings for the redemption of sinners were imperfect, and to be supplied by our sufferings; that cannot be, for ‘by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified;’ but partly because such is the sympathy between Christ and believers, that their sufferings are his sufferings: Acts ix. 4, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?’ How persecute me? Christ was far enough out of his reach, but he persecuted him in his members. When the toe is trod upon the tongue will cry out, You hurt me. And partly because so strict is the union which is between them and Christ, that he and they make up but one mystical Christ: 1 Cor. xii. 12, ‘For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ.’ That is not Christ personal, but Christ mystical; they are one; he partaketh of their sufferings, and they of his Spirit.
[2.] Conformity to Christ. We must be like him whom we have chosen for our head and chief. What do we with christianity, if we refuse to be like Christ? Rom. viii. 29, ‘Whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son;’ to be holy as he was holy, and to be afflicted as he was afflicted: 2 Cor. iv. 10, ‘Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.’ When name dieth, and interests die and languish, when we are scorned, reproached, despitefully used, we carry up and down the sufferings of Christ. Patient undergoing crosses for Christ is an evident resemblance of the cross of Christ; this maketh us like christians, yea, like Christ himself. And however this seem troublesome and disgraceful to those that are blinded with the delusions of the flesh, yet to a holy man and a believer this should make a bitter cross lovely, that thereby he may be more like his lord and master; as the apostle, ‘That I may be conformable to the death of Christ.’
Use 1. Look for sufferings. Every member of Christ’s body hath his allotted portion and share. The great wave of affliction did first beat upon Christ, and some drops will light upon us. The bitter cup goeth by course and round. Christ began and drank of it first, the apostles then standing by: John xviii. 8, ‘If ye seek me, let these go.’ But their course came next: 1 Cor. iv. 9, ‘For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death.’ And thus it hath gone from hand to hand ever since. All are not made to drink it at once, that some still may be in capacity to pity, help, and sympathise with others; but we have all our course and turn.
2. Propound to yourselves the pattern of Christ. It is a blessed thing to know by experience the sweetness and comfort which cometh by communion with Christ, and conformity to Christ in these sufferings. As Christ suffered, we must suffer; as he died patiently, meekly, so must we bear whatever God will lay upon us; as he had his consolation, so have we sweet comfort and support too; as he had his glory, we must carry it so that we may be partakers of eternal glory by Christ, and our sufferings have the same issue.
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