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The first of these benefits—Life : wherein, (1.) A complaint of our
Insensibleness of this mercy; and an excitation to a cheerful Recognition of it ;-(2.) An incitement to Joy and Thankfulness for Christ, our Life ;-(3.) The Duties we owe to God for his mercy to us, in this Life which we have from Christ;—(4.) The Improvement of this Life; in that Christ is made, [1.] Our Wisdom; [2.] Our Righteousness ; [3.] Our Sanctification ; [4.]
Our Redemption. Whereof the first is that, which we are wont to account sweetest,
Not this natural life, which is maintained by the breath of our nostrils. Alas, what is that, but a bubble, a vapour, a shadow, a dream, nothing ? as it is the gift of a good God, worthy to be esteemed precious; but, as it is considered in its own transitoriness and appendent miseries, and in comparison of a better life, not worthy to take up our hearts.
This life of nature is that, which ariseth from the union of the body with the soul, inany times enjoyed upon hard terms; the spiritual life which we now speak of, arising from the union betwixt God and the soul, is that, wherein there can be nothing but perfect contentment, and joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Yea, this is that life, which Christ not only gives, but is: He, that gave himself for us, and is that life that he gives us : When Christ, which is our life, shall appear, saith the Apostle; Col. iii. 4: and, Christ is to me, to live; Phil. i. 21: and, most emphatically, I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet, not 1, but Christ liveth in me ; Gal. ii. 20. Lo, it is a common favour, that in him we live; but it is an especial favour to his own, that he lives in us : Know you not your ownselves, saith the Apostle, how that Jesus Christ is in you, ercept ye be reprobates ? 2 Cor. xiii. 5: and wheresoever he is, there he lives. We have not a dead Saviour, but a living; and, where he lives, he animates. It is not, therefore, St. Paul's case alone : it is every believer's; who may truly say, I live; yet, not I, but Christ liveth in me.
Now how these lives and the authors of them are distinguished, is worth thy carefullest consideration.
Know then, my son, that every faithful man's bosom is a Rebekah's womb, (Gen. xxv. 22.) wherein there are twins: a rough Esau, and the seed of promise; the old man, and the new; the flesh, and the spirit.
And these have their lives distinct from each other: the new man lives not the life of the old; neither can the old man live the life of the new : it is not one life, that could maintain the opposite strugglings of both these : corrupt nature is it, that gives and continues the life of the old man; it is Christ, that gives life to the new.
We cannot say, but the old man or flesh is the man too; for, I know, saith the Chosen Vessel, that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing ; Rom. vii. 18 : but the spiritual part may yet better challenge the title; for, I delight in the Law of God, after the inward man; v. 22.
That old man of ours is derived from the First Adam : as we sinned in him, so he liveth in us. The Second Adam both gives and is the life of our regeneration, like as he is also the life of our glory; the life, that follows our second resurrection: I an, saith he, the resurrection and the life.
What is it then, whereby the new creature lives ? surely no other, than the Spirit of Christ: that alone is it, that gives being and life to the renewed soul.
Life is no stranger to us: there is nothing, wherewith we are so well acquainted; yea, we feel continually what it is, and what it produceth. It is that, from whence all sense, action, motion floweth: it is that, which gives us to be what we are.
All this is Christ to the regenerate man. It is one thing, what he is or doth, is a Man; another thing, what he is or doth, as a Christian: as a Man, he hath eyes, ears, motions, affections, understanding, naturally as his own; as a Christian, he bath all these from him, with whom he is spiritually one, the Lord Jesus.
And the objects of all these vary accordingly. His natural eyes behold bodily and material things : his spiritual eyes see things invisible. His outward ears hear the sound of the voice: his inward ears hear the voice of God's Spirit speaking to his soul. His bodily feet move in his own secular ways: his spiritual walk with God in all the ways of his commandments. His natural affections are set upon those things which are agreeable thereunto; he loves beauty, fears pain and loss, rejoices in outward prosperity, hates an enemy: his renewed affections are otherwise and more happily bestowed; now he loves goodness for its own sake, hates nothing but sin, fears only the displeasure of a good God, rejoices in God's favour which is better than life. His former thoughts were altogether taken up with vanity, and earthed in the world: now, he seeks the things aborr, where Christ silteth at the right-hand of God; Col. iii. 1.
Finally, he is such, as that a beholder sees nothing but man in him: but God and his soul find Christ in him ; both in his renewed person and actions; in all the degrees, both of his life and growth, of bis sufferings and glory : My little children, saith St. Paul, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you ; Gal. iv. 19.
Lo here Christ both conceived and born in the faithful heart. Formation follows conception, and travail implies a birth. Now. the believer is a new-born babe in Christ; I Cor. ii. 1. 1 Pet. ii. 2. and so, mutually, Christ in him. From thence he grows up to strength of youth; 1 John ii. 14: and, at last, to perfection ; even towards the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; Eph. iv. 13. 2 Cor. xii. 9. Heb. vi
. !. And, in this condition, he is dead wi!h Christ, Rom. vi. 8 i he is buricd with Christ; v. 4: he is alive again
unto God through Christ; v. : he is risen with Christ; Col. iij. 1: and, with Christ, he is glorified; Rom. viii. 17: yea, yet more than so, his sufferings are his ; Col. i. 24: he is, in Christ, an heir of glory; Rom. vii. 17: and Christ is, in him, the hope of glory; Col. i. 27.
(1.) Dost thou not now find cause, my son, to complain of thyself : as I confess, I daily do: that thou art so miserably apt to forget these intimate respects between thy Christ and thee ? Art thou not ashamed to think, how little sense thou hast had of thy great happiness?
Lo, Christ is in thy bosom; and thou feelest him not! It is not thy soul, that animates thee in thy renewed estate: it is thy God and Saviour; and thou hast not hitherto perceived it.
It is no otherwise with thee in this case, than with the members of thine own body. There is the sarne life in thy fingers and toes, that there is in the head or heart; yea, in the whole man: and yet those limbs know not, that they have such a life. Had those members reason as well as sense, they would perceive that, wherewith they are enlivened: thou hast, more than reason, faith; and, thereforé, mayest well know whence thou hast this spiritual life; and, thereupon, art much wanting to thyself, if thou dost not enjoy so useful and comfortable an apprehension.
Resolve, therefore, with thyself, that no secular occasion shall ever set off thy heart from this blessed object; and that thou wilt as soon forget thy natural life, as this spiritual: and raise up thy thoughts from this dust, to the heaven of heavens. Shake off this natural pusillanimity; and mean conceit of thyself, as if thou wert all earth: and know thyself advanced to a celestial condition; that thou art united to the Son of God, and animated by the Holy Spirit of God: so as the life, which thou now livest in the flesh, thou livest by the faith of the Son of God, who loved thee and gave himself for thee; Gal. ii. 20.
See then and confess, how just cause we have to condemn the dead-heartedness, wherewith we are subject to be possessed: and how many worthy Christians are there in the world, who bear a part with us in this just blame; who have yielded over themselves to a disconsolate heartlessness and a sad dejection of spirit, partly through a natural disposition inclining to dumpishness, and partly through the prevalence of temptation : for Satan, well knowing how much it makes for our happiness cheerfully to reflect upon our interest in Christ and to live in the joyful sense of it, labours, by all means, to withdraw our hearts from this so comfortable object, and to clog us with a pensive kind of spiritual sullenness; accounting it no small mastery, if he can prevail with us so far as to bereave us of this habitual joy in the Holy Ghost, arising from the inanimation of Christ living and breathing within us.
So much the more, therefore, must we bend all the powers of our souls, against this dangerous and deadly machination of our spiritual enemy; labour, as for life, to maintain this fort of our joy, against all the powers of darkness ; and if, at any time, we find ourselves beaten off, through the violence of temptation, we must
chide ourselves into our renewed valour, and expostulate the matter with our shrinking courage, with the man after God's own heart, Why art thou cast down, O my soul ; and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise hinn, who is the health of my countenance and my God; Ps. xlii. 11. xliii. 5.
(2.) Neither is here more place for a heavenly joy, than for height of spirit, and raptures of admiration at that infinite goodness and mercy of our God; who hath rouchsafed so far to grace his elect as to honour them with a special inhabitation of his EverBlessed Deity ; yea, to live in them, and to make them live mutually in and to himself.
What capacity is there in the narrow heart of man, to conceive of this incomprehensible favour to his poor creature? O Saviour, this is no small
part of that great mystery, whereinto the angels desire to look (1 Pet. i. 12.), and can never look to the bottom of it: how shall the weak eyes of sinful flesh ever be able to reach unto it?
When thou, in the estate of thy human infirmity, offeredst to go down to the centurion's house, that humble commander could say, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: what shall we then say, that thou, in the state of thy heavenly glory, shouldest vouchsafe to come down and dwell with us in these houses of clay, and to make our breasts the temples of thy Holy Ghost ? 1 Cor. yi. 19.
When thy Holy Mother came to visit the partner of her joy, thy forerunner, then in the womb of his mother, sprang for the joy of thy presence, though distermined by a second womb; Luke i. 44: how should we be affected with a ravishment of spirit, whom thou hast pleased to visit in so much mercy, as to come down into us, and to be spiritually conceived in the womb of our hearts; and, thereby, to give a new and spiritual life to our poor souls; a life of thine own, yet made ours; a life begun in grace, and ending in eternal glory!
(3.) Never did the Holy God give a privilege, where he did not expect a duty. He hath more respect to his glory, than to throw away his favours. The life, that ariseth from this blessed union of our souls with Christ, as it is the height of all bis mercies; so it calls for our most zealous affections, and most effectuat improvement.
Art thou then thus happily united to Christ, and thus enlived by Christ? how entire must thou needs be with him! how dear must thy valuations be of him! how heartily must thou be devoted to him! The spirit of man, saith wise Solomon, is the candle of the Lord, searching all the indard parts of the belly ; Prov. xx. 27: and therefore cannot but be acquainted with his own inmates; and, finding so heavenly a guest as the Spirit of Christ in the secret lodgings of his soul, applies itself to him in all things : so as these two Spirits agree in all their spiritual concernments; The Spirit itself, saith the holy Apostle, beureth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; Rom. viii
. 16. And not in this case only, but upon whatsoever occasion, the faithful man hath this Urim in bis breast; and may consult with this inward Oracle of his God for dia rection, and resolution in all his doubts : neither can he, according to the counsel of the Psalmist (Ps. iv. 4.), commune with his own heart, but that Christ, who lives there, is ready to give him an answer. Shortly, our souls and we are one, and the soul and life are so near one, that the one is commonly taken for the other: Christ therefore, who is the life and soul of our souls, is, and needs must be, so intrinsical to as, that we cannot so much as conceive of our spiritual being without him.
Thou needest not be told, my son, how much thou valuest life. Besides thine own sense, Satan himself can tell thee, and in this case thou mayest believe him, Skin for skin, and all that a man hath will he give for his life; Job ii. 4. What ransom can be set upon it, that a man would stick to give ? though mountains of gold; Ps. xlix. 7: though thousands of rams, or ten thousand rivers of oil; Micah vi. 7. Yea, how readily do we expose our dear limbs, not to hazard only but to loss, for the preservation of it! Now, alas, what is our life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away; James iv. 14.
And, if we do thus value a perishing life that is going out every moment, what price shall we set upou Eternity? If Christ be our life, how precious is that life, wbich neither inward distempers nor outward violences can bereave us of! which neither can be decayed by time, nor altered with cross events ! Hear the Chosen Vessel : What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ: yea, doubtless, I count all things but loss, for the ercellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ; Phil. iii. 7, 8: and, as one that did not esteem his own life dear to him (Acts xx. 24.) in respect of that better, Always, saith he, bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus ; that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body; 2 Cor. iv. 10. How cheerfully have the noble and conquering armies of holy Martyrs given away these momentary lives, that they might hold fast their Jesus, the life of their souls! And who can be otherwise affected, that knows and feels the infinite happiness, that offers itself to be enjoyed by him in the Lord Jesus?
Lastly, if Christ be thy life, then thou art so devoted to him, that thou livest, as in him and by bim, so to him also; aiming only at his service and glory; and framing thyself wholly to his will and directions. Thou canst not so much as eat or drink but with respect to him; 1 Cor. x. 31. Oh, the graciosis resolution of him, that was rapt into the third heaven, worthy to be the pattern of all faithful hearts : According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed"; but that, with all boldness, as always, so now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death : For, to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain"; Phil. i. 20, 21. Our natural life is not worthy to be its own scope: we do not live, merely that we may live: our spiritual life, Christ, is the utmost and most perfect end of all our living; without the in