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“ thing I shall be ashamed; but that with all bold
ness, as always so now also, Christ shall be “ magnified in my body, whether it be by life or “ death; for to me to live is Christ, and to die is
gain.” As if he had said, 'Whether I be gradually worn out by incessant labours, hardships, and sufferings, or at once cut down by a violent death : provided this poor body may be an instrument of honouring my beloved Saviour, I am fully satisfied. This is all I desire to live for; and as to death, I know that, that too will be my gain, my greatest gain! “For, if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour,”—or this is worth my while : “ yet what I shall choose I wot not: “for I have a desire ” (an ardent longing) “to depart, and to be with Christ, “ which is far better: nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” You observe that the apostle expected to be with Christ as soon as he ceased to abide in the flesh; and that he longed especially to be with him, as the source of his felicity.
A criminal, justly condemned to an ignominious death, but pardoned and restored to full favor by the singular grace of his offended sovereign, longs for liberty, pure air, and all the comforts which he is warranted to expect on his release : yet, if his continuance in the prison, and enduring all its inconveniences, may conduce to the honour of his benefactor and the substantial good of his fellow prisoners, he is willing to forego his own gratification, from pure motives of grateful zeal and compassionate love. This seems an apt illustration of the apostle's excellent frame of mind, when he wrote the words under our consideration.
This attention to the context will, I trust, make way for our entering more readily and fully into the meaning of the words which I first read to you “ To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain :" and, in further discoursing on them, I shall consider distinctly the two clauses of the sentence.
I. “ To me to live is Christ."
The concise and energetic way, in which the sacred writers express themselves on subjects remote from the apprehension of men in general, frequently causes them to appear obscure ; and their language in some instances is of that nature, which, had it been first used by some modern teacher, would have been by many considered as words without ideas. For instance, were not this declaration, “ to me to live is Christ,” sheltered under the venerable name of the apostle Paul, who is generally spoken of with respect even by those who oppose his doctrines, it would doubtless have excited exclamations concerning the mystical language of enthusiasts. Yet the declaration, when soberly explained, by comparison with other parts of scripture, and of the apostle's writings in particular, contains the most important meaning, and conveys in a very emphatical manner the most valuable instruction. « But the natural man re“ ceiveth not the things of the Spirit of God : for
they are foolishness to him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
A passage, in many respects like this part of our text may open the way to our subject : “I am “ crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet “not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which “ I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the
“ Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for “ me.”! This remarkable verse contains two particulars which are implied in the clause, “ To me “ to live is Christ.” Conscious of having forfeited the favour and incurred the wrath of God, by violating the divine law in his past life, and also that his present obedience was very far from perfect ; the apostle declares that he expected eternal life and all things pertaining to it entirely by faith in the Son of God, by a firm belief of the record which God had given of his Son, and by an habitual reliance on him for all the blessings of salvation : so that, while in the flesh, and exposed to temptation through its weakness, he relied on Christ, and came to him for pardon, acceptance, and grace, as to thát Saviour who “ loved him and gave himself “ for him.” Thus he was enabled to maintain a joyful hope of heavenly felicity, and to persevere in bis Christian course, which in no other way could he ever have done.
In this sense, “ To me to live is Christ” implies, that the righteousness, atonement, and intercession of Christ, embraced and habitually relied on, was the only foundation on which he rested his hope of finding mercy, escaping deserved wrath, and obtaining eternal life. “ This is the record, that “God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in “ his Son : he that hath the Son hath life, and he " that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is " eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” “ God so loved the world that he gave his only be
i Gal. ii. 20.
“gotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him “should not perish, but have eternal life.”
The former part of the same verse contains an idea which he expresses with some variation in another place. “if ye then be risen with Christ, “ seek those things which are above for ye are “ dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God :“ When Christ, who is our Life, shall appear, then “shall ye also appear with him in glory.”]
Christ was the source of spiritual life to the apostle. “I am the way, and the truth, and “ the life.” By the Spirit of Christ and by the instructions and encouragements of the gospel, he was risen to a new and divine life. His former principles of activity and sources of enjoyment were crucified, in conformity to the crucifixion of his Saviour. He was no longer actuated by ambition or covetousness, or by malignant or sensual passions ; all these he hated, opposed, and mortified: “ nevertheless he lived :” he was extremely active and full of hope and joy : “ Yet not I,” says he “but Christ liveth in me.” “The Spirit of life in “ Christ Jesus” had so enlightened his mind, subdued his will, and purified his affections, that Christ lived in him, as the owner and director of all his powers and faculties, 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 careerand 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 me, and gave
himself for me : - 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: they are presupposed, as indispensably necessary to that kind of life which, I apprehend, the apostle more immediately meant.
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 inquiry. “Ye have not so learned Christ.” He is here spoken of as the instructor, as well as 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