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II. That whether they die, they die unto the Lord. They are willing to be dying creatures. They would not wish to live alway. They carry about with them an habitual sense that they are under a sentence of mortality; that if they wait, the grave is their house, and that eternity is their long home. And they often contemplate these serious and important objects with a solemn and consoling hope. But yet they desire to die to the Lord, and not to themselves. For,
1. They desire that God should order the time when they shall die. This concerns his glory, which they wish might be promoted by their death, as well as by their life. Upon this subject, they are willing to acknowledge their entire ignorance. They may see reasons why they should wish to live to such or such a period, because they imagine they might do more good by living so long, than by leaving the world earlier in life. Or they may see reasons why they should wish that their days might be shortened. But after all, they are willing to leave the time of death to the divine disposal. Job said, “ All the days of my appointed time will I wait
, till my change come." And Paul said to the Philippians, “ For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain : yet what I shall choose, I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better : nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” Those who have such views and feelings may be said to die daily to the Lord.
2. Christians are willing that God should order the place as well as the time of their dying. Though the place seems to be a point of less importance than the time of death, yet some christians, and perhaps all, consider it interesting to themselves. But whatever may be their own choice simply considered, as to the place of death, they are willing to refer this and every other circumstance of dying to the wise and holy disposal of God. He may have good ends to answer, by appointing one place rather than another. How many good men have gone to distant places, and even to distant countries, for the sake of recovering their health and preserving their lives; and yet have lost their lives where they hoped to preserve them. Such persons have often had ardent desires to return, and die in the presence of their friends; but as sincere christians, they were willing to die to the Lord, in the places he had appointed. This is the habitual feeling of real christians, when they anticipate this solemn subject. They know not where it is best that they should breathe their last, and lay their bodies in the dust; and therefore they commit this, as well as every thing else, into the hands of God, who has a right to determine the place of their departure out of this world, so as best to promote his own
glory. This is implied in their dying to the Lord. I may farther observe,
3. That real christians are willing that God should order not only the time and place, but all other circumstances of their death. These we find by observation are extremely various. Some die with one disease, and some with another. There are ten thousand fatal diseases, and by which of them the living shall die, they know not, or whether by any one of them. For there are ten thousand accidents, by which multitudes are called out of time into eternity. And no man knows before. hand, whether he may not fall by a sudden and unexpected stroke. But there are other more serious circumstances of dying. Christians may die in light or in darkness; in hope or in fear; in the lively and full exercise of all their rational powers, or in a total delirium. Now they may anticipate either of these numerous agreeable or disagreeable circumstances of leaving the world; and when they do this, in the exercise of grace, they are willing that God should glorify himself by the peculiar circumstances of their death. Though they have a choice, yet they desire the will of the Lord may be done by their death. Thus real christians both live and die to the Lord, and are his for ever.
IMPROVEMENT. 1. The first thing now suggested by this subject is, that none can be real christians who are not willing to be creatures. True christians realize that they are the Lord's, and are heartily willing to be so. This is not true of any unrenewed man. “ The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” This is the language of every sinner's heart. He is not willing that there should be a God, and of course is not willing to be a creature. For he knows that if there be a God there is a creator, and, if there be a creator, he is his creature; and if he is his creature, that he has a right to do what he will with his own. Here lies the essential difference between a sinner and a saint. A saint is willing to be a creature, and to feel and fulfil the obligations of a creature. He is willing to be the Lord's, and to give him his heart and his life: that is, both to live to him, and to die to him. He is willing that his Creator should employ him to answer all the purposes of his creation, both in life and in death, and for ever. But no sinner is willing to be a creature, and to feel and fulfil the obligations of a creature. He is not willing to be the Lord's, and to give him his heart and life; that is, both to live to him and to die to him. He is not willing that his Creator should employ him to answer all the purposes of his creation, both in life and in death, and for ever. He is totally destitute of all true submission. He says in his heart, that he who hath made him shall not reign over him, and dispose of him for ever. He says he will not be the Lord's. “ This is a spirit diametrically opposite to the spirit of the real christian, who says, whether he lives, he will live to the Lord, or whether he dies, he will die to the Lord, and be his for ever.
He exercises entire, absolute, unconditional submission to his Creator. If this be true, every one may see that no person can be a real christian without being willing to be the Lord's, and exercising unreserved submission to him.
But it is said, the scripture knows nothing about such submission, and says nothing about such submission. Here then let us seriously and impartially inquire, whether the scripture does not know and say something about such entire submission? Does not the apostle very plainly say in the text, that he and other christians exercised precisely such submission as has been mentioned and described ?
Does he not say,
" Whether we live, we live unto the Lord, and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's ?" Does not the apostle here mean to say something more about christians, than sinners can say about ihemselves? Sinners can say, whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord's, though they cannot say, whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord, and are wil. ling to be the Lord's. The apostle meant to distinguish christians from sinners; but if you leave out the idea of perfect submission, he says nothing in the text to mark any essential distinction between them. It is impossible to discover any important and consistent meaning in the text, unless it implies that christians are willing to be the creatures of God, and to be at the absolute disposal of their Creator, by which they essentially differ from sinners. This essential distinction runs through the Bible; and I might mention Abraham, Job, Moses, David, and many other eminent saints, who actually exercised the most unreserved submission to God. But I will let the apostle Paul set this subject at rest. He professedly and clearly illustrates it in the ninth of Romans. After stating the doctrine of divine sovereignty in the plainest and strongest terms, he represents a sinner as objecting against it. “ Thou wilt
say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will ?” The apostle replies to this objection according to the real meaning of the objector. “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” Here we see that every sinner is unwilling to be a
It is a
creature, and that this unwillingness forms the essential distinction between him and a real christian. But if this be true, then every one must see that none can be real christians without being willing to be creatures ; which implies every thing that can be implied in the most entire, absolute, and unconditional submission to God.
2. If christians are willing to live and to die to the Lord, then the life of a real christian is a life of self-denial. life which resembles the life of Christ, who lived and died to the Lord. He lived to his Father, and he died to his Father. He lived to his Father by perfect obedience to his commands, and perfect submission to his will. This he often declared. He said, “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” Again he said, " I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." And again he said, " I do always those things that please him." This was perfectly living to God while he lived. And he died to God as well as lived to God. For the truth of this he appeals to his Father, just before he died. “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” Accordingly when the hour was come that he should die, he expressed his perfect submission to his Father's will. " He said, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” This was living a life and dying a death of self-denial. Accordingly, the apostle would have the Corinthians view the self-denial of Christ with the highest admiration and gratitude. “ Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” Such perfect selfdenial Christ exhibited both in his life and death. And he required every man, who would become his disciple, to live the same life of self-denial. “ Then said Jesus unto his disciples, , If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Now, all real christians follow the example and obey the command of Christ, in a greater or less degree. Just so far as they live to the Lord, and just so far as they are willing to die to the Lord, they live the same life of self-denial that Christ lived, and required his followers to live. They mean to please God, as Christ pleased him. They mean to deny themselves, as Christ denied himself. As he gave up every thing that God required him to give up, so they mean to give up every thing that God requires them to give up. As he submitted to every evil that God required him to submit to, so they mean to submit to every thing of a self-denying nature that God requires them by his word or providence to submit to. If they live, they mean to live for God, and not for VOL. III.
themselves. If they die, they mean to die for God, and not for themselves. Such constant and universal self-denial is essential to a christian life.
3. If christians are willing to live and to die to the Lord, then they live much happier than those who live to themselves. They are willing to be what God has made them to be. They are willing to do what God requires them to do. And they are willing to endure all the evils which God sends upon them. They are happy in prosperity and adversity, 'in health and sickness, in living and dying. They have great peace while living to God, and nothing can destroy it. They have that peace which the world cannot give, and which the world cannot destroy. But those who live to themselves have no solid and permanent peace. They are not pleased to be what God has made them to be. They are not pleased to do what God has required them to do. And they are not pleased to suffer what God lays upon them. They are unhappy in prosperity and adversity, in health and sickness, in the prospect of living and in the prospect of dying. The whole course of providence is continually operating against them, by exciting groundless hopes and groundless fears, groundless joys and groundless sorrows. They feel that anxiety about futurity, which imbitters all the good and evil they experience. They are all their life-time subject to bondage, through fear of not only losing the enjoyments of life, but life itself, and of suffering the pains, not only of the first, but of the second death. Now real christians, who are willing to live and to die unto the Lord, in a great measure escape these great internal evils, which universally disturb, and often destroy, the peace and happiness of those who live to themselves. They are internally happy amidst their external evils and burdens. This was certainly the case of the primitive christians. The apostle, speaking in their name, says, “ As dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things." While they were fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, they rejoiced in hope, and were patient in tribulation; and internally happy, while externally miserable and wretched. The very same scenes, and objects, and circumstances, which destroy the peace and happiness of the men of the world, who live to themselves, promote the peace and happiness of christians, who live and die to the Lord, and who take him for their supreme portion. So that wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace, whilst the way of transgressors is hard; and those who rob God of the love and service which he desires and requires,