"How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his deaths 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: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin."--Rom. 6:2-7.
HE leading doctrine taught in this Scripture, and which it shall be my object, in the present discourse, to prove and illustrate, may be summed up in a single proposition; namely, that what the Lord did and suffered in order to enter into His glory must, in some sense, be done and suffered by every ore who is to participate in that glory.
Before entering upon the argument and elucidation of this proposition, it may be well to remark that it embraces the whole of duty and salvation. There is nothing for us to do or bear that is not exemplified in the history of our great Captain and Leader. At the same time, it is important to remember that, in seeking to follow His example, we are not to commence with His birth, or baptism, or temptation, or any of the labors of His active life. All these we pass by, and begin with the last scenes first. And it is not until after we have followed Him through all these, and been made thus the sons of God; not until we can say, "Christ liveth in us"--that we can begin to live the life of Christ, or hope to imitate the example of that life. Hence the Scripture from which we shall draw our discourse points us to the last events of His earthly career as the first for our imitation, thus teaching us that if we would be "glorified together" with Him, we must, first of all, re-enact the history out of which His glory sprang. A part of this history is implied, and a part is expressed, in the text. Let us refer to it in its regular order, and make the application as we proceed.
It was just after Judas had gone out to betray Him, that He exclaimed, with triumphant exultation, "Now is the Son of man glorified;" by which He doubtless meant that He was now about to enter upon those sufferings for which He was to be crowned with glory and honor. But so completely was His heart enraptured by the blessedness beyond, that He overlooked or disregarded the intervening sorrows of the Garden, the pains of Calvary, and the darkness of the tomb. And yet it was out of these the glory was to arise, and for these the crown was to be conferred. And is it not true of every man that, when heaven is, first of all, appreciated, and its holiness perceived to be the chief good; and when the freeness and fullness of gospel promises give assurance that all may be his--he forgets the crucifixion and burial, which must necessarily antedate his resurrection to life and bliss, and learns, not till afterward, that no man can reach the crown without first coming to the cross; and that no man will come to the cross who has not first passed through the garden?
It is the teaching of revelation, confirmed by every Christian's experience, that he who comes to Christ has previously felt "weary and heavy laden"; has realized the agony of sin; his soul has been made exceeding sorrowful--the "godly sorrow for sin which worketh repentance." And how often has such a man retired into the darkness, to struggle with his burden, and to pray all alone; and so, "pierced to the heart," weeping and in anguish, and doubtless strengthened in his weakness by some messenger of God, he comes at last to say, nay, to desire, "Thy will, O God, be done." Thus he "learns obedience by the things which he suffers." He realizes the necessity for it. His own misery teaches him the consequences of sin, and he determines henceforth to obey; and from his heart he cries, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" It is then, in the hour of darkness and tears and agony, that he gives the first solemn pledge to God to be, to do and to suffer all that He wills.
When such a man hears the command, "Follow the Lord Jesus," he will not be careful to analyze it into its external and internal elements, nor to test it by some alchemy of human philosophy, to see whether it be essential or non-essential; enough for him that it is the voice of God. Hence, he goes boldly forward. It may be in the presence of scoffers and infidels; he cares not. He has a settled purpose that he will identify himself with Jesus Christ, and confess with his mouth the confidence he has in Him; and he does it, rejoicing that he is permitted, even in this, to imitate Him "who, before Pontius Pilate, witnessed a good confession."
But it should not be forgotten that, though this is "the good confession," and though "with the mouth confession is made unto salvation," it can only result in this blessing when the subsequent conduct is consistent with it. If he pause with the bare profession with the mouth, it is but lip service; and hence, while the Saviour has graciously promised to confess those before His Father who confess Him before men, He does not fail to warn us that many call Him Lord who do not obey Him as Lord; by which He would teach us that the confession which secures salvation is one which ultimates in obedience. All would be willing to be Christians in name, doubtless, if they might be allowed to live on in the lusts of the flesh and the pride of life; but the plain intimation of the text, and which perfectly accords with the example of the Saviour, is that this confession necessitates death; and just here is, for most men, "the stone of stumbling and rock of offense." They are willing to pronounce eloquent, and, it may be, heartfelt, panegyrics upon the cross of Christ. They can speak in melting tones of Calvary, and point to the "marred visage" of the Crucified with evident emotion. They can tell us, too, in well-selected phrase, of the infinite merits of the whole world; but they are slow to learn that, as a matter of fact, it really does take away the sins of those only, not who admire Him, but who are "crucified with him."
"Take up thy cross," says the Saviour, "and follow me." How prone we are to explain away this "cross," by making it no more than some public confession, some speaking or praying before men, or the performance of some other duty that is simply disagreeable, as though it were the symbol of mere embarrassment, or as though Christianity held modesty as sin, and self-distrust at discount. No, the word means death, as is explained by the passage which says: "Whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it." And certainly this means that only he who loses his life shall find it; or that the old life must be destroyed before the new can be superinduced.
A point so important and so practical deserves a fuller illustration. Let me quote, then, some passages from the Epistles, which will settle the matter, as I think, beyond question: "Our old man is crucified with him, that henceforth we should not serve sin; for he that is dead is freed from sin." But suppose he is not dead! "If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin." "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."
How this illustrates the words of the Saviour! The apostle took his cross, was crucified, "lost his life," and, according to the promise, "found it." But he does not hold his case as peculiar, for he says: "They that are Christ's "i. e., all that are Christ's--"have crucified the flesh with the passions and lusts." Certainly, then, they that have not done so are not Christ's. It is, therefore, "a faithful saying; for, if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him."
I presume, of course, that no one will under stand these Scriptures to refer to a strictly literal "death" and "crucifixion." But let us beware. Because they are not literal, it does not follow that they are not real. We have no right to set aside the included, veritable truth, because it happens to be presented enveloped in a figurative expression. Hence, it is certain that "he that lives in pleasure"; he that is alive to the world, to the lusts of his flesh, to his carnal passions--can not be said to be dead or crucified with Christ, or to have "put off the old man with his deeds."
But even this "crucifixion"--this "death to sin"--to the flesh, and to the world, is not all. That would indeed be a very inadequate exhibition of Christianity which should leave us with a dead Saviour, and ourselves merely as dead to sin, but not alive unto God. We can not pause with the crucifixion, therefore, without losing the very blessing for which it was endured. It is a part of the gospel of salvation, not only that "he died for our sins," but that "he was buried." In this, too, as in all things, it is our exalted privilege to follow Him, to be "buried with him." But what can this mean? How are we buried with Him? On this question, there might have been room for doubt and perplexity, if the Scriptures had not been so explicit in furnishing a solution. As the death to sin is not strictly a literal death, it might have been thought--if we had been left to our own reasonings--that the "burial" is not a literal burial, but may be some monkish retirement from the world, a "burial" in the caves or dens of the earth; or that, possibly, it has some "spiritual," and, of course, indefinite, sense, such as fanaticism has dictated for so many other requirements of the Scripture. Happily, however, we are not left in doubt. A word is added which relieves the matter of all uncertainty, and forbids its giving any other explanation: "We are buried with him by baptism." This is, then, the only way in which we can be buried with Him, and any explanation which leaves out this act of burial is sheer infidelity. God has spoken in the premises let all the earth keep silent before Him.
Another question, however, may arise here, and that is: The meaning being settled, is it necessary that we should be thus buried with Him. To which we simply respond: The new life emerges from the tomb! The Saviour did not rise from the cross, but from the grave! These are facts which no logic can ratiocinate out of existence. They constitute a living demonstration that Christianity contemplates, not simply life from the dead, but life from the tomb; and, at the same time, they confirm the assurance that those who have been crucified and buried with Him shall rise from their burial, to walk in newness of life with Him.
Again, let us see what the Scriptures say upon the subject: "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." If, now, the question be, why the burial, the answer is given, "therefore we are buried"--for this very reason, with this identical object in view--that we may walk in newness of life. The one is the natural antecedent of the other; nay, the one is clearly conditional on the other. Once more: "Buried with him by baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him." The apostle immediately proceeds to address these parties as those that are "risen with Christ," and tells them, "Ye have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man." As much as to say (what, indeed, he did say in other places): "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ;" and, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." With what clearness and force do these passages illustrate and confirm the doctrine of the text; viz., that "our old man is crucified" "dead with Christ"--"dead unto sin;" that, as such, it is "buried with him by baptism" "planted in the likeness of his death;" and that from this baptismal burial we are "raised up" to "walk in newness of life"; the "old man," still "dead, indeed, unto sin," but the "new man" evermore "alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." And hence the oppositeness of the conclusion, "Yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead."
We have now followed the great Captain of our salvation through death and burial and resurrection--coming, thus, into the enjoyment and manifestation of a new spiritual life. "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God." "If Christ be in us, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life, because of righteousness." If we, then, be risen with Christ, if He is our life, while our old dead body may remain upon the earth, the spirit, the heart, the affections, must ascend with Him. In this sense, "we have come to the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to God, the Judge of all." "Our citizenship is in heaven;" we are no longer of the world; our heart and life and home and treasures are all above, laid up secure, beyond the reach of corruption or danger.
And, finally, we are glorified with Him. This is the terminus ad quem of all the past. Yes, we are glorified, though still encompassed with infirmity, and walking through great tribulation, subjects of toil and sorrow and pain and tears; for "whom he justified, them he also glorified." In one sense, certainly, this glory is still future. And, in this view, we joyfully "suffer with him that we may be also glorified together." We are, in this respect, like the Saviour in His humiliation--our glory is not manifested. We are living His divine life, we partake of His divine nature, we are filled with His divine Spirit; but "the world knoweth us not, even as it knew him not." It is "the manifestation of the sons of God," for which the "earnest expectation of the creature waiteth"; and this is not the impartation of glory, but "the revelation of the glory that is in us." Consequently, the Christian, having reproduced the great facts of redemption in his conversion to Christ, is now remanded to the example o f Christ's life upon the earth, to reproduce that, in order to his final glorification. In other words, being made a son of God, he is now to lead the life of the Son of God upon the earth.
It will be observed that this is not, as in the former case, to be done in particulars, but in generals. Ours is to be, like His, a life of love and mercy; of gentleness and forgiveness; of prayer and humility; of labor for the good of others; and, in one word, of self-sacrifice for the salvation of the world. Such a life will be continually blessed by the presence and grace of God; and, in closing such a career, we shall, like our glorious Leader, simply "lay down" the divine "life" which is in us, to be taken again. We shall, of course, go with Him once more to the tomb, but we can now look forward to that broken prison without a fear, knowing that "if the Spirit of him that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead dwell in us, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken our mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in us." And after this--beyond the resurrection--"it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that we shall be like him;" "we shall be glorified together"--"manifested" to the universe as the "sons of God"; and if sons, then heirs, "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ."
Such, in brief, is the wonderful scheme of salvation. It is simply being with Christ, from first to last, from the darkness to the glory. But, oh! it must needs be, if we are with him, that He also is with us; with us in our exceeding sorrow for sin; with us in the good confession, the shame and derision, the crucifixion and burial; with us, aye, in us, in the resurrection; and with us and in us evermore, in all our toils and temptations and sufferings and tears. Yea, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, for still He is with us. And beyond the grave, in the glorious world of immortal life, where the Saviour reigns the exalted Lord and Christ, the prayer which He breathed in the days of His humiliation is still heard and answered "Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am." O blessed consummation! This is the fruition of all hope, the reward of all labor, the satisfaction of all desire, the very fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ "ever with the Lord!"