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For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.—Phil. i. 21.
PAUL had professed his indifferency to life or death, so Christ might be glorified by either; either by his ministry or martyrdom; his aim and scope was Christ’s glory. Now how God would use him to such a purpose he was altogether unconcerned, and professeth, if he might have his option and choice, he would give the case back again to God to determine it as it might be most for his service and glory. Now here he beginneth to debate the case, and showeth in what respects life and death were valuable. If you put life in one scale and side of the balance, there is his service in the gospel; if death in the other side, there is eternal profit: ‘To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’
Here I shall show—
1. Why he desired life, ‘To me to live is Christ.’
2. Why he submitted to death, ‘To die is gain.’
[1.] The purpose and business of the present life is Christ’s service.
[2.] The gain and profit of his death is the perfect enjoyment of Christ; if he did live, he should preach Christ; if he did die, he should go to Christ, and remain with him for ever.
I must not dissemble it that some read the text thus, ‘Christ is gain to me both in life and death, whatsoever falleth out.’ This interpretation, though not unsuitable to the context, yet it doth not run so smoothly, and cannot be so easily wrought out of the Greek tongue as our translation.
I shall treat of the purpose and business of life; ἐμοὶ γὰρ τὸ ζῆν Χριστὸς. The infinitive of the verb is put for the substantive, τὸ ζῆν for ζωή, my life is Christ. Now Christ may be said to be the life two ways—as the principle or as the end. As the principle: Gal. ii. 20, ‘Christ liveth in me.’ Secondly, as the end and scope; so here he is both author and end. As we live in him and by him, so we live for him and to him. The latter supposeth the former. Our tendency is according to the principle by which we are acted. That life which we have from Christ is used for Christ; his meaning is, that the service and honour of Christ was the scope and business of his life.
Doct. That the great end and business of a christian’s life should be to honour and glorify Christ.180
I argue it thus—
First, We have life from him, and therefore it will be to him. I speak it not of life natural, but spiritual. The tendency of it is to Christ, from whose influence we receive it; the end is according to the principle. We live in Christ, to Christ. A supernatural influence causeth a supernatural tendency. Carnal men, that act by their own life, live upon their own root, bring forth fruit to themselves, make it their business to please the flesh. Water riseth no higher than its fountain, and the fruit is always according to the influence of the root; but they that are ingrafted into Christ, they live out of themselves, and therefore do not live for themselves, but that their heavenly Father may be glorified, John xv. 8. It is the application of the parable of the vine; as rivers run into the sea from whence their channels are filled, so doth grace cause all the issues and outgoings of the spiritual life to return to Christ from whence they came.
Secondly, I argue from the right Christ hath to our service. We are his by every kind of right and title. If we were at our own dispose, we might live as we list; but no creature is sui juris, its own, to use as it will, much less the saints: Rom. xiv. 7-9, ‘For no man, of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself; for 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. For to this end Christ both died, and rose again, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.’ The apostle is there pressing to unity, notwithstanding lesser differences. The saints do not always agree in the means, by reason of the difference of light. They all agree in the scope; they do all things to the Lord, that is, the Lord Christ; for he speaketh of his dying and rising again. Now this he argueth from Christ’s right, because we are the Lord’s, which is acknowledged and improved to this end by the saints. Christ hath a right over all; weak and strong christians all agree in this, and wholly surrender themselves to Christ’s use, living and dying. A whole christian is Christ’s; take him in his person, his relations, conditions of life, and all his concernments, he is Christ’s, and therefore to him to live is Christ.
To make this more clear, let us examine the several titles Christ hath to a believer.
1. By creation. So Christ hath a right to us, together with the Father and Spirit. He made the world: Heb. i. 2, ‘Hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.’ Men and angels were the work of his hands.
In creation three things are considerable—
(1.) The absolute right it gave him; (2.) The intention of the Creator; (3.) The obligation left upon the creature.
[1.] The absolute right that accrueth to him from hence. The creature is wholly and solely of him and from him, and of nothing else in the world, and therefore is wholly and solely his to dispose of. There is nothing ours, but his. What joint or member of the body, or faculty of the mind, was by thyself bestowed upon thyself, or made by thy direction and request? It was all made by God out of nothing, therefore it is all 181his. Thy tongue is not thine own to speak what thou pleasest, nor thy heart thine to think what thou pleasest, or covet what thou pleasest, nor thy hand to do what thou pleasest, nor thy feet to go whither thou pleasest. We neither made nor can keep any of these things longer than God willeth, and therefore they must be employed for him. Self love is God’s prerogative. He alone can love himself and seek himself, because he alone is without obligation and dependence; but no creature was made terminatively for itself, to live to itself, for he that made it hath a right to all that we are and have; and to use ourselves other wise than for his glory, ultimately and terminatively, it is to rob God of his property, and defeat the great owner of his right in us. But that is not all I would speak under this head, that God has a right, but he has an absolute right, such as no other can have. They distinguish in the civil law of a twofold dominion. There is dominium jurisdictionis et proprietatis, the dominion of jurisdiction over men, or reasonable creatures, who are only capable of passive jurisdiction or government. The dominion of propriety respects other things, as beasts and things inanimate. This is more absolute than the former; for a man may dispose of his own goods more absolutely than of those things over which he hath only a jurisdiction; as, for instance, a potter hath more power over his clay than a man over his beast, more power over his beast than his slave, over his slave than his free servant, and a man hath more power over his servants than a prince over his subjects. Now both these kinds of dominion hath God over us, not only that of jurisdiction, but propriety; and hath a more absolute power over us than the most absolute monarch, not only over his subjects and slaves, but over his goods and lands; for they did not make these things, but acquire a right, being made. A civil right cannot be so great as a natural, and no such natural right that any man hath. A man hath not such a power over the vineyard which he hath planted as God hath over the creatures which he hath made. The husbandman can not make a vine, but he may set it and dress it; but God made us out of nothing. Nor is the power of the potter such over his clay, for he only giveth shape by art, but God gives our whole being; therefore he hath an absolute power to use us as he pleaseth. I may do with my own as it pleaseth me.
[2.] The next thing in creation is the intention of the Creator. God would not let fall his right. There is nothing made by any one but he expects some use and service for it. It is irrational to do a thing be cause we will do it, without any purpose. God being a rational agent, must have an end, and he could have no end but himself, his service, the declaring of his own glory: Prov. xvi. 4, ‘He hath made all things for himself.’ No creature was made for itself, but all for God. They are from him and for him: Rom. xi. 36, ‘For of him, and through him, and to him are all things.’ Some things God made immediately for himself, as men and angels; other things for himself ultimately and terminatively, but immediately for man’s good. And indeed the whole creation, except the angels, are subjected to our dominion or created for our use. The heavens, though not under our dominion as the beasts, yet were created for our use; the lower heaven to give us breath, the middle heaven to give us light and heat, the highest heaven for 182our dwelling-place. The sun shineth for us, the winds blow for us, the water runneth for us, so the earth is settled for us. God is the ultimate result and issue of them, but they were made for us immediately. But man’s obedience and service he hath reserved by a special command unto himself. He that by creation gave a being to all things, imposed an end upon them. Now this is the end imposed upon men, that they should more immediately dispose of themselves to his service and glory. Our end was not to eat, drink, trade, sleep, enjoy pleasures and honours, but to serve and honour God. That is our end ultimately and terminatively, and therefore that should be our main business. All other things keep their end for which they were created; the sun to enlighten the world by day, and for that end he still serveth; the moon and stars to rule the night; therefore if we were made for this purpose, to know, love, fear, obey, and serve God, this should be our business and scope; to do otherwise is as unnatural to us as it is for the sun not to shine or the stars not to convey their light and influence.
[3.] Besides the right and intention of the Creator there is an obligation left upon the creature to love and serve him that created us, namely, as he showed more love to us than he did to any other creatures except the angels. He gave being to other things, to man his image. Now the whole use of an image and picture lieth in the resemblance. We do not answer the dignity put upon us in our creation if we do not resemble the wisdom, purity, goodness, and mercy of God, which we can only do by living to him. We deface that which God intended for a glory to man, and cast it away as a thing nothing worth. He made man lord of all things, Gen. i. 26; and the psalmist noteth it, Ps. viii. 6, ‘Thou hast put all things under him.’ Subject to our dominion, or created for our use; and shall we not serve him that hath made the whole course of nature to serve us? All the creatures are at work for us night and day, for a poor worm of six feet long; and shall not God be honoured and served for this? We are troubled if the creatures do not serve us, if the course of nature be varied, if the sun do not shine in its season, and showers of rain in their season; and why are we not troubled if we do not serve God? There is no debt from the creatures to us; they serve us only by the bounty and appointment of God. We are not only appointed to serve him, but indebted to him. In our constitution every member of the body is an obliging mercy; if we want any one sense, and could meet with a person that can restore it, as the loss of an eye or an arm, how would we love and honour him! And will not you remember your Creator, who gave them to us at first?
2. Preservation, by which the title of creation is daily renewed and reinforced. Now Christ is interested in all this, as all things in heaven and earth are gathered together in him: Eph. i. 10, ‘That in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him.’ Ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι, is the apostle’s word, as the words of a speech are recapitulated and summed up that they may not be lost. And if we consider the creature’s mutability, and how every moment we are in danger to be lost, preservation is as beneficial as creation. We are continued by his providential influence every moment in our being 183and operation, as the beams are by the sun: Acts xvii. 28, ‘For in him we live, and move, and have our being;’ Heb. i. 3, ‘And upholdeth all things by the word of his power.’ Things were not made that they should act and subsist of themselves, as the house abideth when the architect is gone; therefore we are bound to serve him every moment: Neh. ix. 6, ‘Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all things that are therein, the seas and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all.’ And he doth not this out of necessity, but of his own free will. If God should turn you off for preservation to yourselves, what would you do to keep yourselves from falling into nothing? If you live, and act as your own men, is not God disengaged from providing for you? As he that leaveth his master’s work is no longer reckoned as a branch of the family, but left to live upon his own calling.
3. Redemption. This giveth a proper right to the second person: 1 Cor. vi. 20, ‘For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.’ They are not yours, but God’s. To make this consideration the more effectual, let us consider—(1.) The right; (2.) The price.
[1.] Let us consider how there accrueth to Christ a right by redemption. God had a right in us by creation, a fair and full right, which we could not make away by sin. We had indeed sold ourselves unto God’s adversary for enjoying the pleasures of the flesh: Isa. lii. 3, ‘Ye have sold yourselves for nought.’ Though we could not alienate our selves by any covenant, implicit or express, from God’s dominion of jurisdiction over us, yet we did renounce his service; so that God was no otherwise our lord than a king over rebels and traitors, who may withdraw their allegiance, yet cannot abrogate and make void his jurisdiction. This right that God had in us did only move him to take vengeance of us, as the right of a prince to chastise the rebels, and reduce them by strong hand to their obedience. We had interest in his gracious protection; so that now to restore us, not only to his service, but favour, Jesus Christ came and made satisfaction, and therefore is said to purchase us to God, Rev. v. 9; and therefore this should highly oblige us to serve him. God lost no right by the fall, but we lost privilege; it was a right that was comfortable and beneficial to us, and therefore we are not our own, but his, by all the laws of equity.
[2.] Consider the price that was paid for us. The apostle Peter gives us an account of that: 1 Peter i. 18, 19, ‘We were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.’ The greatness of the price doth argue his full propriety in us. That which was bought with silver and gold gave the buyer an interest in the thing or person so bought, not only in lands, but servants; as if a man had bought another out of captivity, or he had sold himself, all his time, strength, and service belonged to the buyer. Yea, the dominion was so absolute, that the servant had no plea against his master if he had died by his stripes after a while, ‘He is his money,’ saith the law, Exod. xxi. 21. But now we are bought with the blood of the Son of God, and therefore what degree of service can be answerable to so great a price? Judas sold our Saviour at a cheap rate, for thirty pieces 184of silver; but before God’s tribunal it was blood of a higher price; and as to us, the indignity and cheap price that was put upon him maketh the obligation the greater; therefore we should wholly bend ourselves to promote his glory.
4. By conquest. Prisoners of war were theirs that took them till they paid their ransom. The apostle alludeth to it: 2 Peter ii. 19, ‘For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage;’ Rom. vii. 14, ‘Sold under sin.’ We are Christ’s by conquest: Col. i. 13, ‘Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness.’ By strong hand: Luke xi. 21, 22, ‘When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoil.’ Indeed this conquest is sweet, for it is not a captivity, but a rescue; as Abraham pursued after the kings that took Lot prisoner, Gen. xiv., and rescued him, and would have nothing for his pains but the liberty of the persons. So that it is a blessed conquest, but yet such as giveth Christ an interest in us, as David got an interest in Michal, Saul’s daughter, by slaying Goliath.
5. Actual possession. When we are united to him by the Spirit, our property in ourselves is quite destroyed by our union with Christ; so that our bodies and souls are not our own to dispose of, but his. Thence the apostle: 1 Cor. vi. 15, ‘Shall I take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid.’ Christ hath a right in everything that is a christian’s; it is actually seized upon by the Spirit.
6. By resignation and voluntary consent. When Christ taketh hold of us by his Spirit, we take hold of him. Christ maketh over himself to us, and we give up ourselves to him, every interest and concernment to him: ‘My beloved is mine, and I am his,’ Cant. ii. 16. We are so. It is the time of spiritual marriage between Christ and the soul. We give up all to him, every interest, relation, concernment; and this must not be retracted in word or deed. Therefore unless we mean to retract our vows, and deal treacherously in the covenant, we should live as those that are Christ’s: 2 Cor. viii. 5, ‘But first gave their ownselves to the Lord;’ 2 Chron. xxx. 8, ‘Yield yourselves to the Lord.’
Thirdly, The third reason is taken from the value of his service. Life is only then worth the having when we may honour Christ by it, otherwise not. For a man that hath an interest in better things to desire life merely for itself, is foolish; for it is better to be with God, Phil. i. 23, πολλῶ μᾶλλον κρεῖττον, ‘by much more the better.’ For a saint to live here with so much trouble and molestation is no eligible thing; but yet if Christ hath any use for us, we must be content. David prayeth for life, but still in order to service: Ps. cxix. 17, ‘Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live and keep thy word.’ Paul loved his work rather than his life, and preferred obedience before safety: Acts xx. 24, ‘Neither count I my life dear unto me, so I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.’ So that was David’s hope in the prolongation of life: Ps. cxviii. 17, ‘I shall not die but live, and declare the works of the Lord.’ Further opportunities to honour God. This is that which maketh life to be life 185indeed, communion with God in Christ. It is not he who lives longest and most plentifully, but most serviceable to God’s glory, that makes life to be life indeed.
Use 1. To persuade us to make it our business to honour Christ, to advance him. It doth not only concern public persons, such as Paul was, but every private christian.
To this purpose I shall—(1.) Give you directions; (2.) Motives.
1. You must close with him by faith, and use him to the end for which God hath appointed him: 2 Thes. i. 11, 12, ‘That our 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 of Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him.’ Now when did you close with him by faith? Faith has a double office—it accepts Christ from God, and presents Christ to God. It makes use of him in all our converse with him; it accepts Christ in the word, and maketh use of him in prayer. In the word God offereth him to you as Lord and Saviour, to give you repentance and remission of sins. Now when you consent to God’s terms, this is to believe in him. Take heed you do not make light of Christ, as those did, Mat. xxii. 5, 61 ὁι δὲ ἀμελήσαντες; they slighted, disregarded, neglected him; they had other business to mind. ‘No; this is your work, your hearts should be set on it. After long traverses you must say, as Laban, Gen. xxiv. 50, ‘The thing is of the Lord.’ I can say nothing against it. I will see what Christ will do for my soul; oh, that I may be found in him! It presents Christ to God: Eph. iii. 12, ‘In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.’ You gather heart and confidence by dealing with God in his name. All religion lieth in a coming to God by him, Heb. vii. 25, but that coming is not meant of one duty, but the principal aim and purpose of the soul in all, rejoicing in God.
2. Consecrate and dedicate yourselves to Christ’s use: Rom. xii. 1, ‘I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.’ There is the foundation of our obedience: 2 Cor. v. 8, ‘But first gave their own selves to the Lord.’ You owe yourselves to him, and therefore you give up yourselves to him; as Paul said to Philemon, ver. 19, ‘Thou owest unto me even thine own self.’ Lord, I am thine. Your business is first to take Christ, but then to surrender yourselves to his use.
3. Use yourselves as those that are Christ’s, that is, improving your time, and estates, and strength, and relations, and talents, and interests for his glory. A good christian would have nothing, but he would make some advantage of it for Christ’s use, and this will be seen by checking temptations upon this account: 1 Cor. vi. 15, ‘Shall I take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot?’ This body is Christ’s, this time which I misspend is Christ’s, this money is Christ’s; hereby you own God’s impress upon you. ‘Holiness to the Lord’ should be written upon all things, Zech. xiv. 20. And it is known by contrivances, how you shall honour Christ by your place, your relations: Neh. i. 11, ‘Grant him mercy in the sight of this man; for I was the king’s cupbearer.’ He had improved his place for God. God hath advanced me, made me a minister, a magistrate, a master of a 186family, given me a great estate. What are the workings of your hearts? 2 Sam. vii. 2, ‘I dwell in a house of cedar; but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains.’
4. Honour him by the holiness of your conversations, when you walk so as remembering that Christ’s honour lieth at stake, at another rate than others do: 1 Cor. iii. 3, ‘They walk as men.’ We have higher advantages, and hopes, and obligations upon ourselves than others have. Wherein do you differ? Mat. v. 46, ‘What do ye more than others?’ Both for matter and aim, your business should be so as to bring Christ into request with others: 1 Peter ii. 12, ‘Having your conversation honest among the gentiles; that whereas they speak against you as evil doers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.’
5. By all your enjoyments, temporal and spiritual, let Christ be endeared to you: 1 Cor. iii. 21, ‘All things are yours, because you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.’ All mercies swim to you in his blood. Get actual possession of an evangelical right, sanctified by Jesus Christ As to quickening enlargements, it is a sign you have them from Christ when you honour him and esteem him the more for them: John xvi. 14, ‘He shall take of mine, and glorify me.’ It is a sign the Spirit of Christ dwelleth and worketh in us when all that enlightening, quickening comfort and refreshing which we have is used to the glory of Christ.
6. When you are willing to undergo any trouble, and count it an honour to suffer for Christ’s sake. To die for Christ, saith Ignatius, is greater than to be monarch of all the world: Acts v. 41, ‘And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his sake,’ ὅτι κατηξιώθησαν ἀτιμασθῆναι; that they were so far dignified as to be disgraced for Christ. Cur non me quoque torque donas?—Why don’t you honour me with a chain also? said one. Suffering is a privilege: ‘To you it is given to suffer for Christ,’ Phil. i. 29.
1. Consider you are not your own, but under another lord. All disorder cometh from looking upon ourselves as our own men: Jer. ii. 31, ‘We are lords, and will not come at thee;’ Ps. xii. 4, ‘Our tongues are our own; who is lord over us?’ Prodigals will say, I spend nothing but my own. The covetous will say, ‘Shall I take my bread and my wine,’ &c.
2. We have owned Christ’s right in baptism. There the hands of consecration passed upon us: 1 Peter iii. 21, ‘Baptism doth also now save us; not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.’ You that have professed the christian religion, you rescind your baptismal vow by a loose life. Your parents consecrated you to Christ, and you will not stand to it.
3. There will a day of accounts come, when the great God of recompenses will reckon with you: Jer. li. 6, ‘For this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance; he will render unto thee a recompense;’ Luke xix. 23, ‘At my coming I will require mine own with usury.’ If there were no day of account, we are so much obliged; but there is a day 187of inquiry what portion you had; thus much time, thus much estate. What a poor account will most be able to make!
4. The utility and profit of it as to present comfort and final reward.
[1.] For the present an interest in Christ’s intercession: John xvii. 9, 10, ‘I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine: and all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them.’ Those who glorify Christ on earth, he is pleading their cause in heaven. You are his factors, he is your advocate. It is a sweet thing to have our Redeemer speak well of us behind our back; when we are praying, to have him pleading, Father, this is one that glorified me. He makes a good report of you in heaven.
[2.] Hereafter it will turn to a good account, whatever it cost you for the present. David’s companions in the wilderness had hard ser vice in the wilderness, and little wages; but when David was crowned in Hebron, they were all advanced to offices and places of power and trust. We may meet with many a frown, and hard entertainment in the world, but we shall not repent it in the day of Christ’s royalty. There is a notable passage, Mat. xix. 27, 28, ‘Then answered Peter, and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily, I say unto you, That ye who have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones.’ What had Peter to forsake? A net, a cottage, a fisher-boat; a great all! But we are apt to think much of what we part with for Christ’s sake; a little scorn, a disgraceful word, some paring of our maintenance; presently we say, What shall we have therefore? We need not seek another paymaster; Christ will not be behindhand with us ἐν παλιγγενεσία, ‘in the regeneration.’ Surely we do not think often enough of the general renovation of all things; if we did, we would glorify God more. If you live to Christ, you shall live with Christ, enjoy his company in heaven.
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