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We are met here to remember, to celebrate, and set forth the death of Christ, — to profess and plead our interest therein. And there are two things that we should principally consider in reference to ourselves, and our duty, and the death of Christ. The first is, the benefits of it, and our participation of them; and the second, is, our conformity unto it. Both are mentioned together by the apostle in
Phil. iii. 10, — “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”
I shall speak a word or two (upon this occasion of remembering the death of Christ) unto the latter clause, — of our “being made conformable unto his death,” — wherein a very great part of our due preparation unto this ordinance doth consist; and for the furtherance whereof we do in an especial manner wait upon God in this part of his worship. Therefore I shall in a few words mind you wherein we ought to be conformable unto the death of Christ, and how we are advantaged therein by this ordinance.
We are to be conformable unto the death of Christ in the internal, moral cause of it, and in the external means of it.
The cause of the death of Christ was sin; the means of the death of Christ was suffering. Our being conformable unto the death of Christ must respect sin and suffering.
The procuring cause of the death of Christ was sin. He died for sin; he died for our sin; our iniquities were upon him, and were the cause of all the punishment that befell him.
Wherein can we be conformable unto the death of Christ with respect unto sin? We cannot die for sin. Our hope and faith is, in and through him, that we shall never die for sin. No mortal man 580can be made like unto Christ in suffering for sin. Those that undergo what he underwent, because they were unlike him, must go to hell and be made more unlike him to eternity. Therefore the apostle tells us that our conformity unto the death of Christ with respect unto sin lies in this, — that as he died for sin, so we should die unto sin, — that that sin which he died for should die in us. He tells us so, Rom. vi. 5, “We are planted together in the likeness of his death;” — “We are made conformable unto the death of Christ, planted into him, so as to have a likeness to him in his death.” Wherein? “Knowing that our old man is crucified with him,” saith he, verse 6. It is the crucifixion of the old man, the crucifying of the body of sin, the mortifying of sin, that makes us conformable unto the death of Christ; as to the internal moral cause of it, that procures it. See another apostle tells us, 1 Pet. iv. 1, 2, “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.” Here is our conformity to Christ, as he suffered in the flesh, — that we should no longer live to our lusts, nor unto the will of man, but unto the will of God. And, brethren, let me tell you, he who approacheth unto this remembrance of the death of Christ, that hath not laboured, that doth not labour, for conformity to his death in the universal mortification of all sin, runs a hazard to his soul, and puts an affront upon Jesus Christ. O let none of us come in a way of thankfulness to remember the death of Jesus Christ, and bring along with us the murderer whereby he was slain! To harbour with us, and bring along with us to the death of Christ, unmortified lusts and corruptions, such as we do not continually and sincerely endeavour to kill and mortify, is to come and upbraid Christ with his murderer, instead of obtaining any spiritual advantage. What can such poor souls expect?
To be conformable unto the death of Christ as to the outward means, is to be conformable unto him in suffering. We here remember Christ’s suffering. And I am persuaded, and hope I have considered it, that he who is unready to be conformable unto Christ in suffering, was never upright and sincere in endeavouring to be conformable unto Christ in the killing of sin; for we are called as much to the one as to the other. Christ hath suffered for us, “leaving us an example,” that we should also suffer when we are called thereunto. And our unwillingness to suffer like unto Christ arises from some unmortified corruption in our hearts, which we have not endeavoured to subdue, that we may be like unto Christ in the mortification and death of sin.
There are four things required, that we may be conformable unto 581the death of Christ in suffering; for we may suffer, and yet not be like unto Christ in it, nor by it:—
1. The first is, that we suffer for Christ, 1 Pet. iv. 15, 16, “Let none suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil-doer,” etc.; “yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed.” To suffer as a Christian is to suffer for Christ, — for the name of Christ., for the truths of Christ, for the ways of Christ, for the worship of Christ.
2. It is required that we suffer in the strength of Christ; — that we do not suffer in the strength of our own will, our own reason, our own resolutions; but that we suffer, I say, in the strength of Christ. When we suffer aright, “it is given unto us in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but to suffer for him.” As all other graces are to be derived from Christ, as our head and root, stock and foundation; so, in particular, that grace which enables us to suffer for Christ must be from him. And we do well to consider whether it be so or no; for if it be not, all our sufferings are lost, and not acceptable to him. It is a sacrifice without salt, yea, without a heart, that will not be accepted.
3. It is required that we suffer in imitation of Christ, as making him our example. We are not to take up the cross but with design to follow Christ. “Take up the cross,” is but half the command; “Take up the cross, and follow me,” is the whole command: and we are to suffer willingly and cheerfully, or we are the most unlike Jesus Christ in our sufferings of any persons in the world. Christ was willing and cheerful: “Lo, I come to do thy will. I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished,” saith he. And, —
4. We are to suffer to the glory of Christ.
These are things wherein we ought to endeavour conformity to the death of Christ, that we now remember. I pray, let none of us trust to the outward ordinance, the performance of the outward duty. If these things be not in us, we do not remember the Lord’s death in right manner.
How may we attain the strength and ability from this ordinance, to be made conformable to his death? that we may not come and remember the death of Christ, and go away and be more unlike him than formerly?
There is power to this end communicated to us, doctrinally, morally, and spiritually.
There is no such sermon to teach, mortification of sin, as the commemoration of the death of Christ. It is the greatest outward instruction unto this duty that God hath left unto his church; and, I am persuaded, which he doth most bless to them who are sincere. Do 582we see Christ evidently crucified before our eyes, his body broken, his blood shed for sin? and is it not of powerful instruction to us to go on to mortify sin? He that hath not learned this, never learned any thing aright from this ordinance, nor did he ever receive any benefit from it. There is a constraining power in this instruction, to put us upon the mortification of sin; God grant we may see the fruit of it! It hath a teaching efficacy; it teaches, as it is peculiarly blessed of God to this end and purpose. And I hope many a soul can say that they have received that encouragement and that strength by it, as that they have been enabled to more steadiness and constancy in fighting against sin, and have received more success afterward.
There is a moral way whereby it communicates strength to us; because it is our duty now to engage ourselves unto this very work. Meeting at the death of Christ, it is our duty to engage ourselves unto God; and that gives strength. And I would beg of you all, brethren, that not one of us would pass through or go over this ordinance, this representation of the death of Christ, without a fresh obligation to God to abide more constant and vigorous in the mortification of sin: we all need it.
And lastly; a spiritually beholding of Christ by faith is the means to change us into the image and likeness of Christ. Beholding the death of Christ by faith, as represented to us in this ordinance, is the means to change us into his image and likeness, and make us conformable unto his death, in the death of sin in us.
(1.) Take this instruction from the ordinance:— as you believe in Christ, as you love him, as you desire to remember him, sin ought to be mortified, that we may be conformed unto him in his death.
(2.) That we do every one of us bring our souls under an engagement so to do; which is required of us in the very nature of the duty.
(3.) That we labour by faith so to behold a dying Christ, that strength may thence issue forth for the death of sin in our souls.
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