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Sermon XXVII.385385    This sermon was preached September 26, 1680. The Christian’s work of dying daily.

“I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” 1 Cor. xv. 31.

These words have a great vehemency and emphasis in them, and discover an uncommon earnestness upon the spirit of the apostle when he wrote them; and indeed they carry a greater appearance of 335such a vehemency in the original than in our translation. For the words we put in the last place, “I die daily,” are the first in the original: Καθ ἡμέραν ἀποθνήσκω, “I die daily;” Νὴ τὴν ὑμετέραν καύχησιν ἢ ἔχω ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ Κυρίῳ ἡμῶν, — “Yea, I do so by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And there is no expression used by the apostle that hath a greater ardour of spirit in it than this hath.

The special reason of using it in this place is, to evidence the stability of his faith about the resurrection of the dead. That, you know, is the dispute he is upon. And he proves here that it was not an opinion that he had; but a firm-rooted faith, that carried him through all difficulties and sufferings. “Why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die.” “I do evidence my faith,” saith he, “of the resurrection, by my readiness to suffer all things in the confirmation of the truth of it.” And it is the great duty of ministers to be ready at all times to evidence the stability of their own faith in the things which they preach to others, by a cheerful suffering for them.

There are two things in the words: An assertion; and the confirmation of it. The assertion is this, “I die daily.” The confirmation of it, “I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There are two or three difficulties in these words. I shall very little trouble you with conjectures, but give you what I think the sense of the Holy Ghost in them.

The one is from the ambiguous signification of the word καύχησις, which we render here “rejoicing.” But in other places it is rendered sometimes by “confidence,” sometimes by “boasting,” and sometimes by “glorying.” “Gloriation” is the word: I would use, if our language would bear it. “And your gloriation;” — which is an exultation of joy.

There is another difficulty, in the transposition of the words, such as are not in the Scripture again. “I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus.” This hath afforded variety of conjectures unto many; but plainly the sense of it is this, “By the rejoicing which you and I have in the Lord.” And I could give instances of the like trajections in the Greek tongue, from one person to another, if it were to your education.

There is yet a third difficulty. The particle νὴ here is a note of an oath, or swearing; as much as בְּ‎ in the Hebrew tongue; or in our language, “by;” yet sometimes it is used as a note of strong asseveration. 336And we have chosen to express it by a middle word, “I protest.” If it be a note of an oath, then the word is used to denote the object, “I swear by your rejoicing in the Lord;” that is, “by the Lord in whom you rejoice.” As it is said expressly, “Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac;” that is, “by Him whom his father Isaac feared.” But I rather take it here as a note only of vehement asseveration; and so, says he, “It is as true as that you and I do glory in Christ, and rejoice in him, I die daily.”

It may have a double sense, “I am every day, by reason of preaching the gospel, exposed to dangers and death.” For he doth speak both before and after of the dangers he underwent in the work of preaching the gospel. “I die daily;” or, “ ‘I die daily,’ by continually preparing myself to die; I am always in a preparation to die; through the faith of the resurrection, I am always prepared to die cheerfully and comfortably, according to the will of God.” And this is the sense I shall fix upon. And it being in a necessary duty, I may raise a general rule from a special instance, in this example of the apostle.

Observation. It is the duty of all believers to be preparing themselves every day to die cheerfully, comfortably, and, if it may be, triumphing in the Lord.

Observe only this, that there may be a dying safely, where there is not a dying cheerfully and comfortably. Every believer, whoever he be, shall die safely; but we see many believers do not die cheerfully and comfortably. I do not speak of the first, how all persons may come to die safely; but of the latter, how believers may die comfortably and cheerfully.

And there are two ways of dying cheerfully and comfortably:—

1. The one is in outward expressions, to the comfort of them that are about us. This depends much on the nature of the distemper whereof men may die, which may oppress the animal spirits, and cloud the mind; and therefore it falls not under rule, but is left to the providence of God.

2. But there is also a dying cheerfully and comfortably in persons’ own souls; which, it may be, in their dying moments they cannot manifest, when they are thoroughly prepared for it.

Truly, brethren, all I can say is, that I am speaking to you of the things which I have considered on my own account, before ever I thought of considering them upon yours; and I cannot declare unto you what I have attained, which may be little or nothing; but only what I have aimed at, if it may be of use to us in this dying time, especially among good ministers, one or another [dying] almost every day.386386    At this time many eminent servants of Christ, who had been associated with Owen in the Christian ministry, and in important public duties, during the eventful times of the Protectorate, were passing into their eternal rest. In 1679, Thomas Goodwin, President of Magdalene College, a member of the Westminster Assembly, a happy expositor of Scripture, and, according to Anthony Wood, “one of the Atlases and Patriarchs of Independency,” — was removed from this world, and became, in the highest sense of his own phrase, “a child of light.” It was but two months before this sermon was preached that Stephen Charnock died. He had been Senior Proctor in the University of Oxford during the Protectorate; and left behind him manuscripts, from which two large folios of posthumous works have been published, — works held in such estimation, that besides the detached issue of particular treatises, they have been, in their collected form, four times reprinted. Others might be mentioned who died about this period, such as Matthew Poole, author of the “Synopsis Criticorum;” and Theophilus Gale, author of “The Court of the Gentiles.” Such facts may help to account for the touching and solemn tone of these discourses on preparation for death, as well as for the particular allusion in the paragraph above. — Ed.

337I shall mention three things that, in my judgment, are requisite unto every believer who would die cheerfully, and come in a fit and full season into the presence of God:—

I. The constant exercise of faith, as to the resignation of a departing soul into the hand and sovereign will of God. “I die daily.” How? Exercising faith constantly, in the resignation of a departing soul, when the time comes, unto the sovereign grace, good pleasure, power, and faithfulness of God. The soul is now taking its leave of all its concerns in this world; all that it sees, all that it knows by its senses, all its relations, everything it hath been acquainted withal, to have an eternal, absolute unconcern in them. It is entering into an invisible world, whereof it knows nothing but what it hath by faith. When Paul was taken up into the third heaven, 2 Cor. xii. 2, we should have been glad to have heard some tidings from the invisible world how things were there. He saw nothing; only he heard words. Why, blessed Paul, may we not hear those words? No; “They are not lawful to be uttered,” saith he. God will not have us know any thing in the invisible world but what is revealed in the word, while we are here. Therefore the souls of them departed, who have died and lived again, as the soul of Lazarus, I doubt not but God supported in their being, but restrained all their operations. For if a separate soul had one natural, intuitive view of God, it would be the greatest misery in the world to send it back into a dying body. God will keep those things to be objects of faith. Lazarus could tell nothing of what was done in heaven; his soul was kept in its being, but all its operations were restrained. I bless God I have peculiarly exercised my thoughts, according to the conduct of the word, about the invisible world; whereof, in due time, you may hear something: but in the meantime, I know we have no notion of it but what is by pure revelation.

Whither now is the soul going? what will be the issue within a few moments? Is it annihilated? doth death not only separate the 338body and soul, but destroy our being, so that we shall be no more to eternity? So some would have it; for it is their interest it should be so. Is the soul going into a state of wandering in the air, under the influence of more powerful spirits? — which was the opinion of the old pagan world, as that which caused appearances of the dead so frequently upon the earth.

And this persuasion was taken into purgatory by the Papists; from whence they concluded that there were great appearances of them that were departed continually. And you have a thousand stories of them, which we know to be all the actings and deceits of evil spirits. And such is our darkness as to the invisible world, that the greatest part of Christians have feigned a third state, that is not in it, but the fruit of superstition and idolatry. For this is superstition, to invent things in religion suited to men’s natural affections, or to gratify their lusts for their own profit; both which were designed in this case. For when persons thought the souls of men that were gone into an eternal condition were lost, and that for ever, — “No, there is another venture for them,” say they; and so they pacified them, that if they were the worst of men, yet there might be hope for them after death. Nor has it a less tendency to gratify men in their lusts, and encourage them to live at their pleasure. And the whole of this they turn to their own profit who invented it. This by the way, — only to manifest the darkness that mankind is in as to this invisible world. To proceed, therefore:—

Doth the soul go into a state wherein it is capable of no joy, no consolation? Brethren, let men pretend what they will, he that never received any joy or consolation in this world but by his senses, or his reason exercised about the objects of his senses, doth not know, nor can believe, the soul itself should be capable of any consolation in another world. He alone who hath received immediately into his soul spiritual comfort in this world, can believe that his soul is capable of it in another. But, however, this is certain, no man can undertake any thing about the conduct of his soul in another world.

What is your way, then, in this state and condition? what is your wisdom? Truly, to resign this departing soul unto the sovereign wisdom, pleasure, faithfulness, and power of God (which is the duty we have in hand), by the continual exercise of faith. So the apostle tells us, 2 Tim. i. 12. “For I know,” saith he, “whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” It is a mighty thing to keep a separate soul to the day of the resurrection. Why, saith the apostle, “ ‘I know whom I have trusted with it;’ I trust it with almighty power.” The Lord help us to believe that there shall be an act of almighty power put forth in the behalf of these poor souls of 339ours, when departed into the invisible world, to keep them to that day when body and soul shall be united, and come to enjoy God.

We have a glorious example for this duty and exercise of faith. Our Lord Jesus Christ died in the exercise of it. It was the last act of faith Christ put forth in this world, Luke xxiii. 46, “When Jesus had cried with a loud voice” (this was the voice of nature, but now he comes to the words of faith), “he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (my departing soul): “and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” Here was the last exercise of the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ in this world, — the committing of his departing soul into the hands of God. And to what end did he do it? We are told, Ps. xvi. 8–11, “I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” These are the words of David, which our Lord Jesus Christ made use of himself, when he said, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.” And the psalmist adds, “Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth,” Ps. xxxi. 5. An experience of the work of redemption, communicated to us by the truth of the promise, is the greatest encouragement to commend a departing soul into the hands of God.

This to me now (considering the vanishing of all these shadows and appearances, and the eternal dissolution of all relation to things below, and the subsisting of a soul in a separate condition, which we are not acquainted withal), is one of the first things we have to consider, if we will die cheerfully and comfortably, — namely, how we can resign a departing soul into the hand and sovereign disposal of God.

It is both a great and eminent act of faith, and is the last victorious act of faith, so to do:—

1. It is a great and eminent act of faith. [See] Heb. xi., where the mighty efficacy and great success of faith is spoken of. One of the particulars, and that wherein many of the rest did centre, is, “These all died in faith.” It was a great thing to die in faith under the Old Testament, when they were encompassed with so many shadows, and so much darkness, and when their view into things invisible, within the vail, was exceeding much beneath what God hath communicated unto us. Nay, the state of things within the vail was not the same then as now; there was not Christ upon the throne, administering his office. Notwithstanding, faith carried them through all this darkness, and caused them to make a believing venture of their souls upon God, his faithfulness, mercy, and grace.

When it comes to this consideration, it lays all things in the balance:— 340in the one scale, our being, our walking, and life in this world; our sins, and their guilt; our fears, uncertainties, and darkness of a future state; our abhorrence of a dissolution, the consideration of all things that are round about us; — in the other, the power, faithfulness, and mercy of God, and his ability to receive, preserve, and keep us to that day, and to be better to us than all these things. “Here shall be my portion,” saith faith; “all things in the other scale are of no value, of no weight to this exceeding weight of power and goodness of God.” This is a glorious exercise of faith! Have you tried it, my brethren? Lay things on the one side and the other in the balance, and see which way the scale will draw, — what faith will do in such a case.

2. It is the last victorious act of faith, wherein it hath its final conquest over all its adversaries. Faith is the leading grace in all our spiritual warfare and conflict; but all along while we live, it hath faithful company that adheres to it, and helps it. Love works, and hope works, and all other graces, — self-denial, readiness to the cross, — they all work and help faith. But when we come to die, faith is left alone. Now, try what faith will do. The exercise of other graces ceases; only faith comes to a close conflict with its last adversary, wherein the whole is to be tried. And, by this one act of resigning all into the hand of God, faith triumphs over death, and cries, “ ‘O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’ Come, give me an inlet into immortality and glory; the everlasting hand of God is ready to receive me!” This is the victory whereby we overcome all our spiritual enemies.

I thought to have made some use of what hath been said; to examine whether we do live in the exercise of this grace or no, and what benefit we have thereby: and I should have touched especially upon this one thing, — this alone will keep us from all surprisal of death. Not to be surprised with any thing is the substance of human wisdom; not to be surprised with death is a great part of the substance of our spiritual wisdom.


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