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If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. COLOSSIANS iii. 1.
THERE is in this passage a retrospective allusion to the twelfth verse of the preceding chapter: "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." Believers are thus represented as having been buried with Christ in baptism, and also as having been raised with him through faith. Being buried with Christ, and being raised with him are antithetical phrases,-from which we infer that, as being raised with Christ is a spiritual resurrection, so being buried with him in baptism is a spiritual burial-in other words, a death unto sin. The Christian's burial with Christ implies that death unto sin, which at baptism he professes to have experienced,-a death that is followed by a resurrection with Christ to a new and higher life. The exigency of this passage does not require such an interpretation of the apostle's language as implies exclusive reference to the visible administration, or the mode of baptism. The scope of his argument relates to a spiritual change experienced by the believer as one who is dead to sin, and raised with Christ to a new life.
After having risen from the dead, Christ ascended to heaven, where he "sitteth on the right hand of God." As believers have risen with him, so also will they ascend with him, in their aims and desires, attracted by those things above where
he dwells. Faith sees him on the right hand of the Father, where he administers the government of the world with special reference to the welfare of his disciples, and the glory of his kingdom. Around his mediatorial throne majesty and mercy spread their mingled attractions, and heavenly realities. lend enchantment to that land of pure delight to which faith and hope aspire. It were to be expected that the believer in Jesus, being dead to sin and to the world, and alive to holiness and to God, would find himself attracted by the perception of those things which are above. We derive from the text the following sentiment:-THE EXPERIENCE OF A SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION WILL BE FOLLOWED WITH A CONSCIOUS SUSCEPTIBILITY TO THE ATTRACTION OF THE HEAVENLY WORLD.
The import of this resurrection, the agencies concerned in its production, and the susceptibility to the attraction of heaven which it inspires-are the topics contemplated in the present discourse.
I. The import of this spiritual resurrection.
1. The idea of a resurrection involves its antithesis, death. The moral condition of man previous to regeneration is represented by the idea of death: "You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." This mode of representing the subject is borrowed from the language of the original penalty, which connected death with disobedience. This state of apostacy is fitly represented by death, because it implies the loss of spiritual life, insensibility to the claims of God, a deprivation of true happiness, and exposure to all that is corrupting and destructive in the dominion of sin-all that is appalling in the penalty of law. The term death is often employed in the Scriptures as the symbol of supreme evil. Nothing is so much dreaded as death. In the common mind it is associated with what is supremely painful, revolting, and terrific.
As no other term conveys so vivid an idea of wretchedness, it has been employed to represent the miserable state to which man has been reduced by transgression. There are strong points of analogy between physical and spiritual death. In the one case there is the extinction of natural life—in the other the absence of spiritual life. The one is attended with suffering and dissolution-the other with the anguish of a guilty conscience, and "a certain fearful looking for of judgment." A vivid representation of man as dead in trespasses and sins, requires the strongest terms in language. It is from this condition of guilt and wretchedness the believer is rescued, when he has risen with Christ. "Even when we were dead in sins, he hath quickened us together with Christ."
2. There is another sense in which the term death is used in relation to the believer. Thus when the apostle represents the spiritual condition of believers, he says, "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." This is spoken of those who are in a regenerated state, and must be interpreted in accordance with the facts pertaining to such a state. The idea is, that of being dead to something-especially to the world and to sin it expresses a state of freedom from the power of sin,-from its servitude and dominion. Hence the instruction of Paul to the Roman Christians :-" likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." It was not the design of this language to represent believers as absolutely and perfectly free from sin. The sense in which they are dead to sin is this:-they have been made to realize its hatefulness; have renounced its dominion, and entered on a determined course of such resistance to it as ensures ultimately its entire destruction. The new man created in the believer may be alive and active without yet having acquired absolute dominion. The old man is not at once so crucified as to cease from sinful activity. As the process of living goes on in the one case, the process of dying goes on in the other. Life in the new man grows stronger and stronger, while life in the old man becomes weaker and weaker-thus clearly indicating the nature of the final issue. "Therefore the life of the believer," to adopt the words of Olshousen, " exhibits itself as an oscillating between two poles of life."-It is in this sense that the believer dies to sin.
3. Another thing implied is the conscious experience of a new, vitalizing element in the soul. When Lazarus was raised from the grave, he was conscious of the vital power of his restored life. How it was produced he might not comprehend; but after it had been restored he had the conscious experience of its influence. So the man whose sight was restored, though he could not tell how his eyes were opened, could affirm as a matter of distinct consciousness, "Whereas I was blind, I now see." So likewise hearing the sound of the wind is a matter of consciousness; though we cannot tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth. In like manner the sinner on experiencing the regenerating work of the Spirit, becomes conscious of the fact that his mind is pervaded and influenced by a new element of power, which so vitalizes his dead spirit, so influences the will, that he finds himself seeing with new vision, hearing with new emotions, pursuing new objects. The new element of life in the soul may at first be feeble ;still it is real life. As it matures in strength, it will, by its effects, create the conviction, that there has been experienced a radical change in purposes, desires, hopes and conduct.
The man who lies in a state of suspended animation, may be unconscious of what passes around him,-unconscious of the length of time during which he continues in that state,and unable to recal any recollection of the first breath of restored vitality; but it will not be long before he realizes fully the fact that he is reanimated-that he feels the throbs of vital pulsation. So when the man dead in sins is raised to a new life in Christ Jesus, he must soon become conscious. that a change has been experienced. New impulses are felt in his soul, urging him in the direction of new activity, the tendency of which is upward towards higher and holier objects of pursuit. Things to which he had been blind, he now sees; things to which he was once averse or indifferent, he now admires; duties which once were irksome and neglected, he now performs with alacrity and pleasure. Thus it is that having risen with Christ he becomes conscious of a new, vitalizing element in his soul.
4. Another thing involved in the experience of the spiritual resurrection is an assurance and foretaste of a glorious immortality. The conviction of the truth of the soul's immortality is confirmed. While under the supreme control of this world and its delusive influences, there is, in most instances, but a slender and inoperative conviction of the truth of an immortal existence beyond the present life. Many of the phenomena which meet us here, rather militate against, than favor this doctrine. There is, indeed, presumptive evidence of its truth in the prevailing sentiment of the mind,which looks and longs for a future state of being. But may not this sentiment be a delusion? Who has analyzed the argument on which it rests, with such success as to give it the cogency of demonstration. Aside from Christianity there is no reliable and satisfactory source of light on this mysterious problem. The materialism of Epicurus, to which atheistical philosophy has in modern times added its support, though disavowed in its dogmatic form, exerts a secret, subtile, unconscious influence on many minds. This accounts for their profound indifference to the themes of immortality, to which such prominence is given in the scriptures. The manner in which the men of the world live; their governing purposes and desires; their activities and enterprizes-need but little if any modification to be perfectly consistent with a disbelief in the doctrine of a future state. This momentous doctrine fails to exert its appropriate influence except where it is firmly embraced by Christian faith. It is only the regenerate man that feels the powers of the world to come, and acts in consistency with the divine fact that his destiny is immortal.
The resurrection of Christ shed over this great truth a fresh and vivid light, fitted to dissipate forever the shadows,
clouds and darkness which had rested upon the subject. They who have risen with Christ, are surrounded with the light which he poured over this field of inquiry; and in that light they walk with unwavering confidence-nay assurance in respect to the soul's immortality. They no more question its truth and reality, than they do the reality of present existence. In the exercise of faith, they have, at times, a precious foretaste of the blessedness connected with that future state of being for which they are making earnest and diligent preparation. In the lofty aspirations of a regenerated nature they ascend the ladder of Jacob's vision, whose top rested against the foot of the eternal throne-till they obtain an entrancing prospect of the bright realms of immortality. The voice that echoes from the heavenly oracle is clear and solemn; "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." "This mortal must put on immortality.".
"Beyond the verge of infinite space,
The immortal soul of man shall live again;
They only who have risen with Christ to the higher life of religious faith, feel, in full force, the conviction of immortality, -they only taste the bud which shall bloom in glory beyond the skies.
II. The agencies concerned in effecting this spiritual resur
An effect, whether in the physical or the moral world, ever And the cause is a suggests the idea of an adequate cause. subject which often awakens curiosity and inquiry. The causes or agencies concerned in the production of given effects may be ascertained as facts, when the mode of operation is too recondite for investigation. We may ascertain what agency is employed in the production of an effect when we can have no idea of the way in which it operates. Certain effects are directly traced to the agency of magnetism; but how this agency produces the result witnessed, is an unsolved mystery.
The resurrection of Christ is a historic fact; and as an effect it was produced by some mysterious and mighty cause. That cause is represented as a Divine energy. The body of Christ, from which the spirit had departed and in which physical life was extinct, could retain in itself no re-producing element competent to its resurrection. There was a foreign.