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S E R M O N XIV.
LIVING AND DYING UNTO THE LORI).
FEBRUARY 6, 1820.
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. – Rom. xiv. 8.
THE church at Rome was composed of both Jews and Gentiles, who entertained different opinions about the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic dispensation. The Jews supposed they were still binding on christians, but the Gentiles supposed they were under no obligation to observe them. Though this was the truth which the apostle had taught them, yet he would not have them too severely condemn the Jewish converts, who might be conscientious in regarding those days, and rites, and ceremonies, which were once commanded, but now abrogated. “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things; another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.” After fully stating this diversity of opinion respecting non-essential things, he proceeds to assert that they all agreed in one point; “For;” says he, “none 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.”
The plain and important truth which these words suggest for our serious consideration, is,
That real christians, who are the Lord's, are willing both to live and to die to him. I shall show,
I. That real christians are the Lord's. And,
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II. That they are willing both to live and to die to him. I. I am to show that real christians are the Lord's. God is the former of the bodies and father of the spirits of all men. He is their creator and proprietor, and claims a right to dispose of them all according to his sovereign pleasure. But all true christians are the Lord's in several peculiar and important respects. 1. They are the Lord's by election. He has chosen them, in distinction from the rest of mankind, to be the objects of his peculiar favor, and heirs of everlasting life. The apostle speaking to the christians of Ephesus says, “ o: as he hath chosen us in him " (that is, Christ,) “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” Again he says to the Thessalonians, “God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” God determined from eternity to save a part, and only a part of mankind. This certain, definite number he elected to eternal life, and appointed all the means necessary to bring them to future glory. This the apostle represents in a clear and strong light, in the eighth of Romans. “For whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” All real christians have been elected, called, sanctified, and entitled to eternal life. 2. They are the Lord's by redemption as well as by election. Though God gave Christ to be a propitiation for the sins of the whole oil, and to taste death for every man, yet he designed to apply his atonement to those only whom he had appointed to salvation. In this sense, Christ laid down his life for the sheep, and died for the elect in particular. If God had not designed to save the elect from the wrath to come, and make them vessels of mercy, we have no reason to think that Christ would ever have died an expiatory sacrifice. It is in consequence of the divine purpose to bring home many sons unto glory, that the rest of mankind enjoy the means of grace and offers of mercy. So that real christians are emphatically those who are redeemed from among men, and actually bought with a price; and they are, on that account, the Lord's property. This leads me to observe, 3. That they are the Lord's by sanctification. He has shed abroad his love in their hearts, and raised them from spiritual death to spiritual life. They are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that they should walk in them. He has formed them after his own image, for his own glory. Hence David says, “The Lord hath set apart the godly #. himself.” Accordingly, the apostle tells them, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” Those whom God sanctifies, he means to employ as active instruments of promoting his own glory, both in time and etermity, and in this respect they are his peculiar people. I may add, 4. They are the Lord's by adoption as well as by election, redemption and sanctification. He has received them into his holy family, and entitled them to all the privileges and blessings of it. “Behold,” says the apostle John, “what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” “Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” And the apostle Paul says, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” Every real christian is adopted into the number, and has a right to all the privileges of the children of God. Thus it appears that all true christians are, in several peculiar and important respects, the Lord's. I shall now proceed to make it appear, II. That all of this character are willing both to live and to die to the Lord. There is no medium between men's living and dying to God, and their living and dying to themselves. But the apostle says, in the verse before the text, that christians do not live nor die to themselves. “None of us,” that is, none of us christians, “liveth to himself; and no man dieth to himself.” From this, he justly infers, “Whether we live, we live unto the Lord, or whether we die, we die unto the Lord.” He supposes that all true christians are cured, in a measure, of their native selfishness, by possessing the contrary spirit of pure, disinterested benevolence. It is certainly true of all who have been the subjects of a saving change, that their hard and selfish heart has been taken away, and a soft, tender, benevolent heart has been given them. Their sanctification essentially consists in holy, benevolent affections, which are totally inconsistent with their former supreme attachment to themselves. Hence they can sincerely say, “The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they which live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again.” Again we read, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.” A new heart will infallibly produce a new life. As soon as any are willing to be the Lord's, they are willing to live and die to him. But here it may be proper to enter into particulars, and observe, I. That all who are the Lord's are willing to live to him. This will appear from various considerations. 1. All real christians dedicate themselves to God. They sincerely and heartily give up themselves to be the Lord's as long as they live and as long as they exist. They deliberately, and voluntarily, and solemnly resolve, that for themselves, let others do as they please, they will serve the Lord, and live to him, and not to themselves. Thus Joshua resolved, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” And thus the primitive christians gave their ownselves to the Lord as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which was their reasonable service. All who give their hearts to God, give themselves to him. Though they do not always, for some reason or other, give in their names to Christ, and make a public dedication of themselves to the Lord, yet they always inwardly and sincerely consecrate themselves to his service. While they feel their hearts united to God in supreme affection to his character and designs, they cannot refrain from choosing to be his friends and servants for ever. 2. They are willing to live under the government of God, and submit to his guidance, direction, and disposal. As they choose to be the Lord's, so they are willing that he should reign over them, and glorify himself by them. This we find has always been the dutiful and submissive spirit of the friends of God in all ages. Abraham lived a life of submission to the divine will, and in the most trying circumstances committed himself to the care and disposal of divine providence. His trials were singular, and his submission to the will of God was no less singular. He held nothing too dear to give up at the call of Providence. Job had no will of his own, but cheerfully and gratefully gave up whatever God called for at his hands. He could bless God under the frowns, as well as under the smiles of his providence. David rejoiced that his times were in the hands of God, and left it to him to carry him whithersoever he pleased, and to dispose of his life and kingdom as seemed good in his sight. Eli spake the same language, and exercised the same submission, under the severest strokes of his hand. The Shunammite said all was well, while suffering under the heavy hand of God. As soon as Paul knew the grace of God in truth, he consulted not with flesh and blood, but with the voice of providence, and cordially submitted to it. And this submissive spirit reigned in the hearts of all the disciples of Christ, in his own day, and in the days of the apostles. Those who choose to be the Lord's, and dedicate themselves to his service, choose to be the subjects of his wise and holy government. The spirit of adoption is the spirit of submission; and those who possess it, choose to live to God, by referring themselves habitually and absolutely to his disposal.
3. They live to God by a cheerful and universal obedience to his commands. They esteem his precepts concerning all things to be right, and mean to obey his injunctions, however strict and self-denying. They wish to know what is that good, and perfect, and acceptable, will of God, that they may obey it. Like Paul, they “delight in the law of God, after the inward man.” They sincerely resolve to be universally obedient, though they very frequently fail of fulfilling their resolutions. All the ancient people of God, whose amiable characters are recorded and delineated in the Bible, were habitually obedient to all the divine commands. Their lives were guided and governed by the authority of God, though they were far from perfection in obedience. And this is true of all real christians; they mean to obey God rather than man; and it is their sincere desire to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
4. They are willing not only to obey the commands of God, but also to promote the interests of his kingdom. They know that God is seeking this above all other objects; and having dedicated themselves to his service, they desire to be workers together with him, in promoting his own cause. They therefore do actually seek first his kingdom, and desire to employ every proper method to promote his glory in the salvation of sinners. This is properly the business of their lives, and not something merely occasional. It is their constant desire and prayer to God, that sinners may be saved, the kingdom of God enlarged, and all his gracious designs accomplished. And they are steadfast and persevering in their exertions to advance the interests of religion, and the glory of God in the salvation of the elect, whom he has given to Christ as the reward of his sufferings and death. Thus, whether they live, they live unto the Lord. Their lives are dedicated to and employed in his Service.
And it is no less true,