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all the living branches of the true vine, the Master says, “I in you.” As the sap, which rises from the root of a tree, passes through the trunk into every branch, and thus sustains the life of all the branches, so Christ, by His indwelling Spirit, causes the streams of His grace to flow into the believer's soul, to sustain its life, and make it pure and fruitful. It is by no power in himself that this new life is maintained, amid the storms of trial, and the bitter blasts of temptation. “Not I, but Christ liveth in me.” He is our daily bread, the bread of the soul, without which the new life would decay and die ; but by which the believer gets power to do what otherwise would be impossible for him. The secret of his power over sin and Satan and the world is, that Christ lives in him. Once, he was led captive by Satan at his will, and it was a hard struggle to conquer sin, and it was distasteful to him to give himself to prayer and to holy exercises, and to deeds of piety and charity. But all this he now finds to be easy and pleasant; and why? Because Christ is in him by His Spirit, to strengthen him with all might, to fortify him against temptation, to change the whole current of his affections, and to enable him to abound in all good works. Therefore, conscious of his own inherent weakness, and contrasting what he once was with what he now is, he is forced to say, “ It can't be I, but it must be Christ, who has wrought this blessed change in my soul, and who has given me such
a dread of sin, such a tender conscience, such warm love to Him, and such an intense desire to do all the good I can, for the glory of God, and for the benefit of my fellow-creatures." All this he knows to be the very opposite of what he once felt and did ; and the only explanation he can give of the change is, that his new life is sustained by Christ; and therefore, from what Christ has already done for him and in him, he is confident that “He who hath begun a good work in him, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
3. Further, we remark that the Christian's life is for Christ. That is to say, his life is devoted to the service of Christ.
This living for Christ is the grand distinguishing feature in the character of all His true followers; and in none of them has it ever been more conspicuous than in the life of the apostle Paul. The great theme of his preaching was "Jesus Christ and Him crucified;" and his ruling aim was to bring sinners to the Saviour, and to persuade believers to walk after His holy example. “We preach," he said, "not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord.”
His entire devotedness to the service of Christ is very manifest from what he says in Phil. i. 21-24. From these verses, to which we have already referred, we see that much as he longed for the peace and rest of heaven, yet he was quite willing to remain at his post of duty and danger, for the sake of the Church. Now as to this, there are two very common errors, or two opposite extremes of error, into which even the true Christian is prone to fall.
The one extreme is, when he allows himself to become so engrossed and entangled with his worldly affairs, or even with his Christian duties, as to lose in a great measure that earnest longing for heaven, which he ought ever to cherish. “He so labours, as if his work on earth, which is but the commencement of higher energies destined for eternity, were to attain perfection here, or as if it were already the work of eternity." And so, forgetting that nothing here is perfect, and that this present life is a season of preparation for a better and higher life, he becomes so engrossed with the round of his daily duties, or it may be with his worldly concerns, that when death comes to call him home, it takes him by surprise, and finds him sadly unprepared.
But the other extreme, a very common one, is when the Christian's longing for heaven so possesses his soul as to make him grow weary in well-doing, slothful in his Master's service, and impatient to escape from the toils of conflict to the rewards of victory. He forgets, however, that when the Master comes, He expects to find His servants watching and working for Him, attending to every duty, and doing it thoroughly. Under the influence of this error many have retired from the world, abandoned their post of duty and honour, in the vain belief that they could better prepare for heaven in solitude and seclusion.
Now from both of these extremes of error the apostle Paul was entirely free. On the one hand, his untiring diligence, in serving Christ on earth, did not diminish his intense longing for the joys of heaven. And on the other hand, his intense longing for heaven did not impair his diligence in serving Christ on earth. Much as he desired to be with Christ, and to escape from all his earthly troubles and conflicts, yet he crucified this desire, and was willing to remain, for the sake of his brethren, and for the benefit of the Church. How truly then could he say that “to him to live was Christ.” While he lived from Christ, and by Christ, he also lived for Christ, and he was ready to labour in His service till his latest breath, while at the same time he never lost sight of the glorious recompence of reward. Such then is the nature and the source of living Christianity. It is a new life derived from Christ, sustained by Christ, and devoted to Christ. And in so far as we possess this life, it will constrain us both to work and to wait—to work in the Lord's service, and to wait for the Lord's coming. “Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when He cometh, shall find so doing." While our longing for heaven should not make us slothful in the Lord's work here, neither should our diligence in that work, nor any worldly enticement, diminish our longing to reach the better country, that is the heavenly.
From all that has been said, it is evident that, as the Christian's new life commences with the exercise of that faith which unites him to Christ, so this life is maintained by the continual exercise of the same faith; for “it is written, the just shall live by his faith ;" that is, by his simple trust in the crucified and exalted Saviour. His faith is the living bond which unites him vitally, not merely to a dead Saviour, but to a living Saviour; and as, by this faith, he received righteousness from Christ at first to justify him, so by the same faith continually exercised he receives continual supplies of grace from Christ, day by day, to sanctify him, and prepare him for heaven. This faith alone can enable us truly to live to God, to live a life of holiness and a life of active usefulness. It alone can enable us to endure the trials of the world, or overcome its temptations, or meet undismayed the King of Terrors; for “this is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith.” A few years ago a man of great mental power was laid on his deathbed, and his friends, when they saw his end approaching, expressed to him the hope that his acute and powerful mind supported him in that solemn hour. “Oh no!” he said, “it is not my strong mind that supports me now; but it is simple faith, childlike trust in the Divine Saviour. But for this faith," he added,