Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

faith which justifies the soul. “ How," says he, “shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein ?"..." Likewise reckon ye yourselves to be dead unto sin through Jesus Christ our Lord.” In other words, he shews that there is a process in the beginning of the divine life which is much more than the sense or conviction of sin against a holy God ;-which is identical with faith in the blood of Christ, and which he has a perfect right to call death unto sin. The life unto God, of which we have spoken, can never supervene in a soul which has been living in sin, “except,” says he, “through a death unto sin.” The justification, the righteousness of God when given to a sinner, implies the removal of the penalty of sin, the non-imputation of iniquity, the gracious and supernatural obliteration of the curse of transgression, the exhaustion of the sting of death, the annihilation of the wages of sin. But we have seen that the curse of sin is in part sinfulness, that the

death' which follows upon sin is the bias and tendency to sin; that the imputation of iniquity is at first the alienation of the heart from God, is the beginning of the second death. Therefore, if God takes away this curse, and forgives our sin, the very first application to our heart of His grace, the fact that occurs in our consciousness, the thing that is done in us, is, the extinction of the evil bias, the obliteration by sovereign grace of our sinful tendencies, the impartation of the new heart and the right spirit, the beginning of a new life in our soul, even life unto God. The infusion of righteousness in us, the regeneration of the Holy Ghost, the new heart, the repentance towards God which Christ is exalted to give, is, the form in which the remission of the chief and first penalty of sin takes place. Our new and holy life is not the ground of our justification,which is, alas ! the hopeless doctrine of certain extremes of theological opinion,-nor is it, strictly speaking, the consequence of our pardon and acceptance with God; but it is in one sense the pardon itself, it is the way in which the Holy Ghost slays that enmity within us which was the great curse of sin, and actually undoes the penal consequences of our original, actual, and habitual sins. « How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein ?” The righteousness of which Paul speaks, is, when operating in the heart of the sinner, a death to sin and a life unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

As far as his illustration is concerned, the Apostle states a truism when he says that one who is dead to sin cannot live any longer therein. A man who is dead to sin may be carried away from his standing-ground by some terrible and novel blast of temptation. Such a man may be over-credulous of the flatteries of prosperity; may be weak under the fierce ļashes of pain; may be overtaken by a fault; haunted into despondency by some vivid remembrance of sin; driven by the malice of the devil into antagonism and rebellion : but if he be dead to sin," it is irrational, it is a contradiction in terms, to assert that

a

he can “live in sin” in any of the senses in which we have interpreted the phrase. What then is meant by the words ? What is the moral change that can deserve so great a name, and how is the change effected ?

(1) “Death to sin” is not a desperate fear of the consequences of sin. Take an extreme case,-obvious fear of consequences, although vivid and agonizing, fails to repress gross vice and crime. There are no cowards so great as those who often make violent assault on the life and property of others. They choose darkness that they may avoid detection; they are armed to the teeth when they go against feebleness and womankind. They are afraid before the fear cometh, and tremble at the shaking of a leaf. There are hundreds, thousands of drunkards in England, and of opium-eaters in China, who know and fear the doom of the intemperate, and still “live in sin.” A clear knowledge of their certain ruin fails to quench their desire for the flame which is to consume them,

Multitudes fear the wages of sin, know that they are treasuring up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath and perdition, and yet never turn from their evil way. They tremble at the preaching of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, but sin as if they never trembled. Dear brethren, fear may have kept you back from the commission of sin, and warned you to paths of sobriety, purity, honour, and usefulness, and yet never have slain the desire after what is hateful to God. Many from fear of disease, bankruptcy, starvation, or eternal torment, are restrained from the commission of certain classes of sins, after which their heart is nevertheless craving. Mere abstinence from a lawlessness for which the soul is secretly longing is not “death to sin.” If all that Christ has effected for us is limited to the creation of trembling and fear, if it be possible still to covet that which He has doomed with His displeasure, if we fear the suffering more than the sin, if the wrong is determinable by the misery it can inflict, and if our sense of right has received no higher baptism nor been elevated into a higher region, then we cannot assume that in Christ we are “dead to sin," nor base on our experience any argument so great as this. The illustration will not hold, and we are open to the charge of the sceptic or the worldling.

(2) “Death to sin” is not respect to the opinion of the world. The good opinion of our fellow-citizens, glory (dóća) as the Greeks conceived it, is a powerful motive to virtue. A member of a community of noble natures is like the young sapling of the forest, drawn upward, made erect and strong together, with its companions and surroundings. But if our only reason for honourable conduct is to secure the approbation of fellow-man, the smile of the fortunate, the confidence of those who are about us and below us, or the good opinion of society, there is nothing eternal in our virtue. Then if our circumstances were changed, we should change also. Let us be put back to times

when a lower honour prevailed in business or in society, on the exchange and in the cabinet, we should be ourselves forced back to the undeveloped morality of the past, and “live in” the practice of what we now see to be “sin.” “Death to sin” means vastly more than embracing the current morality of the Christian community, since the Christian faith has brought into that community multitudes who have never passed from death to life. The voice of the corporate conscience of renewed humanity itself falls short of the holy will of Christ as revealed in each believer's soul by the ministry and witness of the Holy Ghost. It cannot be said, How shall we who yield to the law of the Christian community, and are implicitly governed by the good opinion of good people,“ live any longer in sin ?"

( (3) “Death to sin” is not identical with self-respect. There are those who are careless about the world's opinion or respect as long as they can secure their own; who say, We would rather be satisfied

! with ourselves than secure the plaudits of our generation. This reverence for conscience; this recognition of an authority higher than the decisions of courts or cabinets, of family circles, or of Christian communities; this superiority to fashion and clique ; this independence of the judgment of others, though that judgment be backed by the thunders of angry priesthoods and the curses of ignorant mobs; this power to stand alone against the world is closely akin to the highest virtue. That man must have the

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »