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A SE R M O N,
PHILIPPIANS, i, 21.
“ FOR ME TO LIVE IS CHRIST, AND TO DIE IS GAIN.".
Every one who has read this chapter must have been struck with the intense anxiety of the Apostle that Christ should be magnified. Such were the conceptions he had formed of his character, and such was the eagerness with which he desired the extension of his kingdom, that to him it was a matter of small moment by whom the gospel was preached, or how he might be personally regarded by the preachers, so that the glories of the cross were displayed, and sinners converted to God. He longed for the fulfilment of the ancient prediction, “ He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied;" and to assist in promoting the cause of Christ was, after he had been baptized with the spirit of grace, the grand, absorbing desire of his heart. The time had been when other matters had occupied his thoughts. Dreams of ambition floated before him, and a name and a place among the chiefs of his nation, almost all of whom were the opponents of Christianity, was most earnestly desired. But the hand that stayed him as he journeyed to Damascus turned the current of his thoughts, stripped him at once of his selfishness, and raised higher and holier wishes within him; and there was seen a change at which men marvelled, and at which he himself often stood amazed—a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an injurious man, had become a faithful and fearless disciple and minister of Christ. The world beheld no greater miracle than this, and the church, among the strongest proofs of the divine origin of the gospel, can point to its subjugation of many minds that were once remarkable for their opposition to the truth.
As we turn over the history of Paul, the transition from the dark to the bright page of his life is as instantaneous as was the light that flashed upon his astonished vision. His dazzled senses had scarcely recovered from their stupor before he is found standing in the midst of the synagogues preaching Christ. He lost no time. He found he had been deceiving himself in his former course, and now having learned that rightly to live was to glorify Christ, he begins to live; and the same characteristic qualities of mind which he displayed when he sought “ to do many things contrary to Jesus of Nazareth,” were developed most strongly when Christ became the object of his reverential regard. There were the same indomitable perseverance, and heroic ardour, and fervent zeal. These were all made to bear upon one great object, of which he never lost sight—the glory of Christ; and in comparison with this, all things else were to him utterly insignificant. Honours, and titles, and the world's applause, were as the small dust of the balance : this was to him the end of existence. To continue on earth and not to serve Christ, in his estimation, would not be life. He could say, “ My greatest happiness is to serve the Lord; I wish to live only for him. I owe all I possess, and all I
hope for, to him, and I desire to testify my gratitude by labouring in his cause. And now a necessity is laid upon me, yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel. Think not, however, I bewail the necessity, or deem my work a burden. Oh, no! I could not exist without doing something for the Saviour. For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
My subject this morning is the Christian minister's estimate of life and death. The peculiarly solemn and affecting event which has given an unusual character to this sacred service has suggested the theme. By none with more propriety could this language be used than by him who has been lately removed from our midst; leaving behind him the savour of an unblemished character; an active, and useful, and holy life; and a truly peaceful and happy death. I am not about to utter the language of unmeasured eulogy, in paying a tribute of veneration and respect to the memory of my late beloved colleague, and your pastor: this would be wrong. I wish simply to shew with what great propriety the words of the text can be applied to him whose ashes repose within the walls of this sanctuary.
I. The apostle considered life as desirable, that he might glorify Christ:
First. By a personal dependence upon him for salvation.
“ The life which I now live in the flesh,” he says, “I live by the faith of the Son of God." All his hopes of happiness were drawn from him as the only source; he looked to him to appear, and by virtue of his atoning sacrifice to plead, before God for him; and believing in his willingness as well as his ability thus to intercede, his mind was at rest. When he thought of his sins, and looked at them in the light of Sinai's flashing fires, and found their hue as scarlet, and felt afraid; he bent down to the stream that flowed from the cross, and there washed all his guilt away. He thus became possessed of "peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now, faith in the Saviour both pleases and glorifies him ; and a simple reliance upon his atoning merits for salvation is what he desires and demands, and by which his name is magnified. This faith had Paul in an eminent degree, and from this dependence on Jesus nothing could move him. “ As long as I live,” he could have said, “ I live upon him. He is the bread of life by which I am nourished; he is all in all to me--wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” And thus did he prove that for him to live was Christ.
The same may be said of our sainted friend and father. In no instance have I witnessed a more unreserved dependence upon the Saviour of sinners for acceptance with God. An entire renunciation of self-righteousness, and a forgetfulness of all his own labours for Christ, were prominent characteristics of his mind. Never did I hear him, for a moment, refer to what God had made him the honoured instrument of effecting, when speaking of his hopes for eternity. But a short time before his death, he said to me, 6. If I am not saved by grace, I shall not be saved at all. I feel daily more and more of my own weakness and insufficiency.” In this way did this venerable servant of God give glory to the Saviour, and magnify the riches of his grace. And as he believed, thus has he preached to you; and in the faith which he believed and preached—he died.
Secondly. By exhibiting to the world a holy and consistent life.
Paul remembered the words of the Lord Jesus—“ A city set upon a hill cannot be hid.”
“ Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and