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Brotherly Love and the Life of Christ.

by Isaac Williams

from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holy Days

throughout the Year, Vol. II. Trinity Sunday to All Saints' Day 

Rivingtons, London, 1875, pp. 82-86.

First part of Sermon XL. for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity.
Now if we be dead with CHRIST, we believe that we shall also live with Him .
R0M. vi. 8.
THE beautiful Collect for this week consists of a devout aspiration for those joys which are with God, and a prayer for that love which alone can prepare the heart for that rest. As a flame rises upwards, so the love of God in the soul naturally aspires to those joys and that rest which is with Him. But as a tree cannot live end, grow, cannot bear flowers and fruit, and expand itself towards Heaven, unless it be first rooted and buried in the ground, so neither can the love of God in the soul, unless that which is earthly be dead and buried with Christ in His death. It is therefore at Baptism that this love is by the Holy Spirit planted within us; it is then that we are buried with Christ, in order that we may live with Him that life which is in God, in holy affections now, and in fulness of joy hereafter. Such, therefore, is the subject of the Epistle. But as this love of God within the heart can only be known by its fruits, and as these its fruits upon earth consist in the love of our brother, therefore this becomes very properly the lesson of this day’s Gospel.  For the joys of Heaven and. the love of God are things high and spiritual; and when our Lord speaks of them, He turns our attention to those practical duties of love, without which we may deceive ourselves. 

But Baptism first is at the root of all, on which St. Paul thus speaks. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? The Christian dwells in continual contemplation on the cross and death of Christ; it is there his heart and affections are fixed; it is there he finds a remedy against sin and strength against temptation. And as we naturally become like that on which we contemplate, it is to him an expressible satisfaction to reflect, that by his very Baptism and new birth he is himself there dead with Christ and buried, in order that he might find in Him a better life; that the very strength and life of his Baptism consists in his being thus made conformable unto Christ’s death. “Out of the strong comes forth sweetness,” [Judges xiv. 14.] out of death life; and to resign earthly hopes, pleasures, and advantages, does require that the heart hath found something better, the treasure of new affections, which it values more.  And so it is set forth in what follows. 

Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection; that is, shall hereafter put on a new body; in the mean while having, says St. Paul, a life of a hidden nature with Christ in God, which life shall appear when He appears. [Col. iii. 3, 4.]  Even as the life of a tree lies for a while concealed in the seed which seems to die away in the earth; but wait a little while, and in all its fulness it shall appear, spreading in the summer skies. And all these expressions, on which St. Paul delights to dwell, intimate the very strictest union and incorporation of ourselves with Christ in His death, by which we derive continually and draw life. 

Knowing this, he proceeds, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. The natural man, the old Adam, is to be dead. in the Christian with its sinful desires; dead in that it is continually being mortified, because it is incompatible with that life which is in the new man. For so far only as we are dead to sin are we free from its dominion now or its penalty hereafter. It sounds, indeed, in itself a hard saying; so much so, that it must fall on the heart utterly cold. and. profitless, and all in vain, to say that we are to be thus dead to ourselves and alive to God, were the doctrine to stand. alone; it is from its connexion with Christ that it derives all its power and living efficacy. And we may observe that St. Paul never states anything of the kind except with reference to Christ; every expression of it begins and ends with Christ; it is in Him, from Him, with Him, by Him; this the Apostle always keeps in mind. Christ’s example, His sacrifice, His mediation, His grace, His life and death, the memory of Him, the being part of His Body, the living and dying with Him, is so united with this doctrine, that both must be remembered or forgotten together. And so he proceeds: 

Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. Dead we are with Him in Baptism, by His power and grace, and dead we must also be in the habits of our new life, in order that such Divine life may be continued in Him; and all this from the most intimate reference to Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin; but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ "died unto sin once,” as St. Paul says to the Hebrews; “now once at the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself,” and “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.” [Heb. ix. 26.]  There is, therefore, but one Baptism, one death unto sin for us; for the life which Christ now lives is unchangeable and eternal, which is implied in the expression, “He liveth unto God.” There is no living in sin in order that we may again die to sin; but it is once for all; no second state of probation, no new sacrifice or other oblation: once for all He died, that once for all we may die to sin. 

You see how very intimate and close is this union, which, as baptized Christians, we have with Christ; it is like the living body of Elijah, stretched three times upon the dead child of the heathen woman. For thus in the threefold immersion of Baptism Christ imparts to us of His own life, that our life henceforth in the flesh may be His life, one with Christ, as Christ is one with God. 

The point, I say, particularly to be observed throughout this and similar passages, is the constant mention of Christ; it seems to imply that this new life required of us can in no way be sustained, except in union with Him, any more than a branch could live if cut off from the tree, or a limb from the body. This frequent mention of Him in the inculcating of Christian precept and doctrine implies in our lives also, and in the fulfilling of all Christian precept and doctrine, the frequent recurrence to Him as the source of life. The means of this spiritual union with Christ is indeed love; as in the Collect we pray, “Pour into our hearts such love towards Thee, that we, loving Thee above all things, may obtain Thy promises.” Love is ever thinking of the object beloved; delights in acting with a ‘view to it, to be likened to it; to cling to it; to become more and more one with it. But this love, as being contrary to our corrupted. nature, must be forcibly sustained by doing violence to ourselves, and by all outward. means ; by frequent communion with Him in prayer and meditation, by giving of alms and active charities, and, more especially, by a frequent participation of His Body and Blood. 

The consideration of the Epistle and Gospel together is often of great advantage, and furnishes a subject of much interest, from the connexion of doctrine with practical precepts, which are thus brought to illustrate and bear upon each other. Thus it is to-day. Our Lord Himself in the Gospel... (for the second part, on the Gospel.)