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The Hidden Life of a Christian.
Col. iii. 3.-For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
THE SECOND PART.
It is to the christian converts who were at Colosse, that the apostle addresses himself, in this strange language: Ye are dead, and yet I tell you where your life is. This divine writer delights sometimes to surprize his readers, by joining such opposites, and uniting such distant extremes. But can a dead person have life in him ? Yes, and a noble one too, ye are dead to the world, and dead to sin, but ye have a life of another kind than that which belongs to the sinners of this world : your life is spiritual and holy; theirs is sinful, and engaged in the works of the flesh: Your life is heavenly, and seeks the things which are above; theirs is derived from the earth, and grovels in the dust : Your life is everlasting, for your souls shall live for ever in a glorious state, and your bodies shall be raised from death into equal immortality, and a partnership of the same glory; but their best life is only a temporal one, and when that is at an end, all their joys, and their hopes are for ever at an end too, and their eternal sorrows begin.
But this life of a christian is a hidden life. That was the first doctrine I raised from the text. Both the operations and the springs of it, are a secret to the world, and the future glories of it, when it is most properly called eternal life, are still a greater secret, and much more unknown: Yet, saith the apostle, I can acquaint you where the springs of it lie, and whence all the future glories of it are to be derived ; they are hidden in God, with our Lord Jesus Christ. Now by giving so short a hint, in a word or two, where this our life is hid, he has said something greater, and brighter, and more sublime, concerning it, that if he had shewn us, from a high mountain, at noon-day, all the kingdoms of this world, with all the dazzling glories of them, and then pointed downward, “there your life is."
Let this therefore be the second doctrine, and the subject of our present meditations, that the life of a christian is hidden with Christ in God. It is hidden in God, as the first original and eternal spring of it, and entrusted with Christ as a faithful Medi
ator ; it is hid in God, where our Lord Jesus Christ is, and he is appointed to take care of it for us; for he also is called our life ; verse 4.
The method I shall take for the improvement of this truth, is, to explain these words of the apostle more at large, and then deduce some inferences from them.
The first enquiry will arise, in what respect the christian's life is said to be hidden in God? And, secondly, What is meant by its being hidden with Christ?
1. First, In what respect is the life of a christian said to be hidden in God?
The word God is taken in scripture, either in general for the divine nature, which is the same in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; or, in particular, for the person of the Father. And I do not see any absolute necessity to determine, precisely, which was the meaning of the apostle in this place. The three particulars by which I shall endeavour to explain it, will include both. The life of a christian is hidden in God ; that is, in the all-sufficiency of the divine nature, in the purpose of the divine will, and in the secret engagements of the Father to his Son Jesus Christ, in the covenant of redemption.
1. The christian's life is hidden in the all-sufficiency of the divine nature. And there are immense stores of life, of every kind, hidden in God, in this sense. This whole world of beings, that have, and have not souls, with all the infinite varieties of the life of plants, animals, and angels, were hidden in this fruitful and inexhaustible fund of the divine all-sufficiency, before God began to create a world. All things were then hidden in God; for of him are all things, and from him all things proceeded ; Rom. xi. 36. Now this all-sufficiency of God consists in those powers and perfections, whereby he is able to do all things for his creatures, and ready to do all for his saints; these are most eminently 'his wisdom, his almightiness, and his goodness.
There are inconceivable riches of goodness and gracein God, which are employed in furnishing out life for all his saints ; and all the unknown preparations of future glory are the effects of his grace. Eph. ii, 4.-God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ; and he did it for this purpose, that in the ages to come, he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus; ver. 7. Not all the goodness that appears in the rich provision he hath made for all the natural world of creatures, nor all the overflowing bounties of his providence, since the first creation, are equal to those unsearchable treasures of mercy
and goodness, which he hath employed for the spiritual welfare, and eternal life and happiness of his own chosen children, and in the secret of this grace were all the blessings of his covenant hidden from eternity
The divine wisdom is another part of his all-sufficiency: There are in God infinite varieties of thought and counsel, riches of knowledge, and wisdom unsearchable ; and he hath made these abound in his new creation, as well as in the old ; in the supernatural, as well as in the natural world. Eph. i. 8. He hath abounded towards us, sinners, in this work of salvation, in all wisdom and prudence. What surprizing wisdom appears in the vital powers of an animal, even in the life of brutes that perish? What glorious contrivance, and divine skill, to animate clay, and make a fly, a dog, or a lion of it? What sublime advances of wisdom to create a living man, and join these two distinct extremes, flesh and spirit, in such a vital union, that has puzzled the philosophers of all ages, and constrained some of them to confess and adore a God? And what a superior work of divinity, is it, to turn a dead sinner into a living saint, here on earth ? and then to adorn a heaven, with all its proper furniture, for the eternal life and habitation of his sons and his daughters ? What divine skill is required here? What immense profusion of wisdom, to form bodies of immortality and glory, for every saint, out of the dust of the grave, and the ashes of martyred christians ? Our spiritual and our eternal life are hid in the wisdom of God.
The power of God is his all-sufficience too. The power that quickens and raises a soul to this divine life, must be almighty; Eph. i. 19, 20. It is the same exceeding greatness of his power that works in us who believe, which wrought in our Lord Jesus Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right-hand in heavenly places. It is the same powerful word that commanded the light to shine out of darkness, that shone into our hearls, when he wrought the knowledge of Christ there ; 2 Cor. iv. 6. and when he commanded us, who lay among the dead, to awake, and arise, and live. Was it not a noble instance of power, to spread abroad these heavens of unknown circumference, with all the rolling worlds of light in them, the planets and the stars? And the same hand is mighty enough, if these were not sufficient, to build a brighter heaven, fit for the saints to live in during all their immortality, and to furnish them with vital powers that shall be incorruptible and everlasting. Thus the life of the saints is hidden in the almightiness of God, as well as in his wisdom and goodness. Thus it is contained in the all-sufficience of the divine nature, and each part of it is ready to be produced into act, in every proper season.
2. The life of a christian is hidden in the purposes of the
divine will. And in this sense, the whole gospel, with all its wondrous glories and mysteries, is said to be hid in God; Eph. iii. 9. When St. Paul preached among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, he made all men see something of that mystery, which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God. And if this be compared with Eph. i. 9. we shall find that this mystery of the will, or good-pleasure of God, was that which he eternally purposed in himself.
There is not one dead sinner awakened, and called into this divine and spiritual life here, or that shall ever be possessed of life eternal hereafter, but it was contained in the eternal secret purpose, and merciful design of God, before the world began, For it is a very mean conceit, and a disgraceful opinion concerning the great God, to imagine that he should exert his power to work life in souls, here in time, by any new purposes, or sudden designs, occasioned by any works or merit of theirs, which he had not formed and decreed in himself, long before he made
This doctrine would represent God as a mutable being; but we know that he is unchangeable. There is nothing new in God ; and his immutability is that perfection of his nature which secures the performance of this divine purpose, and the life of every christian.
3. I might add, in the third place, that the life of a christian is hidden in the unknown engagements of the Father to his Son Jesus Christ the Mediator. That sacred and divine transaction betwixt the Father and the Son, is often intimated in the holy scriptures, and some of the promises of that covenant are there represented ; Ps. lxxxix. 19—28, 29—36, &c. I have laid help upon one that is mighty; my mercy will I keepfor him for ever, and my covenant shall stand fast with him : his seed wiil I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven. Then when the covenant of peace was between them both, as it is expressed in Zech. vi. 13. then did the Father promise that he should have a sed to serve him; Ps. xxii. 30. and this must be a living seed, and they must be raised up from among dead sinners, and they shall be made living saints in the world of grace, and in the world of glory.
Many of these promises are transcribed as it were, into the covenant of grace, and they are written down in scripture for our present consolation and hope; and many others are, doubtless concealed from all but Jesus the Mediator ; they are hidden from men and angels, and reserved to be known, by surprizing accomplislıment, in the future bright ages, beyond the date of time, and to entertain the long successions of our eternity. Now the truth and faithfulness of God are those attributes of his nature which secure this covenant, and all the divine engagements of it ;
both those which are revealed to the children of men, and those that are known only to the Son and the Father : But it is sufficiently evident, that all the degrees and powers of the spiritual and eternal life of the saints, with all the graces,glories and blessings that shall ever attend them, are hidden and laid up in these sacred engagements and promises.
II. This leads me to the second enquiry; and that is, what is meant by these words, with Christ, in my text ? and how the christian life is hid with Christ?
If I would branch this into three particulars also, I should express them thus :
1. Our life is hidden with Christ, as he is the great Treasurer and Dispenser of all divine benefits to the children of men. This is the high office to which the Father hath appointed him; and this is the character that he sustains; and he is abundantly furnished for the execution of this great trust. In this sense, all the stores of life and blessing, that ever shall be bestowed on the sinful race of Adam, are laid up in the hands of Christ, the Son of God. It hath pleased the Father, that in him all fulness should dwell; Col. i. 19. And he was full of grace and truth, that of his fulness we might receive grace for grace ; John i. 14–16. That is, a variety of graces and blessings answerable to that rich variety, with which our Lord Jesus Christ, the High-treasurer of heaven, was furnished from the hand of the Father. And to this purpose, perhaps, John v. 26. may be interpreted, compared with ver. 21. As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself ; that as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son may quicken whom he will.
The blessed Spirit itself, as it is the great promise of the New Testament, and the glorious gift of God to men, was communicated to the Son, and by him bestowed upon us ; for he went to heaven to receive the promise of the Spirit from the Father, and he shed it forth upon the apostles and the believers; Acts ii. 33. It is this Spirit who gave miraculous gifts to them heretofore, that is the immediate principle, or worker, of divine life in dead souls now : And it is by this same Spirit, that he shall raise our dead bodies from the grave; Rom. vii. 11. He is the spring of our spiritual and eternal life; and he is dispensed to us from the Father, by the hands of the Son.
And here it is proper to take notice of the special manner wherein the Lord Jesus Christ is the treasurer, or keeper of life, and all divine benefits for the saints, and becomes the dispenser thereof to his people : He is ordained to stand in the relation of a