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SERMON IX.

The Hidden Life of a Christian.

Col. iii. 3.-For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

THE FIRST PART.

DEATH and life are two words of a solemn and important sound. They carry so much of force and moment in them, as must awaken mankind to attention ; and therefore the Spirit of God often uses them as metaphors, to express things unseen and spiritual, and to describe the state both of saints and sinners: So that all who are alive on the face of the earth, in the language of scripture, are said to be dead too, but in different senses. 'Those who are in a state of nature, and under the power of sin, unpardoned and unsanctified, are dead in trespasses and sins; yet they live the life of brutes in the lusts of the flesh, or the life of devils in the lusts of the mind ; Eph. ii. 1, 2. Those who are recovered from the fall, and brought into a state of grace by the gospel of Christ, are said to be dead also; that is, they are dead to sin; Rom. vi. 11. and they are crucified, and so dead to the world ; Gal. vi. 14. The delights of sin are hateful to them, so that they allure them not to forsake their God; and the lawful enjoyments of life are so far tasteless to the saints, in comparison of the things of heaven, that they have much less influence, than once they had, to tempt them away from God, and from the practice of holiness.

It is in this sense the christian Colossians are said to be dead in my text. But they have another, a new life, and that of a different kind ; such as is mentioned in this verse, and which is hid with Christ in God : and it is this hidden life shall be the chief subject of my discourse.

These latter words of the text afford two plain and easy propositions or doctrines.

I. That the life of a christian is a hidden life.-II. That it is hid with Christ in God. Let us meditate on them in order.

Doctrine I. A christian's life is a hidden life. Here we

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shall, First, Consider what is this life, which is said to be hidden. And, Secondly, In what respects it is so.

First, What is this life of a christian which is said to be hidden ?

Not the animal life, wherehy he eats, drinks, sleeps, moves and walks; this is visible enough to all about him. Not the civil life, as lie stands in relation to other men in the world, whether as a son, as a father, a master, or a servant, a trader, a labourer, or an officer in the state : For all these are public, and seen of men.

But the hidden life is that whereby he is a christian indeed; his spiritual life, wherein he is devoted to God, and lives to the purposes of heaven and eternity. And this is the same life, which, in other parts of scripture, is called eternal; for the life of grace survives the grave, and is prolonged into glory. The same lite of piety and inward pleasure, which begins on earth, is fultilled in heaven ; and it may be called the spiritual, or the eternal life, according to different respects ; for it is the same continued life acting in different stations or places, and running through time and eternity; 1 John v. 11, 12. Eternal life is in the Son,

. and he that hath the Son, hath this life ; it is begun in him, he is already possessed of it in some degree.

As the life of the child is the same with that of the full-grown man ; as the same vital principles and powers run through the several successive stages of infancy, youth and manhood ; so the divine life of a saint, begun on on earth, runs through this world, through death, and the separate state of souls ; it appears in fullgrown perfection, in the final heaven, when the whole saint shall stand complete in glory. Thus the spiritual life of a christian is eternal life begun ; and eternal life is the spiritual life made perfect.

If we would describe this life in short, it may be represented thus : It is a life of faith, holiness and peace; a life of faith, or dependance upon God for all that we want ; a life of holiness, rendering back again to God, in a way of honour and service, whatsoever we receive from him in a way of mercy; and a life of peace in the comfortable sense of the favour of God, and our acceptance with him through Jesus Christ. All these begin on earth, and in this sense faith itself, as well as peace and holiness, shall abide in heaven : we shall for ever be dependants, for ever happy and for ever holy.

In a state of nature the man lived such a sinful and carnal life, that was more properly called death; but when he becomes a belever, a true christian, he is new created ; 2 Cor. v. 17. New-born ; John iii. 3. raised froin the dead, and quickened to

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a new life ; Eph. ii. 1, 5. which is called being risen with Christ, in the verses before my text; Col.iii

. 1. And this very spiritual life, as the effect of our symbolical resurrection with Chrisi, is the subject of several verses of the 6th chapter to the Romans, whence I cannot but infer the same to be designed here, viz. that the christian who is dead to sin, is risen with Christ, and alive to God; as Rom. vi. 11. All the life that he lived before, with all the shew and bravery of it, with all the bustle and business, the entertainments and delights of it, was but a mere dream, a fancy, the picture of life, a shadow and emptiness, and but little above the brutes that perish. Now he lives a real, a substantial, a divine life, a-kin to God and angels, and quite of a different nature from what the men of this world live.

There is this difference indeed which the scripture makes between the spiritual life and the eternal. The first chiefly respects the operations of the soul, for the life of the body is not immortal here : the second includes soul and body too, for both shall possess immortality hereafter. The first is attended with many difficulties and sorrows; the second is all ease and pleasure. The first is represented as the labour and service : the last, as the great, though unmerited, reward; Gal. vi. 8. lle that soweth to the Spirit, and fulfils the duties of the spiritual life, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. The one is the life of holiness and inward peace, though mingled with many defects, and surrounded with a thousand disadvantages and trials : the other, is the same life of holiness and peace, having surmounted every difficulty, shining and exulting in full joy and glory.

Secondly, We come to consider, in what respect this life may be called a hidden life.

And here I shall distinguish that part of it, which is more usually called the spiritual life, and is exercised in this world, from that which is more frequently called life eternal, and belongs rather to the world to come: and then I shall make distinct inferences from the consideration of each.

Now let us consider wherein the spiritual life is said to be hidden.

I. The acts and exercises of it are secret and unknown to the public world. The saint is much engaged in the important and hidden concerns of his divine life; and his converse is with God and Christ, who dwell in the world of invisibles.

Who knows the secret transactions between God and the soul of a christian, when he first entered into covenant with God, through Christ the Mediator, and began this happy life? Who can tell the inward workings of his spirit towards Jesus Christ his Lord in the first efforts of his faith, and embraces of our Saviour? Who was acquainted with the secret sorrows of his soul, when he was first set a mourning for his past sins, and humbled himself in bitterness before God ; Or who can express the surprizing delight, and secret satisfaction he felt at heart, when God communicated to him the first lively hope of forgiveness and divine salvation? O the unknown joys of such an hour which some christians have experienced, when a divine beam of light shone into their souls, and revealed Jesus Christ within them, as St. Paul speaks : when they saw his all-sufficiency of righteousness and grace, to answer their infinite necessities; and when they durst believe in him as their Saviour !

And as the beginnings of this life are hidden from the world, so the exercises and progress of it are a secret too. While the world is following after idols and vanity, the christian, in his retired chamber, breathes after his God and his Redeemer, and gives a loose to his warmest affections, in the pursuit of his Almighty Friend, and his best beloved. While the men of this world are vexing their spirits, and fretting under present disappointments, he dwells in a lonesome corner, mourning for his sins and follies. And at another time, while the children of vanity grow proud in public, and boast of their large possessions, and inheritances, he rejoices in secret, in the hope of glory, and takes divine delight in the fore-thought of his better inheritance among the saints : his conversation is in heaven; Phil. iii. 20.

I might run through all the exercises of the sanctified affections, and the various parts of the divine worship, and of the conduct of a saint among the children of men. With what humble fear does he entertain the mention of the name of God? With what deep self-abasement, and inward adoration? At the presence of sin how is his anger stirred? and his holy watchfulness when temptations appear? how does he labour and wrestle, fight and strive, lest he be overcome by the secret enemies of his soul? And as his bitterness of heart is unknown to the world, so a stranger intermeddles not with his joy; Prov. xiv. 10. He feeds on the same provision which his Lord Jesus did on earth, for it his meat and his drink to do the will of his father which is in heaven; This is a feast to the christian, which the world knows not of; John iv. 32, 34.

II. The springs and principles of this life are hidden and unknown to the world; and therefore the world esteems many of the actions of a true christian very strange and unaccountable things, as we shall shew afterward, because they see not the springs of them.

The word of God, or the gospel, with all the hidden treasures of it, is tñe chief instrument, or means, whereby this divine life is wrought and supported in the soul. The true christian beholds the purity of God in the precepts; he reads grace, heaven, and glory, in the promises; he sees the words of

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the bible in a divine light, and feeds sweetly on the hidden blessings of scripture, deriving life, and nourishment, and joy from it; whereas the carnal world go not far beyond the letters and syllables. The gospel, which is all light and glory to a saint, is hidden to them that are lost; 2 Cor. iv. 3. This same gospel is written in the heart of a christian, and is the principle of his life there. This is immortal and incorruptible, the seed of the word abiding in the heart; the image of the eternal God, drawn out in such characters as our nature can bear: For the written word is a transcript of God's holiness; and when it is inwrought into all the powers of a believing soul, it becomes a vital principle within him for ever. A believer is, as it were, cast in the very mould of the gospel; so the word signifies ; Rom. vi. 17. This is the word hidden in the heart, that secures the saint from sin; Ps. cxix. 11.

The motives and springs that awaken a christian to keep up, and maintain this spiritual life, are things hidden from the eyes of the world; things eternal and invisible, 2 Cor. iv. 18. While we look not at the things that are seen, that are temporal; but at the things that are unseen, and eternal ; we then count the joys or sorrows of this world, things of little importance; then we live like christians, and the life of our Lord Jesus is manifested, or copied out, in our lives; as ver. 10, 11.

The habits of grace and holiness in the hearts of believers, whence all the actions of the spiritual life proceed, are secret and hidden. Who knows how they were wrought at first? how this heavenly breath, this divine life was infused, which changed a dead sinner into a living saint? Our Saviour himself compares this work of the Spirit

to the wind ; John iii. 8. We hear the sound, we feel and see the effects of it, but we know not whence it comes, nor whither it goes; so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Who can describe those secret and almighty influences of the blessed Spirit on the mind and will of man, which work with such a sovereign, and yet such a gentle, and con-natural agency, that the believer himself hardly knows it, but by the gracious effects of it, and the blessed alterations wrought in his soul.

It is this glorious Agent, this Creator, this blessed Spirit, who is the uncreated principle of this life. The Spirit, as proceeding from our Lord Jesus Christ, begun this life at first in the soul : and the same glorious unseen power carries it on through all difficulties and oppositions, and will fulfil it in glory.

I must add also, that Christ himself, who is said to be our life in the verse following my text, is at present hidden from us; he dwells in the unseen world, and the heavens must receive him till the restitution of all things; Acts üü. 21. Christ Jesus is the

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