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SIN A STATE OF DEATH.
Colossians ii. 13.
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him.
These are strong and alarming figures to describe the state of nature as contrasted with the state of grace. The scriptures, in various other places, have illustrated to us the spiritual things of which they speak by comparisons from the objects of
Heaven and hell are brought before our eyes by lively images from the visible creation, descriptive of the most intense enjoyment, or the utmost conceivable pain. The secret operations of the Holy Spirit are placed within the reach of our comprehension by beautiful emblems from the dews of rains of heaven descending to fertilize the earth, or from the winds, whose influence we perceive, but whose viewless and mysterious pathway we cannot trace. And so also the imperfections of our fallen nature are described by figures from the constitution of the body, as a dulness of sense, a blindness, and deafness, and grossness of the heart, rendering us insensible to the glories we were designed to contemplate, and the happiness we were made to enjoy. But the words now before us contain a stronger and more terrible image than all. Here, as well as in a corresponding verse of the epistle to the Ephesians, which says, “ you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins,
the apostle speaks of no partial imperfection in sinful man, no mere defect of the spiritual eye or the spiritual ear, but an entire extinction of vitality in the soul, the absence of all power, and energy, and life ; and tells us that those who persist in their sins, and the uncircumcision, as he calls it, of the flesh, (that is, the determined resistance of all those remedies of law or gospel which were designed to heal the evil,) are no less than actually dead ; while they only, in the true sense of the word, can be said to live, who have been “ quickened together with Christ,” and have been reanimated, as it were, by the vivifying spark of his saving and inspiring grace.
* Ephesians ii. 1.
Such an account of nature and of sin, given too by one who was no mean judge of humanity, well deserves our examination. Death is, in every sense of the word, to us a frightful and alarming image. It is associated in our minds with fearful thoughts of sorrow and mourning, of wounded friendship and dissevered love, of painful separations and agonizing regrets.
It is drawn too on our imaginations in still more gloomy colours as connected with the terrors of the grave,-the mouldering body, the devouring worm, the silence and solitude, the darkness and the gloom, and all the terrible accompaniments of decay. And when such a comparison is applied to us, perhaps in all the pride of life, and the full joyousness of health and prosperity, there is, methinks, a something of awful interest in the application which should lead us, with peculiar earnestness, to inquire how far it belongs individually to ourselves. Let us therefore, in endeavouring to interpret the apostle's words, examine
I. How we are said to have been dead in
II. In what sense Christ may be said to have quickened, or given us life, together with him.
1.-1. Now, with regard to the first of these points, I need not prove that we are, in one sense, plainly said to be “naturally dead in sin,” as being born under a liability to death, temporal and eternal, in consequence of Adam's transgression. But we must also observe,--to adopt the common scripture expression, as well as the language of the text,--that that original guilt introduced a present and immediate deadness of the soul, besides the threatened punishment of bodily decay, and the curse of future and everlasting woe. By one man,” in every view of the question, “sin entered into the world, and death by sin.”*
When God forbade the eating of the forbidden fruit, he said, “ in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die;" and when the deed was done, the curse was fulfilled. Man did not, indeed, at that moment die naturally, but still that threat was not unfulfilled, for the evils of mortality then at once invested his frame, and sorrow, and sickness, and labour, and trial, turned his earthly being into one continued process of lingering and progressive dissolution. Spiritually, however, he did die even then. He did die,-not only in the impending danger of eternal misery, but in the immediate withdrawing of God's quickening spirit,—the stoppage of that fountain of spiritual life which flows from heaven alone. There was a change, at that very moment of his first transgression, that took place in man,--a change to a state which is, with great propriety, compared to that of death. Then first the goodness of his heart died within him. Then first the image of God faded from his soul. Then first was sorrow heard of, and misery and labour which had been as yet unknown. A new scheme, indeed, was offered him by the atonement of Christ to restore him to the favor of God. But still man had become an altered creature, and had lost even the taste for what was good. The life that he had once rejoiced in the life of the best energies and faculties of the soul,- the life of that which truly constitutes an immortal being, -had passed away
* Romans v. 12.
Man had become spiritually dead; and that which had once been a blooming and flourishing plant of Eden, was now torn from its native soil, and cast by the way side, withered and decayed.
2. Such was the condition to which Adam's transgression brought us. Such was the state in which we all were born, “shapen,” as we were, “in iniquity, and conceived in sin.”
I will not now pause to shew how entirely man deserved this and brought it upon himself. I will not now dwell on, (that which belongs to the second part of this