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WOODSTOCK, APRIL, 1827.
From the Telescope and Miscellany. SERMON, NO. XXXIV.
Col. iii. 1.--"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those
things which are above." It is the high and exalted privilege of those who bear the christian name, to claim the freedom of the city of Zion, and to be numbered as "fellow-citizens with the saints and the household of God.”
To them the soothing voice of invitation is often addressed, and they are called to the enjoyment of higher privileges than falls to the lot of such as are still “strangers to the covenant of promise."
Their high vocation, also, renders them the subjects of more important obligations, and more exalted exercises than the temporal interests of this world require. Hence they are recognized by the Apostle as participants in the first resurrection; and as such, are commanded by our text to “seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God;" to have their attention directed, and their affections elevated to scenes of nobler enjoyment, to interests of more lasting endurance than the short-lived pleasures of this transitory life can ever afford.
Beings thus exalted in point of privilege, and instructed in the things that pertain to the kingdom of God, could scarcely fail to realize that their moral obligations were greater and more numerous, than when they groaned “in bondage under the elements of the world.” And we believe it is a position universally admitted, that the sphere of moral and religious duty is enlarged in the apae proportion that light is emitted to the understand. Vol. VII.
ing, or the blessings of divine grace are multiplied for our enjoyment. The exhortation therefore which our text contains, was doubtless designed by the apostle to exalt the hopes, and to animate the faith of the believe ing Colossians, and raise their thoughts and affections to Heaven, whence the purest of their enjoyments were derived.
In order that our subject may produce a practical improvement in our lives and conversation, it may be aseful to consider it under the three following inquiries.
I. Are we risen with Christ? And if we are
II. What are the important duties which our text demands ? And
III. What are the advantages which may be expected from the exercise of prompt obedience?
1. In order to determine whether we are risen with Christ, it is necessary to examine in as impartial a manner as we are capable of doing, our thoughts and feelings, our views and our actions, and carefully compare them with the instructions which the Scriptures of the New Testament furnish on this subject; and if they are found to harmonize with the spirit of primitive christian experience, we shall be able to furnish, with safety, an affirmative to the question now before us.
As the apostle speaks of a resurrection, in this short address, it is important to understand what was intended by the use of the term as here employed; for upon a right understanding of this word, depends the practical utility of the text.
Whatever might have been the sense which the apostle intended to convey by what he here denominates & resurrection, he furnishes the clearest évidence, that passing from this temporal state of being to a state of spiritual and immortal existence was foreign to the pure
pose of his address ; for the language of the text itself shows it to be an exhortation addressed to the church at Colosse, and implies that they were already the partakers of that resurrection. This conclusion is farther vin. dicated by the peculiar character of the exhortation which directed them to "seek those things which are above." Now it appears that if they were not in the flesh, they could not have been the subjects of such an exhortation by the apostle. The sentiment which he intended to convey is fully interpreted in the following verse“Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” This resurrection, therefore, did not in the least degree weaken the bond of moral obligation, but rather enlarged the sphere of their duty by imposing upon them new commands, and a more refined exercise of their moral powers. Hence the aptitude of the Savior's language, “A new coinmandment give l'unto you, that ye should love one another, even as I have loved you ; that
should love one another." In explaining what this resurrection is, in such a manner as to render it perfectly intelligible, it is proper to observe, that it is that part of our experience which unfolds the first essential features, and discloses the great lineaments of the christian character, by the revelations of divine truth to the understanding, causing the mind to emerge from the darkness of unbelief, to the exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as the light and salvation of the moral world : from the gloomy shades of that death which sin introduced into the soul, to the enjoyment of the light of life, and the practice of right
It is denominated by this apostle to consist "in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh," and in being "risen with Christ through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised us from the dead.” Nor will it be difficult for us to determine whether we have passed the ordeal of this change, since we are furnished with the apostolic criterion,-."we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."
This resurrection consists in becoming spiritually minded; in having our thoughts and aftections transferred from temporal objects to the spiritual realities of the gospel-in being delivered from the bondage of earthly mindedness, and introduced to an acquaintance with the life-giving energies of evangelical truth: For saith the apostle,-"To be carnally minded is death ; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” It is therefore a resurrection of the mind above the flattering and tempting vanities of time and sense, and the supreme love of every temporal object, to the love and enjoyment of things spiritual and divine. It is rising by faith and hope to newness of life, and to the deep mental enjoyment of that grace which conducts us into the paths of new obedience.
It is the same with being renewed in knowledge and righteousness, after the image of him who hath created us: Or, in a different form of biblical language, -"being born again, not of corruptible, but of incorruptible seed, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” Finally, it is entering into the kingdom of Christ, or covenant of gospel grace, and by the virtue of unfeigned faith, becoming, in sincerity, as well as by profession, the disciples of Jesus. Let us all, therefore, propose the question to ourselves-Are we risen with Christ? Are our minds liberated from the bondage of darkness of fear and of condemnation? And are our affections transferred from the pursuit of sinful indulgences, to the pursuit and attainment of the sublimer enjoyments of the kingdom of righteousness and peace ? If we can well and truly answer these questions -in the affirmative, we are not only happy in the enjoyment of divine favor and love, but are in a state
of preparation to receive and profit by the instructions proposed in the
Il. Inquiry which our subject embraces-namely, what are the important duties which the text demands?
We are required by this injunction of the Apostle, to “seek those things which are above."
By those things which are above, St. Paul doubtless intended to signify those enjoyments which are superior in their nature to any of the pleasures which this world can afford.
It is obvious from the language which he here employs, that he considered his brethren capable of higher attainments than those of earthly good, and of a po. bler employment of their powers than the mere pur. suit of worldly gain or worldly pleasure, and it would be inconsistent with the dignity of their natures, and incompatible with the honor of God, to suppose that he had imparted to man such noble gifts, for no other end than that their energies should be lavished and wasted upon the trifles of this momentary state of being: hence objects of the highest moral importance are placed within our reach for the encouragement of every virtuous effort within the compass of intellectual attainment.
The honors and enjoyments of the heavenly kingdom of the Savior, the riches of divine grace, the approbation of Heaven, and a delightful foretaste of the joys which wait to crown the ransomed of the Lord Jesus Christ, in a future and endless state, are comprised in "those things which are above."
The important duties then which are inculcated by our text, will be found so easy of comprehension as to disarm the subjects of this address of any and every excuse which might otherwise be urged in extenuation of neglect. Among the duties which the exhortation before as