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men, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren. Nothing deterred him from his great duty. He lived but for this end — to approve himself faithful as the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
And so, when his toil ended, and the good fight was fought, he had his reward. He departed out of this life, to be with Christ. He went from a world of suffering, to where there is no more pain, nor sorrow, nor crying — from wars and tumults, to where there is unbroken rest. He went as a soldier goes from a well-fought field, to be crowned by the approving captainby Him who had chosen him to be a soldier. He went from serving Christ, to see Christ. Absent from the body, he was present with his Lord. To him, indeed, to die, must, as he says, have been gain, — yea, the greatest gain !
But, brethren, the words before us, while they find their best fulfilment in the person of St. Paul himself, and in others like him, servants and apostles of Jesus Christ at the beginning, have been written for the comfort and instruction of Christ's people in all time.
It is a true saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that whosoever lives for Christ, lives with a single aim to His glory; to him death will always
be the greatest gain. His friends may repine and lament, and say, “Alas ! my brother!” They may feel bitterly the blank that his absence has made, and sigh " for a touch of the vanished hand,” and “for the sound of the voice that is still.” But the loss is all on their side. He himself is in joy and felicity; he is where no sorrow, no pain can reach — in the hand of God. Better for him to be absent, than to be present. Death to him is only gain.
Such being the case, let us weigh well the Apostle's words in my text — fruitful as they are in comfort, fruitful too in warning.
To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. The one depends on the other. The two things here spoken of cannot be divided. What, then, does the first clause mean? To me to live is Christ. It is hard to explain it, if it does not explain itself. But this, I think, I may say, that it means that we have Christ in our hearts, as the spring and source of our spiritual life; and, further, that our outward life and conduct are modelled upon the recorded life of Christ; that all our words, all our actions, all our intercourse, is regulated by a Christian spirit—that, as He was, so are we, to the best of our poor ability, in this world.
And, first, it means, I said, that we have Christ in our hearts, as the spring and source of our spiritual life. The true Christian is not content with a mere outward confession of belief in the Christian creeds. It is not enough for him to say after the clergyman in church, “I believe in Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord.” No, but he has that belief wound about his inmost heart. He feeds upon Christ by faith. Christ is the ground of his hopes before God. To Christ he trusts to have his sins forgiven. On Christ he leans for an entrance into heaven.
Now think of this, brethren, and ask yourselves—“Have I this inward hold upon Jesus Christ ? Do I lead my life by faith of the Son of God? Could I say in case of sudden illness, in the prospect of speedy death, I know in Whom I have believed! I know that my Redeemer liveth! I am not a stranger to His love: I have often taken the pledge of it in the holy Sacrament.
I have a good hope because of His word. He will not fail me in my extreme need, -yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. He is with me. His rod and His staff comfort me!”
Again, to live Christ, or to have Christ for our life, implies that our own outward actual life is framed upon His life—that we walk as having Him for our example.
Now we all know something of the life of Jesus Christ. We know what a good, pure, gentle, unselfish life His was. We know how patient He was in enduring grief, yea, though suffering wrongfully. We know how quick and ready He was to do cures. We know how little He thought of Himself, or cared for His own comfort. We know how His mind was bent on doing His Father's business. We know how tender He was towards human frailty. We know how He prayed for His murderers. We know how He loved His mother, and Lazarus, and the sisters of Lazarus, and all His disciples.
Every reader of the Gospels is familiar with these things. We have all felt our hearts thrill with admiration when reading of them. And why have they been recorded ? not simply to stir our feelings, but to serve for our pattern. Christ Himself tells us this. Again and again. He calls upon us to follow Him. Come unto me take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.
He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life!
Yes, brethren, if we would indeed have Christ for our life, then must we order our steps after His example. Then must our daily character, conduct and conversation, be stamped with the impress of His Spirit.
Do, I beg of you, think also of this. It is a matter that concerns us very nearly. Not every one that saith unto Christ, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Not the loud professor, but the lowly practiser. Not the greedy crowd, who seek Christ only for what they can get from Him, but the trembling follower who comes behind Him in the press, and strives to walk in the footsteps of that holy life,—tries to follow His Lord in patience, unselfishness, and charity; not they, but he will be approved by Christ when He cometh, and taken with Him into His glory!
And this brings me to the second clause of the text. We have seen what is meant by the first clause,- To me to live is Christ. We have seen that it means the having a firm hold on Christ by faith, and manifesting that we have it by a course framed after our Lord's exampleby purity of speech and conduct, by much kindness, by forbearance, by love unfeigned.
Wherever there is such a life as this,- so rooted and built up in Christ, so pervaded in all its parts by the leaven of His Spirit, the close of it need cause no overwhelming sorrow. Of every such life it is safe and true to say, that the end of it is gain!
Yes; even if it close suddenly! For the servant who is occupied in his master's work