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ROMANS, vi, 11.
" Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin,
but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
WE regard this verse as proof in itself, of the forensic meaning, which we have all along ascribed to the phrases of our being dead unto sin and alive unto God. The great object of this chapter, is to establish the alliance that there is, between a sinner's acceptance through Christ and a sinner's holiness. And in the verse before us, there is a practical direction given for carrying this alliance into effect. We are called
to reckon of ourselves that we are dead unto sin, and alive unto God; and this is a step towards our becoming holy. Now what are we to reckon ourselves? why, if these phrases be taken in the personal sense of them-it would be that we are mortified to the pleasures and temptations of sin; and alive to nothing but the excellencies of God's character, and a sense of the obligations we are under to love and to honour Him: Or, in other words, we are to reckon ourselves holy in order that we may
become holy. It were a strange receipt for curing a man of his dishonesty, to bid him reckon of himself that he is an honest man. One really does not see the charm and the operation of this expedient at all. One does not see, how, by the simple act of counting myself what I really am not, that I am to be transferred from that which I am to that which I choose to imagine of myself. And a still more radical objection is, that it is bidding me reckon that to be true which I know to be false. It is bidding me cherish the belief of a thing that is not. It is calling, not upon my faith in a matter for which there is no evidence, but upon my imagination of a matter that is directly opposite to a reality of which I am conscious. To lay hold of a sinner and bid him reckon of himself that he is a saint, is to bid him admit into credit that which he knows to be untrue—and all for the purpose too of turning him from the creature that he feels he is, to the creature that he fancies he is. We have heard much of the power of imagination; but this is giving it an empire and an ascendancy that exceeds all which was before known or observed of our nature—besides the very obvious moral impropriety that there would be in an apostle telling, either an unconverted man to conceive of himself that which is most glaringly and notoriously untrue; or, if you will restrict the injunction of my text to disciples and believers, telling them to think what no humble Christian can possibly think of himself-that he is crucified unto the love of sin, and that all his felt and living desires are towards God and godliness. Now you free the passage
of all these difficulties, by taking these phrases according to the forensic interpretation that we have given them. To be dead unto sin, is to be in the condition of one on whom death the sentence of sin has already been inflicted—if not in his own person at least in that of his representative; so that the execution for the transgression of the law is a matter that is now past and over. To be alive unto God is to live in the favour of God-a favour to which we have been admitted through the services of a Mediator, or, in the language of the text, through Jesus Christ our Lord. To reckon that Christ died for the one purpose, and to reckon that he brought in an everlasting righteousness for the other purpose -is to reckon, not on a matter of fancy, but on a matter proposed and that too on the evidence of God's own testimony to faith. It is not to cherish a delusive belief of what we are in ourselves, and that in the face of our own consciousness—it is to cherish a most solid and warrantable belief of what God has done for us, and that on the credit we place in His own intimation. Ere we can in our own minds bolster up the reckoning, that we are personally dead unto sin and personally alive unto God —there must be many misgivings; and sad failures and fluctuations of confidence, on the constant detections that we must be ever making of our own ungodliness. And at best it is a very precarious security indeed for holiness, if the way to become holy is to reckon that we are so. But when, instead of looking downwardly on the dark and ambiguous tablet of our own character, we look upwardly to that Saviour who now sitteth in exaltation, after having rendered the penalty of our disobedience and won for us the reward of life everlasting—we hold by a thing of historical fact, and not by a thing of deceitful imagination; we rest on the completeness of a finished expiation
and perfect obedience; and transfer our reckoning. from a ground where conscience meets us and gives us the lie, to a ground occupied by the stable and enduring realities of Scripture—where God who cannot lie meets us with the assurances of His truth; and the voice of His kindness welcomes us to the deliverance of those who are dead with Christ, to the high and heavenly anticipations of those who are alive with Him.
When a sinner is bidden to reckon himself dead unto sin, and this phrase is understood personally, he is bidden to reckon himself a saint-to reckon what is not true; and surely this is not the way of causing him to be a saint. But when he is bidden to reckon himself dead unto sin, and this phrase is understood forensically, he is bidden look upon himself as a partaker with Christ in all the privileges and immunities of Him, on whom the sentence is already discharged and gone by; and to whom therefore there is no more condemnation. But it may be said, might not this be an untruth also ? Do I read anywhere in the Bible, of Christ dying for me in particular? The apostle is speaking to his converts when he says, “ Reckon yourselves dead unto sin." But is it competent to address any one individual at random, to reckon himself in this blessed condition of freedom from a penalty, that Christ hath intercepted and absorbed in behalf of all who believe on Him? Might not he in so reckoning be as effectually working himself up into the belief of a delusive imagination, as if he reckoned that he was a new creature—while all the habits and tendencies of the old man still remained with him, in full and unabated operation ?
Why, my brethren, it is no where said in the Bible that Christ died so for me in particular, as that by His simple dying the benefits of His atonement are mine in possession. But it is everywhere said in the Bible, that He so died for me in particular, as that by His simple dying, the benefits of His atonement are mine in offer. They are mine if I will. Such terms as whosoever and all, and any, and ho, every one, bring the gospel redemption specifically to my door; and there it stands for acceptance as mine in offer, and ready to become mine in possession on my giving credit to the word of the testimony. The terms of the gospel message are so constructed, that I have just as good a warrant for reckoning myself dead unto sin, as if, instead of the announcement that God hath set forth Christ to be a propitiation for the sins of the world through faith in His blood, I had been the only sinner in the world; or I had been singled out by name and by surname, and it was stated that God had set forth Christ a propitiation for the sins of me individually; through faith in His blood. The act of reckoning myself dead unto sin through Christ, is just the act of receiving the truth of Christ's declaration,-according to the terms of the declaration. It is not reckoning on the truth of a falsehood. Were it a personal phrase, no doubt, it were reckoning that to be in the house, which is no where to be found within its limits. But it being a forensic phrase, it is just opening the door of the house; and suffering that to enter in which