I face death every day, brothers, as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I. THE FOLLY OF SELF DENIAL AND SUFFERING FOR CHRISTIANITY. These must be branded as imbecile; yet they have ever seemed most sublime. But if there be no resurrection (the resurrection of the body being vital to the gospel and all its hopes, as Paul has shown in preceding verses of this chapter), the argument for such conduct fails. Why order one's life for a future which will never be realized? Why suffer for a lie as though it were a truth? There were some who had been "baptized for the dead" - an obscure expression, but probably meaning baptized to take the place of those who had suffered martyrdom. Why should these court so stern a fate if Christianity were a deception? The apostle had "fought with beasts at Ephesus" - probably figurative, to express his contest with beastlike men. He "died daily" in his faithfulness to his commission as a preacher of - what? Ah! upon the what depended everything. According to the answer, Paul was an utter fool or a marvellously heroic saint. If there was no resurrection, and if therefore the gospel fell to the ground, he was undoubtedly the former.
II. THE REMOVAL OF RESTRAINTS FROM INDULGENCE AND VICE. The denial of the doctrine of the resurrection involved the denial of the gospel, and with this perished the hope of salvation. Christians thus became as men of this world, having no bright hope of the hereafter. Consequently the check upon natural appetite was removed. Common sense would seem to favour a life of Epicurean pleasure. If there be no hope concerning the world to come, let us make the best of the world that now is: "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die." "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." The apostle is not supposing that there is no future existence. By "the resurrection" in this chapter he means the resurrection of the body, but he shows that with the rejection of this doctrine Christianity is destroyed, and here he is showing that if Christianity be destroyed the incentives to a pure and virtuous life are removed. His thought seems to be that, apart from Christianity, there is nothing in the world which will constrain men generally to live great and noble and self-denying lives. And this is a matter for our most serious reflection. If Christianity be done away with, what is there which will restrain men from indulgence and vice? No other religion can compete with Christianity; if it falls, all religion is doomed. Can philosophy do the practical work required? Alas! it is possible to be a very excellent philosopher and a very poor moralist. Will general education restrain men? It will, when cleverness and goodness mean the same thing, but not before! Will art and refinement effect what is needed? The palmiest days of art have been the days of most glaring obscenity, and refinement has shown over and over again how easily it allies itself with brutal lust. If Christianity falls, the prevailing doctrine amongst men must be, "let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die."
II. CAREFULLY SHOULD WE GUARD AGAINST EMBRACING THIS FATAL OPINION. We may find difficulty in believing the doctrine; we shall find disaster in rejecting it.
1. The apostle notices one thing very likely to lead us astray. "Evil communications [or, 'evil company'] corrupt good manners" - a line borrowed from the Greek poet Menander. "Can a man touch pitch and not be defiled?" Many mix amongst the ungodly, confident in strength, and fall. We need remember that, in our present state, we are more easily influenced towards the wrong than the right. Our minds are not equally poised. There is already a bias. Strange that those who are so bold to venture into the atmosphere of moral evil shun that of physical evil. A professing Christian will company with an arrant unbeliever, but not with a man suffering from small-pox.
2. Sin must not be yielded to. (Ver. 34.) Those who live in sin easily persuade themselves of the truth of anything which they would like to be true. As denial of the resurrection leads to sin, so sin leads to the denial of the resurrection. Sin blinds the intellect as well as corrupts the heart.
3. If we have been at all betrayed, we should at once seek to recover our position. "Awake to righteousness," or, "awake up righteously." We are more than half asleep if we deny that for which there is abundant evidence. We need to rub our eyes or to ask the great Physician to touch them. "Awake," or "be sober." The condition of those who deny the resurrection is one of carnal intoxication. In denial our faces are towards evil; in assent and reception we turn towards righteousness. "Righteousness" in the world depends, according to the apostle, upon the reception of this doctrine, because with it stands or falls Christianity itself.
4. Denial involves ignorance of God. (Ver. 34.) To the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, Christ said, "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29). Men say, God cannot do this thing; but with him "all things are possible." True knowledge of God marvellously helps our faith. We doubt and question, not because we know so much, but because we know so little. The Corinthians boasted much of their knowledge; here Paul charges them with gross ignorance. - H.
I protest... I die daily.I. INEVITABLY — by the natural decay of nature.
II. VOLUNTARILY — by self-mortification.
III. EXPERIMENTALLY — by a growing indifference to the world.
IV. BELIEVINGLY — in hope of a better life.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)1. Deposit my soul in Christ's hands.
2. Resign the interests of earth.
3. Cultivate a closer communication with another world.
4. Realise death as the means of attaining my wishes.
5. Subdue the corruptions of nature.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)1. In a certain sense we all do this. The very moment we begin to live we commence to die. The whole of our life is like an ebbing tide.
2. Of some also this may be affirmed in a very painful and unhappy sense. They die daily because they feel a thousand deaths in fearing one. "Through fear of death they are all their lifetime subject to bondage." They are afraid to die, and yet are so fascinated by death that they cannot take their eyes from off it.
3. Paul used this expression in an heroic sense; every day he deliberately put his life in jeopardy for the cause of Jesus Christ. In these more silken days, we cannot run such serious risks. We know professors who cannot imperil their business or venture the breaking of some fond connection for the sake of Christ. Alas! many are ashamed of Jesus.
4. Our text we shall now take in a practical spiritual sense. Note —
I. SOME PREVIOUS NECESSARIES FOR THE PRACTICE OF THIS ART. The Christian —
1. Must be willing to die; for if he shall shrink at death, and covet life, it will be a miserable necessity to him that he will have to die one day. In order that a man should be willing to die daily he must be a saved man, and know it.
2. Must be even desirous of departure, and cheered with the hope of the better land. To an ungodly man, to die can never be a thing to be desired, for what remaineth to him after death? But to the believer death is gain.
3. Should have a good understanding, and a clear knowledge as to what death really is, and what are the matters that follow upon it. What is it to die? Is it to cease to be? Is it to part with every comfort? If so, we might indeed be excused if we shut our eyes to the dreary prospect. To die is nothing, but to be at once with Jesus in paradise.
II. WHEREIN IT CONSISTS.
1. To consider every day the certainty of death. We are but strangers and sojourners; we are only right when we act as such. The Lord knowing that we should try to shake off the remembrance of death, has so helped us as almost to force us to it; by —(1) The frequent departures of others. God rings the funeral knell in our ears, and bids us remember that the bell may next toll for us.(2) The course of nature. Look at the year travelling from spring to winter, and the day from morning to night. Every flower blooms that it may wither.(3) The premonitions of death in ourselves. What is that grey hair but the foretoken of the coming winter which shall freeze the life current? What are those aches and pains, that decay of the eyesight, that dulness of hearing, those tottering knees? Don't avoid these thoughts because they seem sombre; familiarise yourself a little with the grey tints of death, and they will brighten before your eyes.
2. To put your soul, by faith, through the whole process of death. Anticipate the final stroke, the upward mounting, the eternal beatific vision.
3. To hold this world with a very loose hand. Birdlime so much abounds. When a man wins a little gain it sticks to him. Our dear friends and children are all strong chains, binding our eagle-souls to the rock of earth. "Ah," said one, as he was shown a rich man's ample house and luxuriant gardens, "these are the things that make it hard to die." Our bereavements would not be half so sharp if we always viewed our friends as being lent to us. A man does not cry when he has to return a tool which he has borrowed. Rejoice to say, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away," etc.
4. To test our hope and experience every day. Alas! for that evil habit of taking our religion for granted. Each day examine yourself whether you be in the faith. The man who is in a sound business does not object to overhaul his stock and examine his books; but the man to whom bankruptcy is imminent generally seeks to shut his eyes to his actual position.
5. To come every day, just as you did at conversion, to the Cross of Christ; and if you can always live as a lost sinner saved wholly by a precious Saviour, you are then fit to live and fit to die.
6. To take care to be always in such a place and state that we should not be ashamed to die therein. Hence, the believer has no licence to be found in places of ungodly amusement. The Christian, also, should never be in a state of temper in which he would be ashamed to die.
7. To have all our affairs in such a condition that we are ready to die.(1) Whitefield would not go to bed until everything was in order, for he said, "I should not like to die with a pair of gloves out of place"; and yet I know some believers who have not made their wills, and if they were to die to-day a wife whom they love so well might be put to serious suffering.(2) So should it be with all our acts towards God. Some of you have not yet fulfilled the Master's command with regard to baptism. Some of you have unconverted children, and you have not spoken to them about their souls.
III. ITS PRACTICAL BENEFIT.
1. It will help us to live well. We should not be covetous and grasping if we knew that the heap would soon melt or we should be taken from it. We should not attach so much importance to trifles, if we felt that there were grander things close at our heels. If we saw our candle flickering in its socket, we should be far more diligent.
2. It will help us to die. No man would find it difficult to die who died every day. He would have practised it so often, that he would only have to die but once more.
3. The benefits of dying daily are commensurate —(1) With the whole period of human existence. You young people would not be likely to plunge into youthful gaieties to your own damage, if you felt that you might die young. You men of middle age, how it would check you in that hasting to be rich, if you felt that you must soon be parted from it! And you who totter on a staff, nothing will keep you in holier or happier frame than to be always dying the death of Jesus that you might live His life.(2) With every position. Is a Christian rich? he will not be purse-proud. Is he poor? He will not murmur, for he recollects the streets of gold. If he is seeking after knowledge, he will mingle with it the knowledge of Christ crucified. If he be toiling for a livelihood, he will seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Make a believer a king or a pauper, and the art of dying daily will help him in either position. Put him under every temptation, and this will help him, for he will not be tempted by the offers of so brief a happiness. Daily dying is as useful to the saint in his joys as in his griefs, in his exaltations as in his depressions.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)I. SHOW YOU WHAT THE DUTY IS. To die once is a lot appointed for all; to die daily is a duty practised, a blessing obtained by few; most live as if they were never to die; because the day is evil, they put it far from them.
1. To die daily is to set death always before us as a change which "will one day certainly come."
2. It is to be ready to meet death, as a change which may suddenly come.
3. To die daily is to wait for our change, as what we desire, were it God's will, should come speedily (Philippians 1:23).
4. To die daily is to resign our souls solemnly into our Redeemer's hands, as those who know not whether they have another day to live. To leave them with His faithfulness, love and care, who hath said, "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."
II. WHY ARE WE TO BE FOUND IN THE CONSTANT PRACTICE OF IT?
1. This redounds greatly to the glory of God. He is honoured by a lively frame and an upright walk. For the sons of God, and of glory, to live wholly strangers to death, or to be afraid of it; how does this sully their character and shame their profession!
2. It makes much for the establishment and consolation of other Christians. It greatly saddens the hearts of younger Christians to hear those that are going off the stage of life mourning and complaining, as if they were wholly in suspense as to their eternal state. Sure, were you to converse more with God, you would speak more for Him. What though your hopes for the present fail, the God of your hopes lives.
3. This is a frame which is highly beneficial to our souls.
III. HOW DOES THE REGULAR PRACTICE OF THIS DUTY REDOUND TO THE COMFORT OF OUR OWN SOULS WHEN DEATH REALLY COMES?
1. They that die daily die comfortably, because by this means we make death familiar to us, and those we are well acquainted with we are but little afraid of.
2. Dying daily has a farther influence upon our comforts, because hereby we are "weaned from the world," and all worldly enjoyments, and those things which we are weary of we are glad to leave behind us.
3. By dying daily our "accounts are clearly stated" between God and us; and what condemnation have we then to fear?
4. By dying daily we learn to look beyond death while we are looking at it; and all is peace and joy there for ever and ever.I shall now close all with a few remarks.
1. How dreadful is it for them to think of dying who have not as yet begun to live.
2. The truest wisdom is to be prepared against the greatest danger; our everlasting all depends upon our dying well.
3. Unless we know Christ savingly we can neither die daily nor die comfortably. He is the Lord our righteousness, and our strength.
4. It is dangerous living, even for the Christian himself, without keeping his dying time ever in view; for a view of death is the greatest bridle upon indwelling sin, next to an immediate grant of mortifying grace from above.
5. Should we not make haste with our living work when we know not how soon our living time may cease?
6. Learn hence the excellency and sweetness of the Christian's life. Interest in Christ makes life pleasant and death joyful.
(J. Hill.)1. We must die while we live, in order that we may live when we die. We must habitually consider ourselves as mere strangers in this world, who are on pilgrimage to another. Our mortal life must be a daily death, in conformity with the sufferings of Christ.
2. This description of the Christian's life on earth may seem to some repulsive. Remember this, then, that in the language of Scripture you are dead already. When born into the world you were dead in trespasses and sins; but now "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." We are thus taught to look upon ourselves as dead to this world, from the moment we are brought into covenant with God.
3. But since, to each of us is allotted a longer or shorter period of sojourning therein, our condition may be fairly spoken of as a dying daily — i.e., we have to "crucify the old man," those corrupt tempers and appetites which remain in us though we have been made regenerate, but which are at variance with the love of God. And this can only be done by a process slow and lingering, like that experienced by the victim on the cross. We cannot cast out the evil spirit at once; all we can do is to struggle with it, to keep every entrance by which it could gain admission fast and closed. We cannot destroy the noxious plant at once, but we may tear off each bud as it shoots forth. Yet, as all this is an anxious and a toilsome process, those who are engaged in it may be described as dying daily.
4. Now, it is not to be denied that religion, viewed as involving a continual struggle with our natural appetites, has something unattractive in it; and it seems hard at first to understand how her ways can be ways of pleasantness, and that all her paths are peace. But the question for persons to decide is, not whether they like the prospect of mortification and self-denial, but whether it is not far preferable to submit to any amount of suffering rather than, after spending a few short years in selfish gratification, to pass to death eternal? It is hard when the world invites, to renounce it; when Satan allures, to resist him; when the flesh tempts, to deny it; but if these, when yielded to, will keep me for ever from God, then I will fight against them all the day long, and, the Lord being my helper, they shall gain no mastery over me. It is hard to mortify the members; to say to the eyes, see not; to the ears, hear not; to the tongue, taste not; to the hands, touch not. But if these things place my soul in jeopardy, I will rule them with a rod of iron. It is hard to submit one's own will to God's, but it were harder still to be shut out from His presence for ever.
4. Application: The first step towards dying daily is to establish within ourselves, practically, the feeling that we may die any day. Another step is to learn to discipline our earthly affections, by dwelling upon the thought that, though relations and friends are blessings for which it believes us to be very thankful, still they are only loans lent us by the Lord. And the same rule which applies to our earthly friends must be brought to bear on our worldly possessions. We must discipline ourselves to part with them by voluntary privations (1 Corinthians 7:29, 30.)
(F. E. Paget, M.A.)
I. INEVITABLE. There is a daily dying of —
1. Our corporeal frame. In each human body the seed of death is implanted, the law of mortality is at work. There is decay with every respiration and heart-throb. The water does not more naturally roll towards the ocean, or a falling body gravitate towards the centre of the earth, than the human frame runs every moment to dissolution. This fact should teach us —(1) That worldly-mindedness is an infraction of reason. What a monstrous absurdity it is to set our supreme affections upon objects from which we are departing every moment! No anchor can stop this ship of destiny. All "Life Insurance" offices recognise and act upon this fact. Every man's life is less valuable to-day than it was yesterday.(2) That sorrow for the departed should be moderated. Their departure was but obedience to the resistless law of their nature, and that same law is daily bearing us whither they are gone. Why battle with destiny?(3) That Christianity is an invaluable boon to mortals. It does two things — it teaches us that there is a future world of blessedness, and points us the way by which that blessed world is reached.
2. Our social world. We live not only with others but by them. But the social circumstances which feed our life are changing every day. The circle of the nursery in which we once lived is gone; the circle of the school and other circles in which we lived have broken up long ago.
3. Our mental motivity. The motives that influence us to action are elements of life, and they are constantly dying. A realised purpose has lost its motivity. Many of the loves, hopes, fears, romances, ambitions, which once formed much of our life, have been buried long ago in the ever-widening cemetery of the soul.
II. OPTIONAL. This death is of two kinds.
1. There is the criminal. In the depraved soul, sensibility of conscience, generosity of impulse, elasticity of intellect, freedom of thought, spirituality of feeling — the sinner is constantly murdering these, and their blood cries to heaven for vengeance. "To be carnally minded is death."
2. There is the virtuous. The highest life of man is a daily dying to all that is mean, false, mercenary, unspiritual, and uncharitable. The apostle felt this when he said, "I," that is my carnal self, "am crucified with Christ"; nevertheless, "I," that is my spiritual self, "live," etc., etc.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
I. TEACHES US TO VALUE ALL EARTHLY THINGS ARIGHT, and perpetually corrects the fallacy of our calculations by reminding us of the period to which they apply; it discourages those schemes of injustice and ambition, the fruits of which are distant, by reminding us that that distance we may never reach.
II. IMPROVES THE MIND —
1. By destroying in it trifling discontents, and by blunting the force of all the malevolent passions. Jealousy and hatred cannot coexist with the prospect of the last hour. It diminishes the importance of the offence we have suffered, awakens that candour which self-love has set to sleep, and makes us think, not of the trifling scenes which are past, but of the awful events which are to come.
2. It aggrandises the mind as the near approach of death itself is commonly accustomed to do; for men on their death bed often evince an heroism of which their lives have afforded little or no symptom, forgive injuries which should have been forgiven years before, faults which should have been rectified before half the race of life was run, confession of Christ who had been denied before the world. The distant contemplation of death leaves us greater time for godly actions — whatever seeds it casts into the mind may spring up and fructify.
III. INDUCES US TO CONSIDER BY WHAT MEANS WE SHALL AVERT ITS TERRORS. Can we figure to ourselves anything more dreadful than a human being at the brink of death who has never once reflected that he is to die? Let us, then, in youth and strength gather a decent firmness for that trial.
IV. OPENS UP THE PROSPECT OF ETERNITY. In the contemplation of heaven the persecuted man figures to himself a state of rest; the poor, an exemption from want; the sick, health; the weak, power; the ignorant, knowledge; the timid, safety; the mean, glory; the parent looks for his lost child across the great gulph, and the widow for her husband; the soul lifts itself up to the great Author of our being who has sanctified and redeemed us by the blood of Christ.
V. TEACHES US THAT THE EVIL IS NOT WITHOUT ITS REMEDY. That through Christ we are become the lords of death, that the mere separation of matter and spirit is a pang of so short a moment that it is hardly a rational object of fear, that the real pang is the remembrance of a misspent life. If you think the accumulation of such thoughts is awful take care that they do not accumulate. Conclusion: The choice is, Shall we meditate voluntarily on death as a religious exercise, or shall we be haunted by the image of death as a terrific spectre? Shall we gain wisdom by meeting the danger, or shall we, like children, be bribed by the tranquillity of a moment to keep it off? The image of death follows the man who fears it, it rises up at feasts and banquets; no melody can soothe it; it is undaunted by the sceptre or the crown. All men suffer from the dread of death; it is folly to hope you can escape it. Our business is to receive the image, to gaze upon it, to prepare for it, to seek it, and by these means to disarm.
(Sydney Smith.)Ave Caesar! Morituri te salutant (Hail Caesar! we are going to die, salute thee). And so they go to the hard fight which can only have one ending. St. Paul was thinking of such a scene (vers. 31, 32). He would have us understand that we are all God's gladiators sent into the arena of this world to fight, and that in that battle we must turn our eyes to Christ, and ever say, Hail, Master! we who are dying daily, salute Thee."
I. WE MUST FIGHT.
1. This world is one long battle to the Christian. It is the coward alone who yields without a struggle, who gives himself up as the slave of sin.(1) Sometimes God's gladiators are called to fight with wild beasts out in this busy world. The sins and temptations of society, the evil words and works of our fellow-men meet us.(2) Sometimes the wild beast is caged within ourselves. It may be the lion of our angry, cruel temper, or of a proud rebellious spirit, or of an impure desire, or of a faithless, discontented thought.
2. And there is but one thing for us to do, we must fight or perish. Some of the hardest battles are fought by our bedside, or when we lie, like the sinful woman, prostrate in the dust, where Jesus wrote His words of pardon.
II. WE MUST DIE.
1. God's gladiators can only come out of the battle when death sets them free; they leave their bodies scarred by many a wound, to rest here on the battle-field of earth, but God's angels bear their spirits to paradise. Every day we live we see a comrade falling in the ranks of battle, but still the Church marches on to victory; another fills his place. In the American war a wounded soldier heard the bugles of the enemy close at hand; weak as he was, he crawled out of the ambulance, and seizing a rifle, tried to march to the front. The doctor assured him that he was too feeble, and that the exertion would kill him. "If I must die," said the soldier, "I would rather die in battle than in an ambulance."
2. Happy are God's gladiators who die fighting. There are signs and tokens all around to show us that we die daily. Read the dim writing of old letters, look at your book of photographs, turn tenderly to the dead flowers between the leaves of your Bible, or gaze on the picture which childish fingers coloured, what do they say to us? We understand now what these relics say to us, "Behold, we die daily." The vacant places around us teach us that our place will one day know us no more, that we, like our brethren, shall pass to the land which has never been surveyed, and the great secret which is between God and His creatures. But not till our fight is over, and our work finished, "man is immortal till his work is done."
III. WE MUST EVER LOOK UNTO JESUS, WHO WILL RAISE UP FROM THE DEAD.
(H. J. W. Buxton.)
Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.We die daily. We are connstantly returning to the earth the materials we received from it. Every movement of our bodies, every exercise of thought and will, every muscular and nervous effort, is accompanied by a corresponding change in the structure of our frames — exhausts the vitality of so much brain, and nerve, and muscle. Every part of our body is undergoing a process of disintegration and renovation; constantly throwing off old effete matter, and constantly receiving deposits of new and living matter. Day and night, sleeping and waking, this ceaseless dying and ceaseless resurrection is going on with more or less rapidity; the river of life flows on changing its particles, but preserving the same form and appearance. In seven years the whole structure is altered down to the minutest particles. It becomes essentially a different body, though the individual still retains his original form and his personal identity unimpaired.
(Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)
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