And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
I. St. Paul reminds the Ephesians of their former condition. Contraries give lustre one to another. It magnifies grace marvellously to consider the opposite condition. It should also stir up our thankfulness when we consider from what we are delivered. Now to come to the words themselves. What is death? Death is nothing else but a separation from the cause of life, from that from whence life springs. The body having a communicated life from the soul, when the soul is departed it must needs be dead. Now death, take it in a spiritual sense, it is either the death of law, our sentence — as we say of a man when he is condemned, he is a dead man — or death in regard of disposition; and then the execution of that death of sentence in bodily death and in eternal death afterward. Now naturally we are dead in all these senses.
1. First, by the sin of Adam, in whose loins we were, we were all damned. And then there is corruption of nature as a punishment of that first sin, that is a death, as we shall see afterward, a death of all the powers; we cannot act and move according to that life that we had at the first; we cannot think, we cannot will, we cannot affect, we cannot do anything [that] savours of spiritual life.
2. Hereupon comes a death of sentence upon us, being damned both in Adam's loins and in original sin, and likewise adding actual sins of our own. If we had no actual sin it were enough for the sentence of death to pass upon us, but this aggravates the sentence.
3. We are dead in law as well as in disposition. This death in law is called guilt, a binding over to eternal death. Now what is the reason of it why we are dead? First of all, the ground of it is; by sin we are separated from the fountain of life; therefore we are all dead. Secondly, by sin we lost that first original righteousness which was co-produced with Adam's soul. When Adam's soul was infused it was clothed with all graces, with original righteousness. The stamp of God was on his soul. It was co-natural to that estate and condition to have that excellent gracious disposition that he had. Now, because we all lost that primitive image and glory of our souls, we are dead. Nay, sin itself, it is not only a cause of death — of temporal death as it is a curse, and so of eternal death; of that bitter sentence and adjudging of us too, both that we feel in terrors of conscience and expect after — but sin itself is an intrinsical death. Why? Because it is nothing but a separation of the soul from the chic! good, which is God, and a cleaving to some creature; for there is no sin but it carries the soul to the changeable creature in delight and affection to its pride and vanity, one thing or other. Sin is a turning from God to the creature, and that very turning of the soul is death; every sinful soul is dead. In these and the like considerations you may conceive we are all dead. Let us consider a little what a condition this is, to be "dead in trespasses and sins." And what doth death work upon the body?
1. Unactiveness, stiffness; so when the Spirit of God is severed from the soul it is cold, and unactive, and stiff. Therefore those that find no life to that that is good, no, nor no power nor strength, it is a sign that they have not yet felt the power of the quickening Spirit; when they hear coldly and receive the sacrament coldly, as if it were a dead piece of work and business; when they do anything that is spiritually good coldly and forced, not from an inward principle of love to God, that might heat and warm their hearts, but they go about it as a thing that must be done, and think to satisfy God with an outward dead action.
2. Again, death makes the body unlovely.
4. We sever dead persons from the rest.
5. Death deprives of the use of the senses. He that is spiritually dead can speak nothing that is good of spiritual things. And as he is speechless, so he hath no spiritual eyes to see God in His works. There is nothing that we see with our bodily eyes, but our souls should have an eye to see somewhat of God in it, His mercy and goodness and power, etc. And so he hath no relish to taste of God in His creatures and mercies. When a man tastes of the creatures, he should have a spiritual taste of God and of the mercy in him. Oh, how sweet is God! A wicked man hath no taste of God. And he cannot hear what the Spirit saith in the Word. He hears the voice of man, but not of the Spirit when the trumpet of the Word sounds never so loud in his ears.
6. As there is no sense nor moving to outward things, so no outward thing can move a dead body. Offer him colours to the eye, food to the taste, or anything to the feeling, nothing moves him. So a dead soul, as it cannot move to good, so it is moved with nothing. That affects a child of God and makes him tremble and quake, it affects not a carnal man at all.
7. And as in bodily death, the longer it is dead, the more noisome and offensive it is every day more than other, so sin makes the soul more loathsome and noisome daily, till they have filled up the measure of their sins, till the earth can bear them no longer.
(R. Sibbes, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;