corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Colossians 3

 

 

Verse 1

DISCOURSE: 2181

OUR RESURRECTION WITH CHRIST A MOTIVE TO HEAVENLY-MINDEDNESS

Colossians 3:1. If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

ONE of the most distinguished peculiarities of our holy religion is, that it suggests entirely new motives to action. The inducements which reason could offer, were (as all antiquity proves) altogether weak and inefficient — — — Those alone which Christianity proposes are capable of restraining the passions of men, and of regulating their conduct. Beg of God then that you may feel the power of his word, whilst I set before you,

I. The duty here inculcated—

I by no means must be understood as intimating, that we are at liberty to neglect our earthly concerns. Circumstanced as we are, we must of necessity devote much time and labour to the pursuit of worldly things: and, if we neglected them, we should offend against the order of Divine Providence, who has said in reference to them, “Six days shalt thou labour.” But

“The things which are above” are most worthy of our pursuit—

[Amongst these we must number the favour of our offended God, the manifestations of his love to our souls, the attainment of his image, and the possession of his glory.

Which of these things can be dispensed with? — — — or which can be attained by a mere inactive wish, or by a formal and faint endeavour? — — — These things, in point of value and importance, as far excel all earthly things, as the splendour of the meridian sun eclipses the faint radiance of the glow-worm.]

These therefore we are to seek with our whole hearts—

[They are to have the first place in our esteem, and to be sought with a diligence proportioned to their value [Note: Matthew 6:33.]. Seeking only will not suffice; we must strive to enter in at the strait gate; for we are told that “many shall seek, and not be able [Note: Luke 13:24.].” “The kingdom of heaven must be taken by violence [Note: Matthew 11:12.],” even by the holy violence of faith and prayer. The things above must be sought with the same constancy and zeal as are employed by the world in the pursuit of things below. Worldly men are never weary in the pursuit of their objects. From the earliest dawn to the very hour when they retire to rest, their appetite for earthly things continues; nor, whatever they may attain, are they ever satisfied. Their energies may be enfeebled by labour; but their taste is still the same: they savour the things which pertain to time and sense [Note: Romans 8:5.],—them constantly, them supremely, them only. Now this is the way in which we should “seek the things that are above:” and, in comparison of these, all earthly things should be to us as dung and dross. Even life itself should be of no value, if by sacrificing it our eternal interests may be improved [Note: Luke 14:26-27; Luke 14:33.].]

If this appear “an hard saying,” attend while I lay before you,

II. The considerations with which it is enforced—

The Apostle urges upon us our duty on the ground of consistency. Mark,

1. Your professions—

[The word “If” does not express any doubt in the Apostle’s mind, but imports an acknowledged fact, viz. that the Christian is risen with Christ. It is the same as if he had said, “Since ye are risen with Christ.” Now every Christian is risen with Christ both federally, and spiritually. Christ is his federal Head and Representative: and all that He experienced, we experienced in him. Was he circumcised when a child? Was he at the close of life crucified, dead, and buried? Did he rise, and ascend to heaven? And is he now sitting at the right hand of God? In the whole of this we had, not an interest only, but a direct participation [Note: Colossians 2:10-12.]. Exactly as we died in Adam, partaking, as it were, with him in the sin which, as our head and representative, he committed, so all which Christ did and suffered is imputed to us, as though we had ourselves done and suffered it in him [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:22. 2 Corinthians 5:21.]. Spiritually also are we risen in Christ. All that he did and suffered is, if I may so speak, accomplished personally in every one of us, his corporeal acts and sufferings being the model of what we experience in our souls. This is by St. Paul stated with great accuracy. In his prayer for the Ephesian Church, he desires that they may “know what is the exceeding greatness of God’s power in all his believing people, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” And then ho marks distinctly and separately the work which God accomplishes in his people, quickening them from the dead, raising them up to newness of life, and setting them together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus [Note: Ephesians 1:19-20. with 2:4–6.].”

Now then I ask, Is not this what as Christians you profess? Do you not profess to be thus risen with Christ, interested in all that he did and suffered for you, and bound to be conformed to him in the whole of this his mediatorial work and office. You do profess it, whether you intend it or not. And this profession binds you to an entire devotedness of heart and life to God. You must of necessity “thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.].”

But you shall see this on authority that cannot be disputed, and actually urged in the very way suggested by my text. “What shall we say then; Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin (as we all profess to be) live any longer therein? Know ye not, that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life [Note: Romans 6:1-11.].”

The point then is proved. Consistency requires that you should seek primarily and with your whole hearts the things above.

If yet you entertain a doubt of this, I ask you, what judgment you yourselves pass on a carnal, sensual, worldly-minded professor of religion? Do you not condemn him as inconsistent? Then in so doing you pass judgment on yourselves.]

2. Your expectations—

[The words, “Where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God,” are not added casually and without design: they give exceeding great weight and emphasis to all that precedes. These words express the expectations of the Christian, as the former do his professions. “Christ is at the right hand of God,” the seat of honour and of power. But he is not there as a mere individual for his own happiness only. He is there prosecuting still the work which he began on earth, and in which we are as much interested as we are in what he did and suffered here below. We look to him to afford us all needful aid by the constant supplies of his Spirit and grace [Note: John 16:7-11. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.].” We look to him to obtain for us the acceptance of our poor imperfect services [Note: 1 Peter 2:5.]. We look to Him to come again and take us in due season to a full participation of all the glory which he himself possesses [Note: John 16:23; John 17:24, and Revelation 3:21.]. But in which of these shall we succeed, it we do not live to him? If we were to tell you, that a worldly and carnal life was the way to obtain these blessings, would you not cry out against us as “blind leaders of the blind?” Then behold what your expectations are, and how powerfully they proclaim and enforce your duties. If “your faith and hope depend altogether upon the exaltation of Christ to the right hand of God [Note: 1 Peter 1:21.],” your duty must of necessity be to look to him continually, that you may receive out of his fulness all that your necessities require.]

And now see,

1. How few real Christians there are upon earth—

[If they were Christians who were conformed to Christ in his entombed state, and who sought only the things below, there would be no lack of them in every place: but if those only be Christians who in heart and life are risen with Christ, and who seek only the things above, then are they few indeed. Brethren, try yourselves by these marks, and you shall soon find your real character before God — — — But know ye this of a truth, that, whatever you may think to the contrary, they only who live to Christ in this world, shall ever live with him in the world to come.]

2. How blessed are they who are Christians indeed—

[Being risen with Christ, their lives are hid with Christ in God, beyond the reach of men or devils [Note: ver. 3.]. While they are engaged in heavenly pursuits, they may enjoy the security which God has ordained for them. Oppositions, indeed, and difficulties they must expect; but Christ will not lose one member of his mystical body. He derides the vain attempts of his enemies and ours. We too may defy the confederate powers of earth and hell [Note: Romans 8:33-34.]: for, however they may obtain a temporary triumph, their efforts shall terminate in their own confusion. With Christ we shall rise victorious; and “when he who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory [Note: ver. 4.].”]


Verse 2

DISCOURSE: 2182

HEAVENLY-MINDEDNESS

Colossians 3:2. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.

IT seems harsh and paradoxical, to say that Christianity is very imperfectly understood amongst us. Respecting its mysterious doctrines, perhaps, the allegation would be admitted without difficulty: but respecting its precepts, scarcely any one would suspect that the observation could have any foundation in truth. But it is to the preceptive part especially that I intend the remark to be applied: and I think that, before I have closed my present subject, the greater part of you will agree with me, that the sentiment is just. The morality of Christians in general goes only to the conduct of men so far as it is visible to those around us: but the Christian code extends to the inmost feelings of the soul; and requires a conformity to the Saviour himself, not only in the dispositions of his mind whilst he sojourned upon earth, but in the change wrought upon him in his exaltation to heaven: it requires us to be dead to sin as truly as ever he died for sin; and to live as truly and entirely to God as he did, and yet does, in his risen state in glory. The precept which you have just heard will fitly illustrate this truth. I will endeavour to mark,

I. Its import—

Directions in Scripture are often put in a way of contrast, when they are to be understood only in a way of comparison. Such, for instance, is the declaration, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” We are not to understand that passage as prohibiting sacrifices, which had been expressly enjoined, and were yet of necessity to be offered; but only as expressing an approbation of acts of mercy, even though they should supersede the observance of some positive injunction. When our Lord says, “Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for the meat that endureth unto everlasting life,” he must not be understood as discouraging an attention to worldly business: for God has authoritatively commanded, “Six days shalt thou labour.” It is in a comparative sense only that his words must be understood: and in the same manner must we interpret also the words before us. Mark,

1. The things here contrasted—

[“The things which are on earth” are those which relate to this present life. Even intellectual pursuits must be included, no less than the pleasures, or riches, or honours, of the world. On the other hand, by “the things which are above,” we must understand every thing relating to the soul, its first acceptance with God, its progressive restoration to the Divine image, and its final possession of the heavenly glory. The latter of these we are to pursue, if not exclusively, yet supremely, so as to shew that they have no rival whatever in our souls.

The term here translated “Set your affections on things above,” is more literally rendered, in the margin, “Mind the things that are above.” The term imports, not an exercise of the intellectual powers only, but also of the will and the affections; and such an exercise of them as demonstrates the supreme attachment of the soul. Perhaps it was on this account that our translators preferred the translation; which, though less proper in itself, more exactly conveyed the sense to those who were unacquainted with the original. But, not to separate the words, let us take them in their collective import; and consider,]

2. The precept relating to them—

[I have said, that all concern about earthly things is not forbidden: on the contrary, there are many things which require an ardour and intensity in the pursuit, and cannot be attained without. But they must not engage the affections of the soul; they must not be permitted to stand in competition with heaven and heavenly things. In comparison with the knowledge of Christ, all that the world contains must be in our eyes no better than “dung and dross.” The favour of an offended God — — — the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in all its sanctifving operations — — — the witness of the Holy Spirit testifying of our adoption into his family, and of our interest in Christ — — — and, finally, the eternal possession of his glory — — — What deserves to be sought after, like these? What will bear any comparison with these? These, then, are to occupy our supreme regard; and every thing else must give way to them. Earthly satisfactions of any kind, if they stand in competition with them, must all be sacrificed without hesitation and without regret. So permanent must be the ascendency of these things in our minds, that no labour for them shall appear too great, and no suffering too intense. In comparison of them, even life itself must be of no value in our eyes, and the whole world be only as the small dust upon the balance.]

This precept does indeed appear to impose a duty that is quite impracticable: but, to shew that it deserves our most attentive regards, I will display,

II. Its reasonableness—

Let us take a more distinct survey of the two different objects which are here contrasted; and the preference required in behalf of heavenly things will be found precisely such as it becomes us to manifest. For,

1. 1. They are more excellent in themselves—

[What is there truly valuable in the things of this world? They have no intrinsic worth: they are only good as being high in the estimation of men: an angel would disregard them all, as much as we should the dirt under our feet. Crowns, kingdoms, empires, what are they all, but the baubles of children, which a man in his senses would despise? Beyond food and raiment there is nothing worth a thought: and they derive their value, not from any thing in themselves, but from the necessities of our nature, which render them important in our eyes. But is there nothing real in the favour of God, the grace of Christ, the witness of the Spirit, and the glory of heaven? Yes, verily: these elevate our nature, and ennoble it, and raise it to its primitive perfection and blessedness. These things the highest angel in heaven cannot but approve; yea, he must account them as objects on which it is impossible to bestow too great, or too undivided, an attention.]

2. They are more satisfactory to our minds—

[They who possess the most of this world are the very persons who most feel the emptiness and vanity of it all. Go to those who have attained all that their hearts could desire, and ask them whether they have not grasped a shadow? A name, a title, a ribbon of distinction, what contemptible things, in comparison of those which belong to the soul! Who that possesses them does not feel an aching void in his bosom, unless with them he possesses also the favour of God? “In the midst of his sufficiency, he is in straits.” But the blessings of which we have before spoken, are solid; and the person who enjoys them, possesses rest in his soul. “Having drunk of the living waters, he thirsts no more” for any thing besides.]

3. They are more conducive to our happiness—

[Are the rich and great happier than other people? Not a wit. A Lazarus, with God’s love shed abroad in his heart, is happier than the Rich Man amongst all his banquets. Search the Scriptures, and see whether those who have revelled most in their wealth, and drunk most deeply of the cup of pleasure, have not pronounced it all, not merely vanity, but vexation of spirit also? But look at the possessors of spiritual good: take them in their lowest state; view them poor, and weeping, and mourning, and hungering and thirsting after degrees of holiness unattained: what says the Scripture respecting them? What? Our Saviour himself declares them “blessed,” “blessed,” “blessed,” “blessed.” If, like Paul and Silas, they are reduced to the most pitiable condition that can be conceived, they have ample ground for the most exalted joy: and even in martyrdom itself they have no cause for any thing but self-congratulation, thanksgiving, and praise.]

4. They are more easily to be attained—

[Multitudes, however much they were to labour, could never gain earthly distinction: and multitudes who do labour for it with a reasonable hope of success, are left a prey to the most painful disappointments. But who that has the heart of a man is incapable of acquiring heavenly blessings? or who ever failed in attaining them, provided he only sought them in humility and faith? Me thinks this is one of the chief excellencies of spiritual things, that they are open alike to all, and never are sought in vain. Of them, in all their fulness, we may say, “Every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”]

5. They are more lasting—

[Let a man possess the whole world; how long shall he retain it? Every moment his happiness is drawing nearer to a close: no sooner is the breath departed from his body, than he surrenders it all to some new possessor, who shall, like him also, retain it but a little time: for “we can carry nothing away with us when we die:” we came naked into the world, and naked must we depart from it. But is it thus with the man who has sought his happiness in God? No, verily: “he has treasures in heaven;” and at death he goes to the full possession of them. His happiness, instead of being terminated at death, is then consummated: he then, as it were, comes of age, and enters on the full possession of “his inheritance, which is incorruptible and undefiled, and fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for him.”

And now let me ask, Is it unreasonable that these things should occupy your minds, in preference to the vanities of time and sense? these things, which are so excellent in themselves, so satisfactory to us, so conducive to our happiness, so certain to be attained, and so lasting in the enjoyment? Surely the poor empty vanities of time and sense cannot, for a moment, stand in competition with these; nor do they deserve so much as a thought, in comparison of them.]

Let me now commend this precept to you,

1. As a test to try your character—

[In this view it is particularly set before us by St. Paul: “They that are of the flesh, do mind the things after the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit [Note: Romans 8:5.].” Now, here the very same term is used as in our text: and it forms a line of distinction between the carnal and the spiritual man, between “him who is in a state of death, and him who is in the enjoyment of life and peace [Note: Romans 8:5.].” It may be thought, indeed, that the adoption of evangelical sentiments, and the making an open profession of piety, will supersede this test: but nothing can ever set it aside. The Philippian converts judged that they were in a state of acceptance with God, because they professed faith in Christ: but, respecting many of them, St. Paul said, “Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and tell you now even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction;” and then, assigning the reasons for his judgment, he combines with other things this charge; “They mind earthly things [Note: Philippians 3:18-19.].” I call every one of you, then, to try yourselves by this infallible mark. It is a point easily ascertained. You need only examine your lives from day to day; and see what it is that interests you most, and forms the leading objects of your pursuit. You may be deeply engaged about earthly things, and yet be right in the sight of God, provided heavenly things he regarded by you with supreme and paramount affection. Bring then, I pray you, this matter to a trial; and never cease to implore of God that spiritual discernment which He alone can give, and that uprightness of heart which is indispensable to the forming of a right judgment.]

2. As a rule, to regulate your conduct—

[Verily, this must distinguish every child of God: though in the world, we must not be of it: “our conversation must be in heaven.” This is our duty — — — our honour — — — our happiness — — — our security — — — There is no standing still in religion. If we advance not, we recede. Be not contented to rest in a low state, but “press forward for the highest attainments in holiness; forgetting all that is behind, and reaching forward to that which is before, till you have fully attained the prize of your high calling.”]


Verse 3-4

DISCOURSE: 2183

THE EXALTED STATE OF A CHRISTIAN

Colossians 3:3-4. Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

INNUMERABLE are the advantages which revelation gives us over the heathen philosophers: for, whilst it discovers to us a much sublimer rule of conduct than they were able to devise, it affords motives sufficient to incline us to duty, and teaches us where to obtain strength for the performance of it. The duty it enjoins is nothing less than a supreme delight in heavenly things: but at the same time it animates us by the consideration of the privileges we enjoy and the prospects we have in view. What the Christian possesses in these respects may be seen in the words before us: in which we notice,

I. His exalted state—

The Christian is a paradox; being both dead and living at the same time. He is “dead”—

[Once he was alive wholly and entirely to legal hopes and carnal enjoyments: but now is dead to both. He now sees that he has no righteousness of his own for his justification before God, and no strength of his own for the fulfilment of God’s holy will: he therefore renounces all dependence on himself, and seeks righteousness and strength in Christ alone [Note: Isaiah 45:24.] — — —

As for the enjoyment of the things of time and sense, he has the same capacity for it as ever; but he has lost his inclination for it, and no longer seeks his happiness in it. He feels the emptiness and vanity of all sublunary good: and, whilst he is thankful for the portion of it that is committed to him, he regards the whole world as an object that is crucified, and is himself crucified unto it [Note: Galatians 6:14.] — — —]

Yet is he alive in a far higher sense than ever he was before—

[He has in Christ a “life,” whereby he is enabled to live unto his God, and to walk in the paths of holiness and peace — — — This life is “hid with Christ in God;” so that, whilst the world seeth it not, Satan is not able to destroy it. When Adam had life, so to speak, in his own possession, his great adversary prevailed over him and slew him: the believer therefore is placed beyond the reach of Satan’s efforts, and has his life treasured up in heaven, whither Satan has no access, and in God, over whom he can have no power — — — Indeed Christ himself liveth in the believer [Note: Galatians 2:20.], and is “his very life.” What the soul is to the body, that is Christ to the believer’s soul, acting in all its faculties, and operating in all its energies — — — And hence the believer, however dead he is in himself, is enabled to live in a way that no other creature in the universe can live.]

But the believer must be yet further viewed by us in,

II. His glorious expectations—

The Saviour, though once as unknown by the world as they, and still more despised, shall one day appear again in glory—

[The time is fast approaching, when he shall descend from heaven in his own glory, and in the glory of his Father and his holy angels. Whilst he was upon earth, his glory was, for the most part, veiled. A little of it sinned forth on Mount Tabor; and his own more immediate followers “beheld somewhat of his glory, as the glory of the only-begotten of the Father.” But “the world knew him not:” “the darkness could not apprehend his light:” but in the day of judgment his appearance will be such as becomes his august character, so that he will be equally acknowledged by all, whether friends or enemies, as “King of kings and Lord of lords” — — —]

Then will the whole assembly of believers appear with him in glory—

[They will be gathered from every quarter of the globe “to meet their Lord in the air,” every one of them with “bodies like unto his glorious body,” and souls like unto his glorified soul: for they will be altogether “like him, when they shall see him as he is [Note: 1 John 3:2.].” They will then appear as monuments of his grace, as trophies of his victory, as heirs of his glory. Truly he will be admired and glorified in them, when it shall be seen what sovereignty he has exercised in the choice of them, and what power he has put forth for their salvations [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:10.]. It will then be seen, not that they triumphed, but that he triumphed for them, (upon his cross [Note: Colossians 1:15.],) and over them, (by his converting grace [Note: Psalms 45:5. 2 Corinthians 10:5.],) and in them, by the sanctifying efficacy of his Word and Spirit [Note: John 10:28.] — — — Then will they be seated with him upon his throne, and as “joint-heirs with him” be partakers of his kingdom for evermore — — —]

Of this the present state of their souls justifies an assured expectation—

[The connexion between the two parts of my text must on no account be overlooked. Both “the death” of the saints, and “their life” warrant an assurance, that they shall reign with Christ in glory. Who can hurt the soul of one that is dead? So neither can any one destroy a soul that is “dead to sin:” in both cases, the soul is hid with Christ in God, Again, when our life was committed to the keeping of the first Adam, he, though perfect, and in Paradise, suffered it to be wrested from him by the subtilty of Satan. To prevent a recurrence of such a calamity, our renewed life is not committed to our own care, but is treasured up in the second Adam, and is hid with Christ in God, out of the reach of any enemy. Who then shall prevail against us? Not all the powers of earth or hell shall effect our ruin: “our life being hid with Christ in God,” we are placed beyond the reach of evil; and therefore may be sure, that when he shall appear again to judge the world, we also shall appear with him in glory. This seems to be the true import of the passage; and nothing less than this will adequately convey to our minds the security and blessedness of a believing soul — — —]

Address—

1. Let believers be sensible of the distinguished mercy vouchsafed unto them—

[“Who is like unto you, O people saved by the Lord?” Behold the unregenerate world: they are “dead,” it is true; but to what are they dead? Not to self, but to God and to every thing that concerns the soul; whilst you are dead to the law, and to sin, and to the world, and alive unto God, through Jesus Christ. Light and darkness are not more different from each other, than is the spiritual from the natural man, and the regenerate man from him that remains dead in trespasses and sins. And who has put the difference between you and the unbelieving world? Who has made you children of God and heirs of glory, whilst so many millions of your fellow-creatures have the wicked one for their father, and everlasting misery as their portion? Verily, if you do not bless and adore your God, and rend the air with your hosannahs, the very stones will cry out against you. ]

2. Let them endeavour to walk worthy of their high calling—

[This is the entire scope both of the preceding and the following context. “Set your affections on things above,” “for ye are dead,” &c. Then after the text it is added, “Mortify therefore your members upon earth.” This should be the effect of all God’s mercies to us: and I call on every one who professes to have received life from Christ, to give evidence of that life, by “walking in all things as Christ walked” — — —]


Verse 11

DISCOURSE: 2185

THE IMPORTANCE OF SANCTIFICATION

Colossians 3:11. Christ is all, and in all [Note: The Author, in the preceding Discourse, has treated this text as commentators in general have done, in reference to our justification before God. But he apprehends on further consideration, that it refers rather to our sanctification. In either sense, the position is true, that “Christ is all;” but the latter interpretation seems more exactly to convey the mind of the Spirit in this passage. The reader, by comparing the two Discourses, will be enabled to judge for himself.].

IN order to ascertain the true sense of any passage of Scripture, two things are to be attended to: we should mark the scope of the context, and compare the terms or phrases with similar passages of Holy Writ. By separating these canons of interpretation, we shall often overlook the true meaning of God’ word, and put upon it a forced construction; whereas, if we unite them, we shall almost always find its just import.

It is undeniable that the verses which precede and Follow our text refer to sanctification [Note: See ver. 1–14.]; nor is there any thing which properly relates to our justification: and therefore we have a strong presumptive ground for interpreting the words of our text in reference to the new nature, which is spoken of in the verse immediately before it: nor could any thing but the peculiarity of the expression lead one for a moment to look for any other sense. But it seems that to interpret the word “Christ,” as meaning the image of Christ, or the New Man, is to take a great, and almost an unwarrantable, liberty with Scripture. Nevertheless, if we compare some other passages with the text [Note: See 2 Corinthians 13:5. where “Christ in us” must be understood of his image, because it is that whereby we are to ascertain whether we be in the faith. See also Galatians 4:19. where “Christ formed in us” cannot be understood of Christ personally, but of Christ spiritually, i.e. of his image. Above all, see Romans 13:14. where the very metaphor which occurs in our context, is used. “Put on the new man,” says our context, “for Christ,” i. e. the putting on of Christ, or of the new man, “is all.” And, in the passage referred to, is the very expression, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.”], we shall find that we are fully authorized to put this construction upon it, and that there is no necessity to understand it in any other way than that which the context so evidently requires.

The meaning then of the words before us is simply this. We should be daily putting off our old and corrupt nature, and be putting on a new and holy nature; because nothing else will be at all regarded by God: whatever advantages we possess, we have nothing, if we be not holy: on the other hand, whatever disadvantages we labour under, we shall suffer no loss, if we be holy: for the image of “Christ” on the soul “is all, in all” persons, and under all circumstances: where that is, God will be pleased; and where that is not, he will be eternally displeased.

In order to confirm this momentous truth, we shall shew, that, in the eyes of God, our restoration to the Divine image “is all in all.” It is,

I. The one scope of all his plans—

What did he design in the redemption of the world at large?

[When first he determined to rescue man from perdition, he decreed that he would “create us anew in Christ Jesus unto good works, in which he ordained that we should walk [Note: Ephesians 2:10.].

The means which he used for the accomplishment of our salvation had especial respect to this end, not to save us in our sins, hut from them [Note: Matthew 1:21. Acts 3:26.].

He sent his only dear Son to take our nature, and in that nature to live, to die, to rise again. But in all this he aimed, not at our happiness merely, but our restoration to the image which we had lost [Note: Galatians 1:4. 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 Peter 2:24. Titus 2:14.].” This is specified in terms peculiarly strong and energetic, in order that we may not overlook this truth as if it were only of secondary importance [Note: Ephesians 5:25-27.].

He gave his Holy Spirit also for the same end: he gave him to humble us [Note: John 16:8-11.], to renew us [Note: Titus 3:5-6.], to mortify all our vile lusts and passions [Note: Romans 8:13.], to fashion us after the Divine image [Note: Ephesians 4:23-24. with 2 Corinthians 1:22. A “seal” is an impress of the Divine image; and an “earnest” is the commencement of heavenly purity and joy.], and to perfect that image in our souls [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.].]

What does he design in imparting that redemption to individuals?

[Wherefore did he choose any of us from before the foundation of the world? It was “that we might be holy, and without blame before him in love [Note: Ephesians 1:4.].” Why has he revealed his grace in our hearts? It was to “teach us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live righteously, soberly, and godly in this present world [Note: Titus 2:11-12.].” If he apply his promises to our souls, or hide his face from us, it is alike “for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1. with Hebrews 12:10.].” Whatever be his dispensations towards us, “this is his will, even our sanctification [Note: 1 Thessalonians 4:3];” and this is his ultimate design in all, even to “carry on the good work he has begun [Note: Phill. 1:6.],” to “sanctify us wholly [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:23.],” and to “perfect that which concerneth us [Note: Psalms 138:8.].”]

But holiness is also,

II. The one object of his regard—

Nothing but that is regarded by him in this world—

[The external ordinances of religion are not only worthless, but even, hateful, in his sight, if destitute of solid piety [Note: Isaiah 1:11-16.]. On the other hand, the smallest particle of genuine goodness is not overlooked by him [Note: 1 Kings 14:13.]. Even the semblance of it has sometimes been rewarded by him, in order that he might shew to mankind how great a value he has for it, where it really exists [Note: 1 Kings 21:29.]. One single disposition is declared by him to be of great price in his sight [Note: 1 Peter 3:4.]. The purposes which have never been realized in act, are highly commended by him [Note: 1 Kings 8:18.]. And wherever he sees a person labouring to do his will, he invariably reveals to him his love in a more abundant measure [Note: John 14:23.], and communicates to him his richest blessings [Note: Isaiah 58:10-11.].]

Nothing but that will be regarded by him in the world to come—

[When we shall stand at the judgment-seat of Christ, the inquiry will be, not, what we have professed, but what we have done [Note: Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 25:31-46.]: and a Gentile who has served God according to the light that he enjoyed, will be preferred before the Christian, who has not made a suitable improvement of his superior advantages [Note: Romans 2:25-27]. Apparently trivial occurrences will be noticed in that day; and rewards will be dispensed, not according to the greatness and splendour of our actions, but according to their intrinsic qualities, and to the principle evinced by them [Note: Matthew 10:42.]. We must not indeed imagine that there is any merit in our poor services, for there is imperfection in them all; and, “if we had done all that is commanded us, we should be only unprofitable servants:” but God delights in holiness; and wherever he beholds it, he will, of his own grace and mercy, bestow upon it a proportionate reward, exalting those to the highest thrones in glory, who have made the greatest improvement of the talents committed to them [Note: Matthew 25:19-23.].

There will be no distinction made, except what is grounded on the different degrees of conformity to the Divine image which the different individuals have attained. God will not respect the circumcised more than the uncireumcised, or the rich and learned more than the poor and illiterate. In all persons equally the image of Christ will be sought for; and the possession, or want of it, will determine their eternal state: “Christ will then be, as he now is, all, and in all”]

We conclude with inquiring, Who amongst you is like-minded with God?

1. Ye children of this world—

[How far are ye from according with God. With him, Christ is all; with you, the world. If ye may but enjoy the pleasures, the honours, the riches of the world, ye care not about the image of Christ: to be rich in faith and good works is not the object of your ambition: that you leave to the old, the sick, the enthusiasts. But ah! if Christ be all, as indeed he is, think what a vanity you are pursuing: think how poor ye will be in the day of judgment; and how you will then execrate your present ways. Be persuaded to be wise in time: and beg without delay that “Christ may be made unto you wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:30.].”]

2. Ye self-deceiving professors—

[How many are there in the Church, who will talk about Christ, and speak of him as the ground of all their hopes, while yet they are shamefully destitute of his image! Yes, grievous it is to say, that there are “many vain-talkers and deceivers” now, as well as in the apostolic age; many that are proud and passionate; many that are earthly-minded and covetous; many that are unchaste and lewd; many that are deceitful in their words, and dishonest in their dealings; many, in short, whose tempers, and dispositions, and conduct, are a disgrace to their profession. Know ye, if such there be here present, that ye are as unlike to God as Satan himself is; and that all your knowledge, all your experiences, and all your professions, will only aggravate your condemnation, if you die in your present state [Note: Job 36:13.]. You do well to rely on Christ, and to make him your all in point of dependence; but know for a certainty, that, however you may pretend to trust in him, you never can he saved by him, unless you become new creatures [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:17.]: for “without holiness no man shall see the Lord [Note: Hebrews 12:14].”]

3. Ye true believers—

[You can appeal to God that you are like-minded with him in this grand point; and that you desire as much to be saved from sin, as to be delivered from hell itself. This is a blessed evidence that ye are born of God [Note: 1 John 3:10.]. While ye are thus panting after holiness, ye have nothing to fear: your faith is sound [Note: James 2:22.]. your hope is scriptural [Note: 1 John 3:3.], and saving [Note: Romans 5:5; Romans 8:24.]. Go on then from grace to grace, from strength to strength [Note: 2 Peter 3:18.]. Be daily putting off the old man with its lusts [Note: ver. 8, 9.], and putting on the new man with all its characteristic graces [Note: ver. 12, 13.]. Be “growing up thus into Christ in all things as your living Head [Note: Ephesians 4:15.]” till you have arrived at the full measure of the stature of Christ [Note: Ephesians 4:13.]: and when you have attained a perfect meetness for the enjoyment of your God, you shall be like him, and with him for ever. [Note: 1 John 3:2.]]


Verses 12-14

DISCOURSE: 2186

CHRISTIAN CONSTANCY DISPLAYED

Colossians 3:12-14. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.

THE end of Christianity is, to restore man to the Divine image, in order to his ultimate restoration to the blessedness which he has forfeited and lost: nor does God ever accomplish the latter but through the medium of the former. Doubtless the Lord Jesus Christ, by his own obedience unto death, effects our reconciliation with God: that is his work, and his alone. But our “meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light” is the work of his Holy Spirit [Note: Colossians 1:12.]; and it is wrought in every one of “God’s elect:” for no one is “chosen to salvation but through the sanctification of the Spirit, united with, and added to, the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ [Note: 1 Peter 1:2.].” Hence, in the chapter before us, the Apostle marks distinctly wherein that renovation consists: it is “a putting off of the old man, and a putting on of the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness [Note: ver. 9, 10. with Ephesians 4:24.].” The particular evils of the old man, which are to be put off, are enumerated in ver. 8, 9. The particular graces of the new man, which are to be put on, are stated in the words of my text: and, inasmuch as this transformation of the soul into the Divine image, or “the forming of Christ within us,” is that which, beyond all other marks of distinction, will operate to our final acceptance with God [Note: This is the meaning of “Christ is all,” i.e. the image of Christ. Compare Galatians 4:19.], the Apostle urges us to meet God, as it were, upon his own terms: “Put on, therefore,” the new man: and he urges us, by the consideration of the distinguishing grace which we ourselves have received: “Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved,” this new man. Now, the attainment of this change is what we all profess to hope for; and, therefore, it should be sought by us with all diligence, and be manifested by us ill the whole of our life and conversation.

To impress this upon your minds, I will shew,

I. Wherein the Christian character consists—

If we would have a full view of this subject, we must enter into the Christian’s experience before God. But that would lead us beyond the proper scope of our text, which confines our attention to the Christian in his daily walk before man. Adhering then to our text, let us see what the Christian should be,

1. In the daily habit of his mind—

[You cannot but know, brethren, what proud, selfish creatures we are by nature; caring for nothing but our own ease, pleasure, honour, and advancement. Except in very particular cases, where relative or social ties have created a more than ordinary interest in our minds, how little do we feel for those around us; either for those with whom we have more immediate intercourse, or those who are bowed down with sorrows of any kind!

But, in opposition to these hateful dispositions, we should put on, in the place of indifference, compassion; in the place of roughness, courtesy; and in the place of pride, humility. We may conceive how a mother’ bowels would yearn over her first-born child, when writhing in agony, and perishing through want. Such “bowels of mercies should we put on” towards all who are in want or trouble of any kind; participating, at least by sympathy, the sorrows which we cannot alleviate in any other way. And towards every person with whom we come in contact, whether he be a superior, an equal, or an inferior, yea, and whether he be a friend or foe, we should “put on kindness,” and exercise nothing but benevolence. As least of all, we should be ever ready to take the lowest place, “putting on humbleness of mind,” and, with unaffected simplicity, rendering ourselves the servants of all around us. This, I say, should be the daily habit of our minds; not called forth by great exertion, but operating readily, naturally, habitually, as the feelings of a mother towards her infant offspring.]

2. In his deportment towards others—

[Here, alas! we cannot but be sensible what irritability we have shewn on the slightest occasions; what displeasure, when an offence has been of any continuance; what alienation we have felt from those who differ from us in their sentiments and conduct; and what vindictiveness, when any serious injury has been sustained by us. But all of this is sadly unbecoming us as the followers of Christ, whom, by every possible consideration, we are bound to imitate and resemble. For anger, we should “put on meekness;” and “long-suffering,” in the place of retaliation or complaint. Instead of harbouring intolerance, we should “put on forbearance;” and, instead of retaining a vindictive spirit against any, we should call to mind how many and great offences Christ has forgiven us; and should gladly “mete to our fellow-creatures the measure which we ourselves have received from him.” This is the spirit which we are to manifest on all occasions; and this is to be the constant tenour of our way, in all our intercourse with mankind.]

3. In the governing principle of his life—

[Here is man’s great defect. By nature we are altogether wrapt up in self. Self is the principle that actuates us in every thing, and the end for which alone we live. Self-seeking, self-pleasing, self-interest, occupy, for the most part, our every thought, and regulate our every motion. But there is a new principle that is imparted to the Christian, and under its influence his whole life must be directed: and this is, the principle of love or charity. This is the root and essence of every other grace: it comprehends all, combines all, consolidates all. Whatever there be that enters into the composition of Christian “perfection, this is the bond” which unites it altogether, and forms it into one harmonious mass. It is the spirit which pervades and actuates every faculty of the soul, even as the soul directs and regulates every member of the body. The soul, in operation, causes every member to perform its proper office; and love, presiding, will keep every Christian grace in full activity. This, therefore, we must “put on, over all, and above all” the other graces that have been mentioned; that so nothing may be wanting to the proper discharge of all our duties.]

That I may the better commend to you this state of mind, I will endeavour to point out,

II. The vast importance of it—

Notice particularly what the Apostle urges in my text: “Put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved,” these several graces. God calls for it: man expects it: consistency requires it.

1. God calls for it—

[You are his elect. But to what has he called you? Not to salvation only, but “unto holiness [Note: 1 Thessalonians 4:7.].” Hear particularly how St. Paul states this matter: “God has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love [Note: Ephesians 1:4.].” And again: “He has predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his Son [Note: Romans 8:29.].” Now if, instead of cultivating these graces, we retain “the old man” in all his power and efficiency, we defeat the very object which God, supposing him to have elected us, has had in view. And will God endure that? Our blessed Lord said, “Have not I chosen you twelve; and one of you is a devil [Note: John 6:70.]?” Know, then, if we continue devils, as Judas did, we shall, with him, “go to our own place [Note: Acts 1:25.],” and not to the habitation of the just. We can never be “beloved” of our God if we be not “holy.”]

2. Man expects it—

[If we profess to be “the elect of God,” man will very reasonably demand a proof of it. We may tell him of our faith: but he will reply, ‘Shew me your works. As for your faith, God alone can judge of that: but I must judge of the tree by its fruits: and, it you profess to be distinguished above your fellows by the special favour of your God, I have a right to ask, “What do ye more than others [Note: Matthew 5:47.]?” Have you “put off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness [Note: Ephesians 4:22-24.]?” Let me see what your tempers are in your family, and towards all around you, and especially under circumstances of heavy trial. Tell me not of your inward experiences before God: I must judge by your spirit and conduct towards man: and, if I find you not endued with the graces of the Spirit, I can account you no better than others; yea, rather, I must account you worse; since, with all your high professions, you are no better than hypocrites and deceivers.’]

3. Consistency requires it—

[This is the peculiar force of my text. When we call ourselves “the elect of God,” we profess to have been “renewed in the spirit of our mind:” for, if we do not profess this, the most abandoned reprobate in the universe has as much right to call himself “elect,” as we. “Are you, then, destitute of compassion? How dwelleth the love of God in you [Note: 1 John 3:17.]?” Are you proud, passionate, intolerant, unforgiving? “Lie not against the truth [Note: James 3:14.]:” ye are “children of darkness, and not of light;” “not children of God, but children of the devil [Note: 1 John 3:7-10.].” To “call Christ, Lord, Lord,” without walking in his steps, is only to deceive and ruin your own souls.]

Behold then, brethren,

1. The excellence of Christian principles—

[Christianity requires us to refer all good to God; and to say, after all that we have attained, “By the grace of God I am what I am [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:10.].” But will this tend to encourage us in sin? No; “the grace of God, which bringeth salvation, teaches us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world [Note: Titus 2:11-12.]:” and “the hope that we have in Christ will, of necessity, lead us to purify ourselves, even as He is pure [Note: 1 John 3:3.].”]

2. The beauty of the Christian character—

[Look at a man habited, as my text describes, in all those lovely graces; and “so clothed with them,” as never to be seen without them: and then tell me, whether he be not a lovely character. Is there a man in the universe that does not admire “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, forbearance, and forgiveness,” and all under the direction and government of “love?” I grant, that, from envy and jealousy, the world may be filled with rage against a person possessing all these graces: for so were they incensed against our blessed Lord himself, in whom these virtues existed in their utmost possible perfection: but this was on other grounds than on account of his virtues: he professed himself the Messiah; and therefore they put him to death: his tempers, and dispositions, and habits, they could not but admire. And so, at this day, the men that hate us, under the idea of “God’s elect,” cannot but acknowledge that the consistent Christian is, of all characters, the loveliest upon the face of the earth [Note: 1 Peter 3:4.]. I call upon all of you therefore, brethren, to “shew forth these virtues;” and thus to “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, by well-doing [Note: 1 Peter 2:15.].”]


Verse 16

DISCOURSE: 2187

LOVE TO THE SCRIPTURES RECOMMENDED

Colossians 3:16. Let the word of Chist dwell in you richly in all wisdom.

IT was declared to be one of the principal advantages which the Jews enjoyed above the heathen, that they had “the Oracles of God committed to them [Note: Romans 3:1-2.]:” and we are still more highly privileged, in that we have in our hands the New-Testament Scriptures, whereby we are enabled to understand the writings of Moses and the prophets more fully than the writers themselves understood them. What part of the Christian records the Colossians could possess, we do not exactly know: we are sure that the sacred canon was not yet complete; nor were the different epistles which are come down to us, collected into one volume. It is probable enough that one or two of the Gospels might have been seen by them: and the possession of such a treasure would be a very sufficient ground for the exhortation before us. To us who enjoy a complete collection of all that God has ever seen fit to reveal,—at least, as much of it as is at all necessary for our edification and comfort,—the exhortation may be addressed with proportionably greater weight. To impress it the more powerfully upon your minds, we shall take occasion from it to shew you, in what light the sacred volume should be regarded, and in what manner it should be improved.

I. In what light it should be regarded—

The word which has been transmitted to us was written by different men, in different and distant ages of the world. But though it was written by men, it is indeed the word of God; because those holy men wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost [Note: 2 Peter 1:21.]. Indeed, the word is, properly and strictly speaking, “the word of Christ”—

[Our blessed and adorable Lord ministered to the Church not only before his incarnation, but from the very beginning of the world. It was He who preached by Noah to the antediluvian world [Note: 1 Peter 3:18-20.]. It was He who inspired all the prophets in all succeeding ages of the Church; and enabled them to testify beforehand respecting his future sufferings and glory [Note: 1 Peter 1:10-11.]. Thus was he the real Author of the Old Testament. With respect to the New Testament, whatever is revealed there must also be traced to the same source. It was Christ who taught his Apostles, and who “by his Spirit brought all things to their remembrance,” and, in a personal appearance to Saul, revealed to him the whole scheme and plan of redemption [Note: Galatians 1:11-12.]. What the Apostles spake in his name, they affirmed to be, not the word of man, but of God [Note: 1 Thessalonians 2:13.]: and what they wrote in their epistles, they declared to be “the commandment of their Lord [Note: 1 Corinthians 14:37.].” Hence every part of the sacred volume is justly called by the Apostle “the word of Christ.”]

In this view it ought to be regarded by us—

[Let us suppose that the Lord Jesus Christ were now to come amongst us, and to teach in our Churches, as once he did in the streets and synagogues of Judea: should we not, if we knew him to be that very Jesus, listen to him with the deepest attention? Should we not revolve in our thoughts the various subjects of his discourse, and labour to ascertain their true import? If we could suppose him now addressing us from the cross, and appealing to his sufferings as an unquestionable demonstration of his love, and an irresistible argument for our adherence to him; should we not be melted to tears? should we not be ready to exclaim, “What have we to do any more with idols?” “Other lords have had dominion over us; but by thee only will we make mention of thy name.” Or, lastly, Jet us suppose that we saw the heavens opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God [Note: Acts 7:56.]: let us suppose he spake to us now, as once he did from Mount Sinai, with thunderings, and lightnings, and earthquakes, and the sound of the trumpet waxing louder and louder [Note: Hebrews 12:18-19.]; should we not tremble? should we not be ready to engage, as the Israelites did, “All that the Lord hath spoken will we do, and be obedient?” Were we to hear him speaking to us in any of these ways, the word would not more certainly be his, than this word is which we now possess: and therefore whatever sentiments of fear or love or gratitude we should feel on account of such revelations of his will, we ought to feel in reference to that sacred volume which we have in our hands: whenever we look upon it, we should say, This is the word of Him who came down from heaven to instruct me; of Him who died upon the cross to save me; of Him who now sits enthroned in glory, and will hereafter fix my doom according to it [Note: John 12:48.].]

Let us next inquire,

II. In what manner it should be improved—

We should not merely regard it with pious veneration, but, should make use of it,

1. For the furnishing of our minds—

[It is to little purpose to have the Scriptures in our houses, unless we read them diligently, and acquire a practical and experimental knowledge of them. As the tables of the law were deposited within the ark, so should the whole “word of God be hid within our hearts.” It should “dwell in us;” it should dwell in us “richly:” its precepts should be treasured up in our minds, that we may know what the will of the Lord is: its promises should be precious to us, that we may be able to plead them at the throne of grace, and obtain the accomplishment of them to our own souls: nor should its threatenings be overlooked, but rather be considered as kind and salutary admonitions which are given us for our good.

It will be said by many, that their memory is defective, and that they cannot retain the things which they read or hear: but if we made a practice of selecting daily some short portion of Scripture for our meditation throughout the day, the most ignorant amongst us would soon attain a knowledge which at present appears far beyond his reach.]

2. For the regulating of our conduct—

[Speculative knowledge, for the most part, administers only to pride and contention. That which alone is valuable to the Christian is practical. The Scriptures are designed to lead him to such wisdom and discretion as will be in vain sought for from any other source. Indeed “all wisdom” is to be “drawn from these wells of salvation.” The person whose mind is cast into the mould of the Scripture, will view every thing as God views it: he will have the same practical judgment as God himself has. “Good and evil, light and darkness” will not be confounded in his mind, as they are in the minds of ungodly men: he will distinguish them with ease, except in cases that are very obscure and complicated: by means of the spiritual discernment which he has obtained, he will be able to judge of the conduct of others, whilst they are not able to appreciate his [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:14-15.]: and as far as his actions are regulated by his principles, he will be a light to all around him; and they shall be constrained to “acknowledge that God is with them of a truth,” Indeed it is fur this end that God sets up a light in his people’s souls; “not that it may be put under a bushel, but that it may be set on a candlestick, and give light to all that are in the house;” and that the person possessing it may be able to say to all around him, “Whatsoever ye have seen and heard in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you.”]

That we may enforce the exhortation in our text, we would remind you, that a love to the Scriptures is,

1. An inseparable attendant on true piety—

[Look at the most distinguished saints, and see how they regarded the inspired records. Job esteemed the words of God’s mouth more than his necessary food [Note: Job 23:12.]: Jeremiah found them the “joy and rejoicing of his heart [Note: Jeremiah 15:16.]:” and to David they were “sweeter than honey and the honey-comb [Note: Psalms 19:10.].” Let not us then think that we have any title to be classed with those holy men, if we do not resemble them in this particular — — —]

2. A necessary means of advancement in every part of the divine life—

[Have we been only just quickened from the dead? we cannot but love that which has been the means of giving us life [Note: Psalms 119:93.]. Are we as new-born babes? we must of necessity “desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby [Note: 1 Peter 2:2.].” Are we arrived at the strength and stature of youth? “that word must abide within us, in order that we may be able to overcome” the great adversary of our souls [Note: 1 John 2:14.]. In a word, whatever state we be in, it is “by them that we are to be furnished for every good word and work [Note: 2 Timothy 3:16-17.].”]


Verse 17

DISCOURSE: 2188

DOING ALL IN THE NAME OF CHRIST

Colossians 3:17. Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

SUPPOSING the existence of one Supreme Being to be acknowledged, our obvious duty towards him must be, to exercise such a dependence on him, as shall evince a consciousness, that “in him we live, and move, and have our being [Note: Acts 17:28.].” This being what, for distinction’s sake, I will call natural religion, we may see what must, of necessity, be required of us under the Christian dispensation. By the Gospel we are informed, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Creator and Governor of the universe; and, consequently, must be entitled to all that regard which, as Theists, we pay to the Supreme Being. But He is further revealed to us as the Redeemer of the world; and, consequently, as standing in a still nearer relation to us, as our vital Head; from whom we derive all supplies of grace and peace, and to whom we must ascribe all the blessings which we enjoy, whether in time or in eternity. What, then, is evangelical religion? It is not an assent to certain principles, however accurate those principles may be: nor is it a practice of certain duties, however commendable those duties may be. It is a habit of mind, by means of which Christ’s universal agency is acknowledged, and the whole soul goes forth to him; receiving every thing from his fulness, and improving every thing for his glory.

To unfold this more clearly, I will endeavour to shew, what, under the Gospel dispensation, should be the habit of our minds,

I. In all that we do for God—

In my text, we are told to do every thing “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Now, by this expression, I understand that we should do every thing,

1. From respect to his authority—

[St. Paul says, “We command you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly [Note: 2 Thessalonians 3:6.].” It was by the authority of Christ that he issued that command; and from a respect to that authority was that command to be obeyed. In like manner must we have respect to Christ in every thing that we do: for he has said, “Then are ye my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” It must be a matter of indifference to us what man may enjoin, unless it have the sanction of our blessed Lord’s authority also. We must always ask ourselves, What does the Lord Jesus Christ require of me? That I will do, at all events, and under all circumstances. If it be approved of man, I will do it, not so much to please man, as to please the Lord: and if it be disapproved by man, I shall still do it, because it will please my Lord: nor will I be diverted from the path of duty, though the whole world should combine to oppose my progress. My Lord’s will being clearly ascertained, I shall need nothing to encourage my exertions, nor will I suffer any thing to obstruct them.]

2. From love to his name—

[We read of “receiving a child in Christ’s name,” and of “giving a cup of water in his name [Note: Mark 9:37; Mark 9:41.]:” that must import that we do it from love to Christ. And this should be the one spring of all our actions: “The love of Christ should constrain us [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:14.].” It is not necessary that there should be in our minds, on all occasions, a long train argumentation to call forth this principle: a mother needs not such a process to call forth her love to her infant offspring: if an occasion fall for the exercise of that principle, it is ready for action at all times, and at a moment’s notice. And so should it be with us, towards our Lord Jesus Christ: there should be in us such a deep and abiding sense of our obligations to him, that, in every thing we say, and in every thing we do, we should desire to please him.]

3. In dependence on his grace—

[The Prophet Micah says, “All people will walk every one in the name of his god; and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever;” that is, in an entire dependence upon him. Now, to whom must we look for direction in all our ways, but to the Lord Jesus Christ, who has engaged, as our Shepherd, to go before us [Note: John 10:4.], and who has told us in all things to follow his steps [Note: 1 Peter 2:21.]?” And on whom shall we rely for assistance in our difficulties, but on him who has directed us to be “strong in the Lord [Note: Ephesians 6:10.],” and assured us that “through his strength we shall do all things [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9. Philippians 4:13.]?” And through whom can we hope for acceptance, but through Him, our Mediator and all-prevailing Intercessor [Note: Ephesians 3:18. 1 John 2:1-2.]?]

4. For the advancement of his glory—

[When Peter and John had healed a man that had been lame from his mother’s womb, the spectators were ready to ascribe the miracle either to “the power or holiness of those” who had wrought it: but the Apostles instantly gave the glory to the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name, and by whose power alone, it had been wrought: “His name, through faith in his name, hath made this man strong, whom you see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all [Note: Acts 3:6; Acts 3:16.].” Thus, whatever it be that we either say or do, we must consult his glory, and labour to advance it. Nothing is too insignificant for us to attend to in this view: “Whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we must do all to the glory of God [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:31.].” If it be thought that it would be presumption to suppose that any thing we can do can by any means advance his glory, we quite mistake: for, in his last intercessory prayer, he said, “All mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them [Note: John 17:10.].”]

The same habit of mind must be cultivated, also,

II. In all that God does for us—

There may be many occurrences which, to flesh and blood, are painful: yet, in them must we see nothing but an occasion of praise and thanksgiving. Job blessed God as well for taking away his property as for bestowing it [Note: Job 1:21.]. And thus must we also “in every thing give thanks,” knowing that “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:8.].”

We, in all circumstances, have occasion to praise our God—

[Those things which have the most painful aspect are yet in reality the fruits of love: for “whom God loveth, he chasteneth; and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth [Note: Hebrews 12:6.].” Indeed, the beneficial tendency of our afflictions is often as clear and visible as if it were pointed out to us by a voice from heaven. For who does not see how trials wean us from the world, and purify us from our dross? We are told, and we find it true, that “tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, even a hope that maketh not ashamed [Note: Romans 5:3-5.].” But, independent of this, so great are the blessings of redemption, that they ought to swallow up, as it were, every other consideration; and to fill our souls with unutterable joy and gratitude, even in the midst of all the troubles that either men or devils can inflict upon us. In the first chapter of this epistle, the Apostle puts this in a most striking point of view. He supposes the Colossians to be oppressed with heavy and long-continued afflictions: and “he prays for them,” that they may be “strengthened with all might, according to God’s glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering, with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, who bath made them meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who hath delivered them from the power of darkness; and hath translated them into the kingdom of his dear Son, in whom they had redemption through bis blood, even the forgiveness of sins [Note: Colossians 1:11-14.].” Must they under their trials be content with exercising “patience?” no: or “long-suffering?” no: they must be filled with “joyfulness;” and be so borne up by a sense of God’s mercy, and by the wonders of redeeming love, as to have not a word to utter but in a way of praise and thanksgiving. This then, beloved, is to be the frame of your minds at all times; as it was of Paul and Silas, when in the prison and in the stocks “they sang praises to God at midnight [Note: Acts 16:25.].”]

In doing it, however, we must still have respect to the Lord Jesus Christ for the acceptance of our very best services—

[Continually is this inculcated in the Scriptures of truth. “We must give thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [Note: Ephesians 5:20.].” Praise is “a sacrifice which must be offered” on him as our altar; and “be presented by him” as our great High Priest, even as the animals were under the Jewish law [Note: Hebrews 13:15.]; and it is therefore called “the calves of our lips [Note: Hosea 14:2.]:” nor can any sacrifice, however holy, be “acceptable to God, but as offered to him through Jesus Christ [Note: 1 Peter 2:5.].” This is particularly to be borne in mind at all times. We must “never sacrifice unto our own net, or burn incunse to our own drag [Note: Habakkuk 1:16.],” but do on earth as they are doing in heaven. Not a voice is heard in heaven which does not give glory to God and to the Lamb: nor on earth should a soul be found that does not say, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise.”]

Let me now observe,

1. If this be religion, how little is there of true religion upon earth!

[Where do you find men of the character above described? How few are there, how very few, in whom this is found to be the prevailing habit of their minds! An attention to doctrines is frequent; nor is regard for moral duties uncommon: but such views of Christ, such respect to his authority, such love to his name, such dependence on his grace, such zeal for his glory, and, withal, such an overwhelming sense of his love as swallows up every other feeling; where are these found? In how very small a measure are they possessed by the very best amongst us! and how far are the generality from possessing them at all! Yet it is by this standard that all Christian experience must be tried. My dear brethren, get your minds rightly instructed in this matter; and then will you be able to form a right judgment, both of your own state and of every thing around you.]

2. If this be true religion, how happy a man is the true Christian!

[Doubtless the Christian must be conscious of innumerable defects, and must find cause in himself for the deepest humiliation. But, in proportion as he has attained this experience, tell me whether he be not happy? tell me whether he be not a far happier man than the possession of the whole world could make him? I know that an ignorant ungodly world will deride this as enthusiasm: but the passage which I before cited, in reference to natural religion, is amply sufficient to shew that this experience is most rational, and indispensable to the Christian character. What are the feelings of one who, in the daily habit of his mind, “lives, and moves, and has his being in God?” Precisely such are the Christian’s feelings towards the Lord Jesus Christ, only elevated by a sense of redeeming love. “Believe ye then in Christ;” and “abide in him” by the exercise of faith and love: and let him be “your life:” yea, “live altogether by faith in Him who has loved you, and given himself for you.” Then will you “rejoice in him even now, with a joy that is unspeakable and glorified,” and soon be partakers of “all the fulness of joy at God’s right hand for evermore.”]


Verse 18

DISCOURSE: 2189

THE RELATIVE DUTIES EXPLAINED

Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God: and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons. Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.

IT is often a matter of complaint with some, that many who have been ordained to preach the Gospel leave the great and mysterious doctrines of the Gospel on the back ground, and bring forward little else than dry morality. But, whatever ground there may be for that complaint, it may be well to inquire, Whether there be not too much reason to complain of another class, who pay such exclusive attention to the doctrines, as almost entirely to overlook the duties, of the Gospel? Amongst some it would be almost thought superfluous, and even wrong, to devote an entire discourse to the subject of moral duties; since, according to their views, the discharge of them may well be left to the simple operation of faith, without any distinct statement of them from the teachers of Christianity. But so thought not the Apostle Paul On the contrary, in those two epistles (to the Ephesians, and Colossians) in which he enters most deeply into the mysteries of Christianity, he enlarges most fully on the relative duties. We are persuaded that a similar plan ought to be adopted by every minister of Christ. We should have no exclusive preference for doctrines or duties, but should put each in their place, and bring them both forward in their proper season. Convinced of this, we enter with great pleasure on the consideration of our relative duties; that is, of the duties,

I. Of husbands and wives—

It is worthy of observation, that, not in this place only, but in all other places where the Apostles speak of the relative duties, they mention those of the inferior first. The reason of this seems to be, that the duties of the inferior arise solely from the command of God, and are totally independent of the conduct of the superior; so that no neglect of duty on the one part can justify any neglect of it on the other. Agreeably therefore to the Apostolic plan, we shall notice the duty,

1. Of wives—

[To you are assigned obedience and subjection; partly, because you were created after man, and for the sake of man; and partly because you were first in the transgression, and were the means of bringing ruin upon man and upon all his posterity [Note: 1 Timothy 2:11-14. with Genesis 3:16.]. The extent to which obedience to your husband is required of you is indeed exceeding great: it reaches to every thing that is not contrary to the will of God: it is, if I may so speak, co-extensive with the obedience which the Church owes to the Lord Jesus Christ; and your obedience is due to your husband, as to the Lord himself. I am aware that this expression is very strong; but I conceive it is not at all stronger than the declarations of St. Paul. True, in the text it is only said, “Submit yourselves, as it is fit in the Lord:” but in the Epistle to the Ephesians he draws the very parallel that I have drawn, and shews that your duty to your husband corresponds exactly with the Church’s duty to the Lord Jesus Christ: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as unto the Lord: for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church: and he is the Saviour of the body. Therefore, as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing [Note: Ephesians 5:22-24.].” (Of course, this will be understood of obedience only, and not of dependence; for that were absurd and impious in the extreme.) In the whole of this obedience, she must feel that it is due to him by God’s special appointment: that he is her head, and her lord, whom she is bound, not only to obey, but to obey with “reverence [Note: Ephesians 5:33.],” “even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord [Note: 1 Peter 3:1; 1 Peter 3:5-6.].”

This may be thought to sound harsh by those who are not accustomed to consider what the Scripture speaks on this subject: but it will not be thought so, if we contemplate what God has required,]

2. Of husbands—

[Your duty, is to “love your wives,” and never on any occasion to entertain an unkind feeling towards them. A proud, haughty, imperious carriage towards them is most offensive to God, who will regard every harsh, bitter, or contemptuous expression towards them as an abuse of your authority and a violation of his commands. Though he has constituted you lords, he has not authorized you to be tyrants; but requires you to be precisely such lords over your wives, as Christ is over his Church. You are to govern, it is true; but you are to govern only for the good of the wife: you are to seek only, and at all times, her best interests, and to promote to the utmost of your power her real happiness. You must not require any thing unreasonable at her hands, nor ever fail to recompense with testimonies of your love the efforts which she makes to please you. Nor must you merely endeavour to render her happy, but you must be ready to make great sacrifices for this end. What the Lord Jesus Christ has done for his Church, is set forth as the proper model and pattern of your duty towards your wife: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it.” O! what an example is here! Methinks, no wife would complain of the obedience that is required of her, if the authority of her husband were exercised in such a way as this: on the contrary, obedience on her part would be her chief delight. Know then, ye husbands, that this is the duty assigned to you: if your wives are to be obedient, as the Church is to Christ, ye also on your part are to be loving, even as Christ is to the Church. “Your wives should be to you as your own flesh. Now no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord does the Church [Note: Ephesians 5:28-29; Ephesians 5:33.]:” and precisely in the same way should you exercise all imaginable tenderness towards your wives, and be as careful of paining them as you would be of suffering any thing to wound the apple of your eye.]

Next to the duties of husbands and wives will naturally follow those,

II. Of parents and children—

Here again we are called, in the first place, to notice those of the inferior:

1. Of children—

[Obedience is your duty also: nor is there any limit to the exercise of this duty, except where you are required to violate a command of God. Reason indeed is sufficient to teach you this: for your own ignorance and inexperience must of necessity direct you to look up to your parents for instruction and guidance. But revelation teaches you to regard the authority of your parents as God’s authority, and to consider obedience to them as obedience to him. In fulfilling the commands of parents, there should be no reluctance: on the contrary, to please, and serve, and honour his parents should be the desire and delight of every child. He should have no wish to shake off their yoke; no desire to act independently of them. Nor let this be thought hard: for God has annexed a special promise to the fulfilment of this duty: the command relating to it is said to be “the first commandment with promise [Note: Ephesians 6:1-3.];” and it is generally to be observed, that the blessing of God does rest in a more especial manner, throughout the whole of their lives, on those who have honoured and obeyed their earthly parents. This may be accounted for on natural principles; for the dispositions which are exercised in filial obedience argue a degree of sell-government, which will go far to render a man both amiable and prosperous in every situation and condition of life. But besides this, the blessing of God will assuredly rest on such characters; and He, as the universal Parent, will recompense into their bosom their compliance with this command.]

2. Of parents—

[Both in the text, and in the parallel passage in the Epistle to the Ephesians, there is a restraint laid on parents with regard to the exercise of their authority: it is not to be attended with harshness or severity, “lest they provoke their children to anger, and discourage them” from attempting to fulfil their duty, under the idea, that, whatever efforts they may use to please their parents, it will he a hopeless task. Parents have much to answer for, when they produce such an effect as this on their children’s minds. If on the one hand it be said, that “there is much folly in the heart of a child, and that the rod of correction must drive it out,” it must be remembered, on the other hand, that the mind of a child may soon be cast down, and that we may by harsh restrictions and undue severity augment that very rebellion which we endeavour to subdue. There can be no doubt but that many parents harden their children’s hearts against their authority in the first instance, and ultimately against the authority of God himself, purely by the tyranny which they exercise, and by the continual irritations which they occasion [Note: That is an humiliating view which the Apostle gives of parents, but, alas! how true in too many instances! Hebrews 12:10.]: and in the last day they will be found, in too many instances, the prime movers, and the real causes of their children’s eternal ruin. Fathers, be upon your guard respecting this; and instead of thus driving your children to despondency, endeavour to bring them up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord [Note: Ephesians 6:4.].” See in what way God dealeth with his children, how he bears with their infirmities, and consults their best interests [Note: Psalms 103:8-13.]: so should you do [Note: 1 Thessalonians 2:11.], and, like Abraham of old, be solicitous only for their eternal welfare [Note: Genesis 18:19.].]

There is yet one other relation specified in the text, namely, that,

III. Of masters and servants—

It has pleased God that there should be different ranks and orders of society, and that to each should be assigned appropriate duties. We notice those,

1. Of servants—

[Your rank in society is ordered of the Lord: nor, when you hear in what light you are viewed by him, will you see any reason to repine at it. By virtue of your office you are required to “obey those who are your masters according to the flesh:” and to obey them cheerfully too, and without reserve. Nor in the discharge of this duty are you to act in the absence of your master any otherwise than you would in his immediate presence: you are to render obedience “in singleness of heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart [Note: Ephesians 6:5-6.].” What an elevated view does this give of your situation and employments! You appear to be servants of men: and so indeed you are: but you are servants of the Lord Jesus Christ: and it is your privilege to consider yourselves as living in his service, as much as if he were to come down to sojourn again on earth, and to admit you into the number of his domestics. Whatever your particular office be, you are privileged, so to speak, as altogether to forget your servitude to man, and to consider yourselves as performing the office of angels in the service of your God and Saviour. It is your privilege also to expect your wages from him. What you receive from man, is for your body only: but you shall have wages for your soul also, even “the reward of an eternal inheritance [Note: See the text.].” This is represented as the state even of slaves, and of those who were called to serve Jewish or Heathen masters: how much more then is it the happy state of you who live in Christian families, and especially where God in Christ Jesus is loved and feared! Yes, “whether ye be bond or free, your Master, your work, your wages are the same [Note: Ephesians 6:8.].” Act then agreeably to this exalted view of your station. Even though you should have “froward and unkind masters,” still act the same: and, if your work is thereby rendered the more difficult, your reward shall be proportionably advanced [Note: 1 Peter 2:18-20.].]

2. Of masters—

[As your servants are to put you in the place of Christ, so are you to be as in the place of Christ to them: and exactly such a muster as he, if in your place, would be, such are ye to be to those who are under your command. Would he never be unreasonable in his expectations or commands? So neither are ye to be. Would he be kind and indulgent? So must ye be. Would he delight to make his servants happy; and would he consult in all things their eternal welfare? So are you to act, “doing in your station the same thing tn them,” as they in theirs are required to do to you [Note: Ephesians 6:9.]. Especially must you “forbear all threatening” words or looks; “remembering that you also have a Master in heaven, with whom there is no respect of persons,” and who, as their avenger, will call you to an account for all acts of unkindness or oppression towards the meanest of mankind. In a word, see how your God directs and governs you; and let him be your model for your government of those whom he has graciously committed to your care.]

We may see here,

1. The extent and excellence of true religion—

[Religion enters into every situation and relation of life. It finds the whole world disordered like a body, every joint of which from head to foot is dislocated: but by its operation on the hearts of men it sets every joint in its place, and diffuses through the whole a divine unction, whereby every joint is set at liberty, and performs with ease its proper functions. Those in a higher and more honourable station despise not those which are lower and less honourable; neither are they envied by them: but each occupies with content and satisfaction the place assigned it by its Maker, and finds its own happiness in contributing, according to its ability, to the good of the whole. If it be said, that these effects are not visible in the world, even amongst those who profess religion; I answer, that this only shews how little there is of true religion in the world. The first ages of the Church display in all its beauty the native tendency of Christianity: and, if the same effects are nut alike visible now, it is not owing to any want of efficiency in religion itself, but to the low state of religion in the world. In proportion as vital godliness prevails, it does, and ever must, manifest its practical influence upon the heart and life.]

2. The importance of studying the character of Christ—

[Christ ought to be well known to us in his work and offices as the Saviour of the world. But we must not confine our attention to his mediatorial work: we must also contemplate him as an example which we are to follow in every part of our conduct both towards God and man. Behold him as a son and a servant; what an entire devotion was there in him to his Father’s will! It was his meat and drink to do it. View him also as the Husband and Lord of his Church; what inconceivable love and kindness does he exercise towards her at all times, notwithstanding her innumerable defects! Let us then study his character; and whether we move in the higher or inferior relation, let it be the one aim of our lives to walk in his steps, and to follow his example.]

3. The way in which to judge of our spiritual attainments—

[Religion is a practical thing, and is intended, as we have shewn, to make us fill to advantage every relation in life. Now I grant that there are many who discharge in a most commendable manner their relative duties, whilst yet they have no regard for God in their hearts. Consequently, I cannot exactly say, that the fulfilment of relative duties will stamp you as religious characters: but this I must say, that the not discharging of these aright will prove to demonstration, either that “your religion is altogether vain,” or that it is at a very low ebb indeed. But supposing that there be no manifest neglect of these duties, I would ask, How much is there of God in them? Is the authority which you either obey or exercise, regarded as God’s? Is his will considered as the rule of all that you do, and his glory as the end? Here is the point to be inquired into: it is this which makes your actions pleasing and acceptable to him: and I may add, that it is this which will make obedience easy and delightful to yourselves. Habituate yourselves then to realize the thought, that it is Christ whom you serve, or in whose place you stand whilst others are serving you. So shall your whole deportment become exquisitely pure, and holy, and refined; and you will “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.”]

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Colossians 3:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/colossians-3.html. 1832.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology