Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?…
I. ITS CONNECTION WITH CHRIST'S RESURRECTION. "Like as" —
1. Material things may be compared to material and spiritual to spiritual; but is not this comparison of a moral revelation to a physical transaction arbitrary and fanciful? The answer is that the source and motive power of the two are the same. The manner and proportion of the Divine action at the tomb of Christ, when they are addressed to sense, enable us to trace and measure them in the mystery of the soul's life when they are addressed to spirit.
2. Something of the same kind may be observed in the case of the human mind. A mind capable of writing a great poem or history, and of governing at the same time a great country, is not to be met with every day. But when we do find the two things combined it is reasonable to compare the book with the policy of the king or statesman, on the ground that both are products of a single mind; and it is further reasonable to expect certain qualities common to the two forms of work. This is Paul's position; Christ's resurrection and the soul's regeneration are works of one powerful, wise, and loving will.
3. Nature can no more give us newness of life than a corpse can raise itself. Prudence, advancing years, the tone of society, family influences, may remodel our habits, but Divine grace alone can raise us from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. Reflect on that terrible reality — spiritual death. The body is in the full flush of its powers, the mind is engaged with a thousand truths, but neither boisterous spirits nor intellectual fire can galvanize the spirit into life. The spiritual senses do not act — the eyes, ears, mouth, of the soul are closed. Its hands and feet are bandaged with the grave clothes of selfish habit. It cannot rise, and must lie on in its darkness, and the putrefaction of its spiritual tomb. And a great stone has been rolled to the door — the dead weight of corrupt and irreligious opinion which bars out the light and air of heaven and makes the prison house secure. How is such an encumbrance to be thrown off? Even if angels should roll away the stone, how can life be restored, unless He who is its Lord and Giver shall flash into this dead spirit His own quickening power?
II. THE CHARACTERISTICS COMMON TO BOTH.
(1) Christ really died. The piercing of His side proves this; and being truly dead He really rose.
(a) Some say only in the heart of His disciples. But supposing such a process of imagination to have taken place in the case of two or three, is it reasonable to suppose that it could have occurred simultaneously to many.
(b) Nor was it a phantom that rose. Had that been the case it would surely have been found out, by the women, by Peter, by the eleven to whom He said, "A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see Me have," and by Thomas. Undoubtedly His risen body had added qualities of subtlety and glory; but these did not destroy its reality. "It had been sown in dishonour; it was raised in glory," etc.
(2) So the soul's newness of life must be, before everything, real.
(a) What avails it to be risen in imagination and in the good opinion of others, if having a name that we live while yet we are dead? Is it well for a dead soul to be periodically galvanised by unmerited flattery into awkward mimicries of the language and action of Christian life?
(b) What is the value of the mere ghost of a moral renewal; of prayers without heart, actions without religious principle, religious language in advance of conviction and feeling? Ah, the phantoms of a renewed life stalk through the world and the Church — picturesque in the distance, and like waxwork figures hard to distinguish from the living. There is the phantom life —
(i) Of imagination when a lively fancy has thrown around religion the charm of an intense interest without touching religious principle.
(ii) Of strong physical feeling where occasional bursts of religious passion are mistaken for discipline and surrender of the will.
(iii) Of sheer good nature, when however much is done, it is done without inward reference to God and His law.
(iv) Of good taste, where it is simply taken for granted that certain religious properties belong to a particular social position — phantoms each and all; for they melt into thin air under the harder stress of service or sorrow. They may not safely challenge the "Handle Me" of the risen Jesus. So then the first lesson is genuineness. Feel more deeply than you talk — act as you feel in your best moments.
(1) Jesus did not rise that, like Lazarus, He might die again. "I am alive for evermore." "Death hath no more dominion over Him." His triumphant life could not be exchanged again for a life of sin and suffering.
(2) So should it be with the Christian. His, too, should be a resurrection once for all. I say should be, for God's grace does not put force upon us. The Christian must reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin, etc. And if this seems hard to flesh and blood the Christian will remember that he has forces at his command equal to cope with them. If the risen Christ be in us the body is dead because of sin, etc. Once risen with Christ we need die no more. God will certainly be true, and we have but to cling to Him and keep a tight hand upon ourselves. Nothing from without can avail to destroy our life if it be not seconded from within. Louis XIV went year by year through his Lenten and Easter duties and then fell back into debauchery — a hideous libel on the teaching of Christ's resurrection. And yet what if we with slighter temptations repeat his experiences?
(1) Much of Christ's risen life was hidden from the eyes of men. His visible presence after His resurrection was the exception rather than the rule; and by this the disciples were gradually trained for their future. It was a gentle passage from the days of Christ's ministry to the days of that invisible presence which was to last to the end of time. But who can doubt what the risen Christ was doing? He needed not strength as we need it, but communion with the Father was His one glory and joy.
(2) Who can fail to see here a lesson and a law for Christian life? Much and the more important side of it must be hidden. No doubt our business, families, etc., have their claims; but where there is a will there is a way, and time must be made for prayer, self-questioning, etc. Alas for souls who shrink from solitude and secret communion with God. Does not the forest tree, while flinging its trunk and branches high towards the heavens, strike its roots for safety and nourishment ever deeper into the soil beneath?
Parallel VersesKJV: Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?