ROMANS, vi, 11.

"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin. but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

WE regard this verse as proof in itself, of the forensic meaning, which we have all along ascribed to the phrases of our being dead unto sin and alive unto God. The great object of this chapter, is to establish the alliance that there is, between a sinner's acceptance through Christ and a sinner's holiness. And in the verse before us, there is a practical direction given for carrying this alliance into effect. We are called upon to reckon of ourselves that we are dead unto sin, and alive unto God; and this is a step towards our becoming holy.

Now what are we to reckon ourselves? Why, if these phrases be taken in the personal sense of them - it would be that we are mortified to the pleasures and temptations of sin; and alive to nothing but the excellencies of God's character, and a sense of the obligations we are under to love and to honour Him: Or, in other words, we are to reckon ourselves holy in order that we may become holy. It were a strange receipt for curing a man of his dishonesty, to bid him reckon of himself that he is an honest man. One really does not see the charm and the operation of this expedient at all. One does not see, how, by the simple act of counting myself what I really am not, that I am to be transferred from that which I am to that which I choose to imagine of myself.

And a still more radical objection is, that it is bidding me reckon that to be true which I know to be false. It is bidding me cherish the belief of a thing that is not it is calling, not upon my faith in a matter for which there is no evidence, but upon my imagination of a matter that is directly opposite to a reality of which I am conscious. To lay hold of a sinner and bid him reckon of himself that he is a saint, is to bid him admit into credit that which he knows to be untrue - and all for the purpose too of turning him from the creature that he feels he is, to the creature that he fancies he is. We have heard much of the power of imagination; but this is giving it an empire and an ascendancy that exceeds all which was before known or observed of our nature - besides the very obvious moral impropriety that there would be in an apostle telling, either an unconverted man to conceive of himself that which is most glaringly and notoriously untrue; or, if you will restrict the injunction of my text to disciples and believers, telling them to think what no humble Christian can possibly think of himself - that he is crucified unto the love of sin, and that all his felt and living desires are towards God and godliness.

Now you free the passage of all these difficulties,by taking these phrases according to the forensic interpretation that we have given them. To be dead unto sin, is to be in the condition of one on whom death the sentence of sin has already been inflicted, if not in his own person at least in that of his representative; so that the execution for the transgression of the law is a flatter that is now past and over. To be alive unto God is to live in the favour of God - a favour to which we have been admitted through the services of a Mediator, or, in the language of the text, through Jesus Christ our Lord. To reckon that Christ died for the one purpose, and to reckon that he brought in an everlasting righteousness for the other purpose - is to reckon, not on a matter of fancy, but on a matter proposed and that too on the evidence of God's own testimony to faith. It is not to cherish a delusive belief of what we are in ourselves, and that in the face of our own consciousness - it is to cherish a most solid and warrantable belief of what God has done for us, and that on the credit we place in His own intimation.

Ere we can in our own minds bolster up the reckoning, that we are personally dead unto sin and personally alive unto God - there must be many misgivings; and sad failures and fluctuations of confidence, on the constant detections that we must be ever making of our own ungodliness. And at best it is a very precarious security indeed for holiness, if the way to become holy is to reckon that we are so. But when, instead of looking downwardly on the dark and ambiguous tablet of our own character, we look upwardly to that Saviour who now sitteth in exaltation, after having rendered the penalty of our disobedience and won for us the reward of life everlasting - we hold by a thing of historical fact, and not by a thing of deceitful imagination; we rest on the completeness of a finished expiation and perfect obedience; and transfer our reckoning from a ground where conscience meets us and gives us the lie, to a ground occupied by the stable and enduring realities of Scripture - where God who cannot lie meets us with the assurances of His truth; and the voice of His kindness welcomes us to the deliverance of those who are dead with Christ, to the high and heavenly anticipations of those who are alive with Him. When a sinner is bidden to reckon himself dead unto sin, and this phrase is understood personally, he is bidden to reckon himself a saint - to reckon what is not true; and surely this is not the way of causing him to be a saint.

But when he is bidden to reckon himself dead unto sin, and this phrase is understood forensically, he is bidden look upon himself as a partaker with Christ in all the privileges and immunities of Him, on whom the sentence is already discharged and gone by; and to whom therefore there is no more condemnation. But it may be said, might not this be an untruth also? Do I read anywhere in the Bible, of Christ dying for me in particular? The apostle is speaking to his converts when he says, " Reckon yourselves dead unto sin." But is it competent to address any one individual at random, to reckon himself in this blessed condition of freedom from a penalty, that Christ hath intercepted and absorbed in behalf of all who believe on Him ? Might not he in so reckoning be as effectually working himself up into the belief of a delusive imagination, as if he reckoned that he was a new creature - while all the habits and tendencies of the old man still remained with him, in full and unabated operation? Why, my brethren, it is nowhere said in the Bible that Christ died so for me in particular, as that by His simple dying the benefits of His atonement are mine in possession. But it is everywhere said in the Bible, that He so died for me in particular, as that by His simple dying, the benefits of His atonement are mine in offer. They are mine if I will.

Such terms as whosoever and all, and any, and how, every one, bring the gospel redemption specifically to my door; and there it stands for acceptance as mine in offer, and ready to become mine in possession on my giving credit to the word of the testimony. The terms of the gospel message are so constructed, that I have just as good a warrant for reckoning myself dead unto sin, as if instead of the announcement that God hath set forth Christ to be a propitiation for the sins of the world through faith in His blood, I had been the only sinner in the world; or I had been singled out by name and by surname, and it was stated that God had set forth Christ a propitiation for the sins of me individually; through faith in His blood. The act of reckoning myself dead unto sin through Christ, is just the act of receiving the truth of Christ's declaration, - according to the terms of the declaration. It is not reckoning on the truth of a falsehood. Were it a personal phrase, no doubt, it were reckoning that to be in the house, which is nowhere to be found within its limits. But it being a forensic phrase, it is just opening the door of the house; and suffering that to enter in, which is pressing upon it for admittance.

Bid the sinner reckon in the former way; and you bid him feel that to be a reality within him, which has no existence. Bid him reckon in the latter way; and you bid him fetch from the abiding realities which are without, a conviction that will carry light and peace and comfort into his bosom - you bid him chose with the overtures of the gospel - you bid him appropriate to himself what is said of the power of Christ's blood, and the purpose and effect of His sacrifice. But it is not an appropriation which carries him beyond the exercise of a legitimate faith - because not an appropriation beyond the real meaning and application of the terms, that I have just adverted to. By reckoning himself personally dead unto sin, and personally alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord, he would outrun the reckoning of his own conscience.

But by reckoning himself forensically dead unto sin, and forensically alive unto God, he does not outrun thereckoning of the Bible. He gathers no more out of the field of revelation, than what he finds to be lying upon its surface; and laid there too, just that he may fall in with it and take it home. Without the terms, ‘whosoever,' and ‘all,' and ‘any,' and‘ho, every one,' it might not have been so; but,with these terms, he may reckon of himself that forensically he is dead with Christ - and yet believe no further, than the terms in question give him the fullest warrant for.And what is more. You will not acquire a virtuous character, by barely imagining that you have it when you have it not.

But there is another way, in which it is conceivable that a virtuous character may be acquired. Not by any false reckoning about your actual character; but by a true reckoning about your actual condition. A mistaken sense as to the principle that inspires your heart, will never be the mean of bringing a right principle there. But a correct and habitual sense as to the place you occupy, may, by its moral influence on the feelings, have the effect both of introducing and of nourishing the right principle. It is not by imagining I am a saint, that I will become so; but by reflecting on the condemnation due to me as a sinner - on the way in which it has been averted from my person - on the passage by which, without suffering to myself, I have been borne across the region of vindictive justice,and conclusively placed on the fair and favoured shore of acceptance with God - The sense and the reckoning of all this, may transform me from thesinner that I am, into the saint that I am not.

The executed criminal, who has been galvanized into life again, may be sent forth upon society;and there exposed to the temptation of all his old opportunities. It is not by reckoning of himself,that he is now altogether dead to the power of these temptations - it is not by reckoning himself to been honest man, that he will become so. It is not by reckoning falsely of his character, that he will change it into something different; but by reckoning truly of his condition, he may bring a moral consideration to bear upon his heart, that will transform his character. How shall I who for theft have passed through the hands of the executioner, recur to the very practice that destroyed me? And how, in like manner, says the believer, shall I who have virtually undergone this sentence of the law, that the soul which sinneth it shall die - how shall I, now that I have been made alive again, continue in that hateful thing, of whose malignant tendencies in itself, and of whose utter irreconcihableness to the will and character of God, I have, in the death of my representative and my surety, obtained so striking a demonstration? It is not the sense or reckoning that you are a sanctified man - it is not thus that the work of sanctification is done. It is the sense or reckoning that you are a justified man - it is this which has thesanctifying influence - it is this which does the work, or is the instrument of doing it.

Mark then, my brethren, the apostle's receipt for holiness. It is not that you reckon yourself already pure; but it is that you reckon yourself already pardoned. it is not that you feel as if the fetters of corruption have as yet been struck off; but that you feel as if altogether lightened and released from the fetters of condemnation, and that you may go forth in the peace and joy of a reconciled creature. And somehow or other, this, it would appear, is the way of arriving at the new spirit and the new life of a regenerated creature.And how it should fall with the efficacy of a charm on a sinner's soul, when told, that the first stepping-stone towards that character of heaven after which he has been so hopelessly labouring, is to assure himself that all the guilt of his past ungodliness is now done away - that the ransom of iniquity is paid - and that by a death the pains of which were never felt, the penalties of that law he so oft has broken shall never reach him. It is indeed levelling the mountains, and making the crooked paths straight, when such a high way of access is thrown across the gulph of separation that is between sin and sacredness; and never, my brethren, will this transition be made good, - never will the sinner know what it is to taste of spiritual joys, or to breathe with kindred delight in a spiritual atmosphere, till, buried in another's death, and raised in another's righteousness than his own, he can walk with the confident peace of one who knows that he is safe, under the secure and ample canopy of the offered Mediatorship.

So that the apostle tells us here, and in the imperative mood, to reckon that our death by sin is over and gone by; and this too, you will observe, for the purpose of bringing about our sanctification.What a powerful and practical outset does he afford to his career? He dreads no antinomianism. He fearlessly bids the people to count, that one man has died for them all; and he bids them habitually reckon upon this, recur to it, keep it in memory, always be acting and holding fast the confidence that they begun with, and not cast it away. The man who is called upon to reckon that he was dead unto sin personally, would often feel as if out of his reckoning; and many a misgiving would visit him; and he might thus spend his life in the tossings of anxiety. But the man who is called upon to reckon that he is dead unto sin forensically, is presented with a solid foundation in that which Christ hath done for him; is simply bidden count upon that as a settled point, which has indeed been settled fast; and, when like to be abandoned by hope, he has only to feel for the solidity of his ground, and, in so doing, will find that it is rock of strength which he has got to stand upon.

And all this as the first step to a life of new obedience. All this as a primary command, among those which the apostle afterwards delivers, for the purpose of securing our transition from sin unto holiness. All this as a staff to support us on the narrow way of discipline and duty, as provision for our journey to the land of uprightness. And what I bid you remark in the first place, is the very peculiar instrument which the apostle puts into the hands of his disciples, for the purpose of making them regenerated creatures, - even a trusty reckoning, on their part, that they are already reconciled creatures; and what an evidence here of God's desire that you should feel at peace from the apprehension of His wrath, when it is this very peace that He proposes as the means of making you the partakers of the worth and purity of His nature!

But, in the second place, will the means be really effectual? It was so with Paul. He gloried not in himself - not in his crucifixion to sin - not in his resurrection to holiness; he gloried in the cross ofChrist, and the crucifixion to sin came out of this glorying. Thereby the world was crucified unto him, and he unto the world. The personal result came out of the forensic reckoning; and not a believer after him, who will not experience the same result out of the same reckoning. Your business is to count of yourselves, that in Christ your condemnation is discharged; that in Him your acceptance is granted. And the more steadfastly and constantly you keep by this business, the more certainly will you find to your blessed experience, that a new heart and a new history emerge from the doing of it. The hourly habit of reflecting upon the new condition in which Christ has placed you, will sustain an hourly influence, by which there shall germinate and grow the new character that Christ proposes should arise in you. You have laboured long perhaps, after the life of God and of heaven in the soul; but this is just because you have been labouring long in the wrong track, or with wrong instruments. Turn you now unto that doctrine,which is as much the power of God unto sanctification here as unto salvation hereafter; and know, from this time forward, that the way of reaching the life of holiness you aspire after, is to live a life of faith in the Son of God.

I have already adverted to some of the moral influences, wherewith the consideration of our having been as good as dead for sin, is so abundantly pregnant; and even with a reiteration that might have fatigued, and over satiated some of you, did I, in remarking on the second verse, expatiate at great length on what struck me as the first of these influences. It is the same with that which may be addressed to a man, who has been put to death fora crime, and then made alive again. A most impressive lesson to him, of the genius and character of that government under which he lives; of its hostility to the wickedness for which he suffered; of its intolerance for a transgression, into which if he again fall, there may be no mercy and no re-admittance from the sentence that will be surely in reserve for him. And, in like manner, the sinner,who, through Christ, has been restored from condemnation, learns, both in the sentence that was incurred, and in the atonement that was rendered,what a repulsion there is between sin and sacredness; and how, if the character of God be the same that it ever was, he, in sinning wilfully, dares over again the still unquelled antipathies of the Godhead - and, that if he gives himself up to the old service, which reduced him at first from the one rightful authority, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversary.

God forbid, that we should continue in sin, that grace may abound - or, because we havebeen brought back again within the limits of God's beloved family, we should fetch along with us that which before had banished us forth of a domain - from which sin, of all other things, must be rootedout, because sin of all other things is that which most sorely and most grievously offendeth.But hlie does not know all, if he only know of that inheritance to which he has been readmitted,that no sin is suffered to have occupancy there.This is only knowing the quality of that which is exiled from heaven's family; but it is not knowing the quality of' that, which is welcomed and cherished, and carried to uttermost perfection there. It is only giving me to understand the character of the outcast; but it is not giving me to understand the character of the guest. By being dead with Christ, the door of entry is again opened for me in-to the great household of the blest; and it is well to be solemnised into the impression, that I must shun the hateful thing which banished me there from.

But I should also be led to aspire, and withall my earnestness, after that estimable thing which stamps the character and constitutes the honour and the delight of this rejoicing family. The disgraced felon, whose frauds had expelled him from society, when again introduced within its limits, is furnished by all his recollections with a strong and actuating motive, to put all the atrocities of his former life away from him; but not only so, - by his strenuous cultivation of the opposite virtues - by the scrupulous integrity of his dealings - by the high-minded disdain, in which he should hold even the slightest deviations from the path of honour - by the sensitive nicety of an uprightness, on which no discernible flaw can be detected - he might re-gain a distinguished place in that living circle, the esteem and happiness of which he had before forfeited; and reach a status of positive credit and enjoyment, in room of that ignominy which beforehad covered him. And the same of heaven on the other side of death, and also of the road which leads to heaven on this side of death - the same of the habit and condition of paradise hereafter; and the same most assuredly of the habit of preparation for paradise here. He who is dead with Christ, and so freed from condemnation, is not ushered at once into the celestial regions: but he is forthwith set on the journey which leads to them. And, with his eye full on the moral and spiritual glories of the place that is above, he will learn that sinlessness is not enough - that he must be strenuous in the pursuit of positive goodness - that to lay up treasurein heaven,he must become rich in all those graces that adorn and dignify the wearer - that to be receivedand welcomed as a member of the upper family, he must acquire the family likeness; or gather upon his inner man all those features of piety and loveand humbleness and temperance and purity, whichgo to make up a portrait of affirmative excellence,and to stamp on every desire and on every doing the expression of holiness unto the Lord.

The starting-post at which this race of virtue begins, and from which this noble career of progressive and aspiring excellence is entered on, is your freedom from condemnation, through the death of Christ. It is your reckoning by faith upon this, which cuts asunder that load, by which the compressed and heavy-laden energies of the soul are restrained from bursting forth on a pathof hopeful activity ; and it is this, that, with emancipated powers now awakened to life and to liberty, you press onward to that summit of perfection that is yet seen by you from afar, but to which you have bent your determined course, and are ever running, as for the prize of your high cal-ling in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But to our progress on this great moral and spiritual journey, the reckoning of the text is indispensable. Without this reckoning, you are chained to the sluggishness of despair. With this reckoning the chain is broken; and the sluggishness is dissipated; and the faculties of the mind are not only freed, but they are urged and stimulated in a holy and a heavenward direction. For, among the thousand other guarantees for the faith of the gospel being indeed a purifying and an inspiring faith, mark it, my brethren, that a sense of pardon will never enter behievingly into the sinner's heart, without its being followed up by a sense of obligation; and gratitude to Him who first loved you, will incite you to all that you know to be gladdening or acceptable to His bosom: And when you read, that He wants to rear all those creatures who are the travail of His soul, into so many illustrious specimens of that power with which He is invested-to adorn and to sanctify those whom He has saved - how can you refuse to be a fellow-worker with Him, in striving, by all the aids of His grace, to apprehend that holiness, for the sake of producing which in your spirit, you have been apprehended? How can you refuse to gratify in your own person and performance, the taste of Him who ever rejoices to behold the verdure and the beauty that sit on the landscapes of materialism ;- and will much more rejoice to behold in the church of the redeemed, on which He is ever shedding the water of life from above, the unspotted loveliness of a new moral creation, that now teems and rises towards that full accomplishment, when it shall be holy and without blemish before Him?

Thus it is that the desire of Christ, and yourdesire, meet together in the one object of your sanctification. Let the sinner's desire or this vent itself in prayer; and let the desire of the Saviour for this go forth upon the prayer, and hand it up perfumed with the incense of His own merits to Him who sitteth on the throne; and the descending of the Spirit on the believer's heart,will make sure that regenerating process, whereby he who is saved from the punishment of sin, will also most certainly be saved from its power. The man, who, in the faith of God's testimony, reckons himself a partaker of Christ's death and resurrection, is not reckoning beyond his warrant. But he who so reckons upon Christ hath received Christ; and the mighty vantage ground upon which he stands is, that he can now plead the declaration of God Himself, that as He hath given His own Son He will also with Him freely give all things; and the most precious of these, are the heart and the power to serve Him. It is thus that, through the door of reconciliation, you enter on the path of new obedience; and stil we comeback again to this, that the very reckoning of my text, is the thing which gives its first prosperous outset to the work of sanctification. It is thiswhich brings home to the believer's heart, the malignity of sin - it is this which opens to him the gate of heaven; and, disclosing to his view the glories of that upper region, teaches him that it is indeed a land of sacredness - it is this which inclines his footsteps along the path to immortality, which the death of Christ and it alone has rendered accessible It is this which conforms his character to that of the celestial spirits who are there before Him . For the will of Christ, whom he now loves, is, that he should be like unto Him; and the grateful wish and grateful endeavour of the disciple, draw forth from his labouring bosom that prayerof faith, which is sure to rise with acceptance, and is sure to be answered with power.

To conclude, I shall be pleased, if, as the fruitof all these explanations, I have succeeded in making palpable to any understanding, the great secret of what that is which constitutes the principle of evangelical obedience. The constant aim and tendency of nature is towards a legal obedience; and,in the prosecution of this, it is sure to land either in a spiritless formality, or in a state of fatigue and dissatisfaction and despondency, which, without the faith of the gospel, is utterly interminable.To believe in Christ, is the way to be holy here,as well as the way to be happy hereafter. A senseof peace with God thirough Him, when it enters the bosom, is the sure harbinger of purity there;and what you have plainly to do, that you may attain to the character of heaven, is to take up the reckoning of my text - even that the death by sin is conclusively gone through ; and that, the life by God being promised through Jesus Christ, the gate of heaven now stands open for your approaches through the way of holiness which leads to it. You have perhaps been practising at the work of reformation by other methods; and this is a method that may have been still untried by you. Try it now;and what can be more inviting, than to begin an enterprise with such an encouragement of friendship and of patronage upon your side? The man who sets out on the track of legalism, proposes to win this friendship by his obedience and to secure his patronage. But time man who sets out evangelically, counts on the friendship and the patronage as already his, and avails himself of all the aids and facilities that are abundantly offered to him. Make the experiment, my brethren. Take it up as a settled point, that in Christ your condemnation isdone away - that in Him your right to everlasting life is purchased and secured for you - that all the signals of honest and welcome invitation are now lifted up; and, floating in the eye even of the worst of sinners, are cheering him forward to the land of uprightness - and that every influence is provided, to help his movement from the character of that earth whence he is so soon to make an everlasting departure, to the character of that now open and accessible heaven whither he is asked to bend his footsteps. Enter upon this undertaking on the footing that your reconciliation is secured, and not on the footing that your reconciliation is yet to win. On the one footing you will fight all your days, at a distance from hope, and at an utterly impracticable distance from that heaven after which you are toiling so fruitlessly. Just make the attempt then on the other footing; and see whether all old things will not be done away, and all things will not become new.
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