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1. The apostle expressly includes himself among those whose former state he had been considering.* To the same purpose the apostle includes himself in the following description. "For we ourselves were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another."+
2. The same expression is applied generally to those who never were heathens. "And another of his disciples said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said, Let the dead bury their dead," the meaning of which is obvious. Let those who are spiritually dead, who are therefore totally unqualified to serve me in the gospel, perform such offices as those, to which they are fully equal; but for thee, thou art fitted for a higher and nobler employment-go thou and preach the gospel.
3. It is the declared intention of Jesus Christ, by his appearance in our world, to give life to the world by exhibiting himself as the bread of life. "I am come that they might have life."§ Here we have the affirmation of him that cannot lie; that those, whosoever they be that are destitute of saving faith, are also destitute of spiritual life. They have no life in them;" which can surely be understood in no other sense valent to the passage before us.
than what is equi
* Eph. ii. 3, 4.
+ Tit. iii. 3
Matt. viii. 22. || John vi. 53.
4. True christians, without any exception, are described as persons who have "passed from death unto life."* "He that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but hath passed from death unto life." "Hereby we know we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren; he that loveth not his brother abideth in death."
Here the moral state of the world is supposed to be separated by an invisible boundary into two regions, a region of life and a region of death; and it is implied, that none come into the former, that is, that of life, but by passing into it from the latter. They were not natives of this blessed region, but migrated or travelled to it from an opposite one. And who are those remaining in a state of death? "He who loveth not his brother," that is, who loveth not christians as christians, which is certainly the character of all the unrenewed and unregenerate. We are justified, then, in applying this description-" dead in trespasses and sins," to every person who has not been renewed by the grace of God.
It is time to proceed, in the next place, to explain the import of this representation, or to unfold some of the leading particulars included in a state of spiritual death.
1. It implies a privation, or withdrawment, of a principle, which properly belongs, and once did + Ibid.
* John v. 24.
‡ 1 John iii. 14.
belong, to the subject of which it is affirmed. It would be quite improper to speak of any thing as dead which was never endued with a living principle. We never speak of the inanimate parts of creation, such as earth and stones, as dead, because they are as they ever were; no living powers are extinguished in them. But from whatever once had life, when that life is withdrawn which it formerly possessed, we affirm that it is dead. Thus we speak of plants, of animals and men, when bereft of the vital principle, as dead. The death that overspreads the souls of the unregenerate consists in privations, in the withdrawment of what originally belonged to the soul of man, that gracious communication from God which is life. As the life of the body is derived from its union with the immortal spirit, and continues no longer than while that union subsists, so the life of the soul is derived from its union with God. Sin dissolved that union. In consequence of sin the blessed [God] withdrew from the soul, and the effect of that is, that though it is not deprived of its natural powers, as the body, even after death, still continues to subsist as matter; its life and happiness are gone.
The withdrawment of God is, with respect to the soul, what the withdrawment of the soul is, in relation to the body. In each case the necessary effect is death; and as that which occasioned that withdrawment is sin, it is very properly denominated a "death in trespasses and sins." Now this
view of the subject ought surely to fill us with the deepest concern. Had man never possessed a principle of divine life, there would have been less to lament in his condition. We are less affected at the consideration of what we never had, than by the loss of advantages which we once possessed. We look at a stone, or a piece of earth, without the least emotion, because, though it be destitute of life, we are conscious it was never possessed. But, when we look upon a corpse, it excites an awful feeling. Here, we are ready to reflect [and] say, dwelt an immortal spirit; those eyes were once kindled, those limbs were once animated by an ethereal fire, and a soul was once diffused throughout this frame. It is now fled, and has left nothing but the ruins of a man. Did we view things in a right light, we should be far more affected still in contemplating a dead soul. Here, we should remember, God once dwelt. The soul of man was once the abode
of light and life. "How is the gold changed, and the fine gold become dim!" It is now overspread with carnality and darkness. It is now a lost, fallen spirit.
2. To be dead in trespasses and sins, intimates the total, the universal prevalence of corruption.
Life admits of innumerable degrees and kinds. There is one sort of vegetative life, as in plants, another subsists in animals, and in man a rational, which is still a superior principle of life. Where life is of the same sort it is susceptible of different
degrees. It is much more perfect in the larger sorts of animals than in reptiles. The vital principle in different men exists with various degrees of vigour, so that some are far more animated, alert, and vigorous than others. But there are no degrees in death. All things, of which it can be truly said that they are dead, are equally dead. There are no degrees in privation; thus it is with all who are dead in trespasses and sins. They are all equally dead. They may possess very estimable and amiable qualities, such as naturally engage the love of their fellow-creatures; but, being equally destitute of a principle of spiritual life, they are all in one and the same state of death; they are governed by the same carnal principle; they are in the flesh, and therefore cannot please God.* They are alike subjects of the prince of darkness; they serve the same master, and belong to the same kingdom. Every unsanctified person is totally" alienated from the life of God,"—is totally devoid of love to Him, and a perception of his true glory and excellence. How can it be otherwise, when he is under the influence of that "carnal mind which is enmity against God?"+ There are some sinners who are of so winning and gentle a disposition, that we are ready to flatter ourselves it is easy to conduct them to God, and to form them to the love and practice of true religion; but, when the experiment is tried, we soon find ourselves undeceived. *Rom. viii. 8. + Rom. viii. 7.