Life From The Dead
“And you has He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
OUR translators, as you observe, have put in the words, “has He quickened,” because Paul had thrown the sense a little farther on and it was possible for the reader not to catch it. They have but anticipated the statement of the fourth and fifth verses–“God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ.”
Here is the point. God has quickened us who were dead in trespasses and sins, spiritually dead. We were full of vigor towards everything which was contrary to the Law of God or the holiness of God–we walked according to the course of this world, but as for anything spiritual, we were not only somewhat incapable and somewhat weakened, but we were actually and absolutely dead. We had no sense with which to comprehend spiritual things. We had neither the eyes that could see, nor the ears that could hear, nor the power that could feel.
We were dead, all of us, and yet we were not all like one another. Death may be universal over a certain number of bodies and yet those bodies may look very differently. The dead that lie on the battlefield, torn by dogs or birds, rotting, corrupting in the sun–what a horrible sight! The corpse still looks like life, yet your beloved one in the coffin is as dead as the mangled bodies on the battlefield. Corruption has not yet done its work and tender care has guarded the body from what will surely come to it, yet there is death–sure, complete death–in the one case as well as in the other.
So we have many who are lovely, amiable, morally admirable, like he whom the Savior looked upon and loved, yet they are dead for all that. We have others who are drunks, profane, unchaste–they are dead, but not more dead than the others–it is only that their death has left its terrible traces more plainly visible. Sin brings forth death and death brings forth corruption! Whether we were corrupt or not is not a question that I need to raise here–let everyone judge concerning himself. But dead we were, most certainly. Even though trained by godly parents, though well instructed in the Gospel scheme, though saturated with the piety that surrounded us, we were dead, as dead as the harlot of the street, as dead as the thief in the jail.
Now, the text tells us that though we were dead, yet Christ has come and, by His Spirit, He has raised us out of the grave. This text brings us Easter tidings! It sings of resurrection! It sounds in our ears the trumpet of a new life and introduces us into a world of joy and gladness. We were dead–but we are quickened by the Spirit of God! I cannot help stopping a minute to know whether it is so with you, my dear Hearers, and praying that what I might have to say act as a kind of sieve, separating between the really living and those who only think that they are alive, so that, if you have not been quickened–if you are only “a child of nature, finely dressed,” but not spiritually alive–you may be made aware of it. If you have been quickened, even though your life is feeble, you may cry to the living God with the, “Abba, Father,” which never comes from any lips but those which have been touched and quickened by the Holy Spirit!
- First, let us talk a little about OUR QUICKENING. You who have been quickened will understand what I say. To those who have not, I daresay it will seem as an idle tale.
Well, dear Friends, if we have been quickened, we have been quickened from above. “You has HE quickened.” God, Himself, has had dealings with us. He has raised us from the dead! He made us at the first and He has new-made us! He gave us life when we were born, but He has given us, now, a higher life which could not be found anywhere else. He must always give it. No man ever made himself to live. No preacher, however earnest, can make one hearer to live. No parent, however prayerful, no teacher, however tearful, can make a child live unto God. “You has HE quickened,” is true of all who are quickened! It is a Divine spark, a Light from the great central Sun of Light, the great Father of Lights. Is it so with us? Have we had a Divine touch, a superhuman energy, a something which all the learning and all the wisdom and all the godliness of man could never work in us? Have we been quickened from above? If so, I daresay that we remember something of it! We cannot describe it–no man can describe his first birth–it remains a mystery. Neither can he describe his new birth–that is still a greater mystery, for it is a secret inward work of the Holy Spirit, of which we feel the effect, but we cannot tell how it is worked.
I think that, usually, when the Divine Life comes, the first consciousness that we get of a quickening is a sense of pain. I have heard that when a man is nearly drowned, while he lies under the power of death, he feels little or nothing–perhaps even has pleasurable dreams–but when, in the process of restoring him, they have rubbed him till the blood begins to flow and the life begins to revive a little–he is conscious of pricking and great pain. One of the tokens that life is coming back to him is that he wakes up out of a pleasant sleep and feels pain! Whether it is so or not with every person restored from drowning, I do not know, but I think that it is so with every person restored from drowning in the river of sin! When the life begins to come to him, he feels as he never felt before–sin that was pleasant becomes a horror to him! That which was easy to him becomes a bed of thorns. Thank God, dear Hearer, if you have living pangs! It is an awful thing to have your conscience hardened, as in the very fires of Hell, till it becomes like steel. To have consciousness is a great mercy, even if it is only painful consciousness and if every movement of life within seems to harrow up your soul. This Divine Life usually begins with pain.
Then, everything surprises you. If a person had never lived before and had come into life a full-grown man, everything would be as strange to him as it is to a little child–and everything is strange to a new-born man in the spiritual realm into which he is born. He is startled a hundred times! Sin appears as sin–he cannot understand it. He had looked at sin, before, but had never seen it to be sin. And Christ now appears so glorious to him–he had heard of Christ, before, and had some apprehensions of Him–but now he is surprised to find that the One who he said had no form nor comeliness is, after all, altogether lovely! To the new-born soul, everything is a surprise. He makes no end of blunders. He makes many miscalculations because everything is new to him. He that sits upon the Throne says, “Behold, I make all things new”–and the renewed man says, “My Lord, it is even so.” One said to me, when joining the Church, “Either I am a new creature, or else the world is altogether altered from what it was. There is a change somewhere.” And that change is from death to life, from darkness into God’s marvelous Light!
Now, as life comes thus with strange surprises, and mingled with pain, so, dear Friends, it comes often with many questions. The child has a thousand things to ask–it has to learn everything. We little think of the experiments that children have to go through before they arrive, even, at the use of their eyes. They do not know that things are at a distance–they have to learn that fact by looking many times. So long as the object falls upon the retina, the child is not aware of whether it is distant or a near object till some time later. What you think that you and I knew from our birth, we did not know–we had to learn it. And when a man is born into the Kingdom of God, he has to learn everything and, consequently, if he is wise, he questions older and wiser Believers about this and about that. I pray that you who are instructed and have become fathers never laugh at babes in Grace if they ask you the most absurd questions. Encourage them to do so! Let them tell you their difficulties. You, by God’s Grace, are a man–this little one is but a new-born babe–hear what he has to say.
You mothers do this with your little children. You are interested, you are pleased, you are amused with what they say. Thus ought instructed saints to deal with those who have been newly quickened. They come to us and ask, “What is this? What is that? What is the other?” It is a time of asking, a time of enquiring! It is well, also, if it is a time of sitting at Jesus' feet, for there is no other place so safe to a new-born Believer as the feet of Jesus! If he gets to the feet of anybody else, he is apt to get ill-instructed at a time when everything warps his judgement–when he is exceedingly impressionable–and not likely to forget the mistakes that he has made if he has borrowed them from others. So you see what the Divine Life does when it comes into the soul. It comes to us with pain. It gives us many surprises. And it suggests a large number of questions.
We begin, then, to make a great many attempts at things which we never attempted before. The new-born child of God is just like the new-born child of man in some things and, after a time, that child begins to walk. No, it does not–it begins to crawl–it does not walk first. It creeps along, pleased to make any kind of progress, and when it gets up on its little feet, it moves from one chair to another, trembling at every step it takes and, presently, down it goes! But it gets up, again, and so it learns to walk.
Do you remember when the new life came into you? I do. I remember the first week of that new life and how, on the second Sabbath, I went to the place where I had heard the Gospel to my soul’s salvation, thinking that I would attend there. But, during that week, I had made a great many experiments and tumbled down a great many times, and the preacher took for his text, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” I thought, “Yes, I know all about that–that is my case.” When the preacher said that Paul was not a Christian when he wrote those words, though I was only seven days old in Divine things, I knew better than that, so I never went there again! I knew that no man but a Christian could ever or would ever cry out against sin with that bitter wail! And I knew that if the Grace of God was not with him, he would have rested satisfied and content–but if he felt that sin was a horrible thing and he was a wretched man because of it and must be delivered from it–then he surely must be a child of God, especially if he could add, “Thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Beloved, we make many mistakes and we shall continue to do so. At the same time, we learn by our experiments. You remember when you began to pray–would you like to have your first prayer printed? I believe that God liked it better than many of the collects! You might not like it so well–it would not look well in print. You remember when you first began to confess Christ to a friend? Oh, you stuttered and stammered over it! There were more tears than words. It was not a “dry” discourse–you wet it well with tears of grief and anxiety. That was the new life putting forth powers with which it was not, itself, acquainted, and I believe that there are some of God’s children who have powers that they will never find unless they try to use them! I should like some of you young men who do not pray at the Prayer Meeting to make a start. And some of you older men, perhaps, have never preached–but you might if you tried–I wish you would. “I would break down,” one says. I wish you would! A breakdown sermon–that breaks the preacher down–might break the people down, too! There might be many advantages about that kind of discourse.
This, then, was the way in which the new life, spiritual life, came into us. We did not know what it was when it came. We had never felt like that before. We could not think that we had really passed from death to life and yet, in looking back, we are persuaded that the throes within–the anguish of heart, the longing, the pleading, the wrestling and the crying would never have been in a dead heart–but were the sure marks that God had quickened us and we had passed into newness of life!
II. Now, secondly, let us think of OUR PRESENT LIFE. “You has He quickened.” Well, then, we have a new life! What is the effect of this life upon us? I speak to you who are quickened by Grace.
Well, first, we have become now conscious towards God. The unconverted man lives in God’s world, sees God’s works, hears God’s Word, goes up to God’s House on God’s Day–and yet he does not know that there is a God! Perhaps he believes that there is because he was brought up to believe it. But he is not cognizant of God–God has not entered into him–he has not come into contact with God.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I think that you and I can say that to us the surest fact in all the world is that there is a God! No God? I live in Him! Tell a fish in the sea there is no water! No God? Tell a man who is breathing that there is no air! No God? I dare not come downstairs without speaking to Him! No God? I would not think of closing my eyes in sleep unless I had some sense of His love shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Spirit. “Oh!” one says, “I have lived 50 years and I have never felt anything of God.” Say that you have been dead 50 years–that is nearer to the mark! But if you have been quickened by the Holy Spirit 50 minutes, this would have been the first fact in the front rank of all facts–God is, and He is my Father, and I am His child! Now you become conscious of His frown, His smile, His threat, or His promise! You feel Him–His Presence is photographed upon your spirit–your very heart trembles with awe of Him and you say with Jacob, “Surely God is in this place.” That is one result of spiritual life.
Now you have also become sympathetic with similar life in others. You have a wide range, for the life of God–His life in His new-born child–is the same life that is in every Christian! It is the same life in the new-born Believer as in yonder bright spirits that stand before the Throne of God. The life of Christ, the life of God, is infused into us in that moment when we are quickened from our death in sin. What a wonderful thing it is to have become sympathetic with God! What He desires, we desire. His glory is the first objective of our being. He loves His Son and we love His Son. We desire to see His Kingdom come as He does and we pray for His will to be done on earth, even as it is in Heaven. We wish that death did not remain–the old nature hampering us–but in perfect proportion as the new life is really in us, we now run parallel with God. The holiness which He delights in we aspire after. Not with equal footsteps, but with tottering gait we follow in that same path that God has marked out for Himself. “My soul follows hard after you; Your right hand upholds me.”
The new life that made us sympathetic with God, holy angels, holy men and with everything that is from above, has also made us capable of great pleasure. Life is usually capable of pleasure, but the new life is capable of the highest conceivable pleasure! I am certain that no ungodly man has any conception of the joy which often fills the Believer’s spirit. If worldlings could only know the bliss of living near to God and of basking in the light of His Countenance, they would throw their wealth into the sea–and 10,000 times as much–if they might but get a glimpse of this joy that can never be bought, but which God gives to all who trust His dear Son! We are not always alike. Alas! We are very changeable, but when God is with us–when the days are spiritually bright and long and we have come into the midsummer of our heavenly bliss–we would not change places with the angels, knowing that, by-and-by, we shall be nearer to the Throne of God than they are and, while they are God’s honored servants, yet they are not beloved sons as we are! Oh, the thrill of joy that has sometimes gone through our spirits! We could almost have died with delight at times when we have realized the glorious things that God has prepared for them that love Him! This joy we never knew till we received the new life.
But I must add that we are also capable of acute pain to which we were once strangers. God has made our conscience quick as the apple of the eye. He has made our soul as sensitive as a raw wound so that the very shadow of sin falling on the Believer’s heart will cause him great pain and, if he does go into the actual sin, then, like David, he talks about his bones being broken and it is not too strong a figure of the sorrow that comes upon the believing heart when sin has been committed and God has been grieved. The heart, itself, then, is broken and bleeds at thousands of wounds! Yet this is one of the results of our possessing the new life and I will say this–the sharpest pang of spiritual life is better than the highest joy of carnal life! When the Believer is at his worst, he is better than the unbeliever at his best! The Believer’s reasons for happiness are always transcendently above all the reasons for joy that worldlings can ever know.
Now, dear Friends, if we have received spiritual life, you see what a range of being we have–how we can rise up to the seventh Heaven or sink down into the abyss. This new life makes us capable of walking with God–that is a grand thing! We speak of Enoch walking with God and we look at the holiness of his life. But did anybody ever think of the majesty of his life? How does God walk? It needs a Milton to conceive of the walk of God! But he that has the Divine Life walks with God–and sometimes he seems to step from Alp to Alp, from sea and ocean, accomplishing what, unaided, he would never even attempt! He that has the Divine Life is lifted up into the infinities–he gets to hear that which cannot be heard and see that which cannot be seen–for, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. But God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit,” when He has given us the new life!
One effect of this Divine life is to put life into everything that we do. They tell me that “creeds are dead.” Yes, yes! It is a pleasant thing to hear an honest confession–they are dead to dead men! I hold nothing as the Truth of God that I can put away on a shelf and leave there. My creed is part of my being! I believe it to be true and, believing it to be true, I feel its living force upon my nature every day! When a man tells you that his creed is a dead thing, do not deny it for a minute–there is no doubt of the fact. He knows about himself better than you do. Oh, dear Friends, let us never have a dead creed! That which you believe, you must believe up to the hilt! Believe it livingly, believe it really–for that is not believed at all which is only believed in the letter, but is not felt in the power of it!
If you have been quickened by the Spirit of God, your prayers are living prayers. Oh, the many dead prayers that are heard at the bedside–so many good words rushed through at a canter! He that is alive unto God asks for what he needs and believes that he shall have it–and he gets it. That is living prayer. Beware of dead prayers! They are a mockery to the Most High. I do not think that a living man can always pray by clockwork, at such a time and such a time–that would be something like the minister’s sermon which he “got up” beforehand–and upon which he wrote in the margin “weep here,” or, “here you must show great emotion.” Of course that was all rubbish–it cannot be done to order! You cannot resolve to “groan at one o'clock and weep at three o'clock.” Life will not be bound like that!
I love to have an appointed season for prayer and woe unto the man who does not have his time for prayer! But, at the same time, our living prayer bursts out hours before the appointed time, or sometimes it will not come at the time! You have to wait till another season and then your soul is like a hind let loose. Why, sometimes we can pray and prevail, and come off conquerors–and at another time, we can only bow at the Throne and groan out, “Lord, help me; I cannot pray; the springs seem to be all sealed.” That is the result of life! Living things change. There are some persons in St. Paul’s Cathedral–I have not seen them, lately, but I have seen them. When I lived in the country I came up to look at the notabilities in St. Paul’s Cathedral. I have heard that they have never had a headache in the last hundred years! They have had no rheumatic pains, nor have they been troubled with the gout, The reason is that they are cut in marble and they are dead! But a living man feels the fog and the winds. He knows whether it is an east wind or a west wind that is blowing. Before he gets up in the morning, he begins to feel, sometimes, lively, and sometimes ill. He does not understand himself. Sometimes he feels merry and can sing hymns. At another time he can do nothing else but sigh and cry, though he scarcely knows why! Yes, life is a strange thing–and if you have the Life of God in your soul, you will undergo many changes and not always be what you want to be.
If we are alive unto God, every part of our worship should be living. What a deal of dead worship there is! If we go on with our services in regular routine, a large number of our friends find it difficult to stay awake. I fear that some people go to a place of worship because they get a better sleep there than anywhere else. That is not worship which consists in doing as Hodge did, when he said, “I like Sunday, for then I can go to Church, put my legs up and think of nothing at all.” That is all the worship a great many render to God–just getting to a place of worship and there sitting still and thinking of nothing at all. But if you are a living child of God, you cannot do that! If, sometimes, through the infirmity of the flesh, you fall into that state of slumber, you loathe yourselves for it! And you rouse yourself up and say, “I must worship my God; I must sing, I must praise God. I must draw near to Him in prayer.”
III. I must come to my third point, for our time flies. Notice what OUR PRESENT POSITION IS if God has quickened us.
Our present position is this, first, that we are raised from the dead. “He has quickened us together with Christ, and has raised us up together.” We cannot live where we used to live. We cannot wear what we used to wear. There is nobody here who would like to go and live in a grave. If you have been raised from the dead, after you had been buried in Norwood Cemetery, I would guarantee you that you would not go there to sleep tonight! So the man who has once been raised by the quickening power of the Holy Spirit quits the dead–his old company does not suit him. If you had been raised from the dead and had come out of your tomb, you would not go about London streets with your shroud on! You are a living man! How is it that I find some who say they are people of God but are rather fond of wearing their grave clothes? I mean that they like the amusements of the world. They like to put on their shroud, sometimes, just for a treat. Oh, do not do it! If God has made you to live, come away from the dead! Come away from their habits, manners and customs! Life sees no charm in death. The living child of God likes to get as far as he can away from the death that once held him bound. “Come out from among them, and be you separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” That is the first part of our position–that we have come to live a separate life, now, and have quit the path we trod before.
Next to that, we are one with Christ. He has “quickened us together with Christ, and has raised us up together.” I told you just now that the life which the Holy Spirit gives us when we are born again is the Life of God. We are made partakers of the Divine Nature, but, of course, in a modified sense, but still in a true sense. The life everlasting, the life that can never die, is put into us, then, even as Christ said, “The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” The Believer’s life is the Life of Christ in the Believer! “Because I live, you shall live, also.” What a mystic union there is between the Believer and his Lord! Realize that! Believe in it! Rejoice in it! Triumph in it! Christ and you are now one and you are made to live together with Him! God grant you to know the joy of this condition!
Once more, we are told, “He has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” That is very wonderful! We have not only left the dead and become joined to Christ, but we are made to sit in Heaven with Christ. A man is where his head is, is he not? And every Believer is where his Head is. And if we are members of Christ’s body, we are in Heaven! It is a very blessed experience to be able to walk on earth and look up to Heaven. But it is a higher experience to live in Heaven and look down on the earth–and this is what the Believer may do! He may sit in the heavenlies–Christ is there as his Representative. The Believer may take possession of what his Representative is holding on his behalf. Oh, to live in Heaven, to dwell there, to let the heart be caught up from this poor life into the life that is above! This is where we should be–where we may be if we are quickened by the Divine Life!
One thing more and I have done. We are in this position, that God is now working in us, through this Divine Life, to make us the most wonderful reflectors of His Grace that He has yet formed. He has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His Grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” The ages to come will have for their wonder the quickened children of God! When God made the world, it was a wonder, and the angels came from afar to see His handiwork. But when Christ makes the new creation, they will say no more that God made the Heaven and the earth, but they will say in higher strains, “He made these new-born men and women! He made for them, and in them, new heavens and a new earth.”
Ah, Beloved, “It does not yet appear what we shall be.” God has given us a life that is more precious than the Kohinoor, a life that will outlast the sun and moon! When all things that are shall be like an old ocean’s foam which dissolves into the wave that bears it and is gone forever, we shall live–and we shall live in Christ and with Christ, glorified forever! When the moon has become black as a sackcloth of hair, the life that is within us shall be as bright as when God first gave it to us! You have the dew of your youth, O child of God, and you shall have yet more of it! You shall be like your Lord when He shall take you away from every trace of death and the corrupt atmosphere of this poor world! And you shall dwell with the living God in the land of the living forever and forever!
The practical outcome of all this is that some of you do not know anything at all about it. If you do not, let the fact impress you. If there is a Divine Life to which you are a stranger, how long will you be a stranger to it? If there is a spiritual death and you are dead, be startled, for within a little while God will say, “Bury My dead out of My sight.” And what will happen to you when the Word of God is, “Depart, depart, depart, depart,” and unto the graveyard of souls, to the fire that never shall be quenched, you and the rest of the dead are taken away? “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” and, unless we are made alive unto Him, He cannot be our God either here or hereafter! The Lord impress this solemn Truth on all your hearts by His own Spirit, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.