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some corollaries, as well for instruction as for correction, and then finally for our consolation.
Instructions arising from this verse. 1. God will have Christ his Son to be the fountain and the bestower of this glorious life to all his faithful members : it is, therefore, not to be hoped for or supplicated from any others.
2. This Christ, being exalted to heaven, is removed from our sight: he is therefore to be apprehended by the eye of faith : and this ought to be the perpetual exercise of the pious, to soar towards heaven, to contemplate Christ glorified, and to render the assurance of that future glory certain to themselves.
3. The happiness of Christians is not placed in the things of the present life, but the whole depends upon the expectation of future things. The resurrection of the dead is the confidence of Christians, says Tertullian. Therefore there is need of special faith.
Consolations. 1. Not we ourselves, but Christ is the keeper of the eternal life promised to us: Therefore, although we are compelled to tremble, as often as we consider our frail condition in ourselves; yet, as often as we meditate on the most firm and faithful care of Christ, we send forth that triumphant voice of faith, I know that there is a crown laid up for me.
2. This glory in reserve for the pious is able to assuage all temporal calamities. Cyprian, writing against Demetrian, admirably treats this matter; he says, He, whose ontire joy and glory is in the world, suffers from worldly adversily : he, to whom there can be no well-being after the world, mourns under worldly misfortune. But the faithful bravely endure the ills and misfortunes of the world, whilst they look forward to future good and happiness. Vide Habbac. iii, 17, 18.
3. Nothing that is of any moment and worth can be snatched from the pious man. Against our good things (as they are called) of fortune, even against this frail life, the ungodly may prevail : but against the good things promised, and our eternal life nothing can prevail.
Reproofs. l. They are to be blamed, who, either never think, or think not with joy of Christ and the coming of Christ. For who can excuse their torpor who do not ardently desire the life of his life, who do not wait for that natal day of this new life with gladness?
2. And they also are deservedly to be blamed who seek the glory of this world: for what else is this than to wish to violate this Divine decree? He has decreed that the glory of Christians is to be expected on the second coming of Christ. In the meanwhile, it behoves us to bear the injuries and miseries of time, to dream not here of glory and happiness, unless hereafter to hear with Dives, Remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted and thou art tormented, Luke xvi. 25.
3. They are to be derided, or rather to be pitied as the madinen of this world, who think themselves happy because they enjoy the pleasures, the honours, the wealth of this world; and think the pious, on the contrary, to be most abject and miserable, because they, for the most part, are destitute. But those are not truly happy, for whom eternal misery remains, nor those miserable, whom eternal glory awaits. Well said Lactantius, Instit. 6. 22, As we arrive at true good through fullacious evils, so we come to real evil through fallacious good. And thus we dismiss the first member of the general exhortation.
Verse 5. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth;
fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covelousness which is idolatry.
Having gone through that former part of the exhortation which teaches us what is to be sought without us, and what to be avoided; the Apostle proceeds, and teaches what is to be extirpated and abolished within us, what is to be nourished and cherished. That former part directed us to seek the true end, viz. celestial blessedness; this directs us to enter upon the path which leads thereto, namely,true holiness. Now of this exhortation, which calls us to the life of holiness, there are two parts. In the former, he excites the Colossians to lay aside or to put off vicious actions and affections ; in the latter, to put on and exercise good ones. And the Apostle, in this and the following verse, persuades us to mortify, first, carnal vices, which immediately respect our peculiar, but unlawful pleasures ; secondly, in the verses which follow, spiritual vices, which tend immediately to the injury of our neighbour. But let us come to this fifth verse.
The Apostle here does two things : First, he proposes a general exhortation to the study of mortification ; Secondly, a particular enumeration of certain vicious deeds and affections which he would have to be mortified.
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth.] In these words you have the general exhortation to the practice of mortification. We may observe in them,
First, the connexion or dependence of the words; for the illative particle therefore, compels us to look to what goes before. They are thus then connected with the foregoing words: Because ye are risen with Christ, because ye are dead with Christ, because ye have a glorious life hid in Christ, THEREFORE mortify your members, &c. Hence we infer that our participation with Christ in dying, rising again, and ascending, is the strongest inducement to newness of life and holiness.
Secondly. Let us consider the act itself to which we are invited, expressed in this word, mortify, i. e. make the body of the old Adam as a dead carcase; that, although it may retain certain members and lineaments, yet they are inefficacious, being destitute of life and motion; i. e. Let not sin reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof; Rom. vi. 12. This our mortification, therefore, is nothing else than the study and the practice of repressing our corrupt nature, and restraining all unlawful actions and affections which are wont to spring from thence. But in this study these three things are involved : a serious determination of resisting sin; an avoiding of the occasions which are wont to induce us to sin; a careful use of all means which tend to the subduing of sin. A good determination averts the heart itself from the ways of sin; a diligent avoiding of it causes us not to return to it; the use of means, that we should be constant in our determination, and proceed happily.
But since the Apostle exhorts us to mortify our members, it may here be asked, 1st. Is mortification a human work, or of the human will ? The Apostle seems clearly to assert it in this place: but the whole Scripture proclaims our mortification and vivification to be the effects of the Divine power alone, produced by the Holy Spirit regenerating and inspiring new life into men. Which are born not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God, John i. 13. We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, Ephes. ii. 10. Rightly said Gerson, part. 3, God not only quickens the dead in sins, but stirs up the affections of the soul to a desire for this quickening. And Augustine, The freedom of the will does not prevail in those things which pertain to God, but only in the works respecting the present life, Contra Pelag. hypognost. lib. 3.
We shall easily solve this difficulty, if we will consider what sort of persons those were of whom the Apostle is here speaking. For he is speaking not of the profane and the dead in sins; but of Christians, i. e. those whom he presumes to be regenerate: and he commands them to mortify their members, &c. Therefore, for the sake of perspicuity, we must admit the existence of a twofold mortification: First, that which we may call habitual or internal, and this is the work of the Divine Spirit alone, infusing it where he will: but this mortification he effects whilst he infuses himself into the human soul together with the gifts of his grace, by the efficacy of which the power and dominion of sin is mortified and overthrown. Secondly, that which we call external or practical ; and this is the work of the renewed man himself, whilst by the aid of the Spirit, he brings forth the fruits of that internal mortification, that is, whilst he resists the temptations of sin, whilst he restrains inordinate affections, whilst he diligently takes care lest he fall into unlawful deeds; for he who does this is said to mortify his flesh. Therefore, the act of mortification attributed to us is nothing else than the 'svépyarch, or operation springing from infused grace, even that which we have called the internal or habitual mortification effected by the Holy Spirit.
2. It is again asked, How this Apostolic exhortation agrees with the preceding ? He had said, ver. 3, that they were dead, now he adds, Mortify your members : but what necessity is there that any one dead should be still ordered to mortify himself?
The solution depends upon what was before said. First, then, we answer, that the Colossians were dead sacramentally by having received baptism; but are bidden to mortify their members actually, viz. in the conversation of life: now these things are accordant, not contradictory. Secondly, we say that they were moreover dead by habitual mortification, viz. through the effect of internal mortification infused into their hearts by the Holy Spirit: and they ought to mortify themselves by a practical mortification, exercising infused grace in opposing their lusts. Thirdly, we also add, that the cause of natural death and spiritual mortification are different. He who has undergone natural death is vainly commanded any more to mortify himself daily; because natural death is pure privation, and · admits not in the subject of it any thing contrary : but spiritual mortification is not pure privation ; for whilst we carry this mortal body, every thing inducing to the contrary is to be relinquished, because it must be perpetually