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new and heavenly life must be entered upon by those who are risen again with Christ. 2, The indwelling corruption of our nature must be mortified by those who are dead with Christ.
It remains that we proceed to the parts of this Chapter. And here we have a two-fold exhortation : A General one which regards all Christians alike, from the beginning of the Chapter to verse 18. A special, or personal one, which is directed to certain orders of Christians, namely, to wives and husbands, children and parents, servants and masters; from the 18th verse to the end of the Chapter. The general exhortation is distributed into three branches.
The first, comprehended in the four first verses, teaches us how, and stirs us up to seek the true end, that is to say, heaven, and Christ dwelling in heaven.
The second exhorts to the practice of those things which are ordained to this end. And this practice consists in mortification, i. e. the laying aside of vices; and vivification, i. e. the exercise of all virtues : concerning which he discourses largely from the 5th to the 16th verse.
The third calls to the meditation and study of the Divine Word, and likewise prescribes a general rule to be observed in all our actions, vers. 16 and 17.
I conceived these things should be premised, because we are led more easily by parts to the knowledge of the whole. I shall not follow out more of this sort, because (as Seneca has well observed) there is in too many divisions as great a fault as in no division. It is useful to distribute a subject matter into parts; it is frivolous to mince it: for to take in the minutest points with the same care as one would the greatest, is mere toil. Therefore, we shall observe the parts and smaller matters of the divisions as they offer themselves in the explanation of the context, which, relying upon the Divine aid and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we forthwith enter upon.
CHAP. III. Verses 1, 2. If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are
above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the
Having established the doctrine of the Gospel, and vanquished the seducers, the Apostle comes to the business of exhortation, that he might train to holiness of life those whom he had brought to hold the truth of faith. But this exhortation arises and is deduced from the twelfth and thirteenth verses of the preceding Chapter, where these words occur, Buried with him in baptism, who hath also raised and quickened you: hence he now infers, If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above. We have said that the first branch of the general exhortation is included in the four first verses; and has for its object to excite the Colossians to aim at and desire the true good, viz. what is spiritual and divine; and, moreover, to beget in them a contempt of apparent good things, viz. corporeal and earthly ones. And the Apostle acts prudently in prescribing and defining, in the first place, the thirst for the true end: since inordinateness of the will as to the end, engenders inordinate and monstrous actions through the whole course of our life ; for as the form is the principal in natural things, so the end is in morals.
But to come to the matter itself, here are two things to be observed by us.
1. The duty to which we are excited by the Apostle, comprehended in three precepts : Seek those things which are above; Opoveīts, i. e. think upon and love the things above; seck not after, neither mind, earthly things.
2. The inducements, or motives (as they say) to the performance of this duty. For the seeking and loving the things above, two inducements are brought: one taken from our resurrection; vers. 1, Ye are risen with Christ: the VOL. 11.
other from the exaltation of Christ; where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. For the despising earthly things two others are used; the first derived from our spiritual death ; Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ, vers. 4; the latter, from the expectation of our life of glory; When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
1. Of the duties. Seek those things which are above.] The word Seek indicates labour and effort; and, to use the scholastic phrase, excludes sluggish willingness. By the things which are above we must understand, in the first place, the kingdom of heaven, or the beatific vision of God, and those pleasures to be hereafter enjoyed with Christ our Head and the blessed angels, which neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, 1 Cor. ii. 9. But, secondly and consequently, we must understand those gifts of grace which are the seeds of this desired glory, as faith, love, holiness, and all those means by which, as by an intermediate path, God would have us proceed to this mark of heavenly glory. For Augustine hath properly remarked, that these things may also be called things which are above, because as to the excellency of their worth they far surpass earthly things ; as, furthermore, because all things of this kind are bestowed from above, and come down from the Father of lights, Jas. i. 17. When, therefore, the Apostle exhorts to seek those things which are above, he would have us to understand, that we ought not only to seek celestial pleasures, but so to live that we may at length attain to them. For he who does not advance in faith, love, and holiness, he does not, by the whole course of his life, seek heaven, but hastens to hell.
Hence we infer,
1. That heaven is not given to the indolent, but to those who seek it by great labour, Seek ye the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, Matt. vi. 33. And elsewhere, the violent take it, not those who slumber.
2. Celestial pleasures are not possessed in this life : we should, therefore, long after and patiently expect those
things, being certain to obtain them at last, if we seek them as we ought to do.
Tå "aww Opoveīte, Mind the things above, think upon or savour them.] The word opovɛīte, in our translation set your affections, embraces two acts; the act of the mind or of the understanding reflecting about any thing; and the act of the will and affections approving and loving any thing: Therefore, the Apostle would have us raise our minds to heaven, and perpetually have those things above at heart ; neither that alone, but that we should ardently love those things, and fix our affection upon them. Unless we join these two, no one will prepare to seek heavenly things ; for there is no desire of a thing unknown: it is, therefore, necessary to know, and frequently to revolve in mind, these heavenly things; for no one seeks that about which he thinks not: But neither is it sufficient to think, unless it is done with love and affection; for nothing is sought by us except that which is desired and loved. Bernard truly observed, The understanding and the affection in men are sometimes opposed to each other, so that the one knows and approves the things which are above, although the other is found to desire the things on the earth. When that happens, the mind is distracted and torn away, not excited to seek. Hence it is that Paul exhorts us not only to know, but to savour the things which are above.
Hence we learn :
1. That it is the duty of a pious and Christian man, always to have in mind that heavenly kingdom, and those heavenly good things which relate to the attainment of it. We observe this in Abraham, the father of the faithful, of whom the Apostle testifies, Heb. xi. 10, that he looked for a city which hath foundations. This we read of the Christians of the primitive Church, who had this kingdom above so frequently in their minds and discourse, that from thence they fell under the suspicion, among the heathen, of aiming at the sovereignty. Just. Martyr. Apol. 2. ad Antoninum.
2. It is also their duty who hope they shall obtain eternal blessedness, to order the course of their life according to heavenly considerations; and to judge of all matters
with a constant reference to these supernal things : for this is effectually to savour the things above, viz. to be so affected by their excellence and sweetness, as to thirst for them with an insatiable desire, and refer all things to the attainment of them. The Psalmist felt this love in his heart, and well expressed it, Psal. xlii. 1, As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. Hence we may conclude, that all they who promise themselves the happiness above, when, in the meanwhile, they do not at all savour the things above, are delighted as by a certain pleasing dream, and never will be satisfied with those things, because they were never wont to thirst or hunger for them at heart. The last branch of this exhortation remains.
Not on things on the earth ; supply, seek and savour.] The Apostle calls all those things, in which the kingdom of God does not consist, things of the earth; as riches, pleasures, honours; and I add, in fine, those ceremonies and observations which centre in things earthly and corporeal : for this hortatory conclusion being drawn from our death and resurrection with Christ, it shews all those things to be of no esteem. But now they are said to savour of or seek earthly things, who place their happiness in these things, who by these earthly blessings (as they are called) are inAuenced in all their judgments and decisions. These sensualities are well depicted by the Apostle, in Phil. ii. 18, 19, Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ : whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, di tè eniyela OpovoŨNTES, who mind earthly things. They were men of this kind, whom our Saviour censured in his parable, Luke xiv. because, while they regarded fields, oxen, and wives, altogether neglected the call of salvation.
Hence we may observe,
1. That no one can savour of things heavenly and things of the earth at the same time. For if this could be done, there would have been no need of this clause denying and forbidding it; but it would have been sufficient to