Once Dead, Now Alive
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”— Ephesians ii. 1.
I PREACHED to you, this morning, the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and its various bearings; but unless you have experienced spiritual resurrection, you do not understand that doctrine, and you cannot grasp its meaning. Spiritual resurrection may be understood in theory; but it cannot be really comprehended until we ourselves have been raised out of spiritual death. Ever remember that, in the things of God, knowledge is only to be gained by personal experience. If you would understand regeneration, you must be born again. If you would understand faith, simple as it is, you must yourselves believe.
To-night, I want to give you another exposition of spiritual quickening as it is described in my text: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” There are three things about which I am going to speak to you; first, you were dead; secondly, some of you have been quickened; and, thirdly, of those of you who have been quickened it can be truly said that you are now alive.
I. First, then, YOU WERE DEAD.
I think that I must, in imagination, take you into that death-chamber. The blinds are all drawn down, there is a great hush about the room; here is a coffin; it is covered with a white cloth, turn it back gently, and stand with me, and look at the person who lies sleeping there. He is dead. Alas! there is woe in the family, for the brother is dead. Here is the terribly true picture of what we were by nature; I mean, what we all were, and what many still are. God grant that they may be delivered from this sad condition!
To find out what spiritual death means, I shall ask you to remember that this dead body here is characterized by an absence of sense. Be not afraid, it is your brother man; come close up to him, and speak. He does not hear you. Speak more loudly; he does not answer you, he gives no sign of recognition. Shout at the very top of your voice; stoop down, and speak into his ear. Alas! it is the clay-cold ear of death, upon which no effect whatever is produced. I remember when I was spiritually just like that. I could not hear even the voice of Jesus, though it was very soft and tender. He said, “Come unto me,” but I did not respond to his call. There were others near me who did; but I was dead, and took no notice. Then there came a louder sound, a voice of threatening, a message of condemnation. God spoke from the top of Sinai, and hurled at me the ten great thunderbolts of his law; yet still I did not hear. I had broken all those commands, and I must bear the penalty of disobedience; the law told me so, but I did not hear. Friends led me, sometimes, dead as I was, where both the law and the gospel were fully preached; but I did not hear, I could not hear. Sounds went past the drum of my ear, and my body heard; but the ear of my heart was not reached, I could not hear, for I was dead.
Let us see if our friend in the coffin can see. Here, lift up the coffin-lid, wave a lighted candle before his eyes; pull up that blind, let in the sunlight. He does not see; and he cannot see. There are none so blind as the dead; and there was a time with me,— and I use myself sorrowfully as an example,— when I could not see. I could not see my Lord, I could not see his love, I could not see his bleeding heart, I could not see his thorn-crowned head, I saw no beauty in the altogether-lovely One. I was wrapped up in my own worldly pleasure, and in myself, and I was not alive unto God. Ah, me! this is indeed death, to be unable to hear or to see.
Can this dead body perceive anything by smelling? Here, bring that smelling-bottle, and place it close to the man’s nostrils. It contains the strongest volatile salts, that would make the tears come to some of our eyes; but it does not affect him. Burn the rarest incense, fill the chamber with the smoke, yet he recks nothing as to what sweet perfume is in the room. And well do I remember when my mother told me that there had been much unction about the sermon, and my father said that the Lord was there, and that it was as when one breaketh a box of ointment, and the house is filled with the sweetest odours; but I protest to you that I discerned nothing of its fragrance. There was to me no spiritual sweetness, no subtle delight about the doctrines of the gospel, for I was dead.
Perhaps this man may have lost the power of sight, and hearing, and smelling; but yet he may be alive. Let us see if he has any sense of taste. Bring hither the most nauseous drug, or give me gall and wormwood, and I will put a few drops on his lips. These things are not loathsome to him. Now let us try sugar and honey, and all things that are luscious and sweet. Evidently, you might as well lay these things upon a slab of marble, for the dead man has no taste for them. It was just so with me spiritually. I knew not, in those days, the sweetness of the gospel of Christ, nor even the bitterness of sin. I had no taste, for I was dead; and that is what you all were, my brothers and sisters. That is what some are who are sitting at your side in the pew, dead, having no taste for heavenly joys.
But, perhaps, after all, these senses may be gone, and yet life may remain. Let us see if the man can feel; let me press his hand very gently. No, he does not press mine in return. I will stoop down, and kiss the face of this my brother; but there is no smile upon his countenance, though he would have smiled in other days. He is dead; and he can feel nothing of pain or joy. It is a dreadful thing to be sitting in God’s house, as perhaps some of you are, feeling nothing whatever. I would give my eyes, nay, I would give even my life to save this company if I knew how to speak so as to reach men’s hearts; but there is no mode of human language that can make a dead heart live, or make a stony heart to beat with the pulsations of life. This comes from another and a higher power than mine. But, apart from the operations of the Spirit of God, all are by nature dead, and this is what some of you are even now, spiritually dead, and therefore devoid of holy senses.
There is another test that we may apply, to see if there is an absence of desire. I will speak to this dead man, and say, “Friend, you lie here dead; do you know it? You who cannot feel, or hear, or see, do you wish to live? Do you desire to live? There is no answer to my question; but I can tell you that, because he is dead, he does not even desire to live; and this, too, is the state of many spiritually. They have not any wish after heavenly things. You are quite content if you have money enough to pay your way, or if you have enough to enjoy yourself at the theatre, or in some worldly gaiety; but as for God, and Christ, and heaven, these may all go for anything that you care. You have no desire for them, you are dead, and dead to the very things for which men were made to live, and by which alone men do live. You are dead, and you have no desire after life.
Shall I speak to the corpse again? It is no use, for the man has no senses, and no desire. Beside that, there is an absence of power. Has not this man the power to get life, the power to do something good? I lift his hand; it drops down powerless. I try the other hand; it is no sooner up than it falls down again. It is evidently useless to attempt to force him to any action, for he is without power. We also were “without strength.” Oh, how can this dead man live if he can do nothing towards making himself alive? I will tell you that by-and-by; but, meanwhile, this is an essential part of death, that the man is “without strength.”
Further, in those who are naturally or spiritually dead there is an absence of fellowship with the living. If this man cannot do anything for himself, let us get him up, and dress him. Come hither, good woman, you who washed him, come, and put on his best clothes, and make him sit up. It was not long ago that we saw the picture of a dead emperor lying dressed in his warrior’s garments; so dress this man up in his Sunday suit, and let him sit at the table with his wife and children. You shudder at the suggestion, and tell me that it is impossible. Yet the Egyptians set a skeleton at their feasts, so as to remind themselves of death, and it was not altogether unwise; but if I had my choice of a place at the table, I should not elect to have our bony friend next to me; and I think that, if the dead were seated at our festivals, we should all naturally shrink from that part of the table. Thus you can see what death does spiritually; it shuts you out of fellowship with the living people of God. You were in a room, the other night, where there were half-a-dozen Christian people; and you said to yourself, “This is about the dullest evening I have ever spent.” You went to a service, the other day, where there was much prayer, and you made fun of it when you came away, it was so dreary to you. Yes, of course it was; and if you were condemned to go to heaven,— no, I have not made a mistake, I mean what I say,— if you were condemned to go to heaven, it would be a hell to you. You would not be able to endure that constant praise of God, that perpetual adoration of him, which is the occupation of the blessed; you would have no heart for that. “Let me out,” you would say, “I had rather go to my own place than stop here.” Thus, you see, you are dead; and the dead are shut out from fellowship with the living.
Then, once more, there are tokens of decay. We will not take this man from the coffin, we will let him lie there. Look at him; it is now four days since he was pronounced to be dead. I noticed, when I came into the room just after his death, that his face looked perhaps more sweet than it did during his lifetime. It often happens that, when the time of the extreme pain which brought on death has come altogether to an end, the face seems to regain its former sweetness, which was obliterated by the pain, and the man looks more beautiful than before; and often the countenance appears restful, though the heart before death was full of anguish. Yes, but that was a little while after death when I noticed this sweet expression of face. How is it with the corpse four days, five days, say, six days after death? Ah, me! come, undertaker, screw this coffin-lid down; it is not meet that any other eye should look at this ghastliness, or that anyone else should see those tokens of decay. It is just so spiritually. The young man, who is dead in sin, may, under his mother’s care at home, look very beautiful; there may be no trace of spiritual death about him. You might think him, and he may think himself, better than a great many Christians. Have I not heard him say that it is so? But give him time to show what he really is. Bring him to London; place him in a large warehouse; let him go out in the evening, and let there be nobody to meet him but the strange woman. Ah, within how short a time the destructiveness of horrible sin may be seen in his character! Could that fond mother, who sent him from her fireside comparatively pure, see what he has become, she might almost say, “Bury him out of my sight.” This is the way we were all going to decay till our Lord Jesus appeared to us, and stopped the corruption by dethroning death, and putting spiritual life into us through faith in himself.
I think that, perhaps, I have said enough on that part of my subject, so I will not take you to that death-chamber again.
II. Now, in the second place, dear friends, to all who have believed in Christ it can be truly said, “YOU HAVE BEEN QUICKENED.” So the text says, “You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
Do you recollect how that happened? I can only speak about myself in such a matter as this, because one man cannot enter into another’s experience; but I think that what I see in myself, you have seen in yourselves, you who are alive unto God. There came a time when I began to live. I recollect it well; I can not only remember when the new life first came into my soul, but I can distinctly recall the first effect of it. I am told that, when a man has been drowning, and he begins to return to consciousness, when they rub him back to sentient life, the first sensation is that of exquisite pain as the blood begins to flow again in the channels in which it had been quiescent. When the life-blood began to flow in my heart spiritually, it gave me nothing but pain. I was lost, and I felt that it was so. I was not dead, was I, if I felt? Then I heard the gospel, and I did hear it, too, with awful distinctness. I remember to have had, on one occasion, a slight deafness, and when the surgeon had attended to my ears, and I went into the street, I wished myself deaf again, for all the noises were so dreadful to my ears, so intense was every little sound. We ought to thank God that we do not hear more than we do; if we heard more, we should not hear anything at all, we should hear so much that the different sounds would not convey any meaning to our mind. So was it with me; I heard too much. The thunder of the law deafened me; and when I heard the voice of the Saviour, it seemed to say, “You have rejected me, and I have left you to perish. The door of mercy is now shut, and will not be opened to you.” I began to feel what sin really was, and to realize that I could not escape from it, and that a just God must punish me. Yet I consented to the punishment, dreadful as it was, and confessed that I did not wish the Lord to be unjust even to save me. This was the tremendous terror of my state, that I had received a living consciousness of what was right, and sided with the right, yet all the while felt that the righteous Judge condemned me.
What happened after that? Being quickened, and having felt this pain, after a while I woke up as out of an awful sleep, and I seemed to say to myself, “Where am I?” I had been born into a new world. Some of you know the egg-shell of this poor sinful world; but you do not know the real life of it. A man may go dreaming on through this world, seeing the sun, and moon, and stars, and all things that are visible; but he may never have discovered the true life which is invisible. So it was with me. If, all of a sudden, this lamp here could be made into a living thing, it would be a strange change for it to find itself alive in the midst of this crowd of people, where it has stood so long, a poor, dead, metallic thing. There was some such change as that wrought in me; I thought that, if the world was not new, I was. Something wonderful had happened to me; I can tell you that I had a sort of twist that day, and I have never got over it, and I have no wish to get over it. Everything seemed different to me; I looked at all things through new eyes, and heard with new ears; and, somehow, I discovered what I had never dreamed of, for I talked to God, Christ was near me, his Spirit was within me, I saw living men and women in this new world, and I began to wish to get amongst them, and would have been glad to have washed the feet of any of them so long as they would but permit me to be in their company. I remember that experience; do not you? We must all have felt something like that if we have really been born from above.
And then, being thus alive, we had to learn everything. You see, a person just born into the world, and knowing nothing, is like a newborn infant. I suppose that, when an infant first sees, it cannot measure distances; it does not know whether a thing is close to it, or far away. All that the eye can bring to it seems flat at the first. Mothers do not always reflect how little their children know, and how all the things that we know as a matter of course were really learned by experience. Once we did not understand much, just like babes that do not at first comprehend what is said to them, and could not reply to it even if they understood it. There are a few simple words, or syllables, by which they speak to mother and father, and you are very pleased when they are able to say them, and you talk of it to one another as a great achievement when baby has uttered a whole sentence. I have heard you, and I remember doing the same thing myself; it is so natural for us to like to hear the first words of our children. That is just how it was with God and ourselves spiritually; we had everything to learn. We were alive, but we did not know much; we were rather puzzled by some of our big brothers and sisters, but our heavenly Father accepted our broken utterances, and our oft-mistaken words. We did see, though we did not know much about the laws of perspective. We did hear, though we did not understand music and harmony. We did feel, and that was a proof that we were alive. Oh, what a mercy that was!
Very soon, we began to have new wants. Do you recollect that experience? We felt a new hunger; we had never had that while we were dead. We wanted to feed on the truth of God. Do you not remember when you went to hear a certain popular preacher deliver one of his wonderful sermons, and everybody else spoke of it as “splendid,” but you said to yourself, “I do not know what there was in it, but certainly I did not get any food for my soul”? Another time, you were taken to hear a plain, simple minister, who talked about Jesus and his love, and others exclaimed, “He is a poor preacher, with no name, and no fame,” but you said, “I do not know how it is, but I am satisfied with the feast I have had, I feel as if I had been sitting at the King’s banqueting-table.” Ah, God’s people know the difference between flowers and fruit! They know the difference between meat, and mere plate, and spoon, and fork; and they are not to be deceived. You remember when you began to hunger, and to thirst, and oh! when you drank your first draught of the living water, you could not make out what it was. You see, you had been dead, and all these things were new to you. What was hunger? What was thirst? How did you come to have such sensations? You never hungered after Christ, you never thirsted after the gospel, while you were dead in sin; but now you have many things that are quite new to you, new fears, new cares, new doubts, new aspirations.
Let me remind you that you also had new joys. Your heart began to dance at the sound of Christ’s name. You never danced at the sound of that name while you were dead; but when you had received spiritual life, that dear name had all the music of heaven in it when it rang in your ears, and your heart responded, “Jesus, precious Jesus,—
“‘No music’s like thy charming name,
Nor half so sweet can be.’”
Oh, what rapture you had in those early days! You went forth with joy, and were led forth with peace. The mountains and the hills broke forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field did clap their hands. That delight has not gone from you now, has it? You are still happy in the Lord, you can sing as joyously as ever,—
“Oh happy day, that fix’d my choice
On thee, my Saviour, and my God:
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell its raptures all abroad!”
You see how it is with you now; life has brought you, as a new creature, into a new world; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new. So far, I hope that many have been able to follow me.
III. Now comes the closing point, and I must say only a few words upon it, for I should like you to sing a verse of “Happy Day,” ere we separate. The third division is, YOU ARE NOW ALIVE. Yes, as many as have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ are spiritually alive. Does not he say, “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”?
You are spiritually alive. Very well, then, do not go lack to the grave. It was a madman’s taste to go and live in a cemetery. The demoniac at Gadara had his habitation among the tombs, and surely nobody in his right mind would think of having such an abode as that. If you are alive, do not go and live in the grave. Sometimes, a person says to me, “Tell me, sir, may I go to such and such a place of amusement?” When I hear the name of it, I say, “Well, if you want to go, go; if you are dead, go and be buried with the dead, we do not want any dead souls among the living in Zion. If that sort of thing is to your taste, go and enjoy it; but if you are a child of God, it will not be your taste. If you are alive from the dead, you will not want to go and live in a charnel-house.” I once was in a place where there were said to be at least ten thousand skulls heaped up, one above another, from floor to ceiling; I should think that there must have been quite that number, and as I walked along through those rows of skulls, every one of them seeming to be grinning at me, I did not ask to be allowed to stop there all night. So, he that is spiritually alive does not wish to dwell with sinners in ungodliness; their merriment would be his misery, that which is their delight would cause him the most exquisite pain. “Let me get out of this,” he would say, “this is no place for me.” To chain a living man to a skeleton, would be a horrible torment; do not you, I pray you, be chained to a dead man, or a dead woman either, and do not seek your company among the dead. You are alive; therefore, do not go back to the tomb.
Next, you are alive; therefore, do not be carried on a bier. I have seen living men carried about on biers. Here is a man who has long heard the good old-fashioned gospel; but, the other day, he met with a believer in evolution, one of the monkey-worshippers of whom I told you last Thursday night, whose father is not in heaven, but up a tree. “Oh!” said the foolish man, as he listened to the heresy-monger, “this evolution theory is a very wonderful thing,” and so three or four of them bore him off on a bier, carried him away from the truth as it is in Christ. Of course, if the man is dead, the proper place for him is on a bier; but you are alive, therefore you know what the dead do not, and I pray that you may know it from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head, and stand up for the truth, defend it valiantly, and not be driven to and fro with every wind of doctrine, just as if you were only a stray straw in the street. Know what God has taught you, and be prepared to live by it, and to die for it, if need be. You are alive; therefore, be alive for the truth, and be not carried away on a bier.
Further, you are alive; therefore, do not be wrapped up in grave-clothes. Have you any on now? I should not wonder if you have. There is a piece of red stuff that many living persons still wear; it is called, “bad temper.” Oh, get rid of that fragment of grave-clothes, I entreat you! It smells of the tomb. The Lord help you to be sweet, and gentle, and meek! Do not wear your old grave-clothes now that you are alive from the dead. Were you covetous? Were you lustful? Were you false? Get rid of all these grave-clothes. Oh, that God the Holy Ghost may sanctify you, spirit, soul, and body, till you are clean delivered from these cerements of the sepulchre! Lazarus came out of the tomb with his grave-clothes on; but the Saviour said, “Loose him, and let him go,” and they took the napkin from his head, and the winding-sheets from about his body, and the man was free. Do not go about in a winding-sheet; put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man. The Lord help you so to do!
You are alive; then another exhortation is, get up and work. You are alive unto God. Are you so alive that you mean to sit down, and take it quietly now? Are you going to heaven in an easy chair? You have climbed up the gospel coach, sat down on the box seat, and you say that you mean to sit there as long as you live. Oh, you good-for-nothing wretch, do not talk about being saved; why, you are not yet saved from selfishness! When we are really saved, we begin to love other people as well as to love God, and we desire with all our might to spend and to be spent in the Lord’s service. You do not suppose that the Lord Jesus Christ came here to be a lackey to the lazy, do you? We are not saved by works; but if we have not works, we are not saved. We are saved by grace; but grace makes us a people zealous for good works. God grant that this purpose of mercy may be fulfilled in each one of us who was dead, but is now alive!
You are alive now; therefore, glorify him who quickened you. If I had lived in the days of our Lord, I should have liked, if it had been possible, to have had a cup of tea with Lazarus. I think that I should have asked him down to my house, and should have said to him, “Lazarus, tell me all about your resurrection. You were dead, and your sisters buried you, and Martha said to the Lord Jesus, ‘By this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.’ Tell me, did you really hear that voice that said, ‘Lazarus, come forth,’ and did you know the sweet tones of the dear Master’s call? Were you dead, and did that sound bring life with it? How did you feel when you found yourself lying on that cold stone shelf in the sepulchre, and when the light came streaming in where there had been a stone before to shut it out? Do you remember how you felt when you shuffled out, and came from the sepulchre all wrapped up in the grave-clothes?” “Oh!” Lazarus would say, “my dear brother, I cannot tell you much about these things; but I remember that the first thing I saw, when they took the napkin off my eyes, was that blessed Man, my Lord and my God, and I knew that he had raised me from the dead, and I felt that I could lie at his feet, and die again of overwhelming love. I loved him so, for he had raised me from the dead. Do not talk about me, speak about him; go forth, and preach about him to others, wherever you have an opportunity, say that he raised me from the dead, that he can raise others from the dead, and he can make death yield up all his spoils, through the power of his resurrection life.” That is what I want all you, who are spiritually alive, to do, go forth and tell what Jesus has done in raising the dead to life.
I have finished when I have said just this word to the unsaved. Trust Jesus; trust him now; come to him now even by one gracious stride of faith, for he is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by him.