Anthony Tuckney (1599-1670) on Christ as the causa finalis of a Christian’s life

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Anthony Tuckney (1599-1670) was a divine of the Westminster Assembly, successively master of Emmanuel and St John’s colleges in Cambridge, and Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, before being removed from his positions at the Restoration (1660).

In a 1658 sermon in the University Church of St Mary before the University of Cambridge, Tuckney preached on Phil. 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”, in which he touched on Christ as the causa finalis of a Christian’s life:

Christ is a Christian’s life, when he is causa finalis, when he, his honour and service is the main end and scope, at which in the course of his life he chiefly aimeth and labours to promote, as knowing or designing no end of his life than to live to God, according to Ps. 119:17, Deal bountifully with thy servant that I may live and keep thy Word. This is that, which interpreters generally agree in to be principal thing intended by the Apostle in this expression [i.e. for me to live is Christ] which diverse of them diversely paraphrase, but to the same purpose.

If I live it is to Christ, so the Æthiopick reads it. Non alia causa volui vivere, nisi Christi, I would not live for any cause else, but Christ’s. So Hierom [i.e. Jerome], I have consecrated my life to Christ and his Gospel. So Estius, He is the scope of my life. So Piscator, Si vixero, nihil aliud mihi proposui, non alia mercede vivo, &c. I propound nothing else in my whole life, I desire no other stipend or wages for all my work and warfare, but only to honour and serve Christ in the Gospel. So Calvin. Aquinas (methinks) well resolveth it. Life importeth motion, and is the active principle of it; and therefore as in other cases, the end that moves the agent to act he properly calls his life (Ut venatores venationem, amici amicum): So Christ and his glory (as being that, which as his main end, setteth the Christian on working) may well be called his life, in which he liveth, and in the design and prosecution whereof the strength of his life is spent and exercised.

Christ is his A and Ω, all he hath or is, he hath from him, and all he is, hath, or can do, is all for him. All manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, I have laid up for thee, O my beloved, saith the spouse (Song of Songs 7:13). The best, the all of a Christian’s abilities, gifts, graces whatsoever, and how precious soever they be, they are all for Christ, ready prest to serve him, paid in as a tribute to him. As of him, so to him are all things (Rom. 11:36). As there is one God the Father of whom are all things, and we εἰς αὐτόν for Him, so one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him (1 Cor. 8:6), yea, and to him and for him: for of him it’s elsewhere said, Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord; and so whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (Rom. 14:8). And these last words give a sufficient reason of the former: if we are the Lord’s, then we should live to the Lord; if we be not our own men, but Christ’s ransomed servants, then, as the Master’s service, honour, and advantage is or ought to be the servant’s aim and scope in his whole employment, so Christ’s should be ours, and so he becomes our life.

For we live much in our ends and designs which we project and endeavour to promote, and according to them, though not only yet especially, our lives are to be judged of. As in other cases, so in this particular, if the constant tendencies and real intentions of our souls be seriously for Christ, to please, honour, and serve him, this is to have Christ for our life, and thus to live (in the Apostle’s phrase here) is Christ, when (as he spake in the verse foregoing) our ἀποκαραδοκίαν, the earnestest outlookings of our souls are, that Christ may be glorified by us, whether by life or by death. And this is best, when it is in our more frequent actual thoughts and intentions of it; however it must be in our inward general and habitual disposition, frame, and purpose of heart, and constant course of life, as a traveller’s resolved intention of his journey’s end at his first setting out, and after progress in the way to it, though at every step he maketh he do not actually think of it.

In a word, when we own no other interests but Christ’s, or at least none that are contrary, but only such as are reducible and subordinate to it, when we neither start nor pursue any other false games, which (adversa fronte) broadly look and run counter contrary to him, no nor with a squint eye look aside to these golden apples of pleasure, profit, or other self-advantage cast in our way, when we seem to take never so speedy and straight course to him: but when our eyes look right on, and our eyelids look straight before us, as Solomon speaketh (Prov. 4:25), as they (Jer. 50:5) who asked the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, and as it’s said of our Saviour, τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ἦν πορευόμενον, that his face was going, or, as though he would go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:53), so when with a single eye and heart we directly and indeclinably eye and look at Christ and his glory, so that all that observe us may well take notice which way our eye and heart look, this is to have Christ indeed fully both in our eye and heart, and so Christ is our life, when thus in our heart, the seat of life.

– Anthony Tuckney (1599-1670), Forty Sermons upon Several Occasions (1676), p. 655-657.