CHRIST dwells in the hearts of his people by his blessed Spirit, and thereby commands their hearts in the exercise of faith in him, whereby they are brought to dwell in him. It is a reciprocal and social indwelling between Christ and his people. And this is what we are to search after for the proof of the godly reality of the matter; that we have true faith in Christ in our hearts, and that Christ by his blessed Spirit has taken possession of our souls, and so dwelleth in us by the Spirit which he has given us.
This blessed Spirit is said to be a Spirit of faith; and all the children of God that receive the Spirit of God do receive that blessed Spirit of faith in Christ. Now we are called upon to examine ourselves in this matter: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (2 Cor. 13:5) Christ dwells in the heart, where he is within, by his blessed Spirit, and that blessed Spirit dwells in us in and by regeneration, and forsaketh us not. He is in the children of God as the Spirit of faith in Christ. It is said of the Old Testament saints that they "obtained like precious faith with us;" and then, as touching the same, of us towards them: "We have received the same Spirit of faith with them."
There is an identity and sameness as it respects the faith of Christ from the creation, and will be unto the end of the world. There is but one true faith, the faith of God's elect, and this comes in regeneration. All the elect of God, sooner or later, are born again, and none are born again but those that are made partakers of this faith; for sin is not the new birth; that which is displeasing to God is not the new birth. Well, it is said, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin, and without faith it is impossible to please God." Now, of regeneration, or the new birth, it is said, "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." (1 John 5:4) Well, then, the main thing for us to search after and examine ourselves about is whether we be in the faith, and that faith in our hearts, and our hearts exercised in that faith towards Christ; for in the exercise of faith our hearts will certainly be engaged; for "with the heart man believeth," and not without it.
The point, then, for us to look for is, "Do I find Christ in my heart by his blessed Spirit? Do I find, by experience, that I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ in truth, with that faith which purifies the heart to love righteousness and godliness and to hate all evil? Do I find that faith that overcomes the world, and so stamps vanity upon all that is in it in comparison of the object of faith, the Lord Jesus Christ, yea, that stamps a deficiency in all relative ties in comparison with Christ?" "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26) It does not mean we are to hate them as individuals. No, but in that they are opposed to God, we are to hate that opposition that is in them: "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." (Matt. 10:37)
Well, now, to come to the point of the blessed Spirit being in us, of his dwelling in any person. This is an important matter; for "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his;" (Rom. 8:9) and if he do not belong to Christ, sad, sad indeed, and awful! This blessed Spirit none of those that are called the world (in distinction from the children of God) do receive. John says, "We are of God;" that is, children of God, born of God. "We are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness." (1 John 5:19) Some copies read, "In the wicked one," that is, the devil; for where Christ does not rule in the heart and soul, the devil is there. Hence it is said of the Spirit of Christ, "Even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive" (they cannot receive him), "because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." (John 14:17) Where he is not, there is no spiritual breathing; I mean no prayer that God regards: "Attend, O Lord, at my breathing, at my cry;" for there must be unto such breathing spiritual life within, and prayer is the breath of that life. "Your hearts shall live that seek God."
Again. Where the Spirit of God is not, there is no hungering for evidence of interest in the blood and righteousness of Christ, and they, and they only, are pronounced blessed by Christ himself that do hunger and thirst after righteousness; and the Lord has commanded his blessing in Zion, "even life fore evermore"--spiritual and eternal life. Therefore, there is no hungering, in a spiritual sense, in any one but such as are blessed of the Lord. "He has commanded the blessing in Zion, even life for evermore." (Ps. 133:3) There is the Spirit of life, and he moves the person to that groaning and concern for Christ and spiritual relief--after Christ and spiritual blessings from him, after him who has wrought redemption and salvation, and after blessings from him to supply the inward need of their souls; and they that are so exercised have the blessed Spirit within them.
Now, they who have not the blessed Spirit within them, what have they got? Why, they have the world for one thing. They have sin ruling for another. They have corrupt self for another; and they have the devil for another; for where Christ does not rule within, there Satan rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience. In the margin: "In the hearts of the children of unbelief," in those that are dead to God, and his spiritual service.
Now as touching this blessed Spirit dwelling in us, there are evidences that will look forth from time to time, so we may observe something for our encouragement: "Search the Scriptures" (but the world will not do that), "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me." (John 5:39) Now the tendency of the blessed Spirit of Christ, and of the blessed word of God, is a coming unto Christ. Hence it is said, "To whom coming as unto a living Stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:4,5) Their coming unto Christ is the motion of spiritual life, and the exercise of grace in the heart towards him. But that coming unto Christ may not be in the person a coming into his presence to enjoy him and be received by him. No; but it is a tendency mentally that way; it is a mental desire that way; it is a panting of heart towards him to come to him.
Now, observe this; for I do not expect all of you are strong believers in Christ, and so know it to your comfort and satisfaction that it is so; but you wish for evidence of interest in it. Well, now, are you exercised? Is there a cleaving to the gospel of Christ? Do you love it? If you do, there is an inward feeling in the heart towards Christ. Some of you may say, "How you cut me off." Stop; stop. There is real love to Christ in the desire to love him, as much as in the love of complacency and delight in him. This is the feeling: "O that I had his love to kindle that freedom in my heart towards him.
"The soul that with sincere desires
Seeks after Jesus' love,
That soul the Holy Ghost inspires
With breathings from above."
However dark he may be in his understanding, however he may fear he has no faith in Christ because he is full of doubts and fears that he shall fall short, however full of doubts and fears that the work of God in his soul is not the true work, yet he cleaves to the gospel of Christ, and says, "To whom else shall I go? Thou hast the words of eternal life; and having this persuasion, here I stand. O I wish I might come into his cause as truly belonging to it that I might enjoy his gospel unto the life of my soul." Well, are you afraid that you are not a true believer in Christ because you cannot see your faith? "Who is among you that feareth the Lord," that stands in reverential awe of sinning against him, "that walketh in darkness and hath no light?" Now it is in God's light that we see light, and that light shining upon the word of God discovers Christ; but when in darkness, and having no light, there may be fears that you shall fall short at last; but not so: "Let him trust in the name of the Lord;" that is, let him look to the Lord, lean upon the Lord, venture on the Lord; all which is meant by trusting in him. Well; but he cannot trust the Lord unless he has faith; for there is no trusting that is worth a rush that is not of faith; but such a one has true faith, or he would not love the gospel of Christ as he does.
There is another circumstance respecting faith: "Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye"--receive him in your heart, receive him into the visible church of Christ. "Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye; but not to doubtful disputations." We are not to judge of him as he judges of himself upon his doubts and fears, but to receive him notwithstanding his doubts and fears; for, although there is nothing good in them, we may discover something good in the person that has them, for they bespeak that nothing can give satisfaction to his heart and soul but Christ, which shows he is a true seeker, and one that shall find what he is seeking for. What is it? O for evidence of interest in Christ! What did the angel say to the women at the sepulchre? "Fear not ye, for I know that ye seek Jesus." If Jesus is what you are seeking with all your heart and soul; if Jesus is the uppermost, the chief matter of your seeking, all will turn well and end well; therefore such should not be disheartened.
Then there is another matter that Christ speaks of to one of his disciples who, when he saw Christ crucified, came to the conclusion it was all over, he would never revive; and when it was told him Christ was risen from the dead, answered, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." Now, Thomas means, "I will not believe that he is risen from the dead, unless I can have tangible evidence of it." Well, when the disciples were assembled together, and Thomas with them, Christ entered the room, and, calling to Thomas, he said, "Thomas, reach hither thy fingers, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing." Thomas did not want that tangible touch then. O, no! Nor was it the mere sight of Christ as being raised from the dead that convinced Thomas; but Christ prevented Thomas touching him by his touch of Thomas's heart. And what was that? Why, he not only appeared as risen from the dead, but he also appeared to Thomas heart the inward enjoyment of the godly reality of Christ as the Almighty God, the God-Man who had died in his manhood, but his Person the divine and eternal Jehovah; and therefore Thomas, instead of reaching out his hand, exclaimed, "My Lord and my God." Thomas spoke this freely; he spoke it from the godly reality of the matter within. Now, the Scriptures say, "No man can say Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost;" (1 Cor. 12:3) but Thomas said more than that, for he not only said, "It is the Lord,"--that was not the fullness of it to Thomas; but he also said, "My Lord and my God." No man can say Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost; nor can they say, "My Lord" and "My God." Then the Lord answered Thomas, "Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." Christ did not mean, blessed are they that have not seen him with the natural eye, but with the eye of faith to claim him as their Lord and God.
Here, then, a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and blessed with his Spirit, may not have that clear, full manifestation of Christ being his Lord and God, his Redeemer, Saviour, and Salvation, because it may be hidden for a time from this knowledge. What may it be hidden by? Darkness of soul. Sometimes a soul may be under darkness for a long time, and yet there is that movement in it that nothing short of Christ can satisfy. Well, but in the dark they cannot see anything to comfort. Never mind. The Lord can see the darkness, and remove it. He is exercising the soul in it unto a full capacity for Christ; and when he has brought the soul to this point, he shall receive his salvation to enjoy and supply his need. The Lord is not working in you to be a nonentity. No, he is drawing you after him to supply your need. "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." And so, whatever the trials, afflictions, and temptations they may be in, they will get through all, and safe to glory; and so will every one that is after Christ and his salvation, Christ and his grace. Though they do not find it as yet to comfort, they shall enjoy it in his good time. Hence Christ says, "What things soever ye desire." He means the things of Christ, the things within the compass of his great salvation. "What things soever ye desire, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." Believe that ye receive them as the gift of God to you, as belonging to you; for it is such as you are pronounced blessed in them, and ye shall have them in the Lord's good time to enjoy.
But, the seeking soul cannot get rid of one thing, and that is the body of sin and death. It cleaves to him, is present with him, surrounds him, and prevails against him. Mentally he would be and do but cannot; naturally and carnally he is and does that which he would not. "How to perform that which is good, I find not; for the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that do I." I do it. Well, then, can I be a child of God? Faith purifies the heart. But where is my heart purified? Faith overcomes the world. But where do I find that victory? Faith resists the devil, so that he flees away. But O I am beset with his temptations. He draws my heart and besets me there, and makes a very devil of me. How can I believe I am a partaker of the Spirit of God? Can ever God dwell in such a soul as mine? This made the apostle say, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" When he spoke in that way, he did not doubt His Deliverer, who would appear for him. No. But the manner in which he speaks denotes the craving of his soul to be delivered from the body of this death. Ah! That is the worse side of the matter, to be so dying towards God. This he adds, "I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." The apostle implies by this that he did not expect deliverance in this life; therefore he was willing rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord. Do you know what it is to have this exercise? Well, if you are a believer, if the blessed Spirit of God is moving in you, it is in a sense of spiritual poverty, and destitute state of soul, and after relief from the salvation of God, and God your salvation. It is after evidence of interest in Christ; it is a looking to the atonement that he has made by the shedding of his precious blood.
Again. Do you ever find a spiritual movement when you are hearing the gospel? Have you found it more than bare words? Has it come with a divine unction to your hearts? Have you felt that anointing that has joined it to your heart and soul, and so it has attracted you to the blessed gospel in affection to it: "He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me?" And have you been led to call upon the Lord for a blessing to come through the gospel to your heart, and you have found access at a throne of grace, and an echo back to your soul? What did you find then? Were your affections asleep? O no! David says, "I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications; therefore will I call upon him as long as I live." Love to Christ will knit the heart unto his blessed gospel.
"He it is that loveth me," and then Christ adds, "My Father will love him." It does not mean the Father's love is stirred towards him because of his love to Christ. No; for it is the Father's love which is at the bottom of it all, for there is not a spark of the Father's love to any one but in Christ. As Hart says:
"Worship God, then, in his Son;
There he loves, and there alone."
Then Christ says in another place, "Thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me," and "That the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them." So that the Father's love to the objects of it is in Christ the Mediator between him and them. And it must be there, and there to be revealed by his righteousness and death, by the sacrifice that he made unto all the attributes of God unto their perfect satisfaction and harmony. Otherwise it could not touch any heart; but through Christ, and through Christ alone, it does. Hence Paul says, "Nothing shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." There you must seek his love, and there only.
Well. Here is the true criterion of believing in Christ: "Unto you, therefore, that believe, he is precious." None know his preciousness but those who have true faith in him. "Unto you, therefore, that believe, he is precious," and such believing will meet in the heart and affections. He is come, and his preciousness flows into the heart; faith cleaves to him and embraces, and faith flows out in love to him. "Thou art all my desire, and all my salvation. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth I desire beside thee." He is in the heart. And what is he there? Why, your hope, your hope for eternity. "It is Christ in you the hope of glory." But though we have faith and hope in him while here below, which brings down heaven to us, "for faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," yet faith and hope will not be with us in heaven; for there is no need of faith and hope where vision and fruition are--the vision of his open presence to the full, and fruition in the everlasting enjoyment of him. But here below, faith and hope go to heaven for us, and bring down heaven to us; so that we may have a clear hope by faith and a heart enlarging in hope. "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began." (Titus 1:2)
Now, a child of God, having this experience, may be led in a way for his trial. Here is the world, here is the flesh, here are his relative ties, and here is the devil with all his allurements. This is one side; but here is the other, which is Christ, the hope of glory, which I shall be sure to have in eternity as I now have him by faith and hope.
What are all the allurements of time and sense? O! they are all a maze, all that is hurtful as it respects eternal things and matters, as its respects Christ in the heart the hope of glory. But while we are here below we may go to heaven for the things that he sends down: "Every good and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (James 1:17) There is nothing comes to us but what comes through Christ, and there is no happiness that we shall have when we get to glory but we shall have it in Christ; for glory is the fullness of all blessings and enjoyments in him. The apostle says to the Ephesians: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," where in the margin we read, "Hath blessed us with heavenly things." Now, some of these things we may have while here on the earth; such as faith, hope, love, repentance, and all the spiritual life of the soul, to make us more spiritual, godly, and heavenly minded.
And there are not only heavenly things, but heavenly places for us. Now, the spiritual blessings are in Christ Jesus, and the heavenly places are in Christ Jesus also. But we do not expect to jump into these heavenly places from the earth without passing a change; but we may expect to receive the blessings that are in Christ, to draw our hearts from earth to heaven; as it is said: "Set your affection on things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God." And he has all his family about him there.
The children of God, when they get to glory, will not be separated as they are here, a thousand miles apart. O no. "He hath made us to sit together (as one family) in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Well, we don't know what these heavenly places are; but they will be something that "eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man to conceive the things which God hath prepared for them that love him," for them that wait for him, for them that seek him, for them that long for him, for them that desire heavenly things while they live on the earth, that they may live not on earth but in heaven; and then, when the change comes, they will say, "Here I am, ready, ready."
This is our ordinance day, blessed be the Lord; and we are exhorted to attend unto it as unto the Lord's death: "As oft as ye eat of this bread and drink of this cup, ye do show forth the Lord's death till he come." In the margin it is in the imperative: "Show ye forth the Lord's death till he come." So that when this ordinance is attended to, that which is spoken should not be foreign to the subject, but it should be a dwelling on the Lord's death. He that died in his human nature is the Lord Jehovah. As Hart says:
"The mighty God Jehovah died
An ignominious death."
And therefore the death of the human nature being what we are all interested in, and blessed partakers of what redeemed us all unto the Lord and gave satisfaction unto all his attributes; and here it is that we may have access to God and freedom with him. Yea, his love may flow through Christ into our hearts to be sweetly enjoyed; because when Christ died it was the death of him who is the Lord, who died in his human nature. "He was put to death in the flesh." And therefore the atonement for sin, the complete work of redemption, and the complete salvation of the redeemed, all flow through this, that there is but one Person of Christ, and that Person the same Person that he was before he took the human nature. He was the almighty God,--a Divine Person, but now he is the God-man, and so Mediator between God and man, and therefore the complete redemption and salvation of his people, of the millions for whom he wrought the righteousness, suffered, and died.
Now it is called the Lord's death, and the table before your eyes is called the Lord's table; and the symbols upon it (the bread and the wine) represent the Lord's death: "As oft as ye eat of this bread and drink of this cup, ye do show forth the Lord's death till he come." And he has provided it in this world for us to attend as long as the world stands. When he gave the bread to the disciples he said: "Take eat. This is my body, which is broken for you. This do in remembrance of me." "After the same manner he took the cup, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood which is shed for many for the remission of sins." All which shows that this ordinance is to stand as long as the world lasts; for we are to show forth his death till he comes. It is to be done in obedience unto him. And we are to approach his table by faith in him; so that, when we approach his table, we are to approach it through the benefits of his death. This should be our one desire, that when we partake of the symbols of his death we may feed on his body as broken for our redemption, salvation, and pardon, and drink of his blood unto the same, and unto the benefits of his death. What is it? The springing up of spiritual life; for he says, "He that eateth me even he shall live by me." He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me and I in him." Therefore this is what we should long for, and we cannot be too earnest: "Covet earnestly the best gifts;" and that is one of the best. It is called the Lord's Supper, because he provided it, and because he has promised to come and sup with us, and he does not come alone, for he brings his Father with him: "If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him." The Father, in his paternal love by the Spirit of adoption, enabling us to say to him, "Abba Father! thou art my God and Father!" And therein our enjoyment of Christ's abode in our hearts: "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." (Gal. 4:6) The Spirit of Christ will make this clear, our love will wax warmer and warmer unto Christ, making him exceeding precious to us; for Christ said to the Jews, "If God were your Father, ye would love me." Adoption will draw our affections to Christ; adoption felt will warm our love to Christ!
Well, now, who are they that are welcome to the Lord's table? They that are strong believers in Christ? Yes, they are; but not they only: "Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye." Dr. Gill says it means, "Give him the hand, which was the primitive mode of receiving members into the Church." "Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye;" receive him in your heart, receive him to the table of the Lord. Well; but he may say, I have doubts and fears that I am not the character for the Lord's table. Receive him, for God has received him. Do not conclude of him as he concludes of himself, by his doubts and fears; but receive him, notwithstanding all of them.
Well, every hungry soul that is after spiritual provision is welcome to the Lord's table, and every one that can appeal to the Lord as Peter did: "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." Yes, these surely may come with freedom. And so may every one that the Lord loves. "He loves them that hunger and thirst after righteousness. Again, he loves them that fear the Lord, that tremble at his majesty, in awe of sinning against him. You may feel unworthy of the favor, unworthy of the privilege unworthy of the blessings, as if they did not belong to you, but the more deeply you feel your unworthiness and destitution, the more qualified for it. As Erskine says:
"Most qualified are they in heaven to dwell
Who feel themselves most qualified for hell."
The more sensibly unworthy, the more welcome. O that the blessed Lord may be with us, and go with us to his table, and be with us at it! O that he may stir our hearts and minds to himself, and draw us to himself there, and so draw us that he will communicate to us; so that when we leave the table we shall go away cheerful, refreshed, strengthened, free, and encouraged, our faith and hope increased, Christ desirable to us, longing to be more spiritual, more godly, more heavenly minded, that partaking of the blessings of the Lord may not only lead us in gratitude to God, but that it may lead us into more spiritual life, that Christ may be our salvation as well as our desire. As David says, I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only;" and Paul, "I am determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified." Therefore, to know Christ and him crucified is the essential of the matter.
O, may we pray to have a deep experience of it, that therein Christ may become exceeding precious to us, the delight of our heart and souls, that we may grow in grace and the knowledge of him. This is what I long for. O that I may grow up in him and you grow up with me.