The Jubilee was every forty-ninth or fiftieth year. It commenced on the very day of the Fast of Expiation. It was proclaimed with the sound of rams' horns. No servile work was done throughout it; the land lay untilled; what grew of itself, belonged to the poor and needy; whatever debt the Hebrews owed to one another, was wholly remitted; hired as well as bond servants obtained their liberty; mortgaged inheritances reverted to their original proprietors; and so, as the Jubilee approached, the Hebrew lands bore the less price. By this means possessions were kept fixed to particular families, their genealogies kept clear, and sinful hastening to be rich was discouraged. This Jubilee prefigured the happy freedom the saints of the most high God should enjoy under the Gospel dispensation, a freedom founded on the death and resurrection of Christ. "If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John 8:36) And this freedom is made known to the consciences of believers by the Spirit of God; for, "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2 Cor. 3:17)
Now, concerning this spiritual freedom, we shall consider, God willing, 1st. What are those things the family of heaven are delivered from by Christ. 2nd. What that bondage is from which they are freed by Christ and his Spirit. 3rd. The nature of this freedom, which is commenced in regeneration. 4th. The dignity and excellency of this freedom. 5th. The Author and cause. 6th. The characters.
1st. What are those things the children of God are not delivered from. They are not immediately delivered from this present world. Many of the children of God, after they are called by divine grace, have to remain many years in the wilderness, as very few are taken immediately from their new birth to glory. They have to struggle with many difficulties, endure many hardships, learn many painful lessons, and fight tremendous battles before they get to glory; for the promise to inherit all things is only to the overcomers, as it is written, "He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." (Rev. 21:7)
Christ has not freed the children of God in this world from the temptations and assaults of Satan; even those who are free from his dominion are not free from his molestation. It is said indeed, (Rom. 16:20) "God shall shortly bruise Satan under your feet;" but, meantime, he has power to bruise and buffet them by his infernal injections and fiery darts. (2 Cor. 12:7) Satan now bruises Christ's heel--that is, His mystic body, by tempting and afflicting His dear members. Though he cannot kill them, yet he can and does afflict and fright them by shooting his fiery darts of temptation among them. (Eph. 6:16) It is true, when the saints arrive safe in heaven, they are beyond the reach of Satan's gun-shot--there is perfect freedom from all temptations, and the believer may then say, "O, thou enemy! Temptations are come to a perpetual end; I am now where none of thy fiery darts can reach me"--but this freedom is not enjoyed in this world.
Christ has not yet freed his children from the rebellion of indwelling sins; these enemies are busy in harassing the best of men. (Rom. 7:21,24) Corruptions, like the Canaanites, are still left in the land, to be thorns in their eyes and briars in their sides. Those who boast of a freedom from the rebellion of sin, are still under its dominion. All Christ's freemen are troubled with the same complaint, and cry out with Paul, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death." (Rom. 7:24)
Christ does not deliver His people from soul trouble, and exercise on account of sin. God may, as a sovereign, let loose Satan and conscience too, to accuse and distress a living soul, and woefully eclipse the light of God's countenance, and break our spiritual peace. Job, Heman, and David were all Christ's freemen: yet each of them has left upon record most bitter complaints on this account. "How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone, till I swallow down my spittle." "I have sinned, what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men, why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself?" (Job 7:19,20) "Lord, why castest thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me? (Ps. 88:14,15) "My lover and my friends stand aloof from my sore, and my kinsmen stand afar off. Thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore." (Ps. 38:2-11)
Neither does Christ free his children from the rod of affliction. All His dear sons He chastens. (Heb. 12:8) Exemption from affliction is not the mark of a freeman, but of a slave. To be free from affliction would be no benefit to the sons of God, for they receive much real good by it. Their Father makes all things work for their good.
Neither are they freed by Christ from the precepts of the everlasting Gospel, as a rule for their walk and conversation, or, as some of our old divines have affirmed, the Law which is a rule of life. Those who deny either of these, are not Christ's freemen.
Lastly, neither are believers freed from the stroke of death, though they are all free from the sting of death. The bodies of believers are under the same law of mortality as other men; the saints must come to the grave as well as others, and suffer the same agonies as other men do. The foot of death treads as heavy upon the bodies of the redeemed as of other men. It is true that saints are distinguished by the grace of God from others; but the distinguishing grace lies not here. Thus we see what the children of God are not freed from in this world. Should any ask what advantage then has a gracious heart, or what profit is there in regeneration? I answer, much every way.
The saints of the most high God are set at liberty from many great and sad miseries by Christ, notwithstanding all that has been said.
They are freed from all the charges and accusations that sin, Satan, the Law, the world, or conscience can bring against them.
But is there nothing the children of God are chargeable with? Are they in every sense clear of all crimes? Can nothing be objected to them? Yes, many things.
1st. They are, as the descendants of Adam, chargeable with his sin. They were in him seminally, as the root and parent of mankind. They were in him federally, as their covenant head and representative, who was the figure of Christ that was to come, and so they sinned in Adam, and were made and constituted sinners through his disobedience, the guilt of which is imputed to them, and they themselves are liable to condemnation by it. The children of God are chargeable with a corrupt nature which they bring into the world with them; being conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity they are justly called transgressors from the womb. (Isa. 48:8) They are chargeable with the loss of original righteousness, and of the image of God, and with a want of conformity to the law of God.
2nd. They are chargeable with a multitude of actual transgressions committed before conversion; and some, with very grievous and notorious ones--not only as being foolish and disobedient, serving divers lusts and pleasures, but as living in malice, hateful, and hating one another. So Saul (afterwards Paul) was guilty of injury, persecution, and blasphemy. And the Corinthians are said to have been fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, and everything that is bad. (1 Cor. 6:9,11) And after conversion they are all chargeable with many sins of thought, word, and deed; with sins of omission and commission; with daily infirmities, and frequent back-slidings. In many things they all offend, and their errors are so many, they cannot understand; and some of them are suffered to fall into very gross enormities, as Noah, Lot, David, Peter, and others. Wherefore, it may be asked,
Are there none that will rise, stand up, and charge these persons? Yes, enough. Their own hearts rise up against them, and charge them. Their conscience, which is as a thousand witnesses, does often accuse them. There is in every man a conscience, which excuses or accuses for good or bad things done, unless it is seared as with a red hot iron. But this is not the case with good men, their consciences are tender, and though they are sometimes tempted to extenuate their faults, yet at other times they are ready to aggravate them, and put them in the worst light, and write dismal, desperate, and bitter things against themselves. Likewise they are apt to charge one another--they are sometimes too forward this way, too inquisitive after each other's weaknesses, bear too hard upon one another for them, and are too severe and censorious. They are "not to suffer sin upon one another;" charges may be very lawfully brought, whether in a private or public way, as the nature of the case requires, but provided that the rules of God's word are observed, and the matter of complaint is exhibited in a kind and tender manner, with a view of the glory of God, and the good of the person or persons charged. Moreover, the men of the world are full of charges against the people of God, and accuse them oftentimes very wrongfully, as the Jews did our Lord, and as Tertullus, the Orator, the Apostle Paul; and it is the common lot of the saints to go through good report and bad report. But no weapon that is formed against them shall prosper, and "every tongue that riseth up in judgment against them shall be condemned." The saints have real faults enough in them, and there is no need of false ones being imputed to them. Satan, too, is their adversary, a court adversary, one that enters a suit at law, and brings in an action in open court against another, as the word signifies. He goes about in the world and observes the faults of the saints, takes all advantages, and on every opportunity picks up their faults, and aggravates them, and accuses them before the throne, whence he is called the accuser of the brethren. (Rev. 12:10) To say no more, the law accuses of the breaches and violations of it. One commandment says, Thou hast sinned against me, and another, Thou hast sinned against me. And the Law is able to make good and support these charges, and give evidence of them, and it proceeds to pronounce the whole world guilty before God.
But what will these charges signify! Of what avail will they be! And to what purpose are they laid, since God the Father justifies and discharges from them all! God is superior to all, and from His judgment there can be no appeal, and the reason why God justifies the saints is because they are Christ's freemen. And besides this, the Apostle gives another reason why these charges will avail nothing. "It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." (Rom. 8:33,34) It matters not who lays any charge against them, so long as none of the divine Persons bring any. Not Jehovah the Father, as may be learned from Rom. 8:29,33,34. He predestinated them to be conformed to the image of His Son. He calls, justifies, and glorifies the saints. He is on their side, and He is for them. He has not spared His own Son, but has delivered Him up for them all, and gives all things freely with Him, and therefore will lay nothing to their charge. Nor will the Son of God, He Himself hath made them free. He is their surety--He has died for their sins, and has made an end of them, and brought in an everlasting righteousness, and is their Advocate, therefore will prefer no charge against them. Nor will the Holy Spirit, for though He convinces of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, yet He brings near the righteousness of Christ unto the sons of freedom, works faith in them to lay hold upon it, and pronounces them righteous on the account of it. He takes the things of Christ, and shows them to them. He is their Comforter, and the Spirit of adoption to them. And as Christ is their Advocate in the court of heaven, the Spirit intercedes for them in their own hearts.
The Son of God frees them from condemnation. No condemnation can befall them, for if no charges can be laid against them with success, because they are Christ's freemen, consequently no condemnation can follow. "Who is he that condemneth?" (Rom. 8:24) The elect of God in Christ made free. These are the persons that are to be understood, though not expressed. Others may be and are condemned, "even all mankind are in Adam, for through his offense judgment came upon all men to condemnation." (Rom. 5:18) And some being ungodly men, and such as turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, are righteously appointed unto eternal condemnation--yea, every one that believes not, and who lives and dies in impenitence and unbelief, is condemned already; and there is a world that will be condemned at the last day; but Christ's freemen, none shall condemn. They are indeed, with the rest of mankind, under the sentence of condemnation as considered in Adam, in whom they sinned, and so the sentence of death passed upon them in him. They are by nature children of wrath, and deserving of it, and in their own persons commit things worthy of death. And when they are thoroughly convinced of sin by the Spirit of God, they have the sentence of death in themselves, and say, "we be all dead men." (Exod. 12:33) Whatever vain opinion they entertained of themselves before the commandment came with power into their consciences, as it did to the Apostle Paul, sin then revived, and they died to all hopes of attaining happiness by their works. They see themselves dead in the law, dead in sin, and after conversion their hearts often smite and condemn them for sin. But God is greater than their hearts, and knows all things, His own covenant transactions and agreement with His Son, what His Son has done, and what satisfaction He has made to His law and justice, and therefore He will not condemn them. "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 8:1) Not one sentence can be executed upon them, and though all may try to condemn them, yet neither Father, Son, nor Spirit will do so. Not the Father, for He justifies them; not the Son, for He died for the children of God in order to free them from condemnation, and is the Lord their righteousness; nor the Blessed Spirit, for they are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit is, there is freedom. To which may be subjoined that Christ's freemen are loved by God with an everlasting love which God has sworn shall never depart from them. They are predestinated to eternal life, and shall be glorified.
All believers are freed from the rigor and curse of the law, the rigorous yoke of the law is broken off from their necks, and the sweet and easy yoke of Christ put on. (Matt. 11:29) The law requires perfect obedience, under pain of a curse, (Gal. 3:10) and nothing short will do, it admits no repentance, and gives no strength. But it is not so with the sons of freedom who have proportionable strength given them. "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me," (Phil. 4:13) says the Apostle. True sincerity in the work is received by God as perfection, Job 1:1. O blessed freedom, glorious freedom, to be delivered from the rigor and curse of the law. But in order to value the freedom from the law, we must open the nature of it a little more. The holy apostle in Heb. 12:18,22, gives us some idea of the terribleness of the law, from the circumstances which accompanied it on Mount Sinai. "For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness and darkness and tempest. And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words, which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more." (Heb. 12:18,19) Sinner, what a terrific account the holy penman gives here! Who can stand before the lawgiver? No marvel that the holy Psalmist exclaimed, "If thou, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand;" (Ps. 130:3) who indeed? None but Christ's freemen, all the rest must be consumed in this fiery mountain.
In the apostle Paul's account in the forementioned verses we have seven things.
1st. The place upon which God gave the Law, the Mount. 2nd. The fire which burned. 3rd. The blackness. 4th. Darkness. 5th. Tempest. 6th. The sound of a trumpet. 7th. The voice of words. In all these we have an exhibition of the greatness of the Majesty, holiness, and terribleness of the great Lawgiver on the Mount. The intimation of a visit from a great personage, generally involves great preparations for his reception. When her Majesty first visited Manchester, what preparations were made for her reception! Thus when the great Majesty of heaven, accompanied by His royal court, which consisted of ten thousand of angels, condescended to come down on the Mount to renew His holy and righteous law which sin had defaced in the consciences of mankind, (for, in fact, the law given of the Mount was the same in substance with that which was written upon the heart of man in his creation, only that law which was given on Mount Sinai was a brighter copy and more legible; and was added, says the apostle, because of transgression, (Gal. 3:19; Rom. 4:15) to restrain transgression, and show that it is against God and his holy law) the preparations were great, yea, very great. The congregation had to wash their clothes, which pointed to internal and external holiness; a boundary was to be made, that neither man nor beast might approach near the Mount, because of the presence of the great Legislator; beside this, fire and tempest accompanied His presence. These things were to increase the terror of the Law. This dread and terror may be farther demonstrated by considering that in the giving of the Law, there was no evidence in all that was done, of God being reconciled unto man. The whole representation of Him was that of an absolute sovereign, and a severe judge; there was no intimation of Him being a Father gracious and merciful. There was no intimation of any relief from its severity, nor of pardon in case of transgression. Neither was there any promise of grace and strength to assist in the performance of what was required. Thunders, voices, earthquakes, and fire, gave no sign of assistance. The whole of that transaction was a glorious ministration of death and condemnation according to the Apostle's phrase, 2 Cor. 3:7, and the consciences of sinners had to subscribe to their own condemnation, that the Law was just and equal.
God was here represented of infinite holiness, justice, severity, and terrible majesty on the one hand; and on the other, man in his lowest condition of sin, misery, guilt, and death. And if the Son of God does not interpose between God and man to appease His infinite wrath against transgressors, man must be eternally consumed beneath this burning mountain. All this glorious preparation was no more than a throne set up for the pronouncing of judgment and the sentence of eternal condemnation against sinners. No marvel that sensible sinners should flee from this mountain to Mount Zion.
1st. Then, let us regard the place; the mount on which God came down. Under the Old Testament God at sundry times appeared to some of His dear saints--to Abraham, in the form of a man, bringing him the promise of the blessed seed, and of His future incarnation, Gen. 18:1,2. In like form to Jacob, to bless him and the church in him, Gen. 32:24. Unto Moses in a fiery bush, to inform him that the church's fiery affliction should not consume her, Exodus 3:3. Unto Joshua, as a General with a sword in His hand, signifying that he should conquer all his foes, and prove victorious over them all by virtue of His gracious presence, Joshua 5:13. But here He appears encompassed with all the dread and terror described, intimating the inevitable and dreadful destruction of sinners who are not sheltered in the bleeding side of the Lamb of God. In all these appearances there is some encouragement for the children of God. As in times of old God graciously appeared in various forms suitable to their circumstances, so He does now. Sometimes in His love, and affection, pity and compassion, when they are cast down, distressed, and dejected, as He did to Abraham and Jacob. If the saints are in fiery persecution He appears on their behalf, encompassed with fire to consume their adversaries. (Rev. 10:1) If they are engaged in a conflict either within or without, He appears as a captain with a drawn sword. (Zech. 1:8; Rev. 19:11-14) And at other times He appears to them terrible in His Majesty, jealous of His glory, in order to convince them that it is an evil and a bitter thing to sin against the living God. The Apostle tells the Hebrews that "They are not come to the mount that might be touched;" that is, they were not come to the Law, but to the Gospel, which he calls Mount Zion. Now the account the Apostle gives of Mount Sinai, with all its connecting circumstances, may represent so many steps of a redeemed soul under the Law.
When a soul is brought under the spirituality of the Law, the first view it has of God is that He is holy, filled with majesty and terror, sitting upon His eternal throne as a judge summoning the sinner to appear before Him to answer for himself for the violation of His royal Law, as the great assembly in the wilderness were summoned to the mount in which they prefigured all mankind under the Law. In this state the sinner sees nothing, and hears of nothing but God and himself; he finds himself in a wilderness as that mount was, and bewildered indeed he is; there is no appearance of any relief or place of retreat; his principal work is now with God and his own conscience; he feels himself solitary, comfortless, and destitute of all hope and expectation of escaping the threatening of the Law of God; he finds the Law, like Mount Sinai, a barren place, where there is neither water to quench the raging thirst of conscience (this must come from the smitten rock, which was a type of Christ,) nor food to satisfy the hungry soul; (this also must come from Christ who was typified by the manna from heaven.) The sinner finds that all his best performances are nothing else but briars and thorns, and he hears as it were God speaking--"Who would set the briars and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together." Or "let him take hold of my strength," (which is Christ, who is the power of God,) "that he may make peace with me"--(Christ is the glorious Peace-Maker who made peace and reconciliation between God and man)--"and he shall make peace with me." But this precious Christ, this glorious Peace-Maker, the Law does not exhibit to the convinced sinner; this exhibition is only made in the gospel, consequently the sinner remains in a desolate place, and forsaken as Mount Sinai is at this day, without God and hope in this world.
2nd. The second sight the convinced sinner has is the mount burning with fire. (Deut. 33:2) And God himself a consuming fire. On the fiery mount was the presence of God. "The Lord descended in fire." He spoke out of the fire, and it was a flaming fire, which raised a smoke like the smoke of a furnace. (Exod. 19:18; Deut. 4:11) This fire was the greatest terror to that vast assembly, and by reason of their fear they mention this fire three times. (Deut. 5:24,26) And God is often in Scripture represented by fire. (Deut. 4:24; Isa. 30:33; Isa. 33:14) And His severity in the execution of His judgment is so called; (Isa. 15:66; Amos 7:4) and herein the light, purity, and holiness of the nature of God, and His jealousy is also represented. (Deut. 4:24) His jealousy against sin, not to leave it unpunished, see. (Ps. 18:9-12; Ps. 50:3; Ps. 97:3; Dan. 7:10) Oh, what a sight is this to the convinced and desolate sinner, to behold the fiery law threatening destruction to the transgressor, and the Law-giver himself a consuming fire, burning with a fiery jealousy for His honor and holy Law. Here the poor sinner finds himself like the bush encompassed with fire. And here he must remain looking forward to be consumed, except Jesus Christ comes to him as the great atoning sacrifice, and with His precious blood quenches these flames. This is the way and progress of the work of the Law, on the consciences of sinners.
When the law comes in the power of God the eternal Spirit, it stops their mouths from boasting, they are even afraid to cry for mercy, lest they should presume,--it brings them in guilty before God--it shuts them up under unbelief and sin--gives them to see their lost condition, without help or relief--they are in a wilderness where there is none but God and themselves. In this condition they see God as a consuming fire. This fills their hearts with dread and terror, and all this is done to bring redeemed souls to Christ, their deliverer.
3rd. The third step which convinced sinners take, under the Law, brings them to Blackness, which denotes obscurity. (Deut. 5:22-24) This blackness is accompanied with darkness and tempest. In addition to the former terrors, they find everything covered with blackness, covenant promises and blessings, a reconciled God, a gracious Saviour, a blessed Comforter, are all hidden from their eyes--they cannot see God's design in this blackness, that it is to bring them to Christ. His design is only revealed in the Gospel. In this blackness they are looking forward for something still worse to come, and they are right, for so there is.
4thly. Darkness is added to blackness,. (Exod. 20:21; Deut. 4:11) Who can tell what this Darkness is? None but those who have experienced it in their conscience. They find themselves enveloped in this darkness--shut up, as in a dark dungeon, without one ray of light and comfort from the sweet Sun of Righteousness. They are in the dark respecting God's mind concerning them, whether a work of grace is begun in their souls or not, and in the dark with respect to the issue; and sometimes their thoughts are that they shall be shut up in blackness of darkness for ever. These are some of the ways by which the Eternal Spirit leads Christ's freemen before He blows the Jubilee trumpet in their soul, proclaiming liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison door to them that are bound, before He makes known to them that they are Christ's freemen. But this darkness is not yet at an end, there is an overturning yet to come. "I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, and it shall be no more, until He come whose right it is, and I will give it Him." (Ezek. 21:27) The Holy Spirit keeps overturning till Christ comes, whom the Holy Spirit reveals to the consciences of convinced sinners, that Christ alone has a right to them, that He is theirs, and they are His. We have seen how sinners are overturned by fire, blackness, and darkness.
And now, 5thly. A tempest comes to overturn them, which consists of thunder, lightning, and earthquake. (Exod. 19:16-18; Exod. 20:18; Heb. 12:18,19) This tempest increases the terror of the darkness. As it was without at the giving of the Law, so it is within the working of the Law. It fills the minds and consciences of the redeemed when brought under the Law, with a storm accompanied with darkness and perplexity. The Law upon the conscience has these two effects, viz:
1st. It brings the soul into darkness that it knows not what to do, or how to take one step towards its own deliverance. It has no light either for its direction or consolation. And in this state it either wears itself out with vain endeavors for relief, by its own works and duties, or else sinks into heartless despondency, complaints and despair.
And secondly, it raises a tempest in the mind, sin, pride, rebellion, murmurings, self pity, and hard thoughts of God. All these make the tempest, which oftentimes is accompanied with dread and terror, and ends in perplexing and despairing thoughts. In this state the law leaves the poor sinner, it will neither reveal nor encourage him to look for any relief. Yea, it declares that here the sinner must die and perish, for anything that the law knows or can do. Now is the season for Christ to interpose, and to say to the sinner, "Behold me, behold me."
Behold me in all my offices and characters, and behold me in my willingness and ability to save thee.
6th. The sixth step the sinner takes under the law leads him within the sound of the trumpet. A trumpet was sounded on various occasions. On the day of atonement, Lev. 23:24, which was a type of the preaching the gospel, and a declaration of the remission of sins by the atonement made in the sacrifice of Christ. At the Jubilee a trumpet was blown to proclaim liberty throughout all the land, to all the inhabitants thereof, Lev. 25:7-10, which was fulfilled in the ministry of Christ, Isa. 61:1,2, and those that heard that joyful sound with power were blest. (Ps. 89:15) On the feast of tabernacles also was a trumpet blown, prefiguring the gospel feast. When war was declared, was also a trumpet blown, intimating the spiritual warfare of the saints. The promulgation of the gospel is also called the sound of the trumpet. (Rev. 8:6) At the judgment, 1 Cor. 15:52, and in the promulgation of the Law we also hear of the sound of a trumpet. O, what an awful sound is this in a convinced sinner's conscience! "Prepare to meet thy God!" Summoning him to appear before his Lawgiver and Judge, for at the sounding of the trumpet Moses brought forth the people to meet with God. (Exod. 19:17) The sensible sinner has nothing to say. The Law with all its curses sounds in his ears, demands perfect obedience of him to make good his past transgressions, and perfect obedience to come, and the poor soul feels itself unable to do either. The past breach the sinner cannot fill up, and that which is before him he is unable to fulfill; thus he stands as a criminal before his Judge, pleading guilty to all accusations, and acknowledging the righteous sentence of his Judge. When God calls sinners to answer the Law, there is no avoiding an appearance. The terrible summons and citation will draw them out whether they will or no.
But Christ will make all His children free. He comes in His triumphant chariot, which is the Gospel, answers for them all the demands of the Law, and thus the grace of God is exalted and glorified, and Christ with His blood and righteousness is exceedingly precious.
7th. The last step we shall mention that the sinner takes under the Law, makes him hear the voice of words. It is said that God spake by a voice. (Exod. 19:19) That is an articulate voice, in the language of the people, that might be understood by all. Hence He is said to speak with the people. (Exod. 20:19) "The Lord spake unto them out of the midst of the fire, and they heard the voice." (Deut. 4:12; Deut. 5:23) Now the words that were uttered with this voice were the ten commandments, written afterwards in the two tables of stone, and no more. This voice all the people heard, and this only. "These words the Lord spake unto all your assembly," (speaking of the ten commandments,) "in the mount, out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud and of thick darkness, with a great voice, and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me," that is afterwards. And this voice was so great and terrible that the people were not able to bear it. Men cannot expect to appear before God with confidence, unless they have a ready answer to all the words of the Law. The prophet Habakkuk was anxious to have an answer when God reproved him, Chap. 2:1.
The blood and righteousness of Christ is the only answer that will satisfy the Law of God. When the thundering voice is heard in a sinner's conscience, it will make him tremble and quake, and if Christ, as the Law Fulfiller, is not revealed by the Holy Spirit, he must sink under it. But Christ, by His Spirit, will set the soul at liberty. Of this freedom we shall speak by and by.
The children of God are delivered from the guilt of sin. It may trouble them, but it cannot condemn them. (Rom. 8:33) The handwriting that was against them was cancelled by Christ, and nailed to His cross. (Col. 2:14) When the seal and handwriting are torn off from the bond, the debtor is made free thereby. Believers are entirely so, being justified from all things, Acts 13:39, consequently they are set at liberty. (John 5:24) O blessed freedom! How sweet is it to lie down in our beds, yea, in our graves, when guilt shall neither be our bed-fellow nor our grave-fellow, until the Jubilee trumpet blow the glorious resurrection!
The children of God are delivered from the dominion as well as from the guilt of sin. "Sin shall not have dominion over you." (Rom. 6:14) "The law of the Spirit of Life which is in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin and death." (Rom. 8:2) Now who can estimate such a liberty as this? What slavery, what an intolerable drudgery is the service of sin, from all which the saints are freed by Christ, not from the being of sin, but from its reign. It is with sin in the saints as it was with those beasts mentioned in Daniel 7:12; they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
Saints are delivered from the power of Satan. They are translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of Christ. (Col. 1:13; Luke 2:21,22)
They are delivered from the power or sting of death. Death kills the bodies of the saints, but it cannot hurt them. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Cor. 15:55) If the sting of death is removed, there can be no terror in it. It is guilt that arms death both with terror and power. To have the sins of our youth lie down with us--to have death, like a dragon, pulling a poor guilty creature as a prey into its dreadful den, is terrible indeed! Herein lies the danger and horror of death. But from death as a curse, and from the grave as a prison, Christ has set believers at liberty, by submitting to death in their room, and by His victorious resurrection from the grave, as the first-born of the dead. Death is thus disarmed of its stinging power. The death of the saints is but a sleep in Jesus.
The saints of God are freed by Christ from all inordinate cares for the things of this life, which are heavy burdens, as David calls them. (Ps. 55:22) They lie heavier upon their spirits than their wants, and make them go heavy all the day long. They are like pricking briars, which wound and distress. (1 Tim. 6:10) As they are fruitful troubles, so they are fruitless helps. They cannot add one cubic to their stature.
But let me remind you, oh saints of God, of the all-sufficiency of your Heavenly Father. He is able to supply all your wants, and succor you in all your distresses. He is omniscient. He knows every want and strait of yours. He knows you have need of all these things. Let me remind you of His authority. All the creatures and all your helps are in His hands. He is willing to do you good, or else he would never have promised those things. Remember He is your Father--remember His engagements. He has bound Himself by oath and promise. He must wrong Himself to forget you. I speak in reverence. Remember His love to you, it is more than the whole world in value.
He has given you Christ and grace, and will give you glory. And shall he not with these give you all other things? Remember His faithfulness, He will not break His word, nor fail His children. Remember His promise, "I will never leave thee." (Heb. 13:5) Remember, too, the account, and reports made by His own people, and their opinion of Him. The God that fed me all my life-long, until this day, said Jacob. See, too, Psalm 37:25. God does good to His enemies, therefore He cannot forget His friends;--if He supplies dogs, surely He will feed His children--if He provides for ravens, surely He will provide for His doves. As the saints are delivered by Christ from inordinate cares, so are they from slavish fear. Being Christ's, they need not fear what men or devils can do unto them. "For who shall separate them from the love of Christ? Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come." (Rom. 8:35,39) Herein consists the soul's jubilee.
Having considered what the people of God are not delivered from by Christ in this world, and also those things they are delivered from; we shall now endeavor, God willing, to speak of the nature and excellency of this Jubilee or freedom, and also of the privileges enjoyed by those in this happy state.
This freedom is a most wonderful freedom, it can never be admired enough. Imagine those who owed to God more than ever they could pay by their own eternal sufferings, those that were under the dreadful curse and condemnation of the Law, in the power and possession of Satan, the strong man armed, those that were bound in so many chains in their spiritual prison; imagine such persons to be set at liberty notwithstanding all this, and is it not a wonder of wonders, a wonder that will last for ever!
This Jubilee is a peculiar one--a liberty which few obtain, the generality abiding still in Satan's bondage, who form the multitude of his subjects, is styled the god of this world. (2 Cor. 4:4)
Gracious souls in scripture are often called a "remnant," and for this reason they more admire the distinguishing mercy and grace of God; while many of the noble and great of this world are but royal slaves to Satan and their own lusts. This Jubilee is a precious one, it brings such liberty, it being obtained by the blood of Christ. The captain said, "With a great sum I obtained this freedom, (Acts 22:28) but the child of God can say, "I was free born." The freedom and liberty of the children of God is a growing and increasing liberty, they draw nearer every day to their complete salvation. They go on from strength to strength in Zion, (Ps. 84:7) till they appear perfect before God. "The path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more until the perfect day." (Prov. 4:18)
This Jubilee proclaims a most comfortable freedom. The Apostle comforts believers of the lowest rank; poor servants with this consideration, "He that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman." (1 Cor. 7:22) Let not the meanness of your outward condition, which is a state of subjection and dependence, a state of poverty and contempt, at all trouble you, you are the Lord's freemen, and precious in his eyes. O what a comfortable liberty is this!
Once more, this Jubilee proclaims a perpetual and final freedom. They that are once freed by Christ are for ever discharged from that state of bondage they were in before. And thus you see what a glorious liberty the Jubilee proclaims to the children of God.
Think of the privileges Christ's freemen enjoy in this state. These holy privileges the Apostle speaks largely of. (Heb. 12:22-24) "But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels," etc.
In the former verses the Apostle gives an account of the nature of the Law, under the name of Mount Sinai, from which the Hebrews were delivered by the gospel. But in these verses he describes the privileges the Hebrew church enjoyed under the Gospel. All the saints of God do the same, which privileges exceed much every way those which the Hebrews enjoyed under the Law.
I will digress here a little. There are parallel circumstances that accompanied the Lawgiver on Mount Sinai, and the Lawfulfiller in His coming down on earth. Angels accompanied the Lawgiver, and so they did Christ the fulfiller of the Law, at His birth, in the wilderness, and in the garden of Gethsemane, and at His resurrection and ascension. The Lawfulfiller suffered on a mount to fulfill that law which was given on Sinai.
Fire accompanied the Lawgiver, and so it did the Lawfulfiller. The fiery wrath of God was poured into His soul, hence he says, "my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws." (Ps. 22:15) He was encompassed with the fiery wrath of Satan, and the malice of men.
Did blackness obscure the Divine person from the sight of the spectators at Sinai? So was the divine nature of the Lawfulfiller from the sight of man, it being wrapped up in humanity. "Light shined in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." The Lawgiver was encompassed in darkness, and the Lawfulfiller was enveloped in darkness. "Now from the sixth hour, there was darkness over all the land, until the ninth hour." (Matt. 27:45) The darkness of Mount Sinai prefigured the darkness of hell which sinners shall suffer for the transgression of the Law. But the darkness of Mount Calvary was to usher in eternal light for the children of God.
Were voices heard by the people from Mount Sinai?--So we read there were voices heard on Mount Calvary--but, oh, how infinitely different were those voices on Calvary to those on Sinai! On the one, voices of cursings and condemnations, and on the other, of blessings! The voice of the Law is, "cursed is he that continueth not in all things;" (Gal. 3:10) but the voice of the Lawfulfiller was, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) Here, sensible sinner, here is a word of comfort dropping from the gracious lips of the Lawfulfiller! For whom does he pray, poor sinner? For His enemies; some of whom were engaged in crucifying Him! But they did it ignorantly, they knew not what they did. There is an atonement for the sins of ignorance. "Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious, but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly, in unbelief." (1 Tim. 1:13) Sensible sinner, dost thou feel thyself to be a rebel? So were they that were at the foot of Calvary, and some of them were saved. Indeed, Christ received gifts for rebels. (Ps. 68:18; Eph. 4:8) The Lawgiver on the mount did not exhibit pity and compassion. But the voice of the Lawfulfiller on Calvary was, "Woman, behold thy son." (John 19:26) Christ does not say, "Mother, behold thy son," but "Woman," signifying, that natural ties are now dissolved. Hence said the Apostle, "We know no man after the flesh, yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now, henceforth know we Him no more." (2 Cor. 5:16)
In the words, "Woman, behold thy son," are exhibited His pity, compassion and tender care for his children, that He cares for their temporal welfare, as well as for their spiritual. Even when he was struggling with the power of death he made provision for his own. O what a compassionate Lawfulfiller is this,--yea, a compassionate Saviour.
The next voice we hear from Calvary is, "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43) We have just seen the tender care of the Lawfulfiller for the temporal needs of his people, we now shall see his care for their spiritual welfare. Christ cannot go to heaven,(if I may so speak) but he must have some of his children with him. But who was he whom Christ took with him to heaven? A thief, one of the vilest of characters. Yet this thief was one whom He has made free!
The next words that we hear from the Lawfulfiller are, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46) Had Christ not been forsaken for a time, the Church would be forsaken by God to all eternity.
Another voice we hear is, "I thirst." Not as the revenger of blood, but I thirst for the salvation of my people, and the conquest of their enemies.
The sixth voice is, "It is finished." The seventh, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit, and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." (Luke 23:46) These voices were all full of love and mercy, of power and majesty.
On Mount Sinai we hear the sound of a trumpet, which sound was produced by the ministry of Angels. It is true we do not hear the sound of a trumpet accompanying the Lawfulfiller but we hear the acclamation of Angels, "The Lord is risen indeed," and a blessed sound it was, not a sound of terror, but a joyful sound--not a sound to terrify the assembly, as on Mount Sinai, but to gladden the hearts of the disciples.
There was a vast assembly to behold the transaction on Mount Sinai, and so there was at Calvary, to behold that awful tragedy,--The Lawfulfiller expiring on the cross.
We shall now return and consider the privileges of Christ's freemen.
1st. They come to Mount Sion. This mount was in Jerusalem, which mount had two heads; one was called Moriah, on which the temple was built, whereby it became the seat of all the solemn worship of God. And on the other was the palace and habitation of the kings of the house of David, both of them typical of Christ, the one in his priestly, the other in his kingly office.
There was a great difference between Mount Sinai and Mount Sion. God came down only for a season on Mount Sinai, but in Sion He is said to dwell and to make it His habitation for ever. He appeared in terror on Mount Sinai, but on Sion in peace. He gave the Law from Mount Sinai. The Gospel went forth from Sion. (Isa. 2:2,3) He utterly forsook Sinai, and left it under bondage, but Sion is free for ever. (Gal. 4:26)
The people were burdened with the Law on Mount Sinai, but their deliverance from it came from Mount Sion.
The reason why the Apostle calls the state of believers under the gospel dispensation by the name of Sion, may be gathered from some of the things that are spoken of Sion in the Scripture. As for instance: It is the place of God's habitation where He dwells for ever. It is the seat of the throne, reign, and kingdom of Christ. It is the subject of divine promises innumerable, and a type of Christ himself. (Isa. 59:20) Thence did the gospel proceed, and the law of Christ come forth. It was the object of God's especial love, and the birthplace of the elect. (Ps. 87:2,5) "The joy of the whole earth." Salvation and all the blessings came forth out of Sion, with many other things equally glorious. Now these things were not absolutely accomplished in behalf of that Mount Sion which was in Jerusalem, but only as it was typical of the children of God under the gospel. All the privileges ascribed--all the promises made to Sion are theirs. It is the place of God's especial gracious presence, of the throne of Christ in His reign, the subject of all graces and the object of all promises, as the Scripture abundantly testifies. Here are some of the privileges of the sons of freedom. They come to Mount Zion, that is, they are interested in all the promises of God made unto it as recorded in the Scripture, in all the love and care of God towards it.
2nd. The second privilege Christ's freemen are said to enjoy is, their coming unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. Both these may be considered as one and the same thing. So Jerusalem is called the "City of God." (Ps. 46:4; Ps. 48:1,8; Ps. 87:3) And by each, spiritual Zion is meant.
The Hebrews are said to come to a city. They receive the Law in a wilderness where they had neither rest nor refuge, but in a city there is order, defence, and safety. It is the name for a quiet habitation. Thus all Christ's freemen are delivered from the wilderness of the Law, where there is neither rest nor safety, and given the enjoyment of gospel privileges covenant blessings and promises, a blessed Jubilee indeed. It is a city which has foundations. (Heb. 11:10) It is expressed in the plural number, for it seems it has more foundations than one. There is the everlasting love of God, the source and spring both of grace and glory, and the electing grace of God in Christ, the foundation of God which stands sure, sealed with this seal, "The Lord knoweth them that are His," (2 Tim. 2:19) and the covenant of grace, which is ordered in all things and sure. And there is Christ, the sure foundation, of God's laying, and there is also the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, (of their laying ministerially). Wherefore the new Jerusalem is said to have twelve foundations, because Christ the one and only foundation is laid by His twelve Apostles. The word expressed in the text referred to, is opposed to tents and tabernacles which had no foundations, but were easily taken down and removed from place to place, and denotes the firmness and stability of this continuing city. (Heb. 13:14) This city is not built by man, but by God himself, who built all things. What the Assyrian monarch boastingly said, "Are not my princes altogether kings?" (Isa. 10:8) Is true of all Christ's freemen, they are all made kings as well as priests unto God by Christ; and so have a city prepared for them to dwell in according to their high birth, quality and dignity. And what a city that is may be learned in some measure from the grand description given of the new Jerusalem by its being, even the streets of it, of pure gold, and by its walls and gates of pearl, and yet these brilliant views fall infinitely short of setting forth the real grandeur of it. (Rev. 20:10)
This city was of God. The state of the Church under the new testament is so. As it has the safety, beauty, and order of a city, so is the city of God, the only city, which he takes peculiarly to be His own in this world. It is His, on the account of propriety; no creature can lay claim to it, or any part of it, and those who usurp authority over it, shall answer for their usurpation. It is His, on account of inhabitation, for God dwells in it, by His gracious presence. It is under His immediate rule as its only sovereign.
In it all His children are disposed into a spiritual society. See Eph. 2:19. It has charter of liberty with all immunities and privileges from God alone, and these are the reasons why the Church is called the city of God. The Apostle calls the church the "City of the living God," (Heb. 12:22) that is, of the true and only God, of Him who is omnipotent, able to keep and preserve His own city. He having all life, and consequently all power in Himself, lives eternally, and with Him we shall live, when we shall be here no more. This city of the living God is the heavenly Jerusalem, intimating that the Gospel privileges which Christ's freemen enjoy, are not only above what the people were made partakers of at Sinai in the wilderness, but also above all that they afterwards enjoyed in Jerusalem in the land of Canaan, for in the glory and privileges of that city the Hebrews greatly boasted. But the Apostle places that city with Mount Sinai as being under bondage, Gal. 4:25, and declares the super-excellency of the Jerusalem which is above, the heavenly, and the reason the Apostle calls the church the heavenly Jerusalem, is, because this city is not of this world, or because a part of its inhabitants are already in heaven. This city came down from heaven, that is, it has its original from divine authority and institution. The state portion, and inheritance of all its inhabitants, are spiritual, and lie in heaven. The spiritual life of all its inhabitants, and the graces they enjoy are also heavenly, and the conversation of these citizens is heavenly. (Phil. 3:20) This is the second privilege Christ's freemen enjoy, under the Gospel dispensation. They have rest, peace, and safety in Christ, and communion with a triune Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
The next privilege the freemen of Christ enjoy is the society of angels, "and of an innumerable company of angels."
How Christ's freemen come to enjoy this privilege is, Christ being the head of angels as well as of the saints, they being both called the elect, and gathered by Christ, Eph. 1:10, they are brought together into one society. Angels and saints are constantly engaged in the same worship of Christ. (Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:11,12) Angels are ministering spirits, sent forth to wait upon the church, Heb. 4:14. There is a perfect reconciliation between angels above, and the church on earth, Gal. 1:20. There is a oneness in design, and a communion in service between angels and saints. As the saints rejoice in their happiness and glory, so do angels rejoice in the happiness and glory of the saints. (Luke 15:10) They both mingle their ascription of praise and glory to God. (Rev. 5:8-12) Access to the society of angels is by virtue of Christ, and they are made instrumental to the safety of the church, myriads of them encompassing her round about.
A fourth privilege of the freemen of Christ is, that they come to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men, made perfect. (Heb. 12:23)
The assembly here alluded to may have some reference to a custom of the Athenians, where all sorts of persons on certain occasions met together, and were entertained with spectacles, sacrifices, and feastings; or the allusion may be to the great assembly of all the males, three times a year, at the solemn feast, Exod. 34:23; Deut. 16., which assembly was called the great congregation, Ps. 22:25, it being the greatest and most glorious in the whole church, a matter of triumph to all. Or it may be, regard is had unto the general assembly of the whole people at Sinai in receiving of the law. However, the nature of the assembly under the gospel may be seen, if we consider of whom it consists. It consists of the whole election of grace. They are all God's firstborn. (Exod. 4:22) They are all His first fruits. (James 1:18; Rev. 14:4) They are all heirs of God, and coheirs with Christ. (Rom. 8:17) And heirs of salvation. (Heb. 1:14) They are all kings and priests unto God, which includes the whole right of the firstborn. All those who are interested in the privileges of the Church of God, are the firstborn, and consequently have a right to the inheritance with Christ, and to all those things which God the Father has provided. And the names of these firstborn are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20) In the book of Life, (Rev. 3:5; 17:8) In the Lamb's book of life. (Rev. 21:27) This is the general assembly of the firstborn written in heaven, or the elect of God.
The fifth privilege Christ's freemen enjoy is the company of God himself. "And to God, the Judge of all," and this God stands in relation to this assembly as a Father, as well as a Judge. Christ's freemen have a peculiar access unto God, and unto Him as the Judge of all.
This access unto God they have by Christ, into his grace and favor. (Rom. 5:1,2) They have access unto God and the throne of His grace with liberty and boldness in their divine worship; this none have but Christ's freemen, and that is also through Christ. (Eph. 2:18; Heb. 4:15,16) They have access to God as the Judge of all, which is also a glorious privilege of Christ's freemen. God being their Judge, they may depend that He will judge their cause against the world in that great contest that is between them. The world may condemn, but they will have admission to His throne who will execute judgment on their behalf. (See Micah 7:9,10)
And it is a glorious prospect which the saints take of God as a judge, Rev. 15:3,4, that it is He who will, as a righteous judge, give them their reward at the last day. (2 Tim. 4:8) Christ's freemen are delivered from all dread and terror in the consideration of God as their judge.
They come, sixthly, to the spirits of just men made perfect. The spirits of the just departed are all of them made perfect. They were perfect when here below, in their Head, but now they are perfect in themselves, as well as in their head. They are perfect or consummated, which includes the following things. They have reached the end of their race wherein they have been engaged, the race of faith and obedience, with all the difficulties, duties, and temptations connected with it. (Heb. 12:1,2) Now those who have finished their course, who have run so as to obtain, are said now to be consummated, or to sit down quietly in the enjoyment of the reward, for it is not consistent with the righteousness of God to defer it after their whole course of obedience is accomplished. A perfect deliverance from all the sin, sorrow, trouble, labor, and temptation, which in this life they were exposed to. This consummation they have in the presence of God, according to their capacity, before the resurrection. There is nothing wanting but the reception of their glorified bodies.
They are also said to "come to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel." (Heb. 12:24)
The blood of Christ is here called the blood of sprinkling, in allusion to the various sprinklings of blood under the Old Testament. There were three particular instances of it. 1st. The blood of the paschal lamb, a type of the redemption by Christ. (Exod. 12:21) 2nd. The blood of the sacrifices wherewith the covenant was confirmed at Horeb. (Exod. 24:3-6) 3rd. The sprinkling of the blood by the High Priest, in the most holy place, on the day of atonement. (Lev. 16:14) All these were eminent types of the redemption, justification, and sanctification of the church by the blood of Christ, and the sprinkling of it is the Spirit's application on the consciences of the dear redeemed.
Again, it is said that the blood of Christ speaks better things than that of Abel. It has a voice--it pleads with God. This blood speaks to God by virtue of the everlasting compact between the Father and the Son in his undertaking the work of mediation for the communication of all the blessings of the covenant in mercy, grace, and glory to the church. It did so when it was shed, and it continues so to do in the presentation of it in heaven.
This is a misconception; "The blood of Abel" means the blood of his sacrifice--not the blood of his body.
The next enquiry is, how Christ's freemen come to be admitted members of this heavenly society and to participate in the communion of it. I answer. 1st. By God himself, even the Father in a peculiar manner, which peculiarity consists in the election of His people, and this election is the book in which all the names of this society are written. (Eph. 3:4)
2ndly. By Jesus Christ in His person, blood, and righteousness.
3rdly. By the Spirit, and faith in Christ.
The dignity of Christ's freemen is declared by their titles. They are called His treasure. (Exod. 19:5) His jewels. (Mal. 3:17) "Holiness to the Lord." (Jer. 2:3) "Heirs of God." (Gal. 3:19) Each of Christ's freemen has a right to and possession of that inheritance which is not corrupted, or divided, or succeeded. (1 Pet. 1:4) It is not corrupted by outward things, as fire, or violence, nor by inward things, as sin, which defiles, or destroys. (Isa. 29:14; 1 Pet. 1:18; Jer. 5:2) It has no succession. The children are always living, and their inheritance is like Christ's priesthood, unchangeable. (Heb. 7:24) It has no division. Every one of Christ's freemen enjoys the whole portion, God being infinite and indivisible. As every eye beholds the whole sun, so the saints enjoy God. Hence there will be no occasion of jealousy among the brethren, one shall not have more than the other. They all have the whole kingdom. Their dignity appears in their dominion. By the extent of their property they are lords of all. (1 Cor. 3:21-23) Compare Ps. 8. Their title is as good as it is large. They have a right to the pure use of all things; (Titus 1:15; Job 5:24) and the benefit and advantage which redounds to them out of all. (Rom. 8:28) There is no creature but owes homage and pays tribute to them as lords. A freeman of Christ gets more good by other men's estates than the possessors themselves. The first fruits and fat of all come to those who are the first fruits of God and the Lamb.
The Author and cause of this liberty is Christ by His death, resurrection, session at the right hand of God, and His intercession. It is a liberty wherewith Christ has made His people free. (Gal. 5:1) He has obtained it with the price of His blood. And He has proclaimed it, for He was anointed by the Holy Spirit to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. And Christ is the Author and Finisher of the faith of His children, by which they receive this privilege.
The death of Christ is another cause of their freedom. He laid down His life for them to make atonement and reconciliation for their sins, He died in their room and stead, having their sins imputed to Him. By His death He removed the iniquity of His people in one day, even as far as the east is from the west. He has put away their sin by the sacrifice of Himself. He has abolished it, He has taken away its damning power,--yea, He has finished and made an utter end of it.
The resurrection of Christ from the dead is another cause of the freedom of God's dear children. Christ rose as a conqueror over all His, and His people's enemies; by rising He abolished death and brought life and immortality to light, and showed that He had taken away the sting of death, which is sin, and had destroyed him that has the power of death, which is the devil; and had overcome the world, and now has in His hands the keys of hell and death; so when He opens, none can shut, and when He shuts none can open.
He rose again as the head and representative of His dear people, and for their justification. He stood charged with all their sins, these being laid upon Him by His Father, with His own consent. He was condemned for them, and suffered death on the account of them, and when He rose He was justified in the Spirit, and acquitted from them all. And His people were all justified in Him as their public Head. Just as they were crucified with Him, and buried with Him, so they rose and were justified together with Him. He was delivered for our offenses and was raised again for our justification. (Rom. 4:25) Christ by His death expiated sin, finished transgression, and made an end of it. But in His resurrection He brought in an everlasting righteousness for His freemen. His dying showed that He was arrested and condemned, and that the sentence of condemnation was executed on Him; but His resurrection, that He is discharged, and His people in Him. Notwithstanding Christ's death, had He not risen again, they would have been yet in their sins--under the power and guilt of them, and so liable to condemnation, "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." (1 Cor. 15:17,18) But Christ being risen, He appears without sin--even sin imputed, and so they are freed from sin, and from condemnation by it, in Him.
The session of Christ at the right hand of God, may also be included in the cause of the freedom of His children from sin and condemnation,--yea, from all things. The session of Christ includes also His ascension into heaven, and His entrance there,--both which serve to strengthen this point--when He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, or, He triumphed over those who had led His people captive. When He entered into heaven, He entered as their forerunner, in their name to take possession of it, and prepare it for them; and has promised to come again and take them to Himself, that they may enjoy it. Christ being at the right hand of God, shows that He has done the work He came about, that He has made atonement for sin, and obtained eternal redemption, and that He has done this to satisfaction, and therefore is highly exalted, and at the right hand of God, where He has all power, and is above all, even angels, principalities, and powers being subject unto Him; and where He must sit until all enemies are put under His feet; and His children are made to sit together in heavenly places in Him. (Eph. 2:6)
The intercession of Christ is another branch of the cause of His children's liberty. This part of Christ's work, which He performs in heaven as a priest upon His throne, is done, not by making vocal prayer, as in the days of His flesh, which does not seem necessary, nor by supplicating an angry judge, which is not consistent with His state of exaltation, nor with His having made peace by the blood of His cross, nor controverting a point in the court of heaven, though He is a counselor, and an advocate, but by the appearance of His person, for His people, by the presentation of His blood, righteousness, and sacrifice for them which speak for peace, pardon and atonement, by offering up the prayers and praises of the saints unto God, by declaring it as His will, that such and such blessing be bestowed upon them, and by applying the benefit of His death unto them, and which abundantly secures their freedom. For, it should be considered who He is that intercedes, and what an interest Christ has in God with whom He intercedes. He is the Son of God who makes intercession; who can engage His heart to approach unto Him, and who, from the relation He stands in to God, must have an interest in Him, and so have the persons for whom He intercedes, for He is His God; His Father, and their Father; wherefore His intercession cannot fail.
The intercession of Christ is constant--it always continues. Though He was dead, He is alive and lives for evermore, and He lives, not for Himself only, but for others. "He ever lives to make intercession." (Heb. 7:25)
His intercession is always prevalent. He who is the redeemer of His people is strong--the Lord of Hosts is His name; and He pleads the cause of His people, and that thoroughly, and always carries his point, for his pleas are founded upon his propitiatory sacrifice, which is of a sweet smelling savor to God. Christ was ever heard when here on earth, and so he is now in heaven. Whatever he asks for, he has--yea, whatever is asked for, in his name, is given. The Holy Spirit has also a hand in this freedom, for it is he that puts the children of God into the possession of it, who is a Spirit of liberty, being the Spirit of adoption. Nor must we exclude God the Father, for it is He that justifies Christ's freemen--Rom. 8:33. "It is God that justifieth." It is God, against whom these persons have sinned, whose law they have broken, whose justice they have affronted, whose legislative power they have trampled upon, who is the lawgiver that is able to save and to destroy. It is He that acquits His people, and pronounces them righteous, as if they had never sinned.
Finally, let us look at the characters. They are the elect of God. These are a select number of men who are the objects of God's love--whom He has chosen in Christ, unto eternal life and salvation, before the foundation of the world, of His own sovereign good will and pleasure--by certain ways of His own appointing--so that they are peculiarly His. The elect of God are a select number of men of Adam's posterity. They are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people. They are such who are separated, and set apart from the rest of mankind, and are alone, and are not reckoned among the nations; as they are redeemed and called, so they are chosen out of all nations, kindreds, people, and tongues. They are the objects of the love of God--of His everlasting and unchangeable love, and, because they are the beloved of the Lord, therefore, they are chosen by him unto salvation. Love is the source, and original of it. (Deut. 8:8; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 8:29-33)
They are chosen in Christ. (Eph. 1:4) Christ Himself, as mediator, is God's elect. He is so by way of eminency, He was first chosen, and then the elect in Him. He is the firstborn of the selection of grace. He was first conceived in the womb of election, and brought forth, and then the many brethren, among whom He is the firstborn. He was chosen as the head, and they as members in him, Jude 1.
The choice of them in Christ is unto eternal life and salvation. They are the vessels of mercy, afore prepared for glory; they are appointed not unto wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, which He has been appointed to work out for them, has effected and will put them into the possession of.
The choice of them was made before the foundation of the world. (Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13) This is an act that does not commence in time, but bears date from eternity; it passed before the men who are objects of it were born, and had done either good or evil. (Rom. 9:11)
It is owing to the sovereign goodwill and pleasure of God, who does all things after the counsel of His will. It is denied to be of works. (Rom. 11:5,6)
This choice of men to happiness is through certain ways and means of God's own appointing; such as sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth, 2 Thess. 2:18, and it being so, it must be accomplished. God chooses men, not because they were, or because He knew they would be, but that they might be holy, and in consequence of their being chosen to holiness, He sends the Spirit into their hearts to sanctify them, and so with every other grace. As many as were ordained to eternal life, have believed, Acts 13:48, do believe, and shall believe in all ages of time, and none truly believe, but such, and therefore, true faith is called the faith of God's elect. (Titus 1:1)
In conclusion, persons thus chosen are in a peculiar way, God's. They are called His own elect. (Luke 18:7) They are not only His by creation, as all mankind are, but they are the people of His choice, a peculiar one. They are elect, according to His foreknowledge. They are set apart for Himself, for His own use, service, and glory. They are chosen by Him for His peculiar treasure.
Now may God the Father, God the Son, and God the Eternal Spirit, command their blessings in the perusal of this little treatise to immortal souls.