THE more we taste the sweetness of the fruits, the more it encourages us to come again and pluck from that blessed tree. It is such a fruitful tree, that it bears "all manner of fruits," and that all the year round, winter as well as summer; it is never barren; let the sinner come, when he will, he will always find plenty of clusters hanging within the reach of the hand of precious faith. "As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste." (Songs 2:3) It must have been within her reach, otherwise she could not have tasted it.
This fruit is not only "good for food," but for medicine also. "In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." (Rev. 22:2) We have been privileged to visit this tree, and gather some of the fruit. And we will endeavor, God willing, to pluck another cluster, Redemption by Christ; which makes another discovery of the depth of sin, and of our misery on account of it. Sin was such a depth as none but Christ could satisfy; such an offence as nothing but His blood could obtain a pardon for; sin was such a breach and enmity that nothing but His death could make reconciliation for it. And sin was such a bondage and thralldom, that nothing but the blood of Christ could redeem us from its power. "In whom we have redemption, through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." (Eph. 1:7) "But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot." (1 Pet. 1:18,19)
We will endeavor now to consider the fitness of Christ as our Redeemer. Two things were necessary to make Him a suitable Redeemer. 1st, An ability of power. Yea, it required an Almighty power, to deliver the lawful captives from the power of Satan. That was beyond the power of any. "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty or the lawful captive delivered?" (Isa. 49:24) Here is a solemn interrogation, "shall it be done?" or, "can it be done?" The answer is in the affirmative. But, thus saith the Lord, "Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered." (Isa. 49:25) How shall it be done? "For I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children; and I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh, and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with new wine; and all flesh shall know that I the Lord, (or I JEHOVAH,) am thy Saviour (or thy Jesus, or Anointed,) and thy Redeemer, (or thy Kinsman,) the mighty one of Jacob." (Isa. 49:25,26) The word mighty here, denotes one who excels or is lifted up, and is applied to God. (Gen. 49:24) Christ, as God, excels all creatures, inasmuch as He is their Creator.
Secondly, He must have also an ability to redeem us from the curse of the broken law, and that could not be done without blood. "As for thee also by the blood of thy covenant, I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit, where is no water." (Zech. 9:11) And these two, we find in Christ, as declared in Isa. 49:24,25 and especially in the 26th verse, His deity is declared in the words, "I am the Lord," as aforesaid, and His humanity, "and thy Redeemer" or "Kinsman," and Christ could not be our Kinsman, except He assumed our nature, "made in all points like unto His brethren, sin excepted." See Hebrews 2:14-17; Hebrews 7:26-28. We have noticed that the word "Mighty" denotes lifted up, Christ as God-man, was lifted up on the cross; and in His glorious ascension He was lifted up, or exalted above powers and principalities, and sat down on the right hand of His Father. "Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." (Acts 5:31) And He is also lifted up in the blessed gospel as the Redeemer and Saviour of sinners.
1st. We will consider Christ as God, the Holy Apostle declares that in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." (Col. 2:9) There is no perfection essential to deity but is in Him, nor is there any, that the Father has, but He has likewise. Eternity is peculiar to the Godhead, Christ was not only before Abraham, but before Adam, yea, before any creature existed. He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the ending, which is, and which was, and which is to come, He is from everlasting to everlasting. Omnipotence, or a power of doing all things, can only be predicated of God. The works of Creation, Providence, Redemption, the Resurrection of the dead, with other things, in which Christ has been concerned, loudly proclaim Him to be the Almighty God.
Omniscience, another perfection of Deity, may be found in Christ. He needed not that any should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. He is that living word of God who is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight, but all things are naked and open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do, or to whom we must give an account; who in a short time will make all the world know that it is He who searcheth the reins and trieth the hearts of the children of men." Col. 2:9; Rev. 1:8; John 2:25; Heb. 4:12,13; Rev. 2:23.
Omnipresence, and immensity, are proper to God, and are to be found in Christ Jesus, who was in heaven at the same time He was here on earth, which could not be if He were not the Omnipresent God, any more than He could make good the promises He has made, that He will be with His people when they meet in His name, and with His ministers unto the end of the world," and be present with all His churches, and fill all things. Immutability, another of Christ's attributes, only belongs to God: Christ is "the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Heb. 13:8) In short independence, and necessary existence, which are essential to Deity, are ascribed to Him, for He, of Himself, is God. Though as man and Redeemer, He has a life communicated to Him from the Father, yet, as God, He owes His being to none, it is not derived from another, He is "over all, God blessed for ever," (Rom. 9:5) and must therefore be the "true God and eternal life." (1 John 5:20) If any perfection of Deity were wanting in Him, the "Fulness of the Godhead bodily" could not "dwell" in Him, nor could He be "equal with God." Here we see the fitness of Christ to be our Redeemer.
2nd. We have seen that Christ is perfect God, now we will consider Him as perfect man. Christ as the Redeemer must have justice in order to deliver His brethren from the curse of the law. "A body," saith Christ, "hast thou prepared for me." (Heb. 10:5) This we can demonstrate from the manner of His birth. He was circumcised on the eighty day. He grew in wisdom and stature, he endured hunger, and thirst, He was weary, and stood in need of rest and sleep as other men. We read that He "wept," and "rejoiced." He died, yea, and was buried. These things prove the fact of His humanity.
The holiness of Christ's human nature, greatly fitted Him to be an High Priest Advocate, and Intercessor. Very frequently in the sacred writings an emphasis is put upon this peculiar fitness. As when He is said to take away sin,--"And in him is no sin;" to offer up Himself, "without spot or blemish." And indeed, such a Redeemer is proper for us; such an Advocate suits us, who is Jesus Christ "the righteous." Such an High Priest became us; He is every way fit for us, who is "Holy harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." (Heb. 7:26) Being God as well as man there is a sufficient virtue or efficacy in all His actions, and sufferings to answer for they were designed; in His blood to cleanse from sin, in His righteousness to justify from sin, and His sacrifice, to expiate and atone for it. Being the mighty God, He could "travel in the greatness of his strength," "draw nigh God for us," "offer up Himself to Him," "bear our sins," and all the punishment due unto them, without failing, or being discouraged. His arm alone was capable of bringing salvation, to Himself and us, there is nothing wanting in Him to make Him a complete Redeemer of the body, and the Head of the church. 3rd. It was also necessary for our Redeemer to have a fullness, yea, an all-sufficiency, to supply the needs of the myriads of His redeemed, in providence grace, and glory. This also is found in Him. 1st. In Him there is light. The light of nature is in Him and from Him. He is the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. The things of nature are all with Him, and at His disposal, "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof," and He gives it to His chosen and special people in a peculiar manner. The world, and they that dwell therein, are His, even the men of the world, the wicked part of the world are His. He has power over them, and rules them with a rod of iron "Ask of me" says the Father, to Him, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." (Ps. 2:8) Thus there is a fullness in Christ to supply the temporal need of his chosen.
2nd. There is a fullness of grace in Christ to supply the spiritual need of His people. Christ is said to be "full of grace and truth," and it is of this fullness that the believer receives, "and grace for grace." (John 1:16) Every measure of grace, and all kinds.
1st. There is a fullness of the Spirit of grace, and of the gifts of the Spirit in Christ. For He is the Lamb in the midst of the throne, which is His priestly office; having seven horns, which denote His kingly office; and seven eyes, this points to His prophetic office, which are the seven spirits of God, that is, the fullness of the Spirit dwelling in Him without measure; (in us, with measure,) which also indicates the perfection of His gifts and grace, signified by the number seven. The "spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might; the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord," (Isa. 11:2) rest upon Him. He is "anointed with the oil of gladness, (the Holy Ghost) "above His fellows," (Ps. 45:7) (any of the sons of men), who are nevertheless made partakers of His grace, and glory.
2nd. There is a fullness of the blessings of grace in Christ. The covenant of grace is ordered in all things, as well as sure; it is full of all spiritual blessings. Now, this covenant is made with Christ; it is in His hands; yea, He is the covenant itself. All its blessings are upon the head, and the hands of our anti-typical Joseph; even on the crown of the head of Him who was "separated from his brethren." (Deut. 33:16) Therefore, if any are blest with these blessings they are blest with them "in heavenly places in Christ." And indeed, in a very strange and surprising manner, do they come from Him to us, even through His being made a curse for us, that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentile through Him.
There is a fullness of justifying grace in Him. One part of His work and office, as Redeemer and Mediator, was, to bring in everlasting righteousness; a righteousness answerable to all the demands of the law, and justice, which should answer for His people in time to come, and last for ever. Such a righteousness He has wrought out, and brought in; by which justice is satisfied, the law is magnified, and made honorable, (Isa. 42:21) and with which God is well pleased. Whence He is truly called "the Lord our righteousness," (Jer. 23:6; Jer. 33:16) and "the Sun of righteousness;" (Mal. 4:2) from whom alone we have our justifying righteousness; to Him are sensible souls directed; to Him they look, and to Him they apply for it. "Surely in the Lord have I righteousness and strength." (Isa. 45:24)
There is also a fullness of pardoning grace in Christ. The covenant of grace has largely and fully provided for the forgiveness of the sins of all the Lord's people. One considerable branch of it is "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Heb. 8:12) His blood has been "shed for many, for the remission of sins." (Matt. 26:28) The issue of which is, that in Him we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. Which, as it is entirely free, the riches, the glory of grace, and mercy are thereby eminently displayed, as large and abundant, full and complete.
There is likewise a fullness of adopting grace in Christ. The blessing of the adoption of children springs originally from the love of the Father,--"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." (1 John 3:1) Predestination to it is by, or through, Jesus Christ. The enjoyment of it is greatly owing to the redemption which is in Him, "For He came to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." (Gal. 4:5) The right, the privilege, the liberty of becoming the sons of God is actually given forth from Christ to those who receive Him and believe in Him. So that they who are the children of God, are openly and declaratively so by their faith in Christ Jesus.
There is a fullness of sanctifying grace in Christ. The whole stock of the saint's holiness is in Christ's hands. He is their sanctification as well as their righteousness. All their holiness is derivable from Christ, they are made partakers of it in this life, and it is made perfect in the hour of death,--for "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." In the first work of conversion, a large measure of sanctifying grace is given forth from Christ, when the grace of our Lord is exceeding abundant with faith, and love, which is in Christ Jesus. As He is the author and finisher of faith, He is the author and finisher of every other grace; every measure of it is owing to Him, every supply of it is from Him. There is a fullness of all grace in Christ to supply all our wants, support our persons, and to carry us safely and comfortably through this wilderness. There is a fullness of light, and life, of wisdom, and knowledge, strength, and ability, joy, peace, and comfort in Him; all spiritual light is in Him, and from Him. As all that light that was scattered throughout the whole creation was on the fourth day collected together, and concentrated in the great luminary, the sun, so all rays of spiritual light dwell in Christ, the Sun of Righteousness. In Him we have strength to enable us to oppose every corruption, withstand every enemy, exercise every grace, and discharge every duty.
There is a full fountain, and a solid foundation of all spiritual peace, joy, and comfort in Christ. If there is any consolation to be had anywhere it is in Him; it arises from, and is founded upon His person, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice, in view of which, a believer is sometimes filled with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. There is every grace in Christ for us, to bear us up under, and bear us through all the trials, exercises, and afflictions of this life, to make us faithful in every good work, and to cause us to hold on and out unto the end.
There is a fullness of the promises of grace in Jesus. There are many "exceeding great and precious promises," (2 Pet. 1:4) suited to the various cases and circumstances of the children of God. There never has been a predicament in which a believer has been since the creation of the world, and I may venture to say, there never will be one to the end of the time, in which there is not a promise given forth suitable to it. The covenant of grace implies, and contains these promises, from thence they are fully transcribed into the Gospel, they are spread all over the Bible, and what is best of all, is, that every one of "the promises of God are in Christ yea and in Him Amen, to the glory of God by us." (2 Cor. 1:20) They are all put into His hands for our use, and are all safe and secure in Him, who will see to it, that they are all actually and fully accomplished, not only the grand promise of life, even eternal life, which "God that cannot lie promised before the world began," (Titus 1:2) not only is that in Christ Jesus, but all other promises are in Him likewise; so that all who are partakers of them are partakers of them in Him by the Gospel.
3rd. Besides the fullness of nature and grace, which is in Christ, there is also the fullness of glory; of eternal life and happiness. God has not only put the grace of His people, but their glory also into the hands of Christ. Their position, their inheritance, is reserved for them with Him, where it is safe and secure. They are "heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ." (Rom. 8:17) So that their estate is sure unto them. As their life of grace, so their life of glory is "hid with Christ in God;" and "when Christ who is their life shall appear, they shall appear with Him in glory," (Col. 3:3,4) which will greatly consist in being "like to Christ and seeing Him as He is." The saints will be like Christ both in body and soul. Their bodies which are redeemed by His blood, and are members of Him, will be fashioned like unto His glorious body in spirituality, immortality, incorruption, power and glory, and will shine forth as the sun with brightness and luster in the kingdom of their Father. Their souls also, will be made like Christ in knowledge and holiness, so far as creatures are capable of such likeness. They will then see Him as He is, behold His mediatorial glory, view Him for themselves and not another, will be inexpressibly delighted with His excellencies and continue with Him in His presence for ever. "In whose presence is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore." Now all this is secured in Christ for the saints, all this they may expect, on this they may depend. "For this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His son." (1 John 5:11) Thus all fullness of nature, grace and glory, is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
My dear reader, bless God for such a full Christ, just suitable to an empty sinner, who has been emptied from vessel to vessel. Here are full wells of salvation, all kinds of salvation temporal, spiritual, and eternal, wells of grace, and glory. Here is a Christ suitable to all your circumstances. Art thou tried in providence? with a large family of little children depending upon thee, and canst thou hardly supply their needs; provision very dear, and thou perhaps short of profitable employment; trade bad with thee; as it was with good old Jacob, no corn in the land? Go to thy elder Brother, thy blessed Joseph. Oh! go to Him, with prayer, and supplications; tell Him of all thy needs. All the treasures of corn are in His possession; He is exalted at the right hand of His Father and thy Father, He will not send thee empty away, He will hear and answer thy petitions; He knows what it was to hunger and thirst. Plead His promise, He has said, "bread shall be given and water shall be sure." Remind Him of His faithfulness; if thou art a believer, claim thy relationship; wrestle with Him and tell him, thou saidest "I will do thee good." "Give me neither poverty, nor riches, feed me with food convenient for me." You need not take any money with you. The gold and silver are His, and the cattle on a thousand hills. He is not confined to means; He can feed you by means of ravens, as he fed Elijah; or supply your need even as he did that of the prophet, through a poor widow. He may try you, but He will provide for you. "The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger, but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." Art thou fatherless? He is a Father to the fatherless. Art thou a widow? He is a husband to the widows. Art thou a stranger here below? Christ knows the heart of a stranger, for He was once a stranger on this earth.
We do not read that Christ ever wrought a miracle to supply His own need; but He wrought many to supply the needs of His followers. He neglected Himself, (if I may so say,) but He never neglected His children. "I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and they have nothing to eat, I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way."
How compassionate! our unchangeable Lord's forethought extending to the body, as well as to the soul. Body and soul are equally His, and therefore He will take care of both. Art thou tried in soul matters, hungering and thirsting after pardon, peace, joy, comfort, and consolation, longing for the light of His countenance; for the assurance of faith, and for foretastes of heaven? Go then to Christ, there is in Him a fullness of grace, you will meet with no refusal, yea, He Himself invites you. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." (Isa. 55:1) "And the Spirit and the bride say, come; and let him that heareth say, come; and let him that is athirst, come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." (Rev. 22:17) Art thou an aged saint, on the evident brink of and looking forward to a solemn eternity? Be of good cheer, thy glory is in the hand of Christ, and He will give it thee in the right time, Hearken unto me O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne of me from the belly, which are carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and even to hoar hairs will I carry you, I have made, and I will bear, even I will carry and will deliver you." (Isa. 46:3,4) "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age, they shall be fat, and flourishing." Thus believer! you see the blessedness of such a fullness in your Christ.
Let us next contemplate the redemption by Christ, considered as the fruit and effects of His triumph. And as herein God is glorified in the exaltation of Christ, and in the eternal salvation of the redeemed, the comfort of the church depends most materially upon so important a truth. Therefore we will endeavor to speak now of the excellency of Christ as the Redeemer of God's elect. 1st. The fullness that there is in Christ, is a very ancient fullness. We are not to suppose that this fullness was first put into Christ's hand upon His ascension to heaven, when, as we read He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, for though He is then said to have received gifts for men, and to have imparted them; (inasmuch as there was an extraordinary distribution of the gifts and graces of the spirit to the apostles,) yet God had given the Spirit to Christ without measure long before the days of His flesh, or His state of humiliation, when the word being made flesh, dwelt among men, and they beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) And long before that day, Isaiah saw this manifestation of His glory, His train filling the temple. (Isa. 6:1) All the Old Testament saints looked to Him, believed in Him, and depended on Him, as their living Redeemer; they all said, "Surely in the Lord have I righteousness and strength." They were supplied with both out of Christ's fullness. (Isa. 45:24) They drew water with joy out of the wells of salvation in Christ, and were saved by His grace, even as we are. Yea, this fullness existed in Christ from all eternity. For as early as the elect were given to Christ, so early was grace given to them in Him, which was before the world began; (2 Tim. 1:9) so early were they "blest with all spiritual blessings in Him." (Eph. 1:3) Christ was set up a Redeemer "from everlasting." So early was the fullness of grace deposited with Him. The Lord possessed me, says Wisdom, or Christ, in the beginning of his way, that is with this all fullness of grace; in the beginning of His ways of grace before His ways in creation, and providence. "I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was, as the Mediator of the covenant." (Prov. 8:23) Very appropriately therefore, the covenant is called by the Holy Spirit in the word of truth, "the everlasting covenant." 2nd. This fullness is a very rich, and enriching fullness. It is a fullness of truth as well as of grace, for Christ is declared to be "Full of grace, and truth," which the gospel largely opens to us, for every truth of God is "a pearl of great price." As for instance the doctrines of election, predestination, particular redemption, a perfect and complete salvation, and the final perseverance of the saints as known by the glorious experience thereof in the heart by the Spirit of God. What would not a sensible sinner give to know that his worthless name was written from eternity in the book of life? A knowledge of this fills the soul with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. The preceptive part of the gospel to a sanctified heart, to a glorious soul, is as precious as the doctrinal. Such a one loves to live holily in life, walk, and conversation; and it is a matter of great grief that he cannot perfectly do so. Now in Christ are laid up and hid all treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col. 2:3) What a rich and enriching stock and fullness of truth is there in Christ. The promises of grace are precious to all those who have received them from Him by his Spirit, and have had them by Him suitably and seasonably applied. To such only they are exceeding precious. They are like apples of gold in pictures of silver, rejoiced over more than great spoil--and these are all in Christ. There are not only riches of grace, but of glory, even unsearchable riches, which can never be traced out or told over; which are solid and substantial, satisfying, lasting, and durable. What are the riches of this world in comparison to these? They are but a phantom, a bubble, transient, and short lived. The wise man tells us, that they have wings and fly away. Alas! the madness of men to spend their lives after things that are not; and after all, death comes and separates them from these riches, and their souls sink into utter darkness. This is the portion of every rich man as well as poor, who is without the riches of grace, and the Pearl of great price, which is Christ. Miserable is the man who is without God and hope in this world; but happy, yea, thrice happy is the poorest in this world if rich in grace; for he is an heir of a kingdom. These riches come to us through the poverty of Christ; we are enriched with those riches there and hereafter--"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that through He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye though his poverty might be rich." (2 Cor. 8:9)
But some will say, how can we obtain these riches? We feel so poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked! Let me tell you, my fellow sinners that this fullness is entirely free with respect to the spring and source of it, the distribution of it, the persons concerned in it, and the manner in which they receive from it. The source and spring of it is the sovereign goodwill and pleasure, grace and love of God. It pleased the Father to lay it up in Christ. He was not induced to it by anything in His people, or done by them, for it was laid up in Christ antecedently to their having done good or evil. He could not be influenced by their faith and holiness to do it, since these are received out of it. "For of his fulness have we all received and grace for grace." One grace as well as another, every sort of grace, and faith and holiness come from this one source. Nor could God be moved to it by His people's good works, seeing these are the fruits of that grace which is derived from it. It is indeed said to be for them that fear Him, and trust in Him; but these phrases are only descriptive of the persons who have received from it, and are made so by it: not that their fear and faith are the causes and conditions of it, for then the goodness of God would not be so largely displayed in it. The Psalmist has said, "Oh how great is thy goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought (or appointed, or made) for them that trust in thee before the sons of men." (Ps. 31:19) And as it was freely laid up, it is as freely distributed. Our Lord gives it out liberally, and upbraideth not. He gives this living water to all that ask it of Him, yea, to them that ask it not. He gives more grace, large measures, fresh supplies of it to his humble saints readily and cheerfully, as they stand in need of them. He withholds no good thing from them that walk uprightly. The persons to whom it is given are very unworthy, and yet heartily welcome. Whoever is thirsty and has a will to come, may come and take the water of life freely. Such who have no money, or anything that is of a valuable consideration, who have neither worth nor worthiness of their own, may come and buy wine and milk without money and without price. And whereas this fullness of Christ, this well of grace, is deep, and we have nothing to draw with, God provides the bucket of faith; this is freely given--it is "not of ourselves, it is the gift of God:" and with this we draw water with joy out of the full wells of salvation, which are in Christ Jesus.
This fullness is inexhaustible. As the whole family in heaven and in earth is named of Christ, so it is maintained by Him. What a vast deal of grace has been expended out of this fullness to bring them to glory. The grace of our Lord has been abundant, superabundant--it has flowed and overflowed. There has been a redundancy of it in the case of a single believer. Oh! what must the aboundings of it have been to all the saints in all ages, times, and places, since the foundation of the world. And still there is enough for the family on earth yet behind. Christ is still the fountain of all his gardens, the churches; a well of living water which supplies them all, and streams from Lebanon, which sweetly refresh and delight them. His grace is sufficient for them; it is like the Author of it, who has treasured it up in Christ: it changes not, and like the subject in whom it dwells, it is the same today, yesterday, and for ever.
We will endeavor now to show in what sense this fullness may be said to dwell in Christ, and what that phrase imports.
1st. It expresses the being of it in Him. It is not barely in intention, in design and purpose; but it is really and actually in Him, it is given to Him, put into his hands, and laid up in Him. And hence it comes to be communicated to the saints, because it is in Him they receive of it, and grace for grace. He is the head in whom it dwells; the saints are members of Him, and so derive it from Him. He is theirs, and they are His; and so all that He has belongs unto them. His person is theirs, in whom they are accepted with God. His blood is theirs, to cleanse them from all sin. His righteousness theirs, to justify them from it. His sacrifice theirs, to atone for it; and His fullness theirs, to supply all their wants: and out of this they are so filled, as to be said to be full of the Holy Ghost, full of faith, and full of goodness, in Christ without measure--in them in measure. It is in Him as an overflowing fountain, but in them as streams from it. It is in Him, and in no other. Salvation is only in Him; it is in vain to expect it from any other quarter. No degree of spiritual light and life, grace and holiness, peace, joy, and comfort, is to be had elsewhere. Such therefore who neglect, overlook, or forsake the fountain of living waters, hew out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. Wherefore it becomes all who have any knowledge of themselves, any sense of their wants and any belief in the fullness of Christ, to apply to Him; for whither should any go but to Him who has the "words of eternal life?" (Col. 2:10; Acts 6:3-8; Rom. 15:14; Jer. 2:13)
2nd. It is an abiding fullness, and yields a continual daily supply. Believers may go day and night to it, and received out of it. The grace that there is in it will be always sufficient for them, even to the end of their days; and this is the cause of the saints' final perseverance; for because He lives full of grace and truth, they do and shall live also. There will be as much grace, and as large a sufficiency of it, for the last believer that is born into the world as for the first. Besides, there is a fullness of glory in Christ, which will abide in Him to all eternity; out of which the saints will be continually receiving glory for glory, as here grace for grace. They will have all their glory from and through Christ then, as they now have all their grace from Him, and through Him.
3rd. It is a sure fullness. Everything that is in Christ is safe and secure. The persons of God's elect being in Him, are in the utmost safety; none can pluck them out of His hands. Their grace being there, it can never be lost; their glory being there, they can never be deprived of it. "Their life," both of grace and glory, "is hid with Christ in God," and so out of the reach of men and devils. Christ is the Storehouse and Magazine of all grace and glory, and a well fortified one. He is a Rock, a strong Tower, a place of Defense; such a one as the gates of hell cannot prevail against.
Here a question may be asked, how Christ our Redeemer came to this fullness? My reply is, God the Father filled Him with it. "And all things are of God (that is, of God the Father,) who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ." (2 Cor. 5:18) Our election in Christ was of God the Father; the appointing of Him as our Redeemer was by the Father. So He has filled Him with all fullness for the supply of the redeemed. It was the Father's good pleasure that all fullness should dwell in Christ.
It is owing to the goodwill of the Father to his Son, that this fullness dwells in Him. Christ was ever as Redeemer, "as one brought up with Him, daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him." (Prov. 8:30) And so He always continued to be; and as an evidence and demonstration of it, He treasured up all fullness in Him. This seems to be the import of our Lord's words, when He says, "The Father loved the Son, and hath given all things into His hands." (John 3:35) That is, He has showed His love to Him, and given a full proof of it, by committing all things to Him, to be at his will and disposal. This sense of the word well agrees with the context, which represents Christ in His mediatorial capacity, as well as the Redeemer, as exalted by the Father with this view, that in all things He might have the preeminence.
It is owing to the goodwill of the Father to the redeemed, that this fullness dwells in Christ; for it is for their sakes, and upon their account that it is put into the hands of Christ. God has loved them with an everlasting love, and therefore takes everlasting care of them, and makes everlasting provision for them. They were the objects of His love and delight from everlasting, and therefore He appointed Christ to be their Redeemer from everlasting, and possessed Him with this fullness for them. There was goodwill in God's heart towards the sons of men, and therefore it pleased Him to take such a step as this, and lay up a sufficient supply for them both for time and eternity.
It pleased the Father that this fullness should dwell in Christ, because He considered Him as the most proper person to trust with it. It is well for us that it is not put into our own hands at once, but by degrees, as we stand in need of it; it would not have been safe in our own keeping. It is well for us it was not put into the hands of Adam our first parent our natural and federal head, where it might have been lost. It is well for us it was not put into the hands of angels, who as they are creatures, (mutable creatures, as the apostasy of many of them abundantly declares,) are unfit for such a trust. The Father saw that none was fit for this trust but His Son, and therefore it pleased Him to commit it to Him.
It is the will and pleasure of God that all grace should come to us through Christ. If God will commune with us, it must be from off the mercyseat, Christ Jesus. If we have any fellowship with the Father, it must be through Christ. If we have any grace from Him, who is the God of all grace, it must come to us in this way; for Christ alone is "the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14:6) Not only the way of access to God, and acceptance with Him, but of the conveyance of all grace, of all the blessings of grace unto us. How gloriously this sets forth the glory of Christ.
One considerable branch of Christ's glory as Redeemer, lies in his being full of grace and truth; which fact souls sensible of their own wants behold with pleasure. It is this which makes Him fairer than the children of men; because grace (the fullness of it) is poured into his lips; and so nothing but grace flows from His lips--this is demonstrated from His sermon on the mount, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matt. 5:3-11) It is this which makes Him appear to be "white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand;" and look so lovely, even altogether lovely, in the view of all that know him. It is this which makes Him so exceedingly precious, and so highly valued and esteemed by all them that believe.
This instructs us where to go for a supply. The Egyptians in the seven years of famine, when they cried to Pharaoh for bread, he having set Joseph over his storehouses, bids them to go to him, saying "Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do." (Gen. 41:55) Christ is by his Father made head over all things unto His church. He is our antitypical Joseph, who has our whole stock of grace in his hand. All the treasures of it are hid in Him. He has the entire disposal of it. And this we may be sure of that there is nothing we want but what is in Him; and He will readily and freely communicate it to us.
This directs us to give all the glory of what we have to God through Christ. For since He is the way of the conveyance of all grace unto us by Him therefore "let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually; that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks unto His name." ( Heb. 13:15) It is by the grace of God in Christ, through Him, and from Him, we are what we are; it is that which has made us to differ from others. We have nothing but what we have in a way of receiving; nothing but what we have received out of the fullness of Christ, and therefore we should not glory as though we had not received it--"But if any of us glory, let us glory in this, that Christ is of God made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." (1 Cor. 1:30)
Let us now consider who the redeemed are whom He has purchased with his precious blood. The church of Christ is called the purchased possession--"Which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession." (Eph. 1:14)
Who are the people that are Christ's and are purchased by Him? These are human beings, for angels cannot come into the account of purchased ones. The evil angels Christ has nothing to do with as a Saviour, nor they with Him. The good angels, though they are the objects of electing love, yet are not of redeeming grace. Though Christ is the Head of election to them, yet not the Author of the redemption of them; for as they never were in bondage, they can never be said to be redeemed, or bought again. But the purchased people are human beings, with whom the delights of Christ were from everlasting, whose persons and cause He espoused, and for whom he undertook as a Surety to obey, suffer, and die, in their room and stead; and by so doing to redeem and save them. In order to accomplish which He took on Him their nature, and not the nature of angels; and in that nature made a purchase of them. "Ye are bought with a price, be not ye the servants of men," (1 Cor. 7:23) of whose race they are, and with whom they live, and to whom they are liable to be servants, whom Christ has bought with the price of His blood. But then these are not all men, or all the individuals of mankind; for they are redeemed from among men, and out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation, (Rev. 14:4; Rev. 5:9) and therefore cannot be all men, or all of every kindred, tongue, people and nation. If Christ had made a purchase of all men, all would be saved, for His travail cannot have been in vain. The people of Christ are a distinct people, distinguished by the love of God to them, by His choice of them to eternal life, and by the covenant of grace into which they are peculiarly taken, and are interested in all the blessings and promises of it, and by the effectual vocation of them. And as they are a distinct people in Christ's intercession, for whom He prays and not for the world, so in redemption by His blood they are a peculiar people, whom He has redeemed from all iniquity, to whom He has a peculiar right, for whom He has a peculiar regard on whom He bestows peculiar blessings, and whom He admits to a peculiar nearness to Himself. They are indeed "the church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood;" (Acts 20:28) that church of which He is the head, and for which He has given Himself, "that He might sanctify and cleanse it, and present it to Himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, (Eph. 5:27) even the general assembly of the firstborn, (Heb. 12:23) whose names are written in heaven;" (Luke 10:20) that is to say, the elect of God--these and every one of them are bought by Christ, their souls and bodies. Wherefore being not their own, but bought with a price, they are under obligation to glorify Him that bought them in their body and spirit, which are His. (1 Cor. 6:19,20) These are they which are called the purchased possession. (Eph. 1:14) Not heaven, as some have thought, to which redemption cannot with any propriety be ascribed, but a people for the Lord's possession, which He has bought for that purpose. Nor are any but persons ever said to be purchased by Christ; which leads me to observe, that Christ, and He alone, is the Purchaser of these people. The Son of God was appointed the Redeemer of them in eternity, and was sent in the fullness of time to redeem them; and He has redeemed his people from sin, law, hell, and death. The Lamb has redeemed them, or bought them again by His blood, being God over all, blessed for ever, the King of kings Lord of lords, the only Potentate, (1 Tim 6:15) whose is the earth and the fullness thereof, the world, and they that dwell therein. He was able to make this purchase, and none but a divine Person was equal to it; wherefore God is said to purchase the church with His blood. And as He was able to make this purchase, He was willing to do it. God, in His infinite wisdom found Him, and pitched upon Him to be the ransom price of His people; upon which He said concerning them, "Deliver them from going down into the pit." (Job 33:24) And Christ voluntarily agreed to be that ransom, and said, "Lo I come to do thy will, O God." (Heb. 10:9) And accordingly He did come in the human nature, "in the form of a servant, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and give His life a ransom from many." (Matt. 20:28) And indeed by His becoming man, and so our goel or near Kinsman, the right of purchase or redemption belongeth unto Him. If a man according to the levitical law could not redeem himself when sold, his uncle, or his uncle's son, or any near of kin might do it; and so the redemption and purchase of inheritance belongeth to such, as in the case of Boaz and Jeremiah. Thus Christ partaking of the same flesh and blood with His people, and they being sold and in a state of bondage, the right of redemption devolved upon Him, as it was agreed it should in the counsel and covenant of grace and peace; and accordingly He has actually made the purchase--He has purchased the church with His blood. The thing is done. "Ye are bought with a price"--this has been testified in due time; full proof is to be, and has been made of it.
The price with which these people are purchased by Christ, the purchase money that was laid down for them, or given as a valuable consideration on their account, is next to be considered. This is sometimes said to be the flesh of Christ, which He gave for the life of he world; for the obtaining and securing the life of His chosen ones--even His whole human nature, which He took into union with His Divine Person, and so is said to be made flesh; (John 1:14) or, a partaker of the same flesh and blood with His people, in which human nature He was put to death, and so obtained eternal redemption for them. Sometimes His blood is represented as the purchasing price--"Not with corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without spot or blemish." (1 Pet. 1:18,19) He is said to purchase the church with His own blood; (Acts 20:28) and to redeem us unto God by His blood: (Rev. 5:9) which was a sufficient price. It was the same blood with ours, for He partook of the same flesh and blood with us. It was not the blood of bulls and goats which was given as the purchase price, but it was the blood of a man, and of an innocent person, who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, It was the blood of the harmless and innocent lamb of God without spot or blemish, either of original or actual sin, and so fit to be the ransom price; and besides what gave it its value, virtue, and efficacy is, that it is the blood of Him that is God as well as man, and both in one person--the blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God, and so as it has a virtue to take away sin, and cleanse from it, has an intrinsic worth and value in it, to make a purchase of all God's elect. Sometimes the life, which is in the blood, the life of Christ, is said to be the ransom price. He laid down His life for the sheep, which His Father gave Him, and made His care and charge. His life went for theirs, and for the redemption of them. (John 10:15) He gave His life a ransom for them! yea, He is said to give Himself a ransom price for all His people, Jews and Gentiles, men of all nations, and all sorts of sinners, greater and lesser; (1 Tim. 2:9) even His human nature, soul and body, as in union with His divine person, was given for a sacrifice and offering for the sins of men, so for the ransom of them. And how great must this be! We sometimes hear of a king's ransom given, either by a king or for one. Such is the ransom of Christ; it is given by Him the King of kings, and is no other than Himself: and it is given for His people, who are made kings and priests to God by Him, It must needs be a great one.
Now let us see to whom this price was paid for the purchase of these people. Not into the hands of Satan. Though he is the god of this world, he is so by usurpation: and though he works effectually in the children of disobedience, and even leads captive God's own people in a state of unregeneracy, yet he has no rightful claim unto them, nor just possession of them; and therefore as there was no necessity of making a purchase of them from him, so neither has any been made. They are indeed ransomed from the hand of him who is stronger than they, even the strong man armed in whose power they were whilst in a state of nature; but then this is done by power; and though in consequence of a price paid, yet not into his hands, but into the hands of another: and so the prey is taken from the mighty, and the lawful captive is delivered. But the price of redemption is paid into the hands of God, into the hands of divine justice, by Christ giving Himself an offering, and a sacrifice unto God, by fulfilling His law and satisfying His justice. God has a sovereign right unto His people; and could give them to whom He will, and He gave them to His Son--"Thine they were, and Thou gavest them me," (John 17:6) on condition of His making His soul an offering for sin, or giving Himself to redeem them from all iniquity, and purifying unto Himself a peculiar people. (Titus 2:14) God is He against whom they have sinned, and whose law is broken by sin; "for sin is the transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4) And the dishonor done to that must be removed, and the honor of it repaired and restored; and Christ by his obedience, sufferings, and death, has magnified the law and made it honorable. (Isa. 42:21) Justice by sin, is injured and offended, and the Judge of all the earth will do right, and insist upon a full satisfaction to His justice, and therefore Christ is set forth to be the propitiation for sin; to declare the justice and righteousness of God, who is glorified by Christ being made sin and a curse for His people, and by laying down His life a ransom paid for them. Sins are so many debts, and they are exceeding numerous. More than ten thousand talents are owing, and man has nothing to pay with. He has run into debt with God, and to Him must the payment be made, either by Himself or by his Surety; and now Christ the Surety of His people in paying off their debts, has put a valuable consideration for them into the hands of God, to whom He has made the payment, and so He has blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that lay against them. (Col. 2:14)
Look at the nature of this purchase. It is a special purchase, a special people that Christ has purchased; a special price which He has laid down for them, and which arises from His special love of them, and from whence flows special favors and blessings to them. It is a real purchase. There is a purchasing or buying things in a suppositious sense, which is done without money and without price; so grace and the blessings of it are both of Christ, that is, by making application to Him, they are freely had and enjoyed. But this purchase is made with a price, (1 Cor. 7:23) though not with the price of gold and silver, and such like corruptible things; yet with the price of Christ's blood, with His flesh, His life, Himself. It is a legal purchase, good and valid, and against which no objection can be made. It is a sufficient price that is given, what was agreed to by the parties concerned, by God to whom it is paid, who is satisfied with it; by Christ who engaged to give it, and has made payment of it. Nor can anything be alleged to invalidate the purchase either by law or justice; nor can any one for the future lay any claim to the persons purchased, but He to whom they of right belong, who has a most clear and undoubted right and title to them, as by his Father's gift, who gave them to Him, to be His portion and inheritance; so by His own purchase. Wherefore He claims an interest in them on this account, saying, "I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine." (Isa. 43:1) And they are not their own, but the Lord's; and as they are not vassals of Satan, they ought not to be the servants of man, but serve and glorify the Lord, and Him only. As the purchase Jeremiah made of the field of his uncle's son was firm and valid, when the evidence of the purchase was subscribed and sealed, the witnesses taken, and the money weighed and paid; so the purchase which Christ has made is much more so, being sealed with His blood, and testified in due time in the everlasting gospel. The evidence of this purchase, the Scriptures, are the writings which contain it, show and prove it. It is a full and complete purchase; it is a purchase of the whole election of grace; of all the children of God scattered about in the world: of all the Lord's people that ever have been, are, or shall be in it. These may truly be said to be the pearl of great price, which Christ the Merchant-man came into this world to seek for and found, and finding it, sold all that He had, parted with his life, and gave himself for it, and bought it; and it is the greatest purchase that ever was made, or can be made, and which none else could ever make, though he were possessed of the greatest riches. "None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; for the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever." (Ps. 49:6-8) It must do so for anything that they can give as a redemption price for it; they are not able with all they have, and had they the whole world, and all that is in it in their possession, they would not be able to purchase one single soul, or give a sufficient ransom price for it; whereas Christ has purchased the whole church of God, thousands and millions of the souls of men, even a great multitude out of all nations, kindred's, people, and tongues, which no man can number.
Redemption supposes those persons redeemed to have been in a state of bondage and slavery, as they are by nature to sin. It is from this state we are redeemed from all the chains of spiritual bondage. Now there are six chains of bondage with which every sinner is bound, and from them all there is a redemption by Christ.
1st. The chains of sin--"Of whom a man is overcome, of the same he is brought into bondage." (2 Pet. 2:19) Every servant of sin is a bond slave to his lusts; and so many sinful lusts as he has, so many tyrants does he serve as a slave. And there is no slavery or bondage like unto that of sin, for sin never gives rest or wages, but is infinite in its commands, and damns us at last as a reward for all our services. But from this bondage does Christ redeem or deliver us--"For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." (1 John 3:8) Those works of the devil were our sins--"Our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." (Rom. 6:6) There are two things in sin from which Christ delivers us; viz, Jesus Christ hath by his redemption delivered us from the dominion of sin--"Sin shall not have dominion over you;" (Rom. 6:14) His spirit sanctifies: and from the damnation of sin--"There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus;" (Rom. 8:1) His blood justifies,
2nd. The chains of God's justice. By reason of sin we fell into the hands of a just God, who has threatened and revealed His wrath against it; so that wheresover the sinner lives he lives under the cloud of God's wrath, which at any time may break and come down upon him, and utterly and eternally overwhelm him. This is a very dreadful bondage; it is like a man who sits down to a table beautifully spread, and while sitting to enjoy it, a gallows is preparing for his execution. But Christ has redeemed us out of the hands of God's justice, by satisfying and appeasing it, and so has delivered us from wrath.
3rd. The chains of the love of God. The law of God pronounces death and the curse unto every sinner, and under that is the sinner concluded. "The soul that sinneth shall die," (Ezek. 18:4,20) and "cursed is every one who continues not in all things written in the law to do them." (Gal. 3:10) Oh what a heavy chain is this for a sinner to carry about with him! Many indictments and accusations in his own conscience, and as many curses pronounced against him in the law of God. For this sin thou art cursed, and for that, and for every one; so that the sinner is condemned, and cursed, and dead in law, which curses if the law be not satisfied, will as assuredly befall him as God is God. But from this bondage also has Christ redeemed us--"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." (Gal. 3:13) 1st. From the execution of the law by his active obedience. 2nd. From the condemnation of the law by his passive obedience.
4th. The chains of a condemning conscience. Out of every sin there does arise a particular guilt, which guilt binds over the sinner to the judgment seat of God, to answer for it, and to receive that condemnation threatened against it; and this lies heavy on his conscience. And truly this chain of bondage is such an iron yoke, a fiery furnace, a restless sea, an amazing wound, that none can bear it. "A wounded conscience who can bear?"--yet the sinner must bear it. It is the very spirit of bondage, the terror of the Almighty, and a hell upon earth. Yet also from this bondage does Christ deliver us, by making peace in his blood, and by speaking peace through his Spirit unto our souls, and pardon sealed by the Spirit--"Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee;" (Matt. 9:2) and then conscience is quiet, it ceaseth to accuse and condemn.
5th. The chains of Satan, who is the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience, who takes us captive at his will, whose will we do and serve. The power of Satan is, 1st. Dominion. 2nd. Operation and temptation. But Christ has redeemed us from this bondage also. He has bruised the head of the serpent, and by his cross has spoiled principalities and powers, and triumphed over them; (Eph. 2:2; 2 Tim. 2:26; John 8:44; Gen. 3:15; Col. 2:15; Rev. 12:8,9; Heb. 2:14) and overcome that danger, and has destroyed him that has the power of death, that is, the devil, and has delivered us from the power of darkness, has bound the strong man--so is Satan called, (Matt. 12:29) who bound us and ruled over us: and now we may by faith quench all his fiery darts in the blood of Christ. (Eph. 6:16)
6th. The chains of fear of death and hell. A perpetual fear of these lies upon the conscience of the sinner, but Christ has broken this chain also "And has redeemed them who through the fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Heb. 2:15) "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15:56,57) These are the things from which we are delivered by the redemption of Christ, blessed be His dear and precious name.
Now follow those things unto which we are brought. For His redemption is not a mere deliverance, as if one should only be freed out of prison, or only be kept from drowning, or be freed from condemnation. But there is also a glorious state into which we are brought, as when the Israelites were redeemed, they were not only delivered out of Egyptian darkness, but they were also brought into that goodly land of Canaan. And so it is with our redemption by Christ. We are delivered from all evil and misery, and brought to the enjoyments of all blessings and mercies. And the reason is this, because this redemption was not only a sufficient price to satisfy, but it was also a superabounding price to merit all the good of which our souls stood in need--"Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." (Col. 1:13) We are now brought under another Lord, under other laws and commands, and under the best liberties and privileges--"For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." (Rev. 5:9) Here you see the happiness of the redeemed. They are redeemed unto God, so as to become His in a peculiar way of relation and possession; so as to be made kings and priests unto Him, the possessors of the highest dignities, as it is asserted in 1 Pet. 2:9, "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people." By all which is meant that high and heavenly state, with all those excellent enjoyments of grace, dignities, privileges, and communion provided for us by the redemption of Christ.
This redemption by Christ is perfect and complete; but the believer's enjoyment will not be complete until the consummation of all things. It is true that in this life we are delivered from the slavery of sin, Satan, and death; sin shall not have the dominion over us, and Satan shall not hold us captive, to obey his commands, and do his will; we are freed from the wrath and condemnation of God; nevertheless sin and corruption cleave unto us, and we are beset with many temptations, encompassed with many infirmities and miseries, from which we are not, and shall not actually be delivered until the redemption of our bodies--"And not only they, but ourselves also which have the firstfruits of the Spirit; even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." (Rom. 8:23)
In the redemption by Christ we see a man under a double aspect. The preciousness of his soul. His alienation from God. 1st. How valuable must that soul be that nothing could purchase but the blood of the Son of God! 2nd. How the god of this world has blinded the eyes of men, not to see their misery, and trifling with so valuable a jewel, which cannot be purchased for millions of worlds! What can a man give in exchange for his soul? Alas, men go on sinning, enjoying the pleasures of this world, and all upon the hazard of their souls! Sinner, art thou aware that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and the bonds of iniquity? Oh what a mercy will it be for you if God should be pleased to open your eyes, to see the state of your soul; you will then cry out with holy Paul, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this bondage?" (Rom. 7:24) Thou knowest not that thou art under the wrath of God, under the curse of a holy law, and under the power of sin and Satan! May the Spirit of God make you sensible of your state, and enable you to cry, O Lord, deliver my soul out of the hands of all my enemies!
Alas, how is it that you can be satisfied with other things, with this friend, and with that honor, with this profit, and with that pleasure? What of all these if your precious and immortal soul have no interest in Christ, and in his redemption? What of all these as long as you are in the hands of God's justice, in the hands of Satan, under the power of sin, and a raging conscience, and under the sentence of a condemning law? Is this a condition to rest in? You are resting because you are not sensible of it. Were you sensible of your awful state, you would flee to Christ for refuge, and would not rest satisfied until you knew that He was your Redeemer.
Oh how few there are that value Christ! The reason is, because they put too great a value upon the world, and the things that are therein. Men brought themselves into misery and bondage, and while in this state Christ came down on earth, to break the bonds of their distresses. He took the sins of his elect upon Himself to deliver them from it. He was made under the law, to redeem them from the law. He was made a curse, and He bore the wrath of God, warred with Satan, fell into the hands of justice, and laid down his life, that He might deliver us from all these things. Here is a Friend indeed born for adversity, one that sticketh closer than a brother, and who loveth at all times. (Prov. 17:17)
Now let me speak a word or two to the believer. Are you blest with an interest in the redemption of Christ?
1st. Let Christ rule your heart, and order your ways, say to Him as the men of Israel spake to Gideon, "rule thou over us, for thou hast delivered us from the hands of Midian." Say to Christ, rule over me, for Thou hast redeemed me from the hands of all my enemies; Thou hast brought me with a price, I am not only my own, but Thine!
2nd. Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage; go not to Egypt for help, but go on straight in the way to heaven, and abound in all good works--bear in mind the passage, "Who gave himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous for good works." (Titus 2:14)
3rd. Spend not your days in vanity, it is high time to awake out of sleep; errors abound, as well as all kinds of iniquity, and the love of many waxes cold. Neither fashion yourselves after the present course of the world, "But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." (Rom. 12:2) It is contrary to your redemption by Christ to do otherwise--it is so, whatever you may think; you were redeemed from your vain conversation, with the precious blood of Christ, (1 Pet. 1:18,19) not only from iniquities, but vanities--"Who gave himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God." (Gal. 1:4)
4th. Long for the day of your full and perfect redemption. You need not to be afraid of death, nor of the coming of Christ to judgment. Death is the believer's privilege, yea, blessing; and the day of judgment will be to your advantage. All the saints will be adjudged as righteous in spite of all their enemies; then their bodies also shall be ransomed from the grave, and in soul and body shall they be glorified for ever, and be with the Lord.
5th. Be thankful for this unspeakable mercy, that you are brought to Christ, and partake of redeeming grace and dying love. Oh what an infinite blessing is this redemption! Think a little of it. What a mercy it is that your sins shall never damn you! Although you are chastised, corrected, and judged in this world it is that you should not be condemned in the world to come. It is all in love, "For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. (Heb. 12:6) The wrath of God is removed from you, the curse of the law shall never fall upon you, so that you shall never be brought into condemnation.
Poor sinner, whatever your state may be, whether bondage under sin or Satan's temptations or fear of death, Christ is a suitable Redeemer; in Him there is plenteous redemption. (Ps. 130:7)
Before we leave the subject of the redemption by Christ, we will consider two things:--1st. Whether a true believer may know his personal interest in this redemption; and 2nd. How he may know. Redemption by Christ, or the triumph of Christ on the cross is a very glorious subject for the exercise of human thought, yet without an experimental knowledge that He has loved me, given himself for me to redeem my own soul, what good will it do me a sinner? A general knowledge that Christ died for all the world, or a theoretical knowledge that He has died for the elect only, will not save a soul; nor will it do any one good in a dying hour. A sinner who is convinced by the Spirit of God of his lost and ruined state cannot rest with general things or with the doctrines in his head. When he is brought to feel the value of his immortal soul, he knows he must live eternally. Now the question is with him, whether he is to be with Christ and see Him as He is and be like unto Him; or to be eternally separated from Christ, and to dwell among the damned? Thoughts of this nature will make him groan and sigh, and restless day and night, like the church in the third and fifth chapters of the Book of Canticles--"Tell me O thou whom my soul loveth;" ( Songs 1:7) and like David, saying, "Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?" (Ps. 10:1) Trouble is a time of need, and need makes a sinner cry for help. The living soul cries, Lord save, or else I perish!" "How long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?" (Ps. 13:1,2) This sorrow is heart-sorrow, but it is a spiritual sorrow, which worketh life. That sorrow which leads to Christ, comes from Christ; for "the sorrow of the world worketh death." (2 Cor. 7:10) "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance; for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, or according to God: for godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of, but the sorrow of the world worketh death." (2 Cor. 7:9,10) Now as the salvation of our souls depends upon a personal and an experimental knowledge, we shall see, first, what the Holy Ghost says on this subject; ("to the word and to the testimony") and I think we shall find that a sinner may attain to that knowledge. Reader, listen then. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself;" (1 John 5:10) "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life. These things have I written unto you, that ye believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins. I write unto you little children because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake." (1 John 5:11-13,19; 1 John 2:1,2,12) "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood." (Rev. 1:5) "Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him, but for us also to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offenses." (Rom. 4:23-25) "Who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20) "Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." (1 Cor. 1:30) "I am my Beloved's, and my beloved is mine." (Songs 6:3)
From all these Scriptures we may positively affirm that a child of God may know his interest in the redemption by Christ. I am well aware that there are persons who deny this assertion, not only Papists, but Protestants also. But let God be true, and every man a liar. I myself should be the most miserable of all men, if I could think as they do. This is the only thing that supports me under all trials, temptations, and troubles, that Christ loved me, and gave himself for me--"And having loved his own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end," (John 13:1) or for ever and ever. His love is from everlasting, and will continue to everlasting. And besides these portions of the word, we may bring forth many more. The apostle says, Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith, prove your own selves; know ye not yourselves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates." (2 Cor. 13:5) Surely the holy apostle would not set the Corinthians to such a fruitless work, if the knowledge could not be obtained, that Christ the hope of glory dwells in a believer's heart. I know a graceless soul cannot, yet a gracious heart may and does enjoy it--and blessed be God for such a knowledge.
But how may a sinner know his interest in the triumph of Christ on the cross? There are various opinions, and ministers often erect their own standards; but we must come to the word of God. That is the infallible standard to regulate opinion. Faith is an infallible sign of our interest in Christ. "God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) Whosoever believes on Him shall receive remission of sins. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5:1) He that believeth shall be saved; i.e., he that believes on Christ as his righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. (1 Cor. 1:30) From the foregoing passages we have demonstrative proofs that faith shows the sinner he is interested in Christ, and shall have all the blessings and privileges of everlasting life, remission of sin, and peace with God. Although we may take this for granted, that he who believeth on Christ shall eternally be saved; yet here a question may arise whether my faith is a saving faith, which is of the operation of God the Holy Ghost, or a false faith? It is possible to have faith to remove mountains, to believe there is a God, and that the Bible is an infallible book; believe and preach the gospel, and yet eternally be lost! "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity (that is, love) I am nothing." (1 Cor. 13:1,2) Faith without love is not the faith of God's elect; for saving faith worketh by love. That faith which is the operation of the Spirit is called precious faith--"To whom that have obtained like precious faith with us, through the righteousness of God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:1) "Unto you who believe He is precious." (1 Peter 2:7) Faith leads to a precious Christ; it lays hold of a precious salvation, and of the precious promises. It is also styled justifying faith--"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God." Not that faith justifies us, but it leads us to Christ who is our justification; and lays hold upon His righteousness, which justifies the sinner. We read also of a saving faith--"For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." (Eph. 2:8) It looks to the object of our salvation, which is Christ; and as there is a counterfeit faith, which we have already seen, it behoveth us to know, in order to assure our hearts of our interest in Christ, that we have the faith of God's elect.
1st. True faith dwells in a broken and contrite heart, which proceeds from a feeling sense of sin, and a deep apprehension of the need of a dying Christ. A heart which has not been broken by the law of God, or melted by the gospel,--with no sense of the disease of sin, or of its plague, or without desires after Christ, is destitute of saving faith. The three thousand on the day of Pentecost to whom the gospel came with power, and in the demonstration of God the Holy Ghost, as well as the jailor of Philippi had their hearts pricked, and they cried, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30) They felt their lost state, and therefore they cried for salvation. In such broken hearts Christ dwells--"For thus saith the high and the lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity; whose name is holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit." (Isa. 57:15) God dwells everywhere as omnipresent, but with the contrite and humble spirit He dwells as a gracious God; as a Saviour and Redeemer, to perform gracious works by His Spirit: to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the hearts of the contrite ones. And this He does by an application of His blood, by telling them that their sins which are many are freely forgiven, and by pouring in the consolation of God the Holy Ghost. He gives more grace unto the lowly; He blesses the poor in spirit--"the pure in heart shall see God." "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." (Isa. 66:2) He looks upon them, to take care, support, provide and deliver; it is a look of approbation, of pity, and compassion.
2nd. True faith is created by the exceeding greatness of the power of God--"And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power." (Eph. 1:19) An almighty power must be exerted to create faith in a sinner's heart, for it is not in the power of men or angels. Faith is the gift of God, and is only given to the redeemed.
3rd. True faith comes generally through the ministry of the gospel. God has been pleased in his infinite wisdom to appoint the gospel as the means--"In whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise." (Eph. 1:13)
4th. True faith will elevate the soul and the heart, with high and precious thoughts of Christ--"Unto you that believe He is precious." All is a bubble, a nothing, without a precious Christ. Having Him we have all things; having Him we have heaven and earth. This is the language of true believers.
5th. True faith draws out the soul in earnest and insatiable desires. Heavenly desires cannot be satisfied with anything short of Christ; the soul is restless without the enjoyment of Him, and is willing to part with all that stands in opposition to that enjoyment.
6th. True faith enables the heart to receive Christ joyfully--"Then they that gladly received his word were baptized." They received a whole Christ, they received Him with his cross as well as with his crown; in his poverty as well as in his riches; in his degradation as well as in his exaltation; with his doctrine and his ordinances. They were willing to follow Him whithersoever He went. True faith is obedient to his commandments. It does not receive one truth and reject another. It believes all that Christ has said.
7th. True faith depends on Christ, and puts all confidence in Him, and none but Him. It strips the sinner of self-confidence; it stops the mouth from boasting; it empties the sinner, and lays him low in his own esteem, and leads him to Christ for all--"For we are the circumcision which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." (Phil. 3:3) "Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; and do count them but dung that I may be found in Him, not having my own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." (Phil. 3:8,9) Here we see the nature of true faith. It stripped Paul of his own righteousness, and made him see all things but dross and dung in comparison.
Lastly. True faith worketh by love. Faith without love is but a counterfeit. We have little love in the professing world because the faith is not genuine. Destitute of love, we are destitute of saving faith. True faith is a working principle; it works all for Christ, and gives all glory to Him. It gets stronger by work, more hungry by eating, and thirsty by drinking. It cries overmore give us of this bread and water of life, and cannot rest satisfied until it awakes in glory. "Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father." "The word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." (1 Thess. 2:13) Now find me a sinner who has such a faith; the gospel assures him that Christ is his Redeemer. I am not now speaking of the degrees of faith, but of the nature. Though this faith may be weak, as the smoking flax, as the bruised reed, or as a grain of mustard-seed; assaulted by Satan, darkened by temptation, encompassed with doubts and fears, and sin rising like a mighty mountain, yet if he can find life and power in his soul, to bring him to Christ, to rest his soul and cast his confidence on Him, it is a saving faith, and he is interested in Christ.
Again, an interest in Christ has an influence upon our walk. A loose walk is contrary to it; it is inconsistent with grace-yea, it proves that we are altogether destitute of the grace of God. The Holy Ghost is very plain upon this matter--"And He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again;" (2 Cor. 5:15) "who gave himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." "These things speak and exhort, and rebuke with all authority." "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness." (1 Peter 2:24) Christ redeemed his people from all iniquity, to set them at liberty from the bondage of their sinful lusts; that they should not serve sin. He has redeemed them, that they should be dead to sin; that is, that it should be mortified and crucified, that they should not love, desire, delight, or hearken to, and be led by sin, or live unto themselves; that is, not to set up their own ends and interests, praise and glory; their own profits, pleasure, and contentment. As Christ has given His all to us, so He expects all from us; that we should live unto Him who died for us,--exalt His will, His ways, and His honor, counting nothing too dear for Him; speaking and being spent, in His service, take His directions, obey His commands, serve His ends, act entirely and thoroughly, willingly and cheerfully, fully and constantly in all trials, for Him and His interest to the magnifying of His name, and to the glory of His person. These also are some of the ends for which Christ died, and these are also some of the fruits of such who have an experimental knowledge of the triumph of Christ. An experimental knowledge of our interest in Christ, is not obtained at once, but it comes by degrees. There are certain things which precede a knowledge of assurance. A deep sense of sin and misery; a spiritual conviction of our own impotency and insuffiency, and absolute need of Christ, earnest desires after Christ, and for faith to lay hold on Him. There are many conflicts between faith and doubts and fears, sincere prayers and supplications for the evidence of the love of Christ, and for an holy persuasion of our interest in Him, and in the blessings which flow from his death ere we get assurance.
Again, a child of God may infallibly know that he is interested in Christ, if he can find the following things within his heart. 1st. A tender and mournful heart--"And they shall look upon Him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourneth for an only son; and shall be in bitterness for Him as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." (Zech. 12:10) The mourners here are gracious souls; and gracious souls will be praying souls; and praying souls will be mourners. And there is a twofold mourning, and both are necessary. One from a sense of sin and grieving God, and the other from a sense of pardoning love; and all these are found. "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplications." This is a promise from God to the church, that He will pour upon them the spirit of grace, freely and liberally. First grace, and then supplications. Supplications without grace avail but little. They supplicate that they may have by faith a sight of Christ crucified, and the promise is, "They shall look unto Him whom they have pierced;" that is, they shall know the cause why Christ was pierced and crucified. And a knowledge of this makes them weep and mourn; and the nature of this mourning is, as for an only son, which distress is very great. 2nd. Great joy is sometimes also found in the heart, when by faith the atonement is received--"We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the atonement." (Rom. 5:11) 3rd. A burning love: when they who have their sins forgiven, their love burns for Christ--"Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins which are many are forgiven, therefore she loveth much." (Luke 7:47) 4th. Peace and tranquility. Peace is the fruit of justification. No sooner does a sinner know that he is justified, than peace comes streaming in through the red sea of atoning blood. The storm is soon over, and the soul is safely landed. Now the conscience excuses, comforts, supports, and answers all is well. Lastly, we may know our interest in Christ from the fruits which flow from that knowledge, and particular assurance. 1st. There is a peculiar loathing of sin. The sinner abhors himself in dust and ashes. His language is, "shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid! how shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Rom. 6:1,2) 2nd. He is willing to serve God with his all. The love of Christ constrains him so to do--he is filled like a sail with the wind. He is not only willing to be bound, but to die for Christ and His truth. 3rd. The sinner feels great delight in Christ, in His word, and in His gospel. It is that to the soul, as milk to the babe, strong meat to the young man, and honey to the aged: it nourisheth and strengtheneth--"As newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby; if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." (1 Peter 2:2,3) As if Peter had said, the man who knows that the Lord is gracious, and gracious to him, and hath tasted the sweetness of His love to his soul, must delight in it, and long after the word as a babe does after the milk of the breast. 4th. The desire increases to know more of Christ--"That I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made, conformable unto His death." (Phil. 3:10) Although the apostle drunk in so largely of the love of Christ, had such glorious views of Him, was assured of his eternal safety and security; yet he was such a panter after love and blood, that he speaks in such a way as if he had never a taste of it! These are the true effects which flow from divine assurance. 5th. A holy and filial fear, not to offend or displease Christ, so loving, kind, and gracious a Friend. He is so afraid of offending Him, that he would rather die and be with Christ, where there is no more a possibility of offending Him. 6th. The soul is willing to make returns to the Lord--"What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits? Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." Christ loveth me, saith the soul, and I therefore love Him. He abased himself for me, and I am willing to do the same for Him. He gave himself for me, and I give myself for Him. He obeyed his Father's will for me, and I obey His will. He suffered for me and I through grace am willing to suffer for His name, in my body, goods, and life. He justified me, and I justify Him in all His ways and dispensations. He pleads for me in heaven, and I plead for Him on earth. He gives me glory, and I give all the glory to Him. Thus, my dear reader, I have pointed out a few signs according to the infallible word of God, whereby you may know and assure yourself of your interest in Christ. This is the greatest happiness that a sinner can enjoy below.
As there is a true confidence in Christ, so also there is a false confidence. And as a child of God may attain a full assurance of his faith, so is it possible for a person to work himself up into presumption. There are many poor deluded creatures that think they shall be saved, yet have no real cause to think so; it is like a person dreaming that he eats, but is empty. He dreams that he is rich, and is poor; and so he dreams that Christ is his, and that he died for his sins, but is deceived and deluded. Now I will endeavor to point out such characters, and undeceive them.
1st. A confidence and faith which are not in accordance with the word of God, are but counterfeits. True faith and holy confidence have the word of God for their foundation. You say that Christ died for you--if you are ignorant of your own state, as lost and ruined--if you are impenitent, disobedient to God, and unbelieving--if you love your sins, and will not forsake them--if your heart is hardened in sin, and you do not mourn on account of it--if you despise the Gospel of Christ, His truth, His calls, His ways--if you are not in subjection to Him, and are ignorant of divine communion with Him. I tell you, sinner, that your confidence in Christ's dying for you is a delusion of Satan's! You have no authority from the word of God for your confidence. Let us see what says the Lord--"Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life; and he that believeth not, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John 3:36) "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." (Acts 3:19) Repentance and remission of sin are put together. "Christ is the Author of salvation to all that obey Him." (Heb. 5:9) Here you see the characters described contrary to yours.
2nd. A confidence easily got, without sighs and groans, weepings and supplications; without any pain or cost; without hearing the word, and waiting upon the Lord; without soul conflict, doubts and fears, is but presumption at best.
3rd. A confidence that is fruitless and loose, that produces no love to God, to Christ, and to the Holy Spirit, or fear to offend them, or care to please them, but on the contrary gives a boldness to sin, because Christ died for sinners, does not come from God but from Satan--"And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." (1 John 3:3) "But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." (1 John 3:2)
4th. A confidence which is not stedfast, but easily swept away in time of trouble, whether by affliction, sin, or by Satan's temptations; or by adversity, or prosperity, or by death--this also proves a false confidence. "His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle, and it shall bring him to the king of terrors. His root shall be dried up beneath, and above cut off. His remembrance shall perish from the earth, and he shall have no name in the street. He shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the world." (Job 18:16-18) A deluding confidence usually ends in a despairing diffidence. But not so a right and well grounded confidence; it will hold out and hold on in all troubles, afflictions, and temptations, yea, and at death itself, when the hope of the hypocrite shall perish, "For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come; nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. I am now ready to be offered up, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge shall give me at that day." Job could say in time of trouble, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him. I know that my Redeemer liveth."
There are many of the dear children of God, who are exceedingly troubled and distressed because they cannot assure themselves of an interest in a precious Christ. To such I will endeavor to speak a few words of comfort, the Lord helping me.
1st. Poor child of God, cast not away your confidence--"A living dog is better than a dead lion." (Eccle. 9:4) Though you cannot clearly see your interest, and say, "My beloved is mine;" do not say he is not, nor despair. This dark condition is incident to most (if not to all) weak believers, who are baptized in a cloud, though they drink of the rock. Christ indeed is theirs, although they cannot see Him. The blood of Christ was shed for them, though they do not enjoy the assurance. Pardon of their sins is sealed, although not revealed to them. They may not have the sensible enjoyment of it, but they have the root in their hearts. Your state may be sure, although you are not assured; it may be day with you, though the sun hath not gloriously appeared. Assurance makes our life joyful, yet faith of adherence can make it sure and blessed. True faith, though but small, gives us an interest in Christ, and you shall be saved because you are Christ's. Nay, great fears and troubles about our assurance, usually end in the sweetest and fullest assurance; especially when those fears and troubles are accompanied with many prayers, tenderness of conscience, diligence in the means, and in humble walking before God.
2nd. Tried soul, give not up praying to God, and waiting upon Him. Say not, I will pray no more, hear no more, and wait no longer. I assure you this is a temptation from Satan; it comes from cursed unbelief. What! shall God hear no longer from us, because it is long before we hear from Him? Shall we neglect the means because He withholds the comforts? Is He not infinite in wisdom? Surely we must allow Him to know what is best for us. He is a Sovereign, and He has a right to do with us as seemeth good to Him. Supposing I write a deed, and I leave off writing before it is finished, because it is not sealed. You would say to me, finish it, and then the seal will be annexed to it. So I say to you, poor sinner; continue writing, that is, be diligent in prayer, in reading, and hearing the word. There is a set time to favor Zion, and when the set time will come, the broad seal of heaven shall be annexed to the word. "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but when the desire cometh it is a tree of life." (Prov. 13:12) "Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed; but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded," (Prov. 13:13) or shall be in peace. The humble, the weeping, and the mourning soul, are sweetly encouraged in the word of God. Mary, while she was weeping was forgiven her sins. Christ was sent to bind up the broken-hearted, and to give the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." And so it is with the humble soul, who feels himself unworthy of the least of God's mercies, he shall enjoy the presence of God, for He exalts the humble--"When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, there is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person. A man's pride shall bring him low, but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit." "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." One work of the Holy Ghost is to lead a sinner to Christ, to enable him to believe on Him, and to receive Him. The other is to assure the believer of his relationship to Christ, and of Christ's to Him.
But here an important question presents itself, viz., can every true believer attain to an assurance of faith in this life? That every true believer who is brought to Christ by the Spirit of God, sooner or later does attain to this assurance, is evident from the word of God--"I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say unto them that were not my people, thou art my people: and they shall say, thou art my God. Doubtless thou art our father. O Lord, thou art our father, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people." Abraham, Job, and David, the church in the Canticles, they all knew their interest in Christ. The Corinthians had the earnest of the Spirit in their hearts. The believing Ephesians were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance. The Thessalonians received the gospel, not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in such assurance. But the way of God's communicating this blessing, is not always the same. He acts as a sovereign. Sometimes it comes into the soul with so much light, that it scatters the clouds, removes doubts and fears, and gives a demonstrative proof of our interest in Christ, so that the soul must know and believe that Christ is his. It is like the sun at noonday! there is such a lustrous evidence of our relation unto, and right in Christ, that the soul is abundantly assured and satisfied. But this is not the case with every child of God. Sometimes it comes more gradually, like the day dawn; breaks in by degrees, and is not accompanied with an extraordinary ecstasy: and I think such an assurance lasts longer than the other. Sometimes the Lord Jesus Christ is pleased to come by his blessed Spirit suddenly into our hearts, with a still small voice in our mournings, in our prayers, or meditations upon Him, in hearing or preaching His word, with such a word as this, "Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee." Blessed be his dear and precious name, I have had many such visits. It revives the soul, it strengthens and encourages it to go on through this vale of tears. Though the duration be but short, and the voice small, yet it is sweet and precious; and I humbly believe that every child of God attains to it. Though some of the children of God may not attain to the former, they do the latter: and my reasons for thinking so, are,
1st. Some assurance is necessary, not to the being of a Christian, but to his well-being. The living soul would faint, and his spirit fail within him, if he should walk all his life in darkness, and not hear anything from God. God will not suffer that. He will not suffer His people to remain comfortless all their lives, and the comfort consists in the assurance of their interest in a crucified Redeemer.
2nd. The groans and sighs of a believer come from the Spirit of God; and the Spirit who helpeth their infirmities enables them to pray according to the will of God. Such prayer God will certainly hear and answer: and every believer earnestly prays for divine assurance--"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the heart, knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit; because He maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God." Christ has encouraged us to ask--"Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you. Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. And ye now therefore have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice." Here we have, first, the encouragement to ask, and second, the promise to grant the request, that is, joy of heart; and third, the nature of that joy, that it should be full joy, "joy unspeakable and full of glory." Divine assurance is the only thing that makes a living soul rejoice. Besides this, Christ has promised His people peace of conscience--"Peace I leave with you." He left it as a legacy to His church, and bequeathed it unto her. "My peace I give unto you," He will take care that she shall realize it. This peace comes flowing through the blood of the cross; and this peace comes with assurance. When this is enjoyed, the soul loves and praises the Lord for the unspeakable blessing. Is it likely that a child of God should be interested in Christ, be brought in so near a union and communion with Him, and converse with Him, and yet not know it? Christ has promised the child of God, that the Father, Himself, and His Spirit should dwell with him; and shall the soul not know it? Blessed be God, he shall know it, and that before he gets to heaven.
Observe the advantages that a living soul derives from this blessing:--
1st. It answers all doubts, fears, terrors, suspicions, and sad apprehensions in the soul. The soul is now arrived at a certain definable position. God is no longer viewed as a Judge, but a Father.
"We read our title clear,
To mansions in the skies."
Our heart is comforted, and we walk in the light of God's countenance. David prays. "Lord, lift up the light of thy countenance upon us," and when that is done, he adds, "Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep, for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety." Four blessings are here mentioned as the effects of enjoying the light of God's countenance. 1st. Gladness of heart; and this gladness is of more worth than all perishable things. 2nd. Peace. 3rd. Rest. 4th. Safety. These are the effects of assurance. When the Israelites drew near the Red Sea, seeing the Egyptians behind them, they feared and trembled; but when they crossed the Red Sea, and saw their enemies dead on the shore, then they sang and triumphed in their God. So it is with a dear child of God; he fears and trembles till the Lord shows him that all his enemies are destroyed, that his sin is drowned in atoning blood, God is reconciled to him, and he is eternally saved: then he sings the song of Moses and the Lamb.
2nd. When the blessing of assurance is enjoyed, all the graces of the Spirit in the heart are in sweet exercise. When the south wind blows, the spices are flowing out--"Awake, O north wind, and come thou south, blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits." (Songs 4:16) The church prays for two things:--1st. The operation of God the Holy Ghost. 2nd. A visit from Christ; and her prayer being offered up in faith, she receives an answer to her petition--"I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice." (Songs 5:1) Faith, hope, love, prayer, praises, patience, resignation, meekness, and humility, all uniting their odoriferous perfumes, which were well pleasing to Christ. The soul is revived and enlarged; it is made lively in the ways of God. It attends the means with much affection and alacrity; is full of praise and admiration, and blesses God for pardon of sin. Assurance, furthermore, is a preservative against sin and temptation--"How can I do such great wickedness, and sin against God?" said Joseph. "Should such a man as I flee?" said Nehemiah. What! says the living soul, shall I sin against love and blood? Should I thus requite the Lord? Should I make such returns to my loving Friend?
3rd. Assurance sweetens all blessings. There is no real enjoyment without it. Gold, silver, and estates, are very insipid comparatively; but when the sinner can say Christ is mine, he enjoys his temporal blessings with greater sweetness. He feels more of his unworthiness, his undeservedness, and the goodness of his heavenly Father. It sweetens all losses and crosses. What was it that sweetened Job's troubles? It was his assurance in his living Redeemer, and that his record was on high, and his witness was in heaven. With God's light he could walk through darkness--"For our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." (2 Cor. 5:1)
4th. Assurance enables us to carry our burdens and worldly cares easier, and keeps us from being over anxious about temporal things. "God who gave me his dear Son, will also supply my need. I have a goodly heritage--thou art my portion," says the assured soul. Death to such a one is no more a terror, but a going home to his Father's house.