The triumph of Christ on the cross as God-man over sin and the sinner, is gloriously exhibited in the rending of the vail of the temple from the top to the bottom--"And behold the vail of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom." (Matt. 27:51) It began at the top which was out of the reach of man. It was to teach us that salvation of sinners by Christ was by Him alone; the creature had no hand in it. He alone trod the winepress, and his own arm brought salvation. (Isa. 63:3,5) He, and He only, is the Saviour of sinners--"Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name given among men whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) Salvation is the gift of God; it cannot be merited by our works. This salvation is brought to a soul when dead in trespasses and sins; and a sinner dead in sin cannot quicken himself, that is, he cannot impart spiritual life to his own soul. Repentance and tears are not available before God, except they flow from a spiritual life; and this is the gift of God--"And you hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins." (Eph. 2:1) This is an act of the mercy and love of God; it does not depend upon the free will of man, for "God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ; by grace are ye saved. For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Eph. 2:4,5,8-10) Salvation is a covenant blessing, freely given unto us. The covenant itself is a gift--"I will give thee for a covenant." (Isa. 42:6) Christ is a gift--"Behold I have given him for a witness to the people;" (Isa. 55:4) and all the blessings stored up in Him are a gift. What a mercy it is that they are all freely given unto us! Fallen creatures could not merit. All is given. The Father gave Himself, and He gave Christ--"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." (John 3:16) Christ gave himself--"Who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Gal. 2:20) Love, peace, eternal life, the Spirit of God, a new heart, faith and repentance, and all things beside are freely given. (Songs 7:12; John 14:2; John 10:28; Luke 11:13; Ezek. 36:26; Phil. 1:29; Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 1:16; Rom. 8:32; Ps. 84:11; 2 Pet. 1:4.
There are two reasons why these inestimable blessings are freely given to us:--
1. We have nothing. The fall has striped us of all good. Through it we became poor, blind, naked, wretched, and miserable; not sufficient of ourselves to thing anything as of ourselves. "What hast thou that thou hast not received?" (1 Cor. 4:7) In our first creation God made us beautiful vessels, pure, and clean. But these vessels were made of brittly stuff, mutable. A creature cannot be immutable--God alone is immutable. God had bestowed on man largely and bountifully, as it became the Giver. He deprived him of nothing except one tree, which was the tree of knowledge; and the reason this tree was prohibited, was to teach him obedience to his Creator. But Satan through his infernal suggestion, cracked this beautiful vessel, and so all its contents ran out, and left it empty. Thus man became poor and miserable. Besides this he incurred the wrath of God, and became a great debtor to Him, I mean, a debtor, immeasurably behind in his debt of obedience to the holy law of God, and if the debt be not paid, he must suffer the penalty which the Law-giver denounced against disobedience--"For in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." (Gen. 2:17) This debt must be paid to the utmost farthing--"Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing." (Matt. 5:26) This is the reason that God was pleased to give us all things freely. We, like the prodigal, have spent all, and our heavenly Father gives all.
2. Thus God will be glorified in all is gifts, and thus the receiver proclaims His glory. Here are blessed encouragements for poor sinners to go to Him. No room for despair, but a good foundation for hope. When we survey our hearts and conditions, we find a world of wants; but when we survey the grace of God in giving all things freely, we find a heaven of supplies. I know there are many gracious souls that are full of fears, disputing every step they take, and reasoning with themselves how they can obtain these blessings, saying, "we have nothing and can bring nothing, the well is deep and we have nothing to draw with." It is true, poor sinner, but remember God has promised to give all things-ask, and it shall be given. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him." (James 1:5) Let us be content to be receivers. There are three things which will qualify us to be receivers. 1st. Poverty of spirit. The poor man useth entreaties--a poor man is a suppliant. It was poor Lazarus who was laid at the rich man's door. Except we are made truly sensible of our spiritual wants and miseries stripped of our righteousness, forced from all our refuges, hunted from all shelters, exposed to the wrath of God, to the curses of a fiery law, feeling our frailty, the shortness of life, and a solemn eternity before us--we will not knock at mercy's door crying, "O Lord, be merciful to me a sinner; pardon my sins, for they are great. Give me thy dear and only begotten Son, who is the altogether lovely, and precious to my soul."
3. Humility of soul. A proud man scorns to beg and scorns to receive. He will not be beholden to any one. It is the humble man who will acknowledge a gift, who will beg for mercy, and will be glad in receiving. God will not despise the humble. He giveth grace to the lowly, and the humble are thankful to receive grace from God.
4. Faith. Faith beholds such beauty in Christ, that after it has gazed on Him, it moves towards Him, lays hold of Him, wrestles for a blessing; and when given, it thankfully receives, for faith is not only a seeking but a receiving grace.
We will now consider the rending of the vail. 1st, The time when it was rent; and, 2nd, the act of rending it.
1st. The time. It was after Christ had accomplished, perfected, or consummated all things. After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished," (John 19:28) "He said, It is finished (completed or perfected,) and He bowed His head and gave up the ghost." "After this the vail of the temple was rent in twain." (Matt. 27:51) Up to this time nothing was perfect.
The shadows and types under the Levitical dispensation could not make the comers perfect. "If, therefore, perfection were by the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did, by the which we draw nigh to God." (Heb. 7:11,12,19) But when Christ came, He perfected the worship of God. Christ is the sole perfecter of this. He is called the Consummater, the Perfecter, the Finisher of our faith, as having brought us into a state of perfection; not perfection in the flesh, but in the worship of God. "Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb. 12:2) His sitting down is a full evidence that He has perfected the work, and is resting from it, as His Father rested from His work when He ceased to create.
This perfection of the Church, God designed from the beginning. He entered upon its perfection in the first promise: "It shall bruise thy head;" (Gen. 3:15) the seed of the woman, or Christ, shall bruise the serpent's, or Satan's head. The bruising of the serpent's head denotes the perfection of Christ's work. The church of the Old Testament is said to be weak and imperfect, like that of a child under tutors and governors--"But is under tutors and governors, until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world." (Gal. 4:1,2) Hence, also it had a yoke imposed on it, causing fear and bondage,--"God having provided better things for us, (or the church under the New Testament) that they without us should not be made perfect." (Heb. 11:40) And this state of the Church is expressed by this word perfect in other places, as we shall see. The foundation was laid in that word of our Saviour's wherewith He gave up the ghost, "It is finished!" or completed, or perfected; all things belonging to that great sacrifice whereby the church was to be perfected; for Christ had respect unto all that the prophets had foretold, and all that He was to do in this world, that is, to consummate the Church, when "By one offering He for ever perfected them that are sanctified." (Heb. 10:14) The saints under the gospel are called perfect, because they are instructed in the mysteries of the gospel--"Howbeit, we speak wisdom among them that are perfect." And they are so called in Hebrews 5:14, "But strong meat belongeth to them that are full age," or perfect. Also in Christ's prayer, "I in them, and thou in me, that they should be made perfect in one." (John 17:23) So when the word is applied by the Spirit of God to the soul, it brings it to the church, "in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." (Eph. 4:13)
Let us enquire to what this perfection refers. I answer to two things; 1st, To things that appertain to the soul; 2nd, To the worship of God.
1st. The things that appertain to the soul are seven--1st, Righteousness. 2nd, Peace. 3rd, Light or knowledge. 4th, Liberty. 5th, A clear prospect into a future state of blessedness. 6th, Joy. 7th, Confidence. I would touch upon each of these.
1st. Righteousness. The cause of all imperfection in church was sin, this made the law weak,--"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh," (Rom. 8:3) and sinners to be without strength--"For when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." (Rom. 5:6) Therefore, the bringing in of perfection must be by another's righteousness. This was the promise of gospel times, and it was brought in by Christ alone--"Thy people shall be all righteous." (Isa. 60:21) "In his days shall the righteous flourish." (Ps. 72:7) "Righteousness and peace have kissed each other." (Ps. 85:10) And for this reason Christ is called the Lord our Righteousness. A righteousness of our own we had not; wherefore Jehovah became our righteousness that we might say, in Him have we righteousness and strength, and that in Him all the seed of Israel might be justified and glory--(Isa. 45:24,25)--"For by Him all that believe are justified from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses;" (Acts 13:39) so He is of God made unto us righteousness. (1 Cor. 1:30) This is the foundation of the gospel perfection; it was procured for us by Christ offering himself up in a sacrifice as our High Priest, for "we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." (Eph. 1:7) This the law of Moses could not do.
2nd. Peace. The Kingdom of God, or the gospel, is peace; not meat and drink. This peace was made by Christ, preached and declared by the apostles. This peace is threefold. 1st. With God. 2nd. Between Jew and Gentile. 3rd. Among ourselves. It is peace with God--for "being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5:1) This Christ made as our great High Priest in reconciling us unto God; hence His name "the Prince of Peace." This peace He left us as a legacy. He made it for all believers, and in His own time communicates it unto them; therefore their end will be peace. This peace could not be obtained by the Levitical priesthood, for it was not then actually made, nor clearly declared--"He is our peace; for to make in Himself one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross." (Eph. 2:16) Therefore the law could not bring in this righteousness, which is the foundation of peace. The peace between Jew and Gentile was a great mystery to the Old Testament saints; the disciples themselves were slow in receiving this mystery: but this was God's design from the beginning, and this could not be brought about by the ceremonial law, as that was the very thing that separated them, which is called the wall of partition broken down by Christ, who commanded His apostles to preach to the Gentiles, forgiveness of sin, through His blood. It is peace among believers; which he the very nature of the gospel. Love is the fulfillment of the law. To love God with all our hearts, and our neighbor as ourselves, "By this ye know that ye have passed from death unto life because ye love the brethren." (1 John 3:14)
3rd. Light or knowledge. God had designed it for the church but it was not attainable under the law. Yet it was promised, "And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour and every man his brother saying, know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord." (Heb. 8:11) This was fulfilled as we may see by the apostle's assertion, "But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you; and ye need not that any man teach you, but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie." (1 John 2:27) There are three things included in this light.
1st. Christ, as the great Prophet, reveals the mind and will of God. Under the law, God spoke through Moses and the Prophets, but it was obscurely, suitable to that dispensation, revelation being only in its infancy. But the full revelation of the mind of God was left for Christ, who was above them all, and privy to all the counsels of His Father, who had lain in His bosom from all eternity. Hence He is called "Wonderful," "Counsellor." And in another place--"I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee; and I will put my words in His mouth." (Deut. 18:18) This was Christ himself. Herein the light under the gospel excels the light under the law; for whether we consider the dignity of Christ's person, or the perfect knowledge that He had of the whole counsel of God, and the mysteries of His grace; much every way the gospel has the superiority, that Christ might have the preeminence in all things. 2nd. The things revealed. They were no longer shadows, but the substance itself; the good things which were pointed at. The saints of old had many precious promises and intimations of the glorious state to come; but it was so wrapped up in types and figure--sometimes by the deliverances from their enemies. Hence the prophets themselves could not clearly see into the depth of their own prophecies. Christ called John the Baptist the greatest of prophets, and the reason was, because he was privileged to have a personal knowledge of Him; yet not living to see the full accomplishment of the gospel church state, which did not take place until Pentecost, he is called the least in the kingdom of heaven. The church of old waited with earnest expectation until the day should break and the shadows flee away. (Songs 2:17) They longed for the breaking forth of that glorious light which the Son of God was to bring. They were looking for the fulfillment of that promise, "Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings." (Mal. 4:2) These all died in faith, not living to see life and immortality brought to light by the gospel. 3rd, The illumination of the soul. Believers are enabled to discern the mind of God in the gospel, which was foretold by Isaiah 11:9, "For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children."
The enjoyments of the saints of old were but small in comparison with those since the effusion of the Spirit--"That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead." (Eph. 1:17-20)
4th. Liberty, or freedom in our approaches unto God. This is an especial blessing belonging to the gospel, and happy is that soul who has an experimental knowledge of it. Five minutes' communion with God (which is a foretaste of heaven) refreshes the soul, revives the drooping spirit, lays the world low, and endears Christ unto us. "In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by faith in Him. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." (Heb. 10:19) Such freedom and boldness the church of old was not privileged to enjoy; it labored under a spirit of bondage and fear of death. And this bondage arose from sundry causes:--
From the dreadful manner of giving the law, which was a ministration of condemnation. It filled the people with fear and terror, inasmuch that they entreated the Lord to speak to them through a mediator, which the Lord did through Moses, who is called a mediator. So great was the terror, that Moses himself said, "I exceedingly fear and quake;" (Heb. 12:21) and all the people in the camp trembled. (Exod. 19:16) This ministration was to keep the people from an access to God--"And the Lord said unto Moses, go down, search the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish." But not so in the administration of the gospel; blessed be God for it. The gospel does not say, he that cometh unto me shall perish, but the contrary, him that cometh to God through Christ, He will not cast out. Hence the gospel invitations are very encouraging to sensible sinners--the hungry and thirsty, the weary and heavy-laden, the sensibly poor and needy, the wounded and the perishing. Yea, they are encouraged to come boldly with heart and mouth open, and He will satisfy them.
The curse of the law gendered bondage. Every one that seeks justification by the works of the law, is accursed--"For as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse; for it is written cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." (Gal. 3:10) The law is a ministration of death condemnation. Not so the gospel; here is no curse, only on the serpent and his seed. It is a ministration of life and peace--"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." (Eph. 1:3)
The imperfection of the law gendered bondage. In the offering of the sacrifices there was a remembrance of sin reminding the sacrificers of their distance from God; also of their prohibition from the holiest, wherein were the pledges of access unto God--"The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing." (Heb. 9:8) No man had yet right to enter into it with boldness, which believers now have; and the reason was to teach them not to rest in these things, but to look to the great atonement, Christ.
5th. A clear prospect into a future state of blessedness. The saints of old had not a clear prospect of those mansions of bliss and felicity--of that Canaan without pricking briars or grieving thorns to the house of Israel. The better country, where no noxious pestilential vapors arise to infect the air; no mists, or fogs, or clouds to darken it, or interrupt the sight of pleasing objects. This was the cause of the old saints' fear of death; but now Christ, the great Conqueror, entered into the jaws of death, snatched the power from him, and swallowed up death in victory, opened, in his own person a way for gracious souls to enter into those blessed habitations, where the Lord himself is their everlasting light, and where the days of their mourning are ended. No more darkness, but one bright, clear, and everlasting day. No storms, no blustering winds, no hurricanes are heard or known there; but one serene and calm eternal day. Hence Christ is called the first fruits of them that sleep--"For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection from the dead." (1 Cor. 15:21)
6th. The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. The joy of the saints of old was not from the law, but by faith in Christ as their Redeemer and Saviour, as the joy of their souls and strength of their hearts; as their light, life, and salvation. It was the same in kind, but not in degree; the same in quality, but not in quantity. The joy of the New Testament saints is unspeakable and full of glory; which flows from the spirit of adoption, enabling them to exclaim, "What manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. Beloved, now are we the sons of God. Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His spirit," (1 John 3:1,4:13) which is the cause of our joy. It is the Spirit that sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts. There is no fear in love--perfect love casteth out fear. "We love Him because He first loved us." This gives the soul a quiet repose in all its trials, refreshment when it is weary, peace in trouble, light in darkness, strength in weakness, enabling the soul to suffer for Christ and His cause.
7th. Confidence. Gospel confidence does not proceed from national privileges as that of the Jews did, who boasted they were the seed of Abraham, and gloried in their own righteousness, because they were ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. But the righteousness which is of faith (or gospel righteousness) speaketh on this wise, say not in thy heart, who shall ascend into heaven, to bring Christ down from above? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart." (Rom. 10:3,6-9) Gospel confidence is personal and spiritual; it is planted in a regenerated heart; it proceeds from an experimental knowledge of Christ and Him crucified; it is a good hope through grace. Confidence in God flows from a heart established in the truths of the gospel, rooted and grounded in Christ. The religion of Christ is not hereditary; it is not being brought up piously, or in civility, or morality, or in attending the means of grace. It is a work of God the Holy Ghost upon the soul. We must be born again; without it no man shall see God in glory. "Jesus answered, verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5)
Gospel worship also differs from the old. It consists not in carnal things, as sacrifices, meat and drink-offerings, nor in a multiplication of ceremonies. God had no delight in them--"To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord; your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth." (Isa. 1:11,14) He delights in spiritual worship which is suitable to his nature; for He is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24)--"Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory." (2 Cor. 3:6,9) The worship under the New Testament is easy--"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls: for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:29,30) It is easy, because believers are assisted by the Spirit of God, and the new man delighteth in it--"For I delight in the law of God after the inward man." (Rom. 7:22) They are strengthened and comforted by it, refreshed and revived in it.
We will now consider what the rending of the vail signified.
The vail was an hindrance of access to the holiest, wherein were the pledges of the presence of God. Then the rending of the vail points to our free access through Christ unto God the Father. This is declared by the apostle, "But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people, the Holy Ghost this signifying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing, which was a figure for the time then present." (Heb. 9:7-9) The tabernacle here means the Levitical priesthood; and so long as that stood there was no access with freedom to God. Wherefore, the rending of the vail denotes the abolishing of the ceremonial law, and our access to God; as it is written, "Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He hath consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, His flesh." (Heb. 10:19,20) Christ as our High Priest expiring on the cross, made reconciliation and peace by His precious blood. This received by faith, conscience is purged, bondage and fear removed; gracious souls now enter with boldness into the presence of God. There was an entrance under the Old Testament into the presence of God, through the virtue of the oblation of Christ; but it was not actually manifested. He had not yet offered Himself unto God. It was by virtue of the eternal agreement that was between the Father and Him concerning what He should accomplish in the fullness of time, that the benefit of what He was to do was applied unto the believers of the Old Testament. They were saved by faith even as we are; hence Christ is called "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world;" (Rev. 13:8) that is, in and from the giving of the first promise. This was accomplished by the sufferings of Christ, which laid open a way of free access to God; without this the law and its curses were like the cherubim and flaming sword, that turned every way to keep sinners from drawing nigh unto God. The ceremonial law continued unto the death of Christ, and no longer; for until then both Christ Himself and His disciples continued the observance of all its services according to the mind of God. In the use thereof it existed unto the day of Pentecost; for then in the coming of the Holy Ghost the foundation of the gospel worship was laid. A new way of worship being brought in, the old is done away. When Christ on the accursed tree proclaimed, "It is finished," the vail was rent; then was peace with God publicly confirmed by the blood of the cross--"For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." (Eph. 2:14,16)
The way of access to God is a new and living way, which Christ has consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, his flesh. It is called a new way, and we may give many reasons for it.
1st. It is styled a new way because it succeeded the old.
2nd. It is styled new, because it is a wonderful way. We by sin have barred up the way to God, dishonored and provoked Him; and is it not wonderful that of His infinite love He has removed all obstructions, opened a new way, and promised to give His gracious presence to all those that walk in it? There are five things wherein God will be eternally praised and admired by believers. 1. In opening this new and living way. 2. In manifesting the new covenant of grace. 3. In giving his only and beloved Son to be the Saviour and Redeemer of sinners; to suffer, die and bleed for them. 4. To bring sinners by the Spirit to Christ, to enjoy covenant blessings. 5. In glorifying them in body and soul.
3rd. It is styled a new way, for its excellency. There was none like it. All other ways fall short of this. In this way we enjoy the love of God, a precious Christ, mercy, and happiness; which makes this way excel all others. In this way we enjoy comfort, help, strength, and all other good things suitable to every believer.
4th. It is a new way because it is administered in a new form. In this way we approach God with open face, without any vail of legal shadows. It is as it were written afresh in larger and plainer characters, that the most simple child of God can read and understand--"An highway shall be there, and a way; and it shall be called the way of holiness: the unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for those, the wayfaring men though fools shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon; it shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (Isa. 35:8-10)
This new way wherein the ransomed of the Lord walk, admits of no decay or alteration. Christ is the way; He is the Father's way, either in the covenant of grace, creation, or providence. The Father took no step in the salvation of sinners apart from Christ. His thoughts about salvation began with Christ. He possessed Him in the beginning of His way of grace, before His works of old of creation and providence. All His purposes and resolutions concerning our salvation were in Him, according to the eternal purpose, which He purposed in Christ Jesus. He hath chosen us in Him, and blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Him. All fullness of grace was put into His hands, that we might receive out of it. The going forth in a way of grace to His people, have always been through Christ. So in the creation of all things. God created the world by Christ. He is the Word by whom all things were made. Also in providence, the Father put all things into His hand as Mediator. All things are at His disposal. Thus Christ is the Father's way. Christ is the sinner's way to the Father; none can approach God without Him, for God is a consuming fire. We need a Daysman to lay His hands on both. There is no access without a Mediator. Christ is the Mediator between God and man. He takes, as it were, sinners by the hand, and leads them into His Father's presence, so that they have boldness and access with confidence by faith in Him. Though black and imperfect in ourselves, we are comely in Him, though His perfect righteousness put upon us we are accepted in the Beloved. Likewise our services and prayers are to God an odor of a sweet smelling savor, being presented to Him, perfumed with the incense of His meditation. The sacrifices of our prayer and praises are acceptable to God through Him. Christ is the way to all our spiritual enjoyments of salvation and eternal bliss. Christ is the only way; "I am" says He, "the way," emphatically and eminently so; the best and the only one. No sinful man ever did, or can, or will, come to the Father but by Him. "There is but one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Tim. 2:5) It is in vain to expect salvation from any other person or quarter; from hills and mountains of duties, services, and works of righteousness done by us. In him alone is the salvation of Israel. There never was, nor ever will be, any other way of salvation from eternal wrath. For though there may be ways which seem right to man, the end thereof is death. Christ is a plain and straight way, that is, to them that know Him to be the way of peace. He is a direct way to the Father; no windings or turnings in it. He is the narrow way; a way strewed as it were with afflictions; attended with difficulties and distress--"All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12) in one shape of another. They must expect tribulation in it--Christ foretold it--none have been without. This is a path all walk in to heaven. "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:22) He is a safe and sure way; none ever perished, or ever will perish, in this way. Though Satan goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, yet he cannot destroy any that are walking in Christ the way. Though they may be disturbed in their outward peace, yet they cannot be deprived of their spiritual comforts, nor of their future happiness. The righteous though they are scarcely with difficulty, saved, yet are certainly saved at last.
Thus we have seen that the rending of the vail signified the removal of the ceremonial law, and the bringing in of the new and living way. So also it may point to the removal of sin, which like the vail, separates us from God, by the atoning sacrifice of Christ--"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." (1 Pet. 2:24) It is our sin that separated God from us--"But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you." (Isa. 59:2) It is only a gracious soul that knows this by painful experience; that it is sin which separates him from the manifestive presence and sweet enjoyment of God's holy and lovely countenance. He only understands the language of David, when backslidden or convinced of sin by the Spirit of God--"Deep calleth unto deep." Sin brings a depth of affliction upon the soul. Sin is compared to a cloud--"I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins." (Isa. 44:22) And this cloud which sin has gathered pours down waters of affliction; and this brings sin to remembrance, as was the case with Joseph's brethren--"And they said one to another, we are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear, therefore is this distress come upon us." (Gen. 42:21) Thus we see the depth of their distress, bringing their sins to remembrance. Deep sin on the conscience of a living soul calls for deep searchings of heart. Am I a possessor of divine grace? Have I true faith? a good hope through grace, and love to God? Sin brings darkness upon the soul, that we cannot see our interest clear. Am I loved of God? Have I an interest in Christ? Am I taught by the Spirit of God? These deep seachings of heart, under the Spirit of God, lead men to a throne of grace; there they pour out their deep sorrows in prayer and in supplications, sighing deeply for pardon of their sins. It makes them search deeply the word of God, for divine consolation for their desponding souls. They go to the house of God, attending on the means. Thus did David when in trouble--"When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God, then understood I their end." (Ps. 73:16,17) It calls for deep sighs and groans for deliverance; and deliverance only comes through Christ crucified, through His body torn, His blood shed for the remission of sins, which the apostle calls the rending of the vail. Christ crucified, and the shedding of His blood, must be revealed and applied by the Spirit of God; otherwise no deliverance can be realized thereby. Deep deliverance calleth for deep gratitude and thankfulness unto a covenant God--"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all thine iniquities: who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies." (Ps. 103:2-4) Gracious souls will be brought into depths of affliction for sin; and that flows from paternal love, not from vindictive wrath. None loved God as David--none was loved of God more than he; yet to this very day do we hear his cries of broken bones, depths, waves, diseases, wrath, and sorrow of hell. Ignorance, which is a vail upon the heart of a sinner, is also rent by virtue of Christ crucified. It is by virtue of that that the Spirit comes, removes the vail from the heart, illuminates our minds, opens the eyes of our understandings, instructs us in the mysteries of the gospel, gives us faith, and by this faith He enables us to look unto Him whom we have pierced, reveals Christ crucified unto our souls, and applies the benefits thereof unto us.
The grave is another vail which hinders the body of believers from enjoying glory. This vail also will be actually destroyed in the first resurrection--"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power: but they shall be priests of God, and of Christ, and they shall reign with Him a thousand years." (Rev. 20:6) And this victory over the grave is through the cross of Christ. And by His death He vanquished the power of death, so in His resurrection He has opened the grave for His dear redeemed--"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 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. 15:55-57)
"Hark! the voice of love and mercy,
Sounds aloud from Calvary;
See, it rends the rocks asunder,
Shakes the earth, and veils the sky.
It is finished,
Hear the dying Saviour cry!
"Finished all the types and shadows
Of the ceremonial law;
Finished all that God had promised,
Death and hell no more shall awe:
It is finished,
Saints, from hence your comforts draw.
"Tune your harps anew, ye seraphs,
Join to sing the pleasing theme;
Saints on earth, and all in heaven,
Join to praise Immanuel's name
Glory to the bleeding Lamb.