Like a miser proving the will of some one that has left him some money, or like any one in love, being taken up with thoughts of the object of affection, so any one to whom God has given a true heart, (as He has, in regeneration, given to all his elect,) is enabled to drive on, sooner or later, to the full completion of his aims and plans. The continuous power of God affects this, as regards religion, in the elect. A religion even of fits and starts merely, will not perfectly satisfy the quickened elect. It is true, indeed, that their springs are in God, and that they cannot keep alive their own souls. But are they completely content with this? Can they sit down with their hands before them, and laugh, and look blithe, like the notionalists, saying, “Ah! we can do nothing; it is all of grace, and let us be comfortable whether we are in darkness or light, joy or sorrow”? No, indeed, not so. Would the miser, that has got the title deeds of an estate left to him, sit down and say, “Ah! I do not mind whether I have the will proved, or get the money arising from the property into my own hands, or not; the parchment deeds will satisfy me”? No, indeed. If he is a genuine miser he wants to see, handle, and have locked up the plain gold as the proceeds. Would anyone in love never care about marriage as the final consummation? Nay, would he not rather make that the garland at the end of the race, which, if he did not win, he was baffled and confounded in his aims and plans throughout and altogether?
So with the will of God; the quickened saints the Holy Spirit stirs up to contend valiantly arid victoriously, too, for the prize, namely, salvation. This He does by various means, and in diverse ways, as follows. But indeed, as I intend, God enabling me, to briefly set forth the different items required for a perfect proof, experimentally, of the will of the most high God in Christ; according to that passage of Scripture, “That ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God.” And, here what a glorious field is opened out to those who have experimental implements of husbandry to dig therein! for the weapons must not be carnal in the letter, but mighty through God — through inwrought power in the kingdom of God within. Saving grace is felt grace.
1st. For the proof of God’s will there must be an inward knowledge of law and Gospel, ruin and restoration, sickness and healing balm, disquietude and rest. “I beseech you by the mercies of God.” But mercy is but a phantom except to culprits and criminals; and if God makes a man an experimental criminal, He will pardon him. If the spirit of bondage slays a man, the Spirit of adoption will restore him, renovate him, and glorify him. If Sinai genders a man into prison, the proclamation of the Gospel will insist on a perfect jail delivery.
2ndly. The body must become a living sacrifice under the mortifying operation of the Spirit of God, “crucifying the flesh with its affections (or feelings) and lusts,” (or desires;) and crucifying us to the world, and the world unto us. “Present your bodies a living SACRIFICE, holy and acceptable, unto God, which is your REASONABLE service; and be not conformed unto this world.”
3rdly. “But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The transformation consists in the whole work of the Spirit from beginning to end, for it is the Spirit that quickeneth. All without Him is death, nature, and head-knowledge. Thus a knowledge inwardly of Moses and of Christ, the mortification of the body and crucifixion of the world are, as I stated, the Spirit’s sovereign operations. The burning wrath of God, the peace of God which passeth all understanding, the spiritual dew of heaven making the soul to shine, glitter, and be bespangled with brilliancy, moistness, and the silvery glows of delight, are all transforming operations translating us from nature to grace.
The beauteous and transporting beams, rays, glories, renovating power, spiritual penetrations, healing balm, lucid admirableness, amazing nature, warming blessedness, unspeakable attractions, vivid, enlightening, self-existent excellencies, and mollifying raptures, yea, ravishing distillations of “the Sun of righteousness;” all these also worketh into the soul, and reneweth, day by day, the selfsame Spirit, whose renewings of our mind, and whose transforming us into the image of God we are speaking of; which image of the invisible God is Christ in us, our vital hope and victory. A tender conscience steering between legality and licentiousness is part of the Spirit’s transformation of us. Imputed righteousness, inward and outwardly, He reveals to us, and edifies us in it. The blood of Christ He sprinkles on us, and in us, decking us thus with everlasting innocency, and clothing us upon, and clothing us inwardly in the gorgeous robe of God’s righteousness; and by imputation upon us, we thus are rendered fit guests for God at the grand nuptial “supper of the Lamb.” O amazing topics! O enrapturing glories! O ravishing delights! while He, the glorious Transformer and Renewer, is entempled within us, walking and dwelling there in luster, life, and indestructible efficacy and power.
Well, what is wanting now for the perfect proof of God’s will, according to our text? for what I have said already is “good and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Ah! there is the point. I believe this perfection, then, is neither more or less than the perfecting of love in felt union of spiritual matrimony between the soul and Christ; as it is written “He that IS joined unto the Lord is one spirit;” (I Cor. 6:17) whereby the soul spiritually becomes, as is revealed, “a member of Christ’s body, of His flesh and of His bones.” (Eph. 5:30) This is the crowning point; this is the perfection! He that dwelleth in love spiritually thus dwelleth in God, and God in him. Victory then waves its triumphant banners over every foe. The soul then, enflamed with rapture to the highest pitch, cries out in triumphant language and challenge, “Who shall separate me from the love of God,” seeing and feeling this union?
O amazing bond which never can be snapped! O this felt bond of perfectness love! Thence is received “eternal life and immortality.” Thence is the abolishment of death. It has been my happy lot for some years to be thus enwrapped, cemented and overshadowed. I write with the more concern on this subject because I know this union, which is the bond of perfectness, in my own experience, and that, too, day by day, for every God-glorifying feeling and divine grace and gift come along with it. It charms my feelings, it assuages my sorrows, it lulls into quietude and repose every distress, it fans every divine excellence, it enlightens me with “the light of life,” it produces tenderness of conscience, it feeds jealousy for the honor of God, it enlarges my understanding, it fertilizes every holy, sin-hating, pure, and heavenly good in me; and, in one word, it drives to rapture and ravishment unutterable, and bears the impress of God on it throughout. O blessed feeling! O endearing relationship! It is the perfecting of love. There is nothing beyond it. It is heaven, and the state of glory beyond death will only be an increase of it, for spiritual love perfected is the conclusion of the whole matter. There is nothing further to be known than this; and, knowing it, I therefore write of it, for I have the hope of the mystery of God’s will proved perfectly in me thus. Blessed be the name of the Lord for it, for I find it good, acceptable and perfect. Blessed for ever be the Most High.
“Of all that God bestows
In earth or heaven above,
The best gift saint or angel knows,
Or e’er will know is love.”
The Gospel Standard
J.K. (John Kay) Abingdon, 1841