"In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." (Ephesians 1:7)
I may venture to say of this precious Epistle that it is one of the best ever written by Paul. I don't wish to set one Epistle before another, because "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God." This Epistle begins, "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,"--not by the will of other men, nor by his own will--"to the saints," not to all the world. "Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." All spiritual blessings flow from one blessed source, and that is Jesus Christ. Who are the "us" here referred to? The children of God, or the elect of God. "Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us." (Eph. 5:1,2) You must always look at the characters traced in Scripture. Don't you wish to be satisfied that you are the same character? If you feel that you do not want to be called a Christian, unless you really are one, then you come to this. "He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God." (John 3:21) I would not give a straw for religion without a personal application. The ministry of the late Mr. Brooke was the most searching that I ever sat under, and I always liked a searching ministry. It was never too searching for me. "According as he hath chosen us in him." This is the foundation of all spiritual blessings. A man may have temporal blessings, and yet be destitute of all spiritual blessings. Temporal blessings are all the good things of this life, especially health and strength, which are better than all the other good things. Also to have our rationality preserved to us is a temporal blessing. I consider it a great temporal blessing in my present affliction to retain my rationality. Another temporal blessing is to retain our sight, hearing, and other senses. I have in measure lost all these senses.
What are spiritual blessings? First. Divine life, or the fear of God. None but the elect of God ever receive this. "As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion, for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore." (Ps. 133:3) "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Ps. 111:10) The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life to depart from the snares of death." (Prov. 14:27) Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee." (Ps. 128:1,2) "The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever." (Ps. 19:9) Are you a partaker of that fear? "My covenant was with him (Levi) of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before me." (Mal. 2:5) I believe that this was the first spiritual blessing I received. "I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from me." (Jer. 32:40) If you have this fear, it will preserve you from turning back to perdition. "But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." (Heb. 10:39) I am tracing these spiritual blessings out of the abundance of the heart. "A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things." (Matt. 12:35)
The next spiritual blessing is to have the spirit of grace and supplication. "Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee." (Ps. 65:4) The child of God will be constrained to pour out his heart to him. Moses said unto Korah and all his company, "Even tomorrow the Lord will shew who are his and who is holy, and will cause him to come near unto him." (Num. 16:5) The sinner is constrained by the inward teaching of the Holy Ghost to draw near to God. "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you." (James 4:8)
The next spiritual blessing is true faith, though it be ever so small. "He that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Heb. 11:6) There are those who are weak in faith, and we are not to dispute their faith. "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations." (Rom. 14:1)
"The feeblest pray'r,
If faith be there,
Exceeds all empty notion."
The principle of living faith is to believe the Word, and to believe that God hears prayer. The poor woman who had the issue of blood had this principle of faith. Perhaps you would ask, Is it possible that faith may be in the heart, and yet we cannot discover it? I could have asked the same question yesterday, when I was brought very low. On Friday last I was lifted up, and yesterday I was cast down. Do you know these changes? You must not consider such as are subject to them to be void of faith. I should say that is the very person who has true faith.
"It lives and labours under load,
Though dampt, it never dies."
I am one of those desponding creatures.
"And from within (what's worse to bear),
Despondency and doubt."
If you know nothing of these sinkings, you won't know much about the risings. Perhaps you say Christ's words are, "Take no thought for the morrow." I would desire to trust him indeed altogether. Don't you know the prayer of the apostles? It is my prayer every day. "Lord, increase our faith." Their faith led them to pray for the increase of it. "The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips." (Prov. 16:23) The poor man said, "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief." Here is the struggle. Where there are these two principles, faith and unbelief, there will be a struggle. "When I would do good, evil is present with me." (Rom. 7:21) Unbelief was present. This is the struggle of Jacob and Esau in the womb.
The next blessing is hope. Perhaps you say, I thought we had hope before faith. There is no such thing in the Bible. We read that Abraham had faith before he had hope. Suppose you come under great dejection to hear the word, and while I am speaking God applies it, and faith comes by the hearing, then hope springs up. David says, "Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope." (Ps. 119:49) You must first believe the Word before you can hope in it. It is first received into the heart, and then hope follows. This is a fruit and effect of God's everlasting love to you. The apostle says, "Which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace." (2 Thess. 2:16) "The righteous hath hope in his death." (Prov. 14:32)
The next blessing is the favor of God. "For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield." (Ps. 5:12) "His favour is as dew upon the grass." (Prov. 19:12) "His favour is as a cloud of the latter rain." (Prov. 16:15) "I will be as the dew unto Israel." (Hos. 14:5) Don't you find your heart sometimes softened and melted down before the Lord? This is his favor. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew." (Deut. 32:2) Isaac's blessing to Jacob was this--"God give thee of the dew of heaven," that is, God's favor. "They shall revive as the corn." (Hos. 14:7) This reviving is peculiar to God's children.
The next blessing is peace, which is the fruit and effect of righteousness. "The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace." (Ps. 29:11) The wicked know nothing of this. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." (Isa. 57:21) "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." These passages are sweeter to me than honey and the honeycomb. "Wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." Not according to our merit or worthiness. What is it to redeem? The word signifies to buy back again. The apostle says in Hebrews 12. we are come "to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling." Eternal redemption is obtained through the blood of Christ, and in no other way. We were all lost and gone for ever. Then Christ came to redeem those that were lost, to pay the ransom price. "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." (Gal. 4:4,5) Therefore, he is called the Redeemer. "And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord." (Isa. 59:20) The Lord says in Psalm 40.--"Lo I come: in the volume of the Book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God, yea, thy law is within my Heart." He redeemed us by fulfilling the law that we had violated. He restored that which he took not away. He rendered to the law of God a tenfold righteousness to that which we had lost. We broke it as creatures, but the obedience of Christ is the Creator's obedience. I like Dr. Hawker's remarks on this point. He says that Christ greatly exceeded in this respect. It was needful that the justice of God should be fully satisfied. "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things.....But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot." (1 Pet. 1:18,19) Without shedding of blood there is no remission." (Heb. 9:22) There is redemption by blood and by power. "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed out of the hand of the enemy." (Ps. 107:2) Here is redemption by power. I hope you can join with me in feeling both these parts of redemption. What brought us out of the world? Was it not the power of God? Do you know the redemption by the remission of sin, the knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins? How did the Lord show that? I don't say he does it always in the same way. There may be many here, who have had the pardon of sin without the word being applied to them in any particular way, as it was to me, "Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee." I like Mr. Hart's words on this point--
"The sinner that, by precious faith,
Has felt his sins forgiv'n
Is from that moment pass'd from death,
And seal'd an heir of heav'n."
I believe that many feel the pardon of sin, when they cannot say that there has been any especial of the word; so that they may be without a clear view of the application of Christ's atonement. If you have the feeling part you have the best part. This is the sweet and blessed effect of the pardon of sin, and there can be no effect without a cause. If you have a love to Christ, your sins are pardoned. "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much." There can be no sense of pardon, but by Christ's blood.
"The blood of Christ, (a precious blood!)
Cleanses from all sin, (doubt it not),
And reconciles the soul to God,
From ev'ry folly, ev'ry fault."
Treasure up this pardon of sin. If you have this, you need not fear death. "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. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Cor. 15:58) May God bless you with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus, and above all with the pardon of sin.