My dear Friend and Brother Frank,--Grace, mercy, peace, and love, with all needful good be ever yours through all the changeful scenes of this sinful world to the home so lovingly prepared for you up yonder.
Since last I saw you many have been the desires of my heart to wend my way to Limpsfield for a friendly chat and a little unaffected greeting and communion by the way. But I cannot do the things that I would, and frequently my heart rests where my flesh rests not. The last few weeks before I sailed had some months squeezed into them, so that sometimes I was in a state of confusion and uncertainty as to what I should do, or to where I should go. Whenever I fail to put in an appearance where you expect me, set that not down to my "will not," but to my "can not."
You know I went to Edinburgh to preach there on the 10th, I journeyed there on the 8th, and was made heartily welcome by Mr. Holland, who was waiting at Waverley Station to greet me. I was at home at once. On the 9th (Saturday) we went to North Queensferry, which lies under the shadow of the celebrated Forth Bridge. Mr. Holland took his choir there for their annual treat. I am glad I went. I dined in a quaint old house called "Craig Dhu" with a Mrs. Russell, the wife of a solicitor of Dunfermline, in whom, with her two daughters, I was greatly interested. Afterwards I took tea with a Mrs. Elder in a fine old mansion situate in spacious grounds lying very high, and overlooking the Firth. A beautiful view of the bridge and its stupendous dimensions we obtained in a boat in which we were rowed under and about the bridge. Rain coming down copiously, we returned earlier than we intended, to Edinburgh.
Sunday 10th, went with Mr. Holland to his church, St. Thomas, Episcopal. Mr. H. read the service. The Lord gave me great liberty in preaching from Eph. 3:12. A wonderful text--so full--so sweet--so blessed. It was so clear and savory to me. Let me try to tell you something about it. Text:--
"In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him."
Paul was a remarkable man. He was a man--not a thing. There was nothing effeminate or flabby in his character. Unregenerate or regenerate, he worked with a will. At the feet of Gamaliel he studied assiduously. As a persecutor he persecuted relentlessly. As an apostle he labored more abundantly. Up to the gates of Damascus he was Saul the persecutor. From thence to the gates of glory he was Paul the persecuted.
In this we see the scriptural truth of the retributive justice of God. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." (Matt. 7:2) "Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you." (2 Thess. 1:6)
Whatever character Paul bore ministerially he acknowledged no Master but Jesus Christ. Was he an apostle? He styles himself "an apostle of Jesus Christ." Was he a prisoner? He acknowledges no jailer but Jesus Christ. Though incarcerated in Nero's prison, and bound with Nero's chain, knowing his high calling in Jesus Christ, Nero he acknowledges not. Paul the prisoner and Jesus his Jailer had rare times together in sweet communion in the prison-house at Rome.
Satan, no doubt, thought he had stopped Paul's triumphant progress in the cause of Christ, yet, though Paul was bound, he tells us the Word of God was not. In prison he was indulged with leisure time to write many of his matchless epistles. One of which is this glorious inspired letter to the Ephesians. It is a wonderful production, differing much from all other books of the New Testament. It ever breathes the spirit of the Master's presence and knows nothing of His absence. Hence we read nothing of His coming. Here we see not the Head in heaven and the members upon earth--the Shepherd at home and the sheep in the wilderness. Oh, no; but the Saviour and the saved folded in the sweets of heavenly communion. It is styled the "Family Epistle," for in every chapel the Father is revealed at home with His children all about Him. I like that.
The text contains a variety of interesting and instructive subjects--it is replete with Divine truth. The glorious Three-in-One appears to come forth from the clouds and darkness which surround Him, and clothed with light, majesty and strength, He brings to view the hidden things of His kingdom, and explains to His eternally loved children the secrets and privileges of the royal family of grace. Let us seek to know more of a gracious Saviour and His worth as set before us in the words of our text:--I. Union--"In whom." II. Address--"We have boldness." III. Introduction--"and access." IV. Stability--"With confidence." V. Assurance--"By the faith of Him."
I. Union--"In whom." Union with Christ is the glory of the Gospel. "IN CHRIST" is the motto ever found on Paul's apostolic crest. Look at it. What does it mean? The meaning of a word is frequently discovered by way of contrast. The opposite to the position "in" is "out." Now we, who are here assembled in St. Thomas's, are not outside at the same time. So we, who are in Christ by the will and good pleasure of the Father, are there eternally.
"In union with the Lamb,
From condemnation free;
The saints from everlasting were,
And shall for ever be."
This oft-repeated expression denotes freedom and security. Freedom from sin and its guilt, power, and plague. Security from curse, wrath, and everlasting damnation. It is graphically illustrated by Israel in Goshen under the shelter of the sprinkled blood of the paschal lamb, when the destroying angel wrought havoc with the firstborn in every house and hut of the Egyptians. It is also set forth in the ease and of Noah and his family in the Ark when the waters of judgment drowned the world of the ungodly.
Many are the metaphors employed by the Holy Ghost to elucidate this great, glorious, vital, and eternal union. As the stone is in the building so we are in Christ. This is an indication of permanency, durability, stability. But while the metaphor fulfils all that the Holy Ghost designs by it, failure attends it in the description of what Jesus is to His people, and what they are in Him. For instance, stones may be removed from a building by violence or decay, and the building itself fall into ruins, perish, and pass away, like the temple of Solomon, and the great wall and mighty palaces of Babylon. The metaphor fails, for living stones in the spiritual temple can never decay, or be removed; (1 Pet. 2:5; Eph. 2:21,22; Ps. 29:9, margin) "In His temple every whit of it uttereth His glory." Again, as the branch is in the vine, so are we in Christ. This indicates life and fruit-bearing. But the branch may be severed from the vine or tree--wither, and die. The metaphor fails, for spiritual branches in the Tree of Life abide there unceasingly and eternally. Again, as a member is in the body, so are we in Christ. This indicates vitality, vigor, and sympathy. Yet we know that limbs are amputated, and bodies perish, putrefy, and pass away. Yes, with all the care we take of these poor bodies and all the pride they engender, soon, very soon at the longest, the worm will feed sweetly upon them, and complete disintegration will take place. The metaphor fails, for those who are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones, remain such for ever. Again this oneness is set before us in the fifth chapter of this epistle, under the metaphor of husband and wife. What union down here so close--so endearing? Though two be pronounced in law and love one flesh, yet the time of painful separation in the flesh will surely come. I remember the day, now over forty years ago, when the words rang through my heart with ominous import--"Until death do us part." It is most blessed for two whom God has made one, to know themselves "heirs together of the grace of life." (1 Pet. 3:7) Distance, divorce, death, frequently separate those whom marriage has made one. The metaphor fails, for those who are one with Jesus, in the bonds of eternal wedlock, can never be separated from Him.
But the grace, grandeur, and glory of eternal, spiritual union, which metaphors, each and all, fail to describe, are clearly, accurately, and fully revealed to His own in the words of our Head, Husband, and Intercessor recorded in His precious prayer: "That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one: I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me." (John 17:21-23) Thus we learn from the lips of Incarnate and Infallible Truth, that which metaphors can never unfold--the mutual inbeing of the Church in Christ and Christ in the Church. Not simply as the stone in the building--the branch in the tree--the member in the body--the wife in the heart of her husband; but, as the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father, eternally, spiritually, really, substantially.
"What from Christ that soul shall sever,
Bound by everlasting bonds?
Once in Him, in Him for ever;
Thus th' eternal covenant stands;
None shall pluck thee
From the Strength of Israel's hands."
"In whom." How came they there? Paul answers the question in 1 Cor. 1:30, "But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus." No mortal ever had a hand in the gracious, glorious, eternal act. Before the day-star knew its place Jehovah's delight was in the elect sons and daughters of men. Even then He rejoiced in the habitable part of His earth--the election of grace. Look at them as they appear in Christ according to the first chapter of our epistle! Chosen in Him to salvation, life, grace, and glory. Blessed in Him with all spiritual blessings. Predestinated in Him to all the privileges and glories of His kingdom. Accepted in Him adorned with all His moral excellencies, spiritual graces, and mediatorial glories. Redeemed in Him from hell, curse, and all evil. Forgiven in Him from all sins, past, present, and to come. Gathered together in Him to the enjoyment of an eternal inheritance. Sealed in Him with that Holy Spirit of promise. Believing in Him according to His resurrection power. Quickened together in Him. Raised up together in Him. Made nigh to God in Him. Preserved in Him. (Jude 1) Then glance at that glorious eighth of Romans which commences with no condemnation in Christ Jesus, and concludes with no separation from Christ Jesus. But the text leads up to the contemplation of the provisions of grace we have in Christ Jesus, like that blessed 2 Tim. 1:9. "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." What a glorious patrimony! Who can tell that which is untellable? This brings us to glance at the privileges recorded in the text.
II. Address--"We have boldness." This word "boldness" has drawn forth many a sigh from the exercised hearts of numbers of God's living children, who have felt everything but bold in approaching the throne of the heavenly grace. Reticence and diffidence frequently characterize the living comers to the footstool of sovereign mercy. It is their relief to know that the word "boldness" does not signify a courageous or fearless spirit. It has reference more to the supplicant's address to the throne, than to the manner of his coming. The word simply means speaking all one's mind--making a clean breast of it--liberty of utterance--freedom of speech. Now all who come to God by Jesus Christ have all these in Him. To them the covenant command goes forth--"Take with you words, and turn to the LORD; say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously; so will we render the calves of our lips." (Hosea 14:2) This command enforced by mighty power begets great searching of heart, while the searched sinner, feeling the gist of Paul's words--"We know not what to pray for as we ought"--falls down in spirit at the feet of the Master crying in the words of Peter--"Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." (John 6:68) Blessed be His precious name, Jesus not only has the words of eternal life, but He gives them to all those for whom the Father entrusted them to Him. To the Father He could say with the fullest assurance: "I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me: and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me." (John 17:8) It is most blessed to know that every acceptable word flowing from the lips of a heaven-sent preacher comes from the covenant Surety by the condescending grace of the Holy Ghost.
Yes, and every desire, longing and request flowing from the heart of a Spirit-taught sinner, and registered in the Court of Heaven, is the Father's gracious gift through the Son of His love. It may be only a desire to fear His name, or, a "Lord, save me!" when sinking chin-deep in the dark waters of doubt and despondency; or, a "Lord, help me!" when burdened by the world and tempted by the devil; but be that as it may, the language is fully understood up yonder. This is really the "boldness" of the text. It relates to the utterance necessary, and which is never lacking in the times appointed by the Father. It is heard by high heaven in the confession flowing from a broken heart and contrite spirit. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:8,9) It is almost shocking to say, but it is true, that there is too much praying--too much dictating to God as to the wants of sinners--too little confession of sin. O what a mercy to be drawn by saving and succoring love to tell God our Father the worst we know and feel ourselves to be. This encourages us to look for the best that He can say of Himself towards us, for us, with us, and in us. "I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." (Ps. 32:5) This is sweetly illustrated in the case of the Father and His long-lost prodigal son. In a land far distance from the Father's home, thoughts of home comforts and paternal counsels, with the love of a father's heart, exercised the contrite spirit of the sinful son. His determination is fixed; return to his Father's house he must, even to take the place of a hired servant. But his determinations were all anticipated by his Father, for "when he was yet a great way off, his Father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." All this took place before he was stripped, washed, clothed, and adorned--before the filth of the harlots' kisses were washed from his lips--before the smell of the swine troughs passed away from his person. His mouth is opened, not in prayer, not in supplication, not in entreaty; but in humble, hearty, honest confession. Look at it--"Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in Thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called Thy son." This is heavenly, gracious, evangelical. In the Father's embrace he lost all thoughts of bond-service, the Father's kiss chased away all cold legality from his confiding spirit, and from the confession of his lips. Spirit-wrought confession cleared the way to the Father's heart, and confirmed to him his right to his own place in the Father's home. We now consider:--
III. Introduction--"And access." Adam's sin blocked up the way of access to God to all his posterity. Christ by His one obedience and sacrifice opened up that way to all His seed. The popular way of describing the way of access is by declaring that a Saviour has done all that was needed by His sufferings and death to clear the way to God, and now, all who will avail themselves of this splendid opportunity can come to God. If they do not they will be lost. Certainly this is not good enough for a poor, vile, helpless sinner like me. Naturally dead. Spiritually helpless. Listen to the Master's own teaching. He says, "No man can come to Me except the Father which hath sent Me draw him." (John 6:44) Again He says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me." (John 14:6) All who are found in Him are in the Way, sought by Him, saved by Him, brought by Him because carried by Him. Mark well His own statement concerning this in John 10:9, "I am the Door, by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture." Notice again that sweet declaration by Paul in Romans 5:2, "By Whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Now that word access would be well rendered by the word "introduction." This is sweetly seen in 1 Pet. 3:18, "For Christ hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust"--that He might give us an opportunity to come to God? No! That is the veriest rubbish to me. But, "that He might bring us to God." Christ seeks, Christ saves, Christ brings all His saved one to God, to glory. "Them also I must bring, (John 10:16) is the Good Shepherd's determination concerning all His sheep who are not yet brought by Him to the enjoyment of His Father and theirs. Upon His shoulders of sovereignty and power, in His bosom of love and compassion, He carries them.
"My Shepherd's bosom bears each lamb
O'er rock and waste and wild;
The object of that love I am,
And carried like a child."
But we may pursue this precious subject to higher heights. Sought, brought and saved, we long for direct communication with heaven, with God. We long for more than pardon, justification, acceptance and peace, we long for the living God Himself, and for nothing short of Him. But then, He is so holy and I am so sinful. My sins are so many, heavy and irksome that I cannot move as I would, I cannot move at all. But the loved One of my heart who took my sins, wrung all the damning power out of them, and made an end of every one of them, now comes and takes me by the hand, aye, what is still far better, He takes me by the heart, and brings me right up to the throne divested of all my sin, guilt, filth and shame, and invested with all His mediatorial perfections. Here I enjoy the glorious fact that His God is my God, His Father is my Father. It is most blessed to know that God in Christ, and Christ in God, and God and Christ in me by the sweet witness of His indwelling Spirit, is the sum total of my religion. Now I can sing honestly and heartily, without hypocrisy--
"O! I am my Beloved's,
And my Beloved is mine!
He brings a poor vile sinner
Into His house of wine;
I stand upon His merit,
I know no other stand,
Not e'en where glory dwelleth
In Immanuel's land"
IV. Stability--"With confidence." Here I can only say that the soul thus led out of itself makes its boast in Christ Jesus, and has no confidence in the flesh. (Phil. 3:3) All fleshly confidences God has rejected (Jer. 2:37) Knowing this, the favored soul rejoices in Him who is the "Confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea." (Ps. 65:5) How blessed it is to know the precious secret of Solomon's words, "The LORD shall be thy Confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken." (Prov. 3:26)
V. Assurance--"By the faith of Him." This expression has puzzled and perplexed many a believing child of God who tries to believe for himself and fails in the attempt. This makes it so blessed for an unbelieving believer to discover a faith far better than his own. I can never express the joy and peace of my heart when first I saw that Jesus believed for me before all worlds, when He was in the world, now in the heights of glory. Yes, in covenant He trusted in the Father, and the Father trusted Him with the salvation and glorification of His elect, I among them. The revelation of the righteousness of God is from faith to faith. (Rom. 1:17) From the faith of the Head to the faith of the member, which is one and the same. (2 Cor. 4:12; Eph. 4:5,13) Have I the righteousness of God? It is by the faith of Jesus Christ. (Rom. 3:22) Am I savingly interested in the promise of eternal life? It is by the faith of Jesus Christ. (Gal. 3:22) Am I justified by and before God? It is by the faith of Jesus Christ. (Gal. 2:16) All that I am spiritually before God, is through Christ, by Christ, with Christ, and in Christ. O! how blessedly faith and confidence are confirmed and established as we are led by the Spirit to see and know that Christ our Surety ever trusted, never doubted, was ever faithful to Him that appointed Him. (Heb. 2:13; 3:2) In His seasons of fiercest temptation and deepest desertion, He fully relied on the Father's word, trusted the Father promise, and reposed in the Father's covenant. He believed that the Father would realize all His plan in Him though He was despised of men, distressed of devils, and deserted of God. He believes now, and I am right glad He does, that the Father will perform every promise made to Him in the eternal counsels respecting the salvation and glorification of all His loved one. He ever believes that the Father will accomplish all the purposes of His grace in all the members of His mystical Body.
Do you? I do.
Now to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, be all honor, power, might, majesty, and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
In the evening I preached with great liberty from Phil. 1:9
I must now stop. We hope to drop anchor in New York habor about 12 tonight, the 28th, and remain in quarantine until early morning. I hope to resume my narrative to you when I land. You and yours are remembered every day. Love to Mrs. W., and the rest. God bless you indeed. Mr. Fr. Whitlock.
S. S. "Germanic,"
July 22nd, 1892.