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Showing How The Vital Power Of The Word Of God Should Be Manifested In Man Through Faith.
Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.—John 17:21.
Inasmuch as man's whole welfare depends on his regeneration and renewal, it was the will of God that all those changes which ought to take place in man spiritually and by faith, should be also outwardly set forth in the words of Holy Scripture. Since the Word is the seed of God (Luke 8:11) within us, it is necessary that it should also spring up and spiritually bear fruit. That must be accomplished in us by faith, which is declared without us in the letter of Scripture; and if this effect be not produced, then the Word is evidently to us but a dead seed, destitute of life and energy. Hence, we ought in faith and in spirit to learn by our own happy experience the truth of that which the Scriptures have outwardly declared.
2. When God revealed his will in his Word, he never designed that the latter should be a dead letter, but that it should grow up in us to a new and inward man; otherwise the Word is of no benefit to us. These truths may be explained more clearly by a reference to some example, as that of Cain and Abel. The nature, manners, and actions of these two persons, as they are recorded in Scripture, clearly explain the motions and workings of the old and the new man in the breast of the believer. Cain perpetually endeavors to oppress and destroy Abel. What else is this but the daily strife of the flesh and spirit, and the enmity subsisting between the serpent and the seed of the woman? With Abraham, the Christian is required to quit his own country, leaving all that he possesses, even life itself, in order that he may walk before God with a perfect heart, obtain the victory, and enter into the land of promise and kingdom of heaven. Such is the meaning of the Lord's words: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple;” that is, he must renounce all these rather than renounce Christ. Luke 14:26. With Lot, he must depart from Sodom and Gomorrah, forsaking the wicked course of the world; not looking back with Lot's wife, but obeying Christ's injunction (Luke 17:32), in order that his deliverance may be completed. Hither are all the wars and battles of Israel against the heathen and infidel nations to be referred; for what is represented under this history but the continual strife between the flesh and the spirit? Whatsoever is recorded of the Mosaical priesthood, the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, or the mercy-seat, with the sacrifices, etc.,—all has relation to the Christian believer. For unto him it appertains to pray in spirit and in truth; to burn spiritual incense; and to slay the sin-offering by presenting his body, through mortification, as a reasonable service and sacrifice, so that Christ may truly dwell in him by faith.18
3. And if we advert to the New Testament itself, what is this but an outward expression of those truths, which are to be inwardly fulfilled by faith, in the experience of the believer? If I become a new creature in Christ, it is incumbent on me to live and walk in him; in him and with him, to flee into exile, and to be a stranger upon the earth. The virtues that resided in him I ought to practise; humility, contempt of the world, meekness, and patience; and I am bound to be fervent in acts of benignity, charity, and loving kindness. In and with Christ I should exercise mercy, and pardon and love my enemies, and, with him, do the Father's will. I must be tempted by Satan with him; and, with him, I must obtain the victory. I am to be derided, despised and vilified for the sake of the truth that is in me; and, if called to it, I ought to die for and with him, after the example of the saints, and in testimony that he, by faith, hath lived in me, and I in him.
4. This is to be conformed to the image of Christ; this is to be born with and in Christ; to put on Christ; to grow up and be strong in Christ; to live with Christ in banishment; to be baptized with his baptism; to be scoffed and crucified with him; to die with him; to be buried with him; to rise with him from the dead; and to reign with him to all eternity.
5. If ever thou desirest to live in a constant union and conformity with thy Head and Saviour, thou art in this manner to die daily with him, and to crucify the flesh. Rom. 6:5, 6. Should this divine harmony not exist, and another way be devised more consonant to thy fancy, then Christ will not be within but without thee; far from thy faith, thy heart, and thy spirit; and, in that case, he will profit thee nothing. But if thou permit him to dwell in thy heart by faith, he will be thy strength, thy comfort, and thy salvation.
6. All this, O man! doth faith in Christ effect within the heart; and thus the Word of God becomes a living Word, and, as it were, a living witness in us of all those things which are externally declared in the Scriptures. Hence, faith is termed by the apostle a substance and an evidence, Heb. 11:1.
7. It is therefore evident, that all the sermons, discourses, and epistles, contained in the Word of God, whether proceeding from Christ, or the prophets, or the apostles; and, in a word, that all the Scriptures, in general, as it regards their complete fulfilment, belong to man, and to every man individually. Not only do the plain doctrines appertain to us; but all the parables and miracles with which the history of Christ abounds, have their final reference to man.
8. The purpose for which they were written was, that they might be spiritually fulfilled in our own experience. When, therefore, I read that Christ healed others, I promise myself the same relief; for we live in unity one with another, Christ with me, and I with Christ. When I read further, how he cured the blind, I am encouraged to believe that he will restore me to the enjoyment of spiritual sight, who am blind by nature: and so, with regard to all his other miracles. Only own thyself to be blind, lame, deaf, or leprous; to be dead in trespasses and sins; and then, he will surely heal thy maladies, and quicken that which is dead, that so thou mayest have part in the first resurrection.19
9. The substance of all that has been advanced is this: the Holy Scripture bears outward testimony to those things, which are to be inwardly fulfilled in man, by faith. It points out that image externally, which, by faith, is to be formed within him. It describes the kingdom of God in the letter, which is to be established in the heart, by faith, after the spirit. It exhibits Christ outwardly, who is, by faith, to live within me; and it testifies of the new birth and of the new creature, which I must experience in myself. All this I am to be made by faith, or the Scripture will profit me nothing.
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