|« Prev||Sermon XLI. Preached April 15, 1694.||Next »|
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christy is born of God.
I SHALL now go on to clear the efficacy of this faith, which, if it be right and such as it ought to be, will diffuse a mighty and efficacious influence through the whole soul. It will be as a great vital spring in the heart, that sets all the wheels in motion, and acteth every faculty and power. But its next and more immediate operation must be upon the will. So doth this belief (as it were) transire, pass over from the mind into the heart, into the very centre, and therein especially and most principally the will, which is the chief thing that goes under the name of the heart in Scripture phrase. Its great effect is, that the will is proportionably framed, inclined, bowed, made to comply, according to this discovery and revelation that is made of so great and glorious an object; one in whom the soul hath so near and great a concern—“The Christ of God,” as he is called. This is the representation that is made in the mind, this Jesus is the Christ. “Whom say ye that I am?” Peter answers (Luke ix. 20.) “Thou art The Christ of God.” Such a truth as this cannot be received aright into the soul, but it must turn the whole soul, and especially the governing faculty, the will, so as that it shall be inclined and bowed to him accordingly. For it is never to be thought that there should such a revelation be made, not only in the gospel but in the mind, 514concerning this Jesus, that he is the Christ, hut it is In order to some further purpose. He is not so revealed, to be gazed upon, to be looked upon, but that the soul should be acted towards him and be carried towards him, according to that revelation and belief. Therefore the great effect that is wrought by such an efficacious belief, is, the will’s consent that he shall be such to me, as this name (Christ) doth import: I consent to it, that he shall be Christ to my soul. And that consent takes in two things, reception and resignation. These two things I shall distinctly open to you, reception of him, and resignation of ourselves to him.
But consider we first what is more general here. This consenting act of the will, how that is the consummation of faith; this is faith perfected. The bare assent or belief, that this is he, is inchoate faith, faith begun, faith tending to its end and perfection; but this is faith in its end. The other is faith moving towards Christ, this is faith resting in Christ. It is the acquiescence of faith by which he comes to have an in-being in the soul, and the soul hath a possession of him. He dwells in the heart by faith. It is by faith, thus considered, that he comes to dwell even in the very heart, in the centre, as the expression is, Eph. iii. 17. The soul hath possession of him, and is said to have him; “He that hath the son, hath life,” as in the 12th verse of this chapter. This is the unitive act of faith, by which the soul closeth and falls in with him, as in the 20th verse of this chapter. He hath given us an understanding (there’s faith in the mind, a right belief or apprehension of him) to know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his son Jesus Christ, who is the true God and eternal life.
There are considerable the same gradations in faith, as it relates to Christ, as there are commonly observed to be in faith as it relates to God, that is, Credere Denm, credere Deo, and credere in Deum. To believe that there is a God; to believe God speaking to us in his word, revealing this or that to us; and to believe in God or into God: to wit, to unite with him as our God, take him for our God. The same gradation is in faith as to Christ: you “believe in God, believe also in me.” There is a credere Christum, credere Christo, and credere in Christum. To believe, first, that there is a Christ, in opposition to the pagan world, that never thought of any such thing. Then to believe him to be revealing himself to be he, “I am he,” (if ye believe not 515that I am he) in opposition to the Jews, who indeed believed that there should be a Christ, that there must be a Messiah; but who did not believe that this was he. And then, again, to believe in Christ, or to believe into Christ, (as the prepositions used signify) to believe into an union with him, in opposition to the formalists, or pseudo Christians, the mere nominal Christians, that can believe (or say they do) against pagans, that there is or must be a Christ; or against the Jews, that this is he, but never believe into him for all that, so as to close with him, as my Christ; unite with him, admit him into my heart and soul, so as that he comes to have his throne, not only his dwelling, but his seat of government in my very will; as the will is the governing faculty in the soul, Christ is the governor, the ruler there in that seat of government. So (God knows) he is believed in but by few even of them that bear his name, and call themselves Christians. We are as much concerned to have a faith concerning this Jesus, that he is the Christ, in opposition to formalists and nominal Christians, as we are to have a faith in this matter, in opposition to. Pagans and Jews: for it is all one how we perish, whether we perish under the name of Pagans, or Jews, or false Christians, that never had the power or spirit of faith in Christ in them.
And so much of this consent of faith in general. But more particularly, it carries (as I said) these two things in it, reception and resignation: reception of him, and resignation of ourselves to him. There is in that faith, that will avail us unto salvation, taking and giving at the same time, complicated with one another. When we give we take, when we take we give. When we take him, we; at the same time consent that we will be his, and that he shall be ours. This constitutes the covenant between him and us. And considering that he is to be covenanted with but as a Mediator, as Mediator of the gospel, and that through him we finally and ultimately covenant with God, according to that, “ye believe in God, believe also in me:” you must believe me in your way to God. Why it is this that doth make up the entire covenant between God and us in Christ. We accept him, and God in him; we give ourselves to him, and to God through him. This is consummate faith, as you will see more, when we have (as we intend) opened further to you what it comprehends.
And that we may more clearly and distinctly apprehend that, there are several things yet more particularly to be 516spoken to; to wit, to let you know that this same faith concerning Jesus as the Christ, must carry with it
1. Suitable apprehensions concerning ourselves and concerning him.
2. It includes in it some correspondent actings yet further to be considered.
3. It must be attended with some suitable qualifying adjuncts. And
4. It must be attended with some concomitant dispositions and affections that are proper hereunto.
1. It must have with it suitable apprehensions both of ourselves and him: for you see here is the most immediate transactions in this mutter imaginable between us and him, when we are to accept him, and resign ourselves to him. Here must be then necessarily suitable apprehensions both of ourselves and of him.
(1.) Of ourselves. When one goes upon such a transaction as this with Jesus as the Christ, I must consider with myself what I am, and what my state is. And, what am I, upon my most serious and enquiring thoughts? Why,
[1.] I find myself a creature under obligation to be governed by him that made me; and who shall be further obliged hereunto, if he that made all will further be favourable to me.
[2.] I must understand myself to be a miserable creature. It is as such I must have to do with this Jesus as the Christ. An undone creature, a lost creature. I do but touch upon these things.
[3.] I must consider myself an offending creature, as one that am miserable, by my having broken laws and rules, and who that way have brought myself under guilt. A miserable creature, without the apprehension of being a guilty creature, is an insolent and proud creature. I am miserable, but I am faultless. If any should bear that sense with them, they can have nothing to do with Christ, he is nothing to them. And
[4.] I must apprehend myself to be a depraved creature, habitually depraved; destitute of any good principles, either of duty towards God, or that have any tendency to felicity for myself. And I am under the possession and power of the most pernicious, radical principles of all iniquity and injuriousness towards God; and misery to myself. So I must apprehend the state of my case when I apply myself, and when my soul moves towards this Jesus as the Christ. And517
(2.) I must have suitable apprehensions of him too; here I am to consent to accept of him for mine, to resign myself to him as his. Both these, reception and resignation, do require that I should have suitable apprehensions of him; That is,
[1.] I must consider his original power over me, as he is the beginning of the creation of God; “as by him all things were made, visible and invisible,” Col. i. 15, 16. As by whom God made the worlds, Heb. i. 2. As originally invested with a sovereign, governing power, which, because it was original and natural to him, can never be lost, more than the Godhead. He is the Lord my maker, whom I am to receive, and unto whom I am to resign. And,
[2.] I must consider him as a constituted Ruler. So he is as Mediator. Consider him abstractedly, as he was the eternal Son of God, so he hath a natural power of government over all. But as he is Mediator, God-man, he is a Governor too by constitution. All power is given him both in heaven and earth. The Father hath given all things into his hand. John xiii. 3. “Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as God hath given him,” John xvii. 2. So I must apprehend and conceive of him.
[3.] I must conceive of him as a Saviour; and thereupon, as a Redeemer, as a Reconciler, that was to save, by redeeming and reconciling, perishing, lost, guilty creatures, to an offended God. This is the apprehension one must have in consenting to him. And the soul that hath believed aright that this Jesus is the Christ, it will be full of this sense in this transaction: Aye, this is just such an one as I need; for I find myself miserable, I find myself lost, I find myself undone, by my having offended, and involved myself in guilt, against my sovereign, rightful, Lord. There can. never be any reception of him, or resignation to him, without this. And,
[4.] He must be understood and apprehended as a vital head, replenished with spirit and holy influence: so as that all that shall come into holy union with him, shall thereby derive spirit, and life and grace and holy influence, from him; the thing which the exigency of the case, so much calls for, as we are creatures so miserably depraved, and dead in trespasses and sins, disinclined to the doing and enjoying good in point of felicity. Such an one I need; and so I must consider Christ as one given to be “the head of all things to the church.” Ephes. i. 22. He hath an universal political headship over all. But a vital headship 518over the church (to wit, that is truly such) that is, his body, his living body. And such an one must the soul, that is treating and transacting with him, apprehend him to be even in this closure, this unitive closure; I am a most wretched, deformed, depraved creature; I believe this Jesus to be the Christ, I believe it belongs to the office of this same Christ to be the fountain and spring of life and renovating grace to poor souls that shall come into union with him: and I come unto him as such, I receive him as such, and resign myself to him as such. Every one that is in Christ is a new creature. I need to be new made throughout, new created; I am lost and undone for ever if I be not so: I come to him, unto this union with him, to be made anew throughout, according to that, 2 Cor. v. 17. and that, Ephes. ii. 10. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” He is a new plastes; we had a miserable protoplast: we have another former now, a reformer. Christ is to be formed in us, his own image is to be formed in our hearts. He himself can only form his image, and draw it upon us; and that is our business with him. And blessedness itself can never make us blessed, if we be not made new, if we be not made over again, another sort of creatures than we were before. Thus there must be in this belief (as it comprehends our reception of him and resignation to him) suitable apprehensions both of ourselves and of him in this transaction, otherwise all will turn to nothing. And again,
2. There must be suitable included acts, even in those of receiving him and resigning ourselves. First, there must be the act of trust; and, secondly, the act of subjection; otherwise we do not receive him, and resign ourselves to him, suitably to the apprehensions that are given to us of that object. When we do receive him, how do we receive him? We receive him as Christ Jesus the Lord. Col. ii. 6. You receive Christ, (that is, the name of his office, that we are to believe Jesus to be invested with,) the anointed one of God. But what is he anointed to, or what is he anointed for? To be to us both Jesus and the Lord. Jesus is a saviour, Lord is an owner and ruler. It cannot be, then, but that, our receiving him, and our resigning ourselves to him, must comprehend in them
(1) Trust, an absolute trust. When we receive him, we receive him as one in whom we trust; and when we resign ourselves to him, we resign ourselves as committing ourselves, in trusting ourselves. We receive him under the pleasant notion of a Saviour, and so we resign ourselves 519to him, to be saved by him, confiding in his saving mercy, encouraged by his word, “Whosoever cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” I will cast myself upon him, without any suspicion that he will ever cast me out; he will ever be as good as his word. Who ever did venture upon him, and perish? I will throw myself into those safe arms. This is included both in receiving and resigning: for I receive him as a Saviour, as Christ Jesus; and I resign myself to him, I commit, I intrust, I can credit myself to him accordingly as such. And then,
(2.) As both these together do carry in them trust, so they carry in them subjection; there is not only committing ourselves, but there is also submitting ourselves. We commit, and submit, and subject ourselves to him at the same time: for he is received as Christ Jesus the Lord, and according as the gospel represents him. “For all the house of Israel know, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ.” Acts ii. 36. This must go for a known thing all Israel over, and all the world over, wherever he comes to be revealed; “That God hath made him both Lord and Christ. And him hath he exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, (Acts v. 31,) to give repentance and remission of sins.” Repentance, wherein we humble ourselves before him as a Prince, prostrate ourselves, throw ourselves down at the footstool of his throne: and remission of sins, which he gives as a Saviour. Now are all sins forgiven to you, go away and be whole, you are accepted, you are pardoned. Your scores are taken off; all things set right between him and you. God hath exalted him to be a Prince, and so he humbles you and gives repentance; and as a Saviour he forgives you. These are the acts correspondent to this twofold notion. Not that the one is any cause of the other, or signifies any thing for the obtaining of them. But these are conjunct things by divine constitution, and the exigency of the case itself. As a Prince, he humbles them to repentance; and as a Saviour, he for gives them, wipes off all scores, takes oft their guilt, and sets all things right between God and them. We here must then be at once both trusting in him as a Saviour, and subjecting ourselves to him as a Prince; devoting and dedicating ourselves, so as determining henceforth not to live to ourselves; no, but to him that died for us, and rose again. This is the judgment of a soul brought under the constraint of the love of Christ, 2 Cor. v. 14, 15. So that thereupon this becomes the sense of the soul, “For me to 520live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Phil. i. 20. While I live, I have no business to do but for Christ; my gain comes to me when I die—then I gain him. In the mean time, the business of my life is Christ, to live up Christ, live up his interest, serve him as a devoted one. My life it sacred to Christ, an hallowed and devoted thing. This is receiving and resigning, as comprehending acts suitable to the state of the case to what he is, and what we are. We are not to think of receiving and resigning blindly, and in the dark, and as those that know not for what; but upon such accounts, and with such actions of heart and soul, as these committing and submitting ourselves most absolutely to him. And
3. Here must be some qualifying adjuncts of these acts of receiving and resigning, especially these two, totality and vitality. It may be, you will remember them the better for the sound’s sake. But they are expressions that speak the importance of the thing more plainly than any other can that occurs to my thoughts.
(1.) There must be totality with these acts of the one part and the other, to wit, with reference to the object, and with reference to the subject. Consider the act of reception with reference to the object; we are to receive a whole Christ: consider the act of resignation with respect to the subject; and we are to resign our whole, selves. Reception must be with totality, a reception of a whole Christ; resignation must be with totality, a resignation of our whole selves. To take Christ but by halves, will not do the business; to resign ourselves but by halves, will not do the business neither. To take Christ only to serve a turn, that he may save me from wrath, without renewing my nature, and bringing me into an union and communion with himself and with God through him, this will not do; neither will it do for me to resign myself, and not my whole self,—my whole soul. Will it content any one to be saved by halves, to be half saved, and half lost, if this were possible? But then,
(2.) There must be vitality as to both these, as well as totality. There must be vital reception, and vital resignation; life must accompany these acts. “He that hath the Son hath life,” as it is afterwards, ver. 12, of this chapter. I must so take him and receive him, as that by a vital act of my will, I become united with him as with a living thing; for I find new life hath entered into my soul. I must so resign myself to him that life may go into that act of resignation. 521“Yield yourselves unto the Lord as those that are alive unto God. And reckon yourselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ.” Rom. vi. 11, 13. There must be life springing in my soul towards God, and through Jesus Christ. The cold, dead indifferency and aversion towards God is gone, and with the spirit of faith a spirit of life enters. And so when I come to give myself up, it is not as a dead thing. “Offer up yourselves living sacrifices, acceptable unto God through Jesus Christ” Rom. xii. 1. But then,
4. There must be suitable concomitant affections, especially these two, reverence and joy.
(1.) Reverence. Whom do I receive? and to whom do I resign? The great and glorious Lord of all. Think what this name (Christ) doth import. The Christ of God, as you heard. He to whom all power is given in heaven and earth. When I receive him, how great an one is now to enter my soul! This sense is now to possess it, “Lift up your heads O ye gates, and be ye lift up ye everlasting doors, for the king of glory is entering in.” He is to come and take up his dwelling in my soul by faith, as in the 24th Psalm, latter end. It must be with a prostrate soul that I am to receive him; let the everlasting doors fly open; here is a mighty one to come, him, the Lord of Glory. Lord, I am not worthy thou shouldst come under my roof; I know if thou comest thou bringest life with thee, and salvation with thee to my soul. But O in how humble and reverential a posture must the soul be in this thing! And,
(2.) Joy. He is to be received and resigned unto with highest complacency; with a most complacential reception and resignation. The soul is glad things are brought to that pass between God and him. Oh, blessed be God for this day, that he hath revealed his Christ, and hath revealed him in me; and that I have found him, and in him found according to his own word, “They that find me find life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.” O! what a blessed day is this! How hath God signalized this day with my soul, in bringing about this union and commerce between this Christ and me!
This is believing Jesus to be the Christ. If you believe it to purpose, this is it. And pray think with yourselves; can it be any thing less than this? That faith that is short of this is both a nullity and an affront. A nullity, a vanity as to you, and an affront as to God and Christ.
To you a nullity, a vanity, a nothing: for can that faith, 522that belief, signify any thing, that doth not reach its end? I pray what is the end, think you, of this revelation of Christ, that there should be such a record extant concerning this Jesus that he is the Christ? Why should it be revealed? Why should it be declared, why am I required to believe it? To be persuaded in my heart of the truth hereof? Can it be for any end, but that my soul may be brought into a vital, unitive closure with him hereupon? If it doth not effect this, it effects nothing. It is from hence my Christianity commenceth. It is but now that I become a Christian, any thing besides a name. When my soul passeth into this union with him by consent, by reception, by resignation, now I become a Christian, now I am in Christ, now the spirit of faith hath exerted its power in my soul, without which there is no believing. “We having the same spirit of faith, believe.” 2 Cor. iv. 13. There can be no faith to purpose without a spirit of faith. Here doth the spirit of faith exert itself, and so it is but now that I do begin to be a Christian; for he that hath not the spirit of Christ is none of his, he is no Christian; let him be called what he will, let men call him what they please, he is none of Christ’s. And what, will my Christianity without a Christ save me, or do me any good? To have a christless Christianity, what shall I be the better for that?
And it is indeed not only a nullity as to myself; but it is an affront and provocation to God and Christ, if in believing and assenting to this truth, that Jesus is the Christ, my soul do not hereupon unite and close with him: for it is a refusing him in the face of light. It is a refusing him, when I know and profess to know who he is. I profess this Jesus to be the Christ, and yet my soul stands out against him. For I must be either a consenter or refuser. To refuse him when I know who he is, when I profess to believe who he is, this is higher wickedness than the Jews were guilty of when they crucified him; for if they had known him to be the Lord of Glory, they would not have crucified him. But I know this Jesus is the Christ, yet I will him not. “You will not come to me, that you may have life.” Here is a knowing and denying at once. “He that denieth the Son, hath not the Father.” 1 John ii. 23. But he that doth acknowledge that this Jesus is the Christ, hath the Father and the Son both together. If it be vitally acknowledged, so as that the soul pass hereby into union with both, then he hath both.
I hope we speak and hear of these things with a design to be and do accordingly, otherwise here is time the most 523unhappily thrown away that could have been. We had been better treating of any trivial subject, if such a thing as this should have been spoken, or been attended to slightly, and with neglect. All lies upon this, depends upon this: all for our present comfort in this life here in this world, and our future happy blessed life in the other world.
|« Prev||Sermon XLI. Preached April 15, 1694.||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version