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And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.—Col. I. 18.
THE context is spent in representing the dignity and excellency of Christ. He is set forth by three things:—
1. By the excellency of the benefits we have by him—the greatest the fallen creature is capable of for the present, ver. 14.
2. By the excellency of his person; so he is set forth as the eternal and only-begotten Son of God, ver. 15, and proved by his being the Creator and preserver of all things. The Creator, ver. 16; the preserver, ver. 17. Now the apostle cometh to the third thing.
3. The excellency of his office. This is done in the text; where, observe, that next after the Son of God there is nothing more venerable and august than Christ’s being head of the church. And again, that Christ hath another title to us than that of Creator: he is Redeemer also. The same God that created us by his power hath redeemed us by his mercy. By the one he drew us out of no thing, by the other he recovered us out of sin. Therefore, after he had declared what Christ is to the world and the church too, he showeth what Christ is particularly to the church. He hath a superiority over angels and all creatures, but he is our head: Eph. i. 22, ‘He hath put all things under his feet, 454and gave him to be head over all things to the church.’ Christ is the sovereign of the world, but, by a special relation to his people, ‘he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead,’ &c.
In which words observe:—
1. The titles which are given to Christ with respect to the church: he is the head, the beginning, the first-born from the dead.
2. The consequence of it: that in all things he might have the preeminence.
1. The titles ascribed to Christ. They are three:—
[1.] The first is ‘the head of the body, the church’—where observe two correlatives, the head and the body; the head is Christ, the body is the church. The head is the most eminent part of the body, the noblest both as to nature, and place, or situation. As to nature, the head is the most illustrious throne of the soul, as being the seat not only of the nerves and senses, but of the memory and understanding. In place, as nearest heaven, the very situation doth in a manner oblige the other parts to respect it. These things agree to Christ, who, as to his essence, is infinitely of much more worth than the church, as being the only-begotten Son of God. As to office, in him there is a fulness of perfection to perform the office of a head to such a crazy and necessitous body as the church is. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in our head for the use of the body, Col. ii. 3; and he is also the fountain of life and grace to every particular member, John i. 16. And, for place, he reigneth in heaven with his Father, and from thence he vieweth all the necessities of the body, and sendeth forth such influences of grace as are needful to every particular member.
For the other correlative—the church is the body. By the church is meant the church mystical, or all such as are called out of the world to be a peculiar people unto God. Now, these considered collectively or together, they are a body; but singly and separately, every believer is a member of that body: 1 Cor. xii. 29, ‘Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.’ All the parts and members joined together are a spiritual body, but the several persons are members of that body. Yea, though there be many particular churches, yet they are not many bodies, but one body, so it is said, 1 Cor. xii. 12, ‘As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.’ He is the head, and the many and divers members of the universal Christian church are but one body. The universal invisible church of real believers is one mystical body knit by faith to Christ, their head, and by love among themselves. And the visible universal church is one politic body, conjoined with Christ their head, and among themselves, by an external entering into covenant with God, and the serious profession of all saving truths. They have all the same king and head, the same laws—the word of God—the same sacraments of admission and nutrition, which visibly, at least, they subject themselves unto, and have a grant of the same common privileges in the gospel. But of this more anon.
[2.] The next title is ἀρχὴ, the beginning. I understand it that he is the root and the beginning of the renewed estate. The same degree 455which Christ hath in the order of nature, he hath in the order of grace also: he is the beginning both of creation, so also of redemption: he is origo mundi melioris, still the beginning and ending of the new creature as well as the old, Rev. i. 8. He is called, in short, the beginning, with respect to the life of grace; as in the next title, ‘the first born from the dead,’ with respect to the life of glory.
[3.] The third title is, the first-born from the dead. He had before called him the first-born of every creature, now the first-born from the dead: Rev. i. 5, ‘The first-begotten from the dead,’ because those that arise from the dead are, as it were, new-born; whence also the resurrection from the dead is called a regeneration, Mat. xix. 20: and St Paul referreth that prophecy, Ps. ii. 7, ‘Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee,’ in Acts xiii. 33, to the resurrection of Christ. Things are said to be when they are manifested to be: compare Rom. i. 4, ‘Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.’ He was declared to be the true, and everlasting Son of, God, and head of the church: so the adoption of believers shall appear by their resurrection: Rom. viii. 19, ‘The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God;’ ver. 23, ‘We ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body.’
2. The sequel and consequent of these things: that in all things he might have the pre-eminence—that is, as well in the spiritual estate of the church as in the creation and natural estate of the world: Rom. viii. 29, ‘That he might be the first-born among many brethren.’
I begin with the first.
Doct. 1. That this is the honour appropriate and peculiar to Jesus Christ, to be head of the church.
1. Here I shall show what the church is to which Christ is an head.
2. How is he an head to this body.
3. The reasons why this body must have such an head.
1. What the church is. A society of men called out of the world by God’s effectual grace, according to the purpose of his election, and united to Christ by faith and the participation of his Spirit, and to one another by the band of charity that after remission of sins obtained in this world, together with regenerating grace, they may at length be brought to eternal life. Let us a little open this description. By effectual calling God worketh faith, which uniteth us to Christ, and that effectual calling is the fruit of election; and the effect of this union is remission of sins, and the necessary consequence of this communion is salvation or eternal life. This society of men is called a church in the text. The word church is taken in divers acceptations.
First, and most properly, it signifies those whom I have now described, the universal collection of all and every one of those who, according to the good pleasure of God, are, or may be, called out of a state of sin into a state of grace, to obtain eternal glory by our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven, Heb. xii. 22—that chosen generation, that royal 456priesthood, that holy nation, that peculiar people, whom to show forth his praises God hath called out of darkness into his marvellous light, 1 Pet. ii. 9. This church, most generally and properly taken, is the kingdom of God, the body and spouse of Christ: Cant. vi. 9, ‘My dove, my undefiled one, is but one.’ This is that one fold under one shepherd, John x. 16. And it was prophesied of Christ that he should die to gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad, John xi. 52.
Secondly, Of this universal church there are two parts—one of travellers, the other of comprehensors, or the church militant and triumphant; they both belong to God’s family: Eph. iii. 15, ‘Of whom the whole family, whether in heaven or earth, is named;’ so Col. i. 10. That part of the family which is in heaven triumpheth with God there—that which is in earth is yet warring against sin, Satan, and the world.
Thirdly, This part, which is the military, comes in the second place to be called by the name of the universal church, because, being scattered and dispersed throughout the whole world, it comprehendeth all and every one that belongeth to Christ’s flock, which are found in several folds: known to God they are, and to themselves, and do indeed belong to Christ’s body and his kingdom. This is often and not un deservedly called the invisible church, because, so far as it is the church of God, their reality and sincerity is rather believed by faith than seen by the eyes of the body. This church, this kingdom of God, though it be yet in this world, yet it is not of the world, neither doth it come with observation, for the faithful have this kingdom of God within them, Luke xvii. 20. The world knows them not, other believers know them not, but God knoweth those that are his, 2 Tim. ii. 19.
Fourthly, The universal visible church. While they are in the way, and in the midst of their conflicts, it is possible many hypocrites may take up the profession, as in the great house are many vessels, some to honour, some to dishonour. From these ariseth an external promiscuous multitude, who also are called the catholic church, for the sake and with respect to those holy ones among them who truly belong to Christ’s mystical body. We read often the kingdom is like to a net wherein are good and bad fishes, Mat. xiii.; to a thrashing-floor wherein is chaff and wheat; to a field wherein groweth good corn and also tares, Mat. xiii. 24, 25. Now all these ways is the universal church taken.
Fifthly, There are particular churches wherein the ordinances and means of grace are dispensed, as the church of Corinth, Cenchrea, Galatia, Greek, Roman. None of these particular churches contain all believers or the elect of God, that out of them or any of them there should be no salvation. Again, the universal church may remain in the world total and entire, though these particular churches, one or other of them, may successively be destroyed, as it hath often fallen out. And it is a great sin so to cry up a particular church as to exclude all the rest from saving communion with Christ; and for any one particular church to arrogate power over the others, they being but members.
This church is called a body in two respects:—457
(1.) In regard of the union of all the parts.
(2.) Dependence upon one and the same head.
(1.) With respect to union, as in man all the members make but one body, quickened by the same soul, so in the mystical body of Christ all the parts makeup but one body, animated by the same vital principle, which is the Spirit of Christ, and are joined together by certain bonds and ligaments—faith and love; and all is covered with the same skin—the profession of the faith of Christ. Look, what the soul is in man, the form in the subject, life in the body, and proportion in the building; that in the universal church of God is the union and communion of the several and single parts, with the head among themselves. Take away the soul from man, the form from the subject, life from the body, proportion and conjunction from the parts of the building, and what will man be but a carcase, and the building but ruin and confusion? So take away union and communion from the universal church, then Jerusalem will become a Babel, and Bethel a Bethaven, and for life there will be death, and for salvation eternal destruction. How else shall all that come out from one, return again to one, and all and every one have all things in one, that at length they may acquiesce in the enjoyment of one—that is God—as their chiefest good? Alas! without this union with the head, and among themselves in necessary things, what can they expect but wrath and the curse, and everlasting destruction?
(2.) With respect to dependence on one head: Rom. xii. 5, ‘We, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members of one another’—that is, all things make up one body, of which Christ is the head, and are fellow-members in respect of one another. As necessary and as desirable as it is to be united to God, to life and glory ever lasting, so necessary and desirable it is to depend upon Christ, the head; for no man, after the entrance of sin, can return to God, or enjoy God, without Christ the mediator: John xiv. 6, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the Father but by me.’ Acts iv. 12; ‘There is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved, but only Jesus Christ.’ 1 Cor. iii. 11; ‘Other foundation can no man lay, but that which is laid, Jesus Christ.’ 1 John v. 12; ‘He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life.’ God proclaimed from heaven, Mat. iii. 17, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ He being one God with the Father and the Spirit, of the same substance and essence, he only can procure merit, and effect our union with God. He first assumed our nature, and united it to his own person, and so became one flesh with us: but then all those that belong to that nature, if they believe in him, and enter into his covenant, are not only literally one flesh, but mystically one body, and so also one Spirit, 1 Cor. vi. 17—that is, by the bond of the Spirit he hath brought them into the state and relation of a body to himself. To gather up all: Man’s return to God is necessary to his blessedness, that he may be inseparably conjoined to him as his chiefest good. To this purpose the Son of God assumed our nature in the unity of his person, and there by bringeth about the union of the church with himself as our head, and our communion with one another in faith and charity, if we desire to be blessed, and so is according to Christ’s prayer: John xvii. 21, 458‘That they may be all one, as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us;’ ver. 23, ‘I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.’ So that as ‘there is one God, and one mediator between God and man,’ and one church united to Christ as his body, to this church we must every one of us be united if we mean to be saved, and in the church with Christ, and by Christ with God; therefore out of this mystical body there is no salvation.
2. How is Christ a head to this body? This must be explained by answering two questions:—
[1.] What are the parts of his headship?
[2.] According to what nature doth this office belong to him—divine or human?
[1.] The parts and branches of this headship. He is our head with respect to government and sovereignty; and in regard of causality and influence; he governeth, he quickeneth.
(1.) It implies his authority to govern, as is manifest by Eph. v. 22, 23, ‘Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as unto the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.’ So that to be the church’s head implies superiority or right to govern.
(2.) For the other notion, in regard of influence, that is evident in scripture also: Col. ii. 19, ‘Not holding the head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increases with the increase of God.’ The head is the root from whence the vital faculty is diffused to all the members. We use to say Homo est arbor inversa, a tree turned upside down; if this be so, the head is the root of this tree. So doth life flow from Christ to the church; the Spirit is from him either to begin the union or to continue the influence. But let us speak of these branches apart.
(1st.) His authority and power to govern. His excellency gives him fitness, but his office right to rule and govern the church. When he sent abroad his officers and ambassadors to proselyte the world in his name, he pleadeth his right: Mat. xxviii. 18, ‘All power is given to me both in heaven and in earth.’ Now the acts which belong to Christ as a governor may be reduced to these heads:—
First, To make laws that shall universally bind all his people.
Secondly, To institute ordinances for worship.
Thirdly, To appoint officers.
Fourthly, To maintain them in the exercise of these things.
First, The first power that belongeth to a governing head is legislation or making laws. Now Christ’s headship and empire being novum jus imperii, a new right which he hath as mediator for the recovery of lapsed mankind, his law is accordingly. It is lex remedians, a law of grace, which is given us in the gospel of our salvation. The sum of his own proper remedial laws are faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and repentance towards God, Acts xx. 21. Without repentance our case is not compassionable, without faith we do not own our Redeemer, by whom we have so great a benefit: yet because this new right of empire is accumulative, not privative, beneficial to us, indeed, but not destructive of our duty to God; therefore the whole law of God, as purely moral, hath still a binding force upon the conscience, as it is 459explained in the word of God. Now to these laws of Christ none can add, none diminish, and therefore Christ will take an account of our fidelity at the last day, 2 Thes. i. 8.
Secondly, He hath instituted ordinances .for the continual exercise and regulation of our worship and the government of his people, that they may be kept in the due acknowledgment and obedience to him, such as the preaching of the word, sacraments, and the exercise of some government. Now all the rules and statutes which Christ hath made for the ordering of his people must be kept pure until his coming. His institutions do best preserve his honour in the world. Great charges are left: 1 Tim. v. 21, ‘I charge thee before God and our Lord Jesus Christ, and his elect angels, that thou observe these things;’ where he speaketh of ecclesiastical censures and disciplines; he conjureth him by all that is sacred and holy, that it be rightly used: 1 Tim. vi. 14, ‘Keep this commandment without spot and unrebukable unto the appearing of Jesus Christ.’ The doctrines are so deter mined by Christ that they cannot be changed, the worship not corrupted, the discipline not abused, to serve partial humours and private or worldly interests.
Thirdly, God hath appointed officers, who have all their ministries and services under Christ and for Christ: Eph. iv. 11, ‘He gave some apostles, some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.’ Mark there, he doth not describe all the officers, for the deacon is not mentioned, but only such as labour in the word and sacraments; and observe, he mentioneth ordinary and extraordinary—apostles to write scripture, prophets to attest it, pastors and teachers to explain and apply it. And mark, Christ gave some; it is his prerogative, as head of the church, to appoint the several sorts of offices and officers. He gave them at first, and will raise up some still, according as the exigence of the times requireth it. The end why, ‘to perfect the saints’—that is, to help them on to their final perfection—‘and for the work of the ministry.’ All offices under Christ are a ministry, not a power; and imply service, not lordship or domination over the flock of Christ. Lastly, the great end is to prepare and fit men more and more to become true members of Christ’s mystical body.
Fourthly, To maintain and defend his people in the exercise of these things, to preserve the verity of doctrine and purity of worship. Alas! many times, where neither worship nor government is corrupted, yet the church may be in danger to be dissipated by the violence of persecutions. Now, therefore, it is a part of Christ’s office, as head of the church, to maintain verity of doctrine, purity of worship, and a lawful order of government, for all which he hath plenty of spirit. The papists think this cannot be without some universal visible head to supply Christ’s office in his absence; and so are like the Israelites: Exod. xxxi. 1, ‘Make us gods that shall go before us.’ They would have a visible head that should supply Christ’s room in his absence—an external, infallible head. But that is a vain conceit; for since the pope hath his residence in Home, and cannot perform these functions but by the intervention of ordaining pastors, why should it be more 460difficult for Christ in heaven to govern the church than for the pope in Rome—when he sitteth at the right hand of God till he hath made his foes his footstool? Is he less powerful to govern the church, and to preserve and defend his people against the violence of those that would root out the memorial of religion in the world? Who is more powerful than Jesus Christ, who hath all judgment put into his hands? John v. 22.
(2d.) In regard of influence: So Christ is an head to the church as he giveth us his Spirit. That Spirit which gives life to believers is often called Christ’s Spirit: Gal. iv. 6, ‘God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts.’ It is purchased by his merit, Titus iii. 6; conveyed to us by his power: John xv. 26, ‘I will send the Comforter from the Father.’ The communication is by his ordinances. The word: 2 Cor. iii. 18, ‘Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.’ Sacraments: 1 Cor. xii. 13, ‘For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free: and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.’ To promote the religion which he hath established: John xvi. 13, 14, ‘When the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear that he shall speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.’ He comes to us as his members, and by influence from him, as in the natural body the animal spirits are from the head, are by the members conveyed to all the parts of the body. So Christ in this spiritual union worketh in us a quickening Spirit: Eph. iv. 15, 16, ‘We grow up to him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body joined together maketh increase,’ &c. The Spirit is not given to any one believer, but derivatively from Christ to us. First, it is given to Christ, as mediator, and to us only by virtue of our union with him. He is in Christ as radically inherent, but in us operatively, to accomplish certain effects; or he dwelleth in our head by way of radiation, in us by way of influence and operation.
_ [2.] According to what nature doth this office belong to Christ—divine or human?
I answer—Both; for it belongeth to him as God incarnate.
(1.) He must be man, that there may be a conformity of nature between the head and the rest of the members; therefore Christ and the church have one common nature between them: he was man as we are men—‘bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh,’ Eph. v. 30. We read of a monstrous image that was represented to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream, where the head was gold, the breast and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of brass, and the legs and feet part of iron and part of clay, Dan. ii.; all the parts of a different nature. In every regular body there is a proportion and conformity. So it is in the mystical body of Christ’—because the brethren took part of flesh and blood, he also took part of the same.’ The Godhead, which was at such a distance from us, is brought down in the person of Christ in our nature, that it might be nearer at hand, and within the 461reach of our commerce; and we might have more encouragement to expect pity and relief from him.
(2.) God he also must be. None was fit to be head of the church but God, whether you respect government or influence.
First, For government: to attend all cases, to hear all prayers, to supply all wants, defend us against all enemies, to require an absolute and total submission to his laws, ordinances, and institutions, so as we may venture our eternal interests upon his word: Ps. xlv. 11, ‘He is thy God, worship thou him.’
Secondly, For influence: none else hath power to convey the Spirit, and to become a vital principle to us, for that is proper to God to have life in himself, and to communicate it to others: 1 Tim. vi. 13, ‘I charge thee in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things.’ &c. Whatever men may think of the life of grace, yet surely as to the life of glory he is the only life-making Spirit, 1 Cor. xv. 45. Now this honour is not given to the angels, much less is it due to any man, nor can it be imagined by him, for none can influence the heart of man but God.
3. The reasons why this body must have such a head.
[1.] Every society must be under some government, without which they would soon dissolve and come to nothing. Much more the church, which, because of its manifold necessities, and the high ends unto which it is designed, more needs it than any other society.
[2.] The privileges are so great, which are these: pardon of sins and sanctifying grace, and at length eternal glory.
(1.) Pardon of sins. By this union with him, ‘he is made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.’ 2 Cor v. 21. A sacrifice for sin, that we might be justified and accepted with God.
(2.) Sanctifying grace by the communication of his Spirit. We not only agree with him in the same common human nature, but the same holy nature may be in us that was in Christ, Heb. ii. 11. We are doubly akin, ratione incarnationis suae, et regenerationis nostrae.
(3.) At length eternal glory followeth. For what is the condition of the head, that is also the condition of the members. First Christ then they that are Christ’s. And also Christ is set up as a pattern, to which the church must be conformed, Rom. viii. 29. Bating the preeminence due to the head, we are to be glorious as he is glorious.
[3.] The duties are far above bare human power and strength therefore we need the influence of our head, John xv. 5. To obey God’ to believe in his name, to deny ourselves in what is most dear and precious to us in the world, to be fortified against all temptations are duties not so easily done as said.
[4.] We have so foully miscarried already that he will no more trust his honour in our hands, but hath put the whole treasure of grace into the hands of Christ for our use, John i. 16. So John iii. 35, 36, ‘The Father hath put all things into his hands. He that believes on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son hath not seen life.’ God would not leave us to ourselves to live apart from him, but hath put all things that belong to our happiness into his hands, that, being united to him, virtue might be communicated 462to us, even all the gifts and graces of the Spirit. They are not intrusted with us, but with him; and we shall have no more of pardon, grace, and glory, but what we have in and from the Son of God.
Use 1. Is information, to show how much we are bound to God for putting this honour upon us, that Christ should be our head. Christ is over the angels in point of superiority and government, but not properly said to be an head to them, in that strict notion which implies relation to the church. As to influence, he is not a head to them. You will say they are confirmed by him; but the mediation of Christ presupposes the fall of Adam, for Christ had not been mediator if Adam had never fallen. Now, if Christ should come to confirm angels, if this had not been, is groundless; besides, Christ merited for those that have benefit by him, and the consummate act of his merit is his death. But where is it said that he died for angels?
Use 2. It informs us of the shameless usurpation abetted by the papists, who call the pope head of the church. None can be a head of the church to whom the church is not a body; but it would be strange to say the church is the pope’s body. None can be a governing head of the church but he who is a mediatorial head of vital influence. The papists, indeed, distinguish these things—ascribe the one to the pope, the other to Christ; but the scripture allows not this writ of partition. None can be the one but he must also be the other. But they say he is a ministerial head; but a ministerial universal head that shall give law to other churches and Christian societies, and if they depend not on him, shall be excluded from the privileges of a Christian church. This is, as to matter of right, sacrilege; for this honour is too great for any man, and Christ hath appointed no such head, and therefore it is a manifest usurpation of his royal prerogative without his leave and consent. And, as to matter of fact, it is impossible—the church being scattered throughout all parts of the world, which can have no commerce with such an head in matters essential to its government and edification. They that first instituted such an universal head, besides that they had no authority or commission so to do, were extremely imprudent, and perverters of Christianity. Therefore let us consider how it came up at first, and how it hath been exercised. It came up at first for the prevention of schisms and divisions among Christians. They thought fit the church should be divided into certain dioceses, according to the secular divisions of the empire, which at first were thirteen in number, under the names of patriarchs and bishops of the first see, who should join in common care and counsel for the good of the Christian commonwealth. Among these, some who, in regard of the cities wherein they resided, were more eminent than the rest, and began to encroach upon the others’ jurisdiction, till at length they were reduced to four. The bishop of Home, being the imperial city, had the precedency, not of authority super reliquos, but of place and order inter reliquos. It was potestas honoraria, a difference or authority by courtesy, afterwards ordinaria, an ordinary power; then what was de facto given was afterwards challenged de jure.
2. Let us consider how this power hath been exercised to the introduction of idolatry, and divers corruptions and superstitions, to the 463destruction of kingdoms, the blood of the martyrs, and tumults and confusions too long to relate.
Use 3. To persuade you to accept Christ as your head. We are to preach him as Lord, 2 Cor. iv. 5; you are to receive him as Lord, Col. ii. 6; our consent is necessary. God hath appointed him, and the church appointeth him—God by authority, the church by consent. We voluntarily acknowledge his dignity, and submit unto him, both with a consent of dependence and subjection. Some God draweth to Christ and ^ gives them to him, and him to them, John vi. 44. All that live within hearing have means to seek this grace, and if they so do, they shall not lose their labour. God sets not men about unprofitable work: mind but the duties of the baptismal covenant, and the business is at an end, Acts ii. 39.
Use 4. To put us upon self-reflection. If Christ be your head—
1. You must stand under a correspondent relation to Christ; be members of his mystical body, which is done by faith and repentance.
2. None can be a true member of Christ’s body who doth not receive vital influence from him, Rom. viii. 9. It is not enough to be members of some visible church; they that are united to him have life, there is an influence of common gifts according to the part we sustain in the body. A common Christian hath common graces, those gifts of the Spirit which God gives not to the heathen world; as know ledge of the mysteries of godliness, ability of utterance about heavenly things, Heb. vi. 4.
3. If Christ be our head, we must make conscience of the duties which this relation bindeth us unto; as obedience and self-denial.
[1.] Obedience to his laws and the motions of his Spirit. His laws Luke vi. 46, ‘Why call you me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?’ The motions of his Spirit: Rom. viii. 14, ‘As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.’
[2.] Self-denial. Christ spared not his natural body to promote the good of his mystical body; he exposed his life for our salvation, we should hazard all for his glory. Nature teaches us to lift up the hands to save the head.
4. There must be suitableness and imitation: 1 John ii. 6, ‘He that abideth in him, ought to walk as he walketh.’
5. If you be planted into this mystical body, you will make conscience of love and tenderness.
Use 5. Let us triumph in this head, depend on him. There are two arguments—his ability and his sympathy.
1. His ability. He can give us life, strength, health: Eph. iii. 16, ‘That he would grant you according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man:’ Col. i. 11, ‘Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness.’
2. His sympathy. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities: Heb. iv. 15, ‘We have not an high-priest, which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.’ The head is concerned for the members.464
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