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Chapter III.

Of the way and manner whereby the saints hold communion with the Lord Christ as to personal grace — The conjugal relation between Christ and the saints, Cant. ii. 16; Isa. liv. 5, etc.; Cant. iii. 11, opened — The way of communion in conjugal relation, Hos. iii. 3; Cant. i. 15 — On the part of Christ — On the part of the saints.

(2.) The next thing that comes under consideration is, the way whereby we hold communion with the Lord Christ, in respect of that personal grace whereof we have spoken. Now, this the Scripture manifests to be by the way of a conjugal relation. He is married unto us, and we unto him; which spiritual relation is attended with suitable conjugal affections. And this gives us fellowship with him as to his personal excellencies.

This the spouse expresseth, Cant. ii. 16, “My Beloved is mine, and I am his;” — “He is mine, I possess him, I have interest in him, as my head and my husband; and I am his, possessed of him, owned by him, given up unto him: and that as to my Beloved in a conjugal relation.”

So Isa. liv. 5, “Thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.” This is yielded as the reason why the church shall not be ashamed nor confounded, in the midst of her troubles and trials, — she is married unto her Maker, and her Redeemer is her husband. And Isaiah, chap. lxi. 10, setting out the mutual glory of Christ and his church in their walking together, he saith it is “as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with jewels.” Such is their condition, because such is their relation; which he also farther expresseth, chap. lxii. 5, “As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.” As it is with such persons in the day of their espousals, in the day of the gladness of their hearts, so is it with Christ and his saints in this relation. He is a husband to them, providing that it may be with them according to the state and condition whereinto he hath taken them.

To this purpose we have his faithful engagement, Hos. ii. 19, 20, “I will,” saith he, “betroth 55thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness.” And it is the main design of the ministry of the gospel, to prevail with men to give up themselves unto the Lord Christ, as he reveals his kindness in this engagement. Hence Paul tells the Corinthians, 2 Cor. xi. 2, that he had “espoused them unto one husband, that he might present them as a chaste virgin unto Christ.” This he had prevailed upon them for, by the preaching of the gospel, that they should give up themselves as a virgin, unto him who had betrothed them to himself as a husband.

And this is a relation wherein the Lord Jesus is exceedingly delighted, and inviteth others to behold him in this his glory, Cant. iii. 11, “Go forth,” saith he, “O ye daughters of Jerusalem, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.” He calls forth the daughters of Jerusalem (all sorts of professors) to consider him in the condition of betrothing and espousing his church unto himself. Moreover, he tells them that they shall find on him two things eminently upon this account:— 1. Honour. It is the day of his coronation, and his spouse is the crown wherewith he is crowned. For as Christ is a diadem of beauty and a crown of glory unto Zion, Isa. xxviii. 5; so Zion also is a diadem and a crown unto him, Isa. lxii. 3. Christ makes this relation with his saints to be his glory and his honour. 2. Delight. The day of his espousals, of taking poor sinful souls into his bosom, is the day of the gladness of his heart. John was but the friend of the Bridegroom, that stood and heard his voice, when he was taking his bride unto himself; and he rejoiced greatly, John iii. 29: how much more, then, must be the joy and gladness of the Bridegroom himself! even that which is expressed, Zeph. iii. 17, “he rejoiceth with joy, he joys with singing.”

It is the gladness of the heart of Christ, the joy of his soul, to take poor sinners into this relation with himself. He rejoiced in the thoughts of it from eternity, Prov. viii. 31; and always expresseth the greatest willingness to undergo the hard task required thereunto, Ps. xl. 7, 8; Heb. x. 7; yea, he was pained as a woman in travail, until he had accomplished it, Luke xii. 50. Because he loved his church, he gave himself for it, Eph. v. 25, despising the shame, and enduring the cross, Heb. xii. 2, that he might enjoy his bride, — that he might be for her, and she for him, and not for another, Hos. iii. 3. This is joy, when he is thus crowned by his mother. It is believers that are mother and brother of this Solomon, Matt. xii. 49, 50. They crown him in the day of his espousals, giving themselves to him, and becoming his glory, 2 Cor. viii. 23.

Thus he sets out his whole communion with his church under this 56allusion, and that most frequently. The time of his taking the church unto himself is the day of his marriage; and the church is his bride, his wife, Rev. xix. 7, 8. The entertainment he makes for his saints is a wedding supper, Matt. xxii. 3. The graces of his church are the ornaments of his queen, Ps. xlv. 9–14; and the fellowship he hath with his saints is as that which those who are mutually beloved in a conjugal relation do hold, Cant. i. Hence Paul, in describing these two, makes sudden and insensible transitions from one to the other, — Eph. v., from verse 22 unto verse 32; concluding the whole with an application unto Christ and the church.

It is now to be inquired, in the next place, how it is that we hold communion with the person of Christ in respect of conjugal relations and affections, and wherein this doth consist. Now, herein there are some things that are common unto Christ and the saints, and some things that are peculiar to each of them, as the nature of this relation doth require. The whole may be reduced unto these two heads:— [1.] A mutual resignation of themselves one to the other; [2.] Mutual, consequential, conjugal affections.

[1.] There is a mutual resignation, or making over of their persons one to another. This is the first act of communion, as to the personal grace of Christ. Christ makes himself over to the soul, to be his, as to all the love, care, and tenderness of a husband; and the soul gives up itself wholly unto the Lord Christ, to be his, as to all loving, tender obedience. And herein is the main of Christ’s and the saints’ espousals. This, in the prophet, is set out under a parable of himself and a harlot, Hos. iii. 3, “Thou shalt abide for me,” saith he unto her, “thou shalt not be for another, and I will be for thee.” — “Poor harlot,” saith the Lord Christ, “I have bought thee unto myself with the price of mine own blood; and now, this is that which we will consent unto, — I will be for thee, and thou shalt be for me, and not for another.

1st. Christ gives himself to the soul, with all his excellencies, righteousness, preciousness, graces, and eminencies, to be its Saviour, head, and husband, for ever to dwell with it in this holy relation. He looks upon the souls of his saints, likes them well, counts them fair and beautiful, because he hath made them so. Cant. i. 15, “Behold, thou art fair, my companion; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes.” Let others think what they please, Christ redoubles it, that the souls of his saints are very beautiful, even perfect, through his comeliness, which he puts upon them, Ezek. xvi. 14, — “Behold, thou art fair, thou art fair:”104104    “Repetit non citra πάθος, en tu pulchra es.” — Mercer. particularly, that their spiritual light is very excellent and glorious; like the eyes of a dove, tender, discerning, clear, and shining. Therefore he adds that pathetical wish of the 57enjoyment of this his spouse, Cant. ii. 14, “O my dove,” saith he, “that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely;” — “Do not hide thyself, as one that flies to the clefts of the rocks; be not dejected, as one that hides herself behind the stairs, and is afraid to come forth to the company that inquires for her. Let not thy spirit be cast down at the weakness of thy supplications, let me yet hear thy sighs and groans, thy breathing and partings to me; they are very sweet, very delightful: and thy spiritual countenance, thy appearance in heavenly things, is comely and delightful unto me.” Neither doth he leave her thus, but, chap. iv. 8, presseth her hard to a closer [union] with him in this conjugal bond: “Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Herman, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards;” — “Thou art in a wandering condition (as the Israelites of old), among lions and leopards, sins and troubles; come from thence unto me, and I will give thee refreshment,” Matt. xi. 28. Upon this invitation, the spouse boldly concludes, Cant. vii. 10, that the desire of Christ is towards her; that he doth indeed love her, and aim at taking her into this fellowship with himself. So, in carrying on this union, Christ freely bestoweth himself upon the soul. Precious and excellent as he is, he becometh ours. He makes himself to be so; and with him, all his graces. Hence saith the spouse, “ ‘My Beloved is mine;’ in all that he is, he is mine.” Because he is righteousness,105105    Isa. xlv. 24, 25. he is “The Lord our Righteousness,” Jer. xxiii. 6. Because he is the wisdom of God, and the power of God, he is “made unto us wisdom,” etc., 1 Cor. i. 30. Thus, “the branch of the Lord is beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth is excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel,” Isa. iv. 2. This is the first thing on the part of Christ, — the free donation and bestowing of himself upon us to be our Christ, our Beloved, as to all the ends and purposes of love, mercy, grace, and glory; whereunto in his mediation he is designed, in a marriage covenant never to be broken. This is the sum of what is intended:— The Lord Jesus Christ, fitted and prepared, by the accomplishment and furniture of his person as mediator, and the large purchase of grace and glory which he hath made, to be a husband to his saints, his church, tenders himself in the promises of the gospel to them in all his desirableness; convinces them of his good-will towards them, and his all-sufficiency for a supply of their wants; and upon their consent to accept of him, — which is all he requires or expects at their hands, — he engageth himself in a marriage covenant to be theirs for ever.

582dly. On the part of the saints, it is their free, willing consent to receive, embrace, and submit unto the Lord Jesus, as their husband, Lord, and Saviour, — to abide with him, subject their souls unto him, and to be ruled by him for ever.

Now, this in the soul is either initial, or the solemn consent at the first entrance of union; or consequential, in renewed acts of consent all our days. I speak of it especially in this latter sense, wherein it is proper unto communion; not in the former, wherein it primarily intendeth union.

There are two things that complete this self-resignation of the soul:—

(1st.) The liking of Christ, for his excellency, grace, and suitableness, far above all other beloveds whatever, preferring him in the judgment and mind above them all. In the place above mentioned, Cant. v. 9, the spouse being earnestly pressed, by professors at large, to give in her thoughts concerning the excellency of her Beloved in comparison of other endearments, answereth expressly, that he is “the chiefest of ten thousand, yea,” verse 16, “altogether lovely,” — infinitely beyond comparison with the choicest created good or endearment imaginable. The soul takes a view of all that is in this world, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” and sees it all to be vanity, — that “the world passeth away, and the lust thereof,” 1 John ii. 16, 17. These beloveds are no way to be compared unto him. It views also legal righteousness, blamelessness before men, uprightness of conversation, duties upon conviction, and concludes of all as Paul doth, Phil. iii. 8, “Doubtless, I count all these things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” So, also, doth the church, Hos. xiv. 3, reject all appearing assistances whatever, — as goodly as Asshur, as promising as idols, — that God alone may be preferred. And this is the soul’s entrance into conjugal communion with Jesus Christ as to personal grace, — the constant preferring him above all pretenders to its affections, counting all loss and dung in comparison of him. Beloved peace, beloved natural relations, beloved wisdom and learning, beloved righteousness, beloved duties, [are] all loss, compared with Christ.

(2dly.) The accepting of Christ by the will, as its only husband, Lord, and Saviour. This is called “receiving” of Christ, John i. 12; and is not intended only for that solemn act whereby at first entrance we close with him, but also for the constant frame of the soul in abiding with him and owning of him as such. When the soul consents to take Christ on his own terms, to save him in his own way,106106    Rom. ix. 31, 32, x. 3, 4. and says, “Lord, I would have had thee and salvation in my way, that it might 59have been partly of mine endeavours, and as it were by the works of the law; I am now willing to receive thee and to be saved in thy way, — merely by grace: and though I would have walked according to my own mind, yet now I wholly give up myself to be ruled by thy Spirit: for in thee have I righteousness and strength,107107    Isa. xlv. 24. in thee am I justified and do glory;” — then doth it carry on communion with Christ as to the grace of his person. This it is to receive the Lord Jesus in his comeliness and eminency. Let believers exercise their hearts abundantly unto this thing. This is choice communion with the Son Jesus Christ. Let us receive him in all his excellencies, as he bestows himself upon us; — be frequent in thoughts of faith, comparing him with other beloveds, sin, world, legal righteousness; and preferring him before them, counting them all loss and dung in comparison of him. And let our souls be persuaded of his sincerity and willingness in giving himself, in all that he is, as mediator unto us, to be ours; and let our hearts give up themselves unto him. Let us tell him that we will be for him, and not for another: let him know it from us; he delights to hear it, yea, he says, “Sweet is our voice, and our countenance is comely;” — and we shall not fail in the issue of sweet refreshment with him.


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