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Other consequential affections:— 1. On the part of Christ — He values his saints — Evidences of that valuation:— (1.) His incarnation; (2.) Exinanition, 2 Cor. viii. 9; Phil. ii. 6, 7; (3.) Obedience as a servant; (4.) In his death. His valuation of them in comparison of others. 2. Believers’ estimation of Christ:— (1.) They value him above all other things and persons; (2.) Above their own lives; (3.) All spiritual excellencies. The sum of all on the part of Christ — The sum on the part of believers. The third conjugal affection — On the part of Christ, pity or compassion — Wherein manifested — Suffering and supply, fruits of compassion — Several ways whereby Christ relieves the saints under temptations — His compassion in their afflictions. Chastity, the third conjugal affection in the saints. The fourth — On the part of Christ, bounty; on the part of the saints, duty.
II. Christ values his saints, values believers (which is the second branch of that conjugal affection he bears towards them), having taken them into the relation whereof we speak. I shall not need to insist long on the demonstration hereof; heaven and earth are full of evidences of it. Some few considerations will give life to the assertion. Consider them, then, — 1. Absolutely; 2. In respect of others; and you will see what a valuation he puts upon them:—
1. All that ever he did or doth, all that ever he underwent or suffered as mediator, was for their sakes. Now, these things were so great and grievous, that had he not esteemed them above all that can be expressed, he had never engaged to their performance and undergoing. Take a few instances:—
(1.) For their sakes was he “made247247 John i. 14; 1 Tim. iii. 16. flesh;” “manifested in the flesh.” Heb. ii. 14, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.” And the height of this valuation of them the apostle aggravates. Verse 16, “Verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham;” he had no such esteem of angels. Whether you take ἐπιλαμβάμεσθαι, properly to “take,” or to “take hold of,” as our translators, and so supply the word “nature,” and refer the whole unto Christ’s incarnation, who therein took our nature on him, and not the nature of angels; or for ἀναλαμβάνεσθαι, to “help,” (he did not help nor succour fallen angels, but he did help and248248 Vide Vind. Evan., cap. xiii. vol. xii. succour the seed of Abraham,) and so consider it as the fruit of Christ’s incarnation, — it is all one, as to our present business: his preferring the seed of Abraham before angels, his valuing them above the other, is plainly expressed. And observe, that he came to help the seed of Abraham, — that is,249249 Rom. iv. 17; Gal. iii. 7. believers. His esteem and valuation is of them only.
134(2.) For their sakes he was so made flesh, as that there was an emptying, an exinanition of himself, and an eclipsing of his glory, and a becoming poor for them, 2 Cor. viii. 9, “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor.” Being rich in eternal glory with his Father, John xvii. 5, he became poor for believers. The same person that was rich was also poor. That the riches here meant can be none but those of the Deity, is evident, by its opposition to the poverty which as man he undertook. This is also more fully expressed, Phil. ii. 6, 7, “Who being in the form of God, counted it no robbery to be equal to God, but he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the fashion of a man, and found in form as a man,” etc. That the “form of God” is here the essence of the Deity, sundry things inevitably evince; as, —
[1.] That he was therein250250 See Vind. Evan., cap. xiii. vol. xii. equal to God; that is, his Father. Now, nothing but God is equal to God. Not251251 John xiv. 28. Christ as he is mediator, in his greatest glory, — nothing but that which is infinite, is equal to that which is infinite.
[2.] The form of God is opposed to the form of a servant; and that form of a servant is called the “fashion of a man,” verse 8, — that fashion wherein he was found when he gave himself to death, wherein as a man he poured out his blood and died. Μορφὴν δούλου λαβὼν, (he “took the form of a servant”), is expounded in the next words, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος, — an expression used to set out his incarnation, Rom. viii. 3. God sent him ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας· in taking true flesh, he was in the “likeness of sinful flesh.” Now, in thus doing, it is said ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσε, — “he humbled, emptied himself, made himself of no reputation.” In the very taking of flesh, there was a condescension, a debasing of the person of the Son of God; it could not be without it. If God humbled himself to “behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth,” Ps. cxiii. 6, then certainly it was an inconceivable condescension and abasement, not only to behold, but take upon him (into personal union) our nature with himself. And though nothing could possibly be taken off from the essential glory of the Deity, yet that person appearing in the fashion of a man, and form of a servant, the glory of it, as to the manifestation, was eclipsed; and he appeared252252 Isa. liii. 2. quite another thing than what indeed he was, and had been from eternity. Hence he prays that his Father would “glorify him with the glory he had with him before the world was,” John xvii. 5, as to the manifestation of it. And so, though the divine nature was not abased, the person was.
(3.) For their sakes he so humbled and emptied himself, in taking flesh, as to become therein a servant, — in the eyes of the world of no 135esteem nor account; and a true and real servant253253 Isa. xlii. 1, 19; John xiv. 31. unto the Father. For their sakes he humbled himself, and became obedient. All that he did and suffered in his life comes under this consideration; all which may be referred to these three heads:— 254254 Matt. iii. 15.[1.] Fulfilling all righteousness. [2.] Enduring all manner of persecutions and hardships. [3.] Doing all manner of good to men. He took on him, for their sakes, a life and course pointed to, Heb. v. 7, 8, — a life of prayers, tears, fears, obedience, suffering; and all this with cheerfulness and delight, calling his employment his “meat and drink,” and still professing that the law of this obedience was in his255255 Heb. x. 7, 8. heart, — that he was content to do this will of God. He that will sorely revenge the least opposition that is or shall be made to him by others, was content to undergo any thing, all things, for believers.
(4.) He stays not here, but (for the consummation of all that went before) for their sakes he becomes obedient to death, the death of the cross. So he professeth to his Father, John xvii. 19, “For their sakes I sanctify myself;” — “I dedicate myself as an offering, as a sacrifice, to be killed and slain.” This was his aim in all the former, that he might die; he was born, and 256256 Heb. ii. 14, 15.lived, that he might die. He valued them above his life. And if we might stay to consider a little what was in this death that he underwent for them, we should perceive what a price indeed he put upon them. The curse257257 Gal. iii. 13. of the law was in it, the 258258 2 Cor. v. 21.wrath of God was in it, the loss of God’s 259259 Ps. xxii. 1.presence was in it. It was a 260260 Matt. xxvi. 39.fearful cup that he tasted of, and drank of, that they might never taste of it. A man would not for ten thousand worlds be willing to undergo that which Christ underwent for us in that one thing of desertion from God, were it attended with no more distress but what a mere creature might possibly emerge from under. And what thoughts we should have of this himself tells us, John xv. 13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” It is impossible there should be any greater demonstration or evidence of love than this. What can any one do more? And yet he tells us in another place, that it hath another aggravation and heightening, Rom. v. 8, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” When he did this for us we were sinners, and enemies, whom he might justly have destroyed. What more can be done? — to die for us when we were sinners! Such a death, in such a manner, with such attendancies of wrath and curse, — a death accompanied with the worst that God had ever threatened to sinners, — argues as high a valuation of us as the heart of Christ himself was capable of.
136For one to part with his glory, his riches, his ease, his life, his love from God, to undergo loss, shame, wrath, curse, death, for another, is an evidence of a dear valuation; and that it was all on this account, we are informed, Heb. xii. 2. Certainly Christ had a dear esteem of them, that, rather than they should perish, — that they should not be his, and be made partakers of his glory, — he would part with all he had for their sakes, Eph. v. 25, 26.
There would be no end, should I go through all the instances of Christ’s valuation of believers, in all their deliverances, afflictions, in all conditions of sinning and suffering, — what he hath done, what he doth in his intercession, what he delivers them from, what he procures for them; all telling out this one thing, — they are the apple of his eye, his jewel, his diadem, his crown.
2. In comparison of others. All the world is nothing to him in comparison of them. They are his garden; the rest of the world, a wilderness. Cant. iv. 12, “A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.” They are his inheritance; the rest, his enemies, of no regard with him. So Isa. xliii. 3, 4, “I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast 261261 “Amorem istum non esse vulgarem ostendit, dum nos pretiosos esse dicit.” —Calv. in loc.precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” The reason of this dealing of Christ with his church, in parting with all others for them, is, because he loves her. She is precious and honourable in his sight; thence he puts this great esteem upon her. Indeed, he disposeth of all nations and their interests according as is for the good of believers. Amos ix. 9, in all the siftings of the nations, the eye of God is upon the house of Israel; not a grain of them shall perish. Look to heaven; angels are appointed to minister for them, Heb. i. 14. Look into the world; the nations in general are either 262262 Gen. xii. 3; Mic. v. 7, 8.blessed for their sakes, or 263263 Isa. xxxiv. 8, lxi. 2, lxiii. 4.destroyed on their account, — preserved to try them, or rejected for their cruelty towards them; and will receive from Christ their 264264 Matt. xxv. 41–46.final doom according to their deportment towards these despised ones. On this account are the pillars of the earth borne up, and patience is exercised towards the perishing world. In a word, there is not the meanest, the weakest, the poorest believer on the earth, but Christ prizes him more than all the world besides. Were our hearts filled much with thoughts hereof, it would tend much to our consolation.
To answer this, believers also value Jesus Christ; they have an esteem of him above all the world, and all things in the world. You 137have been in part acquainted with this before, in the account that was given of their delight in him, and inquiry after him. They say of him in their hearts continually, as David, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and none upon earth I desire beside thee.” Ps. lxxiii. 25. Neither heaven nor earth will yield them an object any way comparable to him, that they can delight in.
1. They value him above all other things and persons. “Mallem,”, said one,265265 Luther. “ruere cum Christo, quam regnare cum Cæsare. Pulchra terra, pulchrum cœlum, sed pulcherrimus dominus Jesus;” — Christ and a dungeon, Christ and a cross, is infinitely sweeter than a crown, a sceptre without him, to their souls. So was it with Moses, Heb. xi. 26, “He esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” The reproach of Christ is the worst consequent that the wickedness of the world or the malice of Satan can bring upon the followers of him. The treasures of Egypt were in those days the greatest in the world; Moses despised the very best of the world, for the worst of the cross of Christ. Indeed, himself hath told believers, that if they love any thing better than him, father or mother, they are not worthy of him. A despising of all things for Christ is the very first lesson of the gospel. “Give away all, take up the cross and follow me,” was the way whereby he tried his disciples of old; and if there be not the same mind and heart in us, we are none of his.
2. They value him above their lives. Acts xx. 24, “My life is not dear, that I may perfect my course with joy, and the ministry I have received of the Lord Jesus;” — “Let life and all go, so that I may serve him; and, when all is done, enjoy him, and be made like to him.” It is known what is reported of 266266 Νῦν ἄρχομαι εἶναι μαθητής, οὐδὲν τούτων τῶν ὁρωμένων ἐπιθυμῶ, ἵνα τὸν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν εὕρω. Πῦρ, σταυρός, θηρία, σύγκλασις ὀστέων, καὶ τῶν μελῶν διασπασμός, καὶ παντὸς τοῦ σώματος συντριβή, καὶ βάσανοι τοῦ διαβόλου εἰς ἐμὲ ἔλθωσιν, ἵνα Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἀπολαύσω. — Vit. Ignat. [Hieronymus, De Viris Illustribus, c. xvi.]Ignatius when he was led to martyrdom: “Let what will,” said he, “come upon me, only so I may obtain Jesus Christ.” Hence they of old rejoiced when whipped, scourged, put to shame, for his sake, Acts v. 41; Heb. xi. All is welcome that comes from him, or for him. The lives they have to live, the death they have to die, is little, is light, upon the thoughts of him who is the stay of their lives and the end of their death. Were it not for the refreshment which daily they receive by thoughts of him, they could not live, — their lives would be a burden to them; and the thoughts of enjoyment of him made them cry with Paul, “Oh that we were dissolved!” The stories of the martyrs of old and of late, the sufferers in giving witness to him under the dragon and under the false prophet, the neglect of life in women and children on his 138account, contempt of torments, whilst his name sweetened all, have rendered this truth clear to men and angels.
3. They value him above all spiritual excellencies, and all other righteousness whatever, Phil. iii. 7, 8, “Those things which were advantage to me, I esteemed loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whose sake I have lost all things, and do esteem them common, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him.” Having recounted the excellencies which he had, and the privileges which he enjoyed, in his Judaism, — which were all of a spiritual nature, and a participation wherein made the rest of his countrymen despise all the world, and look upon themselves as the only acceptable persons with God, resting on them for righteousness, — the apostle tells us what is his esteem of them, in comparison of the Lord Jesus. They are “loss and dung,” — things that for his sake he had really suffered the loss of; that is, whereas he had for many years been a zealot of the law, — seeking after a righteousness as it were by the works of it, Rom. ix. 32, — instantly serving God day and night, to obtain the promise, Acts xxvi. 7, — living in all good conscience from his youth, Acts xxiii., — all the while very zealous for God and his institutions, — now [he] willingly casts away all these things, looks upon them as loss and dung, and could not only be contented to be without them, but, as for that end for which he sought after them, he abhorred them all. When men have been strongly convinced of their duty, and have laboured many years to keep a 267267 Acts xxiii. 1.good conscience, — have prayed, and heard, and done good, and denied themselves, and been 268268 Rom. x. 2, 3.zealous for God, and laboured with all their might to 269269 Acts xxvi. 7.please him, and so at length to come to enjoy him; they had rather 270270 John ix. 40; Rom. ix. 30, 31.part with all the world, life and all, than with this they have wrought. You know how unwilling we are to part with any thing we have laboured and beaten our heads about? How much more when the things are so excellent, as our duty to God, blamelessness of conversation, hope of heaven, and the like, which we have beaten our hearts about. But now, when once Christ appears to the soul, when he is known in his excellency, all these things, as without him, have their paint washed off, their beauty fades, their desirableness vanisheth, and the soul is not only contented to part with them all, but puts them away as a defiled thing, and cries, “In the Lord Jesus only is my righteousness271271 Isa. xlv. 24. and glory.” Prov. iii. 13–15, among innumerable testimonies, may be admitted to give witness hereunto, “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the 139things that thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.” It is of Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God, the eternal Wisdom of the Father, that the Holy Ghost speaks; as is evident from the description which is given hereof, chap. viii. He and his ways are better than silver and gold, rubies, and all desirable things; as in the gospel he likens himself to the272272 Matt. xiii. 45, 46. “Principium culmenque omnium rerum pretii, margaritæ tenent.” — Plin. “pearl in the field,” which when the merchant man finds, he sells all that he hath, to purchase. All goes for Christ; — all righteousness without him, all ways of religion, all goes for that one pearl. The glory of his Deity, the excellency of his person, his all-conquering desirableness, ineffable love, wonderful undertaking, unspeakable condescensions, effectual mediation, complete righteousness, lie in their eyes, ravish their hearts, fill their affections, and possess their souls. And this is the second mutual conjugal affection between Christ and believers; all which, on the part of Christ, may be referred unto two heads:—
1. All that he parted withal, all that he did, all that he suffered, all that he doth as mediator; he parted withal, did, suffered, doth, on the account of his 273273 Gal. ii. 20; John xiii. 34; Rev. i. 5, 6; Eph. v. 25, 26; Heb. x. 9, 10.love to and esteem of believers. He parted with the greatest glory, he underwent the greatest misery, he doth the greatest works that ever were, because he loves his spouse, — because he values believers. What can more, what can farther be spoken? how little is the depth of that which is spoken fathomed! how unable are we to look into the mysterious recesses of it! He so loves, so values his saints, as that, having from eternity undertaken to bring them to God, he rejoices his soul in the thoughts of it; and pursues his design through heaven and hell, life and death, by suffering and doing, in mercy and with power; and ceaseth not until he bring it to perfection. For, —
2. He doth so value them, as that he will not lose any of them to eternity, though all the world should combine to take them out of his hand. When in the days of his flesh he foresaw what opposition, what danger, what rocks they should meet withal, he cried out, “Holy Father, keep them,” John xvii. 11; — “Let not one of them be lost;” and tells us plainly, John x. 28, that no man shall take his sheep out of his hand. And because he was then in the form of a servant, and it might be supposed that he might not be able to hold them, he tells them true, as to his present condition of carrying on the work of mediation, his “Father was greater than he;”274274 John xiv. 28. and therefore to him he committed them, and none should take them out of his Father’s hand, John x. 29. And whereas the world, afflictions, and 140persecutions, which are without, may be conquered, and yet no security given but that sin from within, by the assistance of Satan, may prevail against them to their ruin; as he hath provided against Satan, in his promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against them, so he hath taken care that sin itself shall not destroy them. Herein, indeed, is the depth of his love to be contemplated, that whereas his holy soul hates every sin (it is a burden, an abomination, a new wound to him), and his poor spouse is sinful (believers are full of sins, failings, and infirmities), he hides all, covers all, bears with all, rather than he will lose them; by his power preserving them from such sins as a remedy is not provided for in the covenant of grace. Oh, the world of sinful follies that our dear Lord Jesus bears withal on this account! Are not our own souls astonished with the thoughts of it? Infinite patience, infinite forbearance, infinite love, infinite grace, infinite mercy, are all set on work for this end, to answer this his valuation of us.
On our part it may also be referred to two heads:—
1. That, upon the discovery of him to our souls, they rejoice to 275275 Matt. xiii. 45, 46; Phil. iii. 8.part with all things wherein they have delighted or reposed their confidence, for him and his sake, that they may enjoy him. Sin and lust, pleasure and profit, righteousness and duty, in their several conditions, all shall go, so they may have Christ.
2. That they are willing to part with all things rather than with 276276 Matt. x. 37.him, when they do enjoy him. To think of parting with peace, health, liberty, relations, wives, children; it is offensive, heavy, and grievous to the best of the saints: but their souls cannot bear the thoughts of parting with Jesus Christ; such a thought is cruel as the grave. The worst thoughts that, in any fear, 277277 Cant. viii. 6.in desertions, they have of278278 Καὶ τοῦτό μοι τῶν ἐν ᾅδου κολάσεων βαρύτερον ἂν εἴη. — Basil. hell, is, that they shall not enjoy Jesus Christ. So they may enjoy him here, hereafter be like him, be ever with him, stand in his presence; they can part with all things freely, cheerfully, be they never so beautiful, in reference to this life or that which is to come.
III. The third conjugal affection on the part of Christ is pity and compassion. As a man “nourisheth and cherisheth his 279279 “Fateor insitam esse nobis corporis nostri caritatem.” — Senec. Epist. xiv. “Generi animantium omni est a natura tributum ut se, vitam, corpusque tueatur.” — Cicer. Off. i. [iv.]own flesh, so doth the Lord his church,” Eph. v. 29. Christ hath a fellow feeling with his saints in all their troubles, as a man hath with his own flesh. This act of the conjugal love of Christ relates to the many trials and pressures of afflictions that his saints meet withal here below. He doth not deal with believers as the Samaritans with the Jews, that fawned on them in their prosperity, but despised them in 141their trouble; he is as a tender 280280 Ps. ciii. 13.father, who, though perhaps he love all his children alike, yet he will take most pains with, and give most of his presence unto, one that is sick and weak, though therein and thereby he may be made most froward, and, as it should seem, hardest to be borne with. And (which is more than the pity of any father can extend to) he himself suffers with them, and takes share in all their troubles.
Now, all the sufferings of the saints in this world, wherein their head and husband exerciseth pity, tenderness, care, and compassion towards them, are of two sorts, or may be referred to two heads:— 1. Temptations. 2. Afflictions.
1. Temptations (under which head I comprise sin also, whereto they tend); as in, from, and by their own infirmities; as also from their adversaries without. The frame of the heart of Christ, and his deportment towards them in this condition, you have, Heb. iv. 15, “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” We have not such a one as cannot. The two negations do vehemently affirm that we have such an high priest as can be, or is, touched. The word “touched” comes exceedingly short of expressing the original word; it is 281281 “Hoc quidem certum est, hoc vocabulo, summum illum consensum membrorum et capitis (id est, ecclesiæ et Christi) significari, de quo toties Paulus disserit. Deinde ut cum de Deo loquitur, ita, etiam de Christo glorioso disserens Scriptura, ad nostrum captum se demittit. Gloriosum autem ad dextram patris Christum sedere credimus; ubi dicitur nostris malis affici, quod sibi factum ducat quicquid nobis fit injuriæ, ideo clamans e cœlis, Saul cur me presequeris? Altiores speculationes scrutari, nec utile nec tutum existimo.” — Bez. in loc.συμπαθῆσαι, — to “suffer together.” “We have,” saith the apostle, “such an high priest as can, and consequently doth, suffer with us, — endure our infirmities.” And in what respect he suffers with us in regard of our infirmities, or hath a fellow-feeling with us in them, he declares in the next words, “He was tempted like as we are,” verse 15. It is as to our 282282 Rom. viii. 26; 1 Cor. xi. 32; 2 Cor. xi. 30, xii. 9, 10; Gal. iv. 13.infirmities, our temptations, spiritual weakness; therein, in particular, hath he a compassionate sympathy and fellow-feeling with us. Whatever be our infirmities, so far as they are our temptations, he doth suffer with us under them, and compassionates us. Hence at the last 283283 Matt. xxv. 35.day he saith, “I was an hungered,” etc. There are two ways of expressing a fellow-feeling and suffering with another:— (1.) Per benevolam condolentiam, — a “friendly grieving.” (2.) Per gratiosam opitulationem, — a “gracious supply:” both are eminent in Christ:—
(1.) He 284284 Acts. ix. 4; Isa. lxiii. 9.grieves and labours with us. Zech. i. 12, “The angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem?” He speaks as one intimately affected 142with the state and condition of poor Jerusalem; and therefore he hath bid all the world take notice that what is done to them is done to him, chap. ii. 8, 9; yea, to “the 285285 Deut. xxxii. 10; Ps. xvii. 8.apple of his eye.”
(2.) In the second he abounds. Isa. xl. 11, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd, he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead them that are with young.” Yea, we have both here together, — tender compassionateness and assistance. The whole frame wherein he is here described is a 286286 “― En ipse capellas Protinus æger ago; hanc etiam vix Tityre duco,” etc. Virg. [Ec. i. 12]frame of the greatest 287287 “Quod frequentur in Scriptura, pastoris nomen Deus usurpat, personamque induit, non vulgare est teneri in nos amoris signum. Nam quum humilis et abjecta sit loquendi forma, singulariter erga nos affectus sit oportet, qui se nostrâ causa ita demittere non gravatur: mirum itaque nisi tam blanda et familiaris invitatio ad eum nos alliciat.” — Calvin in Ps. xxiii. 1.tenderness, compassion, condescension that can be imagined. His people are set forth under many infirmities; some are lambs, some great with young, some very tender, some burdened with temptations, — nothing in any of them all strong or comely. To them all Christ is 288288 Heb. xiii. 20; 1 Pet. ii. 25, v, 4; Ps. xxiii. 1; Zech. xiii. 7; Isa. xl. 11; Ezek. xxxiv. 23; John x. 11, 14, 16.a shepherd, that feeds his own sheep, and drives them out to pleasant pasture; where, if he sees a poor weak lamb, [he] doth not thrust him on, but takes him into his bosom, where he both easeth and refresheth him: he leads him gently and tenderly. As did Jacob them that were burdened with 289289 Gen. xxxiii. 13.young, so doth our dear Lord Jesus with his flock, in the several ways and paths wherein he leads them. When he sees a poor soul, weak, tender, halting, ready to sink and perish, he takes him into his arms, by some gracious promise administered to him, carries him, bears him up when he is not able to go one step forward. Hence is his great quarrel with those shepherds, Ezek. xxxiv. 4, “Woe be to you shepherds! the diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost.” This is that which our careful, tender husband would have done.
So mention being made of his compassionateness and fellow-suffering with us, Heb. iv. 15, it is added, verse 16, that he administers χάριν εἰς εὔκαιρον βοήθειαν, — seasonable grace, grace for help in a time of need. This is an evidence of compassion, when, like the Samaritan, we afford seasonable help. To lament our troubles or miseries, without affording help, is to no purpose. Now, this Christ doth; he gives εὔκαιρον βοήθειαν, — seasonable help. Help being a thing that regards want, is always excellent; but its coming in season puts a crown 143upon it. A pardon to a malefactor when he is ready to be executed, is sweet and welcome. Such is the assistance given by Christ. All his saints may take this as a sure rule, both in their temptations and afflictions:— when they can want them, they shall not want relief; and when they can bear no longer, they shall be relieved, 1 Cor. x. 13.
So it is said emphatically of him, Heb. ii. 18, “In that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” It is true, there is something in all our temptations more than was in the temptation of Christ. There is something in ourselves to take part with every temptation; and there is enough in ourselves to 290290 James i. 14, 15.tempt us, though nothing else should appear against us. With Christ it was not so, John xiv. 30. But this is so far from taking off his compassion towards us, that, on all accounts whatever, it doth increase it; for if he will give us succour because we are tempted, the sorer our temptations are, the more ready will he be to succour us. Take some instances of Christ’s giving εὔκαιρον βοήθειαν, — seasonable help in and under temptations unto sin. Now this he doth several ways:—
[1.] By keeping the soul which is liable to temptation and exposed to it, in a strong habitual bent against that sin that he is obnoxious to the assaults of. So it was in the case of Joseph: Christ knew that Joseph’s great trial, and that whereon if he had been conquered he had been undone, would lie upon the hand of his mistress tempting him to lewdness; whereupon he kept his heart in a steady frame against that sin, as his answer without the least deliberation argues, Gen. xxxix. 9. In other things, wherein he was not so deeply concerned, Joseph’s heart was not so fortified by habitual grace; as it appears by his swearing by the 291291 Gen. xlii. 15.life of Pharaoh. This is one way whereby Christ gives suitable help to his, in tenderness and compassion. The saints, in the course of their lives, by the company, society, business, they are cast upon, are liable and exposed to temptations great and violent, some in one kind, some in another. Herein is Christ exceedingly kind and tender to them, in fortifying their hearts with abundance of grace as to that sin unto temptations whereunto they are most exposed; when perhaps in other things they are very weak, and are often surprised.
[2.] Christ sometimes, by some strong impulse of actual grace, recovers the soul from the very borders of sin. So it was in the case of David, 1 Sam. xxiv. 4–6. “He was almost gone,” as he speaks himself; “his feet had well-nigh slipped.” The temptation was at the door of prevalence, when a mighty impulse of grace recovers him. To show his saints what they are, their own weakness and infirmity, he sometimes suffers them to go to the very edge and brow of the 144hill, and then causeth them to hear a word behind them saying, “This is the right way, walk in it,” — and that with power and efficacy; and so recovers them to himself.
[3.] By taking away the temptation itself, when it grows so strong and violent that the poor soul knows not what to do. This is called “delivering the godly out of temptation,” 2 Pet. ii. 9, as a man is plucked out of the snare, and the snare left behind to hold another. This have I known to be the case of many, in sundry perplexing temptations. When they have been quite weary, have tried all means of help and assistance, and have not been able to come to a comfortable issue, on a sudden, unexpectedly, the Lord Christ, in his tenderness and compassion, rebukes Satan, that they hear not one word more of him as to their temptation. Christ comes in in the storm, and saith, “Peace, be still.”
[4.] By giving in fresh supplies of grace, according as temptations do grow or increase. So was it in the case of Paul, 2 Cor. xii. 9, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” The temptation, whatever it were, grew high; Paul was earnest for its removal; and receives only this answer, of the sufficiency of the grace of God for his supportment, notwithstanding all the growth and increase of the temptation.
[5.] By giving them wisdom to make a right, holy, and spiritual improvement of all temptations. James bids us “count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations,” James i. 2: which could not be done were there not a holy and spiritual use to be made of them; which also himself manifests in the words following. There are manifold uses of temptations, which experienced Christians, with assistance suitable from Christ, may make of them. This is not the least, that by them we are brought to know ourselves. So Hezekiah was left to be tried, to know what was in him. By temptation, some bosom, hidden corruption is oftentimes discovered, that the soul knew not of before. As it was with292292 2 Kings viii. 13. Hazael in respect of enormous crimes, so in lesser things with the saints. They would never have believed there had been such lusts and corruptions in them as they have discovered upon their temptations. Yea, divers having been tempted to one sin, have discovered another that they thought not of; as some, being tempted to pride, or worldliness, or looseness of conversation, have been startled by it, and led to a discovery of neglect of many duties and much communion with God, which before they thought not of. And this is from the tender care of Jesus Christ, giving them in suitable help; without which no man can possibly make use of or improve a temptation. And this is a suitable help indeed, whereby a temptation which otherwise, or to other persons, might be a deadly wound, proves the lancing of a festered sore, and 145the letting out of corruption that otherwise might have endangered the life itself. So, 1 Pet. i. 6, “If need be ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.”
[6.] When the soul is at any time more or less overcome by temptations, Christ in his tenderness relieves it with mercy and pardon; so that his shall not sink utterly under their burden, 1 John ii. 1, 2.
By one, more, or all of these ways, doth the Lord Jesus manifest his conjugal tenderness and compassion towards the saints, in and under their temptations.
2. Christ is compassionate towards them in their afflictions: “In all their affliction he is afflicted,” Isa. lxiii. 9; yea, it seems that all our afflictions (at least those of one sort, — namely, which consist in persecutions) are his in the first place, ours only by participation. Col. i. 24, We293293 “Τῶν παθημάτων Christi duo sunt genera: προτερήματα, quæ passus est in corpore suo, et ὑστερήματα, quæ in sanctis.” — Zanc. in loc. “fill up the measure of the afflictions of Christ.” Two things evidently manifest this compassionateness in Christ:—
(1.) His interceding with his Father for their relief, Zech. i. 12. Christ intercedeth on our behalf, not only in respect of our sins, but also our sufferings; and when the work of our afflictions is accomplished, we shall have the relief294294 Heb. vii. 25. he intercedes for. The Father always hears him; and we have not a deliverance from trouble, a recovering of health, ease of pain, freedom from any evil that ever laid hold upon us, but it is given us on the intercession of Jesus Christ. Believers are unacquainted with their own condition, if they look upon their mercies as dispensed in a way of common providence. And this may, indeed, be a cause why we esteem them no more, are no more thankful for them, nor fruitful in the enjoyment of them:— we see not how, by what means, nor on what account, they are dispensed to us. The generation of the people of God in the world are at this day alive, undevoured, merely on the account of the intercession of the Lord Jesus. His compassionateness hath been the fountain of their deliverances. Hence oftentimes he rebukes their sufferings and afflictions, that they shall not act to the utmost upon them when they are under them. He is with them when they pass through fire and water, Isa. xliii. 2, 3.
(2.) In that he doth and will, in the winding up of the matter, so sorely revenge the quarrel of their sufferings upon their enemies. He avenges his elect that cry unto him; yea, he doth it speedily. The controversy of Zion leads on the day of his vengeance, Isa. xxxiv. 8. He looks upon them sometimes in distress, and considers what is the state of the world in reference to them. Zech. i. 11, “We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, 146and is at rest,” say his messengers to him, whom he sent to consider the world and its condition during the affliction of his people. This commonly is the condition of the world in such a season, “They are at rest and quiet, their hearts are abundantly satiated;295295 Amos vi. 3–6; Rev. xi. 10. they drink wine in bowls, and send gifts to one another.” Then Christ looks to see who will come in for their succour, Isa. lix. 16, 17; and finding none engaging himself for their relief, by the destruction of their adversaries, himself undertakes it. Now, this vengeance he accomplishes two ways:—
1st. By calling out here and there an eminent opposer, and making him an example to all the world. So he dealt with Pharaoh: “For this cause have I raised thee up,” Exod. ix. 16. So he doth to this day; he lays his hand upon eminent adversaries, — fills one with fury, another with folly, blasts a third, and makes another wither, or destroys them utterly and terribly. As a provoked lion, he lies not down without his prey.
2dly. In general, in the vials of his wrath which he will in these latter days pour out upon the antichristian world, and all that partake with them in their thoughts of vengeance and persecution. He will miserably destroy them, and make such work with them in the issue, that whosoever hears, both his ears shall tingle.
[2.] In eternal vengeance will he plead with the adversaries of his beloved, Matt. xxv. 41–46; 2 Thess. i. 6; Jude 15. It is hence evident that Christ abounds in pity and compassion towards his beloved. Instances might be multiplied, but these things are obvious, and occur to the thoughts of all.
In answer to this, I place in the saints chastity unto Christ, in every state and condition. That this might be the state of the church of Corinth, the apostle made it his endeavour. 2 Cor. xi. 2, 3, “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” And so is it said of the followers of the Lamb, on mount Sion, Rev. xiv. 4, “These are they which were not defiled with women, for they are virgins.” What defilement that was they were free from, shall be afterward declared.
Now, there are three things wherein this chastity consists:—
1. The not taking any thing into their affections and esteem for those ends and purposes for which they have received Jesus Christ. Here the Galatians failed in their conjugal affection to Christ; they 147preserved not themselves chaste to him. They had received Christ for life, and justification, and him only; but being after a while overcome with296296 Gal. iii. 1. charms, or bewitched, they took into the same place with him the righteousness of the law. How Paul deals with them hereupon is known. How sorely, how pathetically doth he admonish them, how severely reprove them, how clearly convince them of their madness and folly! This, then, is the first chaste affection believers bear in their heart to Christ:— having received him for their righteousness and salvation before God, for the fountain, spring, and well-head of all their supplies, they will not now receive any other thing into his room and in his stead. As to instance, in one particular:— We receive him for our297297 1 Cor. i. 30. acceptance with God. All that here can stand in competition with him for our affections, must be our own endeavours for a 298298 Rom. x. 4.righteousness to commend us to God. Now, this must be either before we receive him, or after. [As] for all duties and endeavours, of what sort soever, for the pleasing of God before our receiving of Christ, you know what was the apostle’s frame, Phil. iii. 8–10. All endeavours, all advantages, all privileges, he rejects with indignation, as loss, — with abomination, as dung; and winds up all his aims and desires in Christ alone and his righteousness, for those ends and purposes. But the works we do after we have received Christ are of another consideration. Indeed, they are acceptable to God; it pleaseth him that we should walk in them. But as to that end for which we receive Christ, they are of no other account than the former, Eph. ii. 8–10. Even the works we do after believing, — those which we are created unto in Christ Jesus, those that God hath ordained that believers “should walk in them,” — as to justification and acceptance with God, (here called salvation), are excluded. It will one day appear that Christ abhors the janglings of men about the place of their own works and obedience, in the business of their acceptation with God; nor will the saints find any peace in adulterous thoughts of that kind. The chastity we owe unto him requires another frame. The necessity, usefulness, and excellency of gospel obedience shall be afterward declared. It is marvellous to see how hard it is to keep some professors to any faithfulness with Christ in this thing; — how many disputes have been managed,299299 “Perfice hoc precibus, pretio, ut hæream in parte aliqua tandem,” etc. how many distinctions invented, how many shifts and evasions studied, to keep up something, in some place or other, to some purpose or other, that they may dally withal. Those that love him indeed are otherwise minded.
Herein, then, of all things, do the saints endeavour to keep their affections chaste and loyal to Jesus Christ. He is made unto them of God “righteousness;” and they will own nothing else to that purpose: 148yea, sometimes they know not whether they have any interest in him or no, — he absents and withdraws himself; they still continue solitary, in a state of widowhood, refusing to be comforted, though many things offer themselves to that purpose, because he is not. When Christ is at any time absent from the soul, when it cannot see that it hath any interest in him, many lovers offer themselves to it, many woo its affections, to get it to rest on this or that thing for relief and succour; but though it go mourning never so long, it will have nothing but Christ to lean upon. Whenever the soul is in the wilderness, in the saddest condition, there it will stay until Christ come for to take it up, until it can come forth leaning upon him, Cant. viii. 5. The many instances of this that the book of Canticles affords us, we have in part spoken of before.
This doth he who hath communion with Christ:— he watcheth diligently over his own heart, that nothing creep into its affections, to give it any peace or establishment before God, but Christ only. Whenever that question is to be answered, “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and appear before the high God?” he doth not gather up, “This or that I will do;” or, “Here and there I will watch, and amend my ways;” but instantly he cries, “In the Lord Jesus have I 300300 Isa. xlv. 24; Phil. iii. 9; Hab. ii. 1–4.righteousness; all my desire is, to be found in him, not having on my own righteousness.”
2. In cherishing that Spirit, that holy Comforter, which Christ sends to us, to abide with us in his room and stead. He tells us that he sends him to that purpose, John xvi. 7. He gives him to us, “vicariam navare operam,” saith Tertullian, — to abide with us for ever, for all those ends and purposes which he hath to fulfil toward us and upon us; he gives him to dwell in us, to keep us, and preserve us blameless for himself. His name is in him, and with him: and it is upon this account that whatever is done to any of Christ’s is done to him, because it is done to them in whom he is and dwells by his Spirit. Now, herein do the saints preserve their conjugal affections entire to Christ, that they labour by all means not to grieve his Holy Spirit, which he hath sent in his stead to abide with them. This the apostle puts them in mind of, Eph. iv. 30, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit.”
There be two main ends for which Christ sends his Spirit to believers:— (1.) For their sanctification; (2.) For their consolation: to which two all the particular acts of purging, teaching, anointing, and the rest that are ascribed to him, may be referred. So there be two ways whereby we may grieve him:— . In respect of sanctification; [2.] In respect of consolation:—
(1.) In respect of sanctification. He is the Spirit of holiness, — holy 149in himself, and the author of holiness in us: he works it in us, Tit. iii. 5, and he persuades us to it, by those motions of his which are not to be 301301 1 Thess. v. 19.quenched. Now, this, in the first place, grieves the Spirit, when he is carrying on in us and for us a work so infinitely for our advantage, and without which we cannot see God, that we should run cross to him, in ways of unholiness, pollution, and defilement. So the connection of the words in the place before mentioned manifests, Eph. iv. 28–31; and thence doth Paul bottom his powerful and most effectual persuasion unto holiness, even from the abode and indwelling of this Holy Spirit with us, 1 Cor. iii. 16, 17. Indeed, what can grieve a loving and tender friend more than to oppose him and slight him when he is most intent about our good, — and that a good of the greatest consequence to us. In this, then, believers make it their business to keep their hearts loyal and their affections chaste to Jesus Christ. They labour instantly not to grieve the Holy Spirit by loose and foolish, by careless and negligent walking, which he hath sent to dwell and abide with them. Therefore shall no anger, wrath, malice, envy, dwell in their hearts; because they are contrary to the holy, meek Spirit of Christ, which he hath given to dwell with them. They attend to his motions, make use of his assistance, improve his gifts, and nothing lies more upon their spirits, than that they may walk worthy of the presence of this holy substitute of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2.) As to consolation. This is the second great end for which Christ gives and sends his Spirit to us; who from thence, by the way of eminency, is called “The Comforter.” To this end he seals us, anoints us, establishes us, and gives us peace and joy. Of all which I shall afterward speak at large. Now, there be two ways whereby he may be grieved as to this end of his mission, and our chastity to Jesus Christ thereby violated:—
[1.] By placing our comforts and joys in other things, and not being filled with joy in the Holy Ghost. When we make creatures or creature comforts — any thing whatever but what we receive by the Spirit of Christ — to be our joy and our delight, we are false with Christ. So was it with Demas,302302 2 Tim. iv. 10. who loved the present world. When the ways of the Spirit of God are grievous and burdensome to us, — when we say, “When will the Sabbath be past, that we may exact all our labours?” — when our delight and refreshment lies in earthly things, — we are unsuitable to Christ. May not his Spirit say, “Why do I still abide with these poor souls? I provide them joys unspeakable and glorious; but they refuse them, for perishing things. I provide them spiritual, eternal, abiding consolations, and it is all rejected for a thing of nought.” This Christ cannot bear; wherefore, believers are 150exceeding careful in this, not to place their joy and consolation in any thing but what is administered by the Spirit. Their daily work is, to get their hearts crucified to the world and the things of it, and the world to their hearts; that they may not have living affections to dying things: they would fain look on the world as a crucified, dead thing, that hath neither form nor beauty; and if at any times they have been entangled with creatures and inferior contentment, and have lost their better joys, they cry out to Christ, “O restore to us the joys of thy Spirit!”
[2.] He is grieved when, through darkness and unbelief, we will not, do not, receive those consolations which he tenders to us, and which he is abundantly willing that we should receive. But of this I shall have occasion to speak afterward, in handling our communion with the Holy Ghost.
3. In [keeping] his institutions, or matter and manner of his worship. Christ marrying his church to himself, taking it to that relation, still expresseth the main of their chaste and choice affections to him to lie in their keeping his institutions and his worship according to his appointment. The breach of this he calls “adultery” everywhere, and “whoredom.” He is a “jealous God;” and he gives himself that title only in respect of his institutions. And the whole apostasy of the Christian church unto false worship is called 303303 Rev. xvii. 5.“fornication;” and the church that leads the others to false worship, the “mother of harlots.” On this account, those believers who really attend to communion with Jesus Christ, do labour to keep their hearts chaste to him in his ordinances, institutions, and worship; and that two ways:—
(1.) They will receive nothing, practice nothing, own nothing his worship, but what is of his appointment. They know that from the foundation of the world he never did allow, nor ever will, that in any thing the will of the creatures should be the measure of his honour or the principle of his worship, either as to matter or manner. It was a witty and true sense that one gave of the second commandment: “Non imago, non simulachrum prohibetur; sed non facies tibi;” — it is a making to ourselves, an inventing, a finding out, ways of worship, or means of honouring God, not by him appointed, that is so severely forbidden. Believers know what entertainment all will-worship finds with God: “Who hath required these things at your hand?” and, “In vain do you worship me, teaching for doctrines the traditions of men,” — is the best it meets with. I shall take leave to say what is upon my heart, and what (the Lord assisting) I shall willingly endeavour to make good against all the world, — namely, that that principle, that the church hath power to institute and appoint 151any thing or ceremony belonging to the worship of God, either as to matter or to manner, beyond the orderly observance of such circumstances as necessarily attend such ordinances as Christ himself hath instituted, lies at the bottom of all the horrible superstition and idolatry, of all the confusion, blood, persecution, and wars, that have for so long a season spread themselves over the face of the Christian world; and that it is the design of a great part of the Revelation to make a discovery of this truth. And I doubt not but that the great controversy which God hath had with this nation for so many years, and which he hath pursued with so much anger and indignation, was upon this account:— that, contrary to that glorious light of the gospel which shone among us, the wills and fancies of men, under the name of order, decency, and the authority of the church (a chimera that none knew what it was, nor wherein the power of it did consist, nor in whom reside), were imposed on men in the ways and worship of God. Neither was all that pretence of glory, beauty, comeliness, and conformity, that then was pleaded, any thing more or less than what God doth so describe in the church of Israel, Ezek. xvi. 25, and forwards. Hence was the Spirit of God in prayer derided; hence was the powerful preaching of the gospel despised; hence was the Sabbath decried; hence was holiness stigmatised and persecuted; — to what end? That Jesus Christ might be deposed from the sole privilege and power of law-making in his church; that the true husband might be thrust aside, and adulterers of his spouse embraced; that taskmasters might be appointed in and over his house, which he never gave to his church, Eph. iv. 11; that a ceremonious, pompous, outward show worship, drawn from Pagan, Judaical, and Antichristian observations, might be introduced; — of all which there is not one word, tittle, or iota, in the whole book of God. This, then, they who hold communion with Christ are careful of:— they will admit of nothing, practice nothing, in the worship of God, private or public, but what they have his warrant for; unless it comes in his name, with “Thus saith the Lord Jesus,” they will not hear “an angel from heaven.” They know the apostles themselves were to teach the saints only what Christ commanded them, Matt. xxviii. 20. You know how many in this very nation, in the days not long since past, yea, how many thousands, left their native soil, and went into a vast and howling wilderness in the utmost parts of the world, to keep their souls undefiled and chaste to their dear Lord Jesus, as to this of his worship and institutions.
(2.) They readily embrace, receive, and practice every thing that the Lord Christ hath appointed. They inquire diligently into his mind and will, that they may know it. They go to him for directions, and beg of him to lead them in the way they have not known. The 152119th Psalm may be a pattern for this. How doth the good, holy soul breathe after instruction in the ways and ordinances, the statutes and judgments, of God! This, I say, they are tender in: whatever is of Christ, they willingly submit unto, accept of, and give up themselves to the constant practice thereof; whatever comes on any other account they refuse.
IV. Christ manifests and evidences his love to his saints in a way of bounty, — in that rich, plentiful provision he makes for them. It hath “pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell,” Col. i. 19; and that for this end, that “of his fulness we might all receive, and grace for grace,” John i. 16. I shall not insist upon the particulars of that provision which Christ makes for his saints, with all those influences of the Spirit of life and grace that daily they receive from him, — that bread that he gives them to the full, the refreshment they have from him; I shall only observe this, that the Scripture affirms him to do all things for them in an abundant manner, or to do it richly, in a way of bounty. Whatever he gives us, — his grace to assist us, his presence to comfort us, — he doth it abundantly. You have the general assertion of it, Rom. v. 20, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” If grace abound much more in comparison of sin, it is abundant grace indeed; as will easily be granted by any that shall consider how sin hath abounded, and doth, in every soul. Hence he is said to be able, and we are bid to expect that he should do for us “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” Eph. iii. 20. Is it pardoning mercy we receive of him? why, he doth “abundantly pardon,” Isa. lv. 7; he will multiply or add to pardon, — he will add pardon to pardon, that grace and mercy shall abound above all our sins and iniquities. Is it the Spirit he gives us? he sheds him upon us richly or “abundantly,” Tit. iii. 6; not only bidding us drink of the water of life freely, but also bestowing him in such a plentiful measure, that rivers of water shall flow from them that receive him, John vii. 38, 39, — that they shall never thirst any more when have drank of him. Is it grace that we receive of him? he gives that also in a way of bounty; we receive “abundance of grace,” Rom. v. 17; he “abounds toward us in all wisdom and prudence,” Eph. i. 8. Hence is that invitation, Cant. v. 1. If in any things, then, we are straitened, it is in ourselves; Christ deals bountifully with us. Indeed, the great sin of believers is, that they make not use of Christ’s bounty as they ought to do; that we do not every day take of him mercy in abundance. The oil never ceaseth till the vessels cease; supplies from Christ fail not but only when our faith fails in receiving them.
Then our return to Christ is in a way of duty. Unto this two things are required:—
1. That we follow after and practise holiness in the power of it, 153as it is obedience unto Jesus Christ. Under this formality, as obedience to him, all gospel obedience is called, “whatsoever Christ commands us,” Matt. xxviii. 20; and saith he, John xv. 14, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you;” and it is required of us that we live to him who died for us, 2 Cor. v. 15, — live to him in all holy obedience, — live to him as our Lord and King. Not that I suppose there are peculiar precepts and a peculiar law of Jesus Christ, in the observance whereof we are justified, as the Socinians fancy; for surely the gospel requires of us no more, but “to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and all our souls,” — which the law also required; — but that, the Lord Jesus having brought us into a condition of acceptance with God, wherein our obedience is well-pleasing to him, and we being to honour him as we honour the Father, that we have a respect and peculiar regard to him in all our obedience. So Tit. ii. 14, he hath purchased us unto himself. And thus believers do in their obedience; they eye Jesus Christ, —
(1.) As the author of their faith and obedience, for whose sake it is “given to them to believe,” Phil. i. 29; and who by his Spirit works that obedience in them. So the apostle, Heb. xii. 1, 2; in the course of our obedience we still look to Jesus, “the author of our faith.” Faith is here both the grace of faith, and the fruit of it in obedience.
(2.) As him in, for, and by whom we have acceptance with God in our obedience. They know all their duties are weak, imperfect, not able to abide the presence of God; and therefore they look to Christ as him who bears the iniquity of their holy things, who adds incense to their prayers, gathers out all the weeds of their duties, and makes them acceptable to God.
(3.) As one that hath renewed the commands of God unto them, with mighty obligations unto obedience. So the apostle, 2 Cor. v. 14, 15, “The love of Christ constraineth us;” of which afterward.
(4.) They consider him as God, equal with his Father, to whom all honour and obedience is due. So Rev. v. 13. But these things I have, not long since, opened304304 Vindiciæ Evangel., chap. xiii. vol. xii. in another treatise, dealing about the worship of Christ as mediator. This, then, the saints do in all their obedience; they have a special regard to their dear Lord Jesus. He is, on all these accounts, and innumerable others, continually in their thoughts. His love to them, his life for them, his death for them, — all his kindness and mercy constrains them to live to him.
2. By labouring to abound in fruits of holiness. As he deals with us in a way of bounty, and deals out unto us abundantly, so he requires that we abound in all grateful, obediential returns to him. So we are exhorted to “be always abounding in the work of the Lord,” 1 Cor. xv. 58. This is that I intend:— the saints are not satisfied with 154that measure that at any time they have attained, but are still pressing, that they may be more dutiful, more fruitful to Christ.
And this is a little glimpse of some of that communion which we enjoy with Christ. It is but a little, from him who hath the least experience of it of all the saints of God; who yet hath found that in it which is better than ten thousand worlds; who desires to spend the residue of the few and evil days of his pilgrimage in pursuit hereof, — in the contemplation of the excellencies, desirableness, love, and grace of our dear Lord Jesus, and in making returns of obedience according to his will: to whose soul, in the midst of the perplexities of this wretched world, and cursed rebellions of his own heart, this is the great relief, that “He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” “The Spirit and the bride say, Come; and let him that readeth say, Come. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
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