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I shall offer a few words to direct you in the present exercise of faith in this ordinance. I design no more but to give occasion to that particular exercise of faith which is now required of us, whereby we may sanctify the name of God in a due manner, give glory to him by believing, and receive establishment unto our own souls: and I would do it by minding you of that word of our Lord Jesus Christ in
John xii. 32, — “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”
What he means by his lifting up, the evangelist expounds in the next words, which are these, “This he said, signifying what death he should die.” So that the lifting up of Christ on the cross, is that which he lays as the foundation of his drawing sinners unto him. No sinner will come near to Christ unless he be drawn; and to be drawn, is to be made willing to come unto him, and to follow him in chains of love. Christ draws none to him whether they will or no; but he casts on their minds, hearts, and wills the cords of his grace and love, working in them powerfully, working on them kindly, to cause them to choose him, to come to him, and to follow him. “Draw me; we will run after thee.” The great principle and fountain from whence the drawing efficacy and power of grace doth proceed, is from the lifting up of Christ. Drawing grace is manifested in, and drawing love proceeds from, the sufferings of Jesus Christ on the cross.
But that which I would just mind you of at present is this, that the look of faith unto Christ as lifted up is the only means of bringing our souls near to him. Our faith is often expressed by looking unto Christ: Isa. xlv. 22, “Look unto me,” says he, “and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” The conclusion is, that those who so look unto him shall be justified and saved: Isa. lxv. 1, “Behold me, behold me.” 593And it is the great promise of the efficacy of the Spirit poured out upon us, that “we shall look upon him whom we have pierced,” Zech. xii. 10. God calls us to look off from all other things; look off from the law, look off from self, look off from sin, — look only unto Christ. Is Christ said to be lifted up in his death, and to die that manner of death wherein he was lifted up on the cross? — so it was expressed in the type; the brasen serpent was lifted up on a pole, that those who were smote with the fiery serpents might look to it. If the soul can but turn an eye of faith unto Jesus Christ as thus lifted up, it will receive healing, though the sight of one be not so clear as the sight of another. All had not a like sharpness of sight that looked to the brasen serpent, nor have all the like vigour of faith to look to Christ: but one sincere look to Christ is pleasing to him; so as he says, Cant. iv. 9, “Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes.” A soul sensible of guilt and sin, that casts but one look of faith to Christ as lifted up, it even raises the heart of Christ himself; and such a soul shall not go away unrefreshed, unrelieved.
Now, brethren, the end of this ordinance is, to lift up Christ in representation: as he was lifted up really on the cross, and as in the whole preaching of the gospel Christ is evidently crucified before our eyes, so more especially in the administration of this ordinance. Do we see, then, wherein the special acting of faith in this ordinance does consist? God forbid we should neglect the stirring up our hearts unto the particular acting of faith in Jesus Christ, who herein is lifted up before us. That which we are to endeavour in this ordinance is, to get a view by faith, — faith working by thoughts, by meditation, acting by love, — a view of Christ as lifted up; that is, as bearing our iniquities in his own body on the tree. What did Christ do on the tree? what was he lifted up for, if it was not to bear our sins? Out of his love and zeal to the glory of God, and out of compassion to the souls of men, Christ bore the guilt and punishment of sin, and made expiation for it. O that God in this ordinance would give our souls a view of him! I shall give it to myself and to you in charge at this time, — if we have a view of Christ by faith as lifted up, our hearts will be drawn nearer to him. If we find not our hearts in any manner drawn nearer to him, it is much to be feared we have not had a view of him as bearing our iniquities. Take, therefore, this one remembrance as to the acting of faith in the administration of this ordinance, — labour to have it fixed upon Christ as bearing sin, making atonement for it, with his heart full of love to accomplish a cause in righteousness and truth.
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