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I shall offer a few words, with a view to prepare our minds to the exercise of faith and communion with God in this ordinance: and because we ought to be in the highest exercise of faith in this ordinance, I shall take occasion from those words, which express as high an acting of faith, I think, as any is in the Scripture; I mean those words of the apostle in
Gal. ii. 20, — “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Our inquiry now is, How we may act faith? It acts two ways:—
1. By way of adherence, — cleaving to, trusting and acquiescing in, God in Christ, as declaring his love, grace, and good-will in his promises. This is the faith whereby we live, whereby we are justified, — the faith without which this ordinance will not profit, but disadvantage us; for without this faith we cannot discern the Lord’s body, — we cannot discern him as crucified for us. This is that we are in an especial manner to examine ourselves about in reference to a participation of this ordinance; for self-examination is a gospel institution proper for this ordinance. And this is the faith whereby we are in Christ; without which a participation of the outward signs and pledges of Christ will not avail us. So, then, with faith thus acting, we are to be qualified and prepared unto a participation of this ordinance.
2. Another way by which faith ought to act in this ordinance, is that of special application. “Who loved me, and gave himself for me;” this is faith acting by particular application. I hope the Lord has given us that faith whereby we may be prepared for this ordinance. And now I am to inquire and direct you a little in that faith which you may act in this ordinance. I say, it is this faith of special application to our own souls that God now requires we should act; and I prove it thus:— It is because in this ordinance there is a proposition, tender, and communication of Christ to every one in particular. In the promise of the gospel Christ is proposed indefinitely, to all that believe; and so the faith I mentioned before (of acquiescence in him) answers what is required of us by virtue of the promise in the gospel: but in this ordinance, by God’s institution, Christ is tendered and given to me and to thee, — to every one in particular; for it is by his institution that the elements in this ordinance are 601distributed to every particular person, to show that there is a tender and communication of Christ to particular persons. Now, such a particular communication is to be received by this particular faith, the faith of application, to receive him to our own souls.
And then, moreover, one great end of the ordinance is, manifestly, that it requires the acting of faith in a particular way of application to every one of us. It is for a farther incorporation of Christ in our souls; it is for receiving Christ as nourishment, — as the bread that came down from heaven, — as giving his body and blood for spiritual food. Now every one knows, that whatever feasts be prepared in the world, unless every one in particular takes his own portion, and eats and digests it, it will not turn to nourishment unto him. This particular act of application answers that eating, drinking, and digesting, which the nature of the ordinance does require. So, brethren, this is that I aim at, — that it is our duty, in this ordinance, to act a particular faith as to the application of Christ and all his benefits, each one to his own soul.
You will say, then, “What is the special object of this special faith?” Truly that which the apostle tells us here; — it is special love, in the first place; and it is the special design of the death of Christ, in the next place: “Who loved me, and gave himself for me.” The object you ought to fix upon, in the exercise of this faith of application to your own souls, is the special love of Christ, — that Christ had a special love, not only to the church in general, but the truth is, Christ had a special love for me in particular. It will be a very hard thing for you or me to rise up to an act of faith that Christ hath a love for us in particular, unless we can answer this question, Why should Christ love you or me in particular? What answer can I give hereto, when I know he does not love all the world? I can give but this answer to it, Even because he would. I know nothing in me, or in any of you, that can deserve his love. Was there ever such a thing heard of, — that Christ should have a particular love for such as we are? would ever any person go and fix his love on a creature who was all over leprous? is this the manner of man? Truly, Christ would never have fixed his love upon any of our poor, defiled, leprous souls, but upon this one consideration, I know I can cleanse them, and I will. He loved us.
But what will he do with such deformed, polluted creatures as we are? Why, “he loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might wash and purify it, and present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.” Though we are altogether deformed and defiled, — though no example, no instance can be given, in things below, or among the creatures, of any fixing love on such as we are, yet Christ has done it out of sovereign grace; with this resolution, that he would cleanse us with his own blood, to make us fit for himself.
602O that God would help you and me to some firm, unshaken acts of faith, that Jesus Christ did, out of sovereign grace, love us in particular; and that in pursuit of this love he has washed us in his blood, to make us lovely and meet for himself! This is love to be adored and celebrated in time and to eternity.
This special love of Christ is not only to be considered by us, in this special acting of faith, as free and undeserved, but it is to be considered as invincible, — that would break through all oppositions, or whatever stood in the way, — that nothing should hinder or turn him aside in his design of doing good to our souls. It is a glorious pitch that the spouse rises to in Cant. viii. 7, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned;” speaking of her own love to Christ: nothing could quench, nothing could drown it, nothing could make a purchase of it from her; but her love was invincible, and would carry her through all difficulties. O how much more was the love of Christ! for our love being once fixed on Christ, meets with no difficulties of that nature that the love of Christ met withal when it was fixed on us. What did the love of Christ meet with, when it was fixed on us? That we must take along with us, — namely, “the curse of the law” was the first thing that presented itself to him: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die;” — “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law, to do them.” That he was to make “his soul an offering for sin,” was presented to him. We are to look on this love of Christ as sovereign and free, and with a design of making our souls lovely; so invincible, also, that it broke up the eternal obstacles, — that nothing could stand before it until it had accomplished his whole work and design: “Who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
I speak on this manner, and of these things, to encourage and direct the weakest and most unskilful in the mysteries of the gospel, — to instruct them in the exercise of faith in this ordinance: and therefore I say, that as this special faith (which I proved to you to be our duty in this ordinance) is to respect the love of Christ; so it is to respect more especially the peculiar acting of the love of Christ, whereby he gave himself for us. Gave himself! how is that? Truly thus, brethren, — the Lord help me to believe it! — that I stood before the judgment-seat of God, charged with my original apostasy from him, and with all the sins of my life, multiplied above the hairs of my head, and being ready to perish, to have the sentence pronounced against me; then Christ came and stood in my place, putting the sinner aside, and undertaking to answer this matter: “Let the poor sinner stand aside a while. Come, enter into rest; abide here in the cleft of the rock; I will undertake thy cause, and plead it out at God’s judgment-603seat.” In this undertaking God spared him not; as if God should say, “If you will stand in the place of the sinner, and undertake his cause, then it must go with you as with him; I will not spare.” “Lo, I come,” says Christ, notwithstanding this, “to do thy will, O God;” — “Whatever thou dost require to make good this cause I have espoused, lo, I come to do it.”
So Christ loved me, and gave himself for me. Everlasting rest and peace will dwell upon our souls, if the Lord will be pleased to help us to exercise faith on Christ’s love in this ordinance, wherein all these things are represented to us.
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