Now, the faith that receives Christ is the most direct, simple, and saving exercise of this marvelous grace, and the most lovely and precious exhibition of this fruit. To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, is everything to the soul. An eternity of bliss is involved in it. Believe in Christ, and the treasures of heaven are swept into your bosom. Believe in Christ, and a present salvation is yours. Believe in Christ, and the hope of glory dawns upon your soul. Believe in Christ, and you are linked with the bliss of eternity.
“Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!” Song of Songs 5:16
O what a Savior is Jesus Christ! He is the chief among ten thousand! Look at His sinless, yet real humanity — without a single taint, yet sympathizing with us in all our various conditions — our afflictions — our temptations — our infirmities — our griefs. Now that He is in glory, He is still cherishing a brother’s heart, bending down His ear to our petitions — ever standing near to catch our sighs, to dry our tears, to provide for our needs, to guide us by His counsel, and afterwards to receive us to glory!
O what a Savior is Jesus Christ! When He is known — all other beings are eclipsed.
When His beauty is seen — all other beauty fades.
When His love is felt — He becomes supremely enthroned in the affections.
To know Him more, becomes the one desire of the renewed mind; and to make Him more known, is the one aim of the Christian life.
O what a Savior is Jesus Christ!
“Jesus wept.” John 11:35
These are among the most wonderful words recorded in the Bible. They mark the most exquisitely tender, touching, and expressive incident in His whole life. “Jesus wept” — wept from emotion, wept from sympathy. Is there a more consolatory, soothing view of Christ’s love than this? It is a compassionate, sympathizing, weeping love!
The sympathy of Jesus never wearies or slumbers, it never chills or forgets.
We cannot keep our eye too exclusively or too intently fixed on Jesus. All salvation is in Him. All salvation proceedsfrom Him. All salvation leads to Him. And for the assurance and comfort of our salvation, we are to repose believingly and entirely on Him. Christ must be all! Christ the beginning — Christ the center — and Christ the end.
Oh sweet truth to you who are sensible of your poverty, vileness, and insufficiency, and of the ten thousand flaws and failures of which, perhaps, no one is cognizant but God and your own soul! Oh, to turn and rest in Christ — a full Christ — a loving Christ — a tender Christ, whose heart’s love never chills, from whose eye darts no reproof, from whose lips breathes no sentence of condemnation!
Christ must be all!
“Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief: when you shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” Isaiah 53:10
In the person and work of Christ the holiness of God is revealed with equal power and luster. It is only through this medium that we possess the most clear and perfect demonstration of this divine and awful perfection. Where was there ever such a demonstration of God’s infinite hatred of sin, and His fixed and solemn determination to punish it, as is seen in the cross of Christ? Put your shoes from off your feet; draw near, and contemplate this “great sight.” Who was the sufferer? God’s only-begotten and well-beloved Son! His own Son!
In addition to the infinitely tender love of the Father, there was the clear knowledge of the truth, that He, who was enduring the severest infliction of His wrath, was innocent, guiltless, righteous—that He, Himself, had never broken His law, had never opposed His authority, had never run counter to His will; but had always done those things which pleased Him. At whose hands did He suffer? From devils? from men? They were but the agents; the moving cause was God Himself. “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.” His own Father unsheathed the sword: He inflicted the blow: He kindled the fierce flame: He prepared the bitter cup. “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, says the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd.” “The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And what were the nature and degree of His sufferings? Imagine, if we can, what must have been the outpouring of God’s wrath upon the whole church for all the sins of that church, through eternity! Can you compute the amount of her transgressions? can you conceive the degree of her punishment? can you measure the duration of her woe? Impossible!
Then, who can tell what Jesus endured, when standing in the place and as the Surety of His church, in the solemn hour of atonement, and in the day of God’s fierce anger? Never had God so manifested before, and never will He so manifest again, His essential holiness—His spotless purity—the inconceivable heinousness of sin—His utter hatred of it—and His solemn purpose to punish it with the severest inflictions of His wrath; never did this glorious perfection of His being blaze out in such overwhelming glory, as on that dark day, and in the cross of the incarnate God. Had He emptied the vials of His wrath full upon the world, sweeping it before the fury of His anger, and consigning it to deserved and eternal punishment, it would not have presented to the universe so vivid, so impressive, and so awful a demonstration of the nature and glory of His holiness, of His infinite abhorrence of sin, and the necessity why He should punish it, as He has presented in the humiliation, sufferings, and death of His beloved Son. What new and ineffably transcendent views of infinite holiness must have sprung up in the pure minds even of the spirits in glory, as, bending from their thrones, they fixed their astonished gaze upon the cross of the suffering Son of God!
“And all mine are your, and your are mine; and I am glorified in them.” John 17:10
The manifested glory of Christ in His church is clearly and manifestly stated in the sublime prayer of our Lord. Addressing His Father, He claims with Him—what no mere creature could do—a conjunction of interest in the church, based upon an essential unity of nature. What angel in heaven could adopt this language, what creature on earth could present this claim—”All your are mine”? It would be an act of the most daring presumption; it would be the very inspiration of blasphemy: but when our Lord asserts it—asserts it, too, in a solemn prayer addressed on the eve of His death to His Father—what does it prove, but that a unity of property in the church involves a unity of essence in being? There could be no perfect oneness of the Father and the Son in any single object, but as it sprang from a oneness of nature.
The mutual interest, then, which Christ thus claims with His Father refers in this instance specifically to the church of God. And it is delightful here to trace the perfect equality of love towards the church, as of perfect identity of interest in the church. We are sometimes tempted to doubt the perfect sameness, as to degree, of the Father’s love with the Son’s love; that, because Jesus died, and intercedes, the mind thus used to familiarize itself with Him more especially, associating Him with all its comforting, soothing, hallowing views and enjoyments, we are liable to be beguiled into the belief that His love must transcend in its strength and intensity the love of the Father. But not so. The Father’s love is of perfect equality in degree, as it is in nature, with the Son’s love; and this may with equal truth be affirmed of the “love of the Spirit.” “He that has seen me,” says Jesus, “has seen the Father.”
Then he that has seen the melting, overpowering expressions of the Redeemer’s love—he that has seen Him pouring out His deep compassion over the miseries of a suffering world—he that has seen His affectionate gentleness towards His disciples—he that has seen Him weep at the grave of Lazarus—he that has followed Him to the garden of Gethsemane, to the judgment-hall of Pilate, and from thence to the cross of Calvary—has seen in every step which He trod, and in every act which He performed, a type of the deep, deep love which the Father bears towards His people. He that has thus seen the Son’s love, has seen the Father’s love.
Oh, sweet to think, the love that travailed—the love that toiled—the love that wept—the love that bled—the love that died, is the same love, in its nature and intensity, which is deep-welled in the heart of the TRIUNE GOD, and is pledged to secure the everlasting salvation of the church. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10
It is a self-evident truth, that as God only knows, so He only can reveal His own love. It is a hidden love, veiled deep within the recesses of His infinite heart; yes, it seems to compose His very essence, for, “God is love,”—not merely lovely and loving, but love itself, essential love. Who, then, can reveal it but Himself? How dim are the brightest views, and how low the loftiest conceptions, of the love of God, as possessed by men of mere natural and speculative knowledge of divine things! They read of God’s goodness, even in nature, with a half-closed eye, and spell it in providence with a stammering tongue. Of His essential love—His redeeming love—of the great and glorious manifestation of His love in Jesus, they know nothing. The eyes of their understanding have not been opened; and “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness,” has not as yet “shined into their hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
But God has declared His own love—Jesus is its glorious revelation. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” Oh, what an infinite sea of love now broke in upon our guilty and rebellious world, wafting in upon its rolling tide God’s only begotten Son! That must have been great love—love infinite, love unsearchable, love passing all thought—which could constrain the Father to give Jesus to die for us, “while we were yet sinners.” It is the great loss of the believer that faith eyes with so dim a vision this amazing love of God in the gift of Jesus. We have transactions so seldom and so unbelievingly with the cross, that we have need perpetually to recur to the apostle’s cheering words, written as if kindly and condescendingly to meet this infirmity of our faith—”He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things!”
But, behold God’s love! See how He has inscribed this glorious perfection of His nature in letters of blood drawn from the heart of Jesus. His love was so great, that nothing short of the surrender to the death of His beloved Son could give an adequate expression of its immensity. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” Here was the greatest miracle of love—here was its most stupendous achievement—here its most brilliant victory—and here its most costly and precious offering. Seeing us fallen, obnoxious to the law’s curse, exposed to its dreadful penalty, guilty of innumerable sins, and deserving of as many deaths, yet how did it yearn to save us! How did it heave, and pant, and strive, and pause not, until it revealed a way infinitely safe for God and man; securing glory to every Divine attribute in the highest degree, and happiness to the creature, immense, unspeakable, and eternal.
“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” Luke 24:26
As the faithful servant of the everlasting covenant, it was proper, it was just, it was the reward of His finished work, that Christ’s deepest humiliation on earth should be succeeded by the highest glory in heaven. “For the joy that was set before Him,”—the joy of His exaltation, with its glorious fruits—”He endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” How proper, how righteous does it appear, that the crown of His glory should follow the cross of His humiliation! Toilsome and faithful had been His life; ignominious and painful had been His death. From both there had accrued to God—is now, and will yet be accruing, through the countless ages of eternity—a revenue of glory, such as never had been His before. He had revealed the Father gloriously. Drawing aside the veil as no other hand could do, He caused such Divine glory to beam forth, as compelled every spotless spirit in heaven to cover Himself with His wings, and fall prostrate in the profoundest humility and homage.
The glorious perfections of God!—never had they appeared so glorious as now. The mediatorial work of Jesus had laid a deep foundation, on which they were exhibited to angels and to men in their most illustrious character. Never before had wisdom appeared so truly glorious, nor justice so awfully severe, nor love so intensely bright, nor truth so eternally stable. Had all the angels in heaven, and all creatures of all worlds, become so many orbs of divine light, and were all merged into one, so that that one should embody and reflect the luster of all, it would have been darkness itself compared with a solitary beam of God’s glory, majesty, and power, as revealed in the person and work of Immanuel.
Now it was fit that, after this faithful servitude, this boundless honor and praise brought to God, His Father should, in return, release Him from all further obligation, lift Him from His humiliation, and place Him high in glory. Therefore it was that Jesus poured out the fervent breathings of His soul on the eve of His passion: “I have glorified You on the earth; I have finished the work which You gave me to do: I have manifested Your name, and now, O Father, glorify You me.”
The ascension of Jesus to glory involved the greatest blessing to His saints. Apart from His own glorification, the glory of His church was incomplete—so entirely, so identically were they one. The resurrection of Christ from the dead was the Father’s public seal to the acceptance of His work; but the exaltation of Christ to glory was an evidence of the Father’s infinite delight in that work. Had our Lord continued on earth, His return from the grave, though settling the fact of the completeness of His atonement, could have afforded no clear evidence, and could have conveyed no adequate idea, of God’s full pleasure and delight in the person of His beloved Son. But in advancing a step further—in taking His Son out of the world, and placing Him at His own right hand, far above principalities and powers—He demonstrated His ineffable delight in Jesus, and His perfect satisfaction with His great atonement.
Now it is no small mercy for the saints of God to receive and to be well established in this truth, namely, the Father’s perfect satisfaction with, and His infinite pleasure in, His Son. For all that He is to His Son, He is to the people accepted in His Son; so that this view of the glorification of Jesus becomes exceedingly valuable to all who are “accepted in the Beloved.” So precious was Jesus to His heart, and so infinitely did His soul delight in Him, He could not allow of His absence from glory a moment longer than was necessary for the accomplishment of His own purpose and the perfecting of His Son’s mission; that done, He showed His Beloved the “path of life,” and raised Him to His “presence, where is fullness of joy,” and to “His right hand, where there are pleasures for evermore. “
“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has he quickened together with him; having forgiven you all trespasses.” Colossians 2:12, 13
Is Jesus alive? then the saints of God are a risen people. What a glorious character is theirs! Mystically they are risen with Christ from the tomb, and spiritually they are risen from the grave of death and sin to newness of life. One of the most fruitful causes of a feeble Christianity is the low estimate the believer forms of his spiritual character. Were this higher, were it more proportioned to our real standing, our responsibility would appear in a more solemn light, our sense of obligation would be deeper, and practical holiness of a high order would be our more constant aim. Ours is a glorious and exalted life.
Our standing is higher, infinitely higher, than the highest angel; our glory infinitely greater than the most glorious seraph. “Christ is our life.” “We are risen with Christ.” By this we are declared to be a chosen, an adopted, a pardoned, a justified, and a quickened people. This is our present state; this is our present character. We bear about with us the life of God in our souls. As Jesus did bear about in His lowly, suffering, tempted, and tried humanity the hidden essential life; so we, in these frail, sinful, bruised, dying bodies, enshrine the life derived from a risen Head—the hidden life concealed with Christ in God. What an exalted character, what a holy one, then, is a believer in Jesus! Herein lie his true dignity and his real wealth—it is, that he is a partaker of the Divine nature, that he is one with the risen Lord. All other distinctions, in comparison, vanish into insignificance, and all other glory fades and melts away. Poor he may be in this world, yet is he rich in faith, and an heir of the kingdom; for he has Christ. Rich he may be in this world, titled and exalted, yet, if Christ is in his heart, that heart is deeply sensible of its native poverty—is lowly, child-like, Christ-like.
If this is our exalted character, then how great our responsibilities, and how solemn our obligations! The life we now live in the flesh is to be an elevated, a risen, a heavenly life. “If you be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” What is the holy state here enjoined?—heavenly-mindedness. On what ground is it enforced?—our resurrection with Christ. As a risen people, how heavenly-minded, then, ought we to be! How incompatible and incongruous do groveling pursuits, and carnal joys, and earthly ambitions appear, with a life professedly one and risen with the incarnate God! But even here much heavenly wisdom is needed to guide in the narrow and difficult way.
To go out of the world—to become as a detached cipher of the human family—to assume the character, even in approximation, of the religious recluse—the gospel nowhere enjoins. To relinquish our secular calling, unless summoned by God to a higher and more spiritual service in the church—to relax our diligence in our lawful business—to be indifferent to our personal interests and responsibilities—to neglect our temporal concerns, and to be regardless of the relative claims which are binding upon us, are sacrifices which a loyal attachment to our heavenly King does not necessarily demand; and, if assumed, are self-inflicted; and, if made, must prove injurious to ourselves and displeasing to God.
But to be heavenly-minded, in the true and Scripture sense, is to carry our holy Christianity into every department of life, and with it to elevate and hallow every relation and engagement. There is no position in which the providence of God places His saints, for which the grace of Jesus is not all-sufficient, if sincerely and earnestly sought. Nor is there any sphere or calling, to which the life of Jesus in the soul may not impart dignity, luster, and sacredness. Christianity, through all grades, and classes, and occupations, is capable of diffusing a divine, hallowing, ennobling influence, transforming and sanctifying all that it touches. Blessed and holy are they who know it from personal and heartfelt experience!
“It is the Spirit that quickens, the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63
The Spirit of God undertakes the achievement of a stupendous work. He enters the soul, and proposes to restore the empire of grace, the reign of holiness, and the throne of God. He engages to form all things anew; to create a revolution in favor of Christ and of heaven. He undertakes to change the heart, turning its enmity into love; to collect all the elements of darkness and confusion, educing from them perfect light and perfect order; to subdue the will, bringing it into harmony with God’s will; to explore all the recesses of sin, turning its very impurity into holiness; in a word, to regenerate the soul, restoring the Divine image, and fitting it for the full and eternal enjoyment of God in glory.
Now, in accomplishing this great work, what instrumentality does He employ? Passing by all human philosophy, and pouring contempt upon the profoundest wisdom and the mightiest power of man, He employs, in the production of a work in comparison with which the rise and the fall of empires were as infants’ play, simply and alone, the “truth as it is in Jesus.” With this instrument He enters the soul—the seat of the greatest revolution that ever transpired. He moves over the dark chaos, without form and void, and in a moment a world of immortal beauty bursts into view. He overshadows the soul, and a vital principle is imparted, whose stream of existence, once commenced, flows on with the eternity of God Himself. How divine, yet how natural, too, the process! In the lapses of human thought, in the overtasked powers of the human intellect, how often is the mind impaired and shattered by the severe process through which it passes!
But here is a revolution which touches every faculty of the soul, which changes all the powers of the mind; and yet, so gentle, so persuasive, and so mild, is the Spirit’s operation, that, so far from deranging the power or disturbing the balance of the intellect, it develops resources, awakens energies, and inspires strength, of which until now it knew not its possession. “The entrance of Your word gives light; it gives understanding unto the simple.”
And to what shall we turn for the secret of this? To the gospel, so replete with the glory of Jesus—that gospel, the substance of which is the incarnate God; the theme of which is Christ crucified—that gospel which testifies of His Godhead, which declares His manhood, which unfolds the union of both in the person of a glorious Redeemer; and which holds Him up to view, mighty, and willing to save to the uttermost.
Oh, how sanctifying and comforting is the truth which testifies of Jesus! It has but to point to Him, and, clothed with the energy of the Spirit, the strongest corruption is subdued, the deepest grief is soothed. Of what value or efficacy is all our knowledge of the truth, if it lead us not to Jesus; if it expand not our views of His glory; if it conform not our minds to His image; if it increase not our love to His person, and if it quicken not our obedience to His commands, and our zeal for His cause; and mature us not, by a progressive holiness, for the enjoyment of His beatific presence?