Sunday, November 23, 2008
By John Kershaw
On one occasion I was invited to preach at Keighley during the holidays in Whit-week. A friend was to meet me with a horse, on the road between Keighley and Halifax. One of my friends lending me a horse for two days, the man had the pleasure of riding back on the horse he brought for me. Before I left my bedroom in the morning, according to my usual practice, I kneeled down to thank the Lord for his manifold mercies, and beseeching him that his presence and blessing might be with me through the day. I told him that he knew that I was going to a place I had never been to before, and besought him to give me a text to speak from, that he would make a blessing to the people whom he in his providence might bring together; when the Lord laid upon my mind Romans 8:30: "Whom he did predestinate," etc. From the power and savor that attended the words, I felt this was to be my text, and thanked the Lord for it, beseeching him to be with me in preaching, and bless it to the souls of the people. As the man and I were riding together, he said, "You will have to preach this afternoon at three o' clock in a large Wesleyan chapel, and you will have many people to hear you,--Baptists, Independents, and Wesleyans. They are coming for miles round." On hearing this I at once thought of my predestinarian text and the Wesleyan chapel. Flesh and blood, carnal reason, and the devil began to work powerfully on my mind. As we rode along I labored to get another text, that I could preach the truth from, without coming so decidedly against the system of free-will. But no text could I get. O how wretched and miserable did I feel, until the Lord brought to my mind what had passed between him and me in the morning, when I told him that he knew where I had to preach, and who I should have to hear, and that he gave me the text in answer to prayer. I was ashamed of myself that I should endeavor to give way. Many portions of the word of God flowed into my mind, such as: "If I seek to please men, I should not be the servant of Christ," (Galatians 1:10) with more of the same import. Before we entered the town, my mind was delivered from these fleshly feelings and the fear of man, and a valor sprang up in my soul "the truth of God upon the face of the earth." (Jeremiah 9:3)
When the time came, there was a great gathering of people. Before reading my text, I addressed them as follows: "It is the practice of some men, when called to preach where they have never been before, to inquire what the sentiments of the people are, and labor to accommodate their sermon to the palates and views of the people. This is not obeying the command of the Lord in separating between the precious and the vile, the chaff and the wheat, faithfully dispensing the word of the Lord, fearing no frowns and courting no smiles. When I look around me at this congregation, it strikes my mind that were I disposed to act the above part, I should fail in attempting to please all, for I have no doubt I have persons before me of various opinions; so that while I was seeking to please some, I should offend others. My desire is to seek to please the Lord, and preach the preaching he has bidden me. I therefore call your attention to Romans 8:30: 'Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified, them he also glorified.' This precious portion of God's word the old Puritan divines called the golden chain. Speaking of the first link, predestination, the second link effectual calling, the third justification, and the fourth glorification. When I came to the last link, vindicating the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints unto eternal glory, proving it from many portions of the word of the Lord which are the joy and rejoicing of my soul, the last two verses of Toplady's hymn, which begins:
"A debtor to mercy alone,"
came with power to my mind, and I repeated them with great pleasure:
"The work which his goodness began,
The arm of his strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now,
Not all things below nor above,
Can make him his purpose forego,
Or sever my soul from his love."
"My name from the palms of his hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impress'd on his heart it remains,
In marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heaven."
While so doing, I observed a gentleman in black, who sat in the gallery, hastily take his hat and go away. The impression of my mind was that he could not endure sound doctrine, and would hear no more of it; but to my surprise he came up the aisle to the foot of the pulpit stairs, and there he stood till I had finished my sermon; and then I gave out that blessed hymn of Dr. Watt's:
"Firm as the earth thy gospel stands."
When they began to sing, the gentleman came into the pulpit and sat down, putting his hand on my knee, and saying, "Sir, I hope you will have no objection against me rising to vindicate our own doctrine." I replied, "Sir, you are full of wrath and irritation. Be cool, and think what you are about." He said, "How can I forbear being irritated, hearing a man in our own chapel laboring to pull down what we are constantly establishing. I must, and will, when they have done singing, rise and defend our principles, in opposition to the doctrine you have been advancing." As he was thus speaking, I was listening to the precious hymn they were singing, which was a confirmation of the doctrine I had been preaching. As soon as I heard them begin the following words:
"In the dear bosom of his love
They must for ever rest,"
I took my standing in the pulpit to be ready to conclude with prayer. After which I addressed the people as follows: "A gentleman, who is now in the pulpit with me, from what he has been saying to me whilst you have been singing, is determined to rise and oppose the doctrines of free and sovereign grace which you have been hearing, and vindicate the doctrine of man's free will; but as I have already more of that in my fleshly carnal nature than I like, I shall not stop to hear him, and I would advise all you who are sick of self, and love a free-grace salvation, to go home with what you have got, and let the free-will man and his friends have it to themselves." As soon as I left the pulpit, he rose in a rage to pour contempt upon what I had said, and vindicate his own principles. I have seen many congregations disperse, but never saw such confusion as I did on this occasion.
As I had several miles to ride over a large common, I got some refreshment and left. As I rode past the chapel, there were crowds engaged in disputation, and the events of that day are not yet forgotten, as will appear from the following: More than twenty years after, I met with three men from Keighley, who had come to hear me at Bradford. One of them asked me if I had forgotten preaching at Keighley, when the Wesleyan minister stood up to oppose me. I told him I had not. He said, "I well remember both your sermon and the remarks you made;" and to my surprise he repeated, almost verbatim, what I have recorded, saying it was so impressed upon his mind, and so appropriate to the circumstances, that he had often related it to his friends.
By John Kershaw
It will be seen from the following narration that when I first heard of “election” I was upon “Old Covenant” ground. One Sunday evening I went with my father and my mother’s brother to the Independent meeting place in Rochdale to hear Mr. Roby of Manchester [the minister under whose preaching John Warburton was blessed]. As we returned home, these two old pilgrims were wonderfully pleased with the sermon, saying that he had preached the doctrine of election very clearly and strongly. Election was evidently the joy and rejoicing of their souls, sweeter to their taste than honey or the honeycomb.
I wondered what this “election” could be that they were so delighted with. I could not at that time make free to ask what it meant, the next day I went to the house of a cousin, who had formerly lived with my father, and was a member of the Baptist church at Rochdale under the pastoral care of Mr. Littlewood, for the purpose of inquiring as to this important subject. When I got to his house, he was just taking down his basket to go to the market, and I went with him. As we were walking towards the town, I said, “Last night you heard Mr. Roby.” “Yes,” he replied, “and a very good sermon he preached.” As we were going home, I then said, “Your father and mine were well pleased that he had been, as they termed it, exceedingly strong and firm upon the doctrine of election, and I am come on purpose to ask you what this ‘election’ means.”
He said, “Do you not recollect that in the New Testament you read of the elect, and, ‘that no flesh shall be saved, but for the elect’s sake’ (Matthew 24:22); ‘And if it were possible, the false Christs and prophets would deceive the very elect’? (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22); ‘And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them?’ (Luke 18:7;): ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?’ (Romans 8:33); ‘Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father’ (1 Peter 1:2); ‘That the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth’ (Romans 9:11); ‘Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace’ (Romans 11:5); ‘But the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded’ (Romans 11:7); ‘Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God’ (1 Thessalonians 1:4); ‘And God will send His angels, with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the one end of heaven to the other’ (Mark 13:27).”
“Yes,” I said, “I have read all these texts many times but I did not know what they meant, and I wish you would explain them.” He answered, “The elect are God’s people that He hath loved and chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world, and ordained them unto eternal life and salvation through Christ. He hath done this according to His good will and sovereign pleasure, as He saith to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy’ (Romans 9:15-16). Thus, you see, it is those whom He has loved and chosen and ordained to eternal life that will be saved, and none else; as Paul says in Romans 11:7: ‘But the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.’”
As I looked at the doctrine as thus laid down, I shall never forget the hatred and indignation that rose up in my carnal heart against it. I said within myself, “It is the most unjust, unreasonable doctrine that ever could be broached. I may read and pray, and go to the chapel, and do all the good I can, and if I am not elected, be lost after all. It does not even give a man a chance to be saved. I neither can nor will believe this election.”
Just as I was about to open my mouth against it and utter with my lips the horrid feelings of my heart, this thought came into my mind: “There must be something in this election that I do not yet understand, for if there be two good men in this country, living to God and for another world, it is my father and my uncle, and they glory in it. Mr. Roby is a good minister of Jesus Christ, and highly esteemed, and he believes it and preaches it too. I will say nothing against it till I know more about the matter,” Thus I was mercifully prevented from lifting up my voice against the God glorifying, soul-humbling and heart-enlarging doctrine of election.
There is no branch of divine truth left upon record that has been so bitter and galling to my mind as God’s election; yet I can truly say that there is no doctrine recorded in all the Bible that has been so sweet and blest to my soul. But more of this anon.
My cousin saw that I was much confounded and perplexed in my mind about it, and spoke very kindly to me, saying he was sorry I did not hear Mr. Gadsby the other day at Manchester, as he opened it up so clearly and proved it from the Word of God that there were thousands of God’s elect unborn, that lay in the loins of their ancestors, that must be brought into existence, called by grace and landed safe in glory, and that when the Lord had gathered in the number of His elect, the world would be at an end.
There appeared something so solemn in this statement that it rather tended to fill my mind with awe. He told me if I would go again to his house he would lend me a book which would fully and clearly explain these things, and he wished me to read it carefully over and make it a matter of prayer to the Lord to guide and direct me into the truth. He, moreover, exhorted me, in reading, to have my Bible by me and examine by it the proofs that the author brought forward.
I had no rest in my spirit until the book was in my possession. It was Elisha Coles on God’s Sovereignty. I began to read, and prayed to be guided right, referring to the proofs in the Word of God, and such light shone into my mind that I was astonished. I saw that election shone like a sunbeam from Genesis to Revelation, and many were the hours that I spent in this manner. Like the noble Bereans, I searched the Scriptures daily, and found that election was the solemn truth of God and can never be overthrown either by men or devils. And one strong proof of its divine authenticity is that the carnal proud heart of fallen, sinful man hates it and fights against it, as mine did.
Finding that election was the truth of God, the question then with me was: “Am I one of them that the Lord hath loved with an everlasting and electing love, one that Christ has redeemed from amongst men by His blood?” I could not, however, find that evidence within me, that I was one of God’s chosen people, which my soul longed for.
One night I went into the wood to pray that I might know my election of God. My mind was dark, hard, miserable and wretched. I feared lest I should be a reprobate. My carnal, wicked heart boiled with enmity and rebellion against God that ever He gave me a being; blasphemous thoughts against Him were working in my mind as I was kneeling before Him. I shuddered at what I felt, and as I went home that night the enmity of my carnal heart was so stirred up that I had even to lay my hand over my lips to keep these vile thoughts from breaking out in words. O, how my spirit sank!
I was ready to call myself a thousand bad names that ever I should have such feelings against God in whose hand my breath is, and against whom I have sinned and done evil in His sight, even as I could. Strange as this may appear, it was to teach me that God had neither loved nor chosen me because of my goodness, but for His great love wherewith He loved me, even when dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:4-5).
The Apostle Peter says, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). I was, however, led to see that if I could prove my effectual calling by grace, it was a true evidence of my election. I was, therefore, led to look “unto the rock from whence I was hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence I was digged.” I knew that it was not my own will nor power that had brought me out of the world of the ungodly for, instead of putting a helping hand to the work, I had long fought against Him.
Another question arose in my mind: “Why was it that the Lord singled me out from the rest of my father’s house and from amongst my sinful companions?” It could not be because I was either better or more deserving than they, for I was one of the worst, but it was “the goodwill of Him that dwelt in the bush” that I should be effectually called and formed for Himself, to show forth His praise. I was led to ask myself what obligation had I laid the Lord under to save me – what demand had I upon Him for His mercy and favour. I felt in my inmost soul that I had no demand upon the Lord, that should the Lord mark my iniquities I could not stand before Him. I knew that He had not dealt with me after my sins, nor rewarded me according to my iniquities, and that it was of His mercies that I was not consumed and because His compassions fail not. Thus I found that He would be just and righteous in my condemnation. My mouth was stopped and I could say:
“Should sudden vengeance seize my breath
I must pronounce Thee just in death;
And if my soul were sent to hell,
Thy righteous law approves it well.”
I felt that if I was saved, it must be “by grace are ye saved, through faith, and not that of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Since this period the Lord has been graciously pleased at sundry times to shed His electing love abroad in my soul, and it has filled me with holy wonder that ever He should have thoughts of love and mercy towards such a vile wretch as myself. Many times, with sweet and solemn pleasure and tears of joy, have I united with the dear people of God at the Lord’s Supper in singing the following lines:
“While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
Lord why was I a guest?
“Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
While thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?
“‘Twas the same love that spread the feast,
That sweetly forced us in,
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.”
For many years past, when we have had an addition to our number, I have given out the hymn that contains the above verses.
When the Lord, by His Holy Spirit, says to the poor sinner, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee,” it draws him from sin to holiness, it enlarges his heart and his feet run with a sweet and solemn pleasure in the way of His commandments.
I am a witness for God that election, made known to a poor sinner, will never lead him to sin, but to love, honour and obey the Lord in the precepts and exhortations of His Word.
As it respects election not giving a man a chance to be saved, I have proved that had it been left to chance, as they call it, upon the ground of my own “free will,” I should have been lost forever. My free will as a depraved sinner would have led me on in the broad and downward road that leads to destruction, and so would it have been with all Adam’s fallen race. Not one soul would ever have been saved. It is the eternal purpose of God in our election, which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, that inevitably secures the salvation of countless millions of Adam’s fallen race: For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).
This Scripture has, with great propriety, been called “The Golden Chain of Salvation,” and is so firmly put together by our Triune Jehovah that one link of it can never be broken, either by men or devils, the world or sin, death or hell. Paul exults in this, saying, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).
Preached At Galeed Chapel, Brighton, England,
On a Lord's day Evening, 1923 - By J. K. Popham
"Having therefore, brethren,, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water."
This most blessed chapter sets forth the insufficiency of the ceremonial law, that all the offerings which were continually repeated were not sufficient to take away sin. Says the Apostle: "If they could have taken away all sin, would they not have ceased to be offered?"
In the event of these sacrifices which were continually brought and offered to God removing sin, their repetition would not be necessary, for sin being removed requires no further sacrifice. And this sets out in all the beauteous light and glory and blessedness of it, the one offering by Jesus Christ of Himself when He once in the end of the world appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And this whenever opened, revealed, and applied to a sinner's heart gives ground for hope, puts a plea into the mouth of faith, and brings a sinner so blessed to resolve that if he shall perish he will perish seeking mercy in mercy's way.
We have also the blessed incarnation of Christ set out in this chapter because Christ said: "A body hast Thou prepared Me. Sacrifice and offering for sin Thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein, which are offered by the law. Then said He, Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O God." (Hebrews 10:5-9) And this is that body that is prepared for the eternal Son of God to take into union with Himself.
My dear friends, if we are under the teaching of the Spirit the incarnation of Christ will from time to time be to us the blessed revelation of God's love and attract us to the throne of His heavenly grace. We are poor sinners, there is no offering possible to us for sin, no sacrifice possible to us to take away our sin. Then said Christ, "Lo I come. The remedy is in Me. I have love, I have power, I have ability. The remedy is in Me. I come to do Thy will, O God." And we know from Christ's own testimony in the Gospel according to John, what that will was which He came to do and which He delighted to do: "I have power to lay down My life, I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it up again; this commandment have I received of My Father." (John 10:17-18)
O what a Christ we have! I wish I could love Him and adore Him all my days. I wish you could. I wish we knew Him better and could cleave closer to Him and follow more earnestly after Him, for there is none like Him. All the fragrance of the Rose of Sharon is in Him; all the goodness of God to be manifested and enjoyed in this world is to come from Him; all the peace that a sinner is ever to feel in his conscience with God is in Christ; all the victories over sin he is to have in and through and by Jesus Christ. O that we could love Him and praise Him!
This will be manifested in the incarnation of Christ, and the death of Christ according to that will, sanctifies all the people of God: "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Hebrews 10:10)
It were well for us if we were enabled to make a gospel distinction I say a gospel distinction, not a presumptuous one, not a hard one, but a gospel distinction between the one only sufficient sanctification of the whole church by the coming and dying of Jesus Christ, and the occasional sensations of sanctification which we sometimes feel. I believe you will follow me as you read the Scriptures and see that the death of the Lord Jesus did once and for ever effect the entire and everlasting removal from the church of her sins. That is the sanctification in this word: "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
No debt remains to be paid, no guilt remains to be atoned, no pollution remains to be washed away, when we have respect to the efficacious death of the Lord Jesus; and that is the ground and grand reason of the blessed word of Jesus Christ to the dying thief: "This day shall thou be with Me in paradise." No prolonged work of grace was necessary, no renewed experience of sanctification interrupted by painful feelings of pollution; but the one offering made by Jesus Christ once for all removed from the dying thief and from every elected thief and murderer and every unclean person once for all the sanctification is there. It is in God's sight. O may I direct your minds to this, it is in God's sight!
Not in ours often, at least not always. It is in God's sight always, no interruption of that sanctification; no losing sight of that sanctification by God and no looking on the election of grace as redeemed as having sin on them. Cheer up, O sinner, troubled often by sin, polluted often by your own thoughts, weeping often because your experience is of distance from God by reason of uncleanness! The Lord give grace to each one to follow that Scripture: "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ." (Romans 6:11)
Then the priesthood of Christ is brought before us: "Every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices which can never take away sin." (Hebrews 10:11)
With this before you, can you wonder that you yourself have to sing: "Not the labour of my hands can fulfil Thy law's demands; could my tears for ever flow, could my zeal no respite know, all for sin could not atone?"
No, you won't wonder at that experience as you realize the utter impossibility of anything that can be offered to God by the sinner of his own to please, that is to satisfy Him. But says the Spirit by Paul, "But this Man," this great Man, this glorious Man Jesus Christ, this Rose of Sharon, this blessed One whose name is as ointment poured forth; this Man, sufficient for it, willing to do it and doing it; "this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever sat down on the right hand of God;" and there is nothing more to do but to expect till His enemies be made His footstool. "For by one offering He that perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (Hebrews 10:14)
And in the light of this we may understand a little of that word "beggarly elements," rudiments, nothing better, nothing better can all things be that are brought to God that belong to the creature; nothing better, beggarly elements, rudiments. The Lord open the riches of His grace in this. "The gospel, I love it; 'tis perfectly free."
Nor is this always to be kept secret. It is not only knowable but it is to be known. "Whereof," that is all this great and wonderful offering of Jesus Christ," whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us;" a witness to a sinner. What condescending love of the Lord Jesus is this, to send His good Spirit to a sinner's heart to bear witness in that heart of the sufficiency of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ! The unction that comes to a sinner comes from the Holy One. "Ye have an unction from the Holy One and ye know all things." (1 John 2:20)
The Spirit is shed by Christ; the Spirit is sent by Christ; the Spirit works in the name of Christ and glorifies Christ and opens the riches of His grace, the sufficiency of His righteousness, the efficacy of His blood, and makes known the worth of His Person. If our eyes were more opened to see them we should see glories inconceivable to our natural minds, glories in the work of Christ. But it is as Paul says to the Corinthians: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him; but," says he, "The Spirit reveals them." (1 Corinthians 2:9-10) He opens them, He sets them before a sinner, He demonstrates them in His own light and life and power, so that there are moments, happy moments when a child of God can say:
"'Tis no wild fancy of my brain,
No metaphor I speak;
The same dear Man in heaven now reigns,
That suffered for my sake."
He knows he has not followed cunningly devised fables, and in those moments he knows he has not been deceived by the devil, nor by his own heart; he has the witness in himself. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself." (1 John 5:10) He says, "I never saw it like this before, I never felt it so before;" and every fresh manifestation brings him to say: "This is what I saw, but I see it more clearly and I see more in it."
"For after that the Holy Ghost had said, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days saith the Lord, I will put My laws in their hearts, and in their minds will I write them, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." Here we have in the sinner what has been before God always. Here the efficacy of the atonement which removed all sin from the church in the sight of God and in the sight of the law; and now that blessed truth is brought down from heaven into a sinner's heart. "The laws" are the gospel laws love, mercy, forgiveness, justification, sanctification. All these are by a law, the law of love, and there are so many laws in the conscience. "I will put them into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." Now I believe, when this is opened by the Spirit to any sinner it sets his soul longing for this particular personal good. "O," he says, "I want it for myself!" He sees that it is a thing that is promised, promised in the covenant; it is a truth that is to be known; it is an experience that is to be had and enjoyed; and so then he cries to God that it may become his own. I believe you will follow me in this. It is not something that is to remain in heaven never uttered on earth. It is not something to be hid in God never to come from Him, but it is that which, being in Him, He will communicate to sinners. The Lord give us panting souls after Himself. "So where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin."
Then comes the text, and it may be that what I have said may help us to understand a little of the meaning and the force and the blessedness of the text; "Having therefore, brethren, boldness or liberty to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." Beloved friends, our sins shut us out from God. We have no entrance, no means of entering, no right of entrance, no liberty to enter, no knowledge of how to enter, and only sin belongs to us. You feel it, some of you. I feel it, I live to feel it more and more; nothing but sin belongs to me.
How then can I pray?
Ought I to pray?
Says a legal heart, "No." Ought I to hope? "No," says the law, "there is no ground for hope there." Then the blessed Spirit brings the gospel and says, "There is a new way." The way of daily obedience was quite enough and very suitable to an obedient person, but the moment disobedience came, and sin like a great flood of pollution came over the being of man, then that way was closed, and the closing of that way is taught us by the expulsion from Eden of Adam and Eve and the keeping of that gate by a flaming sword turning every way. O if there is a poor sinner here who says in his own heart, "That is what I believe respecting myself, there is no way for me" and if you look to Lost Eden you are right, if you look to the broken law you are right; if you look to your works you are right, there is no way God turn your eyes another way, and turn my eyes that way continually, to Jesus and His blood.
Liberty! Who can give me liberty to go into God's presence? Nobody but God Himself. He has done it; done it to you, you may say, one and another of you; done it to you, done it in your own experience. So that it is not now with you always, "I may not go;" but rather it is, "I have liberty to go and also I have heart to go," which is very wonderful. "Boldness." The blood of Jesus is the ground of that boldness; the sense of that blood is the sweet reason of that boldness being felt it your conscience, and thus you may go. What, a sinner? Yes, because sin is put away by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. I would like to keep that before you, that the reason a sinner may go into the Holiest of all is that the Lord Jesus Christ put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself; and that may meet the legal workings of some of us. It says, the reason you go is not because you can shed a tear over a hard heart; it is not because you are sorry that you are a sinner; it is not because you are poor and wish your poverty might be removed from your soul; that is not the reason. The reason before God is the atonement, the atonement; that will be the only reason to the very end of the chapter with us. All troubles and griefs and sorrows and afflictions and perplexities and necessities which press us, these we may take to the Lord on the ground, the only ground of the dear Redeemer's precious blood freely shed for us. "Come then, repenting sinner, come." Come, not for your repentance, come not with your repentance as a penny, but come repenting, come hard, come boldly with all that is against you, all that is in you contrary to God; come with all. It is a beautiful word Hart has:
"Come then, repenting sinner, come.
Approach with humble faith.
Owe what thou wilt, the total sum
Is cancelled by His death."
But when we come into the holiest, what do we come to?
We come into the very presence of God; into the very presence of God whose name and whose holiness and whose terrors have made some of us afraid. We come to Him, and what do we find in Him?
We find life in Him. Yes He as life, His own blessed life He has to give to His poor people who feel very dead in themselves. They come into the light of life, that light which lighteth every man that comes into the church of the living God, the light of life; "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12)
And here, dear friends, I would like to say this, and it is a wonderful thing to know it here a sinner feels and sees what God is. O I am glad there is knowledge given to poor sinners of what God is! It is a great thing to know what God is. I have known a little of Him for many years, and every time it pleases the Spirit to bring a sinner into the holiest of all, that sinner is favoured to see and feel somewhat of the greatness and the character and the beauty and the blessedness and the glory of God. And likewise His suitableness to a sinner.
Does He not suit you?
O how suitable He is to me! The suitableness of God manifested in the flesh to a sinner.
And here he finds mercy, for the presence of God in the holiest of all was on the mercy seat. "O Thou that dwellest between the cherubim's, shine forth" in the character of mercy!
Mercy, why, that is what we need. But what mercy? The mercy of justification, the mercy of an atonement perfect, the mercy of the blood that removed sins for ever, the mercy of a good God reconciling a wicked sinner to Himself, the mercy of God embracing a wretch, the mercy of God holding out the golden sceptre whereby a sinner may approach unto Him and find no wrath and no death, but life. This is what every sinner needs, and what the people of God find when they are led into the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus. You see, this blood is always kept before us in the Scriptures, and I verily believe it may be said it will always be kept before every child of God in his humble approaches to the Lord God in the holiest of all. "Having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus."
This tells us this, it tells me this that I am to make a plea and that plea is not to be my poverty though I am poor; it is not to be what I feel sometimes of hope and life as a reason for my coming; it tells me that my plea is this the blood of Jesus Christ, nothing else. A poor creature, deformed and defiled by his sin and guilt, has this one plea which is sufficient; it is sufficient. Why, dear friends, if it is sufficient for God, surely it is sufficient for the creature. O what delight the Father had in the death of His Son! "I do always those things that please Him." (John 8:29)
And this was the thing of all the things that pleased God: "Therefore doth My Father love Me because I lay down My life." And I say if that death was sufficient to please the Father, it will be sufficient to please a sinner, to satisfy his soul. O what a great thing it is to have something to plead, something to mention, something to lay before God, a plea that God Himself will not turn away from! No. Now here the Lord's word comes true; "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister." (Matthew 20:28)
He ministers to sinners. He visits them and He ministers to them. He opens His treasures of grace and mercy. He opens to them the things which they need and which His Spirit teaches them to ask for; He ministers to them; He ministered in things pertaining to God when He was here and when He was on the cross, and He ministers these things to us still. Ah, it is a great thing for Christ's precious blood to be set before faith effectually, so that we can say: "This is our plea, this is our ground, our reason for going, our hope of acceptance." This is how, and only how, a sinner may look on God.
"Boldness." It does not seem right, does it, to you sometimes even to think of going boldly to God? But the Spirit says: "Come boldly to the throne of grace, come boldly to where God is, where He holds His court, where He shows His nature, where He discovers His kindness, where He lets out His love. Come boldly." And to remove their shyness the dear compassionate Lord Jesus says: "Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Again by the Psalmist He says, "Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it;" and again by the Psalmist He says: "Call upon Me in the say of trouble, I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify Me." By Jeremiah He says the same: "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." (Jeremiah 33:3)
Resigned to give." And He brings them into that place, so to speak, where these blessings are, and He opens them to the eye of faith sometimes; He brings them where these blessings are stored up in the Lord Jesus. In Him the Father's good pleasure dwells, and of His fullness have all we received and grace for grace. A full Christ and full Saviour, a full Justifier, a full righteousness, a full fountain and full mercy and full wisdom and full love all, all in this holiest of all. You won't go without the Lord Jesus. Wherever you go and whenever you go into God's presence He is there, and you love to see Him; I love to see Him when I am enabled to. He is there standing before God pleading, interceding, saying, "I will that these before Thee on their bended knees shall come to where I am and see My glory." He is there, dear friends, O the gospel never leaves Him anywhere! What a wonder that there is such a Person as our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the holiest of all! Elihu said to Job: "Behold, I am according to thy wish in God's stead: Behold, my terror shall not make thee afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon thee." (Job 33:6-7) He was the daysman whom Job had desired, and now we have a Daysman. My brethren, this is Jesus Christ.
"Come boldly to the throne of grace,
Ye wretched sinners, come.
Come boldly to the throne of grace
And plead what Christ has done."
What He did when He shed His blood.
"Having brethren boldness to enter into the holiest." God's presence is the holiest. His righteous character and His glory. "By a new and living way." This is the gospel way. This is the highway that is spoken of by Isaiah, "And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:" (Isaiah 35:8-9) This is the new way. This is the new way that the God of all grace discovered to Adam in Eden before He cast him out: "The Seed of the woman." This is the new way. Blessed be God for this way!
It is no other than the Person and the work of Christ. This He tells us Himself: "I am the way," the only way, the way of holiness, the way of reconciliation, the way of justification, the way of peace, the way of goodness, the way of God's discovery of Himself; the way of His taking a sinner to His bosom; the way whereby Emmanuel kisses a sinner and allows a sinner to embrace and hold Him fast.
This is the way, a new way. Not new in the counsel of peace in eternity, but new in respect of revelation; for it could not have been discovered while the old way was open. But when that way was closed, closed by man's own hand and closed by the justice of God; closed by man's sin, closed by divine holiness in the law; then came forth by revelation this new way, new in revelation. O but what a way!
A broad way for faith, a narrow way to nature, a strait gate to the old man, plenty of room in it for faith. "I will strengthen them in the Lord, and they shall walk up and down in My name, saith the Lord." Poor sinner, there is a sweeter welcome awaiting you than you can imagine wherever you by faith come this way. You won't get reviled, you won't get turned away, but sooner or later you will have a smile that will create heaven in your heart; that will remove every fear, jealousy, and suspicion and bring you to say, "The Lord is good;" to say, "He is a good God to me."
It is a way that God approves; "Which He hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say His flesh." This sets before us the death of Christ. This shows us the crucifixion and the broken body of the Lord Jesus: "This is My body which is broken for you," "Consecrated for us" when we go rightly. When we go properly by faith to the lord we go empty-handed. When our great High Priest went before His Father to offer Himself, He went with His hands full, full of incense of His own merit. Consecrated? Yes, blessed consecration this, when the infinitely sweet incense of the dear Saviour's death ascended to God, and He smelled a savour of rest! How could God be other than infinitely please with sinners who come to Him by this new and living way? "Living" to express the sweet sense of access and acceptance and reconciliation that at times the Lord's people feel. "Access."
Is there anything sweeter to a troubled heart than to get near God with his trouble?
Is there anything better for a poor distracted sinner than to get where God rests?
With He Himself, so we may also rest. This is the new and living way. A living God is in it, a living sinner is in it, a living faith is in it, living desires are in it, living prayers are in it, and a sweet living answer will come into the soul sooner or later. A living way; not a way of dead forms and ceremonies. No, not a way that you would open for yourself by dead works; but a living Christ, with love and mercy and righteousness and pardon and holiness all, all waiting for a sinner, and the sinner led to go to God for all.
"Which He hath consecrated for us," setting Himself apart for their sakes: "I sanctify Myself that they also might be sanctified" and so Christ the Consecrator of the way, the consecration in the way, and the sinner who is sanctified or consecrated, are on the same ground here.
Is it not wonderful for faith, when he can lay hold of it, to perceive this, that the Lord Jesus makes His people as holy as He Himself is; that their Saviour makes them as acceptable to His Father as He Himself is acceptable to His Father?
Hence the word that He sent to His disciples: "but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." (John 20:17)
No such relationship as this in the old way. But O in this new way, blessed be God, He looks on His children as His children long before they can look on Him as their Father! But they do sometimes look on Him as their Father by the witness of the Holy Ghost. "Ascend to My Father and therefore your Father." My Father and you being in Me, your Father. This is by a new and living way. It is a new life, a life not known in Eden by Adam unfallen, known by him later when God taught him. A new righteousness; not one wrought by the sinner but given to him by imputation. A new purity, not wrought by the sinner taking much soap and fuller's soap and nitre, but given to him by a holy Saviour. O this, this puts out all nature's claims and destroys all nature's goodness in the sight of God, and brings a sinner black and needy and naked and undone to receive what Christ has to give to him. "A new and living way."
And then too let me say here it is a way of inter-communication, a way in which God deals with His children, in which they deal with Him. And I do say this, that every child of God sooner or later knows what it is to deal with God. The influence of the Spirit on his heart, the light and leading of the Spirit of his faith, will bring him into the presence of God, into the holiest of all; and there a good, merciful, condescending God is seen and the sinner deals with Him. He deals with Him about his salvation; he deals with Him about his way through this world. He is in a wilderness and the path is not clear; sometimes no path at all, nor has God made one out to him. He just leads him in and out as He will, and then the sinner deals with Him about it. He has his family case and he can deal with God about that, his business case and he can deal with God about that, the case of his health and all the cases that come to him he is led to deal with God about them.
I am not speaking a strange language to all of you, am I?
I know I am not. I know what it is for myself to deal with God, and you know what it is to deal with Him; you who are led by the Spirit. And O is it not wonderful that things painful in themselves and bitter to us, pressing necessities of different kinds, these we can speak to God about, deal with Him about, ask Him to guide us and to supply us and to work in us and to work for us just as it pleases Him, that at last we may be with Him! A living way, a living God let me repeat it and a living soul, a living church; these come together. O happy, happy people who have this in their experience!
"And having a High Priest over the house of God." With all the confidence you may feel in your soul that God is yours, you will still need a Priest. You will still need His offering; you will still need the sacrifice of Christ; you will still need that He should be an Intercessor; for "He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." And what a wonder it is when faith is enabled to make use of Him, to lay hold of His strength! The strength of the Priest is the sacrifice which He had to offer and He did offer.
May I say it it you again?
The strength of the Priest is the sacrifice which He had to offer and did offer, and that will be strength to a sinner; that will be strength to his prayers and strength to his hope and strength to his love and strength to his submission and strength to his wrestlings so that he obtains answers to prayer. No other strength will do. We have a strong High Priest. We have a great High Priest. Great in His Person and great in His work; great in His office, great in His intercession. And this will carry us right through. I say, it will carry us right through all troubles, all difficulties, all temptations, and the inbred law of sin. These make the way difficult to us; these make travelling slow to us; these make the end uncertain to us sometimes. But they make no difference to Him who says, "Come unto Me." Here is a new and living way into the holiest. "Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."
Now I must leave off. May the Holy Spirit teach us this great doctrine and open to us this wonderful way to the living God. Amen.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
THE DOCTRINES OF THE IMPUTATION OF SIN TO CHRIST, AND THE IMPUTATION OF HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS TO HIS PEOPLE: CLEARLY STATED, EXPLAINED, AND IMPROVED
For He hath made Him to be Sin for us; who knew no Sin: That we might be made the Righteousness of God in Him.
(2 Corinthians 5:21)
IN Consequence of our Apostacy from God, the Depravation of our Nature, thereupon, and of that personal Guilt, which we have contracted: We cannot, according to the Tenor of the Law, be admitted to Fellowship with our Maker either here, or hereafter, without Satisfaction for our Violation of it, as through the Corruption of our Nature we desire it not. Of which important Doctrine the Apostle treats, in some of the preceding Verses. God was in Christ reconciling the World unto Himself, not imputing their Trespasses to them, and hath committed unto us the Word of Reconciliation, or, the Gospel of Peace, which Christ gave Commission to his Apostles and Ministers to preach. In the Words of my Text, we are informed, how this Reconciliation was effected and brought about. I suppose, that every intelligent Reader will easily observe, that they consist of three distinct Branches — Christ knew no Sin — He hath made Him to be Sin for us — That we might be made the Righteousness of God in Him.
I shall consider the Words in the Order I have now mentioned them.
I. Christ knew no Sin. Sometimes, Sin is put for our natural Depravity. Thus it is to be understood, in several Verses of the seventh Chapter of the Epistle to the Romans: But Sin, that it might appear Sin, working Death in me, by that which is good, that Sin by the Commandment might become exceeding sinful (Romans 7:13.). Now then it is no more I that do it, but Sin that dwelleth in me (ver, 17.). The Apostle means the same Thing, by Sin, by Evil, by the Law of Sin, and by the Flesh. viz. That corrupt Fountain, Principle, or Spring of Action, from which all our criminal Acts proceed. Again, Sin designs illegal Acts: Whosoever committeth Sin, transgresseth also the Law; for Sin is the Transgression of the Law ( John 4:4.). In this Definition of Sin criminal Actions are intended. Christ knew no Sin, in either Sense mentioned, neither as a Principle, nor Act. Knowledge, sometimes means Approbation: The Lord knoweth the Way of the Righteous. The Import of which is, he approves thereof. In this Sense the Blessed Jesus knew no Sin. It was the Object of his utmost and invariable Detestation. He loved Righteousness, and hated Wickedness (Psalm 45:7.). And, by Knowledge, Experience is meant. Thus I think we are to understand it, in there Words: For I know, that in me, (that is, in my Flesh) dwelleth no good thing (Romans 7:18.). The Apostle expresses his Experience by the Phrase I know, in this Part of the Verse, as he does by the Phrase I find, in the following Branch of it. The Holy Jesus knew no Sin, in this Sense. He had not the least Experience of Evil in him, For, He was harmless, undefiled, and separate from Sinners (Hebrews 7:26.). A Lamb without Blemish, and without Spot (1 Peter 1:19.). No moral Taint or Imperfection attended him: And his Conduct was absolutely perfect. He did no Sin, nor was Guile found in his Mouth (Chap. 11:21.). I would offer to Consideration three Particulars, to shew, that it was impossible, that Christ should know Sin, in either Sense now mentioned.
1. His miraculous Conception in the Womb of the Blessed Virgin. Christ not being conceived in a natural, but supernatural Manner, he did not partake of our natural Corruption. It was impossible he should, because he was the supernatural Production of the holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall over-shadow thee: Therefore also, that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee (Luke 1:35.). This was an absolutely new Thing, the like was never before, nor ever will be. Behold a new Thing do I create, a woman shall compass a Man, i.e. a male Child by Conception, through the Agency of the divine Spirit. To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given. This was plainly a new Creation. The human Nature of our Lord being produced by the Exertion of the Power of the Spirit of God, no moral Taint or Impunity could attend it. For, the holy Spirit could not give Subsistence unto as unholy Nature.
2. The human Nature of Christ was replete with all the Gifts and Graces of the holy Spirit. The Spirit of the Lord God was upon him (Isaiah 61:1.). And the Father gave not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Superaddition of the Gifts and Graces of the Spirit unto the Purity of Christ’s Nature, rendered it impossible that he should know sin. He having all the Gifts and Graces of the holy Spirit in their utmost Plenitude and Perfection, superadded unto the Purity of his Nature, nothing of Evil could possibly take Place in him: Such as the holy Spirit formed him, in the Virgin’s Womb, such he infallibly preferred him, by his continual Presence with him, in the Fulness of all his Gifts and Graces.
3. The human nature of Christ hath its Subsistence in his Divine Person. That Individuum of our Nature which was miraculously produced by the Power of the Holy Ghost, the Son of God took into a personal Union with himself. He assumed it to be his own in a peculiar Manner, that it might be at his Disposal, and always under the Direction of his divine Will. The human Will, and the divine Will of our Saviour are, and eternally will be distinct; but his Will as Man is in absolute Subjection to, and in all Instances, acts under the Direction of his divine Will. And, therefore, it is not possible that he should ever know Sin. Moral evil can never take place in a Nature which is ineffably united with the Person of the Son of God.
There Things clearly evince the Falsehood of the Abomination of the Socinians, who impiously imagine, that Christ might have sinned, and, consequently, that the Design of our Salvation by him might have been entirely ruined. Than which, nothing more false and dishonourable to God, can depraved Reason devise. We grant, that the Will of the most holy Creature, is in itself mutable, and, therefore, if left unto itself, it may make an unfit and unwise Choice: But, since the human Nature of Christ is the Workmanship of the Holy Spirit, and is replenished with all his supernatural Gifts and Graces, and also is in Union with the eternal Son of God, and, therefore, his human Will acts in all Things under the Direction of his divine Will; it is absolutely impossible that his human Will, at any Time, or in any Instance, should make an unfit and unwise Choice. The supernatural production of our Lord, by the Power of the Holy Spirit, is a clear Proof of the Purity of his Nature, in his Formation. And the superaddition of his Gifts and Graces, and the Subsistence of that holy Nature, in the Person of the Son of God, certainly raise it above a Possibility of Defilement and unfit Acting, for evermore. I would make two Observations on these Particulars, before I proceed farther.
(1) Adam was not a Head to Christ. Our blessed Lord was not a Member of him, included in him, nor represented by him, in his public Capacity. He was the Representative of all his natural Descendants; but his Headship was not, nor could be of larger Extent; the holy Jesus not being so, he did represent him. The first Man could not be a Head to the second Man, who is the Lord from Heaven. It would be the highest Incongruity imaginable to conceive, that Adam was a Head to one who is so much his Superior in all Respects In Gifts, Graces, and in Nearness of Union with God. It was not possible that he, who is personally united with the eternal Son of God, should be a Member of, and be represented by Adam. And, therefore, our Lord had no Concern in his Guilt, as a Member of his. Which is the Case of all his natural Descendants. Original Guilt becomes theirs, in Consequence of their Relation to Adam, as a Representative to them. For which Reason it is imputed to them, It is not the divine Act of the Imputation of Adam’s Sin that makes it ours; but because it is ours, in Consequence of our Relation to him as a Head, therefore it is imputed to us.
(2) Christ was not, nor could become Subject of the natural Consequence of Adam’s first Sin By which Consequence, I understand, the Depravation of our Nature. That immediately followed, in Adam, as the natural Effect of his Transgression. And, it takes Place in us, because his Act of Offence was ours, tho’ not committed by us; but by him; as our Representative. That Act of Sin being legally ours, we share with him, in the natural Consequence of it: Or, we derive Depravity from him, on Account of becoming guilty with him. This sad Effect does not follow upon the Imputation of his Sin, as the Cause thereof; but It follows upon his Sin being legally, ours, he acting therein, as our Representative Head, and no otherwise. Now Christ not being concerned in original Guilt, by Virtue of Union with him, as a Head, the natural Consequence of that Guilt could not take Place in him, as it does in us, by Reason it is ours, as we are Members of him. Thus the holy Jesus was separate from Sinners, and it was not possible, that he should participate with them, in that which is the natural Consequence of Sin, viz. Moral Defilement and Impurity. Unless the human Nature of our blessed Lord had been thus infallibly preserved from all moral Evil, both in Principle and Act, our whole Salvation would have been uncertain and precarious. For, if the holy Jesus had been under a Possibility of Defilement, and of acting illegally, in any Instance, the Design of our Salvation by him might possibly have been defeated, to the eternal Reproach of the Perfections of God, and the everlasting Ruin of the Church. The Thought of which must surely be shocking to every pious Mind! That which Christ knew not, nor could know, he was made.
II. He hath made him to be Sin for us. There are three Things to be considered in this important Subject: Whose Act this was — The Act itself — And, on whose Account, or, for whom Christ was made Sin: For us.
1. This was not the Act of any Creature, angelic or human: but the Act of the divine Father. We pray you in Christ’s Stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be Sin for us. i.e. He to whom the Apostle prays the Corinthians to be reconciled, made him to be Sin for us. It would have been daring and impious Insolence, in any Creature, to will that the Son of God should be made Sin. God only had a Right to resolve upon it. and he alone could place it to his Account. This was the Contrivance of his infinite Wisdom, and the Determination of his sovereign Pleasure, In forming the Plan of our Reconciliation; he willed not to impute our Trespasses to us, and decreed to impute them unto Christ, in order to his making Atonement for them. And according unto this his sovereign Decree: He laid on him, or made to meet in him, the Iniquities of us all. The Foundation of this Procedure was it federal Agreement between the Father and Christ. Which is clearly expressed in a blessed divine Context by the inspired Writer to the Hebrews: Wherefore, when he cometh into the World, he saith, Sacrifice and Offering thou wouldest not; but a Body hast thou prepared e. In Burnt Offerings and Sacrifices for Sin thou hadst no Pleasure.
Then said I, Lo, I come, in the Volume of the Book it is written of me, I delight to do thy Will O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and Offering, and burnt Offerings, and Offerings for Sin, thou wouldst not, neither hadst Pleasure therein, which are offered by the Law: Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy Will O God; he taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are Sanctified, through the Offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.) In these Words it evidently appears, that it was the Will of the Father, that Christ should become an Offering for Sin; unto which he freely and fully consented. This Paction, or federal Agreement, was the Ground on which the Father made him to be Sin for us. And, therefore, wonderful as it is, there is not the least Injustice therein.
The divine Decree, to impute Sin to Christ, was an Act of absolute Sovereignty, and afore from the mere Pleasure of God, with a View to the Glory of his Perfections, in our Remission and Salvation. But the Act itself, of imputing our Guilt to him, hath for its Foundation, the free and full Consent of Christ to bear it, in compliance with the Will of the Father that he should. So that the Charge of our Crimes to him, comports with Justice, and no Injury was done to Christ in that Act. The Sovereignty of the Decree of the Imputation of Sin to him is a most clear Proof that God only could make him to be Sin for us. For, if it had been possible to any created Mind, to have devised this Method of the Expiation of Sin, which it was not, no Creature could have been inverted with a Right to will and move for the Imputation of it unto the innocent Jesus. As the Contrivance of this adorable Transaction was proper to infinite Wisdom: So it was peculiar to divine Sovereignty to resolve upon it. This Act, therefore, of making Christ to be Sin for us, was God’s own, and not the Act of any Creature whatsoever.
2. The Act of making him to be Sin: Or how he was made Sin for us, is to be considered. I would do this negatively, and positively.
(1.) Negatively. It was not inherently: That was absolutely impossible. For, that would have been contrary to the infinite Purity of God, and ruinous to his Design of our Salvation by Christ. Besides, as has been before shewn, the miraculous Conception of our Lord, and the Super-addition of the Gifts and Graces of the Holy Spirit unto the Purity of his Nature, and the Subsistence of his human Nature, in his divine Person, rendered it impossible that any moral Taint, or Impurity, should ever take Place in him. This Act, therefore, of making him to be Sin, effected no internal Change in him. His Nature remained pure and spotless notwithstanding. And all his Actions corresponded with the sinless Perfection of his Nature.
(2.) I am to shew in a positive Sense, how Christ was made Sin. And He was made Sin in the same manner, as we are made the Righteousness of God in Him. Which is imputatively. Blessed is the Man to whom the Lord imputeth Righteousness without Works. Imputation is, reckoning accounting or placing to Account, and esteeming thereupon. The Act of Imputation, therefore, whether, of Sin, or Righteousness, makes no internal Change in the Object of the Act. For it is not a transient Act; but it is an inward Act of the Mind, which cannot produce a physical Change, in the Object upon whom it passes. And, consequently, the Imputation of Sin to Christ, was not, nor could be productive of any internal Change in him. Notwithstanding the placing to his Account, in the divine Mind, our Guilt, or criminal Actions, he remained, innocent, pure, and spotless in himself. This one thing being duly attended unto, will enable us to answer various of the trifling Objections, which are raised against the Doctrine of the Imputation of our Sins to him, beyond any solid Reply. Some have objected, that if Sin itself was imputed to Christ, he must have been defiled by it. But that is a great Mistake: For Sin, as imputed, defiles not. If it did, the Imputation of it, would be impossible with God, not only with respect to Christ; but also, Sinners themselves; because infinite Purity, cannot put forth any Act which would render the Object of that Act morally impure. If the Imputation of Sin to the guilty Creature does not pollute him, which is a certain Truth: How should the Imputation of it to the Holy Jesus, defile him? Imputation is not Transfusion. In the latter a Person becomes the Subject of that which is transfused. But in the former, no one becomes the Subject of that which is imputed, by the Act of Imputation. And therefore, though the Transfusion of Sin, if that could be, which it cannot, would necessarily defile: The Imputation of it, does not pollute the Object of that Act. And, consequently, the Imputation of Sin to the Blessed Jesus did not, nor could pollute his holy Nature. This Doctrine contains no false, or mistaken Idea in it, on the Part of the Father, who imputed Sin to Christ; nor on the Part of Christ, to whom it was imputed. Not on the Part of the Father; for, he did not consider our criminal Actions, which he placed to the Account of Christ, as his Acts, or perpetrated by him; but as our Acts, or committed by us: So that his Judgment in this Affair was according to Truth and Fact. Nor, does this Doctrine on the Part of Christ, include any mistaken Conception in it: For, it does not suppose, that he had any Consciousness of the Perpetration of those criminal Actions, which were imputed to him: Or, that under the Charge of them to him, he considered and esteemed them Acts, which he himself had committed. Wherefore, this Doctrine is attended with no dangerous Consequence, relating to Christ, nor is any Thing contrary to Truth, supposed therein, respecting Sin, which he was made for us. Besides, if Guilt was not charged on Christ, his Sufferings could not be of a penal nature. For, Penalty, is suffering under a Charge of Offence, and without a just Imputation of Guilt, Punishment cannot, in Equity be inflicted, on any Subject. It is a most unrighteous thing to punish any one considered, as innocent. And, therefore, if it was not possible with God, to impute Sin to the innocent Jesus, neither could he inflict Punishment on him. And, if Christ did not endure proper Punishment, his Sufferings were not, nor could be satisfactory to the Law, and Justice of God for our Sins.
And it is in vain to hope for Salvation, through his Sufferings and Death. Of such Necessity and Importance, is the Doctrine of the Imputation of Sin to Christ
3. He was made Sin for us. Not for all the Individuals of Mankind. The latter Branch of the Text interprets this. Christ was made Sin for those, and only those, who are made the Righteousness of God in him. Now as Men universally are not made the Righteousness of God in Christ: So he was not made Sin for Men universally, The Extent of there two Things is exactly the same. Such, who remain dead in Sin, and go out of this World under the Dominion and Power of it, surely none can think are made the Righteousness of God in Christ; and there is no Reason to conceive, that he was made Sin for any of them. He bore the Guilt of no others than those to whom he is a Head, who are his Body, and for whom he became a Surety. For, that was the Foundation on which Sin was imputed to him: And, therefore, the Sins of such Persons only were imputed to him, who are related to him as Members. They are the Church which he loved, and gave himself for it, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having Spot or Wrinkle, or any such Thing (Ephesians 5:27.). The End of his being made Sin for us, was,
III. That we might be made the Righteousness of God in him.
The Things to be considered in this Branch of my Subject are the following: Righteousness — That this is the Righteousness of God — How we are made the Righteousness of God — And our being made the Righteousness of God in Christ.
1. I would shew what Righteousness is. And it consists of two distinct Branches.
(1.) Purity of Nature. The Lord requires Truth in the inward Part. The Law extends to the Mind. All its Dispositions and Acts must be perfectly holy. The eternal Rule of Righteousness allows of no internal Impurity, any more than it does of external unholy Acts. All vain Imaginations, all disorderly Thoughts, all irregular Desires and all evil Tendencies, in the Affections, are condemned by it. Righteousness, therefore, includes in it Holiness of Heart, and such Holiness as is answerable to the Requirement of the Law, viz. absolutely perfect and sinless.
(2.) Obedience to all the Precepts of the Law, in Conduct, is the other Branch of Righteousness. If any Act is done which the Law prohibits, or if any Defect and Imperfection attends those Actions, which it prescribes, Righteousness is wanting. For, if there is not a complete Conformity to the Law, in Heart and Life, or in all Acts, internal and external, both with Respect to the Matter and Manner of those Acts, the Lawgiver must necessarily, if his Judgment is according to Truth, esteem that Obedience imperfect, and not answerable to the Rule of Action. And, therefore, not such as will justify in his Sight. The Holiness of Christ’s Nature, and his sinless Obedience in Life, are the two essential Branches of that Righteousness which is required in the Law: And both arc equally necessary unto our being constituted righteous in him; who is the Lord our Righteousness.
2. That Righteousness, which we are made, is the Righteousness of God.
(1.) This may be understood of God the Father. For, this Righteousness is the Contrivance of his infinite Wisdom. How guilty Men should be just with God, no created Understanding could determine. None but God, himself could resolve how this should be. And it is the Effect of his sovereign Goodwill and Pleasure Christ’s Headship to us: Our Relation to him as Members: His Subjection to the Covenant of Works on our Account, are Effects of the Love of God to us, and the Result of his gracious Decree, concerning us. Besides, the Father accepts of this Righteousness for us, arid graciously imputes it unto us. And, therefore, this Righteousness is his free Gift. For which Reason it is called the Gift of Righteousness.
(2.) Christ, whole this Righteousness is, he as truly and properly God. He is the mighty God (Isaiah 9:6.). Over all, God blessed for ever (Romans 9:5.). In the Form of God, and thought it not Robbery to be equal with God (Philippians 2:6.). He who is our Righteousness, is Jehovah. This is therefore the Righteousness of a divine Person; but not his divine Righteousness. The human Nature of Christ is the immediate Subject of it. For, it is the Holiness and Obedience of that Nature, unto the Law, under which, as Man, he was made. As his human Nature hath its Subsistence in his divine Person; it is the Righteousness of God, as his Blood is the Blood of God. The Dignity of his Person is the Ground and Measure of the Merit and Value of both; his Person is infinite in Dignity, and that gives infinite Worth and Merit to his Obedience. And, therefore, it is properly deferring of all that Grace and Glory, which are and will be communicated to the Elect of God, even unto Eternity. And it is thro’ this Righteousness that Grace will reign unto eternal Life. This is the Righteousness of the Mediator; but it is not his mediatorial Righteousness. For, that comprises the full Execution and faithful Discharge of the whole Will of God in his mediatorial Capacity, which is of far longer Extent than the Requirements of the Covenant of Works from us. This is that perfect Holiness and sinless Obedience, which that Covenant demands of us. Hence it is evident that though this Righteousness is included in his mediatorial Righteousness, yet it is not that Righteousness itself. These Things clear the Doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s Righteousness to us, from several Objections which are brought against it.
3. The Act of making us Righteousness, is to be considered. This is not inherently, but imputatively. Blessed is the Man to whom the Lord imputeth Righteousness without Works (Romans 4:5.). It is not the Transfusion of Christ’s Righteousness into us For that is impossible. We do not become the Subjects of it. As he did not become the Subject of Sin, by being made Sin for us: So we do not become the Subjects of Righteousness, by being made the Righteousness of God in him. Sin which Christ was made was not inherent in him: And Righteousness which we are made, is not inherent in us. Sin is ours subjectively, and not Christ’s. And Righteousness is his subjectively, and not ours. The Imputation of Sin to him, effected no internal Change in him: Nor does the Imputation of his Righteousness to us, produce any internal Change in us. A due Consideration of the Nature of the Act of Imputation, will enable us to see this clearly. Imputation is an internal Act of the Mind, whether it be of Sin or Righteousness, and, therefore, it cannot be productive of any inherent Change in the Object upon whom it passes. As Christ was not made sinful, by the Imputation of our Sins to him: So we are not made holy, or internally righteous, by the Imputation of his Righteousness to us. For, as the Imputation of Sin to him did not defile him: So the Imputation of Righteousness to us does not sanctify us. The Reason of which is clear, Imputation is not a Transfusion of that which is imputed, whether it be Sin or Righteousness; but it is reckoning, accounting, or placing to Account, and esteeming thereupon, as was before observed. The Object of this Act, therefore, must still be inherently the same as before, notwithstanding that Act passing on him, because it is not a transient; but an internal Act, which cannot produce a physical Change, in its Object. It is certainty true, that as God makes Christ Righteousness to us: So he also makes him Sanctification unto us; but not in the same Way. He makes him Righteousness to us, by the Imputation of his Righteousness to our Persons: He makes him Sanctification to us, by a Conveyance of Grace from him, into our Souls. So that his Grace, which is conveyed into our Hearts from him, becomes ours subjectively; but his Righteousness, which is imputed to us, does not so become ours. It is still in him, as its proper Subject, and not in us. And in the divine Imputation of this Righteousness to us, it Is not supposed, that God accounts it our personal Righteousness, or wrought out by us; but it is freely granted, and constantly asserted, that he esteems it, as it really is Christ’s Righteousness, or wrought out by him: Nor, is It thought, that God considers this Righteousness as ours subjectively, or inherent in us; but that he reckons it to be the Righteousness of Christ subjectively, as it truly is. He accounts it ours, no otherwise than by free Gift, and gracious Imputation. And, therefore, this Doctrine contains in It nothing absurd, or any false and mistaken Conception, concerning God, Christ, or us.
4. It is in Christ that we are made the Righteousness of God:
(1.) We are in Christ: Or a Union between him and us subsists. The Act of Election terminated on our Persons in him. For we were chosen in him. In that gracious Decree, God willed him to be a Head to the Church, and appointed the Church to be his Body: Which Act of the divine Will, constituted a real Union between Christ, and the Church. And, the everlasting Covenant was made with him, considered as the Church’s Head, which the Assembly of Divines well express: The Covenant of Grace was made with Christ, as Head, and with the Elect in him, as his Seed.
And, therefore, all the Blessings promised and granted, in that Covenant, were given to us in him. We were blessed with all spiritual Blessings, In heavenly Places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3.). And that Grace according o which, we are rived and called with an holy Calling, was given us in Christ, before the World began (2 Timothy 1:9.). Which necessarily supposes the Subsistence of a real Union between Christ, as Head, and us, as Members of him.
(2.) This foederal, or as some have called it, this Fountain-Union, is the Foundation of the Imputation of our Guilt to Christ and of the Imputation of his Righteousness to us. Because, we are mystically one with him, our Sin was imputed to him, and for that Reason, his Righteousness is imputed to us. Because, we were foederally, in the first Adam, as a Head to us, therefore, is his Act of Disobedience, charged on us: And, because we were foederally in the second Adam, as a Head to us, therefore, is his Obedience placed to our Account. And as we were in Adam prior to the Imputation of his Offence to us: So we were in Christ prior to the Imputation of his Righteousness to us. I lament, I greatly lament, that some even among ourselves, seem to suppose, (though I think they have no ill meaning) that the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness to us, is prior to any real Union with him, which Is a great Mistake. They do this left they should give Countenance, to what has been called Antinomianism, viz. Union with Christ from Everlasting. But the Truth is, a Denial of this everlasting foederal Union, between Christ and his People, leaves no Ground for the Imputation of their Sins to him, nor, the Imputation of his Righteousness to them. The divine Decree to impute our Sins to Christ, and to impute his Righteousness to us, was an Act of mere Sovereignty; but the Acts of the Imputation of our Sin to him, and the Imputation of his Righteousness to us, proceed on a fit and just Ground, which God in infinite Wisdom, fixed on, and that is a mystical Union between him and us, whereby it became proper and condecent, that he should bear our Guilt, and that his Obedience should be reckoned, or imputed to us. So that, the Act of Imputation, in neither Instance, is to be considered, as merely sovereign; but as righteous and just. And, therefore, a real Union between Christ and us must have subsisted, antecedent to the Imputation of our Sin to him, and the Imputation of his Righteousness to us.
Three Observations will close this Discourse.
Observ. 1. We ought to adore the Wisdom, Purity, Sovereignty, and Grace of God, which are herein discovered. What a Display of divine Wisdom is there in these Things! They are the Wisdom of God in a Mystery: His hidden Wisdom. That Mystery which was hid in God. No created Mind, how capacious soever could possibly have resolved how our Guilt might be expiated, fully atoned for, and our Persons constituted righteous: The Law magnified, and every divine Perfection shine forth, in its brighter Lustre, in our certain and complete Salvation. Upon a due Consideration of the Constitution of Christ’s Person: The transfering of our Guilt to him: His Subjection to the Covenant of Works: His Obedience to it, and the infinite Merit of his Obedience, arising from the infinite Dignity of his Person, and that just Ground, whereon, his Obedience becomes ours, and, therefore, is imputed to us: Surely, we can’t but say as the Apostle does, in a Way of holy Adoration: O the Depth of the Riches both of the Wisdom and Knowledge of God; how unsearchable are his Judgements, and his Ways past finding out Again, the Purity of God is clearly seen herein. Sin is not connived at, or spared: Nor, are any Allowances made for our moral Imperfections and Defects, in the Way of our Pardon and Salvation. Neither are our Persons justified, without a Righteousness perfectly commensurate to the extensive Requirements of the Law. And all spiritual Blessings are communicated to us on such a Foundation as is honourable to divine Justice, as well as it is to the Praise of the Glory of divine Grace. The infinite Holiness of God hath not, in any Thing, nor can have so illustrious a Shine, as it hath in making Christ to be sin for us, and in making us the Righteousness of God in him. Besides, the Sovereignty of God most manifestly appears in this whole Procedure. The supernatural Conception of Christ as Man, that he might not have any evil Taint, was the sovereign Appointment of God. The Ordination of his human Nature, unto a Subsistence in his divine Person, was a sovereign Decree. Yea, it was one of the highest Acts of Sovereignty that God ever did, or will put forth. The Decree, that the holy Spirit, in all his supernatural Gifts and Graces should reside in the human Nature of Christ, was a sovereign one. The Determination, that a Nature so dignified, and raised above the Condition of a mere Creature, by an ineffable Union with the eternal Son of God, should bear Sin, and become subject to the Covenant of Works, on our Account, was entirely owing to the sovereign Pleasure of God. And it was divine Sovereignty which fixed on the Persons whose Guilt he should bear, and for whom he should obey the Law. Than which, nothing can be more evident. For, both are the Effects of absolute Pleasure. And, therefore, it was free with God, to resolve on whose Account he should be made Sin: And to whom he should be made Righteousness. There are such Acts of Favour, as none have a Right to claim, and, consequently, God was at full Liberty to determine by a sovereign Act of his Will, whose Guilt he should bear, and who should be made righteous in him. Thus divine Sovereignty is the Basis of both these Things; thereupon they entirely rest, and into it they must be absolutely resolved, as the original Cause thereof. Farther, the Grace of God shines most gloriously in these Things. Infinite Love to our Persons is discovered in the Transfer of our Guilt from us, and in the Imputation of it to Christ, in order to his suffering the Penalty it demerits, that we might be pardoned and laved. That Redemption which we have through him, the Forgiveness of Sins, is according to the Riches of divine Grace. And the Decree, that he should come under the Covenant of Works, on our Account, and obey it for us, that we might be constituted righteous: justified in the Sight of God, and be made Heirs, according to the Hope of eternal Life, is an amazing Purpose of Kindness and Mercy.
Observ. 2. These important Truths are a most solid Ground of strong Consolation. It is the Will of God, that the Heirs of Promise, who have fled for Refuge, to lay hold on the Hope set before them, might enjoy such Consolation. Sin, in its Guilt, being transferred from us, and imputed to Christ, and atoned for by him, is a firm Foundation of spiritual Peace and Joy. We joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. by whom we have now received the Atonement (Romans 5:10.). Permit me to say it, (I shall express no ill Meaning) let not the Saints be afraid of Sin, in its Guilt. I do not say, fear not to commit Sin, no, God forbid, that they ought to fear above all Things. But fear not Sin in the Guilt of it. They sometimes have very terrifying Apprehensions, under a Sense of Guilt contracted, and are afraid to hope for Pardon, on Account of the heinous Nature, and the Aggravations of their Guilt. But they have no just Reason for it. Because Christ hath finished their Transgression, and made an End of their Sin, as to its Guilt. And, therefore, they have no Cause to fear it, in its Guilt, Christ having put it away by the Sacrifice of himself. We ought eternally to fear Sin, in the Love, Prevalence and Power of it, for, therein, it will certainly be ruinous for evermore. But Terrors of Conscience, occasioned by the Guilt of Sin, in those who are freed from the Dominion and Power of it, are groundless, because that is fully expiated, by the Sufferings and Death of the Son of God, who was made Sin. Again, Believers being made the Righteousness of God in Christ, they have just Cause of Triumph. And may say with holy Exultation: Who shall lay any thing to the Charge of God’s Elect? it is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? it is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again (Romans 8:34, 35.) Whole Resurrection is a full Proof of their Justification. For, He was delivered for their Offences: And raised again for their Justification (Romans 4:25.). The Righteousness, which they are made, is an everlasting one, and everlasting Salvation is inseparably connected with it. Their joyful language, even under the deeper Sense of their Guilt, Imperfections ant! Unworthiness, in themselves, should be this: I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my Soul shall be joyful in my God, because he hath clothed me with the Garments of Salvation, and covered me with the Robe of Righteousness. (Isaiah 61:10.).
Observ. 3. These are Doctrines according to Godliness. It is a very gross Mistake to imagine, that these Principles are calculated to encourage Negligence, Sloth, or Evil. On the contrary, they are calculated to promote an Abhorrence of Sin, and a cordial Approbation of Righteousness, and true Holiness. What stronger Motive to forsake Sin can be thought of than Christ’s bearing it, and his suffering the Penalty which it demerits? Wherein, divine Indignation against our Crimes was discovered to the utmost. And as his being made Righteousness to us, does not dissolve our Obligation to Obedience: So it is a most powerful Incitement unto it, in a Way of Gratitude for that eminent Favour. That our corrupt Nature may abuse these, and other evangelical Truths, is granted. As it may also abuse the Law. For, Sin will take Occasion by the Commandment to work in us all Manner of Concupiscence. But the Law is not culpable, and blame-worthy, on that Account. And the same evil Principle may abuse the Gospel, and turn the Doctrine of the Grace of God, into Lasciviousness. But the Gospel is not culpable, nor ought any Blame to he charged on it, for that Reason. Our Opinion of the Nature and Tendency of Doctrines, is not by any Means to be formed from that Use, which our depraved Minds are inclined to make thereof. If that may be allowed, we shall be led to entertain unworthy Conceptions of legal as well as of evangelical Truths. For, there is nothing, which the Flesh in us, will not pervert and abuse, unto the Gratification of its cursed Desires. If we have a real Acquaintance with the Nature of these most precious Truths, and act under their genuine Influence, we shall deny all Ungodliness, and worldly Lusts, and shall live soberly, and righteously, and godly, in this present World (Titus 2:12.).
By John Brine in the year 1756.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Preached at Zoar Chapel, Great Alie Street, London, England
By John Kershaw
April 10th, 1845
"The poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel"
There are two things, as leading principles in our text, that I want, by the help of the Lord, to call your attention to. The first is, to say a little of "the poor among men." And secondly, to show that they "shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel."
1. In the first place, then, let us notice, "the poor among men," that are here spoken of by the prophet. Now, in a doctrinal point of view, they are the very characters that the Apostle Peter dedicates his epistles to. "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." And he gives them the honoured and honourable appellation of "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."
The doctrine of God's election is clearly revealed in the sacred Scriptures. Everlasting, electing love is the spring and fountain of every blessing of grace and salvation. As, for instance, if you and I feelingly and experimentally know our spiritual poverty and destitution,, our knowledge of it has for its origin God's covenant love and covenant mercy. But upon this I shall not dwell now.
"The poor among men," intended by the words of the text are, "the redeemed of the Lord;" those who are redeemed by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ from sin, the curse of the law and the pit of destruction. God's election and Christ's redemption are coupled and bound up together. All that Jehovah the Father loved, he gave into the hand of Christ their covenant Head. Christ in the covenant became their bond, their Surety and their Mediator; and, in the fullness of time, according to covenant engagements, he came forward, appeared in our nature, made of a woman, made under the law (the right of redemption falling upon him) to redeem his people from under, "the curse of the law," being made a curse for them.
But we observe, in the next place, my friends, that the objects of the Father's love, and the purchase of Christ's blood, cannot be known, only as God the Holy Ghost makes them manifest. The Lord's people, in their Adam-fall state, are no better than the rest of the world; they all have had their conversation among their ungodly neighbours in time past in the lusts of their flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and have by nature the same wrathful dispositions as others.
Now here I pause. And I say to you and myself, let us look back to how we were living when the Lord arrested us in our conscience. It has done me good many a time to look back, and I have often viewed with astonishment and wonder the riches of God's grace that made me to differ from what I once was, and from my sinful companions that surrounded me. It is "by the grace of God," we are what we are as Christians and believers; we have nothing but what we have received from the Lord, and all the glory from first to last redounds to him alone. The saint of God that knows these things feels a something rising up from the very bottom of his heart, which says, "Not unto us, not unto us, O Lord, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth's sake." My friends, keep your minds fixed upon two points; and the two points are these: one is, that God's religion in the soul of a poor sinner always lays that sinner low; and the other, that God's religion in the sinner's soul always lifts the Lord Jesus Christ very high.
A good old gracious friend of mine I had in the north for many years, who was a great blessing to me when I first entered the ministry and who performed many good things for me as an instrument in God's hand, used to say, "There are two points which you can never push too far in preaching; and these are, to lay the sinner low in the dust of abasement, and exalt the riches of God's grace in the salvation of the soul."
But to return. We were observing that none can tell who the Lord's people are till God the Spirit makes them manifest. The Lord knows who they are: "Having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his." "Yes," say some, "He knows them when they begin to turn to him, when they accept the offers and proffers of salvation, and take hold of his grace; he knows them then." My friends, that is not God's way of working. He knows his sheep before he gives them eternal life; he says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." In God's religion, life is the first thing given. The poor sinner is dead in trespasses and sins. The Lord Jesus Christ is a "quickening spirit;" and he has "power over all flesh, to give eternal life to as many as the Father gave him." And in regeneration, the Holy Spirit makes no mistake. As a Spirit of knowledge, he knows who the Lord's covenant people are; and when the set time to favour Zion comes, he arrests them in the conscience. Saul was one of these vessels of mercy; and Zacchaeus also was a monument of grace; and therefore, at the appointed moment, the Lord the Spirit quickened them into spiritual life. There are not any whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life but what the blessed Spirit either has regenerated, or will in due time regenerate and begin the good work of grace in their precious souls, and carry it on in the face of every opposition from within and from without, from sin, men and devils. It is a good doctrine, my friends. Where God begins the work, he will surely carry it on and finish it till at last he lands the soul safe in immortal glory. He does not give the poor sinner a stock of grace to live on and cultivate. No, no! It is God's grace that cultivates the poor sinner, and not the poor sinner that cultivates the grace of God.
But now, my friends, we will come more into the experimental part of the text. The "poor among men," are those that feel their spiritual poverty and destitution. A man may be a nobleman and possess immense wealth; yea, he may be a king, wear a crown on his head and wield a sceptre in his hand, and yet be one of, "the poor among men." For instance, David, the king of Israel, was one of, "the poor among men," in a spiritual point of view. And every one of you, my friends, here tonight who feels his spiritual poverty and destitution, the Holy Ghost has found room in your very heart and soul for the language of the man after God's own heart. What were the words of David that we have room for and which so fit us? "But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me." "But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high." "I am a poor, mourning, sorrowful, sighing, groaning, weak, vile helpless and worthless worm." This is a description of the feelings of David, and of every one of the Lord's quickened family, "the poor among men," who, "shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel." A man may be as poor as poverty can make him in a literal point of view, and yet be very proud and high-minded in himself. "There are that make themselves (imaginary) rich, and yet have nothing; and there are that make themselves poor, and yet have great riches." It is a great blessing, my friends, feelingly and experimentally to know our poverty and destitution before God. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Now these are the characters that God has a special regard to. "Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." The first term that God here makes use of suits me well, "to him that is poor." I very generally feel my poverty and destitution, and cannot join in with those that say, "they are rich, increased in goods, and have need of nothing;" for I feel by daily experience that I am, "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked." It is a mercy to know this, my friends. The Pharisee did not know it; but the poor publican did, and groaned before God on account of it.
But then, in reference to the next term, I mostly feel my lack of it, "a contrite spirit." Now instead of having, generally, a humble and contrite spirit, a broken-down, feeling heart before the Lord, I am mourning and crying over a hard and barren heart and a stubborn mind, beseeching the Lord to take away this stony heart and give me a heart of flesh, a feeling heart. I am sighing and mourning because of a corrupt heart, unclean thoughts and vain and foolish imaginations, which make me cry out, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Well, my friends, be it so. If you have the feelings I have described, you are the very characters who stand in need of what God has promised to give, a new heart, a right spirit and a tender conscience. But the Lord will be enquired of by the house of Israel that he may do these things for them. They have feelings of deep necessity; and they cry to the Lord that he would hear their prayer and regard their cry. Now then, God says, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." The Lord hears a humble spirit before a spirit of presumption; and though such may have many fears and tremblings, yet they shall be brought to rejoice with trembling.
Do you not see, then, that God has a special regard to these, "poor among men," these spiritually poor who feel their inward poverty and destitution before the Lord? The psalmist speaks on the subject thus: "He will regard the cry of the destitute, and will not despise their prayer." The destitute, then, are such as have nothing of their own, those who feel themselves only a mass of sin, weakness and helplessness before the Lord.
Now these are the characters, my friends. The Lord strips them of all the imaginary goodness they once thought they had; he empties them of all this, brings down their high looks and breaks their rocky hearts, and thus he makes the poor soul feel his weakness, that he cannot save himself, nor do that which is the alone work of the Lord the Spirit. And thus these really, "poor among men," feel the importance of the Lord's own words: "Without me ye can do nothing." Now Paul was one of these, "poor among men;" he felt that he could do nothing by his own power or ability, but he could do all things by the power of Christ strengthening him.
2. But secondly. "The poor among men," the destitute, the weak, the helpless, the lost and the undone, "shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel." Indeed, my friends, they have nothing else to rejoice in. "The poor among men," God's spiritually poor people, cannot rejoice in the world or the things of it. There is nothing in it that will do them good, nor indeed can they be satisfied with anything short of the rich treasure which is treasured up in the Lord of life and glory. Thus it is that the truly poverty-stricken, bankrupt, undone sinner and Jesus Christ, in his glorious salvation, rich treasure and inexhaustible fullness, meet so blessedly together, the One being so adapted to the other. A full sinner and a full Saviour will not do together at all; but an empty sinner and a full Saviour, a filthy, vile and polluted sinner and the efficacious blood of Christ to cleanse it away, a naked and undone sinner and the robe of Christ's justifying righteousness, a weak and helpless worm and the power of the mighty God of Jacob to keep, support and hold him up, these things blessedly harmonize together. And this is God's way of working.
"The poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel;" for they cannot rejoice either in themselves, or in the world. "Finally, my brethren," says Paul, "rejoice in the Lord;" and God takes very good care that Christ alone shall be the ground and basis of all their joy and consolation. Instead of, "the poor among men," rejoicing and triumphing in themselves, the more they are led to see what dwells and lurks within, the more they are brought to groan and cry out to the Lord under the burden of it. Looking to ourselves will bring us nothing but sighing and sorrowing. "We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened." "For in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." No, all the goodness is in, "the Holy One of Israel."
Paul understood these things well, and he explains in the seventh of Romans in a heartfelt way what every one of "the poor among men," spoken of in our text, knows something about; he says, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" This is the inward feeling of every one of the Lord's saints concerning themselves. There is no rejoicing in our wretchedness, nor any triumphing in our sinfullness and vileness. Whatever some men may say, who brand us with rejoicing in our corruptions and wretched feelings, they do not do us justice, my friends; for instead of rejoicing in my weakness and infirmities, my very soul is mourning and sorrowing because of these things before God; so that my cry is, "Dear Lord, hold and keep me up; preserve me from evil; be thou my guide and keeper all through the wilderness, and land me at last safely in glory where I shall praise thee for evermore."
"The poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel." It is Christ alone that is the Christian's rejoicing. Paul speaks of it thus: "We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and refoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." This is the way God circumcises the hearts of his people with the circumcision of Christ, made without hands, which cuts them off from all hope of saving themselves; and by the circumcising knife of his law, he stops their mouth from all boastings and brings them in guilty and condemned. The Holy Ghost leads them away from self to a precious Jesus. He leads to a discovery of Christ in all his covenant characters, and shows how he took their case into his hands before all worlds. He opens up to them the glories of Christ in his incarnation; he shows them that, "it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." So that this is the ground of their rejoicing, that Jesus Christ is an able, willing, glorious and an all-sufficient Saviour.
"The poor among men," rejoice in a finished salvation, all of grace; not a salvation partly accomplished by Christ and the rest made up by the sinner. A gospel of this kind will not save, "the poor among men." I tried for months at saving myself in this way, and when I missed it here and missed it there, I tried it again, for I was determined to hit it. I could see no way of salvation only by being good; therefore I resolved to be good. But with all my trying and tugging, I felt myself to be getting weaker and weaker and further and further off from God, till I was afraid at last that I should surely sink under the terrors of God in a broken law in the waves of damnation, if there were no other way of salvation than my own. I wanted now something more than my good doings. O, my friends, it is dreadful work thus to sink in "the horrible pit and the miry clay." But however painful, it is profitable. The more sick we are made of ourselves, the more we are brought to feel our own weakness and inability, the more well be our joy and rejoicing in Christ Jesus, "the Holy One of Israel."
"The poor among men," then, rejoice that salvation is finished, that sin is for ever put away by the sacrifice of Jesus, that law and justice are satisfied, that everlasting righteousness is wrought out and brought in, that the world is overcome, that death and hell are conquered, for
"Hell and our sins resist our course,
But hell and sin are vanquished foes;
Our Jesus nailed them to the cross,
And sang the triumph when he rose."
Thus, as the believer is enabled to look away from self by faith to a precious Christ, to see Christ in the triumphs of his cross, Christ in the power of his resurrection, Christ in the power of his ascension, for the God of salvation is, "gone up with a shout," as the Holy Spirit leads, "the poor among men," by faith to the place where Christ, the Forerunner, has for us entered, there is a spring of joy and gladness rising up in the soul, which has a precious Christ and a finished salvation at the bottom of it. And O what sweetness and consolation there is to the heart when Christ is thus received, believed on and triumphed in!
The Lord Jesus Christ, in our text, is called, "The Holy One of Israel." And this he is experimentally felt to be by all God's spiritual Israel. But I shall not detain you tonight in reference to, "Israel," by defining the term particularly. Let it suffice that Paul says, "They are not all Israel, which are of Israel: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children;" but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. A man might be able to trace his genealogy from the patriarchs, and yet not be an Israelite in the best sense of the word. We are Gentiles according to the flesh; but though this is the case, many of us here, I trust, are of the spiritual Israel. But whether Jew or Gentile, if we are of the true circumcision, we are made to know that there is no holiness in ourselves, but that it is all in a precious Jesus. Christ is our, "all in all."
"The poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel;" for he is their holiness; they cannot produce it in themselves. What holiness can you find in your heart? The words of Mr. Hart have come into my mind with overwhelming power many times, for I find that I have the daily feelings of them in my soul. He says,
That we're unholy needs no proof,
We sorely feel the fall;
But Christ has holiness enough
To sanctify us all."
And let him but make that holiness manifest in thy soul, poor sinner, and thou wilt rejoice, "in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." Christ is, "the Holy One," of his spiritual Israel. We have no holiness in ourselves. Paul had none, yet the dear child of God is ready to say, "O that I was as Paul! He was indeed a vessel of mercy! O that I felt as Paul felt!" And do you not feel as Paul felt? "When I would do good," he says, "evil is present with me." Do you not find that he describes your feelings in the seventh of Romans? If you do, you know that there is no purity or holiness in your hearts by nature. Now, my friends, I make two very broad assertions, but I will stand fast to them, there is not one particle or grain of true holiness in the whole world but what comes from Christ, "the Holy One of Israel;" and there is not one grain of holiness amongst the, "spirits of just men made perfect," now before the throne but what has emanated from a precious Christ, "the Holy One of Israel." As all natural light is from the sun, so all spiritual holiness is from Christ, "the Holy One of Israel."
Now the Lord Jesus Christ is, "the Holy One of Israel," whether we speak of him in his complex character, or as God. He is holy in all his attributes and in all his operations; so much so that he is said to be, "Glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders," both in, "the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth." They that appear before him are said to vail their faces, exclaiming with holy admiration, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts."
And if we look at the human nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, he is, "the Holy One of Israel;" for though he was, "made of a woman, yet he was not of a sinful nature. Here is a part of the mystery: "Great is the mystery of godliness." How he could be made of a woman, partake of the nature of the woman, and that woman a fallen creature like the rest of mankind, and yet be holy himself is a mystery. But so it is. The angel said to her, "That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee," not that impure thing, but, "that Holy Thing," shall be called, "the Son of God." He was, "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens." He was the immaculate Jesus; the, "Lamb without blemish and without spot, whom God verily foreordained." So that in his complex character, as God-man, he is the perfection of beauty, purity and holiness; so much so that the divine Father, in viewing his Person and all that appertained to him, exclaimed, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
He is, "the Holy One of Israel," also, not only in the constitution of his Person, but in all the thoughts of his heart, in all the expressions of his lips and in all the actions of his life. Nothing but holiness and purity ever centered in or flowed from him; so that he is, "the Holy One of Israel," in the strictest sense of the word. He is now enthroned in glory, inhabiting the praises of his Israel above. He is, "the Holy One of Israel," in the realms of bliss. And as I before said, all the holiness and purity of the redeemed comes from him; they owe it all to him. In him they exult and glory, and cast their crowns at his blessed feet, while they sing, "the song of Moses and the Lamb."
"The poor among men," then, shall rejoice in this precious Christ, "the Holy One of Israel." We can find no holiness in ourselves; but Jesus Christ has a holiness which is made over to us. Now, I know I am on ground which many of our professedly pious religionists do not like. The very sound of, "imputed holiness," they abhor and detest; they are for having a holiness in themselves.
Indeed, my friends, I was in this hole for many years. There was one text which I was always hitting at; it was this: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." I maintained that I was chosen of God before all worlds; that I was chosen to be holy in myself; that I was to grow in grace till I became holy and unblamable before God. I aimed at this year after year but could never attain to it. Instead of attaining to holiness and unblameableness, I saw myself to be more and more unholy; to be blameable in this and blameable in that; and if my outward walk and conversation was such that my brethren could not blame, nor the world lay hold of, my conscience was always accusing and blaming me. I was groaning and mourning about as a poor, guilty wretch; and I believe if I live to be fourscore years old, it will be the same.
So that there is no holiness in us as sinners, in which we can stand unblamable before God, but what is in Christ. Blessed be God, we have a holiness and unblameableness in the Lord Jesus Christ in which we stand before him holy as Christ is holy and pure as Christ is pure. What does the church say? There are two words, they are very broad but very firm. Speaking of herself as she viewed herself in Christ by the eye living faith, she says, "Comely," through, "the comeliness which thou hast put upon me." Again; black, "as the tents of Kedar," white, "as the curtains of Solomon." The Lord, addressing the church as she is in Christ, says, "Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee."
"And lest the shadow of a spot
Should on my soul be found,
He took the robe the Saviour wrought,
And cast it all around."
So that Christ is, "the Holy One of Israel," and the holiness of his people Israel, and it is only as they stand in him that they are holy and unblamable before a just and righteous God in love. If any man were to tell me that he was holy and unblamable before God in any other way than in Christ, I should know that he was a liar, and the Bible would prove it; for it says, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not is us." Man in his best estate is vanity; what then must he be in his worst? What does the church say? "We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities like the wind have carried us away." But as the church is viewed in Christ, it is said, "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a King is among them."
The Lord enable us, then, to trust alone in a precious Christ, and not to attempt to cleanse ourselves from our defilement. We might as well attempt to wash a black skin white as to effect it; for, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil." But in the Lord Jesus Christ there is righteousness to justify us; in the Lord Jesus Christ there is efficacious blood to cleanse us; in the Lord Jesus Christ there is holiness to sanctify us; and in him there is everything that we can stand in need of. Thus there is great ground for, "the poor among men," to rejoice in, "the Holy One of Israel," and in him alone."
"Well," say some, "but is there not a holy and divine nature communicated from God to his people?" Yes, there is; and that is a great blessing indeed. Christ has taken our nature into union with his divine nature, and in that nature he has bled and died for us, sin being condemned in his flesh. In that nature he has been made a curse for us, and wrought out and brought in an everlasting righteousness; and this is imputed to us. He has gone to heaven, and taken our nature with him. He how appears in the presence of his Father:
"Arrayed in mortal flesh, he like an angel stands,
And holds the promises and pardons in his hands."
And as sure as he lives to represent us and plead our cause before the throne, so in the set time to favour us, in the hour of regeneration, he implants within us a holy principle, a new nature, a meek and quiet spirit, the new man of the heart, the new man of grace, and which is of the very nature of the Lord in respect of holiness.
But what is the result or effect of this? Does the Lord communicate to us this holy and "divine nature," to renovate or change our old Adam nature into holiness, purity and perfection? Some will have it so. They say that a new nature is so communicated that it changes our old nature, and the whole lump becomes holy and pure. And this is what they call, progressive sanctification," getting better and better every day, more pure and holy as they advance in years, till at last they become free from sin, when God takes them to glory like a shock of corn fully ripe is gathered into the garner. But is it so with you, my friends? Are you getting better and holier as you grow older? I am at a point about it in my own experience. The old man of sin is still the old man of sin, "corrupt according to his deceitful lusts;" and he will still be the old man of sin while we are in these bodies: "for the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." What shall we ever see in the Shulamite but, "the company of two armies?" It is only as, "grace reigns through righteousness unto life," and as the Lord enables us to wield the weapons of our spiritual warfare, which, "are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ," that we shall raise the song of triumph and tread upon the necks of our enemies.
When the Lord appears in the conscience, bringing light and gladness, it is a day season to our souls; and then the ugly beasts of prey skulk into their holes and dens, because they cannot stand the light, power and glory of the Lord. But when we come into a night of darkness in our experience, then these beasts come forth from their lurking places and prey upon our souls. O, my friends, what are we in the night season? We feel shocked at ourselves; we feel that we are nothing but vile, guilty and miserable wretches. But, blessed be the Lord, our holiness is in, "the Holy One of Israel."
"And the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel." Now mark, my friends in our text we have one of God's "shalls". It does not say, "the poor among men," shall have an offer and proffer of salvation, and then if they accept it, and their faith lays hold of it, they, "shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel." No, no: there would be no rejoicing on such grounds as these. If there were anything to be done by men, I am sure I could not do it, for I am so helpless, weak and feeble in spiritual things that I can neither exert faith nor lay hold of any promise whatever; and when I am in the dark, I can only grope about and feel as blind and as stupid as a fool.
How are we to rejoice, then, in, "the Holy One of Israel?" Why, when the Holy Spirit puts faith into our hearts and the Word of God lays hold of us, then our faith lays hold of the Word of God. And this is the best way, my friends. The poor child of God is brought to feel that he cannot embrace salvation when he will, nor enjoy it when he pleases. Our springs of comfort are all in the Lord; and it is only when he works in us by his blessed Spirit that we feel joy and gladness.
He says, "The poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel;" and what God says shall be must be. Neither sin, men nor devils can turn one of God's shalls or wills upside down. His shalls and wills are as firm as his throne; and as surely as he says, "The poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel," so certainly will it be. The Lord will come and pay the poor sinner a visit; and when he comes into the heart, and sheds abroad his love there by the Holy Spirit, (O my friends, have you ever felt it)? there is, "joy unspeakable and full of glory." I have felt it, and I want to feel more of it; it is so sweet and blessed, and makes the heart so joyful.
When the Lord is thus graciously pleased to come, and by the efficacy of his blood to purge our conscience and speak peace and pardon to it by saying to us, "Son, or daughter, thy sins which are many are all forgiven thee," then joy will spring up in the soul more than in the heart of the man whose corn and wine are increased. When the Spirit comes and reveals this to us, as he doth not to the world, our joy and comfort abound in the Lord; he leads us from ourselves to Christ, and makes him our, "all in all." It is our happiness, then, to sink into nothing and to lie low at his blessed feet. Now, my friends, is it so with you?
It is a great source of comfort and joy that, "the Holy One of Israel," is a Friend that, "loveth at all times, and that sticketh closer than a brother." The Lord does not change as you and I do. There are no ups and downs, colds and hots with him. No; Jesus Christ, "the Holy One of Israel," and really it does my soul good to think of it, even before I speak it, is, "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." Let us feel as we may, "the Holy One of Israel," who hath loved us from the beginning, will love us to the end. Blessed be his name, he will take care of us, watch over us for good, hold us up in life, and at last land us safely in glory, where we shall shout his praise for evermore!