Wednesday, January 12, 2011
THE FULLNESS OF CHRIST
A Letter by John Rusk
Dear Friend, Grace, mercy, and peace be with thee.
I received yours, dated July 1st, and have now sat down in order to answer it. Were I to consider my fitness, I should not put pen to paper. Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles, and not a whit behind the chiefest of the apostles, in whom the grace of God was abundant with faith and love that is in Christ Jesus, declares that he was not sufficient of himself to think anything as of himself, but that his sufficiency was of God; and it is one grand and evident mark of real grace to keep us self-emptied; yes, it is for this very thing that we have so many exercises, and so much furnace work, for we are continually bent to get into self.
As it respects the particular question that you ask me, in your last letter, respecting either leaving ___ or continuing there, I have begged of the Lord to enable me, a poor fool as I feel myself, to answer you, and really to put myself in your case, which is the proper way. I must say, I should stay at ___ , and not move one step. This is my advice. I know it is a blessing to hear the word; but the strifes and debates, and continual contentions, backbitings, &c., that are now going on amongst many that we hope well of as respects their eternal state, make me more and more wish to be singular, and follow the Lord fully in secret; and as the Lord has placed you where you are, do not leave without you clearly see him going before, for " when he puts his own sheep forth, he goes before them, and his sheep hear his voice." If you could only believe how I have gained in this secret way, for all real godliness lies between God and our own souls. Take notice of the following texts: " Enter thou into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father in secret, and thy Father, which seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly." Again: " Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God." " Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom." If thou he wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself. I know them that hear the word preached constantly, and I hardly ever hear it compared with them, on account of bodily weakness and various things; and I have been again and again in their company, but I envy none of them, for they are continually at this backbiting. It is true that all are not so. There are a few, and but a few comparatively, that are simple, honest, teachable, tractable, and artless. And really I love such, for they are not wise in their own conceits, nor are they turned aside to vain jangling, nor corrupted from the simplicity there is in Christ.
The Lord direct my friend for the best; but really I see nothing, upon the whole, to advise you to leave where you are; and I believe if you did, you would soon be sorry for it. I tell you my mind freely, and do not forget that the Lord has promised to be a little sanctuary to us in all places where we may come. God is not confined to outward means. My poor wife hardly ever can hear as she could wish, and yet the Lord keeps her more spiritual, and I can speak better to her about spiritual things than to many that are always hearing and pretending to great things under the word; but I am slow of heart to believe what such say.
Now, in all this I am not speaking against the ministry of the word. God forbid; and I hope you do not understand me so. I have too long known the worth of it years ago, under W. H., to do this. But these days are past, and I am now to "remember how I have received and beard," &c. We are getting into very dark days. Things will get worse and worse. Errors abound on all bands, and some are in errors, and yet not discovered by many simple souls. Cleave close to the Lord in secret, be constantly examining yourself, and endeavour to confess to the Lord wherein you are wrong. Search the Scriptures, and call upon the Lord continually. Be as reserved as possible from professors. If you find one or so that is simple and honest, cleave to such; but depend on it that too much going amongst professors is hurtful. Read sound authors. You are heartily welcome to anything that the Lord has helped me to write, for I really wish you well; and it is condescending for him to own and bless any of my feeble attempts, which have been done under a deep sense of my ignorance, sore temptations, and hard fightings.
Thus I have told you my mind, and shall leave this part of the letter now with God and your own conscience, begging that he himself may guide and direct you in all things. Remember, he is "a Leader and a Commander to the people," and has said, " I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way thou shouldest go, and guide thee with mine eye." In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. God grant it, for Christ's sake. Amen.
Now, as I had been, in simplicity, giving my friend advice, when I had finished one side of the letter I felt straitened and had no heart to proceed; so I went to the Lord, to ask him what I should say on the other two sides, and felt greatly my need; and when I got up from my knees, I thought of those words, "The fullness of him;" and what can be more suitable for such poor, empty creatures as you and I than One who is fullness itself?
I shall briefly take these words up.
I. A s it respects his Godhead.
II. As God-man.
III. That his fullness is for the poor and needy.
I must be very brief, to say a little upon each.
I. As God, he is fullness itself, for he is the self-existent Jehovah. In him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Every perfection peculiar to Deity is in the Second Person of the Trinity, Jehovah the Son; and this is clear enough to be found in Holy Writ. Are the Father and the Holy Ghost omnipotent? So is God the Son. Hence he says, "All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth." When the word "given" is mentioned, we are only to understand his humiliation, in that he took our nature, and not in the least to suppose any inferiority. Hence, when speaking of his incarnation, he says, " My Father is greater than I;" but when he speaks of his essential divinity, " I and my Father are one," and in the Revelation he tells us that he is the First, then none could he before him; and the Last, then none could be after him; and the Almighty, then none could he above him. Thus he is omnipotent.
Again, he is omniscient, and, therefore, after his ascension to glory, they (the apostles) put up their prayer to him as the omniscient God, who searches and tries the heart: "Thou Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two thou hast chosen."
And he is omnipresent. Hence you hear him say, "Lo, I am with you always, to the world's end." And there is not one perfection of Deity which belongs to the Father and the Holy Ghost but what can clearly be proved from the holy word, in the highest sense, to belong to God the Son.
Thus, in a very short way, I have proved that he is fullness in respect to his Deity.
But, II. As God-man. Now, here, all he had, as it respects his fullness, was a free gift, according to covenant engagement, as a reward of the great work he was to accomplish; and this accounts for all those passages of Scripture which speak of blessings given to the Lord Jesus Christ, and promises made to him; and you must view things in this way; for, considering him as God, what could be given to him who is all fullness itself And here we may see the exaltation of our nature, in that it is joined to his divine Person, and in that nature he is all fullness. The Holy Spirit was given him without measure. He was anointed with the Holy Ghost above his fellows. All fullness of grace is in him, and all the blessings of the new covenant. Every promise in him is Yea and Amen; and all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. So that Christ is all, and in all. He is all to us and all in us. And this shall bring me to notice,
III. That this fullness is for the poor and needy. Now, it is well received amongst God's family that when the Lord takes his people first of all in hand, he finds them poor enough, although they do not know it; and he carries his work on in them till he reduces them to real poverty and neediness, feelingly and experimentally so; for he properly strips them of all. This no one that is taught of God can deny; but that we are, ever after this, to be kept poor and needy and self-emptied, is no easy lesson to learn and to be well established in; and, therefore, we are surprised at having deeper and deeper discoveries of our own hearts, and staggered at our feeling worse and worse. However, so it is, and therefore the Holy Spirit teaches us, and keeps up this teaching daily and hourly, that we are poor, needy, destitute, empty of all good, and bent to all evil, and every now and then testifies of Jesus; and we find a fullness in him, and a satisfaction to our souls, which all this world, put all together, cannot give; and when tis sweet influence abates, which it continually does, then, of all flesh, we are feelingly the most wretched and miserable; and we may try other things as a substitute for this, but we find the truth of what Cennick says in his hymn:
"an aching void,
Which God alone can fill."
And now we try, and it is right that we should, all the means of God's appointment, and think, to be sure, that we shall repair our loss this way. But although the Lord may thus favour us at first in seeking his face, yet, to teach us that without him we can do nothing, (a hard lesson to learn,) he lets us try again and again, and we find now that he is the fullness of all means; so that we may try again and again, but we remain just where we were, poor and needy, empty, dry, barren, carnal, worldly, and not only destitute of all good, but full of all evil.
I have had plenty of time before me now, when out of work, and have tried everything I could, to read, to write, to pray, to read my past experience or other books, to hear, &c., but have proved everything, in and of itself, all dead, and I know that Jesus Christ himself, in a sovereign way, will fill all means. Suppose you and I go to hear the best preacher that is; if the word of King Jesus is not there, there is no power; but what is his word? Not preaching abstractedly, but a power that he displays in the word preached. Hence "he speaks as one having authority, and not as the scribes, for his word is with power." My word is spirit, my word is life. The church, in the Song, passed the watchman, and then she found him; and that was what she wanted, and so do you and I. But, again, prayer is another means; but he is the fullness of that also: "Whatsoever you ask, ask in my name, and I will do it." And how soon we can tell the difference between our frozen, narrow, contracted prayers, and when the blessed Spirit, the fruit and effect of his ascension to glory, helps our infirmities.
But, again. Christian conversation is another means. But how shut up, and nothing to say; and if we do, it is all forced. But if he comes, all is right: "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us by the way, and opened to us the Scriptures?" Again, if we sing, which is another of the means; yet, to sing aright is to sing with grace in our hearts unto the Lord; and all grace comes from his fullness: "Out of his fullness," says John, "have all we received, and grace for grace."
Reading also is a means; but the Bible is a sealed book, and all others. Let the authors be ever so sound and experimental, you may read, but to no profit, unless he opens your understanding, as he did that of the disciples, going to Emmaus. And examination and confession of sins also, these are means; but as without him you can do nothing, so here also he must work in you both to will and to do.
Meditation is another means: "Isaac went out in the fields to meditate." And what is the fullness of this? Why, Christ. Hence David says, "My meditation of him shall be sweet."
From what has been said, Christ is all, if you speak about blessings, whether spiritual or temporal. If spiritual, we are, "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ;" and if temporals, "all things are put under him," whether they be silver, gold,: &e. He says, "It is all mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills; all sheep and oxen, fowls of heaven, fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea, for he is the heir of all things. If of grace, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. If of life, he that hath the Son hath life; for he is the quickening Spirit, the Lord from heaven. If of salvation, he is God's salvation to the ends of the earth. If of peace, "he is our peace," and he made it by the blood of his cross. If of mercy, the sure mercies of David were given to him. If of rest, be is this rest, and gives it: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest." If of a good hope, he is the hope. Hence Paul calls him "that blessed hope." If of strength, we can, with Paul, do all things, if Christ strengthens us. I believe there are hundreds of precious promises, but they are all Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus. In short, as he says himself, the Scriptures testify of him; for if of creation, all things, in heaven and on earth, were made by him, and for his glory: "All things were made by him," not as an instrument, but by his almighty power. It was to him that all the prophets gave witness. We read also of judges being raised up; and it is in righteousness that he judges and makes war. Kings also; and he says,. "By me kings reign." He is King of kings and Lord of lords; and he is the resurrection and the life, and every one shall hear his voice at the last trump. " For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first." (1 Thess. iv. 16.) And after this we shall be with him for ever in glory above; for " the Lamb in the midst of the throne shall feed us, and lead us to living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes."
The Lord favour you and me with constant believing views of Jesus Christ; and may he be pleased to fill us with all joy and peace in believing, until we safe arrive at the haven of rest, where we shall enjoy uninterrupted felicity; where we shall bid adieu to all sin sorrow, pain, afflictions, temptations, dark providences, knotty experiences, hatred from men and devils, and sing "salvation to God and the Lamb" for evermore. Then faith will be turned to sight, and we shall be perfect in knowledge. We shall see him as he is, and be like him, for he that is perfect shall be as his Master; and he says, "Him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am sat down with my Father in his throne." And this is our comfort, that all our victory is in him. He is the mighty Conqueror, and tells us to be of good cheer, for he has overcome the world, and because he lives we shall live also. He overcame all devils, sin, and death for us; and here lies all our happiness. Yes, and every soul that he filled while upon earth he will fill with all the fullness of God to all eternity. Take notice of his own words: "I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment, that I may cause them that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures." That is, "I myself will be the fullness of all their treasures of grace and glory for evermore."
That this may be our happy and blessed lot, to live a life of faith here, and follow the Lord fully, like Joshua and Caleb, the Lord grant, for his name and mercy's sake, who is with the Father and Holy Ghost worthy of all honour, glory, dominion, praise, and power now and for ever. Amen.
Mr. Gadsby is to be at Gower Street on July 27th, and continue three Lord's days.
Yours, in Christian love,
July 25th, 1823.