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Bennetts Baptist Church
 

Christ Precious to Those Who Believe
 

The preciousness of Jesus Christ, to those who
believe—practically considered and improved.

By John Fawcett

"Yes, He is very precious to you who believe!" 1 Peter 2:7
 

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Chapter I. Introductory Remarks.

The subject to which the reader's attention is invited in these pages is of the highest importance; since love to the divine Redeemer is the distinguishing characteristic of a real Christian, and most indispensably requirement in order to our serving God acceptably in this world, and to our dwelling with him in the next world. Without a sincere and loving attachment to the Author of eternal salvation, whatever works of morality we may perform, our obedience will be materially and essentially defective, as not flowing from a proper principle.

Love is the parent and promoter of everything excellent and amiable in the Christian character. It diffuses itself through the whole train of holy actions. It gives them all their motion, and dignifies them with all their real value. The eloquence of men, or even of angels, the gift of prophecy, the knowledge of all mysteries, the power to work miracles, the most extensive liberality to the poor, and even the suffering of martyrdom, are all insignificant and unprofitable without love to Jesus.

He who loved us so as to give himself a ransom for our souls, who was lifted up upon the ignominious cross, that he might draw all men unto himself, proposes to those who profess to be his disciples, the solemn and important inquiry, "Do you love me?" He values not our service—if the heart is not in it. He knows what is in man; he sees and judges the heart, and has no regard to outward acts of obedience, if no devout affection is employed in them. It is not enough for the eye to be lifted up to him, or the knee to bow before him; it is not enough for the tongue to be employed in speaking of him, or the hand in acting for his interest in the world. All this may be done by those whose religion is mere pretense! But the heart with all the inward powers and passions of the soul, must, in the first place, be given to him. "Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity;" and as the natural consequence of that, keep his commandments.

I would ground the following observations on the words of the apostle Peter, "Yes, He is very precious to you who believe!" 1 Peter 2:7. The word precious, signifies honor, price, or preciousness itself; that which is of infinite value.

The people to whom Christ is precious, are, with great propriety, said to be those who believe. Unbelievers see no beauty or majesty in him, nor any loveliness that they should desire him. Hence have we so many strange notions advanced, concerning his adorable person. Many daringly deny the only Lord that bought us with his own dear life, and substitute a mere creature in his room. There are others who have such low and irreverent conceptions of him, as if they knew not the value of his person, his work, and his sacrifice, in the business of our salvation. Whereas, there is nothing in our religion which has either truth, reality or substance—but by virtue of its relation to Christ, and what he has accomplished on earth on our behalf.

Perhaps in no age, since the establishment of Christianity in the world, was greater opposition made to the real dignity and glory of the Son of God, than in the present. It is a consideration which may justly affect the hearts of all who love him in sincerity. The doctrine of his proper Deity, is the ground of all our hope and salvation by him, and the very foundation of the Christian religion; yet the disbelief of this is openly avowed by many, who strenuously maintain, and industriously diffuse their sentiments in the world.

It is awful to consider, how many ruin their own souls by stumbling on the rock of safety, and dash themselves in pieces on that which is laid as the only foundation of hope. Yet in this the Scripture is fulfilled. The same Jesus, who is precious to those who believe, is "a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to those who stumble at the Word, being disobedient." The reason here assigned why men stumble at the Word, and at what it reveals concerning Jesus Christ, is disobedience; and, perhaps it will be found, that, in many instances, the cause of men's rejecting the Savior, is a rooted aversion to that purity of heart and conduct which the evangelical system requires. "This," says our blessed Lord, "is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil."

Christ is not precious to those who do not, under a sense of their absolute need of him, manifest that regard for him which the sacred Scriptures everywhere require. The religious system, adopted by many at this day, has very little of real Christianity in it. Many labored performances are now published to the world, in which we find the duties of morality recommended with peculiar elegance of style, and acuteness of reasoning, wherein we meet with little or nothing concerning the person, the work, or the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is like raising a superstructure, without a solid foundation. The great mystery of redemption by the blood of that Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, appears to be of little or no use with such people, in their attempts to promote piety and obedience.* There may be many things in such performances highly worthy of attention; there may be a striking display of learning and ability; but at the same time, that which constitutes the real essence of Christianity, and which is the proper spring of all true obedience, is entirely omitted.

*A modern writer, of distinguished eminence, justly remarks that towards the close of the last century, divines professed to make it their chief object to inculcate the moral and practical precepts of Christianity; but without sufficiently maintaining, often even without justly laying the grand foundation of a sinner's acceptance with God; or pointing out how the practical precepts of Christianity grow out of her peculiar doctrines, and are inseparably connected with them. By this fatal error, the very genius and essential nature of Christianity underwent a change. She no longer retained her peculiar character, or produced that appropriate frame of spirit by which her followers had been characterized.

The example thus set was followed during the present century, and its effect was aided by various causes. The fatal habit of considering Christian morals as distinct from Christian doctrines, has insensibly gained strength. Thus the peculiar doctrines of Christianity went more out of sight; and, as might naturally have been expected, the moral system itself also began to wither and decay, being robbed of that which should have supplied it with life and nutriment. At length, in our own days, these peculiar doctrines have almost altogether vanished from the view. Even in many sermons scarcely any traces of them are to be found. Wilberforce's Practical View, Chapter 6.

'It is not so,' says a very respectable writer of the present age, 'it is not so in our view of things. We find so much use for Christ, that he appears as the soul which animates the whole body of our divinity; as the center of the system, diffusing light and life to every part of it. Take away Christ, and the whole ceremonial of the Old Testament appears to us little more than a dead mass of uninteresting matter; prophecy loses almost all that is interesting and endearing; the gospel is annihilated, or ceases to be that good news to lost sinners, which it professes to be; practical religion is divested of its most powerful motives; the evangelical dispensation of its peculiar glory, and heaven itself of its most transporting joys.

The sacred penmen appear to have written all along, upon the same principles. They considered Christ as the all in all of their religion, and as such, they loved him with their whole hearts. Do they speak of the first tabernacle? They call it a "figure for the time then present. But when Christ came as a high priest of good things to come, by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Do they speak of prophecy? They call the testimony of Jesus the spirit of prophecy. Do they speak of the gospel? It is Christ crucified. Do they speak of the medium by which the world was crucified to them, and they unto the world? It is the cross of Christ. One of the most affecting ideas which they afford us of heaven, consists in ascribing everlasting glory and dominion "to him who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood." (Fuller's Calvinistic and Socinian Systems compared, page 217, 218.)

All the lines of evangelical truth meet and center in Jesus Christ, and therefore he himself says, "I am the truth." Were he to be excluded, the several parts of the glorious system would be disconcerted, and the whole frame would be broken in pieces. What would become of the doctrine of redemption, of pardon of sin, of justification, of preservation, or of future felicity?

Jesus is the life of all the graces and comforts of a Christian. By the knowledge and contemplation of him, and of his death in our stead—faith lives, and is strengthened from day to day. All the springs of repentance are opened, and flow freely, when the heart is melted by views of a dying Savior. Love feels the attractive power of its glorious object, and is kindled into a holy flame. Sin is mortified. The world is subdued. The hope of future glory is supported, enlivened, and confirmed, so as to become sure and steadfast, like an anchor of the soul. But without him, whom having not seen we love, these graces would wither and die; or, to speak more properly, they would have no existence.

What is said in the following pages concerning the glory and preciousness of Jesus Christ, is not to be understood as if spoken to the exclusion of the Father, or of the Holy Spirit. But I would beg permission to say, that I am not able to form any clear, satisfactory, comfortable thoughts of God, suited to awaken my love, or encourage my hope and trust—but as he has been pleased to reveal himself in the person of Jesus Christ.* God was once manifested in the flesh on earth, and he is now manifested in the same human nature in heaven, exercising universal dominion, having the government of heaven, earth, and hell upon his shoulders! "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself." The light of his glory is seen in the face, or person, of Jesus Christ. This is the foundation on which the Christian's hope is built, the fountain whence he derives all his refreshment and consolation.

Until God in human flesh I see,
My thoughts no comfort find;
The holy, just, and sacred Three
Are terrors to the mind.

* Jesus Christ says, "I am God, and there is none else." This does not exclude the God-head of the Father. I think it is sufficiently evident from many places of Scripture, that the Father and the Son have an inconceivable communion, and that one and the same Divine nature, which is in the Father, dwells in the Son. For, since divine names and attributes, works and worship, are ascribed to both, they must both be truly God; and since there is but one true God, they must both have fellowship in the same God-head. Hence there is no other God-head but that which dwells in Christ; that God-head in which he partakes by his being One with the Father. "I and my Father are one. I am in the Father, and the Father is in me." Therefore the apostle says, "All the fullness of the God-head dwells bodily in him."

But if Immanuel's face appear,
My hope, my joy begins;
His name forbids my slavish fear,
His grace removes my sins. —Isaac Watts.

The outlines of our plan, in the ensuing discourse, are:

1. The character of the people to whom Christ is precious.

2. The evidence they give that Christ is precious to them.

3. In what respects Christ is precious.

 

Chapter 2. The character of the people to whom Christ is precious: "to those who believe."

The import of the term believe is plain and easy. In common discourse it is so well understood, that no one is at a loss to determine what is intended by it. Every man knows the meaning of his neighbor, when he hears him say, 'I believe the fact which you relate;' or, 'I do not believe the report which I hear concerning you.' Now, if the term is understood, when it refers to the common affairs of life—why should we be at uncertainties about the meaning of it, when applied to religious subjects? The sacred writers do not use words in a sense directly contrary to their general acceptance. If they did this, the instructions they are authorized to give us, concerning the momentous affairs of our souls, and of eternity, would be wrapped up in impenetrable obscurity.

Yet we find in the sacred writings, two kinds of believing spoken of, and two sorts of believers described.

1. Some believe for a while—but in time of temptation fall away. Simon the sorcerer is said to have believed, when he was in the gall of bitterness, and the bond of iniquity; when his heart was not right in the sight of God.*

*It is said, Simon himself believed also; but it may be inquired, What did he believe? There is reason to conclude from the proofs which he presently gave of his ignorance and impiety, that he knew little or nothing of the real character of the glorious Redeemer. His belief of what he had heard delivered, was but in a very partial way. He believed just in the same manner as Judas repented. The repentance of that apostate was but partial; and a repentance merely on account of the dreadful consequences of his sin. Simon seems to have been prevailed upon, by the wonderful power discovered in the working of miracles, to believe that he, in whose name they were performed, must be divine. He believed that such a person as Christ existed, and likewise some little concerning what he was, as that he was a Being possessed of great power; but the chief part of the Savior's excellence, which is revealed in the gospel, and constitutes the very essence of it—was unknown to him. Much the same may be said concerning the faith of the stony-ground hearers of the word.

The apostle James speaks of a kind of faith which answers no valuable purpose, because it is destitute of those works which are the proper fruits of true faith. "Do you not know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" Such a faith as this, is to be found almost everywhere, in a country favored with the light of divine revelation, and the ministry of the gospel. But it is quite uneffective, since the man who is the subject of it, is still a slave to sin, a lover of this present evil world, an enemy to God and goodness, and in the broad way which leads to destruction!

2. The other kind of believing, spoken of by the inspired writers, especially in the New Testament, is that which has pardon of sin, justification before God, and everlasting life, annexed to it. "You are not of those who draw back unto perdition—but of those who believe to the saving of the soul." This faith is accompanied with certain qualities which are not connected with the other. Though the nominal and real Christian are both said to believe, and the articles of their creed may, in many respects, be the same—yet their dispositions and characters, are essentially different.

Now, the leading truth, which is to be believed, is—that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and the Savior of the world. "Peter said, You are Christ, the Son of the living God." That is, You are the true Messiah, and by way of eminence, the proper Son of the eternal God, and the fountain of life and happiness to all your followers. So the apostle speaks to the Romans, "If you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved." The confession which the Ethiopian eunuch made, in order to be baptised, amounted to the same thing: "As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, 'Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?' And Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may.' And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.'"

To believe this, is to believe the gospel; for the sum of the gospel is, "that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." Or in other words, that the supreme Governor of the world, of his free mercy, for the sole sake of what his Son Jesus Christ has done and suffered— pardons, justifies, and saves the believing sinner. But nothing is more certain, than that a mere nominal Christian, a man who has a name to live, and still is dead in trespasses and sins, may give his assent to all that is expressed above. He may state the articles of an orthodox creed as correctly, in many respects, as any other person. And therefore it is necessary to pay strict attention to those things which accompany true faith—and distinguish it from that which a man may possess, and yet die in his sins.

1. True faith implies that divine illumination, whereby we are taught to know ourselves, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, whom to know is life eternal. Faith cannot exist without knowledge; for how is it possible for a man to believe that which he does not understand? Believing in Jesus Christ to the saving of the soul, is the effect of Divine teaching. "It is written in the prophets," said Jesus, "They shall be all taught of God; everyone therefore who has heard, and learned of the Father, comes unto me." When Peter made that confession before recited, his Divine Master pronounced him blessed, as being the subject of illumination from above. "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you—but my Father, who is in heaven." Those who believe, are therefore said to know the truth. And thus the apostle Paul tells us, that he "knew whom he had believed."

2. True faith is grounded on the testimony of God. What other idea of faith can we have, than that of believing something revealed, or made known? Hence the prophet says, "Who has believed our report?" The faith of a Christian, is a divine conviction of the truths which God has revealed in His Word.

Has the author of our being revealed in his blessed word, the purity of his own nature, his abhorrence of sin, the strictness and holiness of that law by which we are governed? This is known and believed, when, under the illumination of the Divine Spirit—the commandment comes home to the conscience; then sin revives, the awakened sinner gives up his delusive hope, and, in that sense, dies.

Has God revealed the depravity of human nature? That the heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; that we are altogether become filthy; that there is none that does good, no not one; that we are alienated from the life of God; that we are the servants of sin, the slaves of Satan, children of wrath, under the curse, condemned already, and liable to eternal destruction and misery? All this is in some measure known—and really believed by him who has true faith.

No man is solicitous about being saved—who does not see and feel himself lost. The whole do not apply to the physician—but those who are sick. No man comes to Christ for pardon—who does not see the greatness and grievousness of his sins. No man believes with the heart unto righteousness—who is not convinced of the insufficiency of his own works to justify him before God. No man looks to the Redeemer for justification—who does not see that he is under the sentence of condemnation. No man comes to Jesus that he may have life—who is not sensible, that, as a sinner, he is doomed to eternal death. Thus, true faith implies a conviction and belief of what the Word of God reveals, concerning the state and condition of fallen man.

Does the divine word reveal a Savior? Does it inform us, that the Son of God took upon him our nature, stood in our place, bore our sins, satisfied justice for our offences, and reconciled us to God? Does the Father declare unto us that he is well pleased with his Son, who has obtained eternal redemption for us? This is understood and believed, by him that has true faith.

Does the gospel contain promises of pardon, of righteousness, of life and salvation, made to the most wretched and guilty of mankind, who are enabled to come to Jesus for them? Does it assure us, that none who sincerely come unto him are ever cast out, on any account whatever? Saving faith is no other thing, than a sincere and hearty belief of this. It is a divine persuasion of the truth of what the Word of God makes known for our belief. Hence it is called "the belief of the truth."

Perhaps there cannot be a better definition of true faith in a few words, than that just mentioned, "the belief of the truth;" and yet it is necessary to inquire what is meant by truth. That Jesus Christ has appeared and sojourned on earth, according to what was predicted of him; that he was born of a virgin, in the town of Bethlehem; that he preached the gospel, and wrought miracles; that he suffered, was crucified, rose again from the dead, and ascended up into glory—having atoned for sin, satisfied Divine justice, and obtained eternal redemption for us—all this is truth; but it is not the whole truth. The infinite excellency of the blessed God; the equity, reasonableness, and goodness of his law; the exceeding sinfulness of sin; the ruinous and lost condition of man, as in a state of alienation from his Maker; the absolute need of holiness and purity of heart, in order to final happiness; the infinite loveliness and preciousness of Jesus Christ, and the suitableness and glory of the way of salvation by him, as in every respect honorable to God, and safe for man—these are branches of the truth which must be believed, as firmly as those above mentioned. But they have not full possession of the minds of any, excepting those whose faith is of the gift and operation of God.

Those whose hearts are not purified by faith, do not conceive of divine objects as they are in themselves; and therefore they do not believe the truth concerning them. "You thought that I was altogether such a one as yourself; but I will reprove you!"

The Word of inspiration represents God in his true character; it represents men as they really are; it declares the truth concerning the evil of sin, and its just demerit; it sets forth not only the reality—but the excellency of heavenly things. That is, it holds them forth as they are in themselves; and that must undoubtedly be the truth concerning them. To conceive of them otherwise than according to this representation, is not to believe the truth—but to believe a lie!

Our blessed Redeemer tell us, that he came to "bear witness to the truth," that is, among other things—to the purity and inflexibility of the divine law, to the justice and holiness of God, to the evil and demerit of sin, and to the reality of his being the only begotten of the Father, and the Savior of men. This was to bear witness of things—as they really are in themselves. It must therefore be the truth; and a hearty reception and persuasion of it, as it is revealed—which is what the apostle calls "the belief of the truth." Thus when he denominates the Thessalonians believers, he immediately signifies what it was which constituted them such, "Because our testimony among you was believed." This testimony is elsewhere called "the testimony of God concerning his Son Jesus Christ." It is that in which the everlasting interests of men are deeply and intimately concerned. "He who has received this testimony, has set to his seal that God is true."

3. Faith is the result of serious and impartial inquiry, and of a reverential regard to the authority of God, in what he has spoken. "The word is near you, even in your mouth, and in your heart; that is, the word of faith which we preach; for faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." The truth is believed, not from common report, not from the testimony of man—but from the testimony of God. Hence, says the apostle to the Thessalonians, "For this cause we thank God without ceasing, because, when you received the Word of God, which you heard of us—you received it not as the word of men—but, as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually works also in you who believe."

4. True faith in Jesus Christ, is accompanied with a sincere and hearty approbation of him—as the exclusive, the all-sufficient Savior. It is not a faint, feeble, wavering assent—but such a firm persuasion as, in some measure, corresponds with the strength and clearness of the evidence with which the truth is confirmed. The whole soul acquiesces in the relief which it brings, and approves of the method of salvation which it reveals. There is great propriety in such expressions as these concerning true faith. "If you believe with all your heart." "With the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." These terms must imply the consent of the judgment, connected with the approbation and acceptance of the will, and the affections. This is faith sincere.

People may profess to believe this and the other thing, when, in fact, it is but a mere pretense—as is evident from the general tenor of their actions. He who really believes that certain substances are of a poisonous quality, will act accordingly; he will carefully avoid them. He who is fully persuaded that fire will burn, cannot be induced to rush into the flames. He who believes that the profits, the pleasures, and the honors of the world will make him happy—acts in a manner consistent with what he believes—he pursues these objects with all his might. His belief in this case, is not a mere pretense—but real, as is evident by his practice. He who certainly believes that a large estate is left him by a deceased relation, will not delay to put in his claim for it. In all these cases, and many others which daily occur in common life, we see that a real and sincere belief—is followed by a corresponding practice.

Apply this to religious subjects. A man professes and pretends to believe that God is angry with the wicked every day, and that his wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men—yet he lives as unconcerned as if there were no danger—he does not flee from the wrath to come—he takes no measures for his soul's escape. Is this man's belief real and hearty—or only a mere pretense? Is it not evident, that he does not sincerely believe the solemn declarations of God's word with his whole heart?*

* Justin Martyr, in his apology for the Christians, addressed to the emperor Antoninus Pius, expresses himself to the following purpose: 'I must tell you, that of all men living we are the greatest promoters of peace, by teaching that it is impossible for any worker of iniquity, any covetous or insidious person, to hide himself from God; and that everyone is stepping forward to eternal misery—or happiness, his works giving evidence for him or against him before the Judge of all.' He then adds, 'If men were once fully persuaded of these things, (or did they believe them with their whole hearts) who would make the bold adventure to embrace the pleasures of sin for a season—with his eye upon eternal fire at the end of the enjoyment? Who would not strive to the utmost of his power to check himself on the brink of ruin, and seek to be possessed of what is necessary to secure him from everlasting vengeance?'

Another man pretends to believe that sin is the greatest and worst of evils; that there is nothing so odious, nothing so dangerous to the soul, nothing so ruinous and destructive as sin. And yet this man secretly loves it—and daily lives in the known and allowed practice of it! What shall we think of his faith in this particular? Is he hearty in his belief? Or rather, since it has had no influence on his life and walk—is it not a mere pretense?

Others again profess to believe that there is a real excellency in true religion; that wisdom's ways are lovely, pleasant and peaceful; and that no joy can be compared with that of serving and pleasing God; and yet they live in the continual neglect of everything they pretend to approve! Can a faith so utterly uneffective—be real, and sincere? Is it thus—that men believe with the heart unto righteousness? Surely not!

Do such people tell us that they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and declare that there is no object so desirable, so excellent, so lovely as he is, in their estimation? While at the same time, the world has full possession of their hearts, they mind earthly things, and are entire strangers to a heavenly life. Surely such a faith is but imaginary; for sincere faith "works by love" to its object—the Lord Jesus Christ.

5. In true faith, there is a deep conviction of the importance of what is believed. It is far from being considered as a trifling, uninteresting concern. It is viewed as the most interesting of anything that can possibly engage the attention of mankind—as what relates to the life of the soul, and to its everlasting state. He who believes is like a man whose house is on fire, and who is eager to have it saved from the devouring flames! Or like a shipwrecked mariner, struggling amidst the overwhelming billows of the deep—but beholding before him a rock whereupon he may rest with safety.

Those who talk of their faith in Christ, and at the same time have little or no abiding concern about the salvation of their souls, and the affairs of a future world, do but deceive themselves. Those who believe are compared in the Scriptures to the man-slayer, who, sensible of his danger from the avenger of blood, ran with all his might to the city appointed for the protection of such people. "You have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before you." What the angel said to Lot, when he brought him out of Sodom, may be applied to him who is warned to flee from the wrath to come; "Escape for your life, look not behind you, neither stay you in all the plain! Escape to the mountain lest you be consumed!" When the jailor at Philippi was awakened to a just sense of his guilty and ruined condition, in an agony of distress he inquired, whether there were any possible way of relief for him, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved."

Such is the description which our Lord Jesus Christ himself gives of faith in his name. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whoever believes in him should not perish—but have everlasting life. The allusion is to what God said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks upon it, shall live." Here a divine remedy was provided against a national calamity; a sovereign antidote against spreading and mortal poison. Those who were stung and perishing, though they were at the utmost limits of the camp, might look up to the brazen serpent and find healing and life.

Physicians were of no use in that dreadful malady; human efforts, applications, plasters, or medicines were insignificant. The swift and fiery poison operated powerfully in such as were bitten, and, without relief, they were quickly brought to the very borders of the grave. But though they were just about to expire—if they could but cast a look towards the appointed remedy—they were sure of healing and recovery. On the confines of the grave, and the brink of death—they were restored to life and happiness—by a look to the brazen image of the serpent! A most lively picture this of a believing sinner. He is in himself as one ready to perish—but being enabled to believe the promises of grace in Jesus Christ, and looking to him that he may be saved, he is pardoned and healed; he is delivered from going down to the pit, through the ransom which has been found and accepted for him, and his life shall see the light: or, according to the words of our blessed Redeemer himself, "He shall not perish—but have everlasting life!"

6. True faith is connected with repentance of sin. If we are not turned from sin to God, if sin is not made bitter to us, if it does not appear hateful, if our hearts are not penetrated with sorrow, grief, and self-abhorrence on account of it—in vain do we imagine ourselves to be believers in Jesus! Looking unto him whom we have pierced, is accompanied with mourning and bitterness of soul. That faith which leaves the heart impenitent, is not saving; for repentance is absolutely necessary to salvation.

Our blessed Redeemer said to a certain woman in the gospel, "Your faith has saved you, go in peace." But what was the attendant of the faith she possessed? Was it not penitence? She wept at the feet of Jesus, she washed his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head. She remembered her own evil ways, and her sins—and loathed herself in her own sight! Repentance and faith are inseparably united; the one never exists in the mind of a sinner without the other. If we have ever beheld Jesus with sincere delight, as a Savior from sin—we shall mourn heartily that ever we sinned against him. We cannot but repent of sin—while we look for the forgiveness of it, through his astonishing love in dying for us, that so he might deliver us from eternal destruction. Repentance is justly said by some, to be the tear of love dropping from the eye of faith.

7. True faith in Jesus Christ, is attended with subjection of heart and life, to his will and government. For by faith the heart is purified, and consequently the life. To believe the gospel, is to obey from the heart, that form of doctrine which was delivered unto us. Faith works by love—both to God and man; and therefore it is positively affirmed, that "faith without works is dead." Talk not of your faith in Jesus, if you have no love to him. Pretend not to love him, if you are not concerned to please him. "This is the love of God—that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous." Our Divine Savior himself says, "He who has my commandments, and keeps them—he is the one who loves me."

The works of a real Christian are not the production of a spirit of legality; they are works of faith and labors of love, which are shown to him. Such is the efficacy of a saving and living faith—that it is the vigorous root to all holy obedience; it bears up the soul amidst the severest trials; it strengthens it for the most arduous services; enables it to overcome the world, and to lay hold upon eternal life. By way of describing its efficacy, allow me to make a short extract from a very ancient Christian writer.

Justin Martyr, describing the worship and the practice of believers, says, 'We worship the Creator of the universe, not with blood, libations and incense, of which he stands in no need; but we exalt him to the best of our power, with the rational service of prayers and praises, in all the oblations we make to him; believing this to be the only honor worthy of him. We approve ourselves thankful to him, and express our gratitude in the most solemn hymns—for our creation, our preservation, the various blessings of his providence, and the hopes of a resurrection to an incorruptible life, which we are sure to have. We who were formerly guilty of impure practices—now strictly keep ourselves within the bounds of chastity. We, who devoted ourselves to magic arts—now consecrate ourselves entirely to the true God. We, who loved nothing so much as our possessions—now produce all we have in common, and spread our whole stock before our indigent brethren. We, who were instigated with hatred to one another, and would not so much as warm ourselves at the same fire with those of a different race—now live and die together, praying sincerely for our enemies. For evils done to us—we return the gentlest persuasives to convert those who unjustly hate us—that they, being brought to a conformity to Christ, might be filled with the same comfortable hopes of enjoying the like happiness with ourselves. Christ commands his disciples to shine with a distinguishing patience and meekness, and to win men over from their sins, by such gentle methods of conversion. I could give you bright examples from many converts among us, who, from men of violence and oppression—were transformed into quite another nature.'

In another place he says, 'Those who do not make the precepts of Christ the rule of their lives, are to be looked upon as not true Christians, let them say ever such fine things of his law. Those who are Christians in word only, who talk of religion—but do not practice it, if such smart for their hypocrisy, it is no more than they deserve. Jesus himself has said, "Every tree which does not bring forth good fruit—is hewn down and cast into the fire. Not everyone who says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Such is the testimony given by this very respectable advocate for the Christian cause.

True faith transforms the temper and frame of our souls into another image, even the image of Christ. This is done, in some degree, in the first saving discovery which we have of him; so that he who truly believes in Jesus is a new creature. Compare the two following passages together; in the former, the apostle says, "Neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision—but faith which works by love." "Neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision—but a new creature." We hence infer, that to be a real believer is to be a new creature. "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." Our very tempers are changed into Christ's holy likeness; the meek and lowly, the devout and heavenly mind, which was in Christ Jesus, in some degree, takes place in us.

Faith genuinely influences all the powers of the soul, and all the actions of the life, according to the degree of its vigor, strength, and liveliness. The more we live by faith in Jesus, the more steadily we look to him—the more we shall be transformed into his likeness. We lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us—as we run the race which is set before us, looking unto Jesus. As the face of Moses shone when he had seen the Divine glory, so there will be some rays of holiness in our walk in the world—as we live by faith in the Son of God.

8. True faith sets all things in a different light before the eyes of the soul, and gives it quite another view of them. 'It is,' says Isaac Watts, 'like some heavenly glass applied to the organ of sense, which not only assists and improves our sight—but represents all things in a divine light. It alters the view and appearance of all the great and mirthful things of this world. The treasures, the splendor and the entertainments of this world, were once the most inviting objects upon which we could look. But now we look on the world, with all its most glittering and the richest scenes—as trifling, poor, and despicable things. We are crucified to the world by the cross of Christ. We seek the things which are above, where our Redeemer sits at the right hand of God; and when the world begins to flatter us again, and to appear great and tempting in our eyes—renewed discoveries of Christ's glory, who is the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely, eclipse the splendor of all below the skies. "This is the victory which overcomes the world, even our faith."

The solemn attributes of God—his holiness, his righteousness and justice—were once the terror of our souls; so that we turned our eyes away, and could not contemplate him with pleasure. As we had no solid hope in his mercy or his love, we saw nothing in him desirable or delightful to us. We stood afar off from him; we neglected and forgot him; or, perhaps, like our first parents, we vainly endeavored to hide ourselves from him. The dreadful threatenings of his displeasure were to us, as the messengers of damnation. We beheld them as so many angels with flaming swords—to forbid our entrance into Paradise! But now, being enabled to believe in Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come, the terrors of the law have no longer have such a dreadful aspect. We know that the sword of justice has awoke against the man who is God's fellow—and that all its vengeance was executed upon him, as our surety. The threatenings of the Almighty are therefore now disarmed, and no longer stand as barriers in the way, to forbid our happiness.

We behold God in Christ, as reconciling sinners unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. Hence we are enabled to look upon him in his whole character, not only without dismay—but with a measure of delight! We "give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness;" we survey and dwell upon his glories with solemn pleasure; we lift up our eyes towards him with humble confidence, as our reconciled God, our Father and our Friend forever.

Our consciences were burdened with guilt. We said unto the Most High God, "Our flesh trembles for fear of you, and we are afraid of your judgment." We could find no relief until we were led to the cross of the bleeding Prince of peace. He who hung upon the tree, took off our burdens, sprinkled us with his own blood, undertook to secure us effectually from Divine wrath, and said unto us, "Fear not—I have redeemed you! Your sins are forgiven! Go in peace!"

We believe that his blood is sufficient to atone for our offences, and procure us pardon; that his righteousness is sufficient for our acceptance unto eternal life; that his power and grace are sufficient to conquer all our sins, to deliver us out of temptations, to sanctify our vitiated appetites and passions, to incline our wills to holiness, to strengthen us for the performance of good works, to accomplish in us all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.

9. True faith endears Christ to the soul; since it is said, "he is precious to those who so believe." It enthrones him in the heart; for he dwells in the hearts of his people by faith. The proof of this is attempted in the following pages.

10. In a word, true faith is attended with a measure of solid peace and divine joy. These are experienced in different degrees by believers in Jesus, according to the strength or weakness of their faith. But we are assured, that all true believers shall not only be justified—but they shall have peace and joy. This they do in an especial manner, when they are filled with all joy and peace in believing, and made to abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. True faith fixes on that which alone can give peace and rest to the mind—the atoning blood and perfect righteousness of our Lord Jesus Grist. "We rejoice in God through Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom we have now received the atonement."

The happiness of a believer's life, consists in having his mind stayed on the all-sufficient Redeemer, by way of fervent affections, lively hope, and steady confidence. "You will keep him in perfect peace," says the prophet, "whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you." The apostle Peter, writing to a scattered, dispersed, persecuted people, concerning Jesus, says, "Whom having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you see him not—yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."

It may easily be inferred from what has been said, as well as from many passages of Scripture, that the faith of a true Christian is not the mere effort of human nature and natural reason—but the gift of God. It is therefore called the faith of the operation of God. If we savingly believe the truth of the gospel, and its glorious promises—it is "given us so to believe, according to the working of God's mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead."

It may be allowed, as one writer observes, that believing, simply considered, is a natural act of the mind; but believing such things as the gospel reveals, and understanding the nature and excellency of them, must be a spiritual act. To think, and to love, simply considered, are natural acts; but to think godly thoughts, and to love holiness, are spiritual acts. The faith which is attended with such powerful effects, as has been mentioned, is not of ourselves; but is one of those good and perfect gifts which come down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, nor shadow of turning. However strong, rational, or convincing the evidence may be which accompanies the testimony of God—yet without the operation of his blessed Spirit, it will not effectually subdue the mind which is blinded by prejudice, bloated with pride, benumbed with carelessness, and poisoned with enmity against the truth.

We describe the operations of a gracious mind in detail, as if a considerable space of time were requisite for the production of them; but it ought to be remembered, that the change wrought in a sinner's conceptions and views, in his transformation from death unto life, from a state of nature to a state of grace, may be instantaneous. For there is no middle condition between death and life, enmity and reconciliation, unbelief and faith, or condemnation and justification. The publican, oppressed with conscious guilt, cried out, as he smote upon his breast, "God be merciful to me, a sinner," and he went down to his house justified. The jailor at Philippi inquired what he must do to be saved, and the same night gave evidence of an entire change of mind; for it is said, "he believed, rejoicing in God with all his house." The Lord opened the heart of Lydia, and she attended to the things which were spoken by Paul. Three thousand of Peter's hearers, on the day of Pentecost, hardened in impenitence, and fixed in unbelief—were at once pricked in their hearts, under solemn apprehensions of their sin and danger; they were directed to the Divine remedy provided for the relief of ruined man, they gladly received the word, were baptized, and the same day added to the church. The conversion of Zaccheus was somewhat similar.

It is true, all these were extraordinary instances of the power of saving grace. But in all other cases, I humbly apprehend, the change, as it is in itself, and as it is in the sight of God, must be instantaneous; though the discovery of it, both to the sinner's own satisfaction, and to the satisfaction of others, is often very gradual. The precise period when it takes place—is known to God, though it is often unknown to the man himself, otherwise than by the effects which follow upon it.

The entrance of God's Word gives light; but the light at first, is not clear and distinct. The God who caused the light to shine out of darkness, shines into the sinner's benighted heart, to give the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Yet it is but a very little which any believer knows at first—in comparison with the discoveries which are afterwards made to him. Perhaps all he can say, bears some resemblance to the language of the young man in the gospel, who had been born blind, "One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see." Faith, in like manner, may be at first but as a grain of mustard seed—but it is a great happiness when "your faith grows exceedingly, and," as its proper attendant, when "your love towards each other abounds." The disciples said unto the Lord, "Increase our faith."

"It is not necessary that all these several workings of the heart, should be plain, distinct, and sensible in every true believer. For the actions of the soul, and especially the springs, the motives, and designs of those actions—are so hidden, and so mingled with each other, that they are not all distinctly perceived, even by the man himself in whom they take place. When the poor man in the gospel said, "Lord I believe; help my unbelief;" there were a multitude of crowding thoughts and passions, which produced and mingled with those ideas and expressions of fear and faith—that could never be distinctly apprehended and recounted by the person who felt them." —Isaac Watts.

Yet the attendants of saving faith, or those things which prove it to be true, should be carefully attended to, lest we should deceive ourselves in a matter of so much importance.

The great things which are ascribed to faith, by the inspired writers, should induce us to be very deeply concerned to be partakers of it. We find them constantly asserting such things concerning faith as may convince us of its great use. Men have remission of sins through faith; they are justified by faith; their hearts are purified by faith; they have access to God by faith; they live, they walk, they stand by faith; they overcome all enemies by faith; they are kept by the power of God through faith; and, to encompass all in one word, they are saved by faith. How necessary, how important then is the apostle's exhortation, "Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith!"

Faith, we see, is neither more nor less than a sincere belief of the truth. So the divine word defines it. "These things were written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing, you might have life through his name." But then it may be said of faith—as of love to God, of desire after him, and of hope and joy in him—by their fruits you shall know them. They are all distinguished and discerned to be true and genuine—by their attendants, and the way in which they are manifested.

In respect to true and sincere faith, the Word of God fully and clearly sets before us—what its attendants and its fruits are. It is the less needful to enlarge on them here, because this is intended to be done through the whole of the following chapter. I hope the brief and simple account of faith, already given, will not be found materially defective. And I would earnestly entreat the reader to examine himself concerning this important article. I apprehend it is evident from the Scriptures, that no man is a true believer, whose heart is not changed by the grace and Spirit of God. "For if any man is in Christ—he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new." "Being dead in your sins—you are risen with him, through the faith of the operation of God." The faith of one who lives a careless, unconcerned, thoughtless life—is a vain faith; he is yet in his sins.

No man is a true believer, in whom the blessed Spirit of God does not dwell, as his teacher and guide. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God—they are the Sons of God; but if any man has not the Spirit of Christ—he is none of his." "When he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he shall guide you into all truth. He shall reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He shall glorify me, for he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." The man who has never had a heart-affecting discovery of the purity of God's law, of the exceeding sinfulness and just demerit of sin, of his own guilty and depraved condition, of his utter helplessness, and the insufficiency of any righteousness he can perform, to recommend him to the Divine favor; the man who has never been taught, in an efficacious way, the glory of Christ's person, the sufficiency of his sacrifice, as a proper atonement for sin, the perfections of his righteousness, the fullness of his grace, and his ability to save to the uttermost; the man who has not been taught these things, in some degree, is yet in a state of unbelief. How can he have faith who neither knows nor understands what God's Word reveals as the truth? "I know," says the apostle, "whom I have believed."

He is no true believer—whose heart is not supremely attached to Jesus Christ; who sees no beauty, no excellency, no loveliness in him; for to all those who believe—Christ is precious. When the apostle Paul requires us to examine ourselves, whether we are in the faith, he adds, "Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you are reprobates?" According to him, to be in the faith, and to have Christ dwelling in us, so as to possess the chief place in our affections, and bear sway in our souls—are one and the same thing.

He is no true believer, in whom the Word of God does not dwell, in its sanctifying power and energy. Where the truth is sincerely believed, it enters the mind, it is received into the heart, it is incorporated with the soul, and it dwells and abides there. "The truth dwells in you. My Word abides in you. It works effectually in you who believe. It is in you as the ingrafted Word, which is able to save the soul. You have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto you." All these emphatic expressions are descriptive of those who believe. Hence is that remarkable account of faith, which is given us by the apostle to the Hebrews, where he tells us, that "faith is the substance of things hoped for." It realizes them, and gives them a subsistence in the mind and heart. The law of God is written there. The truth of Christ abides there, in its light, its energy, its sanctifying and governing power. It bears sway in the soul, and rules the life. Reader, this is true faith, faith in reality, or as the apostle Peter terms it, "precious faith;" precious in its author, its object, its use, its efficacy, and its end.

It must appear to every attentive reader, from what has been said, that the Lord Jesus Christ, in his work of mediation for the recovery and salvation of lost sinners, as proposed in the promises of the gospel, is the proper object of faith. Hence it is called a believing in him, and a believing on his name. If men would attend to their own experience in the applications they make to God for pardon and salvation, many unnecessary disputes concerning faith would be prevented. Every true Christian knows, that he has been enabled, with his whole heart, to believe the divine promises, containing and proposing the atonement of the Redeemer, as the procuring cause of our reconciliation and peace with God, according to the riches of his infinite grace and mercy. "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whoever believes in him, shall receive remission of sins." Every Christian knows that he has sincerely approved, and does still heartily approve of the way of justification and salvation by Jesus Christ, proposed in the gospel, as affording a most glorious display of the wisdom, the holiness, the love, and the mercy of God. Hence the apostle Paul describes the faith of those who are called, by its approbation of the wisdom and power of God in the plan of salvation. "We preach Christ crucified unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God." In the lack of this gracious acquiescence in the gospel scheme, consists the nature of unbelief. Without this, no man is influenced by evangelical motives, to hate and renounce sin, or to devote himself to God in the way of obedience. But wherever this cordial sincere approbation of the way of life by Jesus Christ does prevail in the mind, it will certainly produce humiliation for sin, and holiness of life.

The immediate design of Jehovah, in the great and important concern of our salvation, is, to display his own infinite perfections; "to declare his righteousness, to commend his love, to manifest his wisdom and his power," as his Word everywhere testifies. And the business of faith, in receiving the ineffable benefits of his salvation, is to give that glory to him which he designs so to exalt. Abraham, being strong in the faith, gave glory to God; and this is the nature of faith, even in its weakest degree. "We behold his glory, as in a glass. He gives us the light of the knowledge of his glory, in the face of Jesus Christ." The soul of a believer does herein give unto God, the glory of all those holy properties of his nature, which he designed to manifest, in our salvation by his own dear Son. To him the Father said, "You are my servant, in whom I will be glorified." And he directs us to fix our believing regards on him as such: "Behold my Servant, whom I uphold, my Elect, in whom my soul delights."

Before I conclude this chapter, I would beg permission, in a plain and serious manner, to address those who are yet in a state of impenitence and unbelief.

Supposing you then, my dear reader, to be in this condition, I would entreat you, by all that regard which you ought to have for the everlasting welfare and salvation of your own soul—to consider what the blessed God says to you in his holy Word, that Word according to which you are to be judged at the last day.

The gospel, as we have seen, plainly declares—that God has contrived a way for the reconciling of sinners unto himself; that this was accomplished by his substituting his only begotten Son, in the place of the guilty, sending him into the world to work out salvation for them, delivering him up to death, even the death of the cross, as an atoning sacrifice for their offences, and raising him again from the dead for their justification. It declares that, by this divine expedient, the law which they had violated is perfectly fulfilled and magnified; Divine justice fully satisfied; and God well pleased and glorified. It also declares, that whoever heartily receives and believes this testimony, upon the authority of Him who reveals it—shall most certainly be saved; and that purely by free grace, without any respect to works or merits of his own, through the redemption which is in Jesus Christ.

Upon this ground, the gospel addresses sinners as such, sinners of every rank and degree—calling upon them to regard and believe its gracious messages—that they may be saved. It not only contains a declaration of facts, concerning the person and work of the Redeemer—but the kindest invitations and exhortations, founded upon that declaration. The Son of God himself represents the preaching of the gospel, under the notion of inviting to a marriage supper, where all things are prepared and ready for the guests. All sorts of people are invited; the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind; they are called from all those places which may be supposed to be haunts of the destitute and the miserable; such as the streets and lanes of the city, and the highways and hedges of the country. The servants are commanded to bid these sons and daughters of woe and wretchedness to come to the marriage; nay, even by those efforts of persuasion, which are mighty through God—to compel them to come in, that the wedding may be furnished with guests.

What Jesus Christ represents by way of parable, the apostle Paul holds forth without a figure. Attend to what he says with the greatest closeness, my dear reader; it is not a vain thing; your life is in it: "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we beg you, in Christ's stead—be reconciled to God." These ambassadors were to press home the doctrine of reconciliation upon guilty, rebellious men, as the grand motive and argument, through the power of Divine grace, to engage them to give up themselves to God, to acquaint themselves with him, and so to be at peace.

This is the drift and scope, not of a few passages only—but of the whole of the New Testament. That this may not pass unnoticed, the Author of that divine book says, in the conclusion of it, "I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star. The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life!" Language more kind, more generous or more free, cannot possibly be devised. Yet this is perfectly conformable to what Jesus said to sinners, when he himself sojourned among them: "In the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirsts, let him come unto me and drink. He who believes on me, as the Scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water!" Nothing can be plainer, than that this was addressed to those who were then in a state of unbelief. O that you may attend to it, and receive it with thankfulness and joy, giving glory to God for the richness and freeness of his grace.

Let not your own inability to believe in Jesus Christ, be considered as an insuperable bar and hindrance; for he who calls you to this, can, at the same time, give you the needed power. He who spoke the world into existence, he who quickens the dead by his omnipotent Word, may, with the greatest propriety, say to him who is dead in trespasses and sins, "Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light." His word is living and powerful. It is as fire to quicken the lifeless soul; and as a hammer, to break the rock in pieces. It shall not return unto him void—but shall accomplish that which he pleases, and prosper in the thing whereunto he sends it.

Unbelievers are spoken of in the Word of God—as being dead in sin; by which is intended, their lying under a charge of guilt, which subjects them to condemnation; and their being under the power and dominion of sin. But this spiritual death is not, in all respects, like the natural death of the body; for if it was—the use of means to quicken and rouse such people, would not only be improper—but absolutely hopeless. Sinner, you have a conscience, you have a sense of right and wrong, you have hopes, you have fears, and other affections, capable of being wrought upon by those means which God has appointed. Your guilt will therefore be aggravated in proportion to the means of instruction you enjoy, and the warnings and exhortations given you, if you are not brought to repentance. This is so evident from the word of God, that it seems unnecessary to produce particular proofs of it. From this consideration it is plain—that you are capable of instruction, and of conviction, by the use of those means which Divine wisdom has ordained for that purpose; otherwise your guilt would not be heightened by disregarding them.

There is such a suitableness in the means which God has appointed, for bringing you to the knowledge of the truth, that if you should obstinately reject them, you would be entirely without excuse. The gospel is the happy expedient for quickening those who are dead in sin, since it is the power of God to the salvation of everyone who believes. The most wonderful effects are ascribed to it; it enlightens the understanding, it quickens the conscience, it converts the soul, and sanctifies the mind. And though it does not produce these effects, without the agency of the blessed Spirit of God—yet his agency is not to be considered, as abstracted from the means; for he works by them on the minds of men, and gives them all their efficacy.

Open that precious book, the New Testament, my dear fellow-sinner, and you will presently find, that the God of infinite mercy invites you to repent, and believe the gospel. At the same time, you will find, that he does not call you to believe—without showing you what you are to believe, and exhibiting the clearest and fullest evidence for it. Neither does he call you to repent—without declaring unto you, both your sin, and your danger on account of it. I will suppose that you have read this divine book, and that you have repeatedly heard the gospel preached. You are not then in the same state of total ignorance in which you once were. You know something of religion in theory. You have received some information which you once had not, both concerning your danger—and the divine remedy. Give me permission to remind you, that if you should neglect so great salvation, you will be hereby rendered quite inexcusable. For such neglect must now be the effect of perverseness, and not simply of ignorance. O, that your attention may be engaged to the evidence and the importance of the gospel-message; and that your heart may be won to believe and embrace the truth as it is in Jesus!

Remember, that the declaration of it is accompanied with the most kind and tender invitations, entreaties and expostulations, which are urged in the Scriptures, by the most alluring and alarming motives which can possibly be proposed to the human mind. God forbid that you should be armored against them all, and harden yourself in unbelief, to your own utter ruin! Give the gospel a fair hearing; consider its evidence; attend to its kind and pathetic entreaties. Search the Scriptures daily, whether these things are so. The Bereans did this, and the sacred historian tells us, that "therefore many of them believed."

Let me entreat you to attempt the solemn work of calling upon God by earnest prayer and supplication. Hearken to what he himself says unto you, in reference to this: "Seek the Lord while he may be found, call you upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."

The gospel holds forth immediate relief to a wounded conscience. The same hour that the jailor at Philippi asked, "What must I do to be saved?" he was told that the remedy was at hand; "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." No long course of preparation, no prerequisites, no previous qualifications are necessary. Should they indeed be sought, they would be sought in vain. Humiliation for sin, love to God, devotedness to him, and victory over sin and the world—are not to be looked for in ourselves, in order that we may, on such grounds, be encouraged to believe; so far from it, that they are spoken of in the Scriptures as the certain effects which follow believing.

The legal spirit of which we are all naturally possessed, leads us to imagine, that we must not embrace the promise of life by Christ Jesus—unless we are some way fitted, prepared and qualified for so doing. This is a perversion of the free proclamation of the gospel, and turning, in some sort, the covenant of grace—into a covenant of works. This is setting the gospel remedy at so great a distance, that it is impossible for us to claim the benefit of it. Whereas, "the word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."

The glory of this inestimable blessing is—that it is absolutely free to sinners, as such, of every rank and degree; and like the brazen serpent to the wounded, dying Israelites, it is designed to give immediate relief to perishing souls! "WHOEVER believes in him shall not perish. WHOEVER will, let him come," without seeking for any kind of preparation whatever. If he is a sinner, for such the remedy is provided. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Jesus Christ carne into the world to save sinners." It is a deplorable mistake to look for the effects of faith, where the effectual cause of those effects is lacking.

Does the afflicted person say, 'As soon as I am cured of this deadly disease—I will call in the help of a physician?' The man who is fallen into an horrible pit, whose feet stick fast in the miry clay, needs immediate relief, and never thinks of waiting until he is qualified to deserve it, from the friendly hand which is ready to draw him out. When Peter was sinking in the mighty deep, he instantly cried out, "Lord, save me—or I perish."

Those who have believed through grace are, in the Word of inspiration, described by those holy dispositions, and that heavenly walk, which are the necessary fruits and effects of faith; as such, I have endeavored to point them out in the preceding pages. But it would be a strange perversion of the order of things, to conclude that we must not believe the promises of salvation by Jesus Christ—until we find in ourselves those fruits which can only be experienced in consequence of believing them. Remember, my dear fellow-sinner, that your hearts can only be purified by faith, and that love to God, and conformity to his will—follow upon believing, as effects which are dependent on their cause. Let the tree first be made good—and then, its fruits will be good. "You will recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can't produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn't produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you will recognize them by their fruit."

"Without faith it is impossible to please God. This is the work of God," a work most acceptable in his sight, "that you believe in him whom he has sent." The history of Christ, the truths of his gospel, and the promises of his grace, "were written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you might have life through his name.'' Thus the God of all grace proposed to our first parent, in his lost, forlorn, and hopeless condition, the promise of redemption by Christ, the belief of which, no doubt, brought him back from the borders of despair; and gave him immediate relief.

The awakened sinner's address to God, suited to the foregoing remarks.

 

Almighty and everlasting God, my Creator, my Preserver, and my Judge, before whose solemn tribunal I must shortly make my appearance. I am a poor individual of the fallen race of mankind, shaped in iniquity, conceived in sin, and chargeable with actual transgressions almost without number. I have brought myself under the condemning sentence of your righteous law, and rendered myself deserving of your everlasting displeasure. It is high time for me to awake out of sleep, and to inquire, with the utmost seriousness, and the deepest concern—whether there is any possible way of escaping that wrath which is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.

I feel a ray of hope spring up in my soul, since you have said, in your holy Word, "you have destroyed yourselves—but in me is your help." Jesus Christ, your only begotten Son, came into the world to save sinners, such as I am. This is no delusive supposition, no uncertain report; it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance. But I learn from the sacred Scriptures, that he who disregards this testimony, who receives it not in the love of the truth, who believes not in the Son of God, the appointed Savior, must everlastingly perish. I learn from your word, that pardon of sin, deliverance from condemnation, and the enjoyment of eternal felicity—are inseparably connected with true faith in Christ.

Do mercifully impart to me, that divine illumination, without which I shall neither know the way of peace, nor believe the truth to the saving of my soul. O teach me to know myself—the deep depravity of my nature, the guiltiness of my whole life, the purity of your law which I have violated, the inflexibility of your holiness and justice which I have offended, the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and my own utter inability to do anything, towards delivering my own soul out of that state of misery into which I have brought myself. Bring me to an acquaintance with you—the only true God, and with Jesus Christ, whom you have sent to redeem and save the lost and the undone—whom to know is life eternal. May your Holy Spirit set before me, in the most powerful and engaging manner, the glory of his person, the sufficiency of his sacrifice, the efficacy of his blood to cleanse from all sin, the perfection of his righteousness to clothe the naked soul, the fullness of his grace to supply every need, and his ability in every respect to save to the uttermost, all who come unto God by him.

May that precious gospel, of which Christ crucified is the sum and substance, appear to me in all its truth, as the testimony of God; in all its sacred importance as the Word of life; in all its fullness, its suitableness to my case, its preciousness, and its glory—that I may be enabled to receive it with full and entire approbation, as a system most honorable to God, and safe for man, and that I may believe it with my whole heart.

Let me be a partaker of that faith which is connected with true repentance of sin, a sincere attachment to Jesus Christ, a subjection of heart and life to his will and government, a holy indifference to all that this present world can afford, and a sincere and constant endeavor to obey your commands. May I receive and embrace the truth as it is in Jesus, so that it may dwell and abide in me, in all its sacred energy and sanctifying power, working effectually in me, as it does in all those who believe. Thus let my heart be purified by faith, and give me an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in you. Never let me be a stranger to the joy of faith; but fill me with all that joy and peace in believing, which arise from the view and manifestation of pardoning mercy, through the precious blood of your dear Son; to whom with yourself, and the blessed Spirit, the one eternal God—be equal and endless praises! Amen.

Chapter 3. The evidence believers give, that Christ is precious to them.

God has magnified his love, and set forth the riches of his grace towards us, in a manner which should effectually allure our hearts to him. While we were enemies and rebels in open arms against him—he was pleased to send his beloved Son to die for our sins—in order to redeem us from sin and hell. He who is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person, became a man of sorrows for our sakes. In the greatness of his condescension, he called himself the Son of man—but all the fullness of the God-head dwelt in him. He was declared to be God manifest in the flesh. He came down from his Father's bosom, and became man—not to condemn the world of mankind—but to give his life and blood for our sakes; to make his soul an offering for our sins, to suffer inconceivable anguish and sorrow, and to die for us, that he might bring us back to God and happiness. He poured out his soul to death, to secure us from the deserved wrath and vengeance of God. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon him, that we through his stripes might be healed. He was stricken and smitten and afflicted by God—that he might open the way for us to partake of Divine mercy, and render the offended Majesty of heaven a more proper, and a more engaging object of our love.

He is the beloved Son of God, the first and the everlasting favorite of heaven, the highest object of his Father's delight; he is the great peace-maker between God and sinners, the chief messenger of divine love to men. If he had not undertaken to make peace by the blood of his cross, we would have continued the children of wrath forever. We would have been in the same state with the fallen angels, for whom no Savior is provided, and to whom no promise of pardon and reconciliation is made. To us the Child was born, to us the Son was given. He came to deliver us from our state of enmity and rebellion, to save us from sin and its dreadful consequences; from the curse of God's righteous law, and from everlasting destruction. His heart was pierced for the sake of sinful men. The messages of his own, and of his Father's love—he has written to us in lines of blood; he sealed the covenant of peace between God and man—with the blood of his cross, which he shed for us, to procure the remission of our sins. This is that divine Savior who, though disregarded by many, is precious to those that believe. I now proceed to consider—what evidence believers give, that he is precious to them.


Section 1. If Christ is truly precious to us—we will trust our everlasting concerns in his hands.

The apostle Peter, when he speaks of Christ being precious to those who believe, represents him under the idea of a foundation. "Behold I lay in Zion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious: and he who believes on him shall not be confounded. Yes, He is very precious to you who believe!" That is, precious under that consideration particularly; and you show it, by making it your chief design and care to be found built upon him, as the sure foundation.

They who trust in their own hearts, and go about to establish their own righteousness, like the unbelieving Jews—do, like them, stumble at the stumbling-stone. To such Christ cannot be said, in any sense, to be precious; since they set themselves directly to oppose the very design of his coming into this world, which was, that he might be "the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." That man is no true believer in Jesus—who rests in the law, and endeavors to lay a foundation of hope contrary to that which is laid, even Jesus Christ. He seeks not righteousness by faith—but by the works of the law.

But he, to whom the Savior of sinners is precious, is dead to the law by the body of Christ, that he may live unto God. He places all his confidence for acceptance with the Father, and for everlasting life, in that divine Redeemer. He worships God in the Spirit, he rejoices in Christ Jesus, and has no confidence in the flesh. He knows whom he has believed, and is persuaded that that almighty Savior is able to keep what he has committed unto him until that day. In short, all his hopes center in Christ.

Hence the sacred writers so frequently speak of the actual out-goings of a gracious soul towards Jesus Christ, for salvation—of looking and coming to him—of receiving him—and of trusting in him. This is something more than giving credit to the testimony which is given concerning him; something different from a mere belief of the truth. But at the same time, he who really, and from his heart, believes what God's Word reveals concerning the nature of sin, his own vile and lost condition, together with the glorious way in which sinners are saved by Jesus Christ—will necessarily be induced to flee to him, to receive him, and to rest upon him for the salvation of his soul. It must be so in the very nature of things.

How could the enlightened sinner give evidence that Christ is precious to him, as one who is able to save to the uttermost, if he himself has no degree of hope, trust, or confidence in him, under that consideration. Hence, though this dependence on the Redeemer for salvation is distinct from the belief of the truth concerning him—it is distinct from it only as an inseparable effect is distinct from its cause. Faith and trust may be distinguished—but they cannot be divided. Some degree of hope or trust in Christ appears to be the necessary and immediate effect of believing what the gospel reveals concerning him. When the sinner understands and realizes what God says of the evil of sin, of the misery of fallen man, and of the appointed way of salvation by a glorious and all-sufficient Mediator; he, in consequence, flies for refuge to the hope set before him, and ventures the whole weight of his everlasting interests in his hands!

The convinced sinner is deeply impressed with a sense of the insufficiency of his own works; he has given up all hope of acceptance with God by anything which he has done, or ever can do; if we therefore suppose him to have no trust in the Savior of sinners, he must be in a state of absolute despair; and this is entirely inconsistent with that faith which, as we have seen, implies the choice and approbation of God's way of saving sinners by Jesus Christ. Hope and trust are the immediate and natural consequences of such believing views of the propriety and glory of the Divine remedy, as have been mentioned in the former chapter.

A great deal is said in the Old Testament concerning hope and trust. The term faith very rarely occurs. But the hope and trust so frequently spoken of by Moses, David and the prophets certainly comprehend and include what is called faith, by the writers of the New Testament. Hope and trust sweetly compose the soul of a regenerate man, and bring him into that state of rest and tranquility which is so desirable amidst the fluctuations and disquietudes to which human life is subject. All the rest we enjoy in this world, is connected with trust in God. "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you; because he trusts in you." The special object of this trust is God, reconciled unto us through the mediation of his Son. Respect must be had to this mediation—where the goodness, the mercy, the grace, the name, the faithfulness, or the power of God is mentioned—as that on which the soul relies. For none of these can be the object of a helpless sinner's trust—but on account of that covenant which is confirmed and ratified by the blood of the Redeemer.

When the infinite mercy of God is spoken of in particular, as that in which we are to confide—we are to understand by it, his unbounded grace, setting forth Jesus Christ as the propitiation for our sins. Trust in this mercy, is what the apostle calls "receiving the atonement." Receiving it denotes our approbation of it, and our confiding in it, as the great effect of Divine wisdom, goodness, faithfulness, love and grace, which can never fail those who rely upon it.

It is not the part of wisdom, in natural things, to trust anyone with affairs of importance before we know him; if we would do so, though perhaps our concerns may be safe in his hands—yet every discouraging circumstance, every flying report, will be ready to shake our hearts, and fill us with fear. The Christian knows whom he has believed; or, as the word used by the apostle signifies, whom he has trusted. Athenians may build their altars to an unknown god; but Christians do not trust in an unknown Redeemer. "Those who know your name," O God our Savior, "will put their trust in you."

This trust consists in a committing of the guilty helpless soul to the care of Christ, who is commissioned by his almighty Father to take care of lost souls, and to save them with an everlasting salvation. It is a secret application of the heart to Christ, in which we resign our guilty persons to him—to be pardoned for the sake of his sufferings. We resign our naked souls to him—to be clothed in his righteousness. We resign our sinful and polluted natures to him—to be sanctified by the power of his grace, and to be made fit for everlasting glory.

We are encouraged thus to trust in him under a full persuasion of his ability to save to the uttermost. We know that he is mighty to save. We are assured that his obedience unto death was perfect and complete; that his blood cleanses from all sin; that his righteousness renders those who believe accepted with the Father, unto eternal life; that his power and grace are sufficient to conquer all our disorderly passions, to support us under all our temptations, to purify our hearts, to strengthen our endeavors in the practice of holiness, and to keep us safely to his heavenly kingdom.

This trust differs from a feeble belief of the words, the works, and the power of Christ, upon hearsay, or slight notice; it is built upon just and certain evidence. The believer has abundant testimony to the truth of Christ's being able to save. God himself has given witness from heaven, by miracles, visions, and voices. The apostles, prophets, and martyrs have filled the earth with their witness; and, by most convincing arguments, have proved the all-sufficiency of the Redeemer. The Christian has a witness in his own soul, to the power and grace of Christ, when he feels the sanctifying efficacy of the gospel upon his heart, and experiences Divine peace in his conscience, with the sweet foretastes of immortal felicity. Christ is precious on account of all those glorious qualifications which render him the fittest object of a sinner's hope and trust, and the believer gives evidence of this in his own case, by entrusting his everlasting concerns to his hands.


Section 2. If Christ is precious unto us—we shall delight to think of him, to hear of him, and to speak of him.

The Christian knows that his future blessedness will consist in being where Jesus is, and beholding his glory; and he concludes that frequent contemplation of him in the present state must have a tendency, through Divine grace—to prepare him for that happy state which he has in prospect. "For we all with open face, beholding, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord—are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

"To know God, and to love him, constitute a man holy upon earth; to know God, and to love him, will constitute a man happy in heaven. God is the supreme truth; and all the intelligence, all the knowledge of our minds ought to relate to him, as to their object. God is the supreme good, and all the motions of our wills ought to tend towards him, as towards their only and last end. On this principle, Jesus Christ has founded the religion and worship, which we profess." Fleschler

A learned, pious and aged divine, makes use of the following expressions, when speaking of the importance and utility and habitual contemplation on the glory and excellency of Christ: "If we desire to have faith in its vigor, or love in its power—giving rest, delight, and satisfaction to our souls, we are to seek for them in the diligent discharge of this duty; elsewhere they will not be found. Herein would I live; herein would I die. Hereupon would I dwell in my thoughts and affections, to the withering and consumption of all the painted beauties of this world; to the crucifying of things here below, until they become as worthless, dead, and deformed—and in no way fit for affectionate embraces."

The believer will surely take pleasure in musing on the glories and excellencies of his adorable Redeemer. The object of our warmest affection will be much in our thoughts. "My meditation of him," says the Psalmist, "shall be sweet. In the multitude of my thoughts within me, your comforts delight my soul." It appears from the writings of holy David—that he employed a considerable portion of his time, amidst all the business and the cares which came upon him as the king and governor of a numerous people, in meditating on the Word, the statutes, and the testimonies of God; and he ever found something in them worthy of his high esteem, and his holy joy. "O how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. I have seen an end of all perfection—but your commandments are exceeding broad." He was particularly delighted in contemplating the glories of the expected Messiah. "My heart," says he, "overflows with a beautiful thought! I will recite a lovely poem to the king, for my tongue is like the pen of a skillful poet. You are the most handsome of all. Gracious words stream from your lips. God himself has blessed you forever. O mighty warrior! You are so glorious, so majestic!"

It is the tendency of love to excite in the mind—many thoughts about the beloved object. A right knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, will fill the mind with thoughts and meditations concerning Him—so as to excite the affections to cleave to Him with delight. A discovery of the glory of His person, of the perfection of His atoning sacrifice, and of the fullness of His grace—must inspire the heart with love to Him! He who lives the blessed life of faith in the Son of God, will frequently think of his Savior; of what he is in himself, of his love, of his humiliation, and of the manifestation of all the glorious excellencies of the Divine nature in him—for the recovery and salvation of men.

It is much to be lamented, that those who profess a sincere attachment to the Redeemer, should have their thoughts so little employed about him. Where a multitude of worldly cares, desires, fears and hopes prevail in the mind—they cumber and perplex it—so as to bring on a great disinclination to spiritual meditation. The advice of the apostle Paul is of great importance in this case, "If you then are risen with Christ—seek those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Set your affection (your mind, your thoughts,) on things above, not on things on the earth. For (with respect to this present world, according to what you profess) you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Earthly and sensual affections fill the hearts and heads of men, with multitudes of thoughts concerning those objects on which they are fixed, so as to leave no room, nor indeed inclination for spiritual and heavenly thoughts.

"Shall not my thoughts," says the believer, "be frequently employed in meditating on the love of that infinitely glorious person, to whom I am indebted for deliverance from the greatest misery—and for all the hope I have of being one day advanced to everlasting glory and felicity! He poured out his holy soul in agonies, under the curse of the avenging law—to make me a partaker of eternal blessedness. He perfectly fulfilled the precepts of that law, that I, by his obedience, might be made righteous!"

The grand blessing which our Lord solicits and demands for his disciples, in his last solemn intercession, is that they may behold his glory. It is that which will complete the blessedness of heaven, and fill its inhabitants with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Surely, then, it should be our delight to anticipate, in some degree, that celestial bliss, and to habituate our souls to this sacred exercise, which will be our business and our reward forever.

This glorious and adorable Redeemer, thought upon us long before the foundations of the world were laid. He bore us on his heart when he hung on the cross; when he was torn with wounds, and racked with pain; when he poured out his dying groans, and spilt his blood. He remembers us now, when he is exalted at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens; and will never, never forget us, through all the ages of eternity! Surely, then, we ought to think of him! Impressed with a sense of his everlasting kindness—we should be ready to say, as the captives in Babylon, concerning their beloved city Jerusalem, "If I forget you, O blessed Jesus—let my right hand forget her skill. May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I fail to remember you, if I don't make you my highest joy!"

What holy transports of soul, what divine delights have many Christians experienced, in meditating on the glories of the Redeemer! Ascending the mount of contemplation, their souls have taken wing, and explored the height and depth, the length and breadth of the love of Christ, which passes knowledge! They have seen, by the eye of faith—that he is infinitely lovely in himself, that he is the admiration of angels, the darling of heaven, and the delight of the Father. They have viewed him in the brightness of his ineffable glory, clothed with indescribable majesty and honor! They have been transported with the smiles of his countenance, and said of him, "He is the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely!"

They have then considered their own unworthiness, and said, "Can such a wretch as I be the object of his love? So vile a worm, so unprofitable a creature, so great a sinner, one so deserving of his everlasting abhorrence! Has he loved me, so as to give himself for me? O what marvelous kindness is this! Is my worthless name written in his book of life? Am I redeemed by his blood, renewed by his Spirit, beautified with his loveliness, and clothed in his righteousness? O wonder of wonders! Mystery beyond all mysteries! How can I forbear to love this adorable Savior? Can I withhold my choicest affections from him? Ah no! Had I a thousand lives, a thousand souls—they would all be devoted to him. You tempting vanities of this base world, you flattering honors, you deceitful riches, adieu! Jesus is my all! He is my light, my life, my unfailing treasure, my everlasting portion! Nothing below the skies is deserving of my love! Precious Redeemer, in you the boundless wishes of my soul are filled, and all my inward powers rejoice in you. I long to leave this tenement of clay, and to rest in the bosom of your love forever!"

That one who loves Jesus delights to hear of him, and to converse about him—cannot be doubted, since every man is best pleased with that conversation in which the object of his dearest affections is the principal theme. It is on this account, that the gospel is a joyful sound to him who believes—because it sets forth Christ in his glory! No sermons are so precious and so animating to him—as those in which the Redeemer's excellencies are most fully displayed. It is then that the Christian says, "I sit under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit is sweet unto my taste!" A sermon which is not enlivened with the honeyed name of Jesus, in which there is nothing of his atonement for sin, of his matchless love, and saving power—is heard with coolness and indifference; while the doctrine of the cross is as life from the dead!


Section 3. If Christ is truly precious to us—we shall be grateful for the benefits we receive from him.

It must be acknowledged, that, like many who are more forward to borrow than to pay back; we are frequently more ready to ask favors at the hand of God, than to return thanks for those we receive from him. An unhumbled heart sets a low value on Divine mercies; but those who are truly acquainted with themselves, who know what they are and have been, together with what the Lord has done for them, in raising them up from the depths of sin and woe—will call upon their souls and all that is within them—to bless the holy name of their gracious Deliverer. They will perhaps express their gratitude in some such language as the following—

"O Lord, I will praise you, for though you were angry with me, your anger is turned away, and you comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also has become my salvation." Eternally blessed be the gracious Redeemer, who, from the plentitude of heavenly bliss, and the highest exaltation of glory, descended to base mortality, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross, to ransom my perishing soul, to rescue me from death and damnation, and to give me a lot among the righteous! How can I pretend to have a regard for him, if I am not thankful for his benefits?

"Lord you have raised me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay; you have set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. You have graciously pardoned those hateful crimes which might have caused me eternal regret, and plunged me in everlasting misery. You have given that tranquility to my once troubled conscience, which is the anticipation of Paradise. You have given me hope of seeing your face hereafter with unutterable joy, and of dwelling at your right hand, where there are pleasures for evermore!

"Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads me with his benefits, while I am in the way to the promised inheritance. Yours, O Lord, is the air I breathe, the food I eat, and the clothing I put on. The intellectual powers of which I am possessed, the use of my reason, and a capacity of knowing, of loving, of serving, and of enjoying you—are among the best and choicest of your mercies. All the happiness, and indeed, all the usefulness of my life, either to myself or others, are from you.

"Long ago might I have been cast off, as an unprofitable servant, who knew his Master's will—yet did it not. But your mercy is greater than the heavens, and the instances thereof are more in number than the sands upon the sea-shore. They are renewed every morning, and multiplied every moment.

"While I attempt to celebrate your praise, may I live to the glory of my ever bountiful Benefactor. It would be the excess of ingratitude to employ the favors I receive from you, in the violation of your commands. Every blessing of your hand furnishes me with a motive to serve you. Lord, I would show forth your praise, not only with my lips—but in my life, by giving up myself to your service, and walking before you in holiness and righteousness all my days."

The religion we profess, is far from requiring us to put on a mournful countenance. On the other hand, it enjoins upon us cheerfulness, gratitude of heart, and joy in the Lord. It is an apostolic injunction, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice!" As if it had been said, 'Endeavor to maintain a habitual joy in Christ Jesus, and in the hopes and privileges you derive from him; for the honor of your Divine Master, and the prosperity of your own souls are intimately connected with it. There is enough in the object of your affections to furnish you with matter of joy, even in the worst circumstances which can attend you in this world. The worldly man rejoices in his possessions, the voluptuous man in his vain pleasures—but you are to rejoice in the Lord. Delight yourselves in him, and he will give you the desire of your hearts. Serve him with gladness, and come before his presence with singing!'

When the Ethiopian eunuch became acquainted with Christ and his salvation, how was his heart cheered with the discovery! A new sun seemed to arise, and a new world to display its beauties around him. Every object brightened before him, and he "went on his way rejoicing." Christians, go and do likewise. Call upon your souls to magnify the Lord, and let your spirits rejoice in God your Savior. His love, his goodness, his matchless and multiplied benefits demand this at your hands. If we derive not the same consolation from Christ and the gospel, which godly men have formerly experienced, it must be owing to the weakness of our faith, and the lack of sincerity, ardor and diligence in the service of God.

We are expressly commanded, "In everything, to give thanks." Whatever may be our present circumstances, our dependence on God, and our obligations to him, require us to be habitually grateful to our Divine Benefactor, since we never can be attended with such afflictions as not to have greater cause for thankfulness, than for complaint. We should reflect on our unworthiness of the least of all God's mercies, and on the riches of his undeserved grace, in loading us with benefits, which far over-balance all our afflictions. We should labor to keep up a cheerful, thankful frame of heart in every condition of life, for "the joy of the Lord is our strength!"

It is the will of God in Christ Jesus, that we should in everything, give thanks. By the gift of his Son for us, and the bestowment of his saving blessings on us, he has laid a foundation for perpetual thankfulness, which is every way sufficient to justify the reasonableness of the demand.


Section 4. If Christ is truly precious to us—we shall prefer him above every other object; he will have the chief place in our affections.

The love which a Christian has to his Savior, penetrates and possesses his heart. This distinguishes it from the pretended love of hypocrites, which is only in word, or in some external actions, while their hearts are full of sinful self-love, so that it may be said of them as God once said of the Israelites, "This people honor me with their lips—but their hearts are far from me."

"Those religious performances which leave in our hearts the love of the world and its carnal pleasures, are rather a semblance of piety, than piety itself. We are only before God what we are in heart and affection. He must be the object of all our desires, the end of all our actions, the principle of all our affections, the governing power of our whole souls. All that does not flow from these dispositions, all that does not either conduct us to these, or establish us in them, however shining before men, is nothing but a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal in God's eyes!" Masillon.

Divine love so possesses the heart, as not to allow a partitioning of it to inferior objects. Thus it is distinguished from that partial love which is sometimes found in unregenerate people, which is only transient, and never comes to perfection; because the heart is divided, and occupied with various worldly objects. The love of Christ is not rooted, nor predominant in their minds.

A believer may, and, indeed, ought to love his fellow-creatures. A father should love his children, a husband his wife, and a friend his friend; but the character of love to Jesus is, on the one hand, to allow no love contrary to itself, to have place in the heart; for "no man can serve two masters; and the friendship of this world is enmity against God." And, on the other hand, this divine affection does not allow any of the objects, the love of which is in some degree compatible with itself, to hold the chief place in the heart. This chief place is for the Lord, whom we ought to love with supreme ardor. To regard him only in a secondary way, is to provoke his resentment. The choicest affections of our souls ought to be supremely fixed upon him. "How is your Beloved better than others? Yes! He is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!"

That love, which has but created things for its object, is degrading to the soul. It is a cleaving to that which can neither contribute to the happiness nor to the perfection of our nature; and, of course, which cannot give repose to our minds. For to love any object ardently, is to seek our felicity in it, and to expect that it will answer our desires. It is to call upon it to fill that deep void which we feel in ourselves, and to imagine that it is capable of giving us the satisfaction we seek. It is to regard it as the resource of all our needs, the remedy of all the evils which oppress us, and the source of all our happiness. Now, as it is God alone in whom we can find all these advantages, it is a debasing of the soul, it is idolatry to seek them in created objects.

If Christ is truly precious to us—we shall be induced to devote our souls and our bodies, our talents, our powers and our faculties, as a living sacrifice to him. To contemplate his adorable perfections will be our highest joy. We shall be ready to obey him in opposition to all the threats and the solicitations of men. We shall rely upon him, though all outward appearances seem to be against us; and rejoice in him, though we have nothing else to comfort us. If we enjoy health and plenty, friends and reputation, the Lord is still the object of our earnest desires and our supreme delight. "Whom have I in heaven but you? There is none upon earth that I desire besides you! As the deer pants for the water-brooks, so longs my soul after you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?"

The religion of Jesus does not consist in dull and lifeless formality. "God is a spirit, and those who worship him must do it in spirit and in truth." Our hearts should be warmly and vigorously engaged in cleaving to him; we should be fervent in spirit, in serving the Lord. Such is the infinite excellency of Jesus Christ, the Author of eternal salvation, that there can be no suitableness in the exercises of our minds towards him, unless they are lively and powerful. Lukewarmness is nowhere so odious and detestable as here. There is something very significant in the apostles of Christ being said to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, and with fire—as it is expressive, among other things—of the fervor of those affections which the Spirit of God excited in their hearts.

The apostle Paul speaks of love, as of the greatest importance in religion. He represents it as the fountain whence proceeds all that is truly good. He speaks of it as that without which the greatest knowledge and gifts, and the most splendid profession, are vain and unprofitable. The sum of vital religion consists in this divine affection, and in those things which are the fruits of it. The children of God are described as those "who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity."

This loving apostle, in whom the true spirit of Christianity was so fully exemplified, gave every kind of evidence that Jesus Christ was precious to him. It appears from all his writings that this servant of the Lord was, in the whole course of his life, after his conversion, inflamed, actuated, and, as it were, swallowed up, by a most ardent love to his Divine Master. Hence he esteemed all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of him, and counted them but dung that he might win Christ, and be found in him. He declares that he was overpowered by this divine affection, and carried forward by it in the service of him whom he so ardently loved, through all difficulties and sufferings. "For the love of Christ constrains us;" not only his love to us—but our love to him.

The knowledge a believer has of the excellency of Christ, tends to raise in his mind a high esteem of him. As it is impossible for any man to love an unknown object, so it cannot be expected that Christ should be supremely precious unto us, unless we know him to be excellent and desirable, beyond whatever may be compared with him. We shall not esteem him above all things, if we have not elevated views of his transcendent worth.

We may possibly delight in some objects of an inferior nature, as they contribute to our health, our ease, or our comfort. Our homes, our food, and our other temporal enjoyments are dear to us, because they minister to our comfort and convenience in the present life. We have a compassionate regard for the poor, though perhaps we see little real excellency in their character. We feel our affections of pity moved towards them, as fellow-creatures in distress. We have a natural attachment to our country and our kindred, because of their relation to us. But we love the Divine Savior with a very superior kind of love. We know that he is in himself possessed of the highest excellencies, and that he is able to bestow upon us the richest benefits. Our esteem of him rises in proportion to the knowledge we have of him. Godly men therefore ardently desire to increase in the knowledge of him, that their affections may be more intensely fixed upon him.

And though the believer's regard for his Savior is far from being wholly a selfish principle—yet the hope of interest in Christ's favor serves to draw forth and confirm his attachment to him. It seems impossible for any man to contemplate his supreme excellencies with delight—if he is destitute of hope. Christ is precious to those who believe—not to those who despair. The evil spirits said to Jesus, when he sojourned on earth, "We know you who you are—the Holy one of God;" but they know that there is no hope of their ever enjoying his favor; and therefore they continue in their enmity and rebellion against him. Terror, slavish fear, and despair are so opposite to love, that the apostle John does not scruple to say concerning the Supreme Being, that it is a sense of his love to us which draws forth our attachment to him: "We love him—because he first loved us."

Much has been said, and perhaps with propriety, concerning love to Jesus Christ for his own infinite excellency, as being the most distinguishing proof of a real gracious affection; but at the same time, it does not appear either from the Word of God, or from matter of fact—that sincere love to Jesus ever exists in any mind destitute of hope. So far as slavish fear prevails, it is a bar to love to Jesus; and therefore "he who fears" that Christ is not his friend—but may disown him at last, "is not made perfect in love." Hope of a saving interest in Christ opens the springs of affection; it draws and attracts the heart to its object. And therefore when we are required to give to our Maker and Sovereign, our whole heart and mind, and soul and strength, the manner in which the command is expressed is worthy of peculiar notice, "You shall love the Lord your God."

It is a maxim laid down by some respectable writers, that an unselfish love to God is essential to being a true Christian; or, as they express it, 'Whoever seeks anything in God beside God himself, does not sincerely love him.' It is allowed, that God is in himself—an object infinitely amiable—that, were it possible for an intelligent being to exist independent of God, it would be impossible for such a being to contemplate the Divine Nature and not to love it. But it should be remembered, that, even in the case supposed, consciousness of conformity to the nature and fitness of things, would be attended with pleasure; and pleasure is personal interest; so that, strictly speaking, pure unselfish love to God seems to be impossible.

Sincere Christians love God under the severest strokes of his providence. They find a pleasure in loving him, and in submitting to his sovereign will, which amply compensates them, and gives them the highest interest in this love. There are, as it should seem, not three different kinds of love to God—but three distinct degrees of the same love to him:

1. Our love may be drawn forth towards him by the temporal benefits which we receive from his indulgent hand. Yet temporal blessings are not the objects of our supreme love; but God, the giver of them.

2. Our love may be kindled and excited towards him by the spiritual blessings which he bestows upon us, according to the riches of his grace; such as his regarding and answering our prayers, his granting unto us discoveries of his mercy, in forgiving our sins, and the like. "I love the Lord," says the Psalmist, "because he has heard the voice of my supplication."

3. God is to be loved for his own infinite amiableness and excellency. But this love, being attended with pleasure, cannot be separated from mental interest. 'I love him,' says the most spiritual and heavenly-minded man upon earth, 'who is the health of my countenance, and my God. I will go to the altar of God; to God my exceeding joy.'

With respect to these three degrees of love, if the experience of Christians in common be attended to—it will perhaps be found, that most begin with the first, grow into the second, and end in the last.

And to the last, as to that degree which is most elevating, most honorable to God, and productive of the most noble effects—all godly men should aspire.

'A Christian's desire,' says one of our old divines, 'is to God chiefly, and to God simply; to God as the God of grace, for more strength and ability to serve him; and to God as the God of all comfort, for the pleasure of fellowship and communion with him.' Horton

 

If Jesus Christ is precious to us, the bent of our souls will be towards him. We shall choose him above and beyond every other object, as our most desirable portion, and exceeding great reward. If anything in this world be chosen by us, as our chief good—our hearts will run out in strongest affections towards it. We shall look for our felicity in that object, be it what it may; that object therefore, and not Christ, will be most precious unto us.

If our regard for the Redeemer is supreme, as it ought to be, our whole hearts will go out after him in the most intense longings, and with the most pleasing desires. The heart of a believer is restless until it finds its Savior; until it obtains a solid hope and persuasion of his love, a growing conformity to him, and sincere delight in him. The soul rests and acquiesces in him alone, and is not happy without the enjoyment of some tokens of his love. The language of such a one is, 'If I have Christ for my friend, and my everlasting portion—I have all. When his face is hidden, and his comforts withdrawn, I seek him with restless desire, and often cry, O that I knew where I might find him! After a season of darkness, when the light of his countenance is again lifted up upon me, I say, Return unto your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.' (For several hints in this part of the work, I am indebted to Isaac Watts, in his excellent Discourse on the Love of God.)

The sense we have of our continual and absolute need of Christ, has a tendency to engage our affections to Him. At our first conversion, when we were turned from darkness to light—we saw ourselves lost—and that none but Christ could save us. We felt the wounds of a guilty conscience—and we knew that He alone could heal them. We trembled before the offended Majesty of God—and we were persuaded that He alone could deliver us from the wrath to come. We saw that there was no remission of sin, no reconciliation with God, no salvation but through Christ Jesus—hence He became, at that period, all in all to us.

We still see the absolute necessity of this precious Savior in every respect, so that without him we can do nothing, as he himself has told us. We have need of him, when we are dark—to enlighten us; when we are dull and lifeless—to quicken us; when we are straitened—to enlarge us; when we are weak—to strengthen us; when we are tempted—to support us; when we have fallen—to raise and restore us; when we are full of doubts and perplexity—to comfort us and give us peace; when we are disquieted with fears—to encourage us; when we are staggering at the promises through unbelief—to confirm our faith. As none but Christ can do these things for us—he must be precious to our souls.

The following aspiration shall close the present section: 'Reign, blessed Jesus, in my heart, reign supreme, and without a rival. I would sincerely love you above all things in heaven or earth. I see that you are infinitely glorious in your own self, and worthy of the highest esteem and love. You are the only all-sufficient good, the overflowing spring of grace and blessedness. All things beneath and besides you—are vanity and emptiness. In comparison with you, they are less than nothing. You have drawn my heart towards yourself, and made me willing to make choice of you, as my Savior, and my Portion. I would renounce all that the world calls good or great, that I may be entirely yours. Be my everlasting inheritance, and I shall desire nothing that a whole world of creatures can bestow. Whom have I in heaven but you? There is nothing on earth that I desire in comparison of you!

'I am but a stranger in this world, wherever I may be situated, or however I may happen to be distinguished. And surely it is my privilege that I am so. When I look not upon myself as a stranger and a pilgrim, when I am captivated with anything in this place of my exile—I forget myself, and act far beneath my character, as a candidate for an immortal crown.

'I hope I have counted the cost of being one of your disciples; I hope I have laid in the balance—all which this world can flatter me with, and compared it with the gain of godliness. The odds I find to be infinite. I would therefore bid adieu to the gaudy pomps and empty vanities of life, and give my heart to you. I hear the voice of infinite mercy directing me to set my affections on things above. I would obey the celestial Monitor. What can present scenes afford, to tempt me to relinquish the choice I have been enabled to make? What can they offer, as an equivalent to his favor, whose smiles enlighten the realms of bliss, and fill all inhabitants of heaven with unbounded and everlasting delight?'


Section 5. If Christ is truly precious to us—we shall sincerely desire his presence, and long to enjoy intimate communion with him.

It is well known, that this is the tendency of a sincere attachment, whoever is the object of it. Hence we desire to have the company of our dear friends and relations. Absence is one of the sharpest pains of love. Our blessed Redeemer has said, "He who loves me shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." If he is precious unto us, we shall earnestly desire the fulfillment of that promise, that he would make known unto us more and more—of the loveliness of his person, and of his special kindness and love to our souls. Distance from him, the suspension of his favor, or the hidings of his face—will give us pain.

We shall often say, 'Lord, when will you come unto me, according to your promise? Let me find you graciously near, assuring my soul that I am yours, and that you are mine forever. Fill my heart with those heavenly comforts and holy joys—which you bestow on those who love you. I cannot bear this absence from you. Come, Lord Jesus, dwell in my heart by faith, that I being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth and length, the depth and height of your love; and to know your love which passes knowledge; that I may be filled with all the fullness of God.

When the eyes of men are opened to see their sin, their danger by it, and the insufficiency of their own works to justify and save them—no object is so desirable to them as the Lord Jesus Christ. The riches, the honors, and the pleasures of the world—are but vanity and emptiness to them, in comparison with him. He is therefore said to be the "desire of all nations," because men in all nations under heaven, who are made sensible of their need of him, uniformly desire acquaintance with him, and a saving interest in him above everything else. Their desires, like so many needles touched by the loadstone, have all a tendency to be attracted to him as their center. They all meet in him—as the same blessed object.

Were those who are illuminated by his Spirit and grace, collected together from the remotest corners of the earth, it would be found, on the strictest examination, that their desires have all the same tendency. Now, that which is the object of our ardent desire—is precious in our estimation. To win our hearts, the divine Redeemer died. To draw men unto himself, was the end he had in view when he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth—will draw all men unto me." Surely such a Savior is worthy of our warmest desires, and our most fervent love. All others are in such a state of blindness and infatuation with the world, as to see no beauty or excellency in Jesus, that they should desire him. But to those who believe—he is so precious that the desire of their souls is to him, and to the remembrance of him. But as bread and water are made necessary and desirable by hunger and thirst—so this desire after Christ springs from a sense of need.

'Come down from on high, O Sovereign of my heart; take possession of me for yourself. Inspire me with that holy flame of spiritual affection, that my soul may offer up the perpetual incense of holy love and desire towards you.

'O may all the alluring trifles and vain delights of this world stand aloof from my heart; for I have devoted it to my Redeemer for a habitation. Keep your distance, O captivating delusions, from the gates of my heart, where he only should dwell. There may he reign alone, over all my desires forever!

'I seek after him in his public ordinances; I search for him daily in my retired devotions; I there give my soul a greater latitude, where no eye beholds me, where no ear can hearken to my vows. There I tell him all my heart—in secret groans and cries. He knows what my sighs mean, and what are my fears, and my painful sorrows. There I blush before him—for my secret sins, and pour out the tear of penitential sorrow. There I utter my bitter complaints, of the disorderly passions I daily feel within me; I lament over the vanity of my thoughts, and spread before his eyes—all my soul's sores and diseases. I lay myself low in the dust at his feet, and tell him with humble confusion of face—how much I have done to dishonor him, how unworthy I am of his notice, and yet how I long for communion with him.

'O when shall these days of sin and temptation, these tedious seasons of absence and distance from my God and Savior, have an end? I breathe out from time to time, the most earnest desires after him, and after the endearing sensations of his love. My soul thirsts for God, the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?'

My passions fly to seek their King,
And send their groans abroad;
They beat the air with heavy wing,
And mourn an absent God.

Round the creation wild I rove,
And search the globe in vain;
There's nothing here that's worth my love,
Til he returns again.

Pensive I climb the sacred hills,
And near him vent my woes;
Yet his sweet face he still conceals,
And still my passion grows.

How long shall my poor fainting soul
Seek you, my Lord, in vain?
Reveal your love, my fears control,
And ease me of my pain.

Your presence, gracious Lord, can cheer
This dungeon where I dwell;
'Tis paradise when you are here;
When you are gone, 'tis hell.

Immortal joys your smiles impart;
Heaven dawns in every ray;
One glimpse of you will ease my heart,
And turn my night to day!


Section 6. If Christ is truly precious to us—we shall be concerned that others may know and love him.

It is the nature of love—to wish well to the beloved object; and, if possible, to do good to him who has a place in our hearts. Now, since the blessed Redeemer can receive no good from us—all we can do is to be heartily concerned for the manifestation of his excellencies and honors among men. And this concern we shall surely feel—if our hearts are right in his sight.

The apostle Paul, in whom every part of the Christian character was exemplified to a proper degree, expressed a most earnest solicitude for the conversion and salvation of the Jews. On this subject we find him declaring the sentiments and feelings of his heart, in the following solemn and moving manner: "I say the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience also bears me witness in the Holy Spirit. That I have great heaviness, and continual sorrow in my heart—for I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." The sense of these last words appear to be this, 'As Christ subjected himself to the curse, that he might deliver us from it, I think I could be content to be made an anathema after his example, and be like him exposed to all the execration of an enraged people, and even to the infamous and accursed death of crucifixion, if my brethren and kinsmen according to the flesh might hereby be delivered from their blindness, unbelief and impenitence, and be partakers of the blessings of the Redeemer's kingdom.' This is true Christian heroism, in its highest purity and excellence.

While we talk of our regard for the Redeemer, what sentiments of compassion do we feel for those who are strangers to him? Are we willing to submit to the most pressing difficulties, and do we think nothing too great to be done, too great to be borne—if their conversion and salvation might thereby be promoted?

Among the heathens, we find whole nations, who trained up their children in a regard for the public good, as the highest object and the noblest end of all their cares. We meet with heroes among them, who eternalized their names by their zeal for the welfare of their fellow-citizens. We find Phocion, who, in taking that poison which was presented to him by his cruel persecutors, exhorted his son to take the same poisons—because he owed more to his country than to his father. Aristides, who, in going out to a banishment to which he was unjustly condemned, lifted up his eyes to heaven, and prayed, that the Athenians might never have cause to remember the cruelties they had exercised on him. Codrus, who, having learned that the oracle had promised victory to the people whose prince should perish in war, devoted himself to death. It would be easy to extend the list, by mentioning Camillus, Sertorius, Paulus Aemilius, and others, famous in the page of ancient history, for this virtue. But the apostle of the Gentiles excelled them all, as far as the gospel he preached surpasses the dictates of the heathen moralists.

"Brethren," says he, to the converts at Rome, "My heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." They were in a state of impenitence and unbelief; they made light of Christ, and persecuted his followers, having a zeal for God—but not according to knowledge. The apostle longed after them all in the affections of Jesus Christ. The steady belief in God's secret purposes, was no check upon his ardor for their conversion. He sought it of him, who alone could effect it; he sought it with the greatest earnestness and constancy. He knew their destruction was inevitable, if they continued in unbelief and impenitence. The salvation of souls appeared to him in all its magnitude, as that which had employed the counsels of Jehovah from eternity; that which the Son of God spent his life and shed his blood to procure; and that which is of infinite importance to sinners themselves. Hence arose the ardor of his mind, in this noble cause.

He to whom Jesus is precious, who has himself experienced the power and sweetness of his saving love—will be ready to say to others, with the Psalmist, "O taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed are all who trust in him." Such a one will use his endeavors to bring his fellow-sinners under the means of grace. He will reveal his love to them, and compassion for them—by seasonable hints, exhortations and entreaties. He will earnestly pray that the Word which they hear may savingly profit them. He will be careful to lay no stumbling-block before them. He will try to convince them of their danger, and to inform them where their only help lies. He will strive to recommend the good cause, and to win their souls to make choice of it, by the meekness of wisdom, the labor of love, and the attractive power of a humble and holy life.


Section 7. If Christ is truly precious to us—we shall be grieved when he is dishonored.

The sins of those who pretended some regard for the gospel—but lived not under the influence of its sanctifying truths, excited the sorrow of the apostle Paul, because the author of that gospel was precious to him. "Of these," says he to the Philippians, "I have told you often, and now tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ!" He could not think of them, though they were enemies, without weeping, nor make mention of them in his letter, without bedewing the page with tears.

It is the burden of a Christian's heart, that the commands of him who made the world, who gave being to all things, and who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, should be trampled upon, and disregarded by men in general; and more especially, that this should be the case with any who profess to hope for salvation by him.

A pious man is more particularly grieved for the sins of that city, town, congregation, or family—to which he belongs. When Lot sojourned among the Sodomites, "that righteous man, dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day on account of their unlawful deeds." And the prophet Jeremiah most pathetically wished that his head were waters, and his eyes fountains of tears—that he might weep day and night, for the sins, and consequent calamities of his countrymen. In another place he thus addresses them, "But if you will not hear—my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride, my eyes shall sorely weep, and run down with tears."

A true Christian is a child of God; and it must grieve and distress him to see his heavenly Father so greatly offended and dishonored as he is by many. He is a disciple of Jesus, and loves his Divine Master; hence he cannot but be distressed that men should make light of him, of his gospel, his authority and commands. He is fully persuaded that those who sin against him—wrong their own souls; and that all who hate him—love death, and that which will issue in their own destruction. Under such considerations as these, the Psalmist broke out in the following strong expressions, "Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because men keep not your law."

The stain of sin can only be washed away by blood; this intimates that sin deserves death. It is not the length of time employed in committing sin, which ought to decide as to the degree or the duration of its punishment; but the nature and the atrociousness of the offence.

Sin is a slighting every instance of God's goodness, with which we are surrounded. The earth which sustains us, the sun which enlightens us, the food which nourishes us, and, in short, all the creatures designed to our use—are so many motives to obedience, and consequently are so many aggravations of our guilt and ingratitude, in rebelling against so good and gracious a God.

But let us consider the greatness of that Being, against whom sin is committed. Approach to his throne; his eyes are as a flaming fire; the majesty of his glory fills heaven and earth. Regard the celestial multitudes, who are the ministers of his will. And especially consider, that this great God is united to mortal flesh, to the end that he might suffer for us—all that which the fury of men, all that which the rage of Devils could imagine to be most rigorous. Now think what the nature of sin is, as committed against such a Being. To hate such a God, to despise such a Savior, to trample on his laws, to disregard his gospel, and to be unawed by his threatenings—is deserving of the deepest hell. That burning lake, that eternal misery, with its unfathomable deeps, Devils with their rage, hell with its horrors—have nothing in them, which seems too severe for rebels capable of such astonishing ingratitude!

Charles the Ninth, king of France, sent a message to the Prince of Conde, a zealous Christian, and gave him three things to choose—to go to mass, or to be put to death, or to suffer banishment for life. The Prince nobly answered, 'The first I will never choose, God helping me, for I abhor the idolatry of the mass; but for the two other, I leave it to the choice of the king, to do as he pleases. For there is more evil in the least sin, than in the greatest misery.'

I cannot forbear observing, that there are many causes for this grief at the present day; and if the Redeemer is indeed precious to us, our hearts must be affected while we are witnesses to the dishonor done to him by multitudes about us. If we look into the professing world, we shall find many, who, on account of their scandalous lives, may justly be denominated the enemies of the cross of Christ. They profess to know him, and to believe in him—but in works they deny him.

Many openly oppose the important doctrines of his proper deity; of his atonement for sin; of the work of his blessed Spirit on the hearts of men, in bringing them near to God; and of justification and salvation by his death. This cannot but give pain to those who, with the apostle Paul, are fully persuaded that another foundation for the hope of sinners, no man can lay, than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ; who believe, according to the Scriptures, that there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved. It appears to them, that an opposition to these leading truths of the gospel carries in it an attempt to rob the Redeemer of his glory, to take the crown from his head, and to overthrow that whole system of evangelical truth which is held forth in the New Testament: since the leading design of this system is, "That we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, we might have life through his name."

There are others again, who profess to believe the truth, and yet show little or no regard to it, in a practical way. The power of godliness is, in many places, manifestly on the decline. Iniquity abounds, and the love of many has waxed cold. That love which is the very bond of perfectness, is rarely to be found; few indeed there are—who love one another fervently with a pure heart. Most seem to content themselves with mere speculations in religion, and that dead faith which the Word of God condemns, as unprofitable. While in others, the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts for other things choke the Word which they hear, so that it becomes unfruitful. Instead of having their hearts in heaven, they mind earthly things, and seem to be intent on gaining the world—though they lose their own souls in the vain pursuit! Others turn aside from the holy commandment which was delivered unto them, and fall into such scandalous practices as give great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.

He who loves the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, or, in other words, he to whom the divine Redeemer is precious, must be greatly distressed to think that he should be thus wounded in the house of his professed friends.

If we look into the world at large, we find everything to shock and disquiet a serious mind. The whole world, says the apostle John— lies, is buried or entombed, in wickedness!

The abominable sin of drunkenness is practiced everywhere, by those whose god is their belly, and who glory in their own shame. The unclean spirit seems to have full possession of others, who live in the detestable, infatuating, and ruinous vice of lewdness, and are hurried on by their ungovernable passions, from bad to worse, from one degree of wickedness to another. The mouths of many are full of cursing and bitterness; their common discourse is interlarded with profaneness and blasphemy. The hearts of those who fear God are wounded, and their ears are stunned by multitudes, who, on all occasions, take His holy and sacred name in vain, and call for damnation on their own souls! Our streets, our roads, and all our public places are crowded with these diabolical monsters in the shape of men, who seem to have studied the language of the bottomless pit! "They blaspheme You; Your enemies take Your name in vain." Psalm 139:20. "Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, because the Lord will punish anyone who takes His name in vain." Exodus 20:7

The profanation of the Lord's day is grown to an amazing height. Nothing tends more to the increase of vice and wickedness. It is an inlet to sin of every kind. What sense of God and of duty is likely to be kept up, when divine worship is wholly neglected, and that day is entirely devoted to sensual gratification in the service of sin and Satan—which ought to be employed in acts of piety? The profanation of the Sabbath has, in many instances, been a leading step to an infamous end.

The man to whom Jesus is precious, must be disquieted on account of these and many other abominations, which are constantly practiced in the world. What proof do we give of regard to his law, his name, or his honor—if we are unmoved by these things? "I beheld transgressors, and was grieved, because they kept not your law." Doddridge's moving verses on these words of the pious Psalmist shall close this section.

 

Arise, my tenderest thoughts, arise;
To torrents melt my streaming eyes:
And you, my heart, with anguish feel
Those evils which you can not heal.

See human nature sunk in shame;
See scandals poured on Jesus' name;
The Father wounded through the Son;
The world abused; the soul undone.

See the short course of vain delight
Closing in everlasting night;
In flames which no abatement know,
Though briny tears forever flow.

My God! I feel the mournful scene;
My affections yearn o'er dying men
And fain my pity would reclaim,
And snatch the fire-brands from the flame.

But feeble my compassion proves,
And can but weep where most it loves;
Your own all-saving arm employ,
And turn these drops of grief to joy.


Section 8. If Christ is truly precious to us—we shall be ready to deny ourselves for him.

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23. If we judge of our regard for Jesus merely by the fervency and frequency of our emotions towards him, we shall, at some seasons, perhaps, have painful suspicions respecting our sincerity. He himself has been pleased to give us a safe and proper rule of judgment in this case: "If you love me, keep my commandments. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves me." His Word and will have a prevailing, governing influence on the hearts and lives of those to whom he is precious. A steady desire and endeavor to avoid those things which are displeasing in his sight—is a practical proof that he is dear to us.

To deny ourselves is—to give up our own supposed wisdom, that we may be entirely under the guidance of God; to resign our own wills that we may be subject to his will; and to yield our passions to his government. To deny ourselves is—to forego everything sinful to which self is inclined; to practice every good thing to which self is averse; and to be ready to give up everything dear to ourselves at the call of God—as our ease, our friends, our goods, our health, or even our life. It is a disowning, or renouncing ourselves for Christ; making ourselves nothing—that he may be all. This cannot be done unless he is precious to us, or, which is the same thing, unless he is the object of our supreme affection. But if this is the case, we shall give up ourselves, with all that we have, to him, without making any reserve. We shall, on a deliberate counting of the cost, choose the religion of Jesus, with all that appertains to it; choose it as attended with all its difficulties. So Moses chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin which are but for a season, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.

This is what our Lord means by the strong figurative expressions of plucking out the right eye, and cutting off the right hand; that is, parting with everything dear to us, when it stands in competition with him, or is opposed to his service or his honor. For he justly reminds us, that "no man can serve two masters; either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other." He constantly teaches us the necessity of preferring him and his interest and service—to the dearest objects on earth. "For he who loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. Whoever doesn't take up his cross and follow me—is not worthy of me." When matters come to such a crisis, that a man must either break with his nearest and dearest relations and friends—or break with Christ—he who prefers their favor and friendship to Christ's, and will not give up temporal endearments for his sake—is not worthy to be owned as one of his real disciples, nor can he partake of the spiritual and eternal blessings which belong to such. He who prefers his own ease and safety in this world—to the truths and the service of Christ, cannot be justly deemed one who sincerely loves him, or one to whom he is precious.

The same lesson of instruction is taught us by the parable of the treasure hidden in a field, which, when a man has found it—he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. And likewise by that of a merchant-man, seeking fine pearls, who having found one pearl of great price—he goes and parts with all, that he may possess that pearl. He is willing to give up the riches, the honors and pleasures of this world—for the enjoyment of that inestimable treasure which he has discovered.

To have a heart to forsake all for Christ, is the same thing, in effect, as actually doing it—so far as there is occasion, and so far as we are put to the trial. What our Lord speaks of "selling all that we have," is to be understood of a disposition of mind to be ready and prepared to do it, if it be necessary. Many of the primitive Christians showed their regard for the Savior and his followers, by actually doing this, though their example is no farther binding upon us, than as it relates to that disposition of mind which all the followers of Jesus should possess, namely—a readiness to part with all for his sake, whenever there is a proper call to it.

Self-denial, in respect to things in themselves sinful, should be universal, otherwise we do not give proper evidence of the sincerity of our love for Christ. Many go very far in a profession of religion, and yet live in the habitual indulgence of some sin, either great or small, secret or open. Judas made so fair a show, that all the other disciples questioned their own sincerity, rather than his. Yet Judas was covetous! Herod was a hearer of John the Baptist, nay, heard him gladly, and did many things which John recommended; yet Herod was resolved to live in incest. It is the same in many other cases. O reader, examine yourself, and beware of splitting upon this rock. If your heart is not sound in the statutes of Heaven, you are in danger of being put to shame another day.

Let us labor then, to mortify corrupt affections, and not willfully indulge ourselves in any sinful habit, custom, or practice. Without habitually resigning ourselves to God, and laboring to subdue sinful passions and inclinations, supposing we are real Christians, we cannot expect our souls to prosper in the use of the means of grace. If Agag is spared, from whatever motive, our sacrifices, like those of Saul, will neither be acceptable to God, nor profitable to ourselves.

Satan and sin unite their art
To keep me from my Lord:
Dear Savior, guard my trembling heart,
And guide me by your Word.

The path to your divine abode
Through a wide desert lies;
A thousand snares beset the road,
A thousand dangers rise!

Whenever the tempting foe alarms,
Or spreads the fatal snare,
I'll fly to my Redeemer's arms,
For safety must be there!

Dear Lord, obedient to your call,
I would the world resign,
Deny myself, give up my all,
And be forever thine!


Section 9. If Christ is truly precious to us—we shall be distressed that we are not more conformed to his blessed image and holy will.

In proportion as he is precious to us, will be our aversion to sin and all unholiness. In the undertakings, the sufferings, and the death of our Redeemer for us—we have such a representation of the evil of sin, and of the dreadful punishment due to it, as must tend to inspire our hearts with holy hatred against it.

We see in the wounds, the sorrows, and the crucifixion of the Savior—the dreadful malignity of sin. We see how hateful it is to God, since he punished it so severely in his beloved Son, when in our place, he bore it in his own body on the tree. We read the nature of sin—in characters of blood—on the cross of Christ. All the labored declamations of moralists on the intrinsic deformity of vice, can never represent it in such proper colors as it is seen here.

Those who have a due sense of the spirituality of the divine law, and who strictly examine their own hearts and lives by that perfect rule of righteousness, will ever see abundant reason for humiliation and self abasement before God.

From sincere love to Jesus Christ, will arise—hatred of those things which are contrary to his will, and which oppose and hinder us in our endeavors after conformity to him. The vain imaginations of our own evil hearts—will be matter of grief and sorrow to us, "I hate vain thoughts—but I love your law."

The Christian is grieved and distressed that his thoughts and affections are so much taken up concerning the affairs of the present life, and that he should be so insensible and unmoved at many times, in respect to eternal realities; that his heart should be so hard, so dull and unaffected about matters of infinite importance. He mourns to think that his love to God is so cold, that his desires after him are so languid, that his zeal for him is so low, and his gratitude for favors received, is so small.

His heart is pained within him—that he should feel himself so insensible and unmoved under the sound of the gospel. That he should sit and hear of the astonishing love of God in Christ Jesus, and of His giving his beloved Son to bleed and die for his own sins—without being melted into penitence, or inspiring him with love and zeal for Jesus. His heart is pained—that he should be so unaffected with the amazing kindness and compassion of Jesus Christ, manifested in His dying agonies, His bloody sweat, His ignominious cross, His loud and bitter cries, His pierced side, and bleeding heart—and all this for His bitter enemies—to deliver them from deserved and eternal destruction, and to bring them to the possession of everlasting glory and felicity!

'Surely,' says he, 'if there is a call for the exercise of fervent affections anywhere—it is here at the foot of the cross! O how disquieted I am— to think that I should be so stupid and insensible, even when I could wish my heart to be most ravished! Can anything be presented to my thoughts more important, more wonderful, or more interesting? And yet how superficial and ineffectual, at some times—are the impressions which are made upon my mind by these views!

"Blessed Jesus! how cold, how feeble, how languid is my love to You—who is altogether lovely! Alas! how readily are my fluctuating passions captivated by worldly things! O that I might feel the force of that motive—of loving You, who has first loved me! May Your love, O precious Savior, constrain me, and attach me intimately to Yourself—when I consider what you have done for me! Do, by a gentle but powerful influence—attract my desires. Though my eyes have never seen Your lovely face, though no accent of your voice has reached my ear—yet you can make yourself more intimate to my soul, than any of the objects of sense. O, let me not live so estranged from You! Warm my cold, and frozen heart—and kindle in my bosom, a flame of holy fervor towards you.

Keep me, O my God, in every hour of temptation. Unsupported by your preventing hand—I fall. But, armed with your protection, I shall stand fast, be strong, and victorious. O strengthen me to war a good warfare, that at length I may be overcome, through Him who loved me. Be at my right hand to save me, lest the enemy should triumph over me, and I be made the reproach of the foolish. I dread the thought of being left to myself! In the hour of temptation I have a thousand times experienced my own weakness and instability. Every divine impression has seemed to be obliterated. The celestial scenes which before engaged my attention have disappeared; paradise, and the glories of heaven, have fled like an airy vision; and the most important truths of Christianity have been concealed from my view—as if I had never known them! Lord, what is man! My soul is humbled within me, because of my foolishness."

At some seasons, the believer's mind is so oppressed with a sense of his own vileness—that he is ready to sink into despondency and dejection. In his retired moments he pours out his complaints in such language as this: 'The clogs of guilt, and the clouds of darkness hang heavy on my soul. What language can express the depth of my distress on account of sin! The spirit of a man may sustain his infirmities; but a wounded spirit—who can bear? A sense of the vilest ingratitude to the best of Beings, stings my heart, and deprives me of repose. All is gloomy within; all is discouragement without. What returns have I made for favors received? I cannot bear the sight of my own vileness. I abhor myself, and repent as in dust and ashes. The several periods of my life have been marked with repeated instances of ingratitude to him, who is the giver of every good and perfect gift, whom I desire to love, and to obey with my whole heart. My unstable soul has been perpetually departing from God, inclining to folly, and verging towards that which is evil. This, this is wretchedness indeed! For this I condemn myself almost without ceasing. My spirits droop, my heart desponds, my soul is disquieted within me. Lord, be merciful to me, pardon my iniquity—for it is great!' Yet amidst these gloomy, these self-condemning thoughts, light sometimes breaks in upon the mind, and then

The humble Christian feels within
A spring of consolation from above,
And secret cordials, which repair his strength,
Raise and uphold his fainting, languid heart.

Among the many considerations which excite the believer's sorrow for the evil propensities of his mind, and the sins of his life—is that of the Redeemer's death for his offences. To think of the love of Jesus to my poor soul, manifested in his sorrows, his sufferings, his agonies, and the shedding of his precious blood—pierces my heart, and makes me loathe myself in my own sight. While I look to him upon the cross whom I have pierced by my offences, surely I ought to mourn, and be in bitterness, as one who mourns for his first-born. Shall not I shed tears of grief for those sins, for which my Redeemer shed his precious blood!

It is true, the constitutions of men are different, some have tears at command, and others can scarcely weep on any occasion. But the lack of tears, should in this case, be made up by inward grief. Yet I must beg permission to say, that if men can shed tears on lighter occasions (and all the causes of sorrow are light—in comparison with this) but never shed a tear on account of their ingratitude to a dying Savior, it seems to indicate a lack of love to him, and that they have not a just sense of the evil and malignity of sin. The penitent woman, mentioned in the gospel, sat at the feet of Jesus weeping; she washed his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head.

'Break, break, O my stony heart! And you my eyes—why are you not fountains of tears, that I might weep day and night? Lord, I abhor myself on account of the defilement which cleaves unto me. Behold I am vile, I will lay my hand upon my mouth, and put my face in the dust! I have experienced a thousand proofs of your goodness, the remembrance of which fills me with shame, because of my ingratitude. I cannot in any instance charge you with severity. Your laws are not rigorous or grievous—but holy, just, and good. And yet I have frequently violated the sacred rules which my heart approves. But the height of my folly lies in having so often sinned against infinite goodness and love. I have abused your kindness, and affronted your clemency. O Lord, I beseech you, pardon my iniquity, for it is great.'

Such exercises of mind as these, strongly indicate the sincerity of our love for the divine Savior.

Alas! how wide my spirit flies,
And wanders from her God!
My soul forgets her heavenly prize,
And treads the downward road.

How my wild passions rage within,
Nor your commands obey;
And flesh and sense enslaved to sin,
Draw my best thoughts away.

Shall creatures of a meaner frame
Pay all their dues to thee;
Creatures which never knew your name,
Nor ever loved like me?

Great God! create my soul anew,
Conform my heart to thine;
Melt down my will, and let it flow,
And take the mold divine!

Then shall my feet no more depart,
No more my senses rove;
Devotion shall be all my heart,
And all my passions love!


Section 10. If Christ is truly precious to us—we shall adhere to him in all conditions.

We shall persevere in his ways and service, amidst all the various trials with which we may be exercised. If people who make a profession of religion live any considerable time in this world of affliction and trouble—they must meet with many trials of their sincerity and steadfastness. It evidently appears from the sacred Scriptures, that the all-wise God designedly brings his children into a state of trial and difficulty for their good; and particularly that it may be made manifest to themselves and others, that they belong to him, by their being enabled to endure this course of severe discipline, without fainting in the day of adversity.

After the patriarch Abraham had stood his ground amidst many other sharp exercises, it pleased God, towards the close of his life, to try him, by giving him that singular and solemn command, to take his only son Isaac, whom he loved, and to offer him up for a burnt sacrifice. Abraham fully demonstrated the sincerity and strength of his faith—by his readiness to obey this mysterious command.

When the children of Israel had nothing to drink but the bitter waters of Marah, it is said that there "the Lord tested them." Their being destitute of provisions for the support of life, was to answer the same end; until at length, in their greatest extremity of distress, "the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you." He afterwards told them, that the design of their being led through the wilderness for the space of forty years—was to humble them, to test them, and to know what was in their hearts, whether they would keep his commandments or not. The wilderness was great and terrible, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought; where there was no water to supply them—but what was "brought out of the flinty rock." The Lord thus dealt with them, not from a lack of regard to them—but as he repeatedly declared, for the purpose of trying them, that "he might do them good in their latter end. For the Lord your God tests you—to know whether you love him with all your heart, and with all your soul."

When they were settled in the land of promise, the Lord said to them, "I will not henceforth drive out the nations which Joshua left when he died, that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the way of the Lord, to walk therein—or not." Some such method as this God is pleased to take with his spiritual Israel in all ages.

We have a very singular and instructive instance of the end and use of adversity—in the case of Job. That holy man was severely tried; yet, in the depth of his calamity, we hear him say, "My foot has held his steps; his way have I kept, and not declined; neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips. I have esteemed the Words of his mouth more than my necessary food. Though he slays me—yet will I trust in him. He knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold."

Now, the man is blessed, who endures temptation; the outcome will be glorious; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life. We are therefore admonished not to think it strange, concerning the fiery trial which is to try us, as though some strange thing happened unto us. By our steady adherence to Christ and his cause, in the midst of all—we have the fairest opportunity given us, of proving how precious he is to our souls.

True Christians have such views of the transcendent excellency of the Redeemer, that they are powerfully drawn after him, and attached to him—in all conditions of life into which they may be brought. They see him as worthy to be followed, though they should be called to forsake all for him, and to endure the severest persecutions for his sake. Others, in time of temptation, fall away. But true Christians endure the storm, for the love which they bear to his name. Through the views which they have of his superlative amiableness and excellency—they are thoroughly disposed to be subject to him, and engaged to labor with earnestness and activity in his service, amidst all the difficulties, trials, and troubles which they may meet with in so doing. It is the discovery of his divine excellency, which makes them adhere to him; for this so deeply impresses their minds, that they cannot forget or forsake him. They will follow him wherever he goes, and the solicitations and the persecutions of men, and the guile and malice of Satan—are employed in vain, to draw them away from him.

Some "have had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yes, moreover, of bonds and imprisonments. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheep skins, and goat skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy; they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." Yet all could not wean their hearts from Jesus, nor extinguish their love to him! They were enabled to maintain their attachment to him in the midst of all—because he was precious to their souls!


Section 11. If Christ is precious unto us—we are concerned to make his glory the end and aim of all our actions.

Our blessed Lord died—that those who live by his death should not live unto themselves, making their own honor, ease, or pleasure—the end of their living in this world; but that they should devote their lives to the service, the interest, and the glory of their great Lord and Savior, who died in their place, to take away their sins by the sacrifice of himself, and who rose again for their justification.

We have a choice example of this, in the apostle Paul. When a prisoner at Rome, he wrote to the brethren at Philippi, to establish them in the truth which they had received, and to exhort them not to be shaken in mind by the persecutions which he endured; for he was persuaded these would, in the outcome, be for the furtherance of the gospel. "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death." He then adds, "For to me to live is Christ—and to die is gain." As if he had said, 'I have expressed my hope that Christ shall be glorified in me, whether I die or live, and in this hope I am encouraged, because he is the supreme end of my life. I value life only as it may be employed to the purpose of his honor. The interest and the glory of my Redeemer are the great ends I pursue, with unabating ardor and delight; that in publishing his blessed gospel, and suffering for his sake, I may gain over souls to him, and so promote his honor in the world.'

As the life of a Christian is derived from Christ, so it is directed to him. It is most certain, that, when he is actuated by the noble principles which the gospel inspires—that the honor of his Savior's name, and the advancement of religion, lie nearest his heart. And this seems to be the special import of the words above recited, from the connection in which they stand, "To me to live is Christ;" —that is, 'he is all and in all to me; I live only for him.'

The whole of the apostle's life serves to illustrate this declaration. In the midst of shame, hunger, nakedness, chains, and imprisonment, he was happy if his Lord and Master might be honored thereby. He did not count his life dear unto himself, so that he might finish his course with joy, and the ministry which he had received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. When his friends endeavored to dissuade him from going to Jerusalem, because of the dangers to which he would be exposed in that city, he said, "Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! For I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but also to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus!"

This heavenly man lived and breathed only for the honor of the Redeemer, and for the advancement of his kingdom in the world. The Jews hated him to the point of rage and madness. The Gentiles threatened him, sought his life, and persecuted him everywhere. When at Rome, in the hands of Nero, as in the paws of a raging lion, he was tranquil and serene; concerned for nothing so much as the honor of Christ. Whence was that calmness of mind which he invariably manifested on such occasions? Was his heart made of iron or steel? Was he insensible to the troubles which agitate other men? No—he was no stoic. His soul was all tenderness and sensibility. But a supreme regard to Christ carried him above all. The Savior's love constrained him. Jesus was precious unto him. Where his honor was in question, Paul would neither be influenced by the desire of life, nor the dread of death. A regard for the glory of his Divine Master, overcame all. Noble spirit! This is Christian heroism in all its sublimity; infinitely superior to the brutal ferocity of your Alexanders and your Caesars. Their only aim was to aggrandize themselves, though this should be done by cruelty and oppression. The highest wish of this blessed apostle—was to glorify the Redeemer, in promoting the welfare, the liberty and happiness of those whom he died to save.

But it is not enough to admire so fine an example. We ought in our inferior stations, so far as we are able—to imitate it. We know who has repeatedly told us—that unless we prefer him to all that is dear to us in this world—we cannot be his disciples. The steady and reigning design of our souls should be—that we may live to Christ, and make his honor the end of all our actions. We should count our services, our exertions, our labors, and even our sufferings delightful, if this end may be any way promoted by them. All we possess, should be consecrated to him who gave himself for us. The members of our bodies, and the faculties of our souls should be employed for him. Our tongues should sing his praises, our ears should hearken to his voice, our eyes should review his wonderful works, our feet should run in his ways, and our hands should be employed in the execution of everything in our power, which is pleasing in his sight. In all places, in all companies, in every undertaking, civil or religious, it should be our aim to glorify him. The general rule laid down by the apostle Paul, should be always kept in remembrance, "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do—do all to the glory of God!" And in another place, he speaks much to the same purpose, "Whatever you do, in word or deed—do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father by him."

We should never forget that we are not our own—but are bought with a price, for this very end—that we should glorify God with our bodies, and with our spirits which are his. All the operations of his grace upon us are for the same purpose—that we should show forth the virtues and the praise of him who has called us out of darkness into the marvelous light. This will be our delightful employment through the revolutions of a blissful eternity. That Jesus who is precious to us has said, "If any man serves me—him will my Father honor;" and surely, those who expect to be glorified with him in heaven, should make it their business, their aim, and their constant endeavor—to glorify him upon earth. To present our bodies, together with our souls to him, a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable in his sight—is a reasonable service.

It grieves me, Lord, it grieves me sore,
That I have lived to you no more,
And wasted half my days;
My inward powers shall burn and flame
With glowing zeal for your great name,
I would not speak—but for my God,
Nor move—but to his praise.

 

Section 12. If Christ is truly precious to us—we shall long to be with him.

We shall not only entertain joyful hopes of future felicity—but we shall live in expectation of the promised inheritance. We shall feel, at certain seasons, ardent desires of seeing Him upon his throne of glory—to whose humiliation, agonies and death, we are indebted for all our salvation. We shall wish to join the happy society who, without ceasing, celebrate his praise, crying, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing! For he has redeemed us to God by his blood!"

The weather-beaten traveler longs to be at home—that he may enjoy the company of those who are most dear to him. The mariner, after having been exposed to many storms and tempests, in a long and dangerous voyage—longs to reach the port of rest. The desired haven is much in his thoughts, and the nearer he approaches it, the more constantly and ardently he looks out for it. Just so, does the believing soul long to be in the immediate presence of him, whom having not seen he loves.

'The hearts of believers,' says the judicious Dr. Owen, 'are like the needle, which cannot rest until it comes to the point to which it is directed, by the mysterious virtue of the magnet. For being once touched by the love of Christ, and receiving from it an impression of secret, ineffable virtue—they will ever be in motion, and restless, until they come to him, and behold his glory. That soul which can be satisfied without it, and cannot be eternally satisfied with it—has neither part nor lot in the matter.'

'I have waited,' says the Christian, 'for your salvation, O Lord—when will you admit me into your holy habitation? How long shall I lie at this great distance from you?'

Whoever considers what it is—to behold the glorious face of Jesus in heaven, to contemplate a beauty which never fades, to be enriched with a beneficence which can never be exhausted, and blessed with a love which is unmerited and infinite—will find abundant reason to say again and again, "I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far! Why is the time of my absence from him prolonged? When shall the days of my pilgrimage have an end? When shall I see the face of my Redeemer, without a veil between? Many of my friends are gone before me; and now, secure of the conquest over all their enemies, they possess the rewards of victory, and are triumphing in the regions of immortality. They survey what was once to them—the battlefield, and look back with unutterable pleasure on the dangers which are now past. Their united foes are forever vanquished, and they inherit uninterrupted tranquility and repose. Their eyes behold the King in his beauty. They are in his presence where there is fullness of joy, and at his right hand where there are pleasures for evermore! O how I long to join their blessed society. Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly! This must be the language of my soul—until the solemn, the sweet moment of your appearance arrives!"

Supposing we were to have no pleasure on this side heaven—yet the prospect of being happy there, to all eternity, should teach us to be calm and patient under every calamity here, and even to bear these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, with a holy joy. There we shall see Jesus, live with him, and enjoy the glorious light of his countenance, not for a day, a month, an age—but forever. And who can tell the pleasure, peace, joy, and transport of a glorified saint, in the immediate presence of his ever-adorable and all-gracious Redeemer? When he is admitted into his glorious palace above the skies—with what surprise and astonishment must he be seized? We can conceive but very imperfectly, of the first impressions made upon him by the objects into the midst of which he finds himself transported. He there sees multitudes from all nations, countries, and languages, uniting in the admiration of infinite love, casting themselves before the throne of God, laying their crowns at his feet, and crying, from the abundance of a heart penetrated with the perfection of a Being so worthy of their homage and adoration, "Blessing, and glory, and honor to him who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever!" May we not suppose such a newly arrived inhabitant of the celestial place to say within himself, 'Is this heaven—and am I here!'

The glory of heaven is described to us by a variety of figures, and metaphorical expressions. We can only judge of happiness and misery, according to what we are conversant with in the present state. But in a future state, the veils of flesh and blood shall be taken away. The darkness which now beclouds our minds will be dispelled, and all the scales of ignorance will fall from our eyes. We shall no more see as through a glass darkly—but face to face. Then we shall know what is meant by the marriage-supper of the Lamb, and by sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God.

In heaven, there are angels, archangels, cherubim and seraphim, thrones, dominions, princedoms. In heaven, there are patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, myriads of saints, a great multitude which no man can number. In heaven, there are the throne of glory, the fullness of joy, the rivers of pure and everlasting delight, the pleasures which flow from God's right hand for evermore! The departing saint no sooner leaves his earthly tabernacle, than he mingles with the morning stars and sons of light. The supreme excellent God unveils himself, and allows him to gaze on his infinite beauty. That Supreme Being displays there, the bright assemblage of his adorable perfections. There is the eternal Father; there the well-beloved Son, clothed in a body like our own; and there the blessed Spirit.

The Christian longs to be in heaven upon many accounts; but chiefly—that he may see and enjoy his God without interruption; next to this, that he may forever be favored with the blessed communion of saints. When he lays aside his frail garments of mortality, he is clothed with the white robes of purity, glory, and honor. He immediately feels the force, and breathes the raptures of immortal love. The ecstatic moments, crowned with joy and ever-blooming life, now begin their everlasting round.

The believing prospect of future glory—is the great persuasive to holy obedience, and constant patience under the trials of life; since nothing can be too much to do or to suffer, in the view of that blessed state. How happy is the condition of the man who waits, with firmness and steadiness, for that crown of glory—to which he has a clear and certain right! He can draw from a well-grounded hope of it—pleasures suitable to an intelligent creature, and an immortal soul! He, in the midst of so many pains, so many miseries, so many labors with which this mortal life abounds, feels in his bosom—that source of consolation which is connected with a firm expectation of eternal felicity! How is he fortified against the terrors of death! Death to him is disarmed of its sting, and the grave of its boasted victory. What can we wish, more suited to our circumstances in these regions of mortality—than to know that our Redeemer lives, and that we shall shortly live with him, where death shall be known no more!

To an impenitent sinner—death appears as the messenger of God's vengeance, who comes to lead him to that tribunal where all his crimes will be examined and punished! When that dreadful moment arrives, the blandishments of the world vanish like a dream; a gathering gloom veils the face of nature, and eclipses all its beauty. No created enjoyment can cheer the sullen hours, while he stands shivering on the brink of an unknown, unfathomable eternity. These solemnities are new to him, and infinitely more dreadful than he had ever imagined. The king of terrors stands conquering before him—and draws his sable curtain round the bed of languishing.

The time of our abode in this transitory world is very uncertain, and the final event of things very solemn and important. The ancient heathens, to avoid the thought of death, forbore to mention the very name of it. And as it was impossible to live upon earth without having occasion to speak of the end of life, they expressed by a paraphrase, that which they were so reluctant to name. Instead of calling it death, they termed it a submitting to destiny, a falling by the stroke of fate, a departing, and a sleeping. But to change the name of a frightful object—will not much diminish the horror of it. The two expressions last mentioned are adopted, and, at the same time, sanctified by the inspired writers. Paul speaks with holy tranquility of the time of his departure being at hand. And death is called a sleep, as it is, to a godly man, the period of his entering into rest. And it has this name given it with a peculiar respect to the resurrection, when those who sleep in the dust of the earth—shall awake, and arise, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

May I have that love for Jesus, which will render it a desirable object to depart—that I may be forever with him! This is the only way to die with comfort. May the great purposes of life be answered in me, and at length the hour of death be welcomed with cheerfulness, that I may then have nothing to do but to resign my spirit into the hands of my Savior! I shall then bid adieu to this tenement of clay, to have no farther connection with it. It requires something more than human fortitude to support the soul under the immediate views of this separation. Here the resolution of nature and the aids of reason fail.

But faith can triumph over the grave,
And trample on the tombs;
My Jesus, my Redeemer lives,
My God, my Savior comes!

Then, O my soul, your deliverance will be complete from all that now enfetters you. My bonds will fall off; I shall be perfectly free from all the snares of sense and sin, which have formerly entangled me. I shall be oppressed with no weights, held down by no clogs of guilt, weakness or affliction. My whole soul, and my body too, after the great resurrection day, will enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God. How unspeakable will be the pleasure of having every faculty and affection at my command, and of having the free exercise of all!

When the poor prisoner has his fetters knocked off, and full liberty is given him to leave his loathsome dungeon, and breathe the free air—how great is his joy! The bird escaped from the cage, claps its wings, and with alacrity takes its aerial flight. This is a faint emblem of the joy I shall feel, when mortality shall be swallowed up of life. The language of the happy society will be in that day, "Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler; the snare is broken, and we are escaped! They will then feel themselves free from all confinement, and no longer say, "When we would do good—evil is present with us."

My soul is winged with fervent desire after the bright vision of my Savior's face, and intensely longs for her dismissal from the regions of mortality. Oh, when shall the blissful time arrive! I sigh for permission to enter the world of perfect light and love. I am still in a state of warfare; yet various as the sources of suffering are, the conflict—in which I am supported by the hope of future rest—can neither be long nor altogether painful. The great object of my expectation cannot be very far distant. A few years, a few months, nay, even a few days may bring me into that state of being, where the Fountain of everlasting light displays his glories, and where neither clouds nor darkness can ever intercept his radiant brightness! I long, with increasing desire, that my kind Father would sign my release, and speedily dismiss me from this scene of combat. When shall the storms of life be past? When shall I reach the haven where I long to be? When shall I enter the regions of perfect light and felicity, the paradise of God, where the tree of life forever blooms, and where an unbounded spring of joy, in all its glory, forever flows!

Come, blessed angel, raise my soul
To this divine abode;
Hasten—for my spirit longs to see
My Savior and my God!

 

 

 

Chapter 4. In what WAYS Jesus Christ is precious those who believe.

To you who believe, he is precious, or he is your honor. You account him your glory and your gain. He is not only precious to you—but preciousness itself. He is your jewel, your treasure; and should you be robbed of all besides, in him you are superlatively and everlastingly rich. By the faith which you have in him, you are enabled to discern his excellency, who is fairer than the children of men, nay, the chief among ten thousands, and altogether lovely. As such you must account him precious, and bestow the choicest affections of your hearts upon him. If the question is proposed to you, "What is your Beloved more than another beloved?" you will not be at a loss for an answer. He is precious in every view, and under every consideration. All that is in him, all that is done or spoken by him, and all that appertains to him—is precious. Let us enumerate a few particulars, by way of illustration.


Section 1. The HISTORY of Christ is precious to those who believe.

This is given us by the four evangelists, under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They have related every material circumstance concerning the birth, the life, the sufferings, the death, the resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus Christ—in a manner so simple, so sincere, and yet so sublime—as must captivate the attention, and touch the heart of every unprejudiced reader. The facts they record, are the most interesting that ever employed the pen.

The incarnation of the Savior of mankind was one of the most important, one of the most glorious events which ever took place in the revolutions of time. Then the virgin conceived and brought forth a Son, whose name is God with us. The Lord of glory took up his dwelling in mortal flesh. The purposes and promises of God relating to this wonderful transaction, were then fulfilled. The fullness of the times was then completed, and God sent forth his Son, made of a woman. Angels descended from heaven to bring the joyful news. A multitude of the heavenly host made their appearance on the occasion. Celestial music was heard by mortal ears. The glorious messengers had no sooner delivered the glad tidings, than they united in one of the anthems of heaven. The morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy; "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good-will towards men."

The Son of Righteousness was now to arise and shine upon a benighted world, and a new star appeared in the heavens, as a signal of this brighter day. Wise men from the east, taught of God to know the significance of this sacred token, came, under the guidance of its shining rays, to present their gifts, and pay their adorations to the new-born Savior. Such is the history of his birth. Abraham, the patriarch, rejoiced in the distant prospect of this day; he saw it by faith, and was glad.

A certain writer enumerates the circumstances attending the Savior's birth in the following animated manner, 'Herod turns pale on his throne; the powers of darkness tremble; the eastern sages suspend their speculations, and attend to no sign in the skies, excepting that which connects them to the new-born Savior. A minister of light is the herald of the astonishing event, and cries to the wakeful shepherds, who mingled their midnight devotions with their care for their flocks, "Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people; for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." And straightway, a multitude of the heavenly host inform the shepherds, on the Son of God's assumption of mortal flesh.

The celestial spirits wondered to behold their Creator and Lord—become a Babe at Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. From the moment of his nativity, how deep were his humiliation and abasement! Yet in that inglorious place where oxen fed—the heavenly hosts adore him! The Magi paid divine honors to the incarnate God. His presence changed the stable into a temple of glory, and ennobled the manger where he lay, so as to make it in some way—a throne of grace.'

The account given us of the public life and ministry of Jesus is precious. His entrance on the important work he had to do, was signalized by the manifestation of the glorious Trinity. When he was baptized of John in Jordan, the heavens were opened unto him, and John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him and a loud voice from heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.' After his herald had directed the sinful multitude, who surrounded him, to behold him as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world—Jesus began to preach the glad tidings of the kingdom, and to confirm his divine mission by a vast variety of astonishing miracles. He went about doing good, and healing all who were diseased. The blind received their sight, the lame were made to walk, the dumb to speak, the deaf to hear; demons were expelled from those who had been tormented by them; those who were sick of the palsy were restored to the perfect use of their limbs; the lepers were cleansed, and even the dead were called back to life—by his omnipotent Word.

This was the day for which the church of God had looked and longed, for the space of almost four thousand years. Patriarchs, prophets, and kings had waited for it, with earnest expectation. Now it was come. The glory of the Lord was revealed; the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, was made manifest. The greatest honor was conferred on this earthly globe at that period, when he who formed it by his almighty power became its inhabitant. The glory of the second temple was greater than that of the first, because the Son of God himself made his appearance in it. If a poor man should be favored with the presence of a prince, or an emperor under the roof of his cottage, he would think it a great honor. What an honor then was conferred on this world, when the King of Glory became its inhabitant!

The sojourning of the Son of God on earth, is the chief event which adorns the records of time, and enlivens the history of the world. It is the glory of the air, that he breathed in it; of the sun, that its beams once shone upon him; of the ground, that he trod upon it; and of the sea, that he walked serenely on its glassy surface. It is the glory of the elements, that they once nourished him who is the bread of life; of the water, that it quenched his thirst; of men, that he lived among them; and of Judea, that it was the land of Immanuel, where he sojourned more than thirty years. It is the glory of our nature that he assumed it, and, by so doing, exalted it to a high degree.

The dispensations of Providence, through successive ages, like so many lines, point at this period, as their center. Before his appearance, they made way for his coming; and since that period, they are subservient to the great ends to be answered by it.

The history of his sufferings and death is equally interesting, and equally precious. That he should suffer, bleed, and die—was the design of the Father in sending him into the world. The Spirit of God, in the ancient prophets, foretold the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.

Led by the sacred historians, let this solemn and affecting scene employ my meditation. Think, O my soul, on that most tragic—and yet most glorious event, on which your salvation depends. Call to mind the astonishing, the almost incredible history of your Savior's love. He who upholds all things by the Word of his power, who thought it not robbery to be equal with God—humbled himself so as to become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Behold him loaded with those sorrows which he willingly bore for our sakes. Follow him into the garden of Gethsemane; see the awful combat which he there sustained; a combat in which he defended himself only by his prayers, his cries, and his tears; a combat which led on to something still more formidable, the very thought of which so overwhelmed his holy soul, that his sweat was as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground, and he cried out, "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me."

Let me proceed still farther, and review that torrent of sufferings which the adorable Redeemer endured, from the period of his being led away out of the garden by a band of ruffians, to the hour of his crucifixion. Behold him accused by the loud clamor of a thousand revengeful and blaspheming tongues. Hear the fatal sentence pronounced against him by a prevaricating judge, who declared, that he believed him to be perfectly innocent. See his lovely visage marred, his face defiled with spitting; his hands bound with cords; his temples crowned with pricking thorns; his body bruised with crude blows, and his back scourged with whips, until he could count all his bones. See him, after all this, trembling under the weight of that cross on which he was to expire, in agonies which cannot be described. Ascend with him to Golgotha—the place of skull—the theater of the greatest wonder which omnipotence itself ever wrought!

Behold there the Lamb of God! Behold that Jesus, who is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person; see him stripped of his garments, nailed to the notorious gibbet, treated as the vilest malefactors, and, during that awful period, having, as it were, lost sight of those favorable regards of his divine Father, which constituted all his joy. Hear him, hear him crying out, "My God, my God—why have you forsaken me!"

Nature was thrown into convulsions. The earth quaked. Rocks were torn apart. The heavens were clad in mourning. The very graves being opened resigned their prey, and many of those who slept arose and showed themselves alive after his passion. On this great day, for which all other days were made, atonement was offered up for human guilt; solemn, avenging justice, which called for our blood—was fully and completely satisfied; the price was paid for the ransom of our souls; eternal redemption was obtained; our old man was crucified, that the body of sin might be destroyed; principalities and powers were conquered; the world was overcome; death and the grave were subdued; the eternal law of God, which we had violated—was magnified and made honorable; and all the attributes of Deity were infinitely glorified!

The justice of God is magnified by the punishment of impenitent sinners in hell; his goodness is magnified by the happiness of saints in heaven. But the death of Christ magnifies them both in a degree unspeakably higher. In this divine expedient, mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace embrace each other. By consequence, a way is opened for the communication of every blessing, which we perishing sinners, stand in need of, to make us completely and everlastingly happy. Pardon, peace, justification, acceptance, perseverance, and eternal life—are all ensured by the Savior's death. The wretchedness of that state, out of which we are delivered—can only be equaled by the blessedness of that into which we are brought, by our dying Redeemer.


Section 2. The PERSON of Christ is precious to those who believe.

His glory is so great—as to surpass the comprehension of finite minds. But that degree of knowledge which a Christian has of his person by faith, is more valuable than any other kind of knowledge whatever. The apostle Paul, who knew how to estimate it, calls it "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord." He justly counted all things but loss in comparison with this, which shows how precious Christ was to him. Our future blessedness will consist in being with him—and beholding his glory.

The evangelist John, speaking of the person of Christ, tells us, "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." But what or whom does he mean by the Word? "That Word who was in the beginning, who was with God, who was God, by whom all things were made, and without whom was not anything made that was made." The Word was made flesh by the assumption of human nature, so as to be Immanuel, God with us. This was set forth in the divine prediction concerning his incarnation. "Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."

Such is the dignity of Christ's person, that "he who has seen me—has seen the Father also." He tells us in another place, that he is in the Father, and the Father in him; that is, in the unity of the same Divine essence; for he and the Father are one.

He only who is over all, God blessed forever, was able to execute the work of our salvation, which required the exertion of unbounded wisdom and almighty power.

But it was necessary, in order to the accomplishment of the great work of our redemption, that he should appear in our nature. For in his Divine nature, simply considered, he could not bear our sins, give his life a ransom for our souls, nor rise again for our justification. Neither was there that peculiar relation between his Divine nature and ours, which could give us a special interest in what was done by him. Forasmuch therefore as the children were partakers of flesh and blood—he himself likewise took part of the same. This alliance between him and us was needful, to entitle us to the benefits of his meditation. It was thus, that he became our near kinsman, to whom belonged the right of redemption, and from whom alone we could claim relief in our ruined condition. On his becoming man, therefore, our deliverance from misery and destruction absolutely depended.

He, in infinite compassion and condescension, sanctified a portion of our nature unto himself, and took it to be his own, in a holy and mysterious subsistence in his own person. By so doing, he has exalted our nature above the whole creation. For the Father has set the incarnate Savior at his own right hand, in the heavenly places, far above all principalities, and powers, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world—but also in that which is to come.

In this view, the Lord Jesus ought to be, and really is precious to those who believe. They see their own nature delivered from the lowest degree of debasement into which it was brought by sin, and most gloriously and divinely exalted in the person of their Redeemer. This consideration affords consolation and delight to their souls. He must surely be precious unto them—who has assumed their very nature into union with himself, so that all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, substantially, and eternally in it. Never can we sufficiently admire the depths of Divine wisdom, condescension, and love, displayed in this mystery of godliness!

In his incarnation, he becomes the representative image of God to us—without whom our understandings cannot make any intimate approaches to the Divine nature. We behold the glory of the Deity in the face of Jesus Christ. With great propriety he is therefore said to be "The image of the invisible God; and the brightness of his Father's glory; and the express image of his person."

The wonderful union of the divine and human natures in Christ, renders him an object of admiration and adoration both to angels and men. "Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory." In the person of Christ we behold the most wonderful and astonishing display of Divine wisdom, grace and power. The whole mystery of godliness is resolved into this one article—that God was manifest in the flesh. This is the foundation on which alone faith can rest with security, and the distressed conscience find peace. The inspired apostle does not scruple to say, that "God has purchased the church with his own blood." That is, He did so who was both God and man in one person. His blood is of sufficient efficacy to cleanse us from all sin, and to purge our consciences from dead works.

He is the sovereign Lord of all. The whole universe is under his government, and at his control. He does whatever he pleases in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. The mightiest monarchs are but as worms beneath his feet. The thrones, principalities and powers of heaven are subject unto him. He is "higher than the heavens," with all their shining multitudes.

"Who," it is asked, "has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?" According to the representation of the enraptured prophet Isaiah, who saw his glory, and spoke of him—it is even he who shall feed his flock like a shepherd, who shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom. "All the nations of the world are nothing in comparison with him. They are but a drop in the bucket, dust on the scales. He picks up the islands as though they had no weight at all."

His knowledge is without bounds or limits; for he knows all things. His wisdom is perfect; for he is the wisdom of God. His power is infinite; for he is the Almighty. His riches are immense. "The unsearchable riches of Christ."

Whatever benefit or blessing we stand in need of, his grace is sufficient, more than sufficient to bestow it. He is able to save sinners to the uttermost. Being one with the divine Father, he knows, he wills, he performs the same things as the Father does. In his mediatorial capacity, he is the absolute Lord of life and death. He is the head over all things, and manages all providences as he pleases, for the church's good. The book of life, and the keys of hell and death are in his hand. He executes his office with the greatest fidelity, for the honor of the Father, and the salvation of men. What a safe, what a suitable object of faith—is Immanuel! There is all the ground that we can desire, for the firmest confidence in him, and reliance upon him.

Being in the form of God, he thought it no robbery to be equal with God; he counted it no usurpation to claim a full equality of nature with the Father, since he and the Father are essentially one. Hence all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father. To him the following address is made, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever." All the angels in heaven are commanded to worship him, or to pay the same adoration to him as to the Father. For there is no perfection attributed to the Father—but the same is attributed to the Son, in equal degree, and equal glory. As such, he is infinitely worthy of all possible esteem, love and service, both from men and angels.

He claims equality with the Father in his Divine operations, "My Father works hitherto, and I work." His work and authority are the same with those of the Father, in the preservation and government of all things. And hence the apostle assures us, that "by him, and through him, and to him are all things."

That the Divine Redeemer is man, cannot be doubted by those who, with proper attention, read the history of his life upon earth. His hunger and thirst, his labors and sorrows, his stripes and wounds, his offering up strong cries and tears, his pains and his death, fully prove his real manhood. But when we contemplate him in his transfiguration on the holy mount, we behold his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Then the Divinity, enshrined within his manhood, communicated its radiance outwardly to his body, and even to his garments. "His face shined as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light." He was "clothed with majesty and honor; he decked himself with light as with a garment."

When we contemplate the wonderful works which he performed, we see that he is the true God, and eternal life. The most boisterous elements in nature cease from raging, and compose themselves into a perfect calm, when he gives the powerful command, "Peace, be still." The most foul and inveterate leprosy is perfectly removed, and that in a moment, when he says, "Be clean!" The body which had been dead for four days, returns to life, and rises from the tomb, when he says, "Lazarus, come forth!" Disease and death, yes, the legions of darkness are obedient to his omnipotent Word! Surely this is the Lord of nature; this is God manifest in the flesh. This is he who says of himself, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last."

The nature which sinned, according to the rules of justice—was to suffer for sin. The Word, or the Son of God was therefore made flesh, that he might, as he said at his baptism, "fulfill all righteousness." He was incarnate, that he might have something to offer, more valuable and efficacious than the flesh of bulls and of goats. "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God." And as Christ took manhood, that by it he might be capable of death; so, because manhood is the proper subject of compassion and sympathy, he, who without our nature could not suffer for the sins of men on earth, does now, by means of that nature, make intercession for sinners, and exercise dominion over all men, with a true, a natural, and a sensible touch of pity. (Hooker)

I must beg leave to refer the reader to the learned John Owen, and other able writers, who have given us at large the Scripture doctrine concerning the person of Christ. My present design is only to contemplate the subject in a cursory and devotional way. I freely admit, that I am lost when I meditate on the glory of Immanuel. He formed the heavens by his Word, and all their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He fills the whole universe with his immensity. My faith ascends to him in the palace of his glory, surrounded with thousands of thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand mighty angels, always ready to execute his will. And did he become incarnate for us men, and for our salvation? I look down upon myself and say, What am I? Lord, what is man, that you should be thus mindful of him, and the son of man that you should so regard him? I am but an atom, I am but dust and ashes, and all overspread with pollution and deformity. And can this atom, this dust, this deformed mass of impurity—be the object of redeeming mercy? What motive could entice the Lord of glory to become man for my sake, and to communicate himself in a manner so intimate, so endearing, to a creature so base and vile? The seraphim around his throne cover their faces with their wings, and cry one to another, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty! The whole earth is full of his glory." Struck with a sense of his majesty, how justly may I exclaim with the prophet, "Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips." May one of the seraphs come and touch my lips, with a live coal from his altar!

There is an incomparable and transcendent excellency in the person of Christ, in every respect. He is fairer than the children of men; he is altogether lovely. The excellencies which are found in any of his creatures are as nothing, when compared with his excellency. Wisdom in them is but a beam; but he is the glorious Sun of Righteousness. Goodness in them is but as the drop of a bucket; but he is the fountain, the ocean of goodness. Holiness in them is but a glimmering spark—but he is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person. He is equal in all glorious excellencies with the Father. His divine nature puts infinite dignity on his amazing condescension, gives eternal efficacy to the sacrifice which he offered up to expiate our sins, and to the righteousness which he wrought out to justify our persons.

The righteousness of a mere creature, however highly exalted, could not have been accepted by the Sovereign of the universe, as any compensation for our disobedience. For whoever undertakes to bear the penalty of the law, and fulfill its precepts in the place of others, must be one who is not obliged to obedience on his own account. Consequently, our surety must be a divine person; for every mere creature is under indispensable obligations to perfect and perpetual obedience. And, as our situation required, so the gospel reveals—a Mediator and substitute thus exalted and glorious. For he is described as one who could, without arrogance, or the least disloyalty, claim sovereignty, and full equality with the Father. Hence it was by his own voluntary condescension that he became incarnate, and took upon him the form of a servant. And, by the same free act of his will, he was made under the law, to perform that obedience in our stead, to which, as a divine person, he was in no sense obliged.

The nature of our Redeemer's work, as Mediator, made it necessary that he should be both God and man in one person. Deity alone was too high to treat with man; humanity alone was too low to treat with God. The eternal Son, therefore, assumed our nature, that he might become a middle person—a Mediator between God and men, capable of "laying his hands upon both," and of bringing sinful man and his offended Maker into a state of perfect friendship. He could not, in office, have been a Mediator, if he had not, in his natures, been a middle-person.

The constitution of the Redeemer's person is the effect of infinite wisdom, almighty power, and unbounded love. It is here that the foundation is laid for our hope of everlasting happiness. There is enough in this subject to excite astonishment, gratitude and joy through eternal ages. It is not sufficient to say that it is mysterious; it is mystery itself; the mystery of godliness; the wisdom of God in a mystery. Yet the truth and certainty of it are clearly revealed; and though it is a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence to those who stumble at the Word, being disobedient; yet to those who believe, it is, and forever will be, precious!


Section 3. The NAMES of Christ are precious to those who believe.

The very sound of his name gladdens the hearts of those who believe. He is called by a variety of names, to set forth that variety of excellencies which meet in him. The prophet gives us a pleasing catalogue of some of those in one verse: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Every one of these names is instructive, significant, and expressive of what he is in himself, and what he is to us, wretched sinners, who are enriched by his benefits. They may well therefore be precious to us. They administer peace to the troubled conscience, healing to the broken heart, and consolation to the desponding mind.

Some have counted up over one hundred and fifty different names, by which the divine Savior is called in the Old and New Testaments. It may suffice us to single out a few of these. In that divine canticle, the Song of Solomon, where many of the amiable appearances in nature are employed to set forth his love, the excellency of his person, and the happiness of those who have communion with him—we have the following beautiful passage, "Your name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love you." As ointment and perfume rejoice the heart, so those titles given to our Redeemer, which are peculiarly expressive of his work, his grace, or his glory, afford pleasure and edification to those who are desirous of giving their choicest affections to him.

I hope the reader will excuse me, if I add a short note from John Owen; speaking of communion with Christ, he says, 'As this is intimated in many places of Scripture, so there is one entire book designed to set it forth. This is the divine Song of Solomon. It is a gracious record of the divine communications of Christ in love and grace unto his church, with her returns of love to him, and delight in him. A man may judge himself to have somewhat profited, in the experience of the mystery of a blessed fellowship and communion with Christ, when the expressions in that holy dialogue, give light and life to his mind, and efficaciously communicate unto him an experience of their power. But because these things are little understood by many, the book itself is much neglected, if not despised. Yes, to such impudence have some arrived, in foaming out their own shame, as that they have ridiculed the expressions of it; but we are foretold of such mockers in the last days, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.'

1. The name JESUS signifies a Savior. This name was given to him, because he saves his people from their sins; therefore is a name very dear to those who believe. They have seen the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and beheld themselves in a perishing condition because of it; as such the news of a Savior is to them as life from the dead. That news of his name and salvation, which the gospel brings to their ears, is like the breaking and pouring forth of a box of precious ointment, removing that sadness and sorrow of heart, which are occasioned by a sight and sense of their own sin and misery.

Pearson seems to have set the etymology of the name Jesus in the clearest light, by observing that Jah, one of the incommunicable names of God, enters into the composition of the Hebrew name Jehoshuah, to which Jesus answers. This derivation most plainly shows, how Christ's being called Jesus was, as the sacred historian suggests, in effect, an accomplishment of the prophecy, that he should be called Immanuel. "You shall call his name Jesus." This was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, "They shall call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted, is, God with us." It is intimated here, that the name Jesus is, in signification, equivalent to that of Immanuel, or God in our nature. He must be man as well as God—and God as well as man; otherwise he could not be the Savior of ruined sinners. But being both in one person, he was capable of suffering what was necessary to be suffered, and of performing what was needful to be performed, in order to accomplish the great design.

The reason given by the heavenly messenger, why he must be called Jesus, serves to set forth the signification of the name, "For he shall save his people from their sins." To save them is, on the one hand, to rescue them from evils which it is not in the power of language to describe; and, on the other, to confer upon them an infinite good.

Some of the grandest titles of the Almighty are joined in the Old Testament, with this term Savior. "I, even I, am Jehovah, and besides me there is no Savior. I am Jehovah, there is no God else besides me; a just God, and a Savior; there is none besides me. I am the Lord your God, the holy one of Israel, your Savior. All flesh shall know that I the Lord am your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. O the Hope of Israel, the Savior thereof!" Of such a Savior we wretched sinners stood in need, and such a Savior Jesus is, as appears from the united testimony of the inspired writers.

How full of comfort then must this precious name be, to every believing soul! Jesus, the Savior, God with us, the Son of God in our nature, full of tenderness, unbounded love, almighty in power, able to offer up a sacrifice for our sins of infinite value, able to conquer all enemies, to overcome all opposition, to bestow every saving blessing upon us, and to fulfill in us all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power. The blessedness derived from him is immense and everlasting. All that is experienced of it in this world, is but a pledge of what is reserved for that which is to come. Well may every Christian say, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! He has a name above every name—at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Jesus! I love your charming name,
'Tis music to my ear;
Fain would I sound it out so loud
That earth and heaven should hear.

Yes, you are precious to my soul,
My transport and my trust:
Jewels to me are gaudy toys,
And gold is sordid dust.

All my capacious powers can wish,
In you does richly meet;
Not to mine eyes is light so dear,
Nor friendship half so sweet.

Your name still dwells upon my heart,
And sheds its fragrance there;
The noblest balm of all its wounds,
The cordial of its care.

I'll speak the honors of your name
With my expiring breath;
Then speechless clasp you in my arms,
And thus be blessed in death!

2. He is called MESSIAH, and in that character is also precious to believers. With a lively faith they behold in him—the exact accomplishment of the various prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Redeemer of mankind. The seed of Abraham, and of David; born of a virgin, poor and obscure, and yet one whom David called his Lord; a great king, an everlasting priest, though not of the tribe of Levi; born at Bethlehem; a prophet like unto Moses—but greater than he. They behold him as one who would preach good tidings to the meek and the poor; as one who would proclaim liberty to the captives, as one would comfort the mourners, and heal the broken in heart; as one who would publish his gospel first in Galilee of the Gentiles, and then throughout the coasts of Israel; as one who would have a forerunner in the spirit and with the power of Elijah, crying in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'

They see from the prophets, that the Messiah was to be one who would come unto the daughter of Zion—meek, lowly, and riding upon a donkey; as one who would work miracles more than Moses and all the ancient prophets, miracles of a mild, merciful, and beneficent kind; as one who would open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, make the tongue of the dumb to sing, the lame man to jump as an deer.

They perceive that the Messiah was to be one, who notwithstanding all the displays of his power and goodness, would be rejected by the greater part of the Jews, to whom he would be a stumbling block, and a rock of offence. They see that he was to be one who would be despised and afflicted, a Man of sorrows, and cut off from the land of the living; who would have numerous enemies, that would hate him without a cause. They see that he was to be accused by false witnesses, betrayed by a pretended friend, sold for thirty pieces of silver, which money would be given for a potter's field, after it had been thrown away by the treacherous traitor, who would come to a miserable end.

They see that the enemies of the Messiah would use him in a very barbarous and shameful manner; that they would buffet him, and spit in his face; that he would be led like a lamb to the slaughter, not opening his mouth, but only to intercede for these transgressors; they would strip him of his clothing, dividing it among themselves by lot; they would surround him like furious bulls, pierce his hands and his feet, mock him in the midst of his agonies, shaking their heads at him, and giving him gall and vinegar to drink; that he would be reduced to such a state by his sufferings, that his heart would melt within him like wax, his bones be dislocated, and his tongue cleave to the roof of his mouth; that his hands and his feet would be pierced, and yet not one of his bones broken; that in his expiring agonies he would cry, "My God, my God—why have you forsaken me!"

They see that he would be numbered with transgressors, and after he had been put to a shameful death, be laid in the sepulcher of a rich man, whence he would rise again the third day, before he had seen corruption; that he would ascend up to heaven, sit at the right hand of the Father, be crowned with glory and honor, see his seed, the happy fruits of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied.

While all these, and many other prophecies are found to have their exact accomplishment in Jesus Christ, even as face answers to face in a looking-glass, he certainly ought to be endeared to our hearts. We would say with the enraptured Nathaniel, that Israelite indeed, "We have found the Messiah, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets wrote, even Jesus of Nazareth! He is indeed the very Christ, the anointed of God, and the Author of eternal salvation!"

3. He is called, The PRINCE of PEACE. Sin had put an end to all friendly fellowship between man and his Maker—but Jesus undertook to make up the breach. Let others dream of reconciliation with God, on the ground of absolute mercy, without satisfaction for sin; I can form no idea of such a reconciliation, as there is a total silence about it in the Scriptures of truth.

"Your mercy, O my God, is never exercised to the harm of your solemn justice. The severity of your justice is not lost in the freeness of your mercy—nor the freeness of your mercy in the strictness of your justice. It is daring insolence in any sinful creature, to imagine he can have peace with you, in a way dishonorable to truth and righteousness.

"We have violated that holy law, by which you govern the world. The penalty must fall on the delinquent, if an interposing Mediator does not make up the breach. But your own eternal Son, in order to make peace, has brought a price in his hand, a price adequate to the wrong done to you, O my God, and to the offence committed against you. A price, which was sufficient to stop the course of your solemn justice, sufficient to accomplish the wonderful design, that you might be abundantly satisfied, and well pleased with those who once were enemies. Your wrath is laid aside—he who was a rebel and a traitor, being once subdued, is received into the bosom of your favor, and enjoys that friendship with God, which shall abide forever. The virtue of my Redeemer's sacrifice is such that it reaches back to the first Adam, and forward to the end of the world, and will be as efficacious then as it was the first moment it was offered.

"Blessed Jesus, Prince of Peace, there is none but yourself to screen my guilty soul from Divine wrath. How precious are you to me, when I consider what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God! Who can dwell with devouring fire? Who can endure everlasting burnings? Yet these must have been my portion, if you had not espoused my cause. And these will be the portion of all those who reject your mediation. Were there any other expedient, something might be said to excuse their folly. But this is the only sovereign remedy.

"And may this remedy be ever dear to my heart! Dearer than the light which salutes my eyes; dearer than the food which supports my life; yes, dearer than life itself! To you, blessed Savior, my everlasting thanks are due, for your kind interposition in my favor, to make peace by the blood of the cross. Without this, I could never have had access to the Father; I could never have enjoyed communion with God here, nor the pleasing hope of being admitted into his presence hereafter. But a new and living way is now opened. Through the Prince of Peace, I have boldness and access with confidence. And the blessing of reconciliation is permanent as well as great. Jesus everlastingly maintains that peace which he has once procured. It is a lasting blessing, since he has obtained eternal redemption for us."

4. He is called the "Lord of glory." So the apostle Paul, in his former epistle to the Corinthians, speaks of him: "Which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." His person is glorious. His works are glorious. The liberty he grants to those who had been the captives of sin and Satan, is a glorious liberty. The gospel which reveals him, is a glorious gospel. The church, which is his mystical body, is a glorious church; such indeed it will be, when he presents it to himself, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. His kingdom is a glorious kingdom, and his throne is the throne of glory.

His essential glory, as God, and one with the Father, is not only unspeakable—but inconceivable. His honor, his name, his essential properties and perfections, his nature, and his will are the same with those of the Father. Of this he assures us, when he says, "All things that the Father has, are mine."

The glory which belongs to him as Mediator, and head of the church, is exceedingly great. Of this the apostle speaks, when he tells us, that "God has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee would bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue would confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

As he is the Lord of glory, he has that at his disposal, and will bestow it on his followers. Thus when addressing his divine Father, he said, "The glory which you gave me, I have given them." He will therefore appoint unto them a kingdom, as the Father has appointed unto him. They know that when he shall appear, they must also appear with him in glory. Their souls shall be filled and adorned with glory, and even their vile bodies shall be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.

His name, as the Lord of glory, is precious to those who believe. They desire to have daily more and more acquaintance with him, and to grow in the sweet and powerful experience of that fellowship which is carried on between a glorious Redeemer in heaven, and his saints on earth. Let us suppose the true Christian, in his retired moments, addressing God in such manner as the following:

'You O God are unchangeable in Your nature, glorious in Your essence, wonderful in Your perfections, wise in Your counsels, and holy in all Your works. It is my greatest good and highest happiness--to enjoy Your favor, and to behold Your glory. Permit me to say, with Your servant Moses, I beseech You, show me Your glory! Show me the glory of Your wisdom, Your holiness, Your power, Your grace, and Your mercy in Christ Jesus. This will give me a distaste for the gaudy vanities of the present world. I shall then look with indifference on all that, after which the covetous are eagerly panting. I shall then pity the ambitious, in their restless solicitude to make themselves great, and to obtain the veneration of their fellow worms. Your Divine beauty and infinite loveliness, as displayed in the glorious Mediator, will captivate my desires, inflame my love, and excite my joy and delight!

"A more intimate view of Your holiness will embitter every sin, and lead me, in deepest humiliation, to abhor myself, and repent as in dust and ashes. Give me such a sense of Your majesty--as may dispose my heart to reverence You supremely. Afford me such discoveries of Your omnipotence, Your love, and Your goodness--as may support my fainting heart under the toils of this warfare, and all the afflictions attending this state of mortality. Let the impressions which Your adorable perfections make upon me, be deep and powerful, so as to transform my soul into Your own amiable and holy likeness. Thus by beholding Your glory--may I be changed into Your image.

"It is habitual, and not transient communion with Jesus, the Lord of glory, which will satisfy my desires, and produce those happy effects which I seek--of nearer conformity to Him in knowledge, righteousness and true holiness. How much will communion with Christ--tend to refine my understanding, rectify my soul, and purify my heart! Grant me, O Author of all good, by frequent converse with You, to have my affections spiritualized, that I may look with indifference on all other objects, and have my mind in heaven. In fellowship with You, I shall find a source of delights, infinitely superior to anything that this world can afford. For Your loving-kindness is better than life itself. You are the inexhaustible treasury of blessedness. O Lord God Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in You!"

5. He is called STRENGTH. "The Lord Jehovah is my Strength, and my Song; he also has become my Salvation." It is he who gives strength and power to his people. In him they have not only righteousness, but strength. He is precious to the believer under this consideration, who is emboldened to say, with the apostle Paul, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me."

God has formed all his works, both in nature and grace, so as perpetually to need his supporting hand. By so doing, he has laid us under a happy necessity of being dependent on him. I am a weak—and therefore must be a dependent creature. I have to strive against numerous enemies, stronger than myself, and cannot stand my ground without strength from above. There is a necessity for the same power to keep it, as was at first exerted in subduing it. Such is the state of my soul. It relieves me to think that my precious Savior knows my need, and has promised to give strength according to the day. Strengthen, O Lord, that which you have wrought!

'I would humble myself under a consciousness of my own unspeakable weakness, and would ever be sensible, that danger is near; but I would at the same time, rejoice in the happy necessity I am under of being constantly dependent on him, who is mighty to save.

'Lord, you have taught me, by daily experience, that I stand in need of your supporting power on all occasions. May your everlasting arm be underneath me, and your strength be made perfect in my weakness. Renouncing all confidence in the flesh, may I, by a lively faith—be strong in the grace which is in you.

'I am not sufficient of myself even to think anything properly and spiritually, much less am I able to perform any holy purpose, in a right and acceptable manner. It is the Lord who gives strength both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Having formed the soul for heavenly motion, and regulated the springs of action, his presence and agency are still continually necessary to bring it forward in the way of holiness. He is the author, the sustainer, and the finisher of all good. When to will is present with me—yet how to perform that which is good I find not—but only as Christ strengthens me. If I attempt to engage in any spiritual exercise, I no longer keep close to it than his Almighty hand upholds me, and leads me on. If I pray, I know not what to pray for as I ought, unless his Spirit helps my infirmity. If I would hear the Word, I need the same divine hand to open my heart, that I may profit by what I hear. In the whole of my Christian course, I find the words of my precious Redeemer verified, "Without me—you can do nothing."

6. He is called, the "Consolation of Israel." He is not only a comforter—but comfort itself. Other comforts, when compared with him, scarcely deserve the name. True believers rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. A command is given them to rejoice in him always. The gospel which reveals him is a joyful sound, the tidings it brings are glad tidings.

Jesus may well be called the Consolation of his people, as he saved them from everlasting misery, relieves them under present troubles, and advances them to the regions of eternal joy and felicity. All the consolation they have in this world, is derived from him. If they have joy in God—it is through Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom they have now received the atonement. If they glory—it is in his cross. If they are of good cheer—it is because he has forgiven their sins. If they rejoice in hope of the glory of God—it is because Christ is in them, the hope of glory.

Hence we hear those who believe, expressing themselves in such language as this, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with jewels."

Christ is to his people—everything they can need, and everything they can enjoy. Happy are those who can claim interest with him—who is all and in all to those who love him. If they renounce the pleasures of sin, they have joys infinitely beyond them.

Reader, you, like the rest of your fellow-creatures, are in quest of happiness; but, permit me to ask, Where do you seek it? Do you seek it in the wealth of this world? That is but a splendid encumbrance. Do you seek it in the honor which comes from men? That is but a puff of noisy breath, a glittering bubble, which breaks almost as soon as it is formed. Do you seek happiness in the pleasures of sin? They are but for a season; they leave a sting behind, and end in misery and torment! Nay, even while you are in pursuit of them, you will find, that, like the briny waters of the ocean to a thirsty palate, they irritate rather than satisfy. Do you seek to get rid of disquieting thoughts, in mirthful and jovial company? Alas! this is only a temporary opiate—not a lasting cure. And it is well, if, like an opiate when its power is spent, it does not leave the spirits disordered, flattened and sunk. Learn to look for peace and happiness in him who is the Consolation of Israel; in the discoveries of his boundless love, the precious promises of his gospel, and the hope of complete salvation and everlasting glory through him. Here the true health, ease, and felicity of our nature, are to be found.
 

Section 4. The OFFICES and CHARACTERS of Christ, are precious to those who believe.

The evangelist John tells us, that when Christ was upon earth, he and others "saw his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." He cannot be understood to speak here of the glory of his outward condition; for Christ made himself, in this respect, of no reputation, taking on him the form of a servant. Nor is this to be interpreted directly and absolutely of the eternal, essential glory of his divine nature; for this cannot be seen in the present state. But the evangelist rather speaks of his glory as Mediator; for it is in the administration of that office that he is "full of grace and truth." This indeed implies his divine nature, as "the only-begotten of the Father." This glory of the Redeemer was seen, not with bodily eyes—but by faith; for John immediately afterwards tells us, that what he speaks of was the privilege only of those who received him, and believed on his name.

God gave to his church, under the Old Testament, kings, priests, and prophets. He anointed them to their several offices, gave them directions as to the discharge of those offices, was present with them in their work, and accepted their services. These offices are all united in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1. He is a PRIEST forever after the order of Melchizedek. His priesthood was foretold in the writings of the prophets, and it is particularly insisted on by the apostles. The priestly office consists of two branches, the offering of sacrifice, and making intercession. The sacrifice which Jesus had to offer was his life, which he gave as a ransom for many. He offered himself without spot to God; and on this account, he is called the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. For the same reason he is said to be set forth as an atoning sacrifice. Both the parts of his priestly office are mentioned by the apostle John, and their mutual relation to each other is hinted at, in the following words, "We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins." His intercession with the Father, as our Advocate, is grounded on his being an atoning sacrifice for our sins. But we are indebted to the apostle to the Hebrews, for the largest and clearest account of Christ's priesthood.

Jesus may well be precious in this capacity to those who believe, for his priesthood is the principal foundation of the faith and comfort of the church. The subject is interesting and important in the highest degree; but instead of a farther discussion of it in this place, I shall only add the following aspiration:

'O great and glorious High Priest, who is higher than the heavens; you condescended to dwell with men upon earth, and offer up yourself as an offering and a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savor. By that one offering you have perfected forever those who are sanctified. Our sins stood between God and us, like a dreadful wall of separation—but by your glorious and all-sufficient atonement, you have effectually removed the obstruction, and made the way of access to God and happiness free and open, that the offended Majesty of heaven, and offending mortals when brought to repentance, might be united in the bond of perpetual love.

'When sojourning here upon earth, you called sinners, by your own voice, to partake of this privilege: and you call them still by the ministers of reconciliation, and by your blessed Word and gospel. You said to the trembling sinner, "Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven!" Let me also hear your pardoning voice; let me know, by happy experience, that I have redemption through your blood, the forgiveness of my sins, according to the riches of your grace. Let my conscience be purged from dead works, that I may serve the living God. So shall I rejoice with the felicity of your chosen people, and the gladness of your heritage!

'You bled and died for sinners upon earth—and ever live to make intercession for them in heaven. You are therefore able to save to the uttermost! O let me experience the benefit of your intercession. Surely you are precious to my soul in your priestly attire. No hope, no peace, no joy springs up in my bosom—but what is connected with your atoning sacrifice, and powerful intercession. Send down your blessed Spirit into my heart, to seal me for your own! Say to my soul, "I am your salvation;" then shall I joy in God through Jesus Christ the Lord, the unchangeable and everlasting High Priest of the church, by whom I now receive the atonement.'

2. As KING in Zion, all power is given to Jesus in heaven and in earth. He has all the dignity, and all the authority of a king. He is the Lawgiver of the church, who is able to save, and to destroy. All acts of worship are to be performed in his name. Ministers preach in his name. Christians pray in his name. Believers are baptized in his name. Christians partake of the holy supper in remembrance of him. Censures on disorderly people are given to his name. All the officers in his church have their commission from him. And the judgment of the world, at the great day, will be administered by him, when "he shall sit upon the throne of his glory!"

But the Redeemer could not be precious to us in his kingly office—if he were not really and properly God, equal and one with the Father. For, as a learned Divine justly observes, since whatever the Father does in respect to the church, is done in and by his Son; if the Son is not possessed of the same properties and perfections with the Father, the foundation of our faith is cast down, and the spring of our consolation utterly stopped. If Christ is no more than man, or a created being, however dignified or exalted, the committing of all rule, authority, and judgment to him, is so far from being a source of encouragement and comfort—that it may justly be considered as the greatest disadvantage to the church, which can be imagined.

He who is King in Zion, would be always present with every member of his church; he would know all their hearts, and all their needs; and he would be able to give them immediate relief and protection in every time of danger. This is only possible to one who is possessed of infinite wisdom, of almighty power, and who is omnipresent, or present in all places at one and the same moment. If Christ be able, at all times, to relieve us, to support us, to deliver us, and to save us from the power of our spiritual enemies—he is precious to us, while we behold the scepter of government in his hands. We may then say, "The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice!" But if we once suppose that he, of whom it is said, "The government shall be upon his shoulders," is not the Mighty God, or the Lord Jehovah, our faith, our hope, and our joy in him will be effectually overthrown. We must then hang our harps upon the willows, and give way to all the horrors of despondency and despair.

The rule of him who is King in Zion, is internal and spiritual. It relates to the minds, the souls, and the consciences of all his subjects. Whatever they do, in a gracious way, either in opposition to sin, or in the discharge of pious duty, is done under the influence, the guidance, and the support which they receive from him, in the exercise of his kingly power. His own words corresponding with the constant experience of his people, are a full confirmation of this truth; "Without me you can do nothing; that is, nothing successfully, in the Christian warfare. In all the internal actings of their minds, they look unto Jesus, as to one who is more present with their souls, than they are with themselves. And under this consideration he is ever precious to them.

But no man can depend on Christ's sovereign power, who is not persuaded that all his secret groans and sighs, all the inward laborings of his soul against sin, and after a conformity to his image, are immediately and continually under the Redeemer's eye and notice. Some dare to deny this great truth—but Jesus Christ has declared that all his churches shall be convinced of it. "For I will make all the churches know, that I search the heart, and try the thoughts of men." And the apostle has assured us that "all things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do." Without a full persuasion of this, there can be neither faith in his name, love to his person, dependence on his power, nor obedience to his authority. But to you who believe the truth concerning him—he is precious.

The day is approaching, when the Lord Jesus Christ will openly, in the face of the whole assembled world, vindicate the honor of his kingly government. God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he has ordained. For the Father judges no man—but has committed all judgment to the Son; that all men would honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. And it is highly proper, as Dr. Smith observes, that this holy and Divine Person, who was buffeted and affronted, condemned and crucified, by an ungrateful and injurious world, would then judge his judges, and be as far advanced above the highest pinnacle of human greatness, as he was once below it. It is fit that Herod may see that he persecuted, not the infant king of a petty province—but the Sovereign of angels and men; and that Pilate and the Jews may be convinced, that he whom they called a king in scorn—is really an Emperor, infinitely greater than Caesar; that Jesus is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords forever and ever!

3. He is precious as the great PROPHET of his church. In consequence of man's apostasy from his Maker, the world is enveloped in spiritual darkness. Until we are enlightened by the wisdom which comes from above, we sit in the region and shadow of death. We are alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance which is in us, and because of the blindness of our hearts. That men are insensible of their native blindness, is but a farther proof of the reality of it. For the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. All who are taught of God, learn to know their own ignorance, and consequently they are led to put a just value on the teachings and guidance of Jesus Christ, in his prophetic office.

The glad tidings of pardon, of peace, and reconciliation with God, come by him. The gospel of salvation is the gospel of Christ. He preached this gospel himself when on earth. "He has anointed me," said Jesus, "to preach good tidings to the meek." The ministrations of his servants in every age, whereby they instrumentally turn men from darkness to light, are all by the appointment of Christ, in the fulfillment of his prophetic office.

Nay, the same may be said of all the precious instructions contained in the Scriptures of truth; and therefore the sacred writings are emphatically called "The Word of Christ, which should dwell richly in us." Whatever has been revealed unto men, of the mind and will of God, from the beginning of time, has been revealed by him in the execution of that office, concerning which we now speak. Hence he himself has said, "All things are delivered unto me by my Father; and no man knows who the Father is—but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." He is the Light of the world, the glorious Sun, in whom all the rays of divine and intellectual light are concentrated. "All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in him." How precious then must he be in his prophetic office! It is on this account, I presume, among others, that he is so often called by that name, which no one but himself can bear, the WORD OF GOD.

The Father solemnly pointed him out to men, as their prophet, when he sojourned upon earth, by an audible voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son—hear him." With convincing evidence and authority, he has revealed to the world—the secrets which lay hidden in the Divine mind. He brought his doctrine from the bosom of the Father, according to the declaration of the evangelist John, "The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father—he has declared him." Jesus tells us, that the words which the Father gave him—he gave unto us, and that he spoke to us that which he had been with the Father. No wonder therefore is it, that the following solemn declaration is made concerning him, "It shall come to pass, that every soul which will not hear this prophet, shall be destroyed, from among the people."

That spiritual illumination, by which sinners are brought the saving knowledge of God, and of the way of peace—is granted unto them by Jesus Christ as the prophet of his church. He gives unto them the Spirit of truth—to convince them of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, and to guide them into all truth. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, are the sons of God; but if any man, in this sense, has not the Spirit of Christ—he is none of his. How necessary, how important, and consequently, how precious are his divine illuminations! By them we are favored with that knowledge of God, and of the Mediator, who is life eternal.

How greatly endeared then, should Jesus Christ be unto us, as our prophet! He who lay in the bosom of the Father, has made a fuller and brighter discovery to us what he is, in his admirable and glorious perfections, than we can learn from any other. The light of nature dictates many things to us concerning him, and the ancient prophets have given us farther information. But none knows the Father as the Son does, and those to whom the Son reveals him. The knowledge he has of the Father, far transcends the ideas and conceptions of the wisest man who ever existed in the world. He was sent down from heaven to bring life and immortality to light, to reveal the will and the glories of the Father, to make him appear infinitely lovely and desirable in the eyes of sinners—by representing him in all the wonders of his compassion, and forgiving mercy. That great, that just, and holy Being—is lovely and amiable in the sight of guilty creatures, when he appears as reconciling the world unto himself, by his Son Jesus Christ, not imputing their trespasses unto them.

The great Prophet has informed us, what were the eternal counsels of his Father's love, and what kind designs he formed for our recovery from sin and ruin, when, in his own foreknowledge, he beheld us in a fallen and miserable condition. He has told us, what provision the Father made for us, by committing us to the hands of his Son—to be redeemed and saved by him. It is he who has informed us, that "God so loved the world, as to give his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish—but have eternal life." Whatever was spoken to men in former ages, by angels and by prophets, concerning the great salvation, Jesus has confirmed; and he has added many rich and precious promises of a glorious resurrection, and a future state, and set them before us in a divine light, beyond what either prophets or angels ever revealed! (Isaac Watts.)

How happy are those whom he calls out of darkness into his marvelous light! He adopts them into his family—and conforms them to his blessed image. He continues to supply them with light and life; he guides them with his counsel, and afterwards receives them to glory.

4. He is the SHEPHERD of his flock, to conduct, guard and defend them, to feed them in the green pastures of his grace, to cure and heal their spiritual diseases, to restore them when they wander, to gather the lambs with his arm, to carry them in his bosom, and gently to lead those which are with young. His power, his care and compassion are infinite. His followers are as sheep in the midst of wolves. We hear one of them saying, "My soul is among lions!" These lions may gape and roar, they may seek to devour—but the sheep are safe in the Almighty Shepherd's hands! For he has said, "My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" Such a Shepherd must be precious!

5. Jesus is the REDEEMER of His people, and under that consideration, He is unspeakably precious. The price which He paid for their ransom, was a price of infinite value! "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect!" 1 Peter 1:18-19. The redemption which He has wrought out--is the fruit of his amazing love! It is free, it is every way complete, and it is everlasting; for He has obtained eternal redemption for us! "He entered the holy of holies once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption!" Hebrews 9:12

When Titus, the Roman emperor, delivered the enslaved Greeks from their bondage, he was endeared to them in such a manner, that all the night long they celebrated the honor of their deliverer with music and dancing, crying out in raptures of delight, as they surrounded his tent, 'A Savior! a Savior!' But as the redemption obtained by Christ is infinitely more important than the deliverance granted by that noble and victorious prince, it demands still more elevated returns of gratitude, love and praise.

"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law." This could be done no other way—but by his standing in our place, and enduring what we deserved; or, as it is more emphatically expressed by the apostle, by "being made a curse for us." He who was innocent, suffered that very curse which we deserved in our place--that we, who are guilty, might escape our just condemnation! He subjected himself to that very sentence which the law denounced upon us. For it is written, "Cursed is everyone that continues not in all things." Now if Christ endured that very curse which we deserved, that by this means he might deliver us from condemnation, it is evident that he suffered in our stead.

This was absolutely necessary, according to the tenor of the first covenant. For, as God had absolutely declared, "In the day that you eat (of the forbidden fruit) you shall surely die." No second Adam could restore the ruins of the first—but by taking this curse upon himself. The truth and justice of the Most High, stood absolutely engaged to execute the threatening.

Die man—or justice must; unless for him
Some other able, and as willing, pay
The rigid satisfaction—death for death.

6. He is, the Everlasting FATHER. "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6. How venerable and amiable, how solemn, and yet how endearing is the character of a Father! It commands reverence, and softens that reverence into endearment. It awes—and yet it cheers the mind. It inspires the heart with holy boldness, and fills it with delight and joy. Among men—a wise, a prudent, a tender, and an affectionate father—is truly an exalted character. What will not such a father do for his dear children—who look up to him for support, for protection, for instruction, and for comfort?

With what pleasing sensations, may we contemplate our Lord Jesus Christ—as a Father! When among his disciples on earth, He often addressed them not only as children—but endearingly called them little children. As a father pities his children, so the Lord Jesus pities those who fear him; for he knows our frame, he remembers that we are but dust. We see all, and more than all the tenderness of a Father in the following words, "Isn't Ephraim a precious son to Me, a delightful child?" asks the Lord. "I had to punish him, but I still love him. My heart yearns for him—I have great compassion for him." Jeremiah 31:20.

7. He is the BRIDEGROOM of his church, and so unspeakably excellent in that view, that none in heaven or earth can rival him. We were deformed, polluted, and in every respect, unworthy of standing in so near and intimate a relation to him. There was no excellency in us, to render us desirable in his eyes—but everything to provoke his resentment. And yet he was resolved to betroth us to himself forever, in loving-kindness, in faithfulness, and in mercy!

Sin had reduced us to a state of absolute beggary, poverty, and wretchedness; yet it was his good pleasure to take us into union with himself—that we might share in his unsearchable riches. Nay, though he was rich, for our sakes he became poor—that we through his poverty, might be made rich!

Do we speak of the Bridegroom's love? It is absolutely without parallel. There is nothing of the kind among men, which will bear any comparison with it. Though it is immutable in itself—yet in the progressive discoveries of it, it is like the waters in Ezekiel's vision, increasing and rising from the ankles to the knees, from the knees to the loins, until at length it becomes as waters to swim in; a river, a boundless ocean of love. Its height and depth, its length and breadth are immeasurable! It passes the knowledge of men or angels. It is stronger than death—for Christ loves his church, and gave himself for it. In its commencement, it is from everlasting: in its continuance, it endures forever. The pattern of it, is the Father's love to his dear Son. Jesus himself says to those who, according to the language of inspiration, are married unto him, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you." The love of the nearest relations among men, falls inconceivably short of setting forth the nature, or the ardency of this love. No husband loves the dearest wife—as Christ loves his church.

Believers, by their union with him, are advanced to great riches and honors. God is their Father. They are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. The riches of eternity are their own! They are taken from the dust and the dunghill—and set among glorious princes! The angels in heaven think it no dishonor to be their servants; for they are all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation. "Your Maker is your Husband, the Lord Almighty is his name." Isaiah 54:5. The contract is made, and it will be consummated at the great day, when the marriage supper will be celebrated with solemnity, triumph, and glory—suited to the dignity of the heavenly Bridegroom. "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb!" Revelation 19:9

Without enlarging on other particulars, I may observe in general, that to those who believe in Jesus to the saving of the soul—he is precious under every consideration. He is the bread of God coming down from heaven, and giving everlasting life to their souls. By him they are really, constantly, daily supported, fed and sustained. As bread is sweet and precious to a hungry man—so is Christ sweet and precious to those who live by him. The entertainment he gives to them is a divine, a spiritual feast. "Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast."

He is to them the Sun of Righteousness; the beams of his grace are healing, enlightening, cheering, and full of consolation. If natural light is sweet, if it is a pleasant thing to behold the sun—how much more pleasant to experience the irradiating influences of the Light of life! "On you who fear my name, shall the Sun of Righteousness arise, with healing in his wings."

He is the fountain where they bathe their weary souls, and in which they are cleansed from all sin and impurity. He is the tree of life, under the shadow of which they sit with great delight, and his fruit is sweet to their taste. He is a rock, a strong tower, a hiding-place, where they find protection from every storm, and security from every foe. He was precious to the Psalmist under all these views, "I will love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my strength in whom I trust; my shield, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower."

All the strength of believers, all their light, all their life, all their consolation, and all their joy—are in him, from him, and by him. Through him they are brought into the nearest alliance and friendship with God, the firmest union, and the sweetest communion with him, that they are capable of enjoying in the present state, and they shall be introduced into the presence of his glory in the world to come!

It is therefore the delight of their lives—to know him, to love and honor him with their whole hearts, and to aspire after conformity to his blessed image, and his holy will. They are the true circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

'O blessed Redeemer, I find in you all that my poor helpless soul stands in need. Though I have the greatest reason for shame and humiliation, on account of what I am in myself—yet in you I behold everything to elevate my hopes, and to afford me relief and encouragement! May my soul magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoice in God my Savior! The characters and relations in which you have revealed yourself to me in your Word, exhibit a balm for every wound, a cordial for every fear. If I am naked—you are the Lord my righteousness; if I am sick—you are my physician; if I am weak and helpless—you are my strength; if I am neglected and despised—you are my compassionate and faithful friend; if I am ignorant—you are made unto me wisdom; if I am polluted and enslaved—you are made unto me sanctification and redemption; if I am nothing but emptiness and vanity—you are full of grace and truth.'

O if I had a thousand tongues,
And could be heard from pole to pole,
I would to all the listening world
Declare your goodness to my soul!


Section 5. The BLOOD and RIGHTEOUSNESS of Christ, are precious to those who believe.

The complete atonement which Jesus Christ has made for our sins, by the sacrifice of himself, is the life and center of the evangelical system, and that which endears it so much to the hearts of those who believe. Here we see pardon procured, and the sinner saved—while sin is condemned and punished. Here we see the most solemn display of justice and holiness, in conjunction with the freest exercise of mercy. Here we see sinful rebels delivered from deserved punishment, and advanced to a state of dignity and honor; and at the same time, the rights of that divine government against which they had rebelled, inviolably preserved and maintained. Through what Jesus Christ has done and suffered for us, we behold the righteous law of God magnified, in justifying those who had violated its precepts, and brought themselves under its curse. In the death of that Lamb of God, we perceive at once, the Almighty's eternal abhorrence of that which is evil, and his infinite love to his offending creatures.

We see how precious this subject was to the apostle Paul, "But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." He was struck with a kind of horror at the thought of making anything the ground of his joy or triumph—but the complete work of Jesus, which he finished on the cross: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." While others consider Christianity only as an improvement of natural religion, containing a more refined system of morality, he represents it as the religion suitable for sinners, revealing a method of salvation for the guilty, the helpless, and the miserable. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." His fellow-laborers heartily concurred with him in this for, says he, "We preach Christ crucified!"

To a condemned malefactor—a pardon sent from his offended sovereign must be precious. Just so, nothing can be matter of greater comfort—than to know that we have redemption though the blood of Jesus, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of his grace. As soon may light and heat be separated from the beams of the sun, as peace and consolation from the voice of pardon. Hence when our Lord sojourned on earth, the relief which he administered to the distressed was generally comprehended in these words, "Son, daughter, be of good cheer—your sins are forgiven."

"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." 1 Peter 1:18-19. The blood of our Divine Savior is emphatically called precious blood. The shedding of his blood was the finishing act of his obedience to the law, as our surety, in our room and stead. It procures our pardon, our peace with God, and our everlasting salvation. "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!" Romans 5:9

What he did and suffered was not on his own account—but on account of those whom he came to save. To consider him simply as an individual, is highly injurious to his character, as Mediator. The ideas of substitution and imputation are necessarily included in that character; the imputation of our sins to him, and of his righteousness to us. Without admitting these considerations, the sufferings which Christ underwent, had they been greater than they were, could avail us nothing. But the divine word assures us, that "through the obedience of the one man (Jesus Christ) the many will be made righteous." We are made the righteousness of God in him, as he wrought out that righteousness by which we are justified, not only in our nature—but in our name, considered as our Head and Representative. Without admitting the idea of substitution, there is no ground for reliance on the obedience of Christ.

This truth, being of the greatest importance to our relief and comfort—is set forth in the clearest light by the sacred writers. They assure us, that in our Redeemer, personally considered, there was no sin, neither was any deceit found in his mouth; he was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he was smitten of God and afflicted," but on what account? "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:5-6. Hence his obedience unto death is the only ground of our hope and joy. "We rejoice in God through Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom we have now received the atonement." We look to Calvary, and view the suffering Savior—as bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, and putting them away by the sacrifice of himself. Believing the beneficial truth, an acquittal from guilt and condemnation is announced to our consciences, and we are filled with the peace of God.

We see that, through what Jesus Christ has done and suffered, as our substitute, that holy law which we have broken is highly honored; and that holy justice which we have provoked is completely satisfied. His obedience in life, his obedience unto death, and his obedience in death, is sometimes in Scripture, by an usual figure, called his blood, his precious blood, and the blood of God. At other times it is expressed by the term righteousness; the righteousness of God, which is unto all and upon all those who believe. It is evident that the different terms mean one and the same thing—the complete work of the great Surety on our account, and in our stead.

That obedience, which Jesus thus performed, is every way as excellent as eternal wisdom itself could devise—and as perfect as divine rectitude could require. The Father declares himself well-pleased with it. All the divine attributes are glorified by it, while it fully answers every saving purpose to those who believe, and ensures the richest blessings unto them, both in this world, and that which is to come. On all these accounts—it is unspeakably precious. The evangelical prophet, personating the whole church, triumphs in it in the following manner: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God—for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with jewels."

 

Chapter 5. Practical Improvement of the Subject.

1. What has been said on this subject may serve to convince us—that the evangelical system is a righteous and an equitable one. It has been objected against it, that while faith in Jesus Christ is so much insisted on as a point of distinction between the godly and the wicked, and the grand criterion by which the states of men will be finally determined; that we denigrate the holiness and justice of God—as if he paid no regard to their moral characters.

It will be found at last, that the real cause of men's rejection of gospel truth, is, a rooted aversion to that purity of heart and conduct which the gospel requires. "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that does evil hates the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." This is a plain account why so many continue in unbelief—an account which cannot be controverted. Sinners are obstinately attached to wicked habits; they stumble at the Word, being disobedient; this is the grand reason assigned for their infidelity. On this ground, if they are not happily brought to repentance, the sentence of condemnation will be pronounced against them at last; and the equity of it will be acknowledged by angels, and the whole assembled world.

On the other hand, while the true Christian is justified freely by Divine grace, he is, at the same time, renewed in the spirit of his mind. In consequence of this, a total change of conduct takes place; old things pass away, behold, all things become new. To him who believes, Jesus is precious; this is evidently proved by the whole of his behavior, both towards God and man. And at the last day, though he will be far from offering any claim of merit—yet his works will be taken notice of, as the fruits of his faith, and as evidences of the sincerity of his love. His holy practice will then be a public and undeniable testimony, that God has saved him in a way perfectly consistent with that love of righteousness, which is essential to his nature.

2. We hence see how necessary it is, that men should be thoroughly convinced of their absolute need of such a Savior as Jesus is. He is precious to none but those who know that they are absolutely undone without him. To you who believe, he is precious; but no man believes in him without a sense of need. Sufficient proof of this has already been offered.

Sinner, you have violated the holy, just, and righteous law of God—your Maker and Sovereign. That law condemns you for ten thousand transgressions committed against it. Look into the records of your own conscience. Consider what you have done from your infancy to the present moment. Remember that your sins expose you to the wrath of the Almighty, and render you deserving of everlasting punishment: for the wages of sin is death. You are every moment in danger of eternal destruction. Your condition is miserable. God is strictly just; and to impenitent sinners, he is a consuming fire. In yourself, you are utterly helpless. Nothing you can do will be of any avail for your relief. Be deeply sensible of your undone condition, your absolute misery—and know that there is no help, no salvation for you—but in Christ. Without this conviction, you will remain in a state of indifference towards him. You will never fly to him for refuge, as the only hope set before you; you will never sincerely believe in him, nor love him. You will never put a proper value on his atoning sacrifice, as that which alone delivers from the wrath to come, procures pardon, peace with God, and everlasting salvation.

Consider these things with all seriousness, and without a moment's delay. Life and death are set before you—life, if you sincerely believe in the Savior; death, if you disregard him. Consider the case of a malefactor, condemned to die for the violation of the laws of his country. The sentence is passed upon him, and the day approaches for the execution of it. His state is dreadful, his danger is great—but not to be compared with yours. O that you may be deeply and abidingly convinced of your perilous situation! On this conviction your safety depends!

3. It will appear, from what has been advanced, that the number of those to whom Christ is precious—is but small. The grossly ignorant have no regard for him, because they know not his worth. Those who are notoriously erroneous do not love him; for those who do not believe and receive the truth of Christ, do not love him. "If any man loves me, he will keep my words;" by his words we are to understand the doctrines which he taught, as well as his precepts and commands. The openly wicked and profane can surely pretend to no regard for Christ. They are justly characterized as haters of God. "His citizens hated him, and said—We will not have this man to reign over us." All those who persecute the godly are confessedly excluded; for how can they love the Head—who persecute the members of the body? To the covetous and worldly-minded, Christ is not precious; for they love the world, and "if any man loves the world—the love of the Father is not in him." Those who are under the dominion of sin do not sincerely love Jesus; for the dominion of sin consists principally in the love of it, and, by consequence, in a willing subjection to it. Therefore, the prevailing love of sin is inconsistent with the love of Christ. All mere formal professors of religion, and all self-righteous people stand excluded in this inquiry. They have confidence in the flesh, and therefore reject the sure foundation laid in Zion.

When all these different classes of mankind are set aside—the number left will be but small. Multitudes are either grossly ignorant, enemies to the truth, openly profane, persecutors of the godly, lovers of the world, under the dominion of sin, or such as make an empty profession of religion, and go about to establish their own righteousness. Hence, those to whom Christ is precious, are but few. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

4. Let every man beware of concluding himself a believer in Christ, upon slight and insufficient grounds. The primitive societies of God's people, in all probability, had fewer mere nominal Christians among them, than the churches of Jesus Christ generally have at the present day. There were not many, who, from their infancy, were trained up in the ways of religion and godliness. So that the danger of deception is, in some respects greater now, than it was in the days of the apostles; since it is the common custom among us, to make a sort of external profession of Christianity.

But let us remember, that the true believer embraces the truths of God in his understanding, and acquiesces in them with his whole heart; his meditation is fixed on the attributes of God, and the loveliness, worth, and excellency of his Son Jesus Christ; he sets the Lord before him, and steadily aims at a conformity to his will, to his image, and to his example; and he experiences the powerful efficacy of the divine Word—to establish him in virtue and holiness. I cannot be a true disciple of Jesus, unless he teaches me by his grace, renews me by his Spirit, washes me by his blood, and forms my heart to obey his commands, and imitate his meekness, humility, zeal and love. I must submit to his authority without hesitation, and be ready to reduce to practice, the knowledge I have of his truths and ways. True faith transforms the whole man. It delivers the sinner from the tyranny of his passions—and purifies both the heart and life.

5. As it is life eternal to know Jesus Christ—so it is death eternal to be ignorant of him. The knowledge of him is not only necessary to all the graces, to all the duties, and to all the comforts of Christianity—but it is necessary to the very existence of Christianity. Those who know not Jesus Christ—know not the way of peace—and if they die in that state, their end will be eternally miserable.

If you have not that knowledge of Jesus Christ which is attended with sincere love to him—you lie under the most dreadful sentence of condemnation. "If any man loves not the Lord Jesus Christ—let him be anathema, maranatha;" that is, let him be accursed when the Lord shall come. Will he, at his coming, annul this dreadful denunciation? No! he will descend from heaven, in flaming fire, to take vengeance on those who don't know God, and who don't obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Consider this, O you who have no sincere regard for the precious Redeemer. Where will you hide your guilty, your defenseless head, when he appears? It will, by and bye, be said, "The great day of his wrath is come—and who shall be able to stand!"

6. Consider, my dear fellow-sinner, that as Jesus Christ is the Former of all things, you were made by him, and therefore you ought to love him. He has endowed you with a rational and an immortal soul, a soul capable of knowing and of loving him—and will you withhold that love from him which he so justly demands? Perhaps you are a professor of religion—yet if Christ is not precious to you, your profession is unprofitable. In that divine book called the Bible, you have the history of his life, his sufferings, and his death; you have a clear display of his dignify, his glory, his power to save, and his infinite and unbounded love to sinners. Can you read all this—and not love him?

Can you love those inferior objects, in which there are slight degrees of excellence—and can you not love Jesus Christ, who is altogether lovely, and the sum of all excellence and perfection? Do you respect those on whom God has conferred some measure of honor, authority and power—and do you not love Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of Glory, and to whom all power and authority in both heaven and earth are given? Do you respect a fellow-creature possessed of wisdom and learning—and do you not love Jesus Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge? Do you esteem a man who is liberal, generous, or bountiful—and have you no love for him, who gives us all things richly to enjoy, and who by giving his life a ransom for our souls, has become the Author of eternal salvation, with all its glorious blessings and privileges? You profess to have a sincere value for your friends, who have shown you many acts of kindness—and will you not love the Friend of sinners? Remember his words; "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." He alone can rescue you from eternal destruction; he alone can bestow upon you pardon, righteousness, peace and everlasting felicity. Shall such a friend have no place in your heart?

Do you love liberty? and can you be indifferent towards him, whose office is to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound? There is no deliverance from the condemnation of the hand of justice, the tyranny of Satan, the dominion of sin, and the power of death and the grave—but by him. Do you love peace and pleasure; and can you disregard the Prince of peace, who reconciles sinners to God, by the blood of his cross, and gives true peace of conscience, together with joy unspeakable and full of glory?

There is everything in Christ to encourage poor sinners to apply to him, to look for salvation in his name, and to inspire their hearts with love to his person. There are motives and arguments of every kind to excite you to choose him for your Savior, your friend, and your portion. You are guilty—his blood cleanses from all sin. You are miserable—he is rich in mercy. You are helpless—he is mighty to save. You are impoverished—his riches are unsearchable. His treasures of grace are inexhaustible. Approach unto him, be not afraid of a disappointment; he has assured you he will in no wise cast you out.

There is an inexhaustible fullness in Him, answerable to all your necessities, be they ever so many, or ever so great. He is the ever-flowing, the over-flowing fountain of living waters. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think. It has pleased the Father, that in Him all fullness should dwell. Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness. His kindness and mercy are unbounded. If the kindness of men has a tendency to win your hearts--how much more should the infinite love of Jesus constrain you to love Him? He is the only-begotten Son, the most dearly-beloved of the Father. He is worthy of the Father's love, who says of him, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Surely then, it is reasonable, it is highly proper that he should be the object of your love.

7. Let those who regard the comfort, the peace and the prosperity of their own souls, apply themselves to the study of Jesus Christ, and daily aspire after more knowledge of him. All that is excellent, all that is desirable, all that is comforting is concentrated in him. He is fairer than the children of men, the chief among ten thousands, and altogether lovely! O how unspeakably, how infinitely precious! It is eternal life to know him. No knowledge so enlivening, so cheering, so comforting—as the knowledge of Christ. It is ever new, ever fresh in excellency, to those who aspire after it.

If we desire to be conformed to his blessed image, we should labor to have our thoughts as much as possible, employed in contemplating his excellency; that we may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the length and breadth, the depth and height of the love of Christ, which passes knowledge. This is the way to increase in holiness and in happiness; or, to use the more emphatic language of the apostle, to "be filled with all the fullness of God." For "while we with open face behold, as in a looking-glass, the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

It is not probable that Jesus Christ should be very precious to those who are not acquainted with the glorious perfections of his person, his transcendent worth, and surpassing excellency. Love is founded in knowledge. When we have suitable discoveries of his glory, our wills are inclined and determined to make choice of him, as our Savior, and our all-sufficient portion. Love to Jesus is maintained and continued in its warmth and fervor—by frequent meditation on His adorable person, His dying love, and His infinite excellence and preciousness. If we lose sight of His ineffable glories—our attachment to Him, as the spring of our happiness--will be weakened, and the fervency of our love for Him will be abated.

No motions of the soul are so sweet and delightful—as those which are directed to the Fountain of happiness. The outgoings of the heart after Christ are pleasant, especially when he is pleased to manifest himself unto us, as he does not to the world. There is a mixture of heavenly comfort in the love we feel to so worthy an object; "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy!"

8. If Jesus Christ is so superlatively precious in himself, we have reason to be ashamed that we love him no more. Alas! how languid are our affections towards him who is altogether lovely, and how easily are our hearts captivated with vanity and trifles! This is matter of humiliation, grief, and sorrow. It is remarked in the life of John Mollius, an eminent disciple of Jesus, that he was sometimes observed to be in heaviness, and to weep bitterly; when his friends inquired into the cause of his trouble, his usual answer was, 'O! it grieves me, that I cannot bring this heart of mine to love Jesus Christ more fervently.'

Is not our love to the Redeemer very small, in comparison with that to which some of his followers have attained? Have not thousands of martyrs joyfully endured the most cruel pains and tortures—for the love which they bore to him? O what blessed lives did the primitive disciples of Christ live! What divine satisfaction, what heavenly splendor, what convincing power attended their practice, while their whole souls, with all their affections, were devoted to their Redeemer, and engaged in the affairs of his kingdom! They lived on earth—as the heirs of heaven ought to do.

May we not justly be ashamed that we have this precious Savior so little in our thoughts? Forgetful of him, our thoughts range abroad on a thousand subjects to little profit, nay, often to our hurt! If we examine our thoughts for one day, how few of them have been employed upon him who should be our highest love, and nearest to our hearts! Is not this matter of lamentation? Is it not a sad indication of the indifference of our minds towards him? A warm and fervent love would bring him often to our remembrance. We should say with the Psalmist, "In the multitude of my thoughts within me, your comforts delight my soul." Or, as he says in another place, "My meditation of him shall be sweet; I will be glad in the Lord." Can they rejoice in the Lord always—who very rarely think of him? "Where your treasure is, there will your hearts be also." Every man thinks much on that which is highest in his esteem, and dearest to his affections. This is a fact, the truth of which, cannot be called in question. But if we judge of our regard for Christ by this rule, what reason have we for deep humiliation before him! What slender proof do we give that he is precious to us! How low, how faint and feeble is our love for him!

Thought being the immediate attendant of love, where love is strong and fervent—it powerfully engages the mind to habitual musing on the beloved object. And therefore when the Psalmist says, "O how love I your law," he adds, "it is my meditation all the day."

Is it possible that we should spend any day of our lives without thinking on what Jesus Christ has done for us? His astonishing love, in becoming incarnate, sojourning more than thirty years in this wretched and miserable world, as a man of sorrows, for our sakes; his fulfilling all righteousness for us; his enduring the contradiction of sinners against himself; and his laying down his life in our stead—are subjects of contemplation upon which our minds should perpetually revolve.

We should think on what he is now doing for us in heaven; for he is gone there to prepare a place for our accommodation, and he ever lives to make intercession for us. He tells us he will never forget us—and shall we perpetually forget him? Hear what he says, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands!"

It is a proof that our love to the Redeemer is but small, when our tongues are rarely employed in speaking of him. We all know, that the subject which lies nearest our hearts, will frequently slide upon our tongues, and employ our discourse. The man of pleasure talks much of his carnal delights; and the man of business, of the affairs of commerce. "He who is of the earth, speaks of the earth; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." The man of news talks perpetually about that in which he most delights. And have we nothing to say about him who rescues our souls from everlasting destruction, and gives us a lively hope of full felicity in heaven!

Have we not reason to be ashamed of our negligence, as to the private exercises of devotion? How little time do we spend in those exercises, and how little pleasure do we often take in them! Alas! I fear our closets bear witness against us, concerning the deficiency of our love to Jesus Christ. Did we love him with a fervent affection—we would often retire from the world, that we might converse with him, and pour out our hearts before him. A slight performance of the duties of the closet, is a certain indication that our love to the Redeemer is but small. Conscience! discharge your office; testify against the negligent reader—how greatly deficient he is in his love, in this one instance. Tell him of the greatness of the Savior's love, what he has done, what he has suffered on his account—and what poor returns of affection are made to him. Tell the negligent professor how inattentive he is to the Redeemer's example in this particular. Tell him what poor, what lifeless, what slight devotions he pays to that loving Savior, who has promised such great things to those who seek him with their whole hearts!

Have we not reason to be ashamed, that we are so prone to faint in the day of adversity, and to shrink back when we are called upon to take up our cross in following Christ? Had we fervent love to him, we would, with courage and fortitude, endure great afflictions and trials, which lie in our way to the everlasting enjoyment of him. It has induced many to glory in tribulation, to rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus, to take joyfully the confiscation of their goods, and to esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures which this world can afford. Under the influence of this—a dungeon has been accounted a paradise; a prison a palace; and death the gate of life! Some have embraced the stake to which they were bound, and welcomed the flames by which were to be consumed to ashes. If we therefore faint in our day of adversity, which scarcely deserves to be mentioned, in comparison with what many have endured—it is an indication that our strength is small.

9. Let your knowledge, your faith, and your love—influence your practice. Show to the world around you, that Jesus is indeed precious to you, in a constant endeavor to glorify him, by a life of meekness and holiness, a life unspotted and divine. Nothing convinces like facts. Let the powerful operation of the Redeemer's love upon your hearts, be seen in all your interaction with others; and upon every occasion, let it be made manifest, that you neither have believed nor run in vain. The pure faith of a Christian, illustrated by works of grace and righteousness, supported under innumerable difficulties and temptations, and carried on to a death of triumph and joy—is a proof of the truth and reality of the religion of Jesus, which most effectually puts to silence the ignorance of foolish men.

Christ has in some sense, entrusted his honor to his followers. They profess to be his friends, and his advocates on earth. Hence they should be particularly cautious and watchful, lest his worthy name be blasphemed through their misconduct. You will best vindicate his honor, and set forth his preciousness—by a holy, humble, and heavenly life. See that you walk worthy of him, unto all well-pleasing. Thus you will adorn the doctrine of God your Savior in all things, and make manifest the virtues of him who has called you to his eternal kingdom and glory. Let those who have their eyes upon you, see that Christ is precious to your soul—by your zeal for his honor, your activity in promoting his interest, your readiness to deny yourselves on all occasions for his sake, your steady adherence to him in all conditions, and your constancy in the use of all those means wherein you may expect to enjoy communion with him.

10. Those to whom Jesus is precious have a happy lot, whatever their circumstances may be, as to the present life. God, in his Providence, has put a vast variety into the conditions of men. Some are rich, and some are poor—while others enjoy a desirable medium between the two extremes. Some are placed in the most eminent stations; others live in obscurity, and are, comparatively, of little use to society. It is no dishonor for the followers of Christ to be poor in this world. Their Divine Master had nowhere to lay his head. But a sincere attachment to the Redeemer, ennobles and dignifies the soul. None in this world are so great, and so honorable, as those who love him. They cleave to him who is infinitely worthy of their warmest affection, and who can and will make them completely happy! "Delight yourself in the Lord—and he shall give you the desire of your heart." Others cleave to objects which are unworthy of the ardours of an immortal soul. They debase themselves, and will one day be ashamed of their pursuits. But neither the hope, nor the love of true Christians, shall ever make them ashamed. Amidst poverty, amidst afflictions, troubles and outward distresses—they have a refuge at hand, sufficient to support them, to defend them, and to afford them everlasting consolation!

They now delight to contemplate the Redeemer's excellency, and they will confess hereafter, when they see him face to face, and are partakers of his glory—that, while on earth, they knew nothing comparatively of his preciousness and worth. They will then all unite in that everlasting song, "Salvation to OUR GOD, who sits upon the throne, and to THE LAMB forever and ever!" Amen.
 

 

 
     

 

 

 

 

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