The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHRIST OUR SANCTIFICATION.
(27.) We need also to know ourselves as starving souls, and Christ as the "Bread of Life," as "the Bread that came down from Heaven.["] We need to know spiritually and experimentally what it is to "eat of his flesh and to drink of his blood," to receive him as the bread of life, to appropriate him to the nourishment of our souls as really as we appropriate bread, by digestion, to the nourishment of our bodies. This I know is mysticism to the carnal professor. But to the truly spiritually minded, "this is the bread of God that came down from heaven, of which if a man eat he shall never die." To hear Christ talk of eating his flesh and of drinking his blood was a great stumbling block to the carnal Jews, as it now is to carnal professors. Nevertheless this is a glorious truth that Christ is the constant sustenance of the spiritual life as truly and as literally as food is the sustenance of the body. But the soul will never eat this bread until it has ceased to attempt to fill itself with the husks of its own doings, or with any provision this world can furnish. Do you know, christian, what it is to eat of this bread? If so, then you shall never die.
(28.) Christ also needs to be revealed to the soul as the Fountain of the water of life. "If any man thirst," says he, "let him come unto me and drink." "l am the Alpha and Omega, and to him that is athirst will I give to drink of the fountain of the water of life freely." The soul needs to have such discoveries made to it, as to beget a thirst after God, that can not be allayed except by a copious draft at the fountain of the water of life. It is indispensable to the establishing of the soul in perfect love, that its hungering after the bread and its thirsting for the water of life should be duly enkindled and that the spirit should pant and struggle after God, and "cry out for the living God," that it should be able to say with truth: "My soul panteth after God as the hart panteth for the water brooks;["] "My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God;" "My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath after thee at all times." When this state of mind is induced by the Holy Spirit so that the longing of the soul after perpetual holiness is irrepressible, it is prepared for a revelation of Christ in all those offices and relations that are necessary to secure its establishment in love. Especially is it then prepared to apprehend, appreciate and appropriate Christ as the bread and water of life, to understand what it is to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God. It is then in a state to understand what Christ meant when he said, "Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." They not only understand what it is to hunger and thirst, but also what it is to be filled; to have the hunger and thirst allayed, and the largest desire fully satisfied. The soul then realizes, in its own experience, the truthfulness of the apostle's saying that Christ "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." Many stop short even of any thing like intense hunger and thirst; others hunger and thirst, but have not the idea of the perfect fulness and adaptedness of Christ to meet and satisfy the longing of their souls. They, therefore, do not plead and look for the soul-satisfying revelation of Christ. They expect no such Divine fulness and satisfaction of soul. They are ignorant of the fulness and perfection of the provisions of the "glorious gospel of the blessed God," and consequently they are not encouraged to hope from the fact that they hunger and thirst after righteousness that they shall be filled; but they remain unfed, unfilled, unsatisfied, and after a season through unbelief, fall into indifference and remain in bondage to lust.
(29.) The soul needs also to know Christ as the true God, and the eternal life. "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord save by the Holy Spirit." The proper Divinity of Christ is never and never can be held otherwise than as a mere opinion, a tenet, a speculation, an article of a creed, until he is revealed to the inner man by the Holy Spirit. But nothing short of an apprehension of Christ as the supreme and living God to the soul can inspire that confidence in him that is essential to its established sanctification. The soul can have no apprehension of what is intended by his being the "Eternal Life," until it spiritually knows him as the True God. When he is spiritually revealed as the true and living God, the way is prepared for the spiritual apprehension of him as the eternal life. "As the living Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself." "In him was life and the life was the light of men." "I give unto them eternal life." "I am the way, the truth, and the life." "I am the resurrection and the life." These and similar passages the soul needs spiritually to apprehend, to have a spiritual and personal revelation of them within. Most professors seem to me to have no right idea of the condition upon which the bible can be made of spiritual use to them. They seem not to understand that in its letter it is only a history of things formerly revealed to men; that it is in fact a revelation to no man except upon the condition of its being personally revealed, or revealed to us in particular by the Holy Spirit. The mere fact that we have in the gospel the history of the birth, the life, the death of Christ, is no such revelation of Christ to any man as meets his necessities and as will insure or render his salvation possible. Christ and his doctrine, his life, and death, and resurrection, need to be revealed personally by the Holy Spirit, to each and every soul of man to effect his salvation. So it is with every spiritual truth; without an inward revelation of it to the soul, it is only a savor of death unto death. It is in vain to hold to the proper Divinity of Christ as a speculation, a doctrine, a theory, an opinion, without the revelation of his Divine nature and character to the soul by the Holy Spirit. But let the soul know him and walk with him as the True God, and then it will no longer question whether, as our sanctification, he is all sufficient and complete. Let no one object to this that if this is true, men are under no obligation to believe in Christ and to obey the gospel without or until they are enlightened by the Holy Spirit. To such an objection, should it be made, I would answer,
[1.] Men are under an obligation to believe every truth so far as they can understand or apprehend it, but no farther. So far as they can apprehend the spiritual truths of the gospel without the Holy Spirit, so far, without his aid they are bound to believe it. But Christ has himself taught us that no man can come to him except the Father draw him. That this drawing is teaching is evident from what Christ proceeds to say. "For it is written," said he, "they shall all be taught of God. Every one therefore that hath heard and hath learned of the Father cometh to me." That this learning of the Father is something different from the mere oral or written instructions of Christ and the apostles, is evident from the fact that Christ assured those to whom he preached with all the plainness with which he was able, that they still could not come to him except drawn, that is, taught of the Father. As the Father teaches by the Holy Spirit, Christ's plain teaching in the passage under consideration is, that no man can come to him except he be specially enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Paul unequivocally teaches the same thing. "No man," says he, "can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Spirit." Notwithstanding all the teaching of the apostles, no man by merely listening to their instruction could so apprehend the true Divinity of Christ as to honestly and with spiritual understanding say that Jesus is the Lord. But what spiritual or true christian does not know the radical difference between being taught of man and of God, between the opinions that we form from reading, hearing and study, and the clear apprehensions of truths that are communicated by the direct and inward illuminations of the Holy Spirit.
[2.] I answer that men under the gospel are entirely without excuse for not enjoying all the light they need from the Holy Spirit, since he is in the world, has been sent for the very purpose of giving to all[,] all the knowledge of themselves and of Christ which they need. His aid is freely proffered to all, and Christ has assured us that the Father is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him than parents are to give good gifts to their children. All men under the gospel know this and all men have light enough to ask in faith for the Holy Spirit, and of course all men may know of themselves and of Christ all that they need to know. They are therefore able to know and to embrace Christ as fully and as fast as it is their duty to embrace him. They are able to know Christ in his governmental and spiritual relations just as fast as they come into circumstances to need to know him in these various relations. The Holy Spirit, if he is not quenched and resisted, will surely reveal Christ in all his relations and fulness in due time, so that in every temptation a way of escape will be open, so that we shall be able to bear it. This is expressly promised, 1 Cor. 10:13. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." Men are able to know what God offers to teach them upon a condition within the compass of their ability. The Holy Spirit offers, upon condition of faith in the express promise of God, to lead every man into all truth. Every man is therefore under obligation to know and do the whole truth so far and so fast as it is possible for him to do so with the light of the Holy Spirit.
(30.) But be it remembered that it is not enough for us to apprehend Christ as the True God and the eternal life, but we need also to lay hold upon him as our life. It can not be too distinctly understood that a particular and personal appropriation of Christ in such relations is indispensable to our being rooted and grounded, established and perfected in love. When our utter deficiency and emptiness in any one respect or direction is deeply revealed to us by the Holy Spirit with the corresponding remedy and perfect fulness in Christ, it then remains for the soul in this respect and direction to cast off self and put on Christ. When this is done, when self in that respect and direction is dead, and Christ is risen and lives and reigns in the heart in that relation, all is strong, and whole, and complete in that department of our life and experience. For example, suppose we find ourselves constitutionally, or by reason of our relations and circumstances, exposed to certain besetments and temptations that overcome us. Our weakness in this respect we observe in our experience. But upon observing our exposedness and experiencing something of our weakness we begin with piling resolution upon resolution. We bind ourselves with oaths, and promises, and covenants, but all in vain. When we purpose to stand, we invariably, in the presence of the temptation, fall. This process of resolving and falling brings the soul into great discouragement and perplexity, until at last the Holy Spirit reveals to us fully that we are attempting to stand and to build upon nothing. The utter emptiness and worse than uselessness of our resolutions and self-originated efforts, is so clearly seen by us as to annihilate forever self-dependence in this respect. Now the soul is prepared for the revelation of Christ to meet this particular want. Christ is revealed and apprehended as the soul's substitute, surety, life and salvation in respect to the particular besetment and weakness of which it has had so full and so humiliating a revelation. Now if the soul utterly and forever cast off and renounce self, and put on the Lord Jesus Christ as he is seen to be needed to meet his necessity, then all is complete in him. Thus far Christ is reigning within us. Thus far we know what is the power of his resurrection, and are made conformable to his death.
But I said that we need to know and to lay hold upon Christ as our life. Too much stress can not be laid upon our personal responsibility to Christ, our individual relation to him, our personal interest in him and obligation to him. To sanctify our own souls, we need to make every department of religion a personal matter between us and God, to regard every precept of the bible and every promise, saying, exhortation, threatening, and in short, we need to regard the whole bible as given to us and earnestly seek the personal revelation of every truth it contains to our own souls. No one can too fully understand or too deeply feel the necessity of taking home the bible with all it contains as a message sent from heaven to him, nor can he too earnestly desire or seek the promised Spirit to teach him the true spiritual import of all its contents. O, he must have the bible become a personal revelation of God to his own soul. It must become his own book. He must know Christ for himself. He must know him in his different relations. He must know him in his blessed and infinite fulness or he can not abide in him, and unless he abide in Christ, he can bring forth none of the fruits of holiness. "Except a man abide in me he is cast forth as a branch and is withered."
Apprehending and embracing Christ as our life implies the apprehension of the fact that we of ourselves are dead in trespasses and in sins, that we have no life in ourselves, that death has reigned and will eternally reign in and over us unless Christ become our life. Until man knows himself to be dead, and that he is wholly destitute of spiritual life in himself, he will never know Christ as his life. It is not enough to hold the opinion that all men are by nature dead in trespasses and sins. It is not enough to hold the opinion that we are in common with all men, in this condition in and of ourselves. We must see it. We must know what such language means. It must be made a matter of personal revelation to us. We must be made fully to apprehend our own death and Christ as our life, and we must fully recognize our death and him as our life by personally renouncing self in this respect and laying hold on him as our own spiritual and eternal life. Many persons, and strange to say, some eminent ministers, are so blinded as to suppose that a soul entirely sanctified does not any longer need Christ, assuming that such a soul has spiritual life in and of himself; that there is in him some foundation or efficient occasion of continued holiness, as if the Holy Spirit had changed his nature or infused physical holiness or a holy principle into him. O, when will such men cease to darken counsel by words without knowledge upon the infinitely important subject of sanctification! When will such men--when will the church, understand that Christ is our sanctification; that we have no life, no holiness, no sanctification except as we abide in Christ and he in us; that, separate from Christ, there never is any moral excellence in any man; that Christ does not change the constitution of man in sanctification, but that he only, by our own consent, gains and keeps the heart; that he enthrones himself, with our consent, in the heart and through the heart he extends his influence and his life to all our spiritual being; that he lives in us as really and truly as we live in our own bodies; that he as really reigns in our will and consequently in our emotions, by our own free consent, as our wills reign in our bodies? Can not our brethren understand that this is sanctification, and that nothing else is? that there is no degree of sanctification that is not to be thus ascribed to Christ? and that entire sanctification is nothing else than the reign of Jesus in the soul? nothing more nor less than Christ, the resurrection and the life, raising the soul from spiritual death and reigning in it through righteousness unto eternal life? I must know and embrace Christ as my life; I must abide in him as a branch abides in the vine; I must not only hold this as an opinion; I must know and act on it in practice. O, when the ministry of reconciliation all know and embrace a whole Christ for themselves; when they preach Jesus in all his fullness and present vital power to the church; when they testify what they have seen and their hands have handled of the word of life--then and not till then will there be a general resurrection of the dry bones of the house of Israel. Amen. Lord, hasten the day.
(30.)[31.] We need especially to know Christ as the "All in all." Col. 3:11: "Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all, and in all." Before the soul will cease to be overcome by temptation, it must renounce self-dependence in all things. It must be as it were self-annihilated. It must cease to think of self as having in it any ground of dependence in the hour of trial. It must wholly and in all things renounce self and put on Christ. It must know self as nothing in the matter of spiritual life and Christ as all. The Psalmist could say "all our springs are in thee." He is the fountain of life. Whatever of life is in us flows directly from him as the sap flows from the vine to the branch, or as a rivulet flows from its fountain. The spiritual life that is in us is really Christ's life flowing through us. Our activity, though properly our own, is nevertheless stimulated and directed by his presence and agency within us. So that we can and must say with Paul, "yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."--Gal. 2:20. It is a good thing for a self-conceited sinner to suffer even in his own view, self-annihilation, as it respects the origination of any spiritual obedience to God, or any spiritual good whatever. But this must be before he will learn on all occasions and in all things to stand in Christ, to abide in him as his "ALL." O, the infinite folly and madness of the carnal mind! It would seem that it will always make trial of its own strength before it will depend on Christ. It will look first for resources and help within itself before it will renounce self and make Christ its "all in all." It will betake itself to its own wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. In short, there is not an office or relation of Christ that will be recognized and embraced until the soul has first come into circumstances to have its wants in relation to that office of Christ developed by some trial and often by some fall under temptation, then and not until in addition to this Christ is clearly and prevailingly revealed by the Holy Spirit insomuch that self is put down and Christ is exalted in the heart. Sin has so becrazed and befooled mankind that when Christ tells them "without me ye can do nothing, and if any man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered," they neither apprehend what or how much he means and how much is really implied in these and similar sayings, until one trial after another fully develops the appalling fact that they are nothing so far as spiritual good is concerned, and that Christ is "all and in all."
(32.) Another relation in which the soul must know Christ, before it will steadily abide in him, is that of "the Resurrection and the Life." Through and by Christ the soul is raised from spiritual death. Christ as the resurrection and the life, is raised in the soul. He arises or revives the Divine image out of the spiritual death that reigns within us. He is begotten by the Holy Spirit and born within us. He arises through the death that is within us and develops his own life within our own being. Will any one say "this is a hard saying, who can hear it?" Until we know by our own experience the power of this resurrection within us we shall never understand "the fellowship of his sufferings and be made conformable to his death." He raises our will from its fallen state of death in trespasses and sins, or from its state of committal and voluntary enslavement to lust and to self, to a state of conformity to the will of God. Through the intelligence, he pours a stream of quickening truth upon the soul. He thus quickens the will into obedience. By making fresh discoveries to the soul, he strengthens and confirms the will in obedience. By thus raising, and sustaining, and quickening the will, he rectifies the sensibility and quickens and raises the whole man from the dead, or rather builds up a new and spiritual man upon the death and ruins of the old and carnal man. He raises the same powers and faculties that were dead in trespasses and sins to a spiritual life. He overcomes their death and inspires them with life. He lives in saints and works in them to will and to do and they live in him according to the saying of Christ in his address to his Father, Jno. 17:21. "As thou, Father art in me and I in thee that they also may be one in us;" and again 23: "I in them and thou in me that they may be made perfect in one." He does not raise the soul to spiritual life in any such sense that it has life separate from him for one moment. The spiritual resurrection is a continual one. Christ is the resurrection in the sense that he is at the foundation of all our obedience at every moment. He, as it were, raises the soul or the will from the slavery of lust to a conformity to the will of God, in every instance and at every moment of its consecration to the will of God. But this he does only upon condition of our apprehending and embracing him in this relation. In reading the bible, I have often been struck with the fact that the inspired writers were so far ahead of the great mass of professed believers. They write of the relations in which Christ had been spiritually revealed to them. All the names and titles and official relations of Christ must have had great significancy with them. They spoke not from theory or from what man had taught them, but from experience, from what the Holy Spirit taught them. As the risen Christ is risen and lives and is developed in one relation after another in the experience of believers, how striking the writings of inspiration appear! As the necessities of our being are developed in experience, and as Christ is revealed as in all new circumstances and relations just that and all that we need, who has not marvelled to find, in the bible, way-marks and guide-boards and mile-stones, and all the evidences that we could ask or desire that inspired men have gone this way and have had substantially the same experiences that we have. We are often also struck with the fact that they are so far ahead of us. At every stage in our progress we seem to have, as it were, a new and improved edition of the bible. We discover worlds of truth before unnoticed by us--come to know Christ in precious relations in which we had known nothing of him before. And ever, as our real wants are discovered, Christ is seen to be all that we need, just the thing that exactly and fully meets the necessities of our souls. This is indeed "the glorious gospel of the blessed God."
(33.) Another precious and most influential relation of Christ in the affair of our sanctification, is that of the Bridegroom or Husband of the soul. The individual soul needs to be espoused to Christ, to enter this relation personally by its own consent. Mere earthly and outward marriages are nothing but sin, unless the hearts are married. True marriage is of the heart, and the outward ceremony is only a public manifestation or profession of the union or marriage of the souls or hearts.
All marriage may be regarded as typical of that union into which the spiritual soul enters with Christ. This relation of Christ to the soul is frequently recognized both in the old and the new testament. It is treated of by Paul as a great mystery. The seventh and eighth chapters of Romans present a striking illustration of the results of the soul's remaining under the law on the one hand and of its being married to Christ on the other. The seventh chapter begins thus, "Know ye not brethren (for I speak to them that know the law) how that the law hath dominion over a man so long as he liveth. For the woman who hath a[n] husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if her husband be dead she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, if while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband be dead she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress though she be married to another man. Therefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ: that ye should be married to another, even to Christ who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." The apostle then proceeds to show the results of these two marriages or relations of the soul. When married to the law he says of it, "For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death." But when married to Christ, he proceeds to say, "we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter." The remaining part of this (7th) chapter is occupied with an account of the soul's bondage while married to the law, of its efforts to please its husband, with its continual failures, its deep convictions, its selfish efforts, its consciousness of failures and its consequent self-condemnation and despondency. It is perfectly obvious, when the allegory with which the Apostle commences this chapter is considered, that he is portraying a legal experience for the purpose of contrasting it with the experience of one who has attained to the true liberty of perfect love.
The eighth chapter represents the results of the marriage of the soul to Christ. It is delivered from its bondage to the law and from the power of the law of sin in the members. It brings forth fruit unto God. Christ has succeeded in gaining the affections of the soul. What the law could not do, Christ has done, and the righteousness of the law is now fulfilled in the soul. The representation is as follows. The soul is married to the law and acknowledges its obligation to obey its husband. The husband requires perfect love to God and man. This love is wanting, the soul is selfish. This displeases the husband, and he denounces death against her if she does not love. She recognizes the reasonableness of both the requisition and the threatening, and resolves upon full obedience. But being selfish, the command and threatening but increases the difficulty. All her efforts at obedience are for selfish reasons. The husband is justly firm and imperative in his demands. The wife trembles, and promises, and resolves upon obedience. But all in vain. Her obedience is only feigned, outward, and not love. She becomes disheartened and gives up in despair. As sentence is about to be executed, Christ appears. He witnesses the dilemma. He reveres, and honors, and loves the husband. He entirely approves his requisition and the course he has taken. He condemns in most unqualified terms the wife. Still he pities and loves her with deep benevolence. He will consent to nothing which shall have the appearance of disapproving the claims or the course of her husband. His rectitude must be openly acknowledged. Her husband must not be dishonored. But on the contrary he must be "magnified and made honorable." Still Christ so much pities the wife, as to be willing to die as her substitute. This he does, and the wife is regarded as dying in and by him her substitute. Now[,] since the death of either of the parties is a dissolution of the marriage covenant, and since the wife in the person of her substitute has died under and to the law, her husband, she is now at liberty to marry again. Christ rises from the dead. This striking and overpowering manifestation of disinterested benevolence on the part of Christ in dying for her, subdues her selfishness and wins her whole heart. He proposes marriage and she consents with her whole soul. Now she finds the law of selfishness or of self-gratification broken, and the righteousness of the law of love fulfilled in her heart. The last husband requires just what the first required, but having won her whole heart. she no longer needs to resolve to love, for love is as natural and spontaneous as her breath. Before, the 7th of Romans was the language of her complaint. Now the eighth is the language of her triumph. Before she found herself unable to meet the demands of her husband, and equally unable to satisfy her own conscience. Now she finds it easy to obey her husband and that his commandments are not grievous, although they are identical with those of the first husband. Now this allegory of the Apostle is not a mere rhetorical flourish. It represents a reality, and one of the most important and glorious realities in existence, namely, the real spiritual union of the soul to Christ, and the blessed results of this union, the bringing forth of fruit unto God. This union is, as the apostle says, a great mystery; nevertheless it is a glorious reality. "He that is joined unto the Lord, is one spirit."--1 Cor. 6:17.
Now until the soul knows what it is to be married to the law and is able to adopt the language of the 7th of Romans, it is not prepared to see and appreciate and be properly affected by the death and the love of Christ. Great multitudes rest in this first marriage, and do not consent to die and rise again in Christ. They are not married to Christ and do not know that there is such a thing, and expect to live and die in this bondage, crying out, "O wretched man that I am?" They need to die and rise again in Christ to a new life founded in and growing out of a new relation to Christ. Christ becomes the living head or husband of the soul, its surety, its life. He gains and retains the deepest affection of the soul, thus writing his law in the heart, and engraving it in the inward parts.
But not only must the soul know what it is to be married to the law with its consequent thraldom and death, but it must also for itself enter into the marriage relation with a risen, living Christ. This must not be a theory, an opinion, a tenet; nor must it be an imagination, a mysticism, a notion, a dream. It must be a living, personal, real entering into a personal and living union with Christ, a most entire and universal giving of self to him and receiving of him in the relation of spiritual husband and head. The Spirit of Christ and our spirit must embrace each other and enter into an everlasting covenant with each other. There must be a mutual giving of self and receiving of each other, a blending of spirits in such a sense as is intended by Paul in the passage already quoted: "He that is joined to the Lord, is one spirit.
My brother, my sister, do you understand this? Do you know what both these marriages are, with their diverse results? If you do not, make no longer pretence to being sanctified, for you are still in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. "Escape for thy life."
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