HOW THE SAINTS HOLD COMMUNION WITH CHRIST
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How the saints hold communion with Christ as to their acceptation with God — What is required on the part of Christ hereunto; in his intention; in the declaration thereof — The sum of our acceptation with God, wherein it consists — What is required on the part of believers to this communion, and how they hold it, with Christ — Some objections proposed to consideration, why the elect are not accepted immediately on the undertaking and the death of Christ — In what sense they are so — Christ a common or public person — How he came to be so — The way of our acceptation with God on that account — The second objection — The necessity of our obedience stated, Ephesians 2:8-10 — The grounds, causes, and ends of it manifested — Its proper place in the new covenant — How the saints, in particular, hold communion with Christ in this purchased grace — They approve of this righteousness; the grounds thereof — Reject their own; the grounds thereof — The commutation of sin and righteousness between Christ and believers; some objections answered.
I. Communion with Christ in purchased grace, as unto acceptation with God, from the obedience of his life and efficacy of his death, is the first thing we inquire into. The discovery of what on the part of Christ and what on our part is required thereunto (for our mutual acting, even his and ours, are necessary, that we may have fellowship and communion together herein), is that which herein I intend.
First, On the part of Christ there is no more required but these two things: —
(1.) That what he did, he did not for himself, but for us.
(2.) What he suffered, he suffered not for himself, but for us. That is, that his intention from eternity, and when he was in the world, was, that all that he did and suffered was and should be for us and our advantage, as to our acceptance with God; that he still continueth making use of what he so did and suffered for that end and purpose, and that only. Now, this is most evident: —
(1.) What he did, he did for us, and not for himself: “He was made under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons,” Galatians 4:4,5. He was made under the law; that is, in that condition that he was obnoxious to the will and commands of it.
And why was this? to what end? for himself? No; but to redeem us is the aim of all that he did, — of all his obedience: and that he did.
This very intention in what he did he acquaints us with, John 17:19, “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they may be sanctified through the truth.” “I sanctify myself, — dedicate and set myself apart to all that work I have to do. I came not to do my own will; I came to save that which was lost; to minister, not to be ministered unto; and to give my life a ransom;” — it was the testimony he bare to all he did in the world. This intendment of his is especially to be eyed. From eternity he had thoughts of what he would do for us; and delighted himself therein. And when he was in the world, in all he went about, he had still this thought, “This is for them, and this is for them, — my beloved.” When he went to be baptized, says John, “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?” Matthew 3:14,15; as if he had said, “Thou hast no need at all of it.” But says Christ, “Suffer it to be so, now; for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness;” — “I do it for them who have none at all, and stand obliged unto all.” (2.) In what he suffered. This is more clear, Daniel 9:26, “Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself”. And the apostle lays down this as a main difference between him and the high priests of the Jews, that when they made their solemn offerings, they offered first for themselves, and then for the people; but Jesus Christ offered only for others. He had no sin, and could make no sacrifice for his own sin, which he had not, but only for others. He “tasted death every man,” Hebrews 2:9, — “gave his life a ransom for many,” Matthew 20:28. The “iniquity of us all was made to meet on him,” Isaiah 53:6; — “He bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” Peter 2:24; — “loved the church, and gave himself for it,” Ephesians 5:25; Gal 2:20; Romans 4:25; Revelation 1:5,6; Titus 2:14; 1 Timothy 2:6; Isaiah 53:12; John 17:19. But this is exceeding clear and confessed, that Christ in his suffering and oblation, had his intention only upon the good of his elect, and their acceptation with God; suffering for us, “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.”
Secondly, To complete this communion on the part of Christ, it is required, —
(1.) That there be added to what he has done, the gospel tenders of that complete righteousness and acceptation with God which ariseth from his perfect obedience and sufferings. Now, they are twofold: — [1.] Declaratory, in the conditional promises of the gospel. Mark 16:15; Matthew 11:28, “He that believeth shall be saved;” “Come unto me, and I will give you rest;” “As Moses lifted up the serpent,” etc.; “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” Romans 10:4; and innumerable others. Now, declaratory tenders are very precious, there is much kindness in them, and if they be rejected, they will be the “savor of death unto death;” but the Lord Christ knows that the outward letter, though never so effectually held out, will not enable any of his for that reception of his righteousness which is necessary to interest them therein; wherefore, — [2.] In this tender of acceptation with God, on the account of what he has done and suffered, a law is established, that whosoever receives it shall be so accepted. But Christ knows the condition and state of his in this world. This will not do; if he do not effectually invest them with it, all is lost. Therefore, —
(2.) He sends them his Holy Spirit, to quicken them, John 6:63, to cause them that are “dead to hear his voice,” John 5:25; and to work in them whatever is required of them, to make them partakers of his righteousness and accepted with God.
Thus does Christ deal with his: — he lives and dies with an intention to work out and complete righteousness for them; their enjoying of it, to a perfect acceptation before God, is all that in the one and other he aimed at.
Then he tenders it unto them, declares the usefulness and preciousness of it to their souls, stirring them up to a desire and valuation of it; and lastly, effectually bestows it upon them, reckons it unto them as theirs, that they should by it, for it, with it, be perfectly accepted with his Father.
Thus, for our acceptation with God, two things are required: — First, That satisfaction be made for our disobedience, — for whatever we had done which might damage the justice and honor of God; and that God be atoned towards us: which could no otherwise be, but by undergoing the penalty of the law. This, I have showed abundantly, is done by the death of Christ. God “made him to be sin for us,” 2 Corinthians 5:21, — a “curse,” Galatians 3:13. On this account we have our absolution, — our acquitment from the guilt of sin, the sentence of the law, the wrath of God, Romans 8:33,34. We are justified, acquitted, freed from condemnation, because it was Christ that died; “he bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” 1 Peter 2:24.
Second, That the righteousness of the law be fulfilled, and the obedience performed that is required at our hands. And this is done by the life of Christ, Romans 5:18,19. So that answerable hereunto, according to our state and the condition of our acceptation with God, there are two parts: — Our absolution from the guilt of sin, that our disobedience be not charged upon us. This we have by the death of Christ; our sins being imputed to him, shall not be imputed to us, 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:25; Isaiah 53:12.
Imputation of righteousness, that we may be accounted perfectly righteous before God; and this we have by the life of Christ. His righteousness in yielding obedience to the law is imputed to us. And thus is our acceptation with God completed. Being discharged from the guilt of our disobedience by the death of Christ, and having the righteousness of the life of Christ imputed to us, we have friendship and peace with God.
And this is that which I call our grace of acceptation with God, wherein we have communion with Jesus Christ.
That which remains for me to do, is to show how believers hold distinct communion with Christ in this grace of acceptation, and how thereby they keep alive a sense of it, — the comfort and life of it being to be renewed every day. Without this, life is a hell; no peace, no joy can we be made partakers of, but what has its rise from hence. Look what grounded persuasion we have of our acceptation with God, that he is at peace with us; whereunto is the revenue of our peace, comfort, joy, yea, and holiness itself, proportioned.
But yet, before I come in particular to handle our practical communion with the Lord Jesus in this thing, I must remove two considerable objections; — the one of them lying against the first part of our acceptation with God, the other against the latter.
Objection 1. For our absolution by and upon the death of Christ, it may be said, that “if the elect have their absolution, reconciliation, and freedom by the death, blood, and cross of Christ, whence is it, then, that they were not all actually absolved at the death of Christ, or at least so soon as they are born, but that many of them live a long while under the wrath of God in this world, as being unbelievers, under the sentence and condemning power of the law? John 3:36. Why are they not immediately freed, upon the payment of the price and making reconciliation for them?”
2. “If the obedience of the life of Christ be imputed unto us, and that is our righteousness before God, then what need we yield any obedience ourselves? Is not all our praying, laboring, watching, fasting, giving alms, — are not all fruits of holiness, in purity of heart and usefulness of conversation, all in vain and to no purpose? And who, then, will or need take care to be holy, humble, righteous, meek, temperate, patient, good, peaceable, or to abound in good works in the world?” 1. I shall, God assisting, briefly remove these two objections, and then proceed to carry on the design in hand, about our communion with Christ: —
(1.) Jesus Christ, in his undertaking of the work of our reconciliation with God, — for which cause he came into the world, — and the accomplishment of it by his death, was constituted and considered as a common, public person, in the stead of them for whose reconciliation to God he suffered. Hence he is the “mediator between God and man,” 1 Timothy 2:5, — that is, one who undertook to God for us, as the next words manifest, verse 6, “Who gave himself a ransom for all,” — and the “surety of the better covenant,” Hebrews 7:22; undertaking for and on the behalf of them with whom that covenant was made. Hence he is said to be given “for a covenant of the people,” Isaiah 42:6; and a “leader,” 55:4. He was the second Adam, 1 Corinthians 15:45,47, to all ends and purposes of righteousness, to his spiritual seed, as the first Adam was of sin to his natural seed, Romans 5:15-19.
(2.) His being thus a common person, arose chiefly from these things: — [1.] In general, from the covenant entered into by himself with his Father to this purpose. The terms of this covenant are at large insisted on, Isaiah 53, summed up, Psalm 40:7,8; Hebrews 10:8-10. Hence the Father became to be his God; which is a covenant expression, Psalm 89:26; Hebrews 1:5; Psalm 22:1, 40:8, 45:7; Revelation 3:12; Micah 5:4. So was he by his Father on this account designed to this work, Isaiah 42:1,6, 49:9; Malachi 3:1; Zechariah 13:7; John 3:16; 1 Timothy 1:15.
Thus the “counsel of peace” became to be “between them both,” Zechariah 6:13; that is, the Father and Son. And the Son rejoices from eternity in the thought of this undertaking, Proverbs 8:22-30. The command given him to this purpose, the promises made to him thereon, the assistance afforded to him, I have elsewhere handled. [2.] In the sovereign grant, appointment, and design of the Father, giving and delivering the elect to Jesus Christ in this covenant, to be redeemed and reconciled to himself. John 17:6, “Thine they were, and thou gavest them me.” They were God’s by eternal designation and election, and he gave them to Christ to be redeemed. Hence, before their calling or believing, he calls them his “sheep,” John 10:15,16, laying down his life for them as such; and hence are we said to be “chosen in Christ,” Ephesians 1:4, or designed to obtain all the fruits of the love of God by Christ, and committed into his hand for that end and purpose. [3.] In his undertaking to suffer what was due to them, and to do what was to be done by them, that they might be delivered, reconciled, and accepted with God. And he undertakes to give in to the Father, without loss or miscarriage, what he had so received of the Father as above, John 17:2,12, 6:37, 39; as Jacob did the cattle he received of Lab an, Genesis 31:39,40.
Of both these I have treated somewhat at large elsewhere, in handling the covenant between the Father and the Son; so that I shall not need to take it up here again. [4.] They being given unto him, he undertaking for them to do and suffer what was on their part required, he received, on their behalf and for them, all the promises of all the mercies, grace, good things, and privileges, which they were to receive upon the account of his undertaking for them. On this account eternal life is said to be promised of God “before the world began,” Titus 1:2; that is, to the Son of God for us, on his undertaking on our behalf. And grace, also, is said to be given unto us “before the world began,” 2 Timothy 1:9; that is, in Christ, our appointed head, mediator, and representative. [5.] Christ being thus a common person, a mediator, surety, and representative, of his church, upon his undertaking, as to efficacy and merit, and upon his actual performance, as to solemn (declaration, was as such acquitted, absolved, justified, and freed, from all and every thing that, on the behalf of the elect, as due to them, was charged upon him, or could so be; I say, as to all the efficacy and merit of his undertakings, he was immediately absolved upon his faithfulness, in his first engagement: and thereby all the saints of the Old Testament were saved by his blood no less than we. As to solemn declaration, he was so absolved when, the “pains of death being loosed”, he was “declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead;” Romans 1:4, God saying to him, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee,” Psalm 2:7. And this his absolution does Christ express his confidence of, Isaiah 1. 5-9. And he was “justified,” Timothy 3:16. That which I intend by this absolution of Christ as a public person is this: — God having made him under the law, for them who were so, Galatians 4:4; in their stead, obnoxious to the punishment due to sin, made him sin, 2 Corinthians 5:21; and so gave justice, and law, and all the consequent of the curse thereof, power against him, Isaiah 53:6; — upon his undergoing of that which was required of him, verse 12, God looses the pains and power of death, accepts him, and is well pleased with him, as to the performance and discharge of his work, John 17:3-6; pronounceth him free from the obligation that was on him, Acts 13; and gave him a promise of all good things he aimed at, and which his soul desired. Hereon are all the promises of God made to Christ, and their accomplishment, — all the encouragements given him to ask and make demand of the things originally engaged for to him, Psalm 2:8, (which he did accordingly, John 17), — founded and built. And here lies the certain, stable foundation of our absolution, and acceptation with God. Christ in our stead, acting for us as our surety, being acquitted, absolved, solemnly declared to have answered the whole debt that was incumbent on him to pay, and made satisfaction for all the injury we had done, a general pardon is sealed for us all, to be sued out particularly in the way to be appointed. For, — [6.] Christ as a public person being thus absolved, it became righteous with God, a righteous thing, from the covenant, compact, and convention, that was between him and the mediator, that those in whose stead he was, should obtain, and have bestowed on them, all the fruits of his death, in reconciliation with God, Romans 5:8-11; that as Christ received the general acquittance for them all, so they should every one of them enjoy it respectively. This is everywhere manifested in those expressions which express a commutation designed by God in this matter; as 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:21,24; — of which afterward. [7.] Being thus acquitted in the covenant of the Mediator (whence they are said to be circumcised with him, to die with him, to be buried with him, to rise with him, to sit with him in heavenly places, — namely, in the covenant of the Mediator), and it being righteous that they should be acquitted personally in the covenant of grace, it was determined by Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that the way of their actual personal deliverance from the sentence and curse of the law should be in and by such a way and dispensation as might lead to the praise of the glorious grace of God, Eph 1:5-7. The appointment of God is, that we shall have the adoption of children. The means of it, is by Jesus Christ; the peculiar way of bringing it about, is by the redemption that is in his blood; the end, is the praise of his glorious grace. And thence it is, — [8.] That until the full time of their actual deliverance, determined and appointed to them in their several generations, be accomplished, they are personally under the curse of the law; and, on that account, are legally obnoxious to the wrath of God, from which they shall certainly be delivered; — I say, they are thus personally obnoxious to the law, and the curse thereof; but not at all with its primitive intention of execution upon them, but as it is a means appointed to help forward their acquaintance with Christ, and acceptance with God, on his account. When this is accomplished, that whole obligation ceases, being continued on them in a design of love; their last condition being such as that they cannot without it be brought to a participation of Christ, to the praise of the glorious grace of God. [9.] The end of the dispensation of grace being to glorify the whole Trinity, the order fixed on and appointed wherein this is to be done, is, by ascending to the Father’s love through the work of the Spirit and blood of the Son. The emanation of divine love to us begins with the Father, is carried on by the Son, and then communicated by the Spirit; the Father designing, the Son purchasing, the Spirit effectually working: which is their order.
Our participation is first by the work of the Spirit, to an actual interest in the blood of the Son; whence we have acceptation with the Father.
This, then, is the order whereby we are brought to acceptation with the Father, for the glory of God through Christ: — 1st. That the Spirit may be glorified, he is given unto us, to quicken us, convert us, work faith in us, Romans 8:11; Ephesians 1:19,20; according to all the promises of the covenant, Isaiah 4:4,5; Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26. 2ndly. This being wrought in us, for the glory of the Son, we are actually interested, according to the tenor of the covenant, at the same instant of time, in the blood of Christ, as to the benefits which he has procured for us thereby; yea, this very work of the Spirit itself is a fruit and part of the purchase of Christ. But we speak of our sense of this thing, whereunto the communication of the Spirit is antecedent. And, — 3rdly. To the glory of the Father, we are accepted with him, justified, freed from guilt, pardoned, and have “peace with God,” Romans 5:1. Thus, “through Christ we have access by one Spirit unto the Father,” Ephesians 2:17. And thus are both Father and Son and the Holy Spirit glorified in our justification and acceptation with God; the Father in his free love, the Son in his full purchase, and the holy Spirit in his effectual working. [10.] All this, in all the parts of it, is no less fully procured for us, nor less freely bestowed on us, for Christ’s sake, on his account, as part of his purchase and merits, than if all of us immediately upon his death, had been translated into heaven; only this way of our deliverance and freedom is fixed on, that the whole Trinity may be glorified thereby.
And this may suffice in answer to the first objection.
Though our reconciliation with God be fully and completely procured by the death of Christ, and all the ways and means whereby it is accomplished; yet we are brought unto an actual enjoyment thereof, by the way and in the order mentioned, for the praise of the glorious grace of God.
2. The second objection is, “That if the righteousness and obedience of Christ to the law be imputed unto us, then what need we yield obedience ourselves?” To this, also, I shall return answer as briefly as I can in the ensuing observations: —
(1.) The placing of our gospel obedience on the right foot of account (that it may neither be exalted into a state, condition, use, or end, not given it of God; nor any reason, cause, motive, end, necessity of it, on the other hand, taken away, weakened, or impaired), is a matter of great importance. Some make our obedience, the works of faith, our works, the matter or cause of our justification; some, the condition of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ; some, the qualification of the person justified, on the one hand; some exclude all the necessity of them, and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, on the other. To debate these differences is not my present business; only, I say, on this and other accounts, the right stating of our obedience is of great importance as to our walking with God.
(2.) We do by no means assign the same place, condition, state, and use to the obedience of Christ imputed to us, and our obedience performed to God. If we did, they were really inconsistent. And therefore those who affirm that our obedience is the condition or cause of our justification, do all of them deny the imputation of the obedience of Christ unto us. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, as that on the account whereof we are accepted and esteemed righteous before God, and are really so, though not inherently. We are as truly righteous with the obedience of Christ imputed to us as Adam was, or could have been, by a complete righteousness of his own performance. So Romans 5:18, by his obedience we are made righteous, — made so truly, and so accepted; as by the disobedience of Adam we are truly made trespassers, and so accounted. And this is that which the apostle desires to be found in, in opposition to his own righteousness, Phil 3:9. But our own obedience is not the righteousness whereupon we are accepted and justified before God; although it be acceptable to God that we should abound therein. And this distinction the apostle does evidently deliver and confirm, so as nothing can be more clearly revealed: Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has prepared that we should walk in them.” We are saved, or justified (for that it is whereof the apostle treats), “by grace through faith,” which receives Jesus Christ and his obedience; “not of works, lest any man should boast.” “But what works are they that the apostle intends?” The works of believers, as in the very beginning of the next words is manifest: “‘For we are,’ we believers, with our obedience and our works, of whom I speak.” “Yea; but what need, then, of works?” Need still there is: “We are his workmanship,” etc.
Two things the apostle intimates in these words: — [1.] A reason why we cannot be saved by works, — namely, because we do them not in or by our own strength; which is necessary we should do, if we will be saved by them, or justified by them. “But this is not so,” saith the apostle; “for we are the workmanship of God,” etc.; — all our works are wrought in us, by full and effectual undeserved grace. [2.] An assertion of the necessity of good works, notwithstanding that we are not saved by them; and that is, that God has ordained that we shall walk in them: which is a sufficient ground of our obedience, whatever be the use of it.
If you will say then, “What are the true and proper gospel grounds, reasons, uses, and motives of our obedience; whence the necessity thereof may be demonstrated, and our souls be stirred up to abound and be fruitful therein?” I say, they are so many, and lie so deep in the mystery of the gospel and dispensation of grace, spread themselves so throughout the whole revelation of the will of God unto us, that to handle them fully and distinctly, and to give them their due weight, is a thing that I cannot engage in, lest I should be turned aside from what I principally intend. I shall only give you some brief heads of what might at large be insisted on: — 1st. Our universal obedience and good works are indispensably necessary, from the sovereign appointment and will of God; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
In general “This is the will of God, even your sanctification,” or holiness, 1 Thessalonians 4:3. This is that which God wills, which he requires of us, — that we be holy, that we be obedient, that we do his will as the angels do in heaven. The equity, necessity, profit, and advantage of this ground of our obedience might at large be insisted on; and, were there no more, this might suffice alone, — if it be the will of God, it is our duty: — (1st.) The Father has ordained or appointed it. It is the will of the Father, Eph 2:10. The Father is spoken of personally, Christ being mentioned as mediator. (2ndly.) The Son has ordained and appointed it as mediator. John 15:16, “‘I have ordained you, that ye should bring forth fruit’ of obedience, and that it should remain.” And, — (3rdly.) The holy Ghost appoints and ordains believers to works of obedience and holiness, and to work holiness in others. So, in particular, Acts 13:2, he appoints and designs men to the great work of obedience in preaching the gospel. And in sinning, men sin against him. 2ndly. Our holiness, our obedience, work of righteousness, is one eminent and especial end of the peculiar dispensation of Father, Son, and Spirit, in the business of exalting the glory of God in our salvation, — of the electing love of the Father, the purchasing love of the Son, and the operative love of the Spirit: — (1st.) It is a peculiar end of the electing love of the Father, Eph 1:4, “He has chosen us, that we should be holy and without blame.” So Isaiah 4:3,4. His aim and design in choosing of us was, that we should be holy and unblamable before him in love. This he is to accomplish, and will bring about in them that are his. “He chooses us to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth,” Thessalonians 2:13. This the Father designed as the first and immediate end of electing love; and proposes the consideration of that love as a motive to holiness,1 John 4:8-10. (2ndly.) It is so also of the exceeding love of the Son; whereof the testimonies are innumerable. I shall give but one or two: — Titus 2:14, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” This was his aim, his design, in giving himself for us; as Ephesians 5:25-27, “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish” 2 Corinthians 5:15; Romans 6:11. (3rdly.) It is the very work of the love of the Holy Ghost. His whole work upon us, in us, for us, consists in preparing of us for obedience; enabling of us thereunto, and bringing forth the fruits of it in us. And this he does in opposition to a righteousness of our own, either before it or to be made up by it, Titus 3:5. I need not insist on this. The fruits of the Spirit in us are known, Galatians 5:22,23.
And thus have we a twofold bottom of the necessity of our obedience and personal holiness: — God has appointed it, he requires it; and it is an eminent immediate end of the distinct dispensation of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in the work of our salvation. If God’s sovereignty over us is to be owned, if his love towards us be to be regarded, if the whole work of the ever-blessed Trinity, for us, in us, be of any moment, our obedience is necessary. 3rdly. It is necessary in respect of the end thereof; and that whether you consider God, ourselves, or the world: — (1st.) The end of our obedience, in respect of God, is, his glory and honor, Malachi 1:6. This is God’s honor, — all that we give him. It is true, he will take his honor from the stoutest and proudest rebel in the world; but all we give him is in our obedience. The glorifying of God by our obedience is all that we are or can be.
Particularly, — [1st.] It is the glory of the Father. Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” By our walking in the light of faith does glory arise to the Father.
The fruits of his love, of his grace, of his kindness, are seen upon us; and God is glorified in our behalf. And, — [2ndly.] The Son is gloried thereby. It is the will of God that as all men honor the Father, so should they honor the Son, John 5:23. And how is this done? By believing in him, John 14:l; obeying of him. Hence, John 17:10, he says he is glorified in believers; and prays for an increase of grace and union for them, that he may yet be more glorified, and all might know that, as mediator, he was sent of God. [3rdly.] The Spirit is gloried also by it. He is grieved by our disobedience, Ephesians 4:30; and therefore his glory is in our bringing forth fruit. He dwells in us, as in his temple; which is not to be defiled.
Holiness becometh his habitation for ever.
Now, if this that has been said be not sufficient to evince a necessity of our obedience, we must suppose ourselves to speak with a sort of men who regard neither the sovereignty, nor love, nor glory of God, Father, Son, or Holy Ghost. Let men say what they please, though our obedience should be all lost, and never regarded (which is impossible, for God is not unjust, to forget our labor of love), yet here is a sufficient bottom, ground, and reason of yielding more obedience unto God than ever we shall do whilst we live in this world. I speak also only of gospel grounds of obedience, and not of those that are natural and legal, which are indispensable to all mankind. (2ndly.) The end in respect of ourselves immediately is threefold: — [1st.] Honor. [2ndly.] Peace. [3rdly.] Usefulness. [1st.] Honor. It is by holiness that we are made like unto God, and his image is renewed again in us. This was our honor at our creation, this exalted us above all our fellow-creatures here below, — we were made in the image of God. This we lost by sin, and became like the beasts that perish. To this honor, of conformity to God, of bearing his image, are we exalted again by holiness alone. “Be ye holy,” says God, “for I am holy,” 1 Peter 1:16; and, “Be ye perfect” (that is, in doing good), “even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” Matthew 5:48, — in a likeness and conformity to him. And herein is the image of God renewed; Ephesians 4:23,24, therein we “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and holiness of truth.”
This was that which originally was attended with power and dominion; — is still all that is beautiful or comely in the world. How it makes men honorable and precious in the sight of God, of angels, of men; how alone it is that which is not despised, which is of price before the Lord; what contempt and scorn he has of them in whom it is not, — in what abomination he has them and all their ways, — might easily be evinced. [2ndly.] Peace. By it we have communion with God, wherein peace alone is to be enjoyed. “The wicked are like the troubled sea, that cannot rest;” and, “There is no peace” to them, “saith my God,” Isaiah 57:20; 2]. There is no peace, rest, or quietness, in a distance, separation, or alienation from God. He is the rest of our souls. In the light of his countenance is life and peace. Now, “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another,” 1 John 1:7; “and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ,” verse 3. He that walks in the light of new obedience, he has communion with God, and in his presence is fullness of joy for ever; without it, there is nothing but darkness, and wandering, and confusion. [3rdly.] Usefulness. A man without holiness is good for nothing. “Ephraim,” says the prophet, “is an empty vine, that brings forth fruit to itself” And what is such a vine good for? Nothing. Saith another prophet, “A man cannot make so much as a pin of it, to hang a vessel on.” A barren tree is good for nothing, but to be cut down for the fire.
Notwithstanding the seeming usefulness of men who serve the providence of God in their generations, I could easily manifest that the world and the church might want them, and that, indeed, in themselves they are good for nothing.
Only the holy man is commune bonum. (3rdly.) The end of it in respect of others in the world is manifold: — [1st.] It serves to the conviction and stopping the mouths of some of the enemies of God, both here and hereafter: — 1.
Here. 1 Peter 3:16, “Having a good conscience; that, wherein they speak evil of you, as of evil-doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” By our keeping of a good conscience men will be made ashamed of their false accusations; that whereas their malice and hatred of the ways of God has provoked them to speak all manner of evil of the profession of them, by the holiness and righteousness of the saints, they are convinced and made ashamed, as a thief is when he is taken, and be driven to acknowledge that God is amongst them, and that they are wicked themselves, John 17:23.
2. Hereafter. It is said that the saints shall judge the world. It is on this, as well as upon other considerations: their good works, their righteousness, their holiness, shall be brought forth, and manifested to all the world; and the righteousness of God’s judgements against wicked men be thence evinced. “See,” says Christ, “these are they that I own, whom you so despised and abhorred; and see their works following them: this and that they have done, when you wallowed in your abominations,” Matthew 25:42,43. [2ndly.] The conversion of others. 1 Peter 2:12, “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles; that, wherein they speak against you as evil-doers, they may, by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation,” Matthew 5:16. Even revilers, persecutors, evil-speakers, have been overcome by the constant holy walking of professors; and when their day of visitation has come, have glorified God on that account, 1 Peter 3:1,2. [3rdly.] The benefit of all; partly in keeping off judgements from the residue of men, as ten good men would have preserved Sodom: partly by their real communication of good to them with whom they have to do in their generation. Holiness makes a man a good man, useful to all; and others eat of the fruits of the Spirit that he brings forth continually. [4thly.] It is necessary in respect of the state and condition of justified persons; and that whether you consider their relative state of acceptation, or their state of sanctification: — First. They are accepted and received into friendship with a holy God, — a God of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, — who hates every unclean thing. And is it not necessary that they should be holy who are admitted into his presence, walk in his sight, — yea, lie in his bosom? Should they not with all diligence cleanse themselves from all pollution of flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord?
Secondly. In respect of sanctification.
We have in us a new creature, Corinthians 5:17. This new creature is fed, cherished, nourished, kept alive, by the fruits of holiness. To what end has God given us new hearts, and new natures? Is it that we should kill them? stifle the creature that is found in us in the womb? that we should give him to the old man to be devoured? [5thly.] It is necessary in respect of the proper place of holiness in the new covenant; and that is twofold: — First. Of the means unto the end. God has appointed that holiness shall be the means, the way to that eternal life, which, as in itself and originally [it] is his gift by Jesus Christ, so, with regard to his constitution of our obedience, as the means of attaining it, [it] is a reward, and God in bestowing of it a rewarder. Though it be neither the cause, matter, nor condition of our justification, yet it is the way appointed of God for us to walk in for the obtaining of salvation. And therefore, he that has hope of eternal life purifies himself, as he is pure: and none shall ever come to that end who walketh not in that way; for without holiness it is impossible to see God.
Now, there is not one of all these causes and reasons of the necessity, the indispensable necessity of our obedience, good works, and personal righteousness, but would require a more large discourse to unfold and explain than I have allotted to the proposal of them all; and innumerable others there are of the same import, that I cannot name. He that upon these accounts does not think universal holiness and obedience to be of indispensable necessity, unless also it be exalted into the room of the obedience and righteousness of Christ, let him be filthy still.
These objections being removed, and having, at the entrance of this chapter, declared what is done on the part of Christ, as to our fellowship with him in this purchased grace, as to our acceptation with God, it remains that I now show what also is required and performed on our part for the completing thereof. This, then, consists in the ensuing particulars: —
(1.) Their clear and full conviction of the necessity of a righteousness wherewith to appear before God. This is always in their thoughts; this in their whole lives they take for granted. Many men spend their days in obstinacy and hardness, adding drunkenness unto thirst, never once inquiring what their condition shall be when they enter into eternity; others trifle away their time and their souls, sowing the wind of empty hopes, and preparing to reap a whirlwind of wrath; but this lies at the bottom of all the saints’ communion with Christ, — a deep, fixed, resolved persuasion of an absolute and indispensable necessity of a righteousness wherewith to appear before God. The holiness of God’s nature, the righteousness of his government, the severity of his law, the terror of his wrath, are always before them. They have been all convinced of sin, and have looked on themselves as ready to sink under the vengeance due to it. They have all cried, “Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?” “Wherewith shall we come before God?” and have all concluded, that it is in vain to flatter themselves with hopes of escaping as they are by nature. If God be holy and righteous, and of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, they must have a righteousness to stand before him; and they know what will be the cry one day of those who now bear up themselves, as if they were otherwise minded, Isaiah 53:1-5; Micah 6:6,7.
(2.) They weigh their own righteousness in the balance, and find it wanting; and this two ways: — [1.] In general, and upon the whole of the matter, at their first setting themselves before God. When men are convinced of the necessity of a righteousness, they catch at every thing that presents itself to them for relief. Like men ready to sink in deep waters, [they] catch at that which is next, to save them from drowning; which sometimes proves a rotten stick, that sinks with them. So did the Jews, Romans 9:31,32; they caught hold of the law, and it would not relieve them; and how they perished with it the apostle declares, chap. 10:1-4. The law put them upon setting up a righteousness of their own.
This kept them doing, and in hope; but kept them from submitting to the righteousness of God. Here many perish, and never get one step nearer God all their days. This the saints renounce; they have no confidence in the flesh: they know that all they can do, all that the law can do, which is weak through the flesh, will not avail them. See what judgement Paul makes of all a man’s own righteousness, Phil 3:8-10. This they bear in their minds daily, this they fill their thoughts withal, that upon the account of what they have done, can do, ever shall do, they cannot be accepted with God, or justified thereby. This keeps their souls humble, full of a sense of their own vileness, all their days. [2.] In particular. They daily weigh all their particular actions in the balance, and find them wanting, as to any such completeness as, upon their own account, to be accepted with God. “Oh!” says a saint, “if I had nothing to commend me unto God but this prayer, this duty, this conquest of a temptation, wherein I myself see so many failings, so much imperfection, could I appear with any boldness before him?
Shall I, then, piece up a garment of righteousness out of my best duties? Ah! it is all as a defiled cloth,” Isaiah 64:6. These thoughts accompany them in all their duties, in their best and most choice performances: — “Lord, what am I in my best estate? How little suitableness unto thy holiness is in my best duties! O spare me, in reference to the best thing that ever I did in my life!” Nehemiah 13:22. When a man who lives upon convictions has got some enlargements in duties, some conquest over a sin or temptation, he hugs himself, like Micah when he had got a Levite to be his priest: now surely it shall be well with him, now God will bless him: his heart is now at ease; he has peace in what he has done. But he who has communion with Christ, when he is highest in duties of sanctification and holiness, is clearest in the apprehension of his own unprofitableness, and rejects every thought that might arise in his heart of setting his peace in them, or upon them.
He says to his soul, “Do these things seem something to thee?
Alas! thou hast to do with an infinitely righteous God, who looks through and through all that vanity, which thou art but little acquainted withal; and should he deal with thee according to thy best works, thou must perish.” (3.) They approve of, value, and rejoice in, this righteousness, for their acceptation, which the Lord Jesus has wrought out and provided for them; this being discovered to them, they approve of it with all their hearts, and rest in it. Isaiah 45:24, “Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength.” This is their voice and language, when once the righteousness of God in Christ is made known unto them: “Here is righteousness indeed; here have I rest for my soul. Like the merchant man in the gospel (Matthew 13:45,46) that finds the pearl of price, I had been searching up and down; I looked this and that way for help, but it was far away; I spent my strength for that which was not bread: here is that, indeed, which makes me rich for ever!” When first the righteousness of Christ, for acceptation with God, is revealed to a poor laboring soul, that has fought for rest and has found none, he is surprised and amazed, and is not able to contain himself: and such a one always in his heart approves this righteousness on a twofold account: — [1.] As full of infinite wisdom. “Unto them that believe,” saith the apostle, “Christ crucified is ‘the wisdom of God,’” Corinthians 1:24. They see infinite wisdom in this way of their acceptation with God. “In what darkness,” says such a one, “in what straits, in what entanglements, was my poor soul! How little able was I to look through the clouds and perplexities wherewith I was encompassed! I looked inwards, and there was nothing but sin, horror, fear, tremblings; I looked upwards, and saw nothing but wrath, curses, and vengeance. I knew that God was a holy and righteous God, and that no unclean thing could abide before him; I knew that I was a poor, vile, unclean, and sinful creature; and how to bring these two together in peace, I knew not. But in the righteousness of Christ does a world of wisdom open itself, dispelling all difficulties and darkness, and manifesting a reconciliation of all this.” “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” Romans 11:33; Colossians 2:3. But of this before. [2.] As full of grace. He knows that sin had shut up the whole way of grace towards him; and whereas God aims at nothing so much as the manifestation of his grace, he was utterly cut short of it. Now, to have a complete righteousness provided, and yet abundance of grace manifested, exceedingly delights the soul; — to have God’s dealing with his person all grace, and dealing with his righteousness all justice, takes up his thoughts. God everywhere assures us that this righteousness is of grace. It is “by grace, and no more of works,” Romans 11:6, as the apostle at large sets it out, Ephesians 2:7-9. It is from riches of grace and kindness that the provision of this righteousness is made. It is of mere grace that it is bestowed on us, it is not at all of works; though it be in itself a righteousness of works, yet to us it is of mere grace. So Titus 3:4-7, “But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” The rise of all this dispensation is kindness and love; that is, grace, verse 4. The way of communication, negatively, is not by works of righteousness that we have done; — positively, by the communication of the Holy Ghost, verse 5; the means of whose procurement is Jesus Christ, verse 6; — and the work itself is by grace, verse 7. Here is use made of every word almost, whereby the exceeding rich grace, kindness, mercy, and goodness of God may be expressed, all concurring in this work. As: 1. “Chrestotes”, — his goodness, benignity, readiness to communicate of himself and his good things that may be profitable to us.
2. “Filantropia”, — mercy, love, and propensity of mind to help, assist, relieve them of whom he speaks, towards whom he is so affected.
3. “‘Eleos”, — mercy forgiveness, compassion, tenderness, to them that suffer; and “charis”, — free pardoning bounty, undeserved love. And all this is said to be “tou Theou soteros”, — he exercises all these properties and attributes of his nature towards us that he may save us; and in the bestowing of it, giving us the Holy Ghost, it is said, “exeche-en”, — he poured him out as water out of a vessel, without stop and hesitation; and that not in a small measure, but “plousios”, — richly and in abundance: whence, as to the work itself, it is emphatically said, “dikaiotentes te ekeinou chariti”, — justified by the grace of him who is such a one. And this do the saints of God, in their communion with Christ, exceedingly rejoice in before him, that the way of their acceptation before God is a way of grace, kindness, and mercy, that they might not boast in themselves, but in the Lord and his goodness, crying, “How great is thy goodness! how great is thy bounty!” (4.) They approve of it, and rejoice in it, as a quay of great peace and security to themselves and their own souls. They remember what was their state and condition whilst they went about to set up a righteousness of their own, and were not subject to the righteousness of Christ, — how miserably they were tossed up and down with continual fluctuating thoughts. Sometimes they had hope, and sometimes were full of fear; sometimes they thought themselves in some good condition, and anon were at the very brink of hell, their consciences being racked and torn with sin and fear: but now, “being justified by faith, they have peace with God,” Romans 5:1. All is quiet and serene; not only that storm is over, but they are in the haven where they would be. They have abiding peace with God. Hence is that description of Christ to a poor soul, Isaiah 32:2, “And a man shall he as a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” Wind and tempest, and drought and weariness, — nothing now troubles the soul that is in Christ; he has a hiding-place, and a covert, and rivers of water, and the shadow of a great rock, for his security. This is the great mystery of faith in this business of our acceptation with God by Christ: — that whereas the soul of a believer finds enough in him and upon him to rend the very caul of the heart, to fill him with fears, terror, disquietments all his days, yet through Christ he is at perfect peace with God, Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 4:6-8. Hence do the souls of believers exceedingly magnify Jesus Christ, that they can behold the face of God with boldness, confidence, peace, joy, assurance, — that they can call him Father, bear themselves on his love, walk up and down in quietness, and without fear. How glorious is the Son of God in this grace! They remember the wormwood and gall that they have eaten; — the vinegar and tears they have drunk; — the trembling of their souls, like an aspen leaf that is shaken with the wind. Whenever they thought of God, what contrivances have they had to hide, and fly, and escape! To be brought now to settlement and security, must needs greatly affect them.
(5.) They cordially approve of this righteousness, because it is a way and means of exceeding exaltation and honor of the Lord Jesus, whom their souls do love. Being once brought to an acquaintance with Jesus Christ, their hearts desire nothing more than that he may be honored and glorified to the utmost, and in all things have the pre-eminence. Now, what can more tend to the advancing and honoring of him in our hearts, than to know that he is made of God unto us “wisdom and righteousness?” 1 Corinthians 1:30. Not that he is this or that part of our acceptation with God; but he is all, — he is the whole. They know that on the account of his working out their acceptation with God, he is, — [1.] Honored of God his Father. Philippians 2:7-11, “He made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Whether that word “wherefore” denotes a connection of causality or only a consequence, this is evident, that on the account of his suffering, and as the end of it, he was honored and exalted of God to an unspeakable pre-eminence, dignity, and authority; according as God had promised him on the same account, Isaiah 53:11,12; Acts 2:36, 5:30, 31. And therefore it is said, that when “he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Hebrews 1:3. [2.] He is on this account honored of all the angels in heaven, even because of this great work of bringing sinners unto God; for they do not only bow down and desire to look into the mystery of the cross, 1 Peter 1:12, but worship and praise him always on this account: Revelation 5:11-14, “I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the living creatures and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven and earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the living creatures said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.” The reason given of this glorious and wonderful doxology, this attribution of honor and glory to Jesus Christ by the whole host of heaven, is, because he was the Lamb that was slain; that is, because of the work of our redemption and our bringing unto God. And it is not a little refreshment and rejoicing to the souls of the saints, to know that all the angels of God, the whole host of heaven, which never sinned, do yet continually rejoice and ascribe praise and honor to the Lord Jesus, for his bringing them to peace and favor with God. [3.] He is honored by his saints all the world over; and indeed, if they do not, who should? If they honor him not as they honor the Father, they are, of all men, the most unworthy. But see what they do, Revelation 1:5,6, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Chap. 5:8-10, “The four living creatures and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” The great, solemn worship of the Christian church consists in this assignation of honor and glory to the Lord Jesus: therefore do they love him, honor him, delight in him; as Paul, Philippians 3:8; and so the spouse, Cant. 5:9-16. And this is on this account, —
(6.) They cordially approve of this righteousness, this way of acceptation, as that which brings glory to God as such. When they were laboring under the guilt of sin, that which did most of all perplex their souls was, that their safety was inconsistent with the glory and honor of the great God, — with his justice, faithfulness, and truth, all which were engaged for the destruction of sin; and how to come off from ruin without the loss of their honor [i. e., the honor of the fore-mentioned attributes] they saw not. But now by the revelation of this righteousness from faith to faith, they plainly see that all the properties of God are exceedingly glorified in the pardon, justification, and acceptance of poor sinners; as before was manifested.
And this is the first way whereby the saints ho]d daily communion with the Lord Jesus in this purchased grace of acceptation with God: they consider, approve of, and rejoice in, the way, means, and thing itself.
2. They make an actual commutation with the Lord Jesus as to their sins and his righteousness. Of this there are also sundry parts: —
(1.) They continually keep alive upon their hearts a sense of the guilt and evil of sin; even then when they are under some comfortable persuasions of their personal acceptance with God. Sense of pardon takes away the horror and fear, but not a due sense of the guilt of sin. It is the daily exercise of the saints of God, to consider the great provocation that is in sin, — their sins, the sin of their nature and lives; to render themselves vile in their own hearts and thoughts on that account; to compare it with the terror of the Lord; and to judge themselves continually. This they do in general. “My sin is ever before me,” says David. They set sin before them, not to terrify and affright their souls with it, but that a due sense of the evil of it may be kept alive upon their hearts.
(2.) They gather up in their thoughts the sins for which they have not made a particular reckoning with God in Christ; or if they have begun so to do, yet they have not made clear work of it, nor come to a clear and comfortable issue. There is nothing more dreadful than for a man to be able to digest his convictions; — to have sin look him in the face, and speak perhaps some words of terror to him, and to be able, by any charms of diversions or delays, to put it off, without coming to a full trial as to state and condition in reference thereunto. This the saints do: — they gather up their sins, lay them in the balance of the law, see and consider their weight and desert; and then, —
(3.) They make this commutation I speak of with Jesus Christ; that is, — [1.] They seriously consider, and by faith conquer, all objections to the contrary, that Jesus Christ, by the will and appointment of the Father, has really undergone the punishment that was due to those sins that lie now under his eye and consideration, Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21. He has as certainly and really answered the justice of God for them as, if he himself (the sinner) should at that instant be cast into hell, he could do. [2.] They hearken to the voice of Christ calling them to him with their burden, “Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden;” — “Come with your burdens; come, thou poor soul, with thy guilt of sin.” Why? what to do? “Why, this is mine,” saith Christ; “this agreement I made with my Father, that I should come, and take thy sins, and bear them away: they were my lot. Give me thy burden, give me all thy sins. Thou knowest not what to do with them; I know how to dispose of them well enough, so that God shall be glorified, and thy soul delivered.” Hereupon, — [3.] They lay down their sins at the cross of Christ, upon his shoulders. This is faith’s great and bold venture upon the grace, faithfulness, and truth of God, to stand by the cross and say, “Ah! he is bruised for my sins, and wounded for my transgressions, and the chastisement of my peace is upon him.
He is thus made sin for me. Here I give up my sins to him that is able to bear them, to undergo them. He requires it of my hands, that I should be content that he should undertake for them; and that I heartily consent unto.” This is every day’s work; I know not how any peace can be maintained with God without it. If it be the work of souls to receive Christ, as made sin for us, we must receive him as one that takes our sins upon him. Not as though he died any more, or suffered any more; but as the faith of the saints of old made that present and done before their eyes [which had] not yet come to pass, Hebrews 11:1, so faith now makes that present which was accomplished and past many generations ago. This it is to know Christ crucified. [4.] Having thus by faith given up their sins to Christ, and seen God laying them all on him, they draw nigh, and take from him that righteousness which he has wrought out for them; so fulfilling the whole of that of the apostle, 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” They consider him tendering himself and his righteousness, to be their righteousness before God; they take it, and accept of it, and complete this blessed bartering and exchange of faith. Anger, curse, wrath, death, sin as to its guilt, he took it all and takes it all away. With him we leave whatever of this nature belongs to us; and from him we receive love, life, righteousness, and peace.
Objection. But it may be said, “Surely this course of procedure can never be acceptable to Jesus Christ. What! shall we daily come to him with our filth, our guilt, our sins? May he not, will he not, bid us keep them to ourselves? they are our own. Shall we be always giving sins, and taking righteousness?”
1. This exceedingly honors him, and gives him the glory that is his due.
Many, indeed, cry “Lord, Lord,” and make mention of him, but honor him not at all. How so? They take his work out of his hands, and ascribe it unto other things; their repentance, their duties, shall bear their iniquities.
They do not say so; but they do so. The commutation they make, if they make any, it is with themselves. All their bartering about sin is in and with their own souls. The work that Christ came to do in the world, was to “bear our iniquities,” and lay down his life a ransom for our sins. The cup he had to drink of was filled with our sins, as to the punishment due to them. What greater dishonor, then, can be done to the Lord Jesus, than to ascribe this work to any thing else, — to think to get rid of our sins [by] any other way or means? Herein, then, I say, is Christ honored indeed, when we go to him with our sins by faith, and say unto him, “Lord, this is thy work; this is that for which thou camest into the world; this is that thou hast undertaken to do. Thou callest for my burden, which is too heavy for me to bear; take it, blessed Redeemer Thou tenderest thy righteousness; that is my portion.” Then is Christ honored, then is the glory of mediation ascribed to him, when we walk with him in this communion.
2. This exceedingly endears the souls of the saints to him, and constrains them to put a due valuation upon him, his love, his righteousness, and grace. When they find, and have the daily use of it, then they do it. Who would not love him? “I have been with the Lord Jesus,” may the poor soul say: “I have left my sins, my burden, with him; and he has given me his righteousness, wherewith I am going with boldness to God. I was dead, and am alive; for he died for me: I was cursed, and am blessed; for he was made a curse for me: I was troubled, but have peace; for the chastisement of my peace was upon him. I knew not what to do, nor whither to cause any sorrow to go; by him have I received joy unspeakable and glorious. If I do not love him, delight in him, obey him, live to him, die for him, I am worse than the devils in hell.” Now the great aim of Christ in the world is, to have a high place and esteem in the hearts of his people; to have there, as he has in himself, the pre-eminence in all things, — not to be jostled up and down among other things, — to be all, and in all. And thus are the saints of God prepared to esteem him, upon the engaging themselves to this communion with him.
Obj. Yea, hut you will say, “If this be so, what need we to repent or amend our ways? it is but going to Christ by faith, making this exchange with him: and so we may sin, that grace may abound.”
Ans. I judge no man’s person; but this I must needs say, that I do not understand how a man that takes this objection in cold blood, not under a temptation or accidental darkness, can have any true or real acquaintance with Jesus Christ: however, this I am certain of, that this communion in itself produces quite other effects than those supposed. For, —
1. For repentance; it is, I suppose, a gospel repentance that is intended.
For a legal, bondage repentance, full of dread, amazement, terror, self-love, astonishment at the presence of God, I confess this communion takes it away, prevents it, casts it out, with its bondage and fear; but for gospel repentance, whose nature consists in godly sorrow for sin, with its relinquishment, proceeding from faith, love, and abhorrence of sin, on accounts of Father, Son, and Spirit, both law and love, — that this should be hindered by this communion, is not possible. I told you that the foundation of this communion is laid in a deep, serious, daily consideration of sin, its guilt, vileness, and abomination, and our own vileness on that account; that a sense hereof is to be kept alive in and upon the heart of every one that will enjoy this communion with Christ: without it Christ is of no value nor esteem to him. Now, is it possible that a man should daily fill his heart with the thoughts of the vileness of sin, on all considerations whatever, — of law, love, grace, gospel, life, and death, — and be filled with self-abhorrency on this account, and yet be a stranger to godly sorrow? Here is the mistake, — the foundation of this communion is laid in that which they suppose it overthrows.
2. But what shall we say for obedience? “If Christ be so glorified and honored by taking our sins, the more we bring to him, the more will he be glorified.” A man could not suppose that this objection would be made, but that the Holy Ghost, who knows what is in man and his heart, has made it for them, and in their name, Romans 6:1-3. The very same doctrine that I have insisted on being delivered, chap. 5:18-20, the same objection is made to it: and for those who think it may have any weight, I refer them to the answer given in that chapter by the apostle; as also to what was said before to the necessity of our obedience, notwithstanding the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.
Faith exercises itself in it, especially three ways: —
(1.) In meditations. The heart goes over, in its own thoughts, the part above insisted on, sometimes severally, sometimes jointly, sometimes fixing primarily on one thing, sometimes on another, and sometimes going over the whole. At one time, perhaps, the soul is most upon consideration of its own sinfulness, and filling itself with shame and self-abhorrency on that account; sometimes it is filled with the thoughts of the righteousness of Christ, and with joy unspeakable and glorious on that account. Especially on great occasions, when grieved and burdened by negligence, or eruption of corruption, then the soul goes over the whole work, and so drives things to an issue with God, and takes up the peace that Christ has wrought out for him.
(2.) In considering and inquiring into the promises of the gospel, which hold out all these things: — the excellency, fullness, and suitableness of the righteousness of Christ, the rejection of all false righteousness, and the commutation made in the love of God; which was formerly insisted on.
(3.) In prayer. Herein do their souls go through this work day by day; and this communion have all the saints with the Lord Jesus, as to their acceptation with God: which was the first thing proposed to consideration.