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OF COMMUNION WITH CHRIST
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Of communion with Christ in holiness — The several acts ascribed unto the Lord Christ herein: 1. His intercession; 2. Sending of the Spirit; 3. Bestows habitual grace — What that is, and wherein it consists — This purchased by Christ; bestowed by him — Of actual grace — How the saints hold communion with Christ in these things; manifested in sundry particulars.
II. Our communion with the Lord Jesus as to that grace of sanctification and purification whereof we have made mention, in the several distinctions and degrees thereof, formerly, is neatly to be considered. And herein the former method must be observed; and we must show, —
1. What are the peculiar actings of the Lord Christ as to this communion; and, 2. What is the duty of the saints herein. The sum is, — How we hold communion with Christ in holiness, as well as in righteousness; and that very briefly: —
1. There are several acts ascribed unto the Lord Jesus in reference to this particular; as, —
(1.) His interceding with the Father, by virtue of his oblation in the behalf of his, that he would bestow the Holy Spirit on them. Here I choose to enter, because of the oblation of Christ itself I have spoken before; otherwise, every thing is to be run up to that head, that source and spring. There lies the foundation of all spiritual mercies whatever; as afterward also shall be manifested. Now the Spirit. as unto us a Spirit of grace, holiness, and consolation, is of the purchase of Christ. It is upon the matter, the great promise of the new covenant, Ezekiel 11:19, “I will put a new spirit within you;” so also, chap. 36:27; Jeremiah 32:39,40; and in sundry other places, whereof afterward. Christ is the mediator and “surety of this new covenant.” Hebrews 7:22, “Jesus was made surety of a better testament,” or rather covenant; — a testament needs no surety. He is the undertaker on the part of God and man also: of man, to give satisfaction; of God, to bestow the whole grace of the promise; as chap. 9:15, “For this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” He both satisfied for sin and procured the promise. He procures all the love and kindness which are the fruits of the covenant, being himself the original promise thereof, Genesis 3:15; the whole being so “ordered in all things, and made sure,” 2 Samuel 23:5, that the residue of its effects should all be derived from him, depend upon him, and be procured by him, — “that he in all things might have the pre-eminence,” Colossians 1:18; according to the compact and agreement made with him, Isaiah 53:12. They are all the purchase of his blood; and therefore the Spirit also, as promised in that covenant, 1 Corinthians 1:30. Now, the whole fruit and purchase of his death is made out from the Father upon his intercession.
This (John 14:16-18) he promiseth his disciples, that he will pursue the work which he has in hand in their behalf, and intercede with the Father for the Spirit, as a fruit of his purchase. Therefore he tells them that he will not pray the Father for his love unto them, because the eternal love of the Father is not the fruit but the fountain of his purchase: but the Spirit, that is a fruit; “That,” saith he, “I will pray the Father for,” etc. And what Christ asketh the Father as mediator to bestow on us, that is part of his purchase, being promised unto him, upon his undertaking to do the will of God. And this is the first thing that is to be considered in the Lord Jesus, as to the communication of the Spirit of sanctification and purification, the first thing to be considered in this our communion with him, — he intercedes with his Father, that he may be bestowed on us as a fruit of his death and blood shed in our behalf.
This is the relation of the Spirit of holiness, as bestowed on us, unto the mediation of Christ. He is the great foundation of the covenant of grace; being himself everlastingly destinated and freely given to make a purchase of all the good things thereof. Receiving, according to promise, the Holy Ghost, Acts 2:33, he sheds him abroad on his own. This faith considers, fixes on, dwells upon. For, —
(2.) His prayer being granted, as the Father “hears him always,” he actually sends his Spirit into the hearts of his saints, there to dwell in his stead, and to do all things for them and in them which he himself has to do. This, secondly, is the Lord Christ by faith to be eyed in; and that not only in respect of the first enduing of our hearts with his Holy Spirit, but also of the continual supplies of it, drawing forth and exciting more effectual operations and acting of that indwelling Spirit. Hence, though (John 14:16) he says the Father will give them the Comforter, because the original and sovereign dispensation is in his hand, and it is by him made out, upon the intercession of Christ; yet, not being bestowed immediately on us, but, as it were, given into the hand of Christ for us, he affirms that (as to actual collation or bestowing) he sends him himself; chap. 15:26, “I will send the Comforter to you, from the Father.” He receives him from his Father, and actually sends him unto his saints. So, chap. 16:7, “I will send him.” And, verses 14,15, he manifests how he will send him. He will furnish him with that which is his to bestow upon them: “He shall take of mine (of that which is properly and peculiarly so, — mine, as mediator, — the fruit of my life and death unto holiness), and give it unto you.”
But of these things more afterward. This, then, is the second thing that the Lord Christ does, and which is to be eyed in him: — He sends his Holy Spirit into our hearts; which is the efficient cause of all holiness and sanctification, — quickening, enlightening, purifying the souls of his saints. How our union with him, with all the benefit thereon depending, floweth from this his communication of the Spirit unto us, to abide with us, and to dwell in us, I have at large elsewhere declared; where also this whole matter is more fully opened. And this is to be considered in him by faith, in reference to the Spirit itself.
(3.) There is that which we call habitual grace; that is, the fruits of the Spirit, — the spirit which is born of the Spirit, John 3:6. That which is born of, or produced by, the Holy Ghost, in the heart or soul of a man when he is regenerate, that which makes him so, is spirit; in opposition to the flesh, or that enmity which is in us by nature against God. It is faith, love, joy, hope, and the rest of the graces of the gospel, in their root or common principle, concerning which these two things are to be observed: — [1.] That though many particular graces are mentioned, yet there are not different habits or qualities in us, — not several or distinct principles to answer them; but only the same habit or spiritual principle putting forth itself in various operations or ways of working, according to the variety of the objects which it goes forth unto, is their common principle: so that it is called and distinguished, as above, rather in respect of actual exercise, with relation to its objects, than habitual inherence; it being one root which has these many branches. [2.] This is that which I intend by this habit of grace, — a new, gracious, spiritual life, or principle, created, and bestowed on the soul, whereby it is changed in all its faculties and affections, fitted and enabled to go forth in the way of obedience unto every divine object that is proposed unto it, according to the mind of God. For instance, the mind can discern of spiritual things in a spiritual manner; and therein it is light, illumination. The whole soul closes with Christ, as held forth in the promises of the gospel for righteousness and salvation: that is faith; which being the main and principal work of it, it often gives denomination unto the whole. So when it rests in God, in Christ, with delight, desire, and complacency, it is called love; being, indeed, the principle suiting all the faculties of our souls for spiritual and living operations, according to their natural use. Now it differs, — 1st. From the Spirit dwelling in the saints; for it is a created quality. The Spirit dwells in us as a free agent in a holy habitation. This grace, as a quality, remains in us, as in its own proper subject, that has not any subsistence but therein, and is capable of being intended or restrained under great variety of degrees. 2ndly. From actual grace, which is transient; this making its residence in the soul. Actual grace is an illapse of divine influence and assistance, working in and by the soul any spiritual act or duty whatsoever, without any pre-existence unto that act or continuance after it, “God working in us, both to will and to do.” But this habitual grace is always resident in us, causing the soul to be a meet principle for all those holy and spiritual operations which by actual grace are to be performed.
And, — 3rdly. It is capable of augmentation and diminution, as was said. In some it is more large and more effectual than in others; yea, in some persons, more at one time than another. Hence are those dyings, decays, ruins, recoveries, complaints, and rejoicings, whereof so frequent mention is made in the Scripture.
These things being premised as to the nature of it, let us now consider what we are to eye in the Lord Jesus in reference thereunto, to make an entrance into our communion with him therein, as things by him or on his part performed: — As I said of the Spirit, so, in the first place, I say of this, it is of the purchase of Christ, and is so to be looked on. “It is given unto us for his sake to believe on him,” Philippians 1:29. The Lord, on the behalf of Christ, for his sake, because it is purchased and procured by him for us, bestows faith, and (by same rule) all grace upon us. “We are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in him,” Ephesians 1:3. “In him;” that is, in and through his mediation for us. His oblation and intercession lie at the bottom of this dispensation. Were not grace by them procured, it would never by any one soul be enjoyed. All grace is from this fountain. In our receiving it from Christ, we must still consider what it cost him. Want of this weakens faith in its proper workings. His whole intercession is founded on his oblation, 1 John 2:1,2. What he purchased by his death, that — nor more nor less, as has been often said — he intercedeth may be bestowed. And he prays that all his saints may have this grace whereof we speak, John 17:17. Did we continually consider all grace as the fruit of the purchase of Christ, it would be an exceeding endearment on our spirits: nor can we without this consideration, according to the tenor of the gospel, ask or expect any grace. It is no prejudice to the free grace of the Father, to look on any thing as the purchase of the Son; it was from that grace that he made that purchase: and in the receiving of grace from God, we have not communion with Christ, who is yet the treasury and storehouse of it, unless we look upon it as his purchase. He has obtained that we should be sanctified throughout, have life in us, be humble, holy, believing, dividing the spoil with the mighty, by destroying the works of the devil in us.
Secondly. The Lord Christ does actually communicate this grace unto his saints, and bestows it on them: “Of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace,” John 1:16. For, — (1st.) The Father actually invests him with all the grace whereof, by compact and agreement, he has made a purchase (as he received the promise of the Spirit); which is all that is of use for the bringing his many sons to glory. “It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell,” Colossians 1:19, — that he should be invested with a fullness of that grace which is needful for his people. This himself calls the “power of giving eternal life to his elect,” John 17:2; which power is not only his ability to do it, but also his right to do it. Hence this delivering of all things unto him by his Father, he lays as the bottom of his inviting sinners unto him for refreshment: “All things are delivered unto me of my Father,” Matthew 11:27. “Come unto me, all that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” verse 28.
This being the covenant of the Father with him, and his promise unto him, that upon the making “his soul an offering for sin, he should see his seed, and the pleasure of the LORD should prosper in his hand,” Isaiah 53:10, in the verses following, the “pouring out of his soul unto death, and bearing the sins of many,” is laid as the bottom and procuring cause of these things: —
1. Of justification: “By his knowledge he shall justify many.” 2. Of sanctification; in “destroying the works of the devil,” verses 11, 12. Thus comes our merciful high priest to be the great possessor of all grace, that he may give out to us according to his own pleasure, quickening whom he will. He has it in him really as our head, in that he received not that Spirit by measure (John 3:34) which is the bond of union between him and us, 1 Corinthians 6:17; whereby holding him, the head, we are filled with his fullness, Ephesians 1:22,23; Colossians 1:19. He has it as a common person, intrusted with it in our behalf, Romans 5:14-17. “The last Adam is made” unto us “a quickening Spirit,” 1 Corinthians 15:45. He is also a treasury of this grace in a moral and law sense: not only as “it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell,” Colossians 1:19; but also because in his mediation, as has been declared, is founded the whole dispensation of grace. (2ndly.) Being thus actually vested with this power, and privilege, and fullness, he designs the Spirit to take of this fullness, and to give it unto us: “He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you,” John 16:15. The Spirit takes of that fullness that is in Christ, and in the name of the Lord Jesus bestows it actually on them for whose sanctification he is sent. Concerning the manner and almighty efficacy of the Spirit of grace whereby this is done (I mean this actual collation of grace upon his peculiar ones), more will be spoken afterward. (3rdly.) For actual grace, or that influence or power whereby the saints are enabled to perform particular duties according to the mind of God, there is not any need of farther enlargement about it. What concerns our communion with the Lord Christ therein, holds proportion with what was spoken before.
There remaineth only one thing more to be observed concerning those things whereof mention has been made, and I proceed to the way whereby we carry on communion with the Lord Jesus in all these; and that is, that these things may be considered two ways: —
1. In respect of their first collation, or bestowing on the soul.
2. In respect of their continuance and increase, as unto the degrees of them.
In the first sense, as to the real communicating of the Spirit of grace unto the soul, so raising it from death unto life, the saints have no kind of communion with Christ therein but only what consists in a passive reception of that life-giving, quickening Spirit and power. They are but as the dead bones in the prophet; the wind blows on them, and they live; — as Lazarus in the grave; Christ calls, and they come forth, the call being accompanied with life and power. This, then, is not that whereof particularly I speak; but it is the second, in respect of farther efficacy of the Spirit and increase of grace, both habitual and actual, whereby we become more holy, and to be more powerful in walking with God, — have more fruit in obedience and success against temptations. And in this, —
2. They hold communion with the Lord Christ. And wherein and how they do it, shall now be declared.
They continually eye the Lord Jesus as the great Joseph, that has the disposal of all the granaries of the kingdom of heaven committed unto him; as one in whom it has pleased the Father to gather all things unto a head, Ephesians 1:10, that from him all things might be dispensed unto them. All treasures, all fullness, the Spirit not by measure, are in him. And this fullness in this Joseph, in reference to their condition, they eye in these three particulars: —
(1.) In the preparation unto the dispensation mentioned, in the expiating, purging, purifying efficacy of his blood. It was a sacrifice not only of atonement, as offered, but also of purification, as poured out. This the apostle eminently sets forth, Hebrews 9:13,14, “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” This blood of his is that which answers all typical institutions for carnal purification; and therefore has a spiritually-purifying, cleansing, sanctifying virtue in itself, as offered and poured out. Hence it is called, “A fountain for sin and for uncleanness,” Zechariah 13:l; that is, for their washing and taking away; — “A fountain opened;” ready prepared, virtuous, efficacious in itself, before any be put into it; because poured out, instituted, appointed to that purpose.
The saints see that in themselves they are still exceedingly defiled; and, indeed, to have a sight of the defilements of sin is a more spiritual discovery than to have only a sense of the guilt of sin.
This follows every conviction, and is commensurate unto it; that, usually only such as reveal the purity and holiness of God and all his ways. Hereupon they cry with shame, within themselves, “Unclean, unclean,” unclean in their natures, unclean in their persons, unclean in their conversations; all rolled in the blood of their defilements; their hearts by nature a very sink, and their lives a dung hill. They know, also, that no unclean thing shall enter into the kingdom of God, or have place in the new Jerusalem; that God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. They cannot endure to look on themselves; and how shall they dare to appear in his presence? What remedies shall they now use? “Though they wash themselves with nitre, and take them much soap, yet their iniquity will continue marked,” Jeremiah 2:22. Wherewith, then, shall they come before the Lord? For the removal of this, I say, they look, in the first place, to the purifying virtue of the blood of Christ, which is able to cleanse. them from all their sins,1 John 1:7; being the spring from whence floweth all the purifying virtue, which in the issue will take away all their spots and stains, “make them holy and without blemish, and in the end present them glorious unto himself,” Ephesians 5:26,27. This they dwell upon with thoughts of faith; they roll it in their minds and spirits. Here faith obtains new life, new vigor, when a sense of vileness has even overwhelmed it. Here is a fountain opened: draw nigh, and see its beauty, purity, and efficacy. Here is a foundation laid of that work whose accomplishment we long for. One moment’s communion with Christ by faith herein is more effectual to the purging of the soul, to the increasing of grace, than the utmost self-endeavors of a thousand ages.
(2.) They eye the blood of Christ as the blood of sprinkling. Coming to “Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant,” they come to the “blood of sprinkling,” Hebrews 12:24. The dyeing of the blood of Christ as shed will not of itself take away pollution. There is not only “haimatekchusia”, — a “shedding of blood,” without which there is no remission, Hebrews 9:22; but there is also “haimatos rantismos”, — a “sprinkling of blood,” without which there is no actual purification. This the apostle largely describes, Hebrews 9:19, “When Moses,” saith he, “had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God has enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled likewise with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these,” verses 19-23. He had formerly compared the blood of Christ to the blood of sacrifices, as offered, in respect of the impetration and the purchase it made; now he does it unto that blood as sprinkled, in respect of its application unto purification and holiness. And he tells us how this sprinkling was performed: it was by dipping hyssop in the blood of the sacrifice, and so dashing it out upon the things and persons to be purified; as the institution also was with the Paschal lamb, Exodus 12:7. Hence, David, in a sense of the pollution of sin, prays that he may be “purged with hyssop,” Psalm 51:7. For that this peculiarly respected the uncleanness and defilement of sin, is evident, because there is no mention made, in the institution of any sacrifice (after that of the lamb before mentioned), of sprinkling blood with hyssop, but only in those which respected purification of uncleanness; as in the case of leprosy, Leviticus 14:6; and all other defilements, Numb. 19:18: which latter, indeed, is not of blood, but of the water of separation; this also being eminently typical of the blood of Christ, which is the fountain for separation for uncleanness, Zechariah 13:1. Now, this bunch of hyssop, wherein the blood of purification was prepared for the sprinkling of the unclean, is (unto us) the free promises of Christ. The cleansing virtue of the blood of Christ lies in the promises, as the blood of sacrifices in the hyssop, ready to pass out unto them that draw nigh thereunto. Therefore the apostle argueth from receiving of the promise unto universal holiness and purity: “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God,” 2 Corinthians 7:1. This, then, the saints do: — they eye the blood of Christ as it is in the promise, ready to issue out upon the soul, for the purification thereof; and thence is purging and cleansing virtue to be communicated unto them, and by the blood of Christ are they to be purged from all their sins,1 John 1:7. Thus far, as it were, this purifying blood, thus prepared and made ready, is at some distance to the soul. Though it be shed to this purpose, that it might purge, cleanse, and sanctify, though it be taken up with the bunch of hyssop in the promises, yet the soul may not partake of it.
(3.) They look upon him as, in his own Spirit, he is the only dispenser of the Spirit and of all grace of sanctification and holiness. They consider that upon his intercession it is granted to him that he shall make effectual all the fruits of his purchase, to the sanctification, the purifying and making glorious in holiness, of his whole people.
They know that this is actually to be accomplished by the Spirit, according to the innumerable promises given to that purpose. He is to sprinkle that blood upon their souls; he is to create the holiness in them that they long after; he is to be himself in them a well of water springing up to everlasting life. In this state they look to Jesus: here faith fixes itself, in expectation of his giving out the Spirit for all these ends and purposes; mixing the promises with faith, and so becoming actual partaker of all this grace. This is their way, this their communion with Christ; this is the life of faith, as to grace and holiness. Blessed is the soul that is exercised therein: “He shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat comes, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit,” Jeremiah 17:8. Convinced persons who know not Christ, nor the fellowship of his sufferings, would spin a holiness out of their own bowels; they would work it out in their own strength. They begin it with trying endeavors; and follow it with vows, duties, resolutions, engagements, sweating at it all the day long. Thus they continue for a season, — their hypocrisy, for the most part, ending in apostasy. The saints of God do, in the very entrance of their walking with him, reckon upon it that they have a threefold want: — [1.] Of the Spirit of holiness to dwell in them. [2.] Of a habit of holiness to be infused into them. [3.] Of actual assistance to work all their works for them; and that if these should continue to be wanting, they can never, with all their might, power, and endeavors, perform any one act of holiness before the Lord. They know that of themselves they have no sufficiency, — that, without Christ they can do nothing: therefore they look to him, who is intrusted with a fullness of all these in their behalf; and thereupon by faith derive from him an increase of that whereof they stand in need. Thus, I say, have the saints communion with Christ, as to their sanctification and holiness. From him do they receive the Spirit to dwell in them; from him the new principle of life, which is the root of all their obedience; from him have they actual assistance for every duty they are called unto. In waiting for, expectation and receiving of these blessings, on the accounts before mentioned, do they spend their lives and time with him. In vain is help looked for from other mountains; in vain do men spend their strength in following after righteousness, if this be wanting. Fix thy soul here; thou shalt not tarry until thou be ashamed. This is the way, the only way, to obtain full, effectual manifestations of the Spirit’s dwelling in us; to have our hearts purified, our consciences purged, our sins mortified, our graces increased, our souls made humble, holy, zealous, believing, — like to him; to have our lives fruitful, our deaths comfortable. Let us herein abide, dyeing Christ by faith, to attain that measure of conformity to him which is allotted unto us in this world, that when we shall see him as he is, we may be like unto him.