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WHAT IT IS WHEREIN WE HAVE PECULIAR FELLOWSHIP WITH THE LORD
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What it is wherein we have peculiar fellowship with the Lord Christ
II. Having manifested that the saints hold peculiar fellowship with the Lord Jesus, it neatly follows that we show wherein it is that they have this peculiar communion with him.
Now, this is in GRACE. This is everywhere ascribed to him by the way of eminency. John 1:14, “He dwelt among us, full of grace and truth;” grace in the truth and substance of it. All that went before was but typical and in representation; in the truth and substance it comes only by Christ. “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” verse 17; “and of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace,” verse l6; — that is, we have communion with him in grace; we receive from him all manner of grace whatever; and therein have we fellowship with him.
So likewise in that apostolical benediction, wherein the communication of spiritual blessings from the several persons unto the saints is so exactly distinguished; it is grace that is ascribed to our Lord Jesus Christ, Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.”
Yea, Paul is so delighted with this, that he makes it his motto, and the token whereby he would have his epistles known, 2 Thessalonians 3:17,18, “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Yea, he makes these two, “Grace be with you,” and, “The Lord Jesus be with you,” to be equivalent expressions; for whereas he affirmed the one to be the token in all his epistles, yet sometimes he useth the one only, sometimes the other of these, and sometimes puts them both together. This, then, is that which we are peculiarly to eye in the Lord Jesus, to receive it from him, even grace, gospel-grace, revealed in or exhibited by the gospel. He is the head-stone in the building of the temple of God, to whom “Grace, grace,” is to be cried, Zechariah 4:7.
Grace is a word of various acceptations. In its most eminent significations it may be referred unto one of these three heads: — 1. Grace of personal presence and comeliness. So we say, “A graceful and comely person,” either from himself or his ornaments. This in Christ (upon the matter) is the subject of near one-half of the book of Canticles; it is also mentioned, Psalm 45:2, “Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into thy lips.” And unto this first head, in respect of Christ, do I refer also that acceptation of grace which, in respect of us, I fix in the third place. Those inconceivable gifts and fruits of the Spirit which were bestowed on him, and brought forth in him, concur to his personal excellency; as will afterward appear. 2. Grace of free favor and acceptance. “By this grace we are saved;” that is, the free favor and gracious acceptation of God in Christ. In this sense is it used in that frequent expression, “If I have found grace in thy sight;” that is, if I be freely and favorably accepted before thee. So he “giveth grace” (that is, favor) “unto the humble,” James 4:6; Genesis 39:21, 41:37; Acts 7:10; 1 Samuel 2:26; 2 Kings 25:27, etc. 3. The fruits of the Spirit, sanctifying and renewing our natures, enabling unto good, and preventing from evil, are so termed. Thus the Lord tells Paul, “his grace was sufficient for him;” that is, the assistance against temptation which he afforded him, Colossians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 8:6,7; Hebrews 12:28.
These two latter, as relating unto Christ in respect of us who receive them, I call purchased grace, being indeed purchased by him for us; and our communion with him therein is termed a “fellowship in his sufferings, and the power of his resurrection,” Philippians 3:10. 1. Let us begin with the first, which I call personal grace; and concerning that do these two things: —
(1.) Show what it is, and wherein it consisteth; I mean the personal grace of Christ. And, —
(2.) Declare how the saints hold immediate communion with him therein.
(1.) To the handling of the first, I shall only premise this observation: — It is Christ as mediator of whom we speak; and therefore, by the “grace of his person,” I understand not, — [1.] The glorious excellencies of his Deity considered in itself, abstracting from the office which for us, as God and man, he undertook. [2.] Nor the outward appearance of his human nature, neither when he conversed here on earth, bearing our infirmities (whereof, by reason of the charge that was laid upon him, the prophet gives quite another character, Isaiah 52:14), concerning which some of the ancients were very poetical in their expressions; nor yet as now exalted in glory; — a vain imagination whereof makes many bear a false, a corrupted respect unto Christ, even upon carnal apprehensions of the mighty exaltation of the human nature; which is but “to know Christ after the flesh,” 2 Corinthians 5:16, a mischief much improved by the abomination of foolish imagery. But this is that which I intend, — the graces of the person of Christ as he is vested with the office of mediation, this spiritual eminency, comeliness, and beauty, as appointed and anointed by the Father unto the great work of bringing home all his elect unto his bosom.
Psalm 45:2, “Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips” He is, beyond comparison, more beautiful and gracious than any here below, “yafyafita”; the word is doubled, to increase its significance, and to exalt its subject beyond all comparison. “shofaracha malka Meshicha ‘adif nivney nasha”, says the Chaldee paraphrase: “Thy fairness, O king Messiah, is more excellent than the sons of men.” “Pulcher admodum prae filiis hominum;” — exceeding desirable. Inward beauty and glory is here expressed by that of outward shape, form, and appearance; because that was so much esteemed in those who were to rule or govern. Isaiah 4:2, the prophet, terming of him “The branch of the Lord,” and “The fruit of the earth,” affirms that he shall be “beautiful and glorious, excellent and comely;” “for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” Colossians 2:9. Cant. 5:9, the spouse is inquired of as to this very thing, even concerning the personal excellencies of the Lord Christ, her beloved: “What is thy Beloved” (say the daughters of Jerusalem) “more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy Beloved more than another beloved?” and she returns this answer, verse 10, “My Beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand;” and so proceedeth to a particular description of him by his excellencies to the end of the chapter, and there concludeth that “he is altogether lovely,” verse 16; whereof at large afterward. Particularly, he is here affirmed to be “white and ruddy;” a due mixture of which colors composes the most beautiful complexion. 1st. He is white in the glory of his Deity, and ruddy in the preciousness of his humanity. “His teeth are white with milk, and his eyes are red with wine,” Genesis 49:12. Whiteness (if I may so say) is the complexion of glory. In that appearance of the Most High, the “Ancient of days,” Daniel 7:9, it is said, “His garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool;” — and of Christ in his transfiguration, when he had on him a mighty luster of the Deity, “His face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light,” Matthew 17:2; which, in the phrase of another evangelist, is, “White as snow, so as no fuller on earth can white them,” Mark 9:3. It was a divine, heavenly, surpassing glory that was upon him, Revelation 1:14. Hence the angels and glorified saints, that always behold him, and are fully translated into the image of the same glory, are still said to be in white robes. His whiteness is his Deity, and the glory thereof. And on this account the Chaldee paraphrase ascribes this whole passage unto God. “They say,” saith he, “to the house of Israel, ‘Who is the God whom thou wilt serve?’” etc. Then began the congregation of Israel to declare the praises of the Ruler of the world, and said, ‘I will serve that God who is clothed in a garment white as snow, the splendor of the glory of whose countenance is as fire.”
He is also ruddy in the beauty of his humanity. Man was called Adam, from the red earth whereof he was made. The word here used points him out as the second Adam, partaker of flesh and blood, because the children also partook of the same, Hebrews 2:14. The beauty and comeliness of the Lord Jesus in the union of both these in one person, shall afterward be declared. 2ndly. He is white in the beauty of his innocence and holiness, and ruddy in the blood of his oblation.
Whiteness is the badge of innocence and holiness. It is said of the Nazarites, for their typical holiness, “They were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk,” Lamentations 4:7. And the prophet shows us that scarlet, red, and crimson, are the colors of sin and guilt; whiteness of innocence, Isaiah 1:18. Our Beloved was “a Lamb without blemish and without spot,” 1 Peter 1:19. “He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth,” 1 Peter 2:22. He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” Hebrews 7:26; as afterward will appear. And yet he who was so white in his innocence, was made ruddy in his own blood; and that two ways: — Naturally, in the pouring out of his blood, his precious blood, in that agony of his soul when thick drops of blood trickled to the ground, Luke 22:44; as also when the whips and thorns, nails and spears, poured it out abundantly: “There came forth blood and water,” John 19:34. He was ruddy by being drenched all over in his own blood. And morally, by the imputation of sin, whose color is red and crimson. “God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin,” Corinthians 5:21. He who was white, became ruddy for our sakes, pouring out his blood an oblation for sin.
This also renders him graceful: by his whiteness he fulfilled the law; by his redness he satisfied justice. “This is our Beloved, O ye daughters of Jerusalem.” 3rdly. His endearing excellency in the administration of his kingdom is hereby also expressed. He is white in love and mercy unto his own; red with justice and revenge towards his enemies, Isaiah 63:3; Revelation 19:13.
There are three things in general wherein this personal excellency and grace of the Lord Christ does consist: — (1st.) His fitness to save, from the grace of union, and the proper necessary effects thereof (2ndly.) His fullness to save, from the grace of communion; or the free consequences of the grace of union. (3rdly.) His excellency to endear, from his complete suitableness to all the wants of the souls of men: — (1st.) His fitness to save, — his being “hikanos”, a fit Savior, suited to the work; and this, I say, is from his grace of union. The uniting of the natures of God and man in one person made him fit to be a Savior to the uttermost. He lays his hand upon God, by partaking of his nature, Zechariah 13:7; and he lays his hand upon us, by being partaker of our nature, Hebrews 2:14,16, and so becomes a days-man, or umpire between both. By this means he fills up all the distance that was made by sin between God and us; and we who were far off are made nigh in him. Upon this account it was that he had room enough in his breast to receive, and power enough in his spirit to bear, all the wrath that was prepared for us. Sin was infinite only in respect of the object; and punishment was infinite in respect of the subject. This ariseth from his union.
Union is the conjunction of the two natures of God and man in one person, John 1:14; Isaiah 9:6; Romans 1:3, 9:5. The necessary consequences whereof are, — [1st.] The subsistence of the human nature in the person of the Son of God, having no subsistence of its own, Luke 1:35; Timothy 3:16. [2ndly.] “Koinonia idiomaton”, that communication of attributes in the person, whereby the properties of either nature are promiscuously spoken of the person of Christ, under what name soever, of God or man, he be spoken of, Acts 20:28, 3:21. [3rdly.] The execution of his office of mediation in his single person, in respect of both natures: wherein is considerable, “ho energon”, — the agent, Christ himself, God and man. He is the principium quo, “energetikon”, — the principle that gives life and efficacy to the whole work; and then, 2ndly, The principium quod, — that which operates, which is both natures distinctly considered. 3rdly. The “energeia”, or “draskike tes fuseos kinesis”, — the effectual working itself of each nature. And, lastly, the “energema”, or “apotelesma’, — the effect produced, which ariseth from all, and relates to them all: so resolving the excellency I speak of into his personal union. (2ndly.) His fullness to save, from the grace of communion or the effects of his union, which are free; and consequences of it, which is all the furniture that he received from the Father by the unction of the Spirit, for the work of our salvation: “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him,” Hebrews 7:25; having all fullness unto this end communicated unto him: “for it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell,” Colossians 1:19; and he received not “the Spirit by measure,” John 3:34. And from this fullness he makes out a suitable supply unto all that are his; “grace for grace,” John 1:16. Had it been given to him by measure, we had exhausted it. (3rdly.) His excellency to endear, from his complete suitableness to all the wants of the souls of men. There is no man whatever, that has any want in reference unto the things of God, but Christ will be unto him that which he wants: I speak of those who are given him of his Father.
Has he the sense of guilt upon him? Christ is complete righteousness, — “The Lord our Righteousness.” Many poor creatures are sensible of their wants, but know not where their remedy lies. Indeed, whether it be life or light, power or joy, all is wrapped up in him.
This, then, for the present, may suffice in general to be spoken of the personal grace of the Lord Christ: — He has a fitness to save, having pity and ability, tenderness and power, to carry on that work to the uttermost; and a fullness to save, of redemption and sanctification, of righteousness and the Spirit; and a suitableness to the wants of all our souls: whereby he becomes exceedingly desirable, yea, altogether lovely; as afterward will appear in particular. And as to this, in the first place, the saints have distinct fellowship with the Lord Christ; the manner whereof shall be declared in the ensuing chapter.
Only, from this entrance that has been made into the description of him with whom the saints have communion, some motives might be taken to stir us up whereunto; as also considerations to lay open the nakedness and insufficiency of all other ways and things unto which men engage their thoughts and desires, something may be now proposed. The daughters of Jerusalem, ordinary, common professors, having heard the spouse describing her Beloved, Cant. 5:10-16, etc., instantly are stirred up to seek him together with her; chap. 6:1, “Whither is thy Beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee.” What Paul says of them that crucified him, may be spoken of all that reject him, or refuse communion with him: “Had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;” — Did men know him, were they acquainted in any measure with him, they would not so reject the Lord of glory. Himself calls them “simple ones,” “fools,” and “scorners,” that despise his gracious invitation, Proverbs 1:22. There are none who despise Christ, but only they that know him not; whose eyes the God of this world has blinded, that they should not behold his glory. The souls of men do naturally seek something to rest and repose themselves upon, — something to satiate and delight themselves withal, with which they [may] hold communion; and there are two ways whereby men proceed in the pursuit of what they so aim at.
Some set before them some certain end, — perhaps pleasure, profit, or, in religion itself, acceptance with God; others seek after some end, but without any certainty, pleasing themselves now with one path, now with another, with various thoughts and ways, like them, Isaiah 57:10 — because something comes in by the life of the hand, they give not over though weary. In what condition soever you may be (either in greediness pursuing some certain end, be it secular or religious; or wandering away in your own imaginations, wearying yourselves in the largeness of your ways), compare a little what you aim at, or what you do, with what you have already heard of Jesus Christ: if any thing you design be like to him, if any thing you desire be equal to him, let him be rejected as one that has neither form nor comeliness in him; but if, indeed, all your ways be but vanity and vexation of spirit, in comparison of him, why do you spend your “money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfieth not?”
Use. 1. You that are yet in the flower of your days, full of health and strength, and, with all the vigor of your spirits, do pursue some one thing, some another, consider, I pray, what are all your beloveds to this Beloved?
What have you gotten by them? Let us see the peace, quietness, assurance of everlasting blessedness that they have given you? Their paths are crooked paths, whoever goes in them shall not know peace. Behold here a fit object for your choicest affections, — one in whom you may find rest to your souls, — one in whom there is nothing will grieve and trouble you to eternity. Behold, he stands at the door of your souls, and knocks: O reject him not, lest you seek him and find him not! Pray study him a little; you love him not, because you know him not. Why does one of you spend his time in idleness and folly, and wasting of precious time, perhaps debauchedly? Why does another associate and assemble himself with them that scoff at religion and the things of God? Merely because you know not our dear Lord Jesus. Oh, when he shall reveal himself to you, and tell you he is Jesus whom you have slighted and refused, how will it break your hearts, and make you mourn like a dove, that you have neglected him! and if you never come to know him, it had been better you had never been.
Whilst it is called Today, then, harden not your hearts.
Use 2. You that are, perhaps, seeking earnestly after a righteousness, and are religious persons, consider a little with yourselves, — has Christ his due place in your hearts? is he your all? does he dwell in your thoughts? do you know him in his excellency and desirableness? do you indeed account all things “loss and dung” for his exceeding excellency? or rather, do you prefer almost any thing in the world before it? But more of these things afterward.