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First, FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST GENERALLY. It is the privilege of believers to have fellowship with Christ in the whole of that mediation of which his sufferings form so conspicuous a part. What, then, is the foundation of this fellowship? Union, oneness, similarity of state and of nature. We have fellowship with Christ, as the branches with the root of the vine; as the hands and feet, and all the limbs, with the head of the body; as the members of a family with the elder brother. What is the revealed medium of it? Faith; receiving him as the gift of God, as the surety of the sinner. The moment we believe in Christ, we are one with him, and enjoy in both worlds the appointed and promised blessings of such a communion. In what respects, however, have believers this fellowship?
First, we have fellowship with Christ in the enjoyment of the divine favour. The Lord Jesus Christ was tenderly, faithfully, infinitely beloved of the Father. He was his only begotten Son, his own Son in the bosom of the Father, his elect in whom his soul delighted. Now, as Christ was the object of this divine affection, so have believers fellowship with him in the privilege. There is not one of his disciples, however insignificant in his own estimation, or overlooked by the world, but of such a follower of the Lamb the eternal God declares, “ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” As Christ was, in a peculiar sense, the son of the Father, so all his disciples are, by adoption, his children beloved, delighted in, honoured and blessed, as sustaining the relationship. “ We are the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus.” “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” Well might this promise begin with the word, “Behold!” Behold it, ye aliens and outcasts, and desire and emulate the privilege of the saints. Behold it, ye
slaves of sin and lust, and rest not till you are translated into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Behold it, ye timorous, hesitating disciples; and enlarge your espectations and measure your hope by the infinitude of Jehovah's love. Behold it, ye happy believers who are permitted daily to delight in God, and proclaim it to a world lying in the wicked one. Behold it, ye dying saints, and rejoice as standing on the verge of heaven, the borders of the goodly land, for if children then heirs, heirs of the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.
Secondly, we have fellowship with Christ, in his possession of the Spirit. The Spirit was given to Christ without measure, that is, in an unlimited, boundless degree. His influence on the human soul of Christ was universal and perpetual. By the Spirit he was qualified to sustain the prophetical office : “ The Spirit of the Lord
God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek ; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,” and to discharge the other duties of the prophetical office. By the Spirit he was enabled to work miracles, so much so indeed, that when the power by which they were wrought, was malignantly attributed to diabolical agency, it was blasphemy, not so much against Christ as the Spirit; for, says he, “If I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out ?" By the Spirit he was made of quick understanding in the fear of God. By the Spirit he offered himself unto God as a living and perfectly holy sacrifice for sin ; “who through the Eternal Spirit offered himself unto God.” By the Spirit he was quickened in the grave; “put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the Spirit;" for as his body was the special workmanship of the Holy Ghost, so, when crucified and slain, it was re-animated with immortal life by the same Spirit. Hence the expression, he was anointed with soil of gladness ;" the grace of the Comforter “above his fellows." Kind, compassionate, instructive appellation—“His fellows !” implying the fact of the universal “ fellowship” of the church with Himself, and that, too, particularly in the possession of the Spirit. “In whom, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession.” “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” And where in this assembly is the believer who does not feel this doctrine as well as hear it? Where is the saint who does not enjoy this part of the fellowship—the possession of the Spirit ? By the Spirit we are taught the vileness of the heart, and the preciousness of a Saviour, from the love he bears to sinners, and the efficiency of his atonement; by the Spirit we pray with such a freedom of soul, that in every thing we can make known our requests unto God; by his influence we enter the sanctuary with desire, and leave it so impressed, that the only relief is in unfolding the heart to him, who alone can witness its conflicts; by the same Spirit we believe and rejoice in Jesus, contend against sin, and wait for the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Here, then, brethren, let those who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and longing for the vigour and power of vital godliness in their souls, find their encouragement, not only to pray for, but to expect a supply of, the Spirit. To the fact of the infinite fulness of Christ, add this-we have fellowship with him : and what is the inference ? That the Spirit's grace is the essential privilege of the saints.
Thirdly, we have fellowship with Christ in his merits. By the merits of Christ we mean his righteousness. Now the righteousness of Christ is in every sense perfect: such an infinite righteousness as might have been anticipated from the image of the invisible God—the “brightness of his glory”—“ God manifest in the flesh;" -perfect in its universality-obeying, as he did, every jot and tittle of every law that ever had been expounded and enforced, without the least deviation from the strictest rectitude ; perfect in its duration, obeying every law at all seasons, at whatever cost and suffering, from the first dawn of his probation, to his ascension to his Father's right hand; perfect in its motive-love to God, and an unquenchable desire to glorify him ; perfect in its spirituality-developing holiness in every thought, desire, passion, feeling of his soul. Such was the unvarying perfection of his obedience; and in its perfection consisted its merit. But what did the obedience of Christ deserve ? Who, however, can describe the meritoriousness of the immaculate righteousness of the Holy Son of God ? Merit ! whatever is to be desired in the favour, friendship, and salvation of God, that it merited; whatever is invaluable in the outpouring of the Spirit, as a teacher, comforter, and sanctifier ; whatever is to be esteemed as a treasure in the covenant of mercy-so rich and overflowing in the fruits of benevolence and mercy; whatever is to be anticipated in the hope laid up in heaven-all that it is in the purpose of God to bestow, and for the saints to receive, is the effect of the merit of the incarnation, sufferings, and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, this is the consolation—this the doctrine we preach, that we have fellowship with Christ in these merits. How plainly is this fact recorded ! “ He is the Lord our righteous
“ Our”—as though we were in reality partners with him in his own righteousness. “ Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound ! in thy name shall they rejoice all the day, by and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted.” Thy”—we having fellowship with it. “ Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” Hence, whilst believers feel, mourn, confess, and are humbled to the dust, from the consciousness of personal unworthiness, they are at the same time, in Christ, immaculately, perfectly, and unblameably righteous: righteous without a flaw; and so righteous as to merit—having fellowship with Christ—the participation of his glory. “ Ah !” says the trembling sinner, who feels as well as reads of the searching purity of the Judge of all“ who can stand before this holy Lord God—where is the righteousness that will be accepted, worthy, sufficient ?" Let such an anxious inquirer look to the garment of a Saviour's righteousness ; let him,
with the hand of faith, enrobe himself therewith ; let him anticipate his appearance before the presence of his glory, and as he surveys its structure and its worth, sing with the church of old, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall be joyful in my God, for he hath clothed me with the garment of salvation; he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.'' What is the righteousness of a David, a John, a Daniel; what the righteousness of a perfected spirit in Paradise ; or even of an archangel, when compared with the virtue and perfection of the righteousness of Jesus? If this righteousness be yours by faith. what can you fear, though the terrors and wonders of the judgment-seat should at this moment be revealed ?
“ Jesus! thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
With joy shall I lift up my head." Fourthly, we have fellowship with Christ in his resurrection. Was it impossible for the crucified body of Jesus to be detained in the empire of death? It was. So shall not the sleeping dust of his saints be always confined to their sepulchres ; for as he rose so all his followers must. “ As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Was the body of Jesus raised at the appointed season by an omnipotent power, irresistible, uncontrollable? So at the season destined in the councils of Heaven shall the bodies of the saints be raised by the same almighty energy: for “ all that are in the graves
shall hear the voice of the Son of Man, and shall come forth.” Is the raised body of Jesus eminently glorious-glorious in immortality, spirituality, beauty, splendour, and perfection ? So “ shall he change our vile bodies, that they may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the power whereby he is able even to subdue all things to himself." “ It is sown in corruption,” says the Apostle, “ it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” Is the glorified body of Jesus incapable of death? It is; “ death hath no more dominion over him:” so shall immortality be the attribute of the raised bodies of the saints; death itself, that tyrant which now darts its arrows into these frames, so fearfully and wonderfully made, and with such a certainty of inflicting a fatal wound—death itself shall die. Thus fellowship with Christ, in the certainty, the cause, the glory and immortality of his resurrection, is abundantly revealed to confirm the faith, inflame the love, and animate the hope of his people.
Fifthly, we have fellowship with Christ in his glory. The glory of Christ is ineffable. “ Who is gone into heaven; angels, and principalities, and powers, being made subject unto him.” “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” But is there the possibility of sinners, fallen like ourselves, beholding that glory? Is not the anticipation of even seeing Christ in his glory too exalted a privilege for us to hope to gain? What, then, shall we say of that mercy which permits us not only to behold that glory, but to have fellowship with Christ in his kingdom? O! is not this the riches of his grace? Mark, then, how completely believers have fellowship with Christ in his glory. Is Christ a king in his glory? He is; for “he hath, upon his vesture and on his thigh, a name written King of kings, and Lord of lords.” So are we in him “ made kings unto God.” Is Christ a priest in his glory? He is the great High Priest of our profession, passed into the heavens: and are not we a royal priesthood ? Pre-eminently so, in the holy places not made with hands, where we are said to be made priests as well as kings unto God. Is he seated on a throne in his glory? So he says: “ To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with
Father on his throne.” Thus we are partners with Christ in his glory; we have fellowship with him in this the amazing privilege of the ransomed church, when it shall return with singing unto Zion, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Hence we are called “joint heirs with Christ.” Amazing grace! teaching us, not only that there is an inheritance, but that Christ has entered upon it; not only so, but that we have fellowship with him, in its riches, abundance, and felicity.
Secondly: FELLOWSHIP with Christ IN HIS SUFFERINGS. The former part of our text is explained by the latter : we have “ fellowship in Christ's sufferings,” by “ being made conformable unto his death.” Here we ask,
First, What is there in the saints which should die ? What did the Apostle refer to, when he spoke of the desirableness of fellowship in the sufferings and death of Christ? To the principle of sin. Hence, in the well-known seventh chapter of Romans, he says, “ I find then a law that when I would do good, evil is present with me.” How does this principle of sin manifest itself? Variously. Take some instances : Why is it that, when Christ is preached in his compassion, in his mediation as the friend of sinners and the Saviour