« PreviousContinue »
you really love Him, I know it will be because you have an interest in His offices. You cannot help loving Him when that is known. I have heard people talk of disinterested love, and of loving Him for His own loveliness alone. The apostle John, or rather the Holy Ghost, speaking by him, is rather of a different opinion, for he says, “We love Him because He first loved us." When, therefore, a poor soul who is taught of God is brought to discover the fact that Jesus loved him, and so loved him as to take an interest in all that concerned him from everlasting, and to give him an interest in His covenant bond, and all the blessings treasured up in His person, it is not possible but such a soul must love Him. Now if I examine what interest we have in His offices, I see, first, His prophetic office. “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord.” Has He taught you? Has He fulfilled His predictions in your experience ? Have you been drawn unto Him? “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.” Has He drawn you? If He has, then is He a true prophet even with regard to you. Every man taught of the Father cometh to Him: so that there is access found to Him.
Moreover, as a prophet He always teaches two or three prominent things. He teaches man his own nothingness, and lays him prostrate in the “ dust of self-abasement.” He teaches salvation to be wholly of the Lord, the Father's gift, the Son's work, and the Spirit's ministration, and makes the pupil quite ready to learn those lessons. He teaches that the law is not to be abrogated until it has been fulfilled; not to be violated, not to be brought to a compromise, but that every jot and tittle shall be fulfilled and performed by the sinner's glorious Surety. And then He says, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy, and compassion upon whom I will have compassion." Is Jesus your teacher then?
Again, He is spoken of as a Priest—“Prophet, Priest, and King.” Is He your Priest? Have you an interest in this His office? I confess that I do not want an interest in the office of any pretended priest on the face of the earth. I would not give a single straw for all their absolutions, or anything else that these pretenders boast of being able to . confer. But give me an interest in Christ. If I have an interest in this “ Priest after the order of Melchisedec," I am atoned for, interceded for, and am absolved from all things. I have access and intercourse with the Father in His name and by His intercession, because He is within the veil for the purpose of carrying my desires and complaints before the throne-of presenting them in His own divine merit, and in His own glorious person, on the altar. Nor will He take a denial, for He receives gifts for men, in consequence of His intercession, as well as in consequence of the completion of His work.
Moreover, whilst I get all my teaching from Him as a Prophet, and an interest in Him as a Priest, I can trust all my soul's concerns to Him for time and for eternity, for I have also an interest in Him as a King. I stood in the very position which Esther once occupied with the sentence of death gone forth. Deep alarm I felt, and a consciousness remained of this one fact, that there was no possibility of escaping eternal death except by touching the top of the King's sceptre. By power Divine, grace invincible, and the authority of His word, I ventured near, and with the hand of faith touched the top of His sceptre. He looked, He smiled, He loved, and whispered, “Peace be unto thee; thy sins are all forgiven thee,” in the most sovereign manner,
I cannot for a moment doubt, therefore, my interest in His prophetic character, being under His teaching. My interest in his priestly character, having all my salvation secure in His hands, and my interest in His kingly authority, because my stubborn heart has been brought to accept of His pardon as His royal gift. “Ye love Him." Do you really love Him? Do you really love His name? Do you love His teaching, his blood, His righteousness, his intercession, and His sovereignty? Do you bow before Him habitually? Then let me tell you that one of the finest expressions of love among creatures is the mutual interchange of secrets. There are instances, and these not a few, in which mortals who are fondly attached, communicate, when with each other, what they would not impart to any one else. And frequently it is said, " I would not tell this to anybody besides," in order to convey an idea of the confidence thus reposed in the party so addressed. The fact is, that their hearts are open to each other. Is this the case between you and Jesus? Can you tell Him in secret what you can dare tell none else? Can you open all your bosom to Him, and recount the dismal catalogue of foul corruptions, base lusts, wandering thoughts, vile abominations, that you would hardly like to name in the hearing of a fellow-mortal, but can tell them all to Jesus? And is it customary with Him to fulfil that precious declaration, “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him?" Have you received His secret whispers, His secret love-tokens, His secret assurances of forgiveness, His secret quickenings and supplies of grace, His secret drawings, attracting your heart to His bosom? Is it thus that you can say with the Church in the Canticles, when inviting our Lord into retirement, she speaks so emphatically of this secret fellowship, and exclaims, “There will I give Thee my loves ?" Is it alone, in quietude, in the closet, that thou art accustomed to pour out thy soul into Jesus's bosom, and to receive from Him the secrets of His heart, with such quickenings, drawings, visitings, comfortings, enlightenings, enlargement, encouragement, advancement, and Christian experience, as are known to none but those who love Him. Oh, if this is experienced by you, I am sure that you love Him.
11.—Then the life of faith is recorded : “Though now ye see Him not, yet believing.” It is a very important matter to know what believing is. Nothing appears to me to be more mistaken or more misrepresented in the day in which we live than believing. There are many who think they are believers simply because they credit the statements which are made as to what is orthodox or 'heterodoxbecause they do not dispute the accuracy or the truth of things which are written' or published. My hearer, the devil believes all this. And hence the apostle says, “The devils believe and tremble.” Perhaps you tremble also in your very belief. You want something higher-something better. I know very well that it is a common assertion, both in the pulpit and the press, that believing is nothing more or less than an act of man's natural intellect the crediting, receiving, or admitting a recorded or known fact. My hearer, there are millions of believers, such as these, who will be found among the unbelievers at last, and with them be turned into hell. Now, my text distinguishes real believing from this specious and counterfeit kind, by the fact that without seeing "ye believe." They seem to credit or believe only that which they can see the clear evidence of, which the natural body, bodily vision, or mental powers can discover to them; and therefore they believe. Now, the province of a Christian, is to believe, though he may not see. “Whom, having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing." Let us, then, abandon negatives, and show, in positive terms, what this believing is that constitutes the life of faith. I apprehend it to consist, first of all, in a resting of the soul on Jesus and His perfect work. That is believing. And, if you have not reached this, your belief is, to say the least
, of a doubtful character; and if you have any faith at all, it is only as “a grain of mustard seed.” Pray God, then, that He will increase it.
The believing that is connected with "joy and peace” must amount to a resting on Jesus and His perfect work, and that will bring you to rest also in the covenant love of the Triune Jehovah where He Himself rests. Our precious, glorious Christ was “God manifest in the flesh” for the purpose of redemption and salvation, in order that all His Church might find a resting place in Him. Mark His gracious invitation, "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” And, believe me, that you will never find the rest of faith until you can rest only on Jesus. So long as you rest only upon contingencies they will give way and leave you but the more miserable.
So long as you rely upon attainments they will prove to be alike imperfect and impure, and your rest will constantly be disturbed. Rest on forms, your prospects will change to clouds and darkness, and your resting-place is gone. But when by faith the poor soul can come away from self to rest in the person of Christ, conscions of his union with Christ, and viewing the entire work of Christ as completed for him, then he experiences a holy composure. And this is the rest with which He causes the weary to rest—this the coming to Christ in the exercise of believing confidence.
I cannot leave this idea without observing that the faith which can rest on Jesus is much more precious than gold which perisheth. You are aware that some persons set great value upon their gold; but however precious it may be to them, its possession is frequently accompanied by sorrows, and in some instances it has drowned the soul in perdition. Now, here is a treasure ; here is a jewel; here is a portion much more precious than the gold which perisheth, even the faith of God's elect; and the moment that you are brought to rest in Jesus, to confide wholly in His person as the covenant Head of the Church, and to rely upon His perfect work as accomplished for you, you will better understand what Peter was taught of the Spirit to set down, “To you, therefore, who believe, He is precious." And not only is the faith precious by which we can rest on Christ, but He Himself becomes more precious as we know more of Him and believe more in Him; and the nearer we can approach Him, and the more heavily we can lean our persons, our guilt, and our circumstances upon Him, the more precious He will become, and the more His love will be shed abroad in the heart. “Yet believing.” Why, it is not a half believing that loves; and the man who cherishes the most distant expectation that he may receive some benefit from the grace and the work of Christ, provided he can do certain things to please Him—that is believing in himself, not in Christ. The rest I want to see yours, is this : the entire rejection of all false confidences, a running away from every “refuge of lies," to commit the soul and the body, the circum
stances of time, the prospect of eternity, salvation, and redemption, wholly to Jesus, confiding, without a moment's reserve, in His faithfulness and loving-kindness to His Church as her covenant Head.
By believing, I also understand an appropriating as my own all the blessings that I discover in Christ. I rather apprehend that some of my hearers may say, “You are soaring above all our heads this morning.” Well, come up higher. All I can say is, that I do not wish to grovel so low as you are disposed to do; and I certainly do not desire that you should. Come up, then, and let us see what it is to appropriate all we discover in Christ as our own. “Wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption,” all grace, all glory, all the provision of paternal love, all the fulness of the Godhead treasured up in Him bodily, the residue of the Spirit, His own gift and bestowment as an absolute Sovereign, the events of time managed by His own hand and by His sovereign will, the glories of heaven provided by Him, the promises of the Word realized-all are found in Him. Í see in Him a perfect righteousness. I take it, put it on, and wear it; I go to court with it, and look God in the face with holy delight, solemn awe, and deep hu lity. I see His hands filled with pardons, and mine is amongst them. Faith then says that my sins are cast behind His back. I see in Him the privileges of adoption, and by getting adoption in Him, you, dear babes in Christ, will get the pure and sincere milk.
I pause here, parenthetically, to mark that phrase, “sincere milk.” Not skimmed milk, with all its richness and cream taken off, as some persons say we must do with the doctrines of grace, which are too rich for young, seeking, new-born souls. I tell you that He will give you sincere milk; and I would have no Arminian hand put to my milk-pail, to take away the cream from the dear babes.
What do we see in Jesus to appropriate else? Exceeding great and precious promises—"all yea and amen.” My faith puts out her hand, and says, “ They are mine.” What do I see in our precious Christ? The whole of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, according to the statements of His word. Well, wisdom and knowledge in Jesus my faith appropriates. I see in Him a receipt in full of all demands of law and justice in behalf of every elect vessel of mercy. I love Him, I believe in Him; I read the receipt, and say, ** All is well;" I delight in the Lord God after the inner man, and am conscious that justice itself demands my admission into everlasting glory. This is appropriating. “In whom, not seeing, I believe," and summing up the whole of this, “ Laying hold on eternal life.” Oh, the blessedness of a life of faith and believing on the Son of God! This might be followed out to show how this believing acts in things temporal, in providence, in the common concerns of life, and with respect to our connexions and friends, the very abodes we dwell in, the very steps which we take, and the very matters which engage our attention through life. What blessings He puts upon them! Oh, the delight of living a life of faith in the Son of God!
Let us now glance for an instant at the “not seen." “Whom, having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not." Observe, the “see Him not” is repeated. Two or three things are to be noticed upon this. The first is the remark I made in my exordium, that the persons to whom the apostle was writing, as well as you and me, had not been favoured with a bodily sight of Christ whilst tabernacling in the flesh. This we pass over as an acknowledged fact. The second is, that nature cannot see him spiritually, for the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them; how, then, can the natural man, that is, the unregenerate man, discern the glories of Christ? It is a religion superior to nature to get but one glance of a spiritual kind of the beauties of Jesus. Even those who did see Him with bodily eyes esteemed Him as “a root out of the dry ground,” having "no form nor comeliness ;” and men of a carnal mind esteem Him so now. My text says,
“In whom, having not seen, ye believe." This is faith in exercise; a believing beyond the reach of nature's ken; a believing beyond the reach of mental discernment; a believing beyond the stretch of man's reasoning powers; a believing that requires a spiritual vision; a spiritual eyesight; a sight of Christ, and a believing, in short, which the world never gained. Oh ! bear with me whilst I warn and faithfully admonish you, that if your Christianity is nothing more than what the world can understand and perceive, discern and comprehend, it is not worth your having, and will stand you in no stead in a dying hour. Hence the apostle says, in writing to the Corinthians, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." And immediately he adds, “ But He that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet He Himself is judged of no man.” Oh, the vast importance of a Christianity that is supernatural, that all the boasted powers of man can never reach! a Christianity that leaves the philosopher a clown, the man of literature a dunce, the man of science a blot in the bright creation ; a Christianity which surpasses the proud aspirings of man, and humbles him to the dust, that the Lord alone may be exalted.
Now, the believer has an eye-sight which no other man has ; for, whilst the man of the world looks only at the things that are seen, the man of God looks on the things that are “not seen;" whilst the man of the world looks on things temporal, and can extend his vision no further, the man of spiritual light and life looks on eternal things. His faith can take a glance within the veil, pierce all the clouds that intervene, fix its gaze upon the glorious throne of the Majesty of heaven, and mark the personal interest of all the saints of God upon the Saviour's breastplate there. This is a vision worth having.
Moreover, this vision is often interrupted in the believer's experience, and he goes to the closet, to the word, to the house of prayer, to the Lord's table, as the disciples went to the sepulchre, and returns as they returned, recording disappointment: "Him they saw not." Then is the time for faith's best effort, when Jesus is not seen in sensible enjoyment, yet believed in and loved. So the spouse in the Canticles sought Him, but found Him not, yet she called Him her Beloved, and believed Him to be faithful to her, though she had been unfaithful to Him, and consequently had lost sight of Him, but, blessings on His name, He never lost sight of her.
It is faith's provinca to maintain her hold in the dark, and after long absence and repeated disappointments, under sermons, at ordinances, and in the closet, exclaiming, “not seen"—"not seen,” to add, " yet believing,” believing that the union with Christ can never be