« PreviousContinue »
be ?' we answer it was foretold by their own prophets, that he should possess neither form nor comeliness in their eyes, and that when they should see bim, there would be no beauty that they should desire him.
The consideration of their being his own people, the children of Abraham bis friend, added to their sin, and to his affliction. It was this which he so pathetically lamented, when he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes,
Grievous, however, as this treatment was to our blessed Lord, he was not utterly disregarded. Though the world, in general, knew him not, and though the great body of his own nation rejected him; yet there was a remnant according to the election of grace, partly Jews and partly Gentiles, who received him: and, whether they had been previously distinguished by their sobriety, or by their profligacy ; whether they came in companies, as un
i der Peter's sermon, or as individuals, like her who wept, and washed his feet, or him who sought mercy, when expiring by bis side on the cross ; all were received by him, and raised to the highest dignity: To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. And thus, though Israel was not gathered, yet Christ was glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and had a people given him from among the heathen.
I need not say, that the treatment which our Saviour received is the same, for substance, in all ages. There is a world that still knows him not, and many who, though possessed of the means of grace, yet receive him not : and, blessed be God! there are also many, both Jews and Gentiles, who still receive him, and are still blessed with the privilege of being adopted into his heavenly family.
That we may understand and feel the importance of the subject, I shall first inquire, What is supposed and included in receiving Christ? secondly, consider the great privilege annexed to it: and, lastly, observe the wisdom of God in rendering the reception of Christ the great turning point of salvation.
I. Let us inquire, WHAT IS SUPPOSED AND INCLUDED IN RECEIVING CHRIST? The phrase is supposed to be equivalent with believing on his name. To receive Christ is to believe in him ; and to believe in Christ, is to receive him. There are some slight shades of difference between these and some other terms which are used to express faith in Christ; such as believing, trusting, receiving, &c. but they must be the same in substance, or they would not be used in the New Testament as convertible terms. Believing, seems to respect Christ as exhibited in the gospel-testimony ; trusting, as revealed with promise; and receiving supposes bim to be God's free gift, presented to us for acceptance in the invitations of the gospel : but, as I said, all come to the same issue. He that believeth the testimony, trusteth the promise, and receiveth the gift; and the whole is necessary to an interest in his benefits, whether pardon, justification, adoption, or any other spiritual blessing.
If we were inquiring into the nature of believing, it might be necessary to examine the testimony; if of trusting, we must ascertain, wherein consists the promise ; and so, if we would form just conceptions of receiving Christ, we must observe, what is said of the gift of him : for each is the standard of the other, and will be found to correspond with it: So we preached, and so ye believed.
, Considering Christ, then, as the gift of God, it is necessary to observe, that he is the first and chief of all his gifts, and that for his sake all others are bestowed: He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Other gifts may be so great, that notbing in this world can be compared with them: tbis, however, is the greatest. It is great for God to forbear with us ; greater, to forgive us ; and greater still, to accept and crown us with eternal life: but all this is supposed to be small, in comparison of the gift of his own Son; and therefore it is argued, that, having bestowed the greater, we may trust him for the less. But, if God first give Christ, and, with him, all things freely, we must first receive Christ, and, with him all things freely. The first exercise of faith, therefore, does not consist in receiving the benefits resulting from his death, or in a persuasion of our sins being forgiven, but in
receiving Christ; and, having received bim, we, with him, receive an interest in those benefits. Hence, the propriety of such language as this : He that hath the Son, hath life : and he that HATA Not the Son of God, huth not fe.
It is on this principle, that union with Christ is represented as the foundation of an interest in his benefits, as it is in the following passages: Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto 28 WISDOM, and RIGHTEOUSNESS, and SANCTIFICATION, and REDEMPTION.—There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to them that are in Christ Jesus.—That I may be found, in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. It is thus in the marriage-union, to which that of believers with Christ is compared. As she that is joined to a husband becomes interested in all that he possesses, so they that are joined to Christ are, by the gracious constitution of the gospel, interested in all that he possesses. He is heir of all things, and they are joint heirs with bim. The sum is, that receiving Christ is the great turning point of salvation, or that by which we obtain a revealed interest in all the blessings of the gospel.
But, more particularly, to receive Christ pre-supposes a sense of sin, and of our exposedness to the just displeasure of God. It is a great error to hold up a sense of sin as a qualification which gives us à warrant to receive the Saviour, and so to consider the invitations of the gospel as addressed to sensible sinners only; as this must necessarily teach men to reckon themselves the favourítes of God, while yet they are in a state of unbelief. But it is no Jess an error to suppose, that any sinner will receive the Saviour without perceiving and feeling his need of him. It is one thing to require a sense of sin as a qualification that gives a warrant to receive the Saviour, and another, to plead for it as necessary, in the nature of things, to a compliance with that warrant. What is the reason that Christ is rejected, and the gospel made light of, by the great body of mankind ? Is it not, as the scriptures represent it, because they are whole in their own eyes, and therefore think they need no physician? While men are righteous in their own esteem, the gospel must appear to be a strange doctrine, and the
is the case,
dwelling so much upon Christ, in the ministry of the word, a strange conduct. How is it, that the doctrine of salvation by grace, through the atonement of the Son of God, should be so generally opposed, even by nominal Christians ? The reason is the same. Sin is considered as a light thing, a mere frailty, or imperfection, unfortunately attached to human nature ; and, while this
there appears to be no need of a mediator, or at least not of one that is divine, and who, to atone for sin, should be required to assume humanity, and render his life a sacrifice. Hence, it is necessary to be convinced of sin, in order to receive the Saviour.
Much of this conviction may respect only our guilt and danger, and so have nothing spiritually good in it: but in those who, in the end, receive the Saviour, it is not wholly so. There is such a thing as spiritual conviction, or conviction which involves in it an abhorrence of sin, and of ourselves on account of it. Such is that sense of its intrinsically evil nature, or, as the scriptures speak, of its exceeding sinfulness, which is produced by a just view of the spirituality and equity of the divine law. And such is that repentance towards God, which is represented as necessary to faith in Christ, and as included in it. We
be convinced of our guilt and danger by an enlightened conscience only, and may be very sorry for our sin, in reference to its
consequences : but this, though it may be used to prepare the way of the Lord, yet will neither divest the sioner of his self-righteous spirit, nor render him willing to come to Christ, that he may have life; and, instead of issuing in his receiving him, may end in his destruction. A sense of the exceeding sinfulpess of sin, on the other hand, tends, in its own nature, to kill a self-righteous spirit, and to in. duce the sinner to embrace the gospel. It is impossible to have a just sense of the evil of sin, and, at the same time, to object to the way of salvation by grace, through a Mediator.
Again, to receive Christ implies the renunciation of every thing which stands in opposition to him, or comes in competition with him. Viewing Christ as a guest, he stands at the door, and knocks ; and why is it kept barred against him? Because the sinner has a variety of other guests already in his house, and is aware, that, if he enter, they must be dismissed ; and, being reluctant to part with them, he cannot find in his heart, at least for the present, to welcome the heavenly visitant. These guests are not only darling sins, but corrupt principles, flesh-pleasing 'schemes, and a spirit of self-righteous pride. With these Christ cannot associate. If we receive him, we must reject them; and that, not as being forced to it for the sake of escaping the wrath of God, but with all our hearts. Many, considering the necessity of the thing, would willingly receive Christ, so that they might retain what is most dear to them; but, this being inadmissible, they, like him who was nearest of kin to Ruth, decline it, lest they should mar their own inheritance,
It was not so with Moses. He had to refuse, as well as choose ; and, for the sake of Christ, yea, for the reproach of Christ, he did refuse even the prospect of a crown. Paul had great advantages by birth, and bad acquired many more by application; bul, when they came in competition with Christ, all this gain was counted loss. Nor did he ever repent the sacrifice, but, towards the close of life, declared, saying, Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whoin I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him.
Moreover, to receive Christ is expressive of the exercise, not of one faculty only, but of all the powers of the soul. If it were merely an exercise of the understanding, as distinguished from the will and affections, it would not be properly opposed to a rejection of him, which is manifestly the idea suggested by the term received him not. As unbelief includes more than an error in judgment, even an aversion of the heart from Christ, and the way of salvation by bis death ; so faith includes more than an accurate notion of things, even a cordial acceptance of him, and the way of salvation by him. Nothing short of this can, with any propriety, be considered, as receiving him, or as having the promise of eternal life.
Finally : To receive Christ requires to be not only by all in us, but to have respect to all in him. If we receive Christ as the gift of God, we must receive him for all the purposes for which he is