Method: Is by taking up the Fallen Humanity
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Having opened, in the two foregoing discourses, the origin of the Incarnation, in the will of God; and the end of it, for the glory of God; we do now proceed to treat of the scheme or method of it, in the purpose of God,— concerning which, though we have frequently spoken already, we have not yet given it that large and sufficient demonstration which is needful in a matter of such vast importance to the glory of God and the good of men.
This seemeth to me the logical way of handling any act of the Godhead: first, to shew wherein it originates; then, whereto it tendeth; then, by what method it proceedeth; then, in what way it is transacted; and finally, with what fruits or effects it is followed. The third of these steps, in the exposition of our great subject, we do now proceed to take, trusting in the help of God. And to the end of opening with due order the method which God hath taken to bring about the incarnation of his Son, we shall first treat of the composition of his Divine person, from his conception even unto his resurrection, observing the most notable changes which he underwent during that period: for with the resurrection I regard my present subject to conclude. It is only Christ in the flesh concerning which I have undertaken to discourse: the discourse of Christ from the resurrection onward belongeth properly to another subject, which is the church; whereof by his ascension into glory he became the Head.—After taking this view of the composition, and the successive changes which passed upon Christ’s person until the resurrection, I shall proceed to open, in the second part of this sermon, how God, by uniting the person of his Son to fallen flesh, doth thereby reconcile the whole lump of fallen humanity unto himself, and is enabled, through Christ, to save as many as it pleaseth him, without any detriment unto, but rather with all illustration of, his righteousness and holiness. This will lead us to speak of the universality of the reconciliation, and the individuality of the election; and to shew how harmonious and mutually co-operating are these two great truths.—From this we shall pass, in the third part, to shew how, by this same method of sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, God doth remove the law, which is the form of the enmity, and bring in unto all the world this dispensation of grace under which we now stand. After which we shall conclude this discourse upon the method of the Incarnation, with practical conclusions and improvements of the whole.
With all due reverence, therefore, and, trust in Divine assistance, we do now proceed to open the scheme which God had purposed in himself for bringing about this most important event in creation’s history, that the Son of God, by and for whom all things were created and do consist, should join himself unto the fallen creation, and take up into his own eternal personality the human nature, after it had fallen, and become obnoxious to all the powers of sin and infirmity and rebellion; in order that God might be shewn to be greater and mightier far than the creatures combined in the confederacy of sin against the Creator; and that the state of fallen sinful creation, which God had permitted to come to pass, might yield forth from its impure and unholy womb the most perfect, the most holy, the most wonderful Son of God, to be the head and support, the life, the mover, and the guide of all creation, redeemed in the redemption of that creature substance which he assumed unto himself. That Christ took our fallen nature is most manifest, because there was no other in existence to take. The fine gold of Adam’s being was changed, and the Divine goodness of his will was oppressed by the mastery of sin: so that, unless God had created the Virgin in Adam’s first estate, which is a figment of Romish superstition, it was impossible to find in existence any human nature but human nature fallen, whereof Christ might partake with the brethren. I believe, therefore, in opposition to all fantastics, schismatics, and sectarians who say the contrary, that Christ took unto himself a true body and a reasonable soul; and that the flesh of Christ, like my flesh, was in its proper nature mortal and corruptible; that he was of the seed of David; that he was of the seed of Abraham, as well as of the seed of the woman; yea, that he was of the seed of the woman after she fell, and not before she fell. Even the time for making known the truth that Christ in human nature was to come, did not arrive till after the fall, because it was determined in the counsel of God that he who was to come should come in the fallen state of the creature, and therein be cut off—yet not for himself—to the end it might be proved that the creature substance which he took, and for ever united to the Godhead, was not of the Godhead a part, though by the Godhead sustained. If he had come in the unfallen manhood, as these dreamers say, and had not truly been subject unto death, but, for some lesser end and minor object, and as it were by-intent, had laid aside the mantle of the flesh for a season, who would have been able to say that the manhood of Christ had not become deified—that is, become a part of the Godhead? And if so, then not only he, but all his members likewise, who are to be brought into the very selfsame estate with himself, must also be deified, or pass into the Godhead; the creature become an object of worship; the Creator be mingled with the creature; the doctrine of God the soul of the world brought in, and all the other most wicked tenets of the Eastern superstitions of the earth introduced, in the room of the most fruitful, most holy mystery of a personal God, separate from the creature, yet supporting the creature by eternal union with, though in perfect distinctness from, himself, in the person of the Son, and through the indwelling of the Divine nature in the person of the Holy Ghost; to the end of worshipping the invisible Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, remaining hidden, and for ever to remain hidden, in the person of the Father. I say, and fearlessly assert, and undertake to prove, that this great result and consummation of the Divine scheme could not otherwise be attained than by the fall of the creature, in order to reveal its non-divinity, or prove its creatureship; so that, when the Son of God should come to take it unto himself, it might, by the very act of dying, shew itself, though of him, not to be the very God; and when, taken up into that surpassing glory with which it is now crowned, it might be for ever known to be not human nature deified, but human nature uplifted and upheld by God. The fall of all creation, spiritual and material, was but a step unto the death of the body of Christ; even as the creation of all things visible and invisible was only a step to the creation of that body. It was because the Lamb slain, as well as the God manifested, was a part of the Divine purpose, that death came into the world. Death knew not what death meant, until Christ died; then the mystery of death was unfolded unto itself. If the meaning of a fall is ever to be understood, it must be studied in the cross and tomb of Christ. For if Christ had stepped at once out of the infinite and invisible into resurrection power and glory, and without dying drawn up the creatures into union with the same, the creature would have worshipped itself, so clothed with might, adorned with beauty, and with stability invested; instead of worshipping the invisible God of heaven, out of the creature, yet supporting the creature and inhabiting the creature; therefore the object of the creature’s dependence, and the subject of the creature’s blessedness: but yet essentially separate from and advanced above the creature’s noblest state, and therefore properly the object of the creature’s continual worship.—And this is the first point into the mystery of Christ’s constitution, his taking the substance of the fallen Virgin Mary.
And now, with respect to the human soul of Christ I have next to speak. That Christ had a reasonable soul, as well as a true body, is a doctrine most necessary to be believed; because, otherwise, he were not a man, but only the apparition of a man; a superior being, who for a certain end and purpose had clothed himself with human form—as was often done before in manifestations to the Patriarchs and the Prophets—which is the fountain of Arianism with all its poisoned streams. Besides, if Christ had not a reasonable soul, his human feelings and affections were but an assumed fiction to carry the end which his mission had in view; and his sufferings and his death were a phantasmagoria played off before the eyes of men, but by no means entering into the vitals of human sympathy, nor proceeding from the communion and love of human kind, nor answering any end of comforting human suffering, and interceding for human weakness, and bringing up again the fallen creature to stand before the throne of the grace of God: it is all but a phantasm and apparition, like that which appeared unto Manoah and his wife, and transacted wonderful things in their presence. This was the source of the Gnostic errors in the first ages of the church. Moreover, and most of all, if Christ had not possessed a reasonable soul, as well as a mortal and corruptible body (which yet saw not corruption, by the Father’s special grace), the Divine nature of Christ must have been separated and divorced from his human nature during the time it hung dead upon the cross and lay buried in the tomb. If there had been but two principles, a body, and the eternal person of the Son, united in Jesus of Nazareth, then, when the body of Christ lay in the tomb, the Divinity must have been separated from the humanity; and this, though only for an instant suffered, would upset the whole constitution of God in Christ. For if once the Creator and the creature part of Christ, if once the Divine and human natures, have been parted, they may be parted again; and where then were the assurance of creation’s stability in the Christ constitution for ever and ever? Essential it is to the purpose of God, that, when the nature of the Godhead in the person of the Son had joined itself to the creature in the substance of manhood, that hypostatical union of two distinct natures in one person should be established for ever and ever. Clearly, therefore, doth it remain, that there must be a part of human nature capable of subsisting separate from the body, which, when the body fell into the curse of death, might maintain the continuity of co-existence with the Godhead of the Son, until the time came for the Father to send the Holy Spirit into his mortal and corruptible body, and unite it in a glorified state unto the Godhead of the Son; which hath the while preserved its creature-condition in connexion with the separate soul. And as I said above, that the fall is to be understood by meditating that for which it came to pass—to wit, the dead body of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; even so say I now, that the twofold nature of man, soul and body, invisible and visible, is both to be best understood, and most surely believed, by meditating upon the same great key of creation—to wit, the Divinity of the Son subsisting in hypostatical union with the invisible soul of the man, while the visible body of the man was lying uninformed with any conservative or vital principle, truly dead, truly corruptible, but not to corrupt, until it pleased the Father to raise it, in reward of Christ’s faith and strong cryings, with supplications and tears, that he might be delivered from death; wherein, because of his piety, he was heard. Yea, more: this is to me the great assurance of a spiritual world of separate souls in life, though invisible at this time, and in all times since death began his work; and it is to me the defeat of all those fantastics who dote and dream concerning the sleep of the soul from death unto the resurrection; and, moreover, of that more common, but at the bottom not less pernicious, opinion, that the soul receiveth upon its being disembodied some aerial vehicle, some house of habitation, some tabernacle of very subtile matter, wherein to act and to discourse over God’s creation: which I hold to be no better than refined and disguised materialism; making void a spiritual world, and also the doctrine of Christ’s coming with glory, in visible, sensible humanity, to reign with his saints, in the like humanity, over a purified kingdom of flesh and blood. Moreover, I can see how, for these great ends of putting to silence such manifold fanciful and heretical notions, it should have been so distinctly declared, and so prominently brought forward in the Apostles’ Creed, that the action of his incarnation did not terminate at his death; but that he descended into the place of separate spirits, and did a work therein—concerning which I do not now enter, but only recognise it as a great head of doctrine, by means of which those doters concerning the sleep of the soul, and the new clothing of the soul during its separate estate, are to be baffled and befooled.
Now, concerning the time and manner of our Lord’s receiving this reasonable soul, I believe it to have been at the same time, and after the same manner, in which the rest of the children receive it; in opposition to those who hold the pre-existence of Christ’s human soul, or that it was made before the creatures, for the Son of God to possess and unite himself to, and with it and by it to create all things visible and invisible, and afterwards to come in it and join himself to the substance of the Virgin Mary. I hold, with the orthodox church,that this is a pestilent error, which hath its origin in the confounding of a Divine purpose with a Divine act, and endeth in various evil consequences, which I shall in a few words expose. With respect to its origin: That the Creator had himself, and his own appearing in creature form, fully and mainly in his eye from the first beginning and through the several actings of creation, there is and can be no question, among those who meditate such matters, or read the Holy Scriptures—for example, the first chapter of Colossians, the first chapter of Hebrews, and the eighth chapter of the Proverbs. Every thing that hath been done by God out of himself, was done in the contemplation and to the end of himself becoming unto creatures manifest in creature form; and that creature form was the form of risen God-manhood. But to suppose that to the effecting of this purpose it was necessary that the Creator should first create a human soul, in which and by which to create all things, is a gratuitous hypothesis to represent a purpose by an act, and to destroy altogether the beauty, harmony, and order of the Divine idea, developing itself by slow and sure progression, and at length manifesting itself in the birth of Immanuel the Virgin’s Son. Moreover, if the human soul of Christ was thus before creation hypostatically united with the Divinity of the Son, we have an in-spiritual before we have an in-carnate God; we have God in union with spiritual creation subsisting, and therefore unto spiritual creatures manifest, before we have God in union with flesh subsisting: now this is to destroy the whole tenor of the Scriptures and scheme of God, which represent the angels and all creation hanging upon the lips of promise, and looking with faith unto the symbols of the Man about to be, and travailing with hope until the great end of all things should appear. Besides, it wholly destroys the continuity of things, and casts them back again upon themselves, to say that a soul which had known and effected the creation should pass into infantine ignorance and childhood-simplicity, and ascend through all the stages of a human life. Moreover, then creation hath not fallen wholly, for this pre-existent soul hath never found a fall; and, being united with the body of Christ, is still the creature in the unfallen state; and so the better half of the man Christ is unfallen, and the other half of him is fallen. Strange conjunction! and heterogeneous mixture! Believing, therefore, and holding it to be a point of great importance to believe, that the human soul of Christ came unto him just as the human soul of another man, we proceed a little further to open the nature of the person thus constituted.
God at first, when he had created man, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul. Such a living soul is, therefore, the definition of man: “the first Adam was made a living soul.” Again; it is said, “the body returneth unto the dust, and the soul to him that gave it.” Man, therefore, is a body of dust and a soul given by God, in a state of living union. Man is not a body of flesh, nor is man a disembodied soul; but these two in living union constitute a man. From the time that Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin was he both body and soul of man. He was not soul of man before he was body of man; but he was soul and body of man from the same moment of his conception. From which moment, also, the Holy Ghost abode in him and sanctified him: so that he was in very deed a holy thing from the beginning of his creature being: which distinctly to understand it is necessary to have clear views of the Divine purpose, as it is contained in these words, ” The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” In these words we have all the direct information which Scripture affordeth concerning this great act of God, which was the end of all the promises of God from the Fall onwards; and we are told that it was an act done by the Highest in the person of the Holy Ghost. Now every act of the Holy Ghost is an act of the Father and the Son, from whom the Holy Ghost proceedeth. The Holy Ghost worketh nothing of himself, but worketh the common pleasure of the Father and the Son. In the creation, therefore, of this body of Christ of the woman’s substance, there is an act of the Father’s will and a word of the Son assenting thereto. The word of the Son is given unto us by St. Paul in the 10th of the Hebrews: “A body hast thou prepared for me….’. Then said I, Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me, to do thy will, O God.” In which words are contained both the will of the Father, that it should be so done; and the word of Christ, consenting so to do. And what is the thing thus willed of the Father and assented to of the Son? It is, that he should take the body which the Father would prepare for him. This was the covenant between the Father and the Son: this was the purpose in the Christ: the Father willing it out of very goodness, that he might manifest himself unto creatures which were to be made, and support the creation in blessedness for ever; the Son consenting to it out of very dutifulness unto his Father, together with the same goodness unto the creature; and, thus the covenant between the Father and the Son being willed and worded, the Holy Ghost, of very delight in the communion of the Father and the Son, to execute what their pleasure is, and likewise, of very goodness to the creature, consented to prepare that body, so willed and so worded by the Godhead. And with this view, of preparing a body for the Son of God and acting forth the eternal covenant, the Holy Ghost created all things out of nothing, and began as it were the collecting of materials, and the putting together of scaffoldings, for the construction of that body in which, as in a holy temple, Godhead should abide, and shew itself for ever; and by which, as the great head of intelligence, heart of love, and right hand of power, the Godhead should for ever perform the pleasure of its will and bring forth the harmony of its purpose. And now, when a spiritual world had been created, and by its fall demonstrated that it was not an end in itself; and when a visible world had been superadded thereunto, and by its fall shewn that neither was this the end of the purpose; the fulness of the time being come, forth proceedeth the Holy Ghost to lay the foundation-stone of that temple of the Divinity, to bring into being that right-hand Man of God, to form that body (bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh) which had been the great end of God in coming forth at all by creation to give existence beside himself. And the instant that act of the Holy Ghost began, in the very beginning of it, in the instant of life quickened before the sight of God, did the Son, in his independent personality, once and for ever join himself to the holy thing, which by that conjunction became properly named the Son of God. And such I conceive to be the mystery of this conception of the Child whose name is Wonderful, “Counsellor, the Everlasting Father, the mighty God, the Prince of Peace.
And as his conception was, such also was his life; his constitution never changing; being in the embryo what it was in the man of stature; being in the humiliation what it was in the exaltation, what it is now, and what it shall be for ever and for ever. The constitution of his being is unchangeable: the development of its power and glory being the only cause of apparent change. And what is this wonderful constitution of the Christ of God? It is the substance of the Godhead in the person of the Son, and the substance of the creature in the state of fallen manhood, united, yet not mixed, but most distinct for ever. And is this all! No: this is not all. With humility be it spoken, but yet with truth and verity, that the fallen humanity could not have been sanctified and redeemed by the union of the Son alone; which directly leadeth unto an inmixing and confusing of the Divine with the human nature, that pestilent heresy of Eutyches. The human nature is thoroughly fallen; and without a thorough communication, inhabitation, and empowering of a Divine substance, it cannot again be brought up pure and holy. The mere apprehension of it by the Son, doth not make it holy. Such an union leads directly to the apotheosis or deification of the creature, and this again does away with the mystery of a Trinity in the Godhead. Yet do I not hesitate to assert, that this is the idea of the person of Christ generally set forth: and the effect has been to withdraw from the eye of the church the work of the Holy Spirit in the Incarnation, which is as truly the great demonstration of the Spirit’s power and manner of working, as the Incarnation itself is of the Father’s goodness, and the Son’s surpassing love. This comes from the omission of the third part in the composition of Christ, which is, the substance of the Godhead in the person of the Holy Ghost: to whose Divine presence and power it is that the creation of the body in the womb of the virgin is given, the mighty works which Christ did ascribed, and the spotlessness of his sacrifice attributed, in Holy Scripture. The Holy Ghost sanctifying and empowering the manhood of Christ even from his mother’s womb, is the manifestation both of the Father and of the Son in his manhood, because the Holy Ghost testifieth of the Father and of the Son, and of them only: so that in the manhood of Christ was exhibited all of the Godhead that shall ever be exhibited, Father, Son, and Spirit; according as it is written, “In him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” or in a body. The time was not come for manifesting it gloriously, because the heat of battle was then going forward, when the warrior is all soiled with sweat, and dust, and blood. He was wrestling with sin, in sin’s own obscure dwelling-place; against the powers of darkness, in their dark abode: he was overcoming sin in the flesh. And therefore was it that he appeared not in the glorious raiment of a conqueror, or in the full majesty of a possessor, as he shall appear when he cometh the second time. Nevertheless, he was the person of the Eternal Son, manifesting forth the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Ghost, as well as the word of the Son, in manhood, yea, in fallen manhood. He took up the creature in its lowest estate, in order to justify God therein, by proving how good even that estate was; verily to prove that it was holy; a part of the scheme of him whose name and style is Holy, Holy, Holy; yea, moreover, that it was a state of the creature necessary for the knowledge of God, as the God of grace, mercy, and peace. Christ in fallen manhood redeemed, Christ as the Lamb slain, is, let me tell these silly dreamers, a necessary exhibition of the Godhead, to the end that its love, its grace, its pity, its compassion, might be known, as well as its goodness and might and majesty and power.
For my own satisfaction, and for the satisfaction of all unsophisticated orthodox members of Christ’s church, I should conceive the foregoing opening of the subject to be quite sufficient; but, what with the malice of Satan, the ignorance of men, and the multitude of those who malign the truth which I preach, holding me for a speculator or a fool, or even a madman, I deem it good to argue this matter a little, in order to put to silence the gainsaying of foolish men, and to establish the church in so fundamental a point of doctrine. And therefore, at the risk of being thought tedious by the enlightened and the believing, I shall enter a little more particularly into this question, and endeavour to set the matter in a still fuller and clearer light, by opening those successive anointings with the Holy Ghost which our Saviour received, those apparent changes through which his humanity passed, before he became High Priest in full degree, and did receive that glorious body which was prepared for him by the Father.
There was this peculiarity in Aaron’s consecration to the office of the high priest, that he was anointed with the holy oil of consecration upon the head which flowed down his beard, and unto the skirts of his garment. The rest of the priests were not thus anointed, but sprinkled with a mixture of blood and oil, as was Aaron also. But this anointing over his whole person, like his birthright and his garments, was proper to Aaron as high priest; and, being so, is a point of much importance towards understanding Christ’s peculiar anointing with the Holy Ghost; for that most holy oil of consecration is every where used as the emblem of the Holy Ghost, with which Christ was anointed above measure. “I have found David my servant: with my holy oil have I anointed him.” (Psalm 89) “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he hath anointed me. Now, of this anointing there is a threefold act to be noticed in Christ’s life; the first being from the time of the existence of his body—indeed, it was this anointing with the Holy Ghost which gave his body existence: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; and the holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” It was not with Christ, in this respect, as it was with Jeremiah and the Baptist, who were filled with the Holy Ghost from the mother’s womb: He was not merely filled with the Holy Ghost, but the Holy Ghost was the author of his bodily life, the quickener of that substance which he took from fallen humanity: or, to speak more correctly, the Holy Ghost uniting himself for ever to the human soul of Jesus, in virtue and in consequence of the Second Person of the Trinity having united himself thereto, this threefold spiritual substance, the only begotten Son, the human soul, and the Holy Spirit—(or rather twofold, one of the parts being two-fold in itself; for we may not mingle the Divine nature with the human nature, nor may we mingle the personality of the Holy Ghost with the personality, of the Son)—The Eternal Son, therefore, humbling himself to the human soul, and the human soul taken possession of by the Holy Ghost, this spiritual substance (of two natures only, though of three parts) did animate and give life to the flesh of the Lord Jesus; which was flesh in the fallen state, and liable to all the temptations to which flesh is liable: but the soul of Christ, thus anointed with the Holy Ghost, did ever resist and reject the suggestions of evil. I wish it to be clearly understood—and this is the proper place for declaring it—that I believe it to be necessary unto salvation that a man should believe that Christ’s soul was so held in possession by the Holy Ghost, and so supported by the Divine nature, as that it never assented unto an evil suggestion, and never originated an evil suggestion: while, upon the other hand, his flesh was of that mortal and corruptible kind, which is liable to all forms of evil suggestion and temptation, through its participation in a fallen nature and a fallen world: and that thus, though at all points assailable through his flesh, he was in all respects holy; seeing wickedness consisteth not in being tempted, but in yielding to the temptation. This, I say, I consider to be an article of faith necessary for salvation: and the opposite of it, which holdeth that his flesh was unfallen, and not liable to all temptation by sin, nor conscious to it, I hold to be a virtual denial of his humanity; a removal of us from the fellowship of his mediation; a removal of him from the sympathy of our sufferings and temptations; and a bringing in of many ancient heresies, which the church condemned; and, if I err not, it is the re-appearance of that spirit of Antichrist, mentioned by St. John in these words, “Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God.” I foresee, moreover, that if some one will not stand boldly forth to bear the odium of this point of orthodox faith, and to redargue the gainsayers of it, to such a pitch of sickly sentimentalism are we come, that a confirmed system of heterodox doctrine and pharisaical life will be the fatal issue. For, is it not a thing clear as noon-day, that if you are ashamed to think the holy soul of Jesus should inhabit mortal and corruptible flesh, which must first be a little purified before the Divine glory will consent to tabernacle in it, then you will be also ashamed, after you have been sanctified of the Holy Ghost, to confess the sinfulness of your own flesh, but will think and believe, with the Arminians, that it hath received a purification? and, thus purified, you will loathe to mingle again with publicans and sinners, lest you should be tainted anew; and you will say, “Stand off: I am holier than thou.” While Christ carried about with him this mortal and corruptible body, which lay open and assailable to the assaults of the devil, the world, and the flesh, he was able to meet the demands of the Law, Thou shalt not do this, Thou shalt not do that; because he was tempted to do it, and yet did it not. But unless he had been liable and obnoxious to do the evil, there would have been no merit in refraining from it, and keeping the commandment. He did ever, therefore, prefer the Creator unto the creature, the glory of his Father to the glory of things seen and temporal, the law of the Spirit to the law of the flesh, his Father’s will unto his own will; and so was fitted to be the sacrifice, holy and blameless, without fault in the sight of God and in the sight of man.
“He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth he “he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners;”
and yet carrying about with him a tabernacle of flesh, into which our mortal enemies had poured all their poisoned arrows. This fallen creature substance, thus preyed upon, thus wrestled for, by him that had the power of death and of corruption, our Lord and Redeemer must redeem out of the hands of the enemy, and carry into the acceptable and honourable place of the right hand of the Majesty on high: which being accomplished, it was proved that a created substance, in which sin and Satan had power, might yet be wrested out of their hands, and presented blameless and faultless in the presence of God; which I take to be the one great thing to be demonstrated. But if Christ’s flesh was never obnoxious to Satan’s power as mine is, but in some lesser degree, or not at all, what proof have I received by his resurrection that I also am capable of resurrection? The saints who rose with him might, indeed, afford some hope to me, but his rising could afford none. I say, then, that Christ’s flesh was as mine is, liable to all temptation, that through it he might be tempted like as we are; but that his soul, though brought into consciousness and feeling of these temptations through its union to his body, as my soul is to my body united, was yet, through its having been taken possession of by the Holy Ghost, and that in consequence of its having been taken up into union with the Second Person, prevented from ever yielding to any of those temptations to which it was brought conscious, and did reject them every one—yea, did mourn and grieve, and pray to God continually, that it might be delivered from the mortality, corruption, temptation, which it felt in its fleshly tabernacle; and was heard in that it feared. Now, no one was ever thus anointed with the Holy Ghost. For though Jeremiah and the Baptist are declared to have been filled with the Holy Ghost from their mother’s womb, yet their souls came not possessed with the Holy Ghost, for they were born by ordinary generation; and therefore they must have been capable of regeneration; which implies that they were in their creation-state sinful, seeing they needed the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. It is not the time during which we are unregenerate, nor is it the number of sins which we have committed in our unregenerate state, but it is the fact that we need regeneration, which constitutes our original sinfulness in the sight of a holy God.
2. Now, though I have thus fully discoursed of the birth-holiness of our Lord Jesus Christ, I do not think that this anointing of the Holy Ghost is that which constitutes him High Priest; which office, as both Peter (Acts 2.) and Paul (Heb.5) declare he took not upon him until after, or rather by virtue of, his resurrection, when he proved himself to be the first begotten. And what, then, is this first anointing of the Holy Ghost answerable to under the law? It correspondeth to the seven holy things of the sanctuary, which were anointed with holy oil, before there was a high priest to minister thereat. By virtue of this anointing, his body became the holy altar, the holy laver, the holy shew-bread, the holy lamp, the holy golden table, and the holy ark of the covenant; but he was not the High Priest as yet, who is to minister thereat. Neither did he become the High Priest in virtue of his anointing with the Holy Spirit upon the occasion of his baptism; which, if I err not, was his anointing to the prophetical office, answering to the anointing of Elisha by the hand of Elijah. For John the Baptist, which is Elias, expressly declareth, that the reason of his coming to baptise with water was, that the Lamb of God should be made manifest to Israel: as it is written, John 1.33, “And I knew him not, but he that sent me to baptise with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he which baptiseth with the Holy Ghost.” Yet that Christ did not baptise with the Holy Ghost until after his resurrection, is expressly declared by the Evangelist John, in these words, “For the Holy Ghost was not yet given”—or, as it is in the original, ” was not yet,” that is, was not manifested as the Spirit of Christ— “because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” Meanwhile, therefore, John the Baptist, by the baptism of water, did make Jesus manifest as the Prophet of Israel, about to become the Baptiser with the Holy Ghost: as Elias anointed Elisha to be prophet in his room, so the Baptist anointed Christ. And yet it was not the Baptist’s sprinkling or anointing with water, but the Holy Ghost descending in the form of a dove, which manifested Jesus as the Son of God, in whom he was well pleased. But this is a nice point, upon which it may be necessary to discourse a little before going forward.
The first question is, What connexion the baptism by John had with the manifestation of Jesus unto Israel? I answer, It was not the very manifestation, but a necessary step to it. The Holy Ghost, being minded to connect himself with the ordinance of washing with water, would not manifest himself unto the people as the property of Christ ever after to be holden and dispensed by him, until that same ordinance of baptism had been done on him also. By this Divine arrangement two things are, moreover, taught,—that baptizing with water is not in itself the substance of the ordinance, but needeth to have joined therewith the baptism of the Holy Ghost. For not only were these two things separated in the baptism of Christ, but in the Acts of the Apostles we read of some who had been baptized into the baptism of John and had not received the Holy Ghost, nor even known that there was a Holy Ghost. So that John’s baptism was a baptism unto expectation; but Christ’s baptism is a baptism unto possession. And, methinks, in these times they believe themselves to be baptized only into the expectation of receiving, and not into the actual receiving, of the Holy Ghost; into John’s baptism, and not into Christ’s baptism; which will be followed with the forgetting that there is a Holy Ghost.—Another question, arising out of this special anointing of the Holy Ghost, is, Whereto did it profit? and for what end was it given? I answer, That it did profit unto the information of Christ’s mind with all prophetic wisdom and with all prophetic power of signs and wonders; and it was unto the end of fitting him for the office of preaching the Gospel unto the poor, of binding up the broken-hearted, of proclaiming liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, of proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord. But it may be asked, Was not Christ furnished with this power even from his mother’s womb? I answer, No: He “grew in stature and in wisdom, and in favour with God and man.” He truly passed through the various stages, from childhood up to manhood, not merely as to his body, but as to his mind; and in order to enable him to speak as never man spake he must have a special power of the Holy Ghost, as well as to enable him to heal all that were oppressed with the devil. But on this point let the Apostle Peter speak, who said unto Cornelius and his company, “The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all—that word, I say, ye know; which was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with him.” It may be asked further, And what signification could there be in washing Christ with water, who had done no sin? I answer, Just the same reason as there was for the purification of his mother, and for his own circumcision; because he possessed the same flesh with other men, and therefore needed, like other men, as he said unto John, to “fulfil all righteousness.” For when John said, “I have need to be baptised of thee, and comest thou to me? Jesus, answering, said unto him, Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.”—These are great visible demonstrations of the truth which we have argued above, that Christ took flesh and blood with the brethren: as it is written, ” Forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he himself also took part of the same.” It was signified, by his baptism in Jordan, that he was clean from the sins and defilements of flesh, through the Holy Ghost dwelling in his soul. His baptism with water signified that he was the washed, cleansed, and holy One; and the baptism of the others signified, that through One, whom John testified of, they also should be washed and purified, when He should come who would baptise with the Holy Ghost. John’s baptism was for the manifestation of Jesus as the Baptiser with the Holy Ghost; and when the Holy Ghost had manifested Jesus from amongst the baptised with water, John’s baptism did point to this One as its end; did, as it were, hand the people over to him, as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, and baptiseth whom the Father pleaseth with the Holy Ghost. They had therefore to believe upon Jesus, as the Lamb of God about to be sacrificed, and as the quickening Spirit, the Second Adam, about to beget sons unto God. John’s baptism did point the respects of men unto Jesus the Prophet, and unto Jesus the Lamb slain, and unto Jesus the risen Christ and Lord, who received power at his resurrection, and on the day of Pentecost put it forth in baptising with the Holy Ghost.
There is yet another, and a higher mystery, in that baptism with the Holy Ghost which Christ received at his baptism with water, besides that which we have opened above: it did not only constitute him the Prophet and possess him with all prophetic gifts, and shew him as the Prophet the seal of all the prophets—from whom they had derived their light, as the morning-star deriveth its light from the sun, whose rising it doth herald unto the earth—but, moreover, this baptism with the Holy Ghost was to him truly and literally that same baptism of power and holiness with which he was afterwards to baptise his church, when he should have ascended up on high. The baptism which he received in his conception enabled him to keep the law, and to fulfil all the righteousness of the law; but it did no more: and to this completion of the legal work he alludeth, when he said unto the hesitating Baptist, “for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” But after his baptism with the Holy Ghost he began to live the life above law which his church, that should be afterwards baptised, was to live until his second coming. God testified that Jesus of Nazareth was the person whom he had by the Baptist foreshewn, as about to baptise with the Holy Ghost, by baptising him then and there upon the spot. Thus giving him the precedency of all the baptized spiritual church, as in his resurrection he hath the precedency of all the resurrection church. In his life, anterior to John’s baptism, he fulfilled the law, and made it honourable, and gathered up its authority and its righteousness into his own person, to do with it as he might see good; but from John’s baptism he began to set it aside, as we Christians are required to do, and to live a life in the power of the demonstration of the Holy Ghost, as we also are required to do. From that time forth, accordingly, began his conflict with the spirits of darkness, such as we unto this day have to maintain: from that time forth, also, began his power of casting out spirits, of preaching the Gospel, of forgiving sin, of healing infirmities, of liberty and of power; in which spiritual course also, all that have been baptised with the Spirit are required to walk. Thus he shewed us an example that we should follow his steps; and hereby he became the great prototype of a Christian, as he had been the great antitype of all the holy men under the law. And this continued, as I judge, until he fell into the agony and the pangs of death; when the power of the Spirit, through which he had enjoyed the light of his Father’s countenance, was for a season removed away, that he might know the hour and the power of darkness; and so become the great example unto his church of patience, resignation, faith, and every grace of suffering, under those desertions of the Divine presence, and oppressions of the powers of darkness, to which his church was again and again, and very often, to be subjected, by the sovereign will and disposal of God.
In thus pointing out the successive changes of condition which Christ underwent in the days of his flesh, I am opening the wisdom of God in bringing our Great High Priest unto perfection. I am unfolding no change in the eternal and essential Divinity of the Son, which is unchangeable, being very God of very God; but I am unfolding certain changes which passed upon the humanity, by virtue of which the humanity was brought from the likeness of fallen sinful flesh, through various changes, unto that immortality and incorruption and sovereign Lordship whereunto it hath now attained, and wherein it shall for ever abide. For to me it is most manifest, that the eternal Godhead of the Son did not despise the Virgin’s womb, but was in deed and in truth united personally to the embryo of a man–was born into the world a babe, and laid in a manger is to be called very God. What was circumcised; what sought knowledge of the scribes and doctors in the temple; what grew in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man; what was in subjection to his parents; what was baptised in Jordan; what was tempted of the devil; what was crucified; what died—all these actings and sufferings are proper unto God in that human nature, which is as much of him as the Divine nature is of him. There is a double operation, a two-fold will—as we shall hereafter explain—one with the Godhead ever consubstantial, and out of the absolute unto manhood condescending, in order to suffer and to act: the manhood not containing the Godhead, but consenting with harmony to the mind of the Godhead. And not until these two operations have taken place is any act of Christ’s complete. The person, the I who speaketh, acteth, suffereth in Christ, is not he Divine nature, nor yet is ti the human nature alone; but it is the Divine nature having passed into the human nature, and therein effecting its will and purpose of acting or of suffering. I totally reject—for reasons which will appear in the sequel of this discourse—the language of those divines who say, ‘Now the Divine nature acteth, now the human nature acteth;’ language which I hold to be essential Nestorian, making two persons in Christ. I say, on the other hand, that in every act of Christ the Divine nature acteth and the human nature acteth; the former by self contraction unto the measure of the latter, by coming into harmony with the former through the mighty power of the Holy Ghost. It therefore pointing out the successive changes which passed upon the humanity of Christ, and shewing him, first as a man under the Law; then as a man under the Spirit, enjoying the joy of God’s chosen ones; then under the hour and power of darkness, suffering the agony of God’s chosen ones, when it pleaseth the Father for their sins to chastise and rebuke them, I am doing no more than shewing the gradual progress unto perfection through which the body, the humanity, of Christ came, that it might be, during the days of his flesh, the perfect thing, the all-exemplifying thing, the beginning and the ending, the alpha and the omega, the first and the last; both the Jew and the Gentile, the uncircumcised and the baptised, the living and the dead, and the living for evermore. And it doth but remain that we proceed a little onwards to speak of the dead body of Christ while it lay in the tomb, yet saw not corruption.
3. The true doctrine, therefore, of Christ’s body, as to its mortality or immortality, seemeth to be rightly expressed thus: The flesh he took of the Virgin was mortal and corruptible, in the same manner, to the same degree, and for the same reason, that the rest of her flesh which was not taken, that all flesh whatsoever of Adam and Eve descended, is mortal and corruptible. Which attributes of mortality and corruption flesh deriveth not from the manner of its propagation, nor from its propagation at all, but anterior to all propagation, from that very word of God which saith, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” When the fruit of the forbidden tree had been eaten, from that time forth flesh—that is, the body of man, the bodies of all men, in our first parents contained, as all trees and plants were contained in the trees and plants which God created and made— the body of flesh, I say, became mortal and corruptible from thence; and shall so continue, until all flesh shall have passed into death, anterior to the universal resurrection and common judgment. And I may observe, by the way, that the universality, the stability, the unchangeableness of this, the law of all body of Adam descended, doth raise into a very high and vast importance those exceptions of Enoch and Elias, the only ones which have ever been permitted—and undoubtedly not without the gravest causes and greatest ends permitted; which I think are, to shadow forth the great mystery which Paul teacheth in 1 Cor. 15. that “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” This change of the living, God was not to shew in the person of his own Son, who before the foundation of the world was destined to be slain: therefore it was necessary to shew it forth in some one or other of the types and forerunners of his Son. And yet, to the end that in this also he might have the pre-eminence, the transfiguration upon the Mount was given, and Elias made to attend upon the changed Lord; in order to signify and shew, that not only did the resurrection stand in Christ, but likewise the changing of the living, the rapture of the saints, which was foreshadowed in the rapture of Elias. But whether there be any speciality in the translation of Enoch, besides and above that which was in the changing of Elias, and what that speciality is, I confess myself at present unable to say. Seeing then, that the law of flesh, undeviated from save in those two exceptions, is to be mortal and corruptible, I hold, that wherever flesh is mentioned in Scripture, mortality and corruption are the attributes of it; and that when it is said Christ came in the flesh, it is distinctly averred that he came in a mortal and corruptible substance: and, though I would judge no one, yet would I warn the church to take care how they undervalue or contradict the mortality and corruptibleness of Christ’s body, which I hold to be no less an error than to deny that the Son of God is come in the flesh.
Well then, Christ, having taken to himself mortal and corruptible flesh, the work of the Holy Ghost consisteth in making that flesh immortal and incorruptible; but first it must be proved to be mortal, before it can be proved to be immortal. Immortal, Christ is to become, by overcoming death, and him that had the power of death; not by escaping and never seeing death, but by seeing it, tasting of it, and overcoming it. He died, therefore, because he had taken flesh and blood with the brethren; because he had taken true flesh. And the man who says that Christ did not die by the common property of flesh to die, because it was accursed in the loins of our first parents, that man doth deny that Christ was under the curse; he doth deny that Christ was made a curse at all; he doth deny that Christ was made sin at all; yea, he doth deny that the Word was made flesh at all. Christ came to death, in order to prove himself to be of the seed of Adam, of the seed of Abraham, of the seed of David, and of the substance of the virgin; bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. For, if flesh, in the holy Scriptures, every where else meaneth that substance from Adam generated under the law of sin and death; then, where it is said that the Word was made flesh, it must be meant that he was made this very same substance; or else the Holy Spirit doth speak an enigmatical, yea, and a deceptious language.
But, besides this, the establishment of Christ’s very and true manhood in the fallen state thereof, which could only be unequivocally and indubitably demonstrated by death, it was necessary, moreover, to demonstrate that he differed from all men in this respect, that he never sinned; for, if he sinned, atonement and reconciliation are made void for ever. It must be shewn, that the death which he died he died not for his own sins, but for the sins of the world; that it was vicarious, and not in his own deserving; that it was for the Father’s glory, and not for his own punishment; that it was with free-will acting of the Second Person unto the fulfilment of an eternal purpose of Godhead, and not a necessity induced by any cause or for any sake. Yea, I will go a little higher, and say, it was necessary to prove that death itself, and sin itself, were only servants unto the glory of the Divine purpose in Christ; and that a fallen world was only the stage between a created world and a redeemed world; and a stage as necessary to be gone through, for the manifestation of the Divine purpose, as creation itself. And how is the subserviency of sin, and the subserviency of death, unto the great purpose of God and the glory of Christ, to be demonstrated? I answer, By his dying, and yet not seeing corruption. To corrupt, is for flesh to change its form, and dissolve again into its primeval dust: corruption is the great proof of a creation fallen. Creation out of the dust composeth flesh: corruption, the antagonist of creation, into dust resolveth flesh again, if Christ, therefore, was in very flesh; nay, if Christ was not an angel, or an archangel—that is, if he wore visible and material form; that is, if he had a body—then he must be liable to corruption, as well as to death. And why then seeing he saw death, saw not corruption? This question let the Holy Ghost himself answer, as it is written in the 16th Psalm, at the 8th verse: “I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand I shall not be moved: therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.” Why, I ask, shall his flesh rest in hope? For the same reason for which his heart is glad, and his glory rejoiceth,— because he hath set the Lord always before him, because the Lord is at his right hand. Therefore his flesh resteth in hope; therefore also, he continueth, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” This deliverance from seeing corruption he received, because he was God’s Holy One; because he had set the Lord always before him; because he had listened to the counsel of the Lord; because he had made the Lord the portion of his inheritance and of his cup; because he had not offered the drink-offerings of bloody idolaters, nor taken up their names into his lips; because his delights had been with the excellent in the earth, and the saints; because Jehovah he had declared to be his Lord; because in God he did put his trust: or, in one word, to sum up the various descriptions of his life by the Holy Ghost in this Psalm, because he had lived a life of faith, and of prayer, and of holiness undefiled. This is the reason why he saw not corruption. This is the reason why he could not be held by the pains of death. (Acts 2.) This also is the reason why he was saved from death (Heb. 5.7); because “he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears,” in the days of his flesh. In order, therefore, to put a difference between this man, who had lived and died like other men, and all others who had in like wise lived and died; in order to prove that his life was blameless and sinless, though at all times and in all respects under the conditions of fallible, yea, and of fallen men; his body was not suffered to see corruption. The not suffering of it to see corruption, was the beginning of the Father’s work in honouring and glorifying his Son. I may say, that it was the resurrection begun: not indeed the activity of God’s pervading Spirit to transmute the matter of his body into a glorious and unchangeable substance, but the activity of his Spirit to resist the decomposition, the corruption, and inherent tendencies to decay and change, which have been proper unto all matter since the fall of Adam, who was created matter’s lord. That Jesus’s body saw not corruption, when the life was gone forth of him and it was an inanimate lump, is demonstration and consolation unto the inanimate world, that the Holy Ghost is able, when it pleaseth Him, to stay that corruption which is in it, and to take it out of the power of that word of God which was spoken in Eden, and hath been since fulfilled in all material substances, save only the inanimate body of Christ. If sin had been in that flesh of the Lord Jesus—that is to say, if it had ever been an instrument unto sin; if sin had not been efficiently resisted and mightily expelled out of that flesh of Jesus—then, rest ye assured, it would have seen corruption. For what else is corruption, but the consequence of sin? In Adam, in the paradise of Eden, in the world unfallen, there was perpetual health, and no vestige of decay; no autumn with its yellow leaf, no winter with its naked desolation, but one continued fulness of life, without any indications of change: and because corruption was not able to touch with its destroying finger the body of Christ, all dead and lifeless in the tomb, and separate both from animating soul and sustaining Godhead, it was proved that the substance which he took of a sinful woman he had been enabled to preserve pure and spotless, and from it to expel the powers of corruption which were in it by nature, which were now proved to be in it no longer. Mighty act of Almighty power! comfort of all material creation! foundation-stone of an incorrupt and incorruptible world! Aye, true it is, and of verity, that had the Lord’s body remained years and ages in the tomb, it had never seen corruption; because he had lived without sin, and so had redeemed the corruptible into incorruption. But that it was a corruptible which he redeemed, is manifest from all the infirmities unto which he was liable; from his weakness, his weariness, his faintings, his wounds, his death. But with death the demonstration of the corruptible endeth. Thus far was he one with me; thus far took he part with the children, and no further: for while his soul, descending into the abode of invisible spirits, wrestled there, through the might of the Holy Spirit and the personal union of the only-begotten Son, against all spiritual wickednesses, all invisible enemies of God, his body was laid up, in order to be proved impervious to the infirmities of the dead inanimate matter. Oh, there it lay, the trophy of the great conquest which in flesh had been achieved for flesh, and for flesh’s monarchy, the visible world. There it lay, to prove that all which had been created forAdam in the beginning—sun, and moon, and stars, and earth, the palace of Adam the monarch of all; and which had all fallen; being shorn of its glory, driven from the presence of its God, reflecting not his perfect image, ministering not his holy purposes, but overwhelmed with sin and possessed with corruption—that all this material fabric, from the body of man downward to the worm which crawleth upon the earth; and from the earth upward to the utmost bound of the starry sphere, wherever matter subsisteth, and in whatever form; beyond the utmost reign of telescopic vision, and within the inmost penetration of microscopic vision; that all life, and all life’s tenement and habitation, was now redeemed, was now rescued, was now delivered from corruption, and for ever wrested out of the power of death. “He was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, that by the grace of God he might taste death for every man;” “that by death he might destroy him that had the power of death, which is the devil.”
So much, and no less, do we derive from the great work of God, that Christ’s body saw not corruption. He gave him up to death—or rather, I should say, the Father separated between his soul and body— that he might shew forth that there was a power in Christ’s body greater than corruption. In his life, God shewed that there was a power greater than sin; in his death, he shewed that there was a power greater than corruption. His body in life was all-liable to sin, as the body of every fallen man; but the fulness of the Godhead in that body preserved it from sin: the same body in the tomb was liable to corruption, like the body of another man; but the power and favour of the Godhead unto that which had not sinned, preserved it from corruption. This did God even when his Son was separated from it, and the living one was no longer in it, in order to shew that the Eternal hath as great a love and care over that matter which the Holy Spirit hath sanctified, as he hath a hatred against that which sin hath defiled and the Spirit hath not sanctified. So that, as Christ’s sinless life in sinful flesh, as Christ’s triumphant conquering life in flesh oppressed and tempted by all the powers of darkness, is the assurance unto every believer of his own personal triumph over the sinfulness which is in him; is the assurance unto the church militant of her triumph, sinful though she be, and obnoxious to the devil, the world, and the flesh; so is the incorruption of Christ’s body in a corruptible grave, the assurance unto the church, both in glory and in tribulation of the power of God, greater than that power of corruption which is now revelling in the bodies of the saints. If Christ had sinned through the infirmity of his flesh, there would have been no assurance unto the church of attaining unto holiness in the flesh through faith in Jesus Christ. If, again, Christ’s body had tasted of corruption after death through its corruptibility, then there would have been no proof unto the separated souls of believers, nor unto us daily expecting the same, of a power greater than the corruption which our bodies shall underlay: but, as it hath been set forth above, and ever been believed by the orthodox church, we, who are in sinful flesh, have knowledge of a power able to produce holiness by prevailing against sinful flesh; and they in the Jerusalem above, whose bodies are mouldered in the grave, have in the body of Christ, which prevailed against corruption, an assurance of a power in the Godhead more powerful than that corruption which they underlay. Now if Christ’s living flesh had not been liable to all sin, if Christ’s dead flesh had not been liable to all corruption, this demonstration of a power able to sanctify actually sinful living flesh, and to prevail against corrupt flesh, would not have been given; and more than this, I consider it unnecessary to say except that those who will not receive these things, can never have a full and legitimate ground of hope, either for holiness, or for incorruption. All which is briefly, but divinely, stated in the 8th chapter of the Romans, the 11th verse: “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus dwell in you, he that raised up Jesus from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
Thus have we opened the composition of the person of Christ, in tracing out the successive steps through which his flesh passed until the very instant of its being raised into glory and immortality by the resurrection. And here, as hath been already said, we consider that our present subject doth cease and determine, and a new subject begin; which is not the Incarnation, but the Church: for then Christ became Head of the church: concerning which, his risen glory, though I be not at present called upon to discourse, reserving it for some future occasion, if God should give me permission and opportunity, yet will I add one word in this place, for the sake of completeness. The body which the Father had destined his Son to subsist in, and of which he gave such glorious notices in the Old Testament, is not the body of his humility, suffering, and dying, but the body of his glory, reigning, and rejoicing in unchangeable power and majesty. All concerning which I discourse, that took place between the conception and the resurrection, is but a state of transition or passage unto the state of fixed permanency. The embodied Christ whom the Prophets commonly spoke of, is the mighty and unchangeable One, now on the right hand of the Majesty on high. I say not that they forgot or omitted the mention of his sorrowful travail to his joyful crown; but I do say, and will never cease to insist, that the Father in his purpose, and the Prophets in the unfolding of that purpose, do most chiefly, and most principally contemplate that which is the end, the consummation, and the eternal persistence of the embodied God. Therefore, the Incarnation, whose importance I am thus setting forth at length, is—all-important as I make it—but the porch to that temple of glory which God shall for ever inhabit; is, I may say, but the foundation of the temple,—is, I may say, but the conception, the bringing unto the birth, of the God-man. We must proceed forward beyond the Incarnation, in order to come at the knowledge of the full anointing, and perfect preparation of the body of Christ; which was done at his resurrection: for until the resurrection Christ’s flesh continued unchanged: the Holy Ghost did not till then expel Satan out of that region: who had room to come and go, and with all enlargement to play his evil part, until the hour of Christ’s death, yea, until the hour of his resurrection. His death proved well of what kind was his flesh up to that time—namely, that it was mortal. Its being laid in the grave and buried, proved that it was of the corruptible. Now, that which is mortal and corruptible, is not yet taken possession of by the Holy Ghost; and therefore I hold, that up to this time the holy ointment had not anointed him from the crown of the head to the skirts of his garments. But when the Holy Ghost, inhabiting- his separate soul, which was united unto the Godhead, did come unto his dead body that was kept from seeing corruption, and quicken it with eternal and immortal life, instantly all mortality and corruption were thenceforward expelled from it for ever; and the Seed of woman, of mortal, sinful woman, the Seed of David, the Seed of Abraham, was manifested in immortal and incorruptible life and glory; the true Adam was born; the Beginning-of the creation of God was made known; the Foundation-stone of the building was laid; the body prepared for him in the purpose of the Father was possessed; the fore-birth of creation’s child was ended; and the Son of God was manifested in his glory and in his beauty: and from this time forth creation in the form of regeneration began to be unfolded; the Holy Ghost was given, because Jesus was now glorified: and now the High Priest’s anointing was completed—one thing only excepted, which is his garments (the anointing went to the skirts of the High Priest’s garments); “when the disciples went unto the sepulchre, he whom Jesus loved stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying, yet went he not in: then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lying, and the napkin that was about his head not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.” These wrappings of his dead body the Holy Spirit altered not; but his body itself was wholly absorbed in the change; as the logicians say, it was numerically the same body: nothing was left, but the raiment which surrounded it: no film, no slough, no particle dropped away from it. It was regenerated with a new life; it was changed into a glorious body. It was no longer under the ordinary laws of matter: it rose into the heavens at its pleasure; it passed into the invisible at its pleasure, and at its pleasure became visible again; it passed through barred doors; it partook of meat when it pleased, and when it pleased it partook of none. But its former life it laid down for us: the blood, which is the symbol of life; the blood, which is the life of the natural body, fell upon the earth, and was not resumed again. That is, he gave a life for us, though he liveth still: he died, who had done no sin; he died for our sins; his blood was shed for us. That life lost, is life gained to the world. And to demonstrate beyond a doubt that the life lay in the blood, and to shew us that when Christ’s blood was shed his life was truly taken, was the meaning of the consecration of blood in Noah’s time, and its continuing consecrated until that great end had been accomplished. And after all this pains which God hath taken to shew us that Christ was truly mortal, I wonder that any one should entertain a doubt upon such a matter. This subject we have opened fully; and here we do but observe, that his bloodless body was anointed with the Holy Ghost, and, instead of its blood-life, received a spiritual and eternal life; and now, in very truth, was both Christ’s soul and body, his human nature, completely, thoroughly, and fully anointed with the Holy Ghost. And for the garments with which he shall come arrayed, they shall be forthcoming when the elements of nature, the earth and the heavens, have been purified to furnish them. The garments of his glory are to be fitted out and furnished forth from nature’s various chambers; and when the creatures, when the whole creation, shall have finished with their long protracted travail, and brought forth the incorruptible forms of matter, they shall be the vestures and the glorious drapery of his person who is Priest and Lord; Priest, to sanctify and purify all things; and Lord, to command all things to serve and obey him. And be it further observed, that that blood of a blameless life which fell from his cross upon the ground, and which the earth greedily drank up, is to her the assurance of hope, and speaketh out from the ground better things than the blood of Abel, crying, not for vengeance, but for redemption. It is her baptism of blood; one of the witnesses which witnesseth of glory yet to come: for what the Holy Spirit is to man, the blood of a holy man is unto the ground; because man is the life of the earth, as the Holy Spirit is the life of man. So that that blood of Christ, being his mortal life, is truly the redemption of the mortal creature, the seal of the new testament of blessings.
And thus was our High Priest anointed with the Holy Ghost, as Aaron was anointed with the holy anointing oil; thus, by the operation of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, was the High Priest and Lord of all creation anointed. This is truly the work of God, which was wrought in and upon the human nature of Jesus Christ, to bring a clean thing out of an unclean, and to begin the work of regeneration in the fallen world. And from this time forth beginneth the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son, through the man-soul of Jesus Christ. So that now we receive the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Christ. The Holy Ghost doth now come through one in human form, and with human sympathies invested, in order to work in the chosen ones of the Father that same mind which is in Jesus Christ; and we, who receive the sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, are from that time forth of the same royal priesthood, kings and priests unto our God: we are filled with the spirit of a holy Priest and King, even Christ: we become possessed with the desires and inclinations of the holy God-man; we become the members of the holy God-man; and are renewed, after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness. Meanwhile our fleshly nature becometh restrained, but not changed; it longeth still after wickedness, it suggesteth wicked thoughts, it is assailable to every evil seducer, and tried with every seduction: and thus it ought to be; God thus bringeth us into trial. Arrayed on one side are all the powers of nature, unto which he leaveth us obnoxious through the flesh: while, on the other hand, the spirit, apprehending our glory and excellency in Christ; seeing there also the love of God manifested, and his grace shewn forth; apprehending likewise the hope of a sanctified body in the resurrection, which is Christ; contendeth against the flesh, with the world, which is visible: and, between these two contrary and opposite influences placed, the saint doth glorify God, by preferring him in Christ, to the wicked world, lusted after by the flesh and by the eye. So that verily we do receive a present sanctification in the soul, which holdeth in check and prevaileth over the degradation and corruption of the flesh; until at death the body descendeth with a good hope into the grave, being conscious to the Spirit of God which had dwelt in it; and well knowing, that, “if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in us, he that raised up Jesus from the dead shall also quicken our mortal bodies, by his Spirit that dwelleth in us.”
Besides these good effects, necessarily resulting from Christ’s taking our fallen humanity, and of which not one would have resulted had he taken humanity in an unfallen state, there is another, to which divines of this age will be more alive; which is, that there could otherwise have been neither reconciliation nor atonement between God and man. Those, indeed, who consider atonement as a bargain, of so much merit on Christ’s side against so much demerit on ours; so much suffering in his person, instead of so much suffering in ours; will see little or nothing in the line of argument which I am now about to pursue. But those who consider, as I do, that this is a most insufficient, and, when taken for the whole, a most prejudicial view of the mystery; and who understand atonement in its only scriptural sense, of at-one-ment, or reconciliation between the Holy Creator and the unholy creature; that which I am about to argue will appear of the greatest moment, and unanswerable. With respect to that bargain-and-barter hypothesis, I observe, that in order to make out of Christ’s sufferings an infinite quantity to cover the infinite delinquency of his elect, they reason thus: It was an Infinite Person that suffered, and therefore his sufferings must be of infinite value. Now, with all sound theologians, and with all the doctors, I deny the possibility of the Divine nature suffering. The Godhead cannot be tempted, and how should the Godhead suffer? The human nature of Christ alone suffered; and that is not infinite, but finite. Therefore, there is no infinite amount of suffering, to balance against the sufferings of the elect through eternity; and so the account will not balance, and the base theory falls to the ground. Besides being illogical, how degrading is it, to represent the great mystery as shut up in this, that the Father would have so much punishment, get it where he could, and so he took it out of his own Son! That the Father did hide his face from his Son; that he did say, “Awake, O sword, against him that is my Fellow;” that it pleased him to bruise him, and to put him to grief; there can be no doubt—and any view of the mystery which will not give fair interpretation to these vindictive expressions of God’s holiness, cannot be received;—but that orthodox and enlarged view which I have given of the Father’s act, as bringing Christ into the conditions of the fallen humanity, doth well and truly appropriate every utterance which the Father hath uttered, and every act which the Father hath done against sinners, to be spoken and done against Christ also: not by substitution merely, but by reality; not by imputation merely, but in very truth. This, indeed, is what they cannot understand who consider imputation as containing the whole mystery of God; whereof it is only a part, though a very important part: and it will prove utterly unintelligible, confusion worse confounded, to all those who consent to the sufficiency of the debtor-and-creditor theology; or have been sucked by Satan into the heresy that Christ had a humanity in some way diverse from ours. This most unsound view of the matter, as the other is most insufficient, doth in effect make altogether void the Father’s activity in the sufferings and death of Christ, which we are at such pains to preserve. If, as these adversaries of the truth allege, Christ in his incarnation did apprehend an immortal and incorruptible substance, and not the very same mortal and corruptible which you and I inherit under the curse; and if, by a mere act of power or will, he brought it into death, and laid it in the grave, and, as it were, rid himself of it for a season; then why may he not, by the same act of will and of power, rid himself of it again for another season, and another, and another? and why not rid himself of it for aye, and use it as a mantle, according to occasion? and where is the security of the redeemed creature, that it may not again altogether fall out of union with the Godhead? But if Christ took upon himself our fallen and corruptible nature, and brought it up through death into eternal glory, then is the act of the will of Christ not to lay down, but to assume or take up, humanity into himself; and the continuance of his act is to keep it in union with himself, and not for any sake to dismiss it from himself. lie takes it, he loves it, he strengthens it, he sanctifies it, he immortalises it, he glorifies it. For his part, he doth nothing but embrace it, and hold it fast unto himself. It is the act, not of the Son but of the Father, which makes the flesh drop off from his immortal being into death and the grave. This, I say, is the Father’s act; and it is the Father’s act again to bring up that body in its changed and glorified state: not, indeed, without Christ’s consent, but that consent given, when he consented to join himself to the mortal and corruptible seed of the woman. He consented to be brought into the possession of an enduring body through the transition-state of a mortal life, through the passage of death and the grave: to which consenting, he consented therein to the act of the holy Father, which required the corruptible and mortal creature-substance to fall off from his immortal soul and Divinity into death and the grave. And this is the meaning of that remarkable saying in John 10.17: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it up again. No one taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” In these words Christ asserteth three things: First, that no one whatsoever, man or angel, had power to take his life from him: the second, that it was by himself laid down; and the third, that this was done by the commandment of the Father. These three things concur in his act of dying: a commandment of the Father, his own free will to obey that commandment, and his total independence of any third power or influence. Every act of his life was of the same kind; done of free will, without constraint, in obedience to the absolute will of the Father. I say, therefore, Christ died because the Father had said, “Awake, O sword, against the man that is my Fellow.” No one could take his life from him: he had but to look, and they became as stones; he had but to speak, and they staggered and fell; he had but to pray the Father, and twelve legions of angels would have succoured him; but “how, then, would the Scriptures have been fulfilled?” His Father’s commandment alone could take that life from him; his Father’s commandment alone could make him suffer and die. It was his Father’s commandment, and his filial obedience thereto, which brought him into the condition of suffering and dying. It pleased his Father to bruise him, and to put him to shame, and to make his soul an offering for sin: and why so I not surely because the Father had ceased to love him, for of love there is no suspension between the Persons of the Godhead: what is it, then, for which the Father chastiseth Christ; and for what offereth he his own Son upon the cross? The Son surrendereth himself unto the Father; giveth himself up wholly unto the Father; and is in the Father’s hands, to be disposed of according to the Father’s mind. In one act of willingness, when he said, “Lo, I come,” all acts of willingness are included: his Father may do with him thenceforth after his good pleasure. The act from thenceforth of his incarnation, suffering, agony, death, resurrection, glorification, is the Father’s forth shewing of his own mind upon his willing Son, unto the instruction and edification of all by whom it is witnessed, and to whom the tidings of it, the fruits of it, shall reach, far and wide, for ever. Blessed! ever blessed Son! who thus made himself of no reputation, emptied himself of his own inexhaustible fulness, and yielded himself to his Father, like clay in the hand of the potter. Marvellous lesson unto every creature to do likewise! and for this very end designed, that we might yield up that rebel independence which we falsely feel, and pass into the conditions of the Father’s will; and by faith deliver ourselves over to be crucified, sacrificed, brought down to dust; yet never doubting, but aye believing, that out of the dust we shall be exalted unto glory. Christ, from the day of his self-surrender, is no longer his own master; a servant evermore, in subjection evermore, suspending himself from the Father’s will evermore; and so exemplifying faith and obedience for ever unto all the creatures; and acknowledging his honour, his glory, and his power to proceed from the invisible Father, and teaching all creation to do the same. Great Head of subjection! great High Priest of worship! great Heir of God! great Conveyancer of the inheritance of God unto all the children! O my soul, honour him, as thou honourest the Father.
Now, then, having Christ in the Father’s hands, that the Father might demonstrate through him his own being and his own perfection, and through him communicate to the creatures whatever can be communicated, what doth the Father make of him, make with him? He maketh use of him, first, to shew what is the enmity between himself and the fallen creatures; what is the nature of sin, and what the nature of holiness. Therefore joineth he him unto the sinful thing; and, lo, what follows? exhaustion of Divinity! for its blessedness suffering; for its infinity, narrow limitation; for its power, weakness; for its glory, shame; for its life, death! And there endeth this first act of the mystery of the Father’s will, which amounteth unto this awful truth: That God, even the mighty God, being personally joined to the fallen creature, cannot hinder, cannot help, that it should not suffer and die; be dark, and need faith; be oppressed, and need comfort; be borne down, and need the Holy Ghost’s sustenance continually. Was ever the weakness of flesh so proved as by this, that the personality of the Son joined to it could not strengthen it, without the continual energizing of the Holy Ghost? Was ever the sinfulness and mortality of the flesh so proved as by this, that the Holy One could not keep it from sin and from corruption but by operation of the Holy Ghost? Was ever God’s alienation from the sinful creature so proved, as that the union of Godhead with it could not hold it to himself, or hinder it that it should not drop away into death and pass into corruption, had not the Holy Ghost changed its form, purged out its sinfulness? after which it can abide, and doth abide, in union with the Godhead for ever; but until which it was, as it were, but an abortive attempt at a thing which could not be. Doth not this prove, that, let the creature believe in Christ to the uttermost, and let Christ incline to the creature in the uttermost, they cannot come together, stay together and be one, otherwise than through the power of the Holy Ghost changing the creature’s form, drawing it through death, and out of corruption regenerating it? So that the act of the Son to redeem all mankind doth not suffice to deliver any from death and corruption, or to unite any with himself in infallible and inseparable union; like withering leaves, we shall drop off from him; like fruitless branches, be pruned away; like his own body of sin, drop into death and the grave; unless we shall have partaken of that regenerating power of the Holy Ghost which he partook in the tomb; which saved him from corruption, which shall deliver the regenerate out of corruption; which united his body, that was mortal and corruptible, unto his immortal part, consisting of soul and Second Person of the Godhead, and fixed it there in immortal union for ever and ever. So, likewise, doth the Father hereby make it manifest, that of all living and dead flesh, of all flesh together, which cometh into death, no more shall be united for ever unto the glorious person of Christ, save so much only as shall have partaken the regeneration of the Holy Ghost;—that, though all flesh be now under him as Lord; though he be, as it were, united unto all flesh, by virtue of what he did in flesh; yet only so much of it as the Father by the Holy Ghost hath regenerated shall be brought up in the fashion of his glory, and all the rest shall be brought up in the fashion of the mere and unmixed sinful creature, to inherit for ever the estate of the second death. Behold how, in the sufferings and death of Christ, the Father openeth his mind and purpose!
Thus, having shewed the Father’s activity in the sufferings of the blessed Lord, and that these sufferings come not by imputation merely, but by actual participation of the sinful and cursed thing, I proceed further to express my views of imputation, before entering into the full exposition of the reconciliation which is wrought in flesh by the method detailed above, of uniting the Godhead to fallen humanity. The view of his humiliation and death in common use, is, that the sins of all the elect were imputed to him, and all the suffering which through eternity they should have borne laid upon him, and that his death had no relation whatever to any but God’s elect —let us take this scheme in its best form, and give heed to these questions: First, How then hath Christ purchased to himself a right over the reprobate as well as the elect, for his action toucheth them in no wise? and how is his finished work to be preached to the reprobate as well as to the elect, for it hath no application to them? To this it is no answer, to say, That we know not the one from the other. If we preach to all, we preach to all; if we preach to a part, we preach only to a part. Christ must have brought some benefit to all, that the Gospel should be preached unto all;—not the benefit of salvation, as the Universalists damnably believe, but the removal of the law, and the introduction of grace, and the condemnation of sin in the flesh, and the spoiling of Satan, and the lordship of the fallen creation; to lead them unto the Father, that through him they may transact with the Father, and the Father transact with them, according to the new relations of grace. This much we preach to all, as having been really wrought out for all; and there leaving the general and universal question, we are ready to enter upon the additional and special question of the election and the regeneration. We have Christ in his earthly work doing a common good for the fallen creatures, but in his risen work doing a particular good for the election of the Father; and we say again, that upon the scheme of mere substitution for the elect in his sufferings, and for them alone, this great end of preaching a Gospel unto all, of preaching him the Saviour of all men, especially them that believe, cannot be attained. These two things— Christ concerning himself for the elect only, and the good of Christ preached unto all—are contrary to one another, and will never fail the one to destroy the other: but Christ’s doing in the flesh a work for flesh in general, and in the spirit a work for the spiritual or elect in particular, are two truths which be consistent with a freely preached Gospel, and likewise with an elected church; consistent also with the present lordship of Christ over all, and the future resurrection of all in Christ, and with their separate eternal destinies of heaven and hell, likewise in Christ. This way of viewing Christ’s death as a compensation in kind for the election only, is not peculiar to those who hold the heterodox view of Christ’s humanity: but, being commonly found in company with it, and indeed being the only view possible on such a scheme; and moreover, being, as I conceive, partly the occasion of its revival in these times; I have thought it good to remark upon it here, though regarding it with far more respect than I do the doctrine of Christ’s immortal and incorruptible body, which I utterly detest and abominate. Indeed, this view of Christ’s death, so far as it goes, expresseth the truth; for Christ is indeed the substitute for his people, and it is the election only who realise the benefit of his death; but it falleth short, in not pointing out the relation which Christ’s work hath unto the reprobate; and for this defect, rather than for any heinous error, we have at this time alluded to it, and do now proceed to explain the true doctrine of imputation.
As it seems to me, the meaning of imputation of our sins unto Christ consisteth in these two things.—First, That nothing constrained him, as the Son of God, but he did of his own free will take unto himself the body which the Holy Ghost quickened of the virgin’s substance, and in this body did commit no sin, but in all things did the Father’s will, and was holy and blameless. Whence it follows, that, whatever he suffered, and, which is far more, whatever he forewent of infinite glory and blessedness in order to suffer, is all to be placed to the account of mankind, and not to his own account. By imputation I understand, that his humiliation and suffering were not for any thing which he had done, or which his fathers had done, but for what mankind in Adam had done. And to the end he might suffer for the kind, and not for individuals of the kind, he came not by ordinary generation; but the Holy Spirit did take up a portion from all the fallen substance before him, out of which to make his body, as he had taken up a portion of the earth to make Adam’s body in the beginning. He did not now take up a portion of the earth to make of it an unfallen creature, because the work which was now to proceed was not the work of creation, but the work of redeeming creation. Not, therefore, inorganic dust, but dust changed by creation’s word into flesh and blood he took, and formed of it the body of Christ. The substance of created manhood in an unquickened state he took, as I may say, at random, and formed of it the body of Christ. So that, as the whole earth stood in Adam’s body represented, with the fate of Adam’s body implicated, in it to stand and fall and be redeemed; so likewise the whole substance of organised flesh and blood, living, and dead, and to live, stood represented in the body of Christ which the Holy Spirit had formed from the virgin’s substance, to stand or to fall according as this man newly constituted, this new thing created of God, should stand or fall. As unfallen creation stood represented in unfallen Adam, so fallen creation stood represented in Christ; and as in Adam’s fall all together fell, so in Christ’s resurrection shall all be made alive again. This is the first part of imputation: that he freely came under, without any obligation of whatever kind, the load and burden of a fallen world’s infirmity and sin—or, if you please to speak in the language of the covenant, the Father laid it upon him; charged him with it; imputed it to him; treated him as the guilty one; and, as Luther said, the only sinner: so that by his suffering and death justice should be appeased, and sin for ever done away with. There may be other depths here that I cannot fathom—such as the proportion between the suffering of Christ by which the sin was atoned for, and the eternal suffering from which his atonement delivereth his people. I cannot tell how this is, and I do neither say nor gainsay it, being minded only to speak what the Lord hath made me clearly to know. I do indeed perceive this much, that no creature could pay the price of sin but by eternal separation from God, because I see it to have been so in the fallen angels; and if so, then the recovery of man must be accomplished by an act of power of an infinite measure; which act Christ’s was, by that two-fold will or operation which was in him—one conversant with the Godhead, and enlarged to its infinite bounds; another conversant with the manhood, and restricted to its humble and suffering conditions—these two wills, or operations as the orthodox Fathers termed it, being necessary to compose any act of the person Jesus Christ. The I in him, embraced the infinite and the finite also; which gave to every action and feeling of his a character of infinity. When he suffered, though the Divine nature suffered not, yet came he out of that delectation, and down from that elevation, into the human nature, which did suffer. And this, not of suffering only, but of feeling and of acting; which he did always as a man; and in order to do as a man, must first condescend from the infinitude of the Godhead in order to do it. In this two-fold operation, in this two-fold will, consisteth the one personality of the two natures of Christ; his God-manhood, the hypostatical union, his identity of substance with the Godhead, his identity of substance with the fallen manhood. And in this I perceive every thing which I want,—the infinite goodness of God, the infinite merit of Christ, the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the glory of God shewn forth in our deliverance from it. And I see that there is an infinite ocean of merit here, to counteract an infinite ocean of demerit in the creature, if in that way the question is to be viewed; which, however, I freely confess, my mind approveth not, to the degree in which I find it current amongst some orthodox and pious men.
Now, besides this view of imputation, there is a second part, which seems necessary to complete the whole; and this is, the applying of Christ’s righteousness to us, as the sins of others were applied unto him. For he “is made unto us righteousness;” we are “the righteousness of God in him.” This, also, I know they are wont to bring out of what I may call the theology of infinites; but, for my part, I am inclined to look upon it as an original part of the purpose of God; or, if you please, an original condition of the covenant between the Father and the Son; of which nothing more can be said, than that it was according to the good pleasure of their will. But with respect to the thing itself, it consisteth of two parts: the first universal, the second elective, in its application. The universal being that which Christ in the flesh did for flesh—to wit, redeeming it from sin, and from the law which defined its sinfulness, and from death, and from corruption; and instating it in God’s favour, forgiveness, and love; bestowing upon flesh immortality and resurrection. These things together constitute the Gospel, and are a free bequest unto men, which we ministers are appointed to tell them of. The other part, which is elective, Christ did not in the flesh, but received from his Father in gift and reward for that which in the flesh he had done: it is the gift of the Holy Ghost, by which to bring many sons unto glory. This latter, being the gift of the Father unto Christ, must be regarded as the Father’s fulfilling his part of the covenant; and being given for the sake of as many as the Father pleaseth, and no more, doth constitute a peculiar people, a holy nation, an inheritance of Christ in the saints, an election in the midst of the redemption. Here, then, imputation of Christ’s work is two-fold: One, grace and peace unto all; a thing revealed and that may be proclaimed, yea, that ought to be proclaimed, unto all. The other, regeneration of the Holy Ghost, union unto Christ’s risen body, communication of his glory, and fellowship of his kingdom: a thing not to be preached unto all; a secret thing belonging to the Father; which men must be told they have not received, but have yet to receive, if the Father pleaseth; which men are to be told God the Father hath placed no interdict against their receiving, while he hath continually revealed that it is a special gift and favour; which, moreover, men cannot receive but in the faith and use of that common gift which they have all received in Jesus Christ. Now, as the extent of this higher imputation resteth with the Father, and is, indeed, that very right of his which maintaineth him Sovereign in the redemption, first Originator there as he is in creation, yea, as he is in the Godhead itself; so were I willing, and do incline to believe, that nothing more ought to be said upon this subject, save that it is the pleasure of the Father to extend it unto whomsoever it pleaseth him to extend it: and I do rather think it to be of evil consequence for men, by similitudes derived from the market-place, to say that there is just so much merit as will cover the demerit of so many persons. But into this matter I enter no further; and having fairly, however lamely, explained my view of imputation, the way is now clear for opening my views fully and fairly upon the subject of the reconciliation, or atonement.
Of the doctrine taught in the first part of this discourse this is the sum :—That there was united in Jesus Christ the Godhead, in the person of the Son, and the manhood, in its fallen state: and that they subsisted together in one person, in suchwise as that he was wholly without sin, holy and blameless in the sight of God. Now, by the grace of God, I will shew you how in this incarnation of the Son of God, thus incarnate, in the fallen, and not the unfallen creature, is shewn forth and demonstrated the truth of that text; “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself; not imputing unto them their trespasses.” And to make this demonstration the more complete, I pray you to look, back unto the beginning.
See the substance of mankind, now innumerably divided into living and dead persons, all shut up and contained in Adam, in a state of goodness with which the Godhead was well pleased. See it again, by the fall of our first parents; all brought into a state of sinfulness, most abhorrent unto the mind of a holy and righteous God; offending all his commandments, refusing him worship, and giving it unto stocks and stones, and four-footed creatures, and in all possible ways shewing forth a most hideous and irreconcilable enmity in the creature unto God. The question then is, How is this enmity of fallen man to be taken away? How is the world to be reconciled unto God? How is this sinful and sin-possessed creature to be delivered, sanctified, and brought into favour with God? As in an individual, even Adam, the enmity came; so in an individual, even Christ, the reconciliation came. And as from the first individual, the enmity was propagated to many, yea to all; so from the latter individual is the reconciliation propagated unto many: as is the fall, so is the remedy. And how, then, was the reconciliation accomplished in the man Jesus Christ; and afterwards is it propagated from him unto other men? In the man Jesus Christ, there was the Godhead of the Son, which is the same in substance with the Godhead of the Father and of the Holy Ghost. There was, also, the manhood; the same in substance with the manhood of other men, otherwise it is not manhood. Verily, “he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” “Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.” Consider now attentively this the person of Christ. If the human substance which he hath taken, be of a piece with mine and with yours, as we are all of a piece with Adam, and can through the union with the Godhead be preserved pure, and blameless, and carried through death incorrupt, and brought into the presence of God perfectly holy, then it is made manifest, that a fallen creature can be reconciled unto God, for it hath been done, it was done in the person of Christ; and the only question which will remain is, How is it to be done in other persons? How is it to be propagated abroad unto many, as Adam’s declension was propagated? But if, on the other hand, Christ took not our substance in its fallen, but in its unfallen state, and brought this unto glory, then nothing whatever hath been proved with respect to fallen creatures, such as we are: the work of Christ toucheth not us who are fallen; there is no reconciliation of the fallen creature unto God; God is not in Christ reconciling a sinful world, but he is in Christ reconciling an unfallen world: for it is the unfallen creature and the Godhead which have met in Christ. And what were the use of reconciling the unfallen world, which hath no sin, which is never fallen out with God? If God is in Christ reconciling something to himself, that something must be, in Christ, reconciled with God. And what is there in Christ, but God and man? These two, that met in him therefore, and were reconciled, must be the same two between whom enmity had come. Do I say, then, that Christ was sinful, or did any sin, or that his temptations led him into any sin? if there was sin, how could there be reconciliation? No; he was holy. But was he liable to sin? Yes; he was tempted in all points like as we are. How could he be tempted like me, unless he were like me? his Godhead could not be tempted; as it is written, “God cannot be tempted with evil.” Only, then, his manhood could be tempted: and how can any one be tempted, or tried, unless he be liable to sin? Even Adam, before he fell, was liable to sin. If any one, therefore, say that Christ was not liable to sin, he doth say he was not a man; he doth say he is not come in the flesh; “for all flesh is grass and the glory of it as the flower of grass;” and if any man say that Christ is not come in the flesh, he is not of God. “This is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come, and even now already is in the world.” Be it so then admitted, that Christ is come in the flesh, and was tried with all our infirmities, and tempted in all points, like as we are:—which is a doctrine the most necessary to salvation, albeit now set light by, nay, and even reproved—you have at once redemption and reconciliation made sure. You have original sin taken away in him, by the manner of his conception: he is not, as it were, an individual of the sinful individuals: he is not a human person: he never had personal subsistence as a mere man: he sees the whole mass and lump of fallen, sinful flesh: he submits himself unto his Father to be made flesh; his Father sendeth the Holy Spirit to prepare him a body. This is done through means of a rational soul, which the Holy Spirit possessing doth therewith take up, from any where in the lump of existing flesh, a part; and when so forming a body the eternal Son of God humbleth himself to apprehend it, for ever to unite it to his own Divine person: and thus, by creative act of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, not by ordinary generation,
Christ is constituted a Divine and human nature in one person. He hath taken part with the children, with the fallen children; but he came by that part, not through connexion with Adam, but by his own free will, and his Fathers free will, and the free will of the Holy Ghost; and thus original sin is avoided, though yet the body he took is in the fallen state, and liable to all temptations. Now, then, consider ye how the reconciliation between these two most contrary and irreconcilable things is accomplished. Most people never think at all about the matter, and would fain not be troubled to think about it; but woe be to the minister, and woe be to the people together, who are content to lie sunk in such sloth, in such indifference to God’s most principal and most glorious work! Hear me then, patiently, and give diligent heed, while I explain to you this matter distinctly. The Divine nature of Christ hath continual communion and identity with the Godhead, is of the Godhead, is the Godhead; dwelling with the Father, and in the Father, not the less because it acteth towards the creatures, through this body, and through it shall for ever act. By his Divine nature, I say, with the Godhead he transacted, and by his human nature he rendereth the will and purpose and action of the Godhead intelligible, visible, and perceptible to the creature. But before two instruments will render the same harmonious sound they must first be brought into tune with one another; and the question is, How shall human nature, in the fallen state, be brought to be in harmony with the acting of the Holy Godhead? Ever since the Fall, God and man have been at variance. The thing was not, that ever the human will had acted in harmony with the will Divine; and how then is it now to be? How is a human nature to respond, truly and justly, in all things to a Divine nature? This is the reconciliation of which so much is made mention in Scripture. This is the atonement of which they make so much discourse, without knowing what they say or whereof they affirm. Atonement is not reparation, is not the cost or damage, but the being at one. It should be pronounced at-one-ment.
What are the two things to be brought at one? Are they not God and sinful fallen man? And where are they to be brought at one, but in the person of Christ, where we have them now brought together without any original sin? If human nature be in itself so contrarious, so sinful, so very sinful, how shall it be brought in Christ to tell truly, for ever and ever, the mind, and will, and purpose of God unto the creatures? This is the difficulty: solve me this, and redemption and reconciliation are resolved. It is the work of God the Father, and of God the Holy Ghost, so to operate in and upon the fallen humanity of Christ, as that it shall be ever harmonious with the Godhead of Christ. This is what is meant by these words, ” Thou hast prepared a body for me.” The Son is willing to act through a body: the Father by the Holy Ghost expresseth his satisfaction with his Son’s condescension, by preparing that body, and making it fit for him to act through so as to open unto the creatures the mystery of God; and through the body thus attuned unto Divine harmony, the Son doth humble himself to act all his Father’s mind, all the Godhead’s mind. The preparing of the body is, I say, the great work of the Godhead working in the person of the Holy Ghost: the acting through it, whatever pleaseth God, is the great work of the Godhead, in the person of the Son; and the effect is, God reconciled in Christ unto a fallen world.
It now remaineth to examine how the Holy Ghost bringeth the body into this harmony with God. This difficulty must be met again, and not avoided. A sinful world, sinners such as those around me, want to know how they are to be reconciled how their reconciliation hath been accomplished in Christ. We are in earnest, and we are not to be shuffled out of our salvation by any subterfuges: therefore tell us plainly, how this great work was accomplished. By the grace of God, I will tell you. The Holy Ghost took up his residence in the soul of Christ: God had given the world unto the devil, and the devil had his residence in the fallen world around. The flesh of Christ was the middle space on which the powers of the world contended with the Holy Spirit dwelling in his soul. His flesh is the fit medium between the powers of darkness and the powers of light. And why fit? Because it is linked unto all material things, devil-possessed, while it is joined in closest, nearest union unto the soul, which in Christ was God-possessed, in the person of the Holy Ghost. His flesh is the fit field of contention, because it is the same on which Satan hath triumphed ever since the Fall. Here then, in the flesh of Christ, is the great controversy waged. Through this, Satan presented his temptations of appetite, of sight, of pride, trying him with the lust (desire) of the flesh, with the desire of the eye, with the pride of life. This did he at the very outset of his ministry, not that he had not done it before, or was not to do it after, or did not do it ever, but that it was then done in a manifest and notorious manner, that it might be capable of record and of tradition; and that such dreams might be prevented as I am now reproving, and that it might be for ever manifest and indubitable, that the Son had no favour, and that Satan had no let or hindrance in this great and terrible conflict. And when, at the end of his ministry, he said, “The prince of this world cometh, and findeth nothing in me,” he solemnly declareth, that during the whole of the fiery conflict which he had endured, and unto which he alone was conscious, Satan had never been able to make a lodgment, or gain a hold in his flesh; that though free to come in all his might, he had ever been repelled, as he was repelled in the wilderness; that his flesh thus oppressed, thus hideously oppressed, had never been able to sway his will upholden in its steadfastness by the Holy Ghost; that the might of the Holy Ghost in his soul had been able to reconcile unto God the inveterate obstinacy and stubborn rebellion of flesh and blood; that for once the law of the flesh had not been able to drag down a soul unto perdition; that for once a soul had been able to draw up the flesh into reconciliation with the will of God; that all his life long the will of the flesh had been successfully withstood by the will of the spirit, yea, that the will of the spirit had enforced the flesh to do it unwilling service. All this is signified by the expression which he used immediately before his agony, “Satan cometh, but findeth nothing in me.” And it is signified, moreover, that Satan was then coming with an assault of a more dreadful and terrible kind, which is emphatically called “the hour and power of darkness;” and which, beginning from his agony, continued till his resurrection, partly without and partly within the vail, partly in the body and partly in the separate soul, partly upon earth and partly, as the Creed saith, in hell, understanding thereby the place of separate spirits. Which conflict being over, it was pronounced, not merely by word of man, “Satan hath nothing in me,” but it was pronounced by the Word of God, and that not by the Word of God syllabling airy sounds in the vault of heaven, but by the Word of God, working through the Spirit that change of state which his body underwent in the hollow tomb. Then indeed, when the Spirit had taken hold of the body also, when the Divine glory and holiness struck its beams through the body also; then when matter stood purified by the Spirit; then when sinfulness, and corruption, and defectibility forsook flesh and blood, and incorruption, and immortality, and infallibility, and holiness untemptible, and strength almighty inhering and inhabiting, shone forth in that which heretofore had been human, fallible, temptable flesh, it was demonstrated by the finger of God, that reconciliation was accomplished between the Creator and the creature. And now was the body prepared, and not till now was the preparation of the body accomplished: and through that body, with harmony ever perfect, with variety of harmony infinite, with indubitable certainty shall the Godhead, in the person of the Son, express through the redeemed, risen, glorified manhood, all its purposes, and accomplish all its effects. So that the reconciliation begun in the virgin’s womb, between God and creation, is perfected in the womb of the earth, is acknowledged in the height of heaven, is honoured of the Father, as his chiefest work, with the chief place of the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on high.—And thus do you behold in the resurrection the reconciliation or at-one-ment accomplished between God and man, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, through the union of the Godhead to fallen humanity.
Let us pause here, and see what we have attained unto. Of the whole fallen substance of manhood considered as one thing in Adam summed up, and in Adam assuming its present form, law, or condition, we have the Godhead, in the person of the Son, taking up a part, an integral part, with the same properties as all the rest. And this part is so empowered by the Holy Spirit, as to be in concert with the Godhead always, and at length is crowned of the Father, and seated on the throne of his majesty. If this had been any favoured part of the fallen material, then might the law of its redemption not have applied to the less favoured parts. If it had been a part that had never fallen, the law of its redemption would not have applied at all to the fallen substance of manhood. But seeing that it was the same of which all the brethren are partakers, it follows that what is accomplished in one portion, is virtually accomplished in the whole; that reconciliation being made between God and one part of the fallen thing, reconciliation is made between God and the whole fallen substance. And therefore we may go about and preach reconciliation unto all the world, as it is in that text, already quoted, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing unto men their trespasses.” We preach the resurrection unto all who have partaken of the death which came by Adam. We have a right to say, that as in Adam all have died, so in Christ all have been recovered from death, or made alive. And doubt can there be none, that Christ hath purchased unto himself right and lordship over all the fallen creatures; and in virtue of his resurrection shall raise them all from their graves,—some unto the resurrection of life, and others unto the resurrection of judgment. His resurrection makes him Lord of heaven, and Lord of hell. He hath purchased back the possession, and in doing it, he hath asserted likewise his lordship over the usurpers of the possession. Here then is redemption and reconciliation purchased for fallen mankind, by the incarnation of Christ, as truly and completely, and as extensively as in the Fall by one man, even Adam, death and alienation were procured.
To make this a little more manifest and forcible, it will be necessary that I speak here a little, concerning the two wills or operations in Christ,— a subject which for several centuries agitated church. The orthodox doctrine, and a doctrine it is of the most vital importance, holdeth that there were in Christ two wills or operations, which the Monotholites (who hold only one will in Christ), a class of heretics that grew out of the Eutychean stem, denied, asserting, that there was only one operation, Theandric or Godmanly. Sergius proved, or attempted to prove, that it was proper to speak neither of one nor of two wills or operations; and Honorius, bishop of Rome, approved this course: but Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, stoutly maintained, that one ought to profess his faith to be, that there were two wills in Jesus Christ; which dogma was confirmed by the Sixth General Council of Constantinople, and the opinion of the Monotholites was condemned by the catholic church;—as it hath likewise been condemned by the Church of England, in the acts of her convocation; and by the Church of Scotland, in her general condemnation of the doctrine of Eutyches, which these single-will heretics always favoured, as they abominated the Council of Chalcedon, in which Eutyches was condemned. Now, I am well aware that the unbelieving spirit of this age, like the Emperor Heraclius, will be for imposing silence upon such questions, as unimportant; and I confess they are altogether unimportant to those who see in Christ’s work only the barter of so much suffering against so much suffering, of so much merit against so much demerit. But to those, who consider the atonement as the deeper mystery of the reconciliation of the holiness of God to the unholiness of the fallen creature, and the taking out of the way the law of commandments, which is the expression of the enmity between God’s holiness, and the fallen creature, it is a question of the utmost importance, and most necessary to the complete exposition of the reconciliation or at-one-ment.
Those who say, that there is but one will in Christ, either make him only God, or only man. There is the absolute will of the Godhead, and there is the limited will of the creature. These two may be consentaneous with one another, which is holiness; or they may be dissentient from one another, which is unholiness in the creature; but the one cannot be the other without confounding two most opposite things, the Creator and the creature, and introducing the doctrine of Spinosa, the doctrine of Eastern Sophists, and Western Savans; that God is the soul of the world; that he is diffused through the creatures, and that the creature is of him a part. If, again, you say with Sergius, that the operation in Christ is neither Divine nor human, but a mixture of both, as he called it, Theandric or Godmanly, you do confuse the two natures of Christ, and make one between them, which is neither God’s nature nor man’s nature, but an unknown something lying between them both, with which man hath no sympathy, or rather no consubstantiality; with which God hath no consubstantiality, and, therefore, which cannot be Mediator between God and man. This also leads directly to the confusing of the Creator with the creature, in the person of Christ, and therefore to every thing evil besides; and again bringeth out God to be the soul of the world, and the world a part of God. It is therefore, however, little apprehended by our debtor-and-creditor divines; no less than to confuse and confound all things, thus to permit such points of doctrine as this to remain in error, or even under silence.
Now the orthodox doctrine is, that there were two wills in Christ; the one the absolute will of the Godhead, which went on working in its infinite circles, the other a man’s will, which was bounded by the limited knowledge, the limited desires, the limited affections, and the limited actions of manhood; a Divine nature, and a human nature, God and man. The orthodox doctrine holdeth, moreover, that from the Incarnation onwards, and for ever, the Son of God never thought, felt, or acted, but by condescending out of the infinitude of the Divine will, into the finiteness of the human will; in which condescension, the self-sacrifice, and humiliation, and grace, and goodness of the Godhead are revealed; without which condescension these attributes of the Godhead could never have been known unto the creatures. This condescension it is which giveth an infinite value to every act of Christ,—in the Father’s sight, inasmuch as it makes him known, and obtains his great purpose of self-manifestation;—in the creature’s sight, inasmuch as it shews unto the creature the great free-will condescension of the Son, by which the Father is made known, and the Holy Spirit communicated. Moreover, the attributes of thought, feeling, and action, under which the Godhead is represented to us in the Old Testament, before the Incarnation, appertain not to the absolute will of the Godhead, which hath no limitation of space or time, no creature mind, nor creature will, but appertain to the Godhead, contemplating itself as about to be united to the manhood by incarnation of the Son; so that all revelation is truly an anticipation by word, like as all creation is an anticipation by act of the great thing which was accomplished by the union of two wills or operations in Christ; or, to express this truth in Scripture language, the Spirit of Prophecy is the testimony of Jesus. It is not to tell out the truth fully, to say that such expressions as God changeth, God repenteth, are accommodations to man’s way of speaking: they are anticipations of God’s way of shewing himself, by taking the nature of man into the personality of the Son, and through that nature acting the purposes of the Godhead by the creatures. And human language itself is a great, and, next to creation, the greatest, work of God unto the same great end; and Christ the Creator is only worthy to be expressed by Christ the Word. Be it so, then, that unto every thought, word, and act of Christ, there concurreth two operations; an operation in the infinite Godhead, and an operation in the finite manhood; and that these two operations are not the operations of two persons, but of one person only; and what result and inference have you, but this most sublime, most perfect one, that the actings of the Godhead, all the volition, purposes, and actings of the Godhead, are consentaneous with, are one with, all the volitions, all the actings, of the manhood of Christ? For the Godhead never acteth but by the Son; and the Son never acteth unto the creatures, but by the manhood, which, with his Godhead, formeth one person. Wherefore, this sublime, this perfect truth is for ever incorporated in the person of Christ; that Godhead and manhood are not in amity merely, not in sympathy merely, not in harmony and consociation merely; but in union, unity, and unison, hypostatical or consubstantial. I would not give the truth expressed in these words of the Catechism, “Two distinct natures, and one person for ever,” for all the truths that by human language have ever been expressed. I would rather have been the humblest defender of this truth in the four ecumenical councils of the church, than have been the greatest reformer of the church, the father of the Covenant, or the procurer of the English Constitution. But we must bridle our spirit, and yoke our strength again unto the argument.
At-one-ment, or reconciliation, is a mere notion, figure of speech, or similitude, until it be seen effected in the constitution of the person of Christ, under these two wills or operations. I object not to the similitude taken from paying debts, nor to the similitude taken from redeeming captives, nor to the similitude taken from one man’s dying in the room of another, nor to any of the infinite similitudes which St. Paul useth most eloquently and most fitly for illustrating and enforcing this most precious truth of the at-one-ment, or reconciliation; but the similitudes are, to my mind, only poor helps for expressing the largeness, fulness, and completeness of the thing which is done by the Word’s being made flesh, and which is exhibited as done, by the placing of the Godman on the right hand of the Majesty on high, visible Head, effective Ruler of the created worlds, and of the intelligent creatures which possess them. This head actor of all things enacted, this being comprehensive of all beings created, great fountain of life, full ocean of animation, is in every thought, in every act, God and man, God’s will and man’s will, in one person united. Every thing therefore, thence flowing, circling wide as creation’s utmost bound; every occurrence, every accident, every attribute, every act, every relation, every change, every position which together constitute the variety of life in the creation redeemed and ruled by Christ, is in very truth a demonstration of manhood at one with Godhead, because it is all thought, spoken, and done by the Person, the One Person, who in all his thoughts, words, and doings, is God and man. What reconciliation like this reconciliation, what at-one-ment like this at-onement?
From this great head of orthodox doctrine that there were two wills or operations; the one the absolute Divine, the other the limited creature will, between which perfect unity in one person was preserved; and so reconciliation between God and the creatures established, not upon the conditions of a covenant merely, or by the commutation of suffering merely, but by the very being of Christ, and in his being, and in every one of his actions, and in all his eternal government, of all creation;—from this only fit and only sufficient demonstration of that atonement and reconciliation which the creature languisheth, dieth to know and be assured of, even from this truth of truths, the two distinct natures of God and man in one person, Satan, as his custom is, hath deduced one of the foulest and most culpable heresies, which he hath ever at hand, to hinder fearful and ignorant people from listening to the subject, and so to remove them away from the knowledge of the hidden mystery, and most blessed consolation of the truth in Christ. The heresy to which I allude is part of the Borigninian heresy against which our church beareth continual testimony in the questions which she putteth to every preacher before giving him licence, and again before ordaining him over a flock. The heresy is, that the human will of Christ was unholy, or contradictive of the Divine will, which is an abomination so much to be abhorred, as the truth of their harmony and unity set forth above is to be prized. For the at-one-ment or reconciliation, effected by the two harmonious consenting wills, Divine and human, in the one person of Christ, would be distinctly and flatly denied, avoided, and destroyed, if it could ever be said that the human will abode not in, and assented not to, and set not forth, the will Divine. The atonement, the redemption, the reconciliation, standeth or falleth with the personal unity of the two distinct natures of Christ. Now this error cometh from the Nestorian stem which maintained two persons to be joined together in the Christ, harmonising with each other by friendship, consociation, and sympathy, and not by personality: but by what manner of malice, by what blindness of malice, dare they to affix such a tenet upon the orthodox, who maintain the very contrary, and rest all Christian doctrine upon the contradiction of it? It is, for I know it well, because we say and will maintain unto death, that Christ’s flesh was as rebellious as ours, as fallen as ours. But what then? is Christ’s flesh the whole of his creature-being? No: it is his humanity inhabited by the Holy Ghost, which maketh up his creature being. And, through the power of the Holy Ghost, acting powerfully and with effect to the resisting, to the staying, to the overcoming of the evil propensity of the fallen man, it is, that the fallen manhood of Christ is made mighty, and holy, and good, and every way fit to express the will of the Divinity. Be it known unto these gainsayers, that in Christ, and in the soul redeemed by Christ, and in the world redeemed by Christ, we can do as ill without the Divinity of the Holy Spirit as we can without the Divinity of the Son. We have a fallen world to redeem, we have the Son of God to redeem it: but these two must not intermingle or be confused with each other; and therefore, in order to make that fallen creature harmonious with the Godhead of the Son, and so to obtain one person, we must also have in it the life of the Holy Ghost, overcoming the death of sin. Ye may be able to state out the redemption, without a Trinity of persons in the Godhead: I lay claim to no such ability. The Trinity is an idle letter in your creed; but it is the soul, the life of mine. Your Christ is a suffering God; I know it well: my Christ is a gracious, condescending God, but a suffering man. In your Christ, you see but one person in a body: in my Christ I see the fulness of the Godhead in a body. My Christ is the Trinity manifested; not merely the Trinity told of, but the Trinity manifested. I have the Father manifested in every thing which he doth; for he did not his own will, but the will of his Father. I have the Son manifested, in uniting his Divinity to a humanity prepared for him by the Father; and in making the two most contrary things to meet and kiss each other, in all the actings of his widest, most comprehensive being. I have the Holy Ghost manifested in subduing, restraining, conquering, the evil propensities of the fallen manhood, and making it an apt organ for expressing the will of the Father; a fit and holy substance to enter into personal union with the untempted and untemptible Godhead. And who is he that dares stand up and impugn these eternal truths? Be he whom he may, the devil himself, with all his legions, I will uphold them against him for ever; and I will say moreover, that in upholding these, I am upholding the atonement, the redemption, the reconciliation, the regeneration, the kingdom, and the glory of God.
Doth any one doubt that there was in the flesh of Christ a repugnancy to suffer, a liability to be tempted, in all things as we are tempted, and which was only prevented from falling before temptation by the faith of his Father’s promises, and by the upholding of the Holy Spirit? Then I ask that man, What is Christ? a man? No—for even unfallen manhood was disposed to fall into sin. A fallen man? No—for fallen manhood doth nothing but sin. A creature? No—for defectibility is the very thing which distinguisheth creature from Creator. What nature then hath he besides the nature of God? None whatever, save, as these heretics hold, some pre-existent heavenly humanity, which passed through the virgin unto the earth, as by a canal, without partaking of her substance. And then, to what amounteth the history of his life? whereto serveth it? for imitation, for consolation, for assurance? What model have we of the Holy Ghost’s manner of working? What proof that the Holy Ghost is able to prevail against the fallen creature’s evil functions; what at-one-ment or reconciliation is there between God and fallen creature? An at-one-ment indeed there is between God and this sublimated and super-celestial humanity of yours; but what is that to me, who am earthly, sensual, and devilish? And what is Christ’s intercession to me, and what his mediation, and what my love and obligation to him? for to me it was not that he condescended, but to some other creature, of some other kind.
The whole life of Christ is a demonstration of this one thing, that the Second Person and the Third Person of the Godhead, conjoined, after their proper modes, with the creature, are able through the creature to make manifest unto the fallen creatures, and in the fallen creature, the manifold wisdom of God. His hunger, his thirst, his weariness, his temptation of Satan, his shrinking from the cup which his Father gave him to drink, his saying in so many words, “Not my will, but thine be done,” his grief of spirit, his zeal, his sympathy, his tears, his love, his pity, his every affection and action shew that his flesh had the same, the self-same dispositions and inclinations as the flesh of other men, which yet in him were restrained, were withstood, were overcome, attained not unto a volition, attained not unto an action; and if they attained unto a word, it was not a word of purpose or of wish, but only a word for our information, to tell us that he was of our very substance, and had the fellow-feeling of all our pains. And he lived by faith as we do, upon God’s written and recorded word; as Paul solemnly declareth, in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, quoting from the Old Testament, what occurreth not in one place, but in an hundred places, yea, I may say, wherever Christ is spoken of, ” I will put my trust in him.” But is faith dishonourable? Ye fools, it is most honourable and holy. Doubt is that which is dishonourable and sinful. Now, like as Christ teacheth us, by his agony, how his flesh shrunk back in the prospect of that which it was to endure; not infinite measures as they say of human suffering, but simple, single, human suffering ; even so doth he teach us by that word which he spake at the grave of Lazarus, how truly he lived by faith, and how desirous he was that this great head of doctrine should be acknowledged and believed. “Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father I thank thee that thou hast heard me; and I know that thou hearest me always, but because of the people which stand by, I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.”
I cannot here refrain from relieving and adorning this argument by a quotation from the letter of a dear friend, whose thoughts upon this subject I wish he would embody in some more lasting and enduring form.—” To the history of the Lord himself let us look for a solution and an example. When he was tempted, was it not by a thought of evil presented to his mind? Was it not, in very deed, consciously there? Otherwise, the power of temptation could never have been felt, nor his spirit of holiness subjected to a trial. It was consciously there, but it had no results;—nerveless, and destitute of all creativeness, it stood fixed in eternal loneliness and desolation;—and each that his enemy dared to suggest to his innocent and righteous soul, shared the same immutable doom. Such thoughts were, however, by his supreme dominion over them, productive of thoughts of a different order and nature: they were the occasion of holy thoughts which but for them would not have been present to the Saviour’s soul: still, however, they perished not,—their perpetuated existence is monumental of the Saviour’s triumph. And although isolated, neither creatively, nor by transfusion, existing in his mind, they did, as the occasion for the manifestation of his holy power in the hour of temptation, continue to modify the Saviour’s condition; inasmuch as he thus, by the things he suffered, and the things that tempted him, was taught obedience, and made perfect. Now, from this we may most certainly learn the grand secret of mental discipline.—What was it that enabled Christ, instantaneously, and for ever, to interpose an insuperable barrier between those evil thoughts suggested to him by his enemy, in the recorded temptation, and his own approved and responsible meditations? What but the Holy Spirit dwelling in him in full and perfect measure, or rather without measure infinitely? There were they fixed, without the possibility of transfusion or commixture with kindred thoughts; for in his mind there were no similar elements, or amalgamating sympathies,—and there they are in eternal contrast to his lovely and holy resolutions,—truly existing, that all spirits may behold, wherein he triumphed; and, while beholding, may kindle into an undying admiration and love of his glorious virtue. Now in this why should we not imitate Him? We cannot annihilate the indestructible thought; nor, like him, so perfectly separate between the evil and the good; but it is in proportion to the measure of faith, the gift of the Holy Ghost, by which we are partakers of a similar virtue, that we essay to accomplish in part, what, in perfection, he so divinely effected. What he did with all, we may do with some;—and in what consist the ambition, the travail, the triumph of a believer’s soul, since an evil thought cannot possibly be prevented, but to check its creativeness of evil ?—In this field Christ earned his glory; and in the same field his followers must struggle for their crown. When so tempted, may the watch-word in the decisive crisis ever be, ‘Remember Christ: as he overcame, so must I;’ and, according as the Holy Ghost is given us, we must proceed to sever it from all that follows, by calling from the depths of the soul the corresponding holy thought, that compunctious sorrow nurtured by love for Christ’s virtue, and anguish for want of Christ’s perfection. O never may a thought be suffered to pass without the scrutiny of our jealous souls —’ What— whence—whither art thou? Child of the Spirit, or offspring of the devil?’ Nor any to remain, vital and creative, but such as can reply,—’ From God’s own bosom I come, to God’s own bosom I return; element of undefiled and undecaying blessedness.’ But in all this let us give God the glory. In Him, and from Him, is the beginning and the end of all perfection;—in ourselves, and by ourselves, evil will go on producing evil in continued succession,— accumulating all variety of pollutions in the soul; —again I say then, Remember Christ: think how he overcame: all that he had, he received of the Father. Never let us cease, therefore, with our heart and flesh to cry, that by his Holy Spirit He would take of the things which He gave to that blessed Conqueror; shewing us how he toiled and triumphed, that we, so toiling and so triumphing, may be sharers of his unspeakable glory.’
We may say, therefore, that in the flesh of Christ, all flesh stood represented;—that, in the flesh of Christ all the infirmities, sin, and guilt, of all flesh was gathered into one; and in the great triumph which the Godhead attained over the confederate powers of darkness and of wickedness in the holy, blameless life of Christ, that sin was vanquished and condemned in the flesh, and Jesus became Lord of living flesh by right of redemption; and that he hath conveyed by his victorious life unto all men a redemption from the slavery and bondage of sin, which Satan had obtained for himself, and over which he held the power. And to this agrees the word of the Apostle, Rom. 8.3: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:” that is to say, the law could not get the better of sin; and to accomplish this, the incarnation of the Son of God was necessary, “not in the likeness of angels, not in the likeness of sinless flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh,” or as it is in the original, “in likeness of flesh, of sin, and about sin,” that is, “with a view to sin, condemned the sin in the flesh.” This, having accomplished, the law was made bootless. The law had revealed the weakness of the flesh, and proved that when a Being should come in flesh, and keep the law, that Being was more than man. The law did serve to establish Christ God, by differencing him from every other being in flesh and blood subsisting. He took the weakness, he took the sinfulness; in one word, he took the fallenness of flesh; or, to use the Scripture language, “God made him sin for us.” And being thus constituted by might of holiness Divine, he strangled the serpent in his very cradle, and triumphed over him until his death; so that flesh is not any more heir to sin; sin is not any more imputed unto men. Our infirmities and our diseases are borne. Sin may skulk about us like a condemned thing, or abide in us like an imprisoned thing; but it hath no law nor liberty. We are heirs to righteousness, to justification, to power, as it is written, “Him that knew not sin be hath made sin for us, that we might become God’s righteousness in him.” God’s righteousness, therefore, are we become in Christ; and if so, then Christ was made the offering for sin, and in him sin is swallowed up, and out of him floweth an everlasting righteousness, which is called God’s righteousness, because it is the only righteousness God accounted such. We fondly think that there is a righteousness in us. We fondly think that if Adam had stood, there would have been nothing but righteousness, never believing that Adam’s fall was as necessary to the bringing in of Christ, as Adam’s creation;—necessary for this very end, of shewing that there was, and could be, no righteousness of God, but that which flowed from his own Son in the creature-form; and therefore, until he came, creation went on plunging deeper and deeper into sin. Christ therefore is the fountain of righteousness, as he is the fountain of every thing else, and thus he standeth unto the creatures; bright Sun of light, life, purity, and goodness. Moreover, Christ was made sin for us, and weakness for us, and a curse for us, that he might be able to taste of death for every man, and to overcome him who had the power of death. Death proved the creature not to have life in itself; in order that he who had life in himself, might be proved more than the creature, that he might be proved The Life. Satan had this power over death given to him, that by taking it from him Christ might be proved the more powerful, the living one. And all men had been brought under Satan’s dominion of the grave, in order that by the resurrection of all from the grave, Christ might be demonstrated Lord of all, Lord of life, the Resurrection and the Life. By his death, moreover, the infirmity of all flesh died; and in his resurrection the life of all flesh arose; and in his ascension to the right hand of God flesh ascended above angels, and principalities, and powers. And in the descent of the Spirit, God-manhood bestowed God’s righteousness, God’s life unto manhood in the flesh; and thus in Christ is God’s glory unto the creature manifested, is God’s glory in the creature vested, is God’s glory by the creature communicated, is God’s work through the creature accomplished. And all that was done at creation by God, under the assumed limitation of creature-form is done over again, or rather is perfected in its doing by Christ, in whom that assumed form was realised. And what is the preaching of Christ? Is it not even the forth-setting of him unto all men; as having wrought for all men this unspeakable redemption ; as having delivered flesh from the power of sin, and from the power of death; as having purchased for us the good-will and favour of God, which we had lost and forfeited; as having attained unto the undisputed lordship over us; as having the keys of hell and of death. This is the glad tidings, this is the good news, this is the Gospel of the grace of God, this is the ministry of reconciliation through the faith of Christ. And when thus freely, fully, intelligently and unequivocally preached, it is that the Gospel proveth to be the power of God, and the wisdom of God. And when this message is believed, I will now shew you the standing into which it brings the creature unto God.
This unspeakable and inestimable work of Christ in the flesh for every man, as it is written, “that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man;” and again, “who is the Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe;” and again, “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, and deliver them, who, through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage;”—this ineffable benefit wrought for mankind; this redemption and resurrection of its estate, all done, all accomplished, and all freely presented unto the world through Christ, and in Christ, is God’s argument against the argument of Satan, is faith and hope’s good against the good of sense, is Christ’s plea against nature’s, made, and by preaching proclaimed, unto the four quarters of the world. And wherever this is proclaimed rightly, men are brought under the penalty of having rejected, or under the benefit of having received God’s Christ,—of having rejected or of having received God himself. And now it is, when the Gospel hath been preached unto him, that man discovered what is the true dignity and use of his reason,—namely, for the sake of weighing and deciding between these two claimants; the world as it is seen out of God, lying in the evil one, and the world as it is believed by faith to lie in Christ, the Holy One. Reason is able to apprehend the good, as well as the evil. The fallen man is not one who knows only evil, but one who knows good and evil: as it is written (Gen. 3.22), “And the Lord said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” In Christ risen, having wrought his work and achieved his conquest, the good to be perused, to be known, to be believed, is held up to fallen man. Blessed object of hope! blessed object of holiness! blessed object of all goodness! This is our office as preachers and ministers of the Reconciliation, to hold it up before you, to lay it open unto your various faculties of desire, of hope, of faith, to instal you in the possession of it by sacramentally seals, to enfeoff you in its holiness with sacramental washing of water, to enfeoff you in its bodily substance, with bread and wine, and in every possible way which human wisdom can devise to secure man in the assurance that Christ’s reconciliation and redemption is as truly the common inheritance of the race, and will as truly be proved so by the resurrection of all, as sin is proved to be the common inheritance of the race, by the death of all.
Thus, then, men are brought into a strait between two. On the one hand, the devil’s world of sight, dressing out to them its blessedness, its dignity, its heaven: on the other hand, Christ’s “world to come, the habitable world to come, whereof we speak” (Heb. 2.5), dressing out to them, by the minister’s voice, its true blessedness, its true dignity, its true heaven, to be enjoyed and possessed after the resurrection. Both these worlds, Satan’s and Christ’s, are capable of being known and apprehended by every man; but the knowledge and apprehension of a thing is not the possession of it. Reason, God’s creature, unto which Christ is addressed by the preacher, even as Christ in flesh was addressed unto sense, likewise God’s creature; reason, being thus dealt withal, straightway discovereth the bondage of the will. She would put forth her hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live for ever; but she findeth that she cannot; and if we preach no more than this reconciliation, we would agonise men, and not bless them. We see it, we would possess it, but the devil is too mighty for us. Then he saith, Cast yourselves upon God, for that help which you truly need. He sent not his Son to tantalise, nor yet to agonise, but to bless and save you. You have apprehended those good things that are in Christ, even life and immortality: that is God’s argument for you to trust in him. He hath sent out his Son, in reason’s form arrayed, with man’s perfectibility and with man’s perfection, as his boon to man, in order that thou, O creature man, might know how merciful a Creator thou hast, how good, how gracious; and that thou mightest bless him for the reason thou possessest to apprehend these things,—for the capacities thou possessest to inherit them,—for the inheritance itself, for the life itself, which now is brought out unto thee, from the purpose of the eternal, in the person of Christ. Thou sayest truly, that there is a mighty work yet to do: that work is with the Father; and if thou wilt not trust the Father to do it—him who is thy rightful Creator, and who now hath manifested himself thy reconciled Father, if thou wilt not trust,—then assuredly thou art proved twice dead, twice rebellious. To thee Christ hath indeed died in vain. Thou preferrest present death, and future resurrection unto judgment and eternal death; thy perdition thou preferrest to the Creator’s authority, and a Father’s love. Thou tramplest upon Christ, whom he hath sent, and in whom he hath vested all power, visible, and invisible. Thou shalt be brought up to judgment out of thy grave, by the voice of him whom now thou wilt not hear; and by virtue of his death thou shalt receive power of resurrection, and shalt bear up in thyself through eternity the righteousness and justice of his lordship; as the blessed shall bear up the grace and mercy of the same. Thus it is, holy brethren, that the universal reconciliation which Christ’s death hath wrought, and the universal restoration unto life which his resurrection hath wrought, instead of being the support of universal salvation, is the support of universal right and lordship over all the creatures, which for the present doth constitute the world in him to stand, and for him obligated unto the Father; and hereafter shall constitute the world in two estates, of eternal and infallible blessedness, or eternal and unchangeable misery,—the one in virtue of his lordship honoured, the other in virtue of his lordship dishonoured; the one vessels unto honour, the other vessels unto dishonour.
Seeing then, dearly beloved brethren, that there is felt within the mind of every man, an inability to lay hold upon and lift himself into the ark which Christ hath certainly builded, for the world’s life: seeing likewise that this inability is constantly foretold and anticipated, in the separate states of heaven and hell; I ask by what name is this power to be called which God hath reserved with himself, of empowering the rational man, thus instructed by Christ to believe, delight in, and follow these instructions, and so honour the Lord of all, rather than to obey the great enemy of souls, debase his reason, disallow Christ, and renounce the eternal God, from whom he came? By what name, I say, is this hidden and secret thing to be called, but the will of the Father, the unrevealed, unknown, unconditional will of the Father? And this is what election hath to do with. Election is the acting of this will unto an individual; and election essentially implies the acting of this will upon an individual. Redemption is the acting of God’s will unto all; but election is the choosing of some one, or some ones from the all. When we preach redemption therefore, we preach unto the common race the undoing of the Fall, the reducing of the creature under Christ, the manifestation of his work in purchasing the creature. It is virtually the shewing forth of Christ, as the basis, the support, the bulwark, the security, of creature-being. In one word, it is preaching the manifest God. But when we preach election, we stand upon the vantage ground of this manifested grace, love, right, and power of the Godhead, and speak to persons, not to communities; and we say,
Now thou, brother, who knowest and acknowledgest this work of Christ, but feelest that still thou lackest power to submit thyself unto him, seek this which thou lackest from the Father. Go thou in, and use Christ as thy Mediator. Acknowledge the Father’s will, make known to him thine own sense of poverty and weakness. Shew to him how thou wouldest fain glorify Christ, by a life of acknowledgment to him, if thou couldest; but thou canst not, except the Father draw thee. Take unto thyself the confidence of a believer in Christ, to ask in the name of Christ what thou needest. Thus, with all the desire and confidence which the Gospel hath inspired thee with, suspend thyself upon the Father, and in so doing thou dost acknowledge his right of election.—Oh how important is this matter whereof I am now discoursing! The Lord give me goodly words. There is not such a madness as for a man to resist election. It is Satan’s own expedient, to blast redemption, and to destroy the dignity, the nobility of a person, of a single soul.
To talk of conditional election, is the most egregious folly, the most entire rejection of Christ, the most wilful insurrection against the Father. First, to ask a condition over and above what is contained in Christ’s work, is to dis-annul that work, and to say to the Father, Thy grace is not yet enough; I cannot trust thee yet. What a speech, what a thought for a creature! But what an awful speech, what a hideous thought for a creature who believeth in redemption, who seeth the grace of God in Christ, and will not trust him.—Secondly, What a defeat of Christ, what a renunciation of his work, which was nothing else but that he might obtain trust for his Father! Talk to me of receiving Christ, and not believing in unconditional election! You know not what you say. Talk to me of living in doubt of this, and yet living by faith! The thing is impossible. If you be living in the honour of Christ, you must be living in the honour of him that sent him; and surely you will not be making conditions with your Creator, if you are honouring him. Moreover you are making shipwreck of your own dignity; I may say, destroying your own personality, and sinking yourself in the community of the reconciled, if you thus make light of election,—for the reconciliation is common unto many, but the election is peculiar unto one. No one can think of election without thinking of himself; no one can believe in election without contemplating God as transacting with himself. This is the true ground of a personal interest in Christ; and where this is not in estimation, there may be social and ecclesiastical religion, but personal there will be none. All dignities put together are nothing to this dignity of being regarded and beloved by God. What will deliver you from priestcraft, from ecclesiastical domination, from the fashion of the religious world, from public opinion, is to come into communication with God, not upon the common ground of redemption merely, but upon the private, peculiar, and personal ground of election also. This is what will remove you from being an atom in a mass composed of many atoms, and make you to become an individual capable of assimilating individuals to yourself, and having in yourself an integral individual life. This is what makes every stone of the temple a living stone; this is what makes every member of Christ alive; this is what constitutes the vitality of the church, and differenceth between a papal mass, a religious world mass, and a living body of living members. In one word, wherever this doctrine of election hath been duly prized by any church, as by the Church of Scotland, and by the Church of England, until the days of Laud, it hath stirred up the might of men as individuals, and delivered them from the lethargic corruption of aggregate masses. And to this it is, far more than to all causes put together, that the children of the Scottish Church have so much individual prowess, and individual success, in all parts of the world; because the personal hath been cultivated in them, by the constant recognition of this doctrine of election, while the principle of community hath been preserved by the doctrine of the redemption,—into which, however, they have not generally so much insight, nor so much liberty of declaring it, as they have into the former. In one word, Is the invisible Godhead to have a place in our creed, or is it not? If, as all Scripture teacheth, the invisible, incomprehensible Godhead, hath, the chiefest place in our faith, being the great object of our worship, then must election have the principal place in our creed, as representing the intercourse between the soul, and the invisible, incomprehensible God. Is the unseen operation of the Holy Ghost, whereby the invisible God communicates his invisible actings to the invisible soul, to have a place in our creed? that is to say, are we to hope for special manifestations and revelations of the Spirit? Are we to know God as our God, to be taken into his pavilion, and to be filled with his love? are we to enjoy raptures, and seizures, and solitary sequestered enjoyments of the Divine presence, with which no other intermeddleth? then must election stand, for election doth name that particular operation of God’s Spirit which one only can partake of, by himself, and in himself, though he may be able to communicate, and tell somewhat of the same, for the encouragement of his brother. These two great doctrines,—the commonness of the redemption, the personality of the election, do stand, and prop each other up: they can only stand together, and where they are not maintained with equal foot, evil betideth both. The former without the latter degenerates into universal salvation; the latter without the former degenerates into blind and absolute fate, partiality, or favouritism. But where the two are held fast, they become the two poles upon which the goodness, and beauty, and solidity of the Divine purpose revolve.
The harmony and mutual support of these two great principles is, however, so little understood, and in this day there is so great a tendency to creeds of one article only, that I deem it good to open this point a little further. The redemption, which is the work of the Godhead in Christ, done for the glory of Christ, and for the bringing of all things under him; this work securing to mankind unspeakable benefits, done for us by the Godhead, in the person of Christ, doth draw the soul unto the Father, whose love and goodness have thus been expressed by his Son. I say not that the redemption, as it in itself affecteth a human soul, can work any such sense of the Divine goodness as will overcome the natural alienation of the fallen man; but that there is enough in that which is in Christ revealed, and by the fallen man may be apprehended, to place every one beyond all excuse, in not drawing near unto God with confidence, and with assurance of hope to receive strength from his own Almighty hand. When the soul, thus taught concerning the Father by Christ, doth commit her case unto the Father, she is acting faith upon the invisible and unrevealed purpose of election; she hath cast herself upon the absolute will of God; she hath taken his encouragement; she hath accepted his grace, and cast herself wholly upon his care;—in all which, she proceeds by the way of the revelation of Christ; and to the end of being enabled to acknowledge and to glorify Christ, making him the way unto the Father, the Mediator between God and man.—Now, this acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty expresseth itself, first, in a firm faith of that deliverance which he hath given us in Christ; deliverance from the curse of the law; deliverance from a burdened conscience; deliverance from the fear of God’s wrath: and, secondly, it proceeds in a good hope that the same most gracious God will communicate unto us the benefits of Christ’s resurrection, which are, regeneration of the Holy Ghost, and the powers, desires, and affections of the renewed man. This good hope we entertain, not as the reward or price of our faith, but as the continuance of that honour and glory which the Father hath vested in his own Son; that power of an endless life, that unchangeable priesthood which he hath received for the sake of all the Father’s elected ones,—in one word, that power which he hath received from the Father since he ascended up on high. To those, indeed, who have been baptised, this hope of a thing to be possessed is changed into the assurance of a thing possessed. The baptised should believe that he hath received the Holy Ghost, and go about the works of the church, as one who hath received power from on high; and the church expecteth him, like a good soldier, who hath received his outfit and his armour, and his charges, to resist the devil, the world, and the flesh. A baptized person ought never to doubt of his election, but go on to make his calling and election sure; the very intention of a church being to represent the election. So that a member of the church of Christ is beholden to believe in the election of the Father, no less than in the redemption of the Son: and his labour ought to be to stir up the spirit that is,.in him, which was given him in the holy sacrament of Baptism; as the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, was named over him, so is he a witness for the offices of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Moreover, a believer in the Father’s sovereignty, one who is willing to take his standing under the purpose of election, doth acknowledge the same, by a continual resignation unto the Father’s will, both in providence and in grace. In providence, which becometh grace the moment it is recognised as proceeding from a Father,—and therefore I rather make use of than sanction the distinction,—he seeth the absolute and inscrutable will of God, opening and disclosing itself unto him personally; and being a worshipper of that absolute will, and a believer in election, he murmureth not, complaineth not, but yieldeth unto God, and so honoureth the great name of God. This is the renewed will of the believer worshipping the absolute will of God. This is the true imitation of Christ, who ever said, “Not my will, but thine be done.” This is the practical acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty over, and his propriety in us, to do with us what seemeth to him good. Besides this, the believer in God the Father’s absolute decree of election doth further resign himself unto the will of God in grace,—that is, in experiences purely spiritual,—as well as in providence, being content with that measure of the Holy Spirit which the Father may please to apportion unto him, being content with that office in the body of Christ which the Father may assign to him, being content with that post in the field of combat with Satan where the Father may station him. If under hidings of the Father’s countenance, still patient, and waiting for the light thereof, as they that watch for the morning; if under famine of the bread of life, or under the ministry of error, and far removed from the fellowship of true saints, and fallen amongst false brethren, still, not the less resigned unto the disposal of God, honouring the great Head of the church, and standing fast in the communion of the saints; the entire work of the Spirit is the fruit of resignation unto, and dependance upon, the invisible God, upon the absolute decree and unrevealed will of the Father. No man can receive the Spirit, merely by believing upon the redemption of Christ; for the Spirit proceedeth not from the Son only, but from the Father and the Son. By the redemption of Christ, we must be carried upward and inward unto the Father, from whose bosom Christ came forth; and in the act of worshipping him, and resigning ourselves unto him, whose grace hath appeared in Jesus Christ, we do receive the seal of the Spirit, because we have known and acknowledged both the Father and the Son, from whom the Spirit proceedeth forth.
Therefore I say, that to the belief of Christ manifest in the flesh must be added the belief of the Father’s inscrutable decree of election before the Spirit can be received. Now it is no objection to this to say, that many who have not been able to enter into the absolute decrees of God do yet seem to possess the Spirit. There is a great difference between a man’s faith and his own interpretation of his faith. Many who profess to abhor the absolute decrees of God, are not the less believers therein, and actors thereon, though they wot it not;—for they believe in free grace; that is, God’s undeserved favour unto miserable helpless sinners. But how can it be free, otherwise than as it dependeth upon God’s will? If it depend upon something in us, conditional thereto, then where is its freedom? Moreover, they believe that God apprehendeth us, and not we him. And if the origination of the work is with God, what can originate it but an act of his own will, absolute and inscrutable? They believe, moreover, that without the work of the Spirit, the work of Christ cannot save any one: and unto whom doth the giving of the Spirit appertain? Is it ours to draw him down? or is it the Father’s to bestow him? Not ours to draw him down, but the Father’s to bestow him; and is not this again another acknowledgment of the Father’s sovereign and arbitrary will? Moreover, what is prayer unto the invisible God, through the manifest God, but a continual rising through the visible Christ, into the invisible Father, and a constant acknowledgment of his primary place and originating power in every particular personal gift which proceedeth through Christ? So that you perceive how all believing, praying Christians are in the daily, hourly practice of both acknowledging and occupying this greatest sphere of Divine truth, which, in contradistinction to the manifested redemption, we name election, free choice, sovereign will, the unconditional decree of God. And we therefore come back to our declaration, that the work of the Spirit proceedeth exactly in proportion as we know what in Christ is all revealed unto knowledge, and submit unto the Father all beyond which concerneth his glory, the glory of his Son, our being, and the being of other men. Therefore, whosoever would have the Spirit in a great and plentiful measure, must be covetous of knowledge, and unwearied in prayer;—knowledge being the worship of Christ, and ignorance the denial of him; prayer being the worship of the hidden Father, and the neglect of prayer being the denial of him. But wherever all that is revealed in Christ is diligently searched into; not shrunk from, but known, possessed, and delighted in. Wherever the unknown of things and of being is reverently and humbly committed unto the Father by faithful prayer, it cometh to pass without fail, that the Spirit proceedeth upon such an one, to assure his soul, with respect to things uncertain, to comfort him with respect to things afflictive, to enlighten him with respect to things that may be known, and to increase his faith with respect to things which cannot be known; to enliven hope, with respect to things promised, to quicken desire towards things good, and to strengthen abhorrence of things evil; to increase patience of this estate of trial; and in general to remedy the defects of sight, and to comfort under the privations and oppressions of sense. So that the Spirit is the seal of the Father’s election; the baptism proceeding from the risen Son. As Christ, having wrought out the redemption, did, upon his ascension into glory, receive from the Father the promise of the Spirit, which now he dispenseth, not to all, but only to the elect of God; so we, believing in the work of Christ unto the resurrection, do receive that common redemption by which he purchased the world back from sin and Satan; but by passing with him into the invisible, and believing on him as the exalted one of God, receiving the secret purposes of the Father, through fellowship of the Godhead, that he may communicate them unto the Father’s elect ones, through fellowship of their manhood. Thus believing, I say, in the invisible power and privilege of Christ, we do in fact believe in the Father whose powers he hath received to execute; and so believing, we are baptized with the Holy Ghost.
And thus, dear brethren, you have a more full and complete view of the several parts which the persons in the Godhead do together bear in the method of our salvation;—the Father sending forth the Son, to reveal whatever the creature can know concerning God;—the Son revealing the same, with the single object of glorifying the invisible Father, from whom he proceedeth forth, and calling upon all men, by the common gift so generously bestowed, to trust in and rely upon the Father for something further which remaineth to be wrought in each one of us by the Spirit whom he will send;—the Spirit coming unto as many as have known the Son, and are trusting in the Father to perfect that work of our salvation which the persons of the Godhead have undertaken, and to seal the heirs of glory until the day of redemption, who, as they receive that precious Spirit, do grow in the knowledge of the Father and the Son; yea, have the Father and the Son abiding in them, in the person of the Holy Ghost. Wherefore, I exhort you all to give yourselves up unto the knowledge of Christ, and unto the worship of the invisible Father, that ye may receive the inward assurance and blessedness of the Holy Ghost.
In these times I do discern such a narrowness of spirit, and what I would call systematic ignorance prevailing in the church, and especially such an unwillingness to admit the one or the other of these two great sustaining principles, the universality of the reconciliation and the particularity of the election, that I cannot yet take leave of the subject without shewing how thoroughly they are interwoven in the doctrine of a Trinity, in the work of Incarnation, in the very being of a church. This is the distinction between the principle of reconciliation and the principle of election: that all which the Lord Jesus did, up to the resurrection, he did for mankind in general; but that all that he hath done, since the resurrection, he doth in order to make a difference, not to establish a common right, but to make the difference between the election and the reprobation; the election baptising with the Holy Ghost, the reprobation suffering to remain under the penalty, not indeed of a broken law which he hath removed from all alike, but under the penalty of a rejected Gospel. That, therefore, upon which election standeth, is the office which Christ fulfilleth since his resurrection; that upon which reconciliation standeth, the common gifts which he hath purchased by his death, and the title which he hath thereby made up for himself, unto the possession and lordship of all the creatures. As Reconciler, He took off the curse of the Law, which, though not openly imposed from the beginning, had been laid on in all its iron terrors by the covenant of Sinai, which I take to be the true covenant of works, according to that saying of the Apostle Paul, “The Law speaketh on this wise: He that doeth these things shall live in them.” This Law, having kept, he had no right to die, but his right was to live in them. He became, so to speak, the proprietor of the Law, the only competent judge, as being the only innocent man. He hath, as it were, taken up the forfeited estate of life, by paying a condition of perfect holiness; and, therefore, his submitting unto death, is a second and a higher mystery than his removing the curse of the Law. By the free-will submission of himself to death, which he was capable of, as being in the fallen state, though not obliged to it, as being perfectly holy, he did as it were do for the dead what he had already done for the living. By keeping the Law, he absolved all that came after him from that Law; but by death, he did this, moreover, that he delivered all that went before him, from him that had the power of death. This retrospective action of his death is distinctly referred to in these two passages of holy writ. Rom. 3.25: “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past through the forbearance of God.” And Heb. 9.15: “And for this cause he is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they having being called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” After taking away the bondage of the law from the living, he died to take away the bondage of death from the dead. And thus hath he established unto himself the right to be both the judge of the living by the administration of his law, and the judge of the dead by the resurrection of the dead. And thus is he established Lord, thus hath he purchased to himself the title of Lord of quick and dead, by that which he hath done for human kind. We preach no law in Christ; we preach no imputation of sin in Christ; we preach no condemnation in Christ; we preach resurrection from the dead in Christ; we preach life and immortality in Christ. These, as hath been said, arc Christ’s own purchase, which Christ hath freely bequeathed and appointed unto us, to minister unto all. By all this, is the world the better for Christ. These are his benefits. This is the Gospel of the grace of God. And yet after all this has been enumerated, I may say, thenohile officium, the noble office of Christ hath not been entered on.
John his forerunner and herald, did characterise, his office thus: “He shall baptise with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” He did, indeed, likewise describe his common and universal function, when he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world;” but he lifted him into a higher sphere, when he said, “indeed baptise you with water, hut one mightier than I cometh, whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire; whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner, but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.” In this work of separation and distinction, in this work of salvation and of judgment, in this baptism of some with the Holy Ghost, and of the rest with fire, standeth the true Divinity of the work of Jesus Christ. Unto this he passed, when he passed into the heavens; and this hath he been executing ever since. And it is in this making of a difference between the election and reprobation of God, that salvation truly consisteth. Christ having by the work which he did in the flesh, established unto himself the lordship of all creation, and the right and title to bring it up again from death, by the resurrection; so much of the Father’s purpose was accomplished for the honour and glory of his Son. But it still remained to unfold the end for which this great purchase of creation hath been made. And, now, the second part of the Father’s idea began to be realised in the regeneration, or second birth of his creatures. Heretofore the creation stood without the inhabitation of the Holy Ghost; created, doubtless, by the efficacy of the Holy Ghost, but not by him inhabited. The first creature to whom he joined himself was the human nature of Christ. His dealings with, and by the Prophets, were only, as it were, predictive of this inhabitation. It is not at all to underrate the inspiration of the holy Prophets, in whom the Spirit of Christ was, when I say that they were not baptized with the Holy Ghost, and that they were under his power after another and a lower kind than that in which he was given at Pentecost; but it is to honour this great prerogative of Christ, the risen Godman, which is to baptize with the Holy Ghost, and to justify that text of John, “For the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7.39); and that other text of the Acts, where the brethren and disciples of John’s baptising, whom Paul met with at Ephesus, said unto him, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” As Christ was present in the persons, in the types, and in the symbols of every dispensation of God, though his incarnation was not until he was conceived by the virgin; so judge I, that the Holy Ghost was present in the persons of all inspired prophets, and of all the Old-Testament saints, though he was not yet given, because Christ was not yet glorified. In Christ first, then in the resurrection of Christ, and his ascension into glory, in that ” mighty power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principalities and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but in that which is to come; “—in this great act of Almighty Power, taking from death’s hold, and corruption’s mouth, heaven’s highest, brightest noblest Prince, did the Father put forth the beginning of the second creation, or regeneration, which constitutes Christ first begotten from the dead, and therefore the High Priest and Head of the regeneration, destroying for ever that great source of error which ariseth out of the time of his incarnation; as if, by being late in his manifestation, he was not first in the purpose, the beginning of the creation of God. Now, indeed, by the resurrection of Christ’s body, the glory of the Divine idea and purpose in creation began to manifest itself, and Christ the first-born from the dead, (now the first-begotten amongst many to be begotten, as in his eternal generation, he is the only begotten,) was in the very feet of his resurrection constituted head of the regenerated creatures, head over all things to the church, as by his life and death of holiness he had been constituted the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. From this time forth, he becometh the Father’s hand, his right hand, the Man of his right hand, to regenerate by the communication of the Holy Ghost whatsoever of the creatures purchased by his death it might please the Father to regenerate. Regeneration, therefore, or the baptism with the Holy Ghost, which Christ, by gift of the Father, doth bestow upon the creatures who by his redemption have their way open to the Father, and the Father’s way open unto them, is as determinately and essentially a specific, personal, elective work, as redemption by the life and death of Christ is a common work. And as the commonness of the latter will clearly appear, when all the dead shall rise in Christ, and by Christ be judged, and by Christ be constituted and sustained in their several estates of heaven and hell, fixed, eternal, and unchangeable; so shall the specialty of the work of regeneration, and its application only to a part, have been made to appear before this in the resurrection of the regenerate unto life, and not unto judgment, and in their kingdom during the millennial age. As Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power, by his resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1.4), so shall these be manifested to be the sons of God by their resurrection. And this is the day of the manifestation of the sons of God, for which all creation groaneth, and travaileth in bondage until now.
Seeing then that the regeneration of the Holy Ghost is nothing more than the fulfilling, or accomplishing, or bringing into being of the Father’s purpose of election; and seeing that Christ, and he alone, hath the office of baptizing with the Holy Ghost, it doth necessarily follow that Christ’s office in the heavens, since the resurrection, hath been no other than to accomplish the decree of election, as his work, from his incarnation unto his resurrection, was to accomplish the work of redemption unto the fallen world. His headship of the church, or the election, is therefore another and a higher mystery than his lordship over all; wherefore it is written in the passage of Ephesians quoted above, “And hath put all things under his feet, and given him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” That subjection of all things to him doth only, as it were, fit him for being head of the church, which is the regenerated portion that is to be brought out of all things. And this is the reason why our fathers, while they were first and foremost to enhance the dignity of an earthly king or magistrate, as the viceroy of Christ, the Lord of all, would never suffer the king to be called head of the church; because they knew that this mystery, which I am now explaining, of the difference between Lord of all and Head of the church, would have been thereby marred and misrepresented. As Lord of all, King of kings and Lord of lords, they claimed for him supremacy over all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named in this world; and they required men of every name to observe and obey, and do homage unto their common liege lord: and kings and magistrates they required to rule in his name, and for his behoof, because all should yet stand at his judgment seat, and acknowledge through eternity his rightful, his only sovereignty over them. This dignity we preachers crave for Christ, in virtue of his death, which purchased the world back from the power of sin and of the grave. But in virtue of a higher claim, even of his ascension and honour and glory in virtue of that accumulation of power almighty into his right hand, in virtue of his being made by the Father possessor and distributor of the Holy Ghost, it cometh to pass that he is Head of the church; of which power no shadow, emblem, nor symbol having been given to the civil magistrate, he can in no way or manner claim, to rule under this, Christ’s supreme title, and therefore may not bear its name. Into whose hands, then, is the shadow, type, emblem, or symbol of Christ’s official acting as Head of the church committed. His official acting as Head of the church is, as hath been said, to baptize with the Holy Ghost; and of this, baptism with water is the shadow, type, and symbol. We baptize believers with water, only because Christ baptizeth believers with the Holy Ghost. The baptism with the Holy Ghost is that mystery in the invisible which baptism in the visible symbolizeth; and therefore so much to be abhorred is the opinion of those who would baptize indiscriminately, and so much to be approved is the discipline of the church, which permitteth the children of believing parents only to be baptized. For baptism with the Holy Ghost is essentially a discriminate, and not an indiscriminate, work done unto and upon the election of the Father, unto and upon them alone. Now the election of the Father are previously led unto the Father by Christ, who is the only way to the Father, and came out from the Father, to bring us unto the Father; and being led unto the Father by Christ, the Father doth honour the disciple of his Son, by granting unto him, through that same Son, the gift of the Holy Ghost. Faith, therefore, upon the incarnate crucified Christ, standeth in the great idea, before the baptism of the Holy Ghost, by the risen Christ: and therefore in the symbol, faith solemnly avouched in Christ, and the fulness of the Godhead, which dwelt in him bodily, must necessarily be put before baptism with water, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and it is wholly to mar and misrepresent the mystery, and to make the symbol declare a continual falsehood, to baptize without precognition of the faith of the baptized person taken in himself, or in that person with whom he is considered as one. The inconscious irresponsible babe, being by God regarded as of substance one with its parent, until the growth of will and of reason give it personality distinct (which is more than I can say of a sponsor), it thence cometh to be necessary, that the faith of the parent be solemnly declared, before the sacrament is administered to his child. Now the church, being on all hands the guardians of discipline, it follows that the church is her own head upon earth; or rather, to speak more correctly, the church hath no head upon earth, but is a body without a head; and you might as well give unto the king or civil magistrate, the keeping and administering of the sacraments as give unto him the title of head of the church. It is a misnomer, to say the best of it, in our sister church; or, if it be not a misnomer, then it is something infinitely worse. But to return.—
Seeing then that Christ’s baptism with the Holy Ghost is really and truly, and to the fullest extent, the effecting of the Father’s purpose of election, the bringing of his elect ones out of the unregenerate world, the implanting in them of a Divine person, who abideth for ever there where he hath once come, and shall not, cannot, be dislodged again forever, it is most manifest that to believe in the Father’s election, and to believe in Christ’s active headship of the church, and to believe in the work of the Holy Ghost, is truly to believe in one and the same thing.—The election of the Father, the office of Christ to baptise with the Holy Ghost, and the actual sanctification of the Holy Ghost, are the three functions of the persons in the Godhead towards the accomplishing of the one work of our regeneration. Election, therefore, Christ’s headship of the church, and regeneration of the Holy Ghost, must stand or fall together. Where election is not believed in, there Christ’s high resurrection office to baptise with the Holy Ghost will be forgotten; and men will get no higher than his cross, burial, and forthcoming from the tomb, never attaining unto the discourse of his post-resurrection work, but losing him in the white cloud, and fancying him a dissolved wide-spread substance, instead of a personal presence, and an almighty power. They will dwell by the Jordan in their discourse, and in the towns of Galilee, and in the temple of Jerusalem, and at the foot of the cross on Calvary, and so forth, deciphering the justice, the charity, the nobility of all his works, but no higher ascending; preaching the imitation of his obedience, and using the Holy Spirit to help us to keep the law, which is to bring us back unto the law, from which Christ hath for ever delivered us. Where election is not believed, the humanity of Christ alone will be apprehended; not the mystery of his humanity, but the example of his humanity. Yea, they may attain unto the bodily measure of the Godhead, that was within such narrow conditions and under such dark veils concealed; but into that dignity, and majesty, and might Divine, which he hath since acquired, and doth now occupy in the heavens, bringing to pass every secret purpose of the invisible Father, making the Godhead’s full purpose to be accomplished, and the hidden things to be made known ;—into the mystery of the invisible Godhead, which he invisibly exerciseth in all chambers of creation, gathering out from thence the Father s hidden ones, and preserving them separate in the midst of all powers and preventions of darkness, and of sin;—into these noble offices of Christ, which pertain to him as the Baptiser with the Holy Ghost, they cannot enter who believe not in the election of the Father. For if they believe not that there is such a thing as an election of the Father, which Christ by baptism of the Holy Ghost is separating, and by headship of the church is governing, how can they believe or understand the doing or fulfilling of the same? They shear him of the beams of his glory; they take away from him the locks of his strength; they understand not his present Nazarite function, who said before his death, “I sanctify myself, (or I make a Nazarite of myself,) for their sakes, that they also might be sanctified by the truth who said also, “Henceforth, I will not drink of the juice of the vine, until I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” I say, the seven locks in which lie the mighty Nazarite’s power, which are the seven Spirits of God, they shear him of, and bring him down to the dimensions of a common man. keeping him under the law, bringing his church under the law, and innumerable other grievances inflicting.
Moreover, from the same unity of action which there is in the election of the Father, the baptizing by Christ with the Holy Ghost, and the actual work of the Spirit, it follows, that one who denies the election of the Father, not only loseth all knowledge and apprehension of Christ’s super-celestial glory and office, and advent and kingdom, yea, and present government over magistrates and kings, and the creatures also, but they likewise lose all distinct apprehension of the Spirit’s work; which being dissevered from the Father’s election, and from Christ’s headship of the church, doth fall away into the mere heathen notion of the Divine blessing, or, at best, some gracious communication of an undefined and undefinable power, blowing, like the wind, whether it listeth. But to enter into the Spirit’s personality, to believe in him not as the incomprehensible infinite, but as the Spirit of Christ, the same mind which was in Jesus Christ, the child of Christ, in form and feature, not of the Christ in flesh, made of a woman, made under the law, but of the Christ in glory, and triumphant over all his enemies; to know the Spirit as the expression of the Father’s electing love, and the manifestation of God in the soul, and the indwelling of Father and of Son, and the instructive witness unto the offices of both, and the continual worker in us of the good works foreordained by the Father; to feel him as the Comforter in Christ’s absence, and the continual prompter unto the desire of Christ’s presence, as the absolute irresistible regenerator of the rebellious and dead creature, who, once given, cannot be withdrawn for ever; which, once possessed, cannot for ever be lost; parent of perseverance, parent of assurance, parent of a peace and joy with which the world intermeddleth not;—these and many others, the personal offices of the Spirit, must needs depart from the knowledge of those who will not know the election of the Father, and from the experience of those who will deny the election of the Father. For the Spirit is a regenerator only unto the election of the Father; which being disbelieved or disesteemed will come to be looked upon as a kind of common blessing, proceeding somehow from Christ upon the world in general, and to which all alike are privileged; or if the glaring falsehood of this notion stare them in the face, they will then correct it, perhaps, by the Arminian hypothesis of ordinary and extraordinary influences of the Spirit; or they will adopt that most abominable notion of the Wesleyan Methodists, that we may possess the Spirit one day, and lose him the next, and be as free as ever to receive him the next, and so on, through a life of fluctuation, unto a death of like fluctuation, and haply an eternity of the same. Oh, my soul is grieved at the state in which the doctrine of the Spirit is found amongst us! Words, unsanctified words, impersonal words, which I could apply to the sun, and moon, and stars, as fitly as to a person; this, verily, is the language applied unto the Spirit. But of his office to seal the Father’s election, to reveal the Father’s love unto his own, to kill the old man, and with him the law which had to do with him;—to reveal in us the power of Christ’s resurrection, to beget in us sons unto glory; to inform us with the fellowship of his victories and triumphs; to be in us a new substance, which hath nothing to do with the fallen Adam; to be in us a new life, which is super-legal, and hath nothing to do with legalities whatever, nor with prohibitions, nor with fears, nor with servilities, but keepeth all these things down under his feet,’ in a state of death, or, next to death, impotent grovelling desperation; these high offices of the Spirit, his true and only function, they skill not to discourse of, desire not to hear discoursed of, cannot hear, but abhor; even all those who abhor the doctrine of election; because the Spirit’s work is nothing but the accomplishing of the election, of which, if a man refuse the absoluteness unto the Father, he must refuse the authority and government unto the Son, and the effecting and accomplishment unto the Spirit.
Moreover, they who deny the election can understand nothing of the mystery of the church, which is the great symbol of the election. The election of the Father are, truly speaking, the only church; —the church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven, the members of the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Ghost. But, forasmuch as this holy community of the regenerate is hidden from human sight, and known only to the Father, neither shall be manifested until the day of the Lord’s advent, it is necessary to constitute a symbol thereof, which may take the sight of men, and occupy their understanding and their feelings, in such wise as to help them to the knowledge of that which is invisible. Such a symbol is the visible church, which doth represent the election in all its parts. Every member thereof must be baptized with water, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to signify and seal his engrafting into Christ, his being made a partaker of all the blessings of the new covenant, and his dedication to be the Lord’s. This symbolizeth the regeneration by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, with which Christ baptiseth every one of the Father’s election. And hence the reason that there is no second baptism, in passing from one communion of the Christian church, to another; because the Holy Ghost, being once received, cannot be lost again. To be baptized the second time is to mar and misrepresent the great mystery for which this ordinance is placed in the church. If, then, baptism symbolizeth the regeneration of the Spirit, a baptized person is the visible symbol of a regenerated person, and the community of the baptized, or the visible church, is the symbol of the regenerated ones of the Spirit, or the elected ones of the Father. Now this symbol being intended to carry the import of the thing symbolised, being unto faith indeed that very thing, the Holy Spirit, who ever speaketh unto faith, doth name the symbol always, by the attributes of the thing symbolised, and not by the attributes of the symbol itself. He doth not say, This washing represents the washing away of thy sins; but, Be baptized, and wash away thy sins. He doth not say, Baptism representeth our salvation by the Spirit; but, Baptism saveth us. He doth not say, This bread represents the body of Christ; but, This is my body ; and again, This is my blood. And speaking of the baptized, or the visible church, the Holy Spirit calleth them “saints, elect of the Father, sprinkled with the blood of Christ, washed with the regeneration of the Holy Ghost.” He calleth them ” the holy nation, the royal priesthood, the chosen generation, the peculiar people” of the Lord. Yet are they not so in very deed, but a company of elect and reprobate mingled together; and yet though this we know we may not speak of the church in any other language than the language of the Holy Ghost, because we speak to the hearing of faith, and not to the hearing of sense; and our language will not deceive the hearing of faith, but only the hearing of sense, which it is as much our business to deceive, as it is our business to instruct the other. Our language being unto sense or worldly wisdom foolishness; our language being unto faith the power of God, and the wisdom of God. We who use it may use it hypocritically, convinced that for our parts we have no right, so to speak, being unworthy ministers, and unfaithful stewards. You also may feel that you have no right to be so spoken to, being unworthy and fruitless members of Christ, but not the less ought the holy language of faith, and that only, to circulate in the church, from ministers to people, and from people to one another; feeding those who have faith, and making hypocrites of those who have it not. And I may here observe, that to the keeping up of this language in all the papal instruments, it is due perhaps more than to any thing else, that in the absence of the Holy Scriptures, and in the presence of such awful superstition, there should yet be found in that spiritual Sodom faithful ones of God. And to this same holy language, presented in the Liturgy of the Church of England, it is due, that under the legal and Arminian preaching of the last century, the true faith was not wholly rooted out of that communion. And I will say further, that if baptized men, if churchmen would speak to one another the language of the Holy Ghost, the effect would be, to separate by a distinct line between worldly wisdom and the wisdom from above, between Divine ideas and human ideas of all things. And the elect of God would be nourished by every opening of the mouth, and the reprobate would as often be warned, rebuked, and condemned. But, which is far more important, the church would do its office of representing the election of God, assuming unto itself all the attributes, and speaking all the language thereof, the everlasting ordinance would not be changed; the mind of God would not be represented merely in a written book, but organised and expressed by living men. By reason of forgetting and undervaluing the great principle of the election, and making the universal reconciliation to be all in all, men have come into, and must remain under, ignorance and perplexity with respect to the symbol thereof, which is the church. And every thing connected therewith will come to lose its substance, and by decrees to change its very form;— Baptism first of all to be but a sign of something which every one will seek to define as the least and the lowest thing possible; a memorial haply of our sinfulness, instead of being, what it truly is, the abolition of all memorials thereof. And the Lord’s Supper will come to be a mere memorial of Christ’s death; ordination of office-bearers a mere sanction of the voice of the people, or title to the dignities and immunities of the office; discipline, a mere religious and spiritual police; holy living, a mere keeping of the law; and preaching, an exposition of the law, with motives and means to the performance of the same; all which views of the church I solemnly denounce, as most false, most pernicious, most destructive of souls. But from what time you come to see the church in its true light, as the great symbol of the election, and to use it as the key to open that great mystery, then at once, and I may say instantaneously, do the symbol and the thing symbolised explain one another: as the key is the best interpretation to the lock, and the lock the best interpretation to the key, so is a symbol the best interpretation to the mystery, and the mystery the best interpretation to the symbol. As we have said, baptism, the admission to the church, symbolizeth Christ’s baptizing with the Holy Ghost, which is admission amongst the election of the Father, or the regenerated ones of the Spirit. And from that time forth, we are beholden unto Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for power given, and obligation come under, to shew forth, in our thought, speech, and behaviour, the life of a regenerate man. To feed and nourish this goodly company, we have put into our hands the symbols of the body and blood of Christ; that is to say, these regenerated ones, these elected ones have no support, sustenance, nor fellowship of substance with this visible world, but are of one substance with the body of Christ, upon which they live by faith, receiving from it the vigour and the substance of a new life, as the body receiveth the vigour and energy of life from bread. The church, observe you, is not merely the living ones in this world, but the living ones in the Jerusalem above, and likewise the elect ones of the Father, who are yet to live;—-of all which company, those above and those beneath, there is but one nourishment and one substance, which is the holy humanity of Christ; and this humanity, in its earthly form of redeemed flesh and blood, which is the support, the basis, the nourishment, the substance of the church, as Adam is of the world,—Christ, the Father of the regeneration, Adam the father of the generation. Moreover, this company of elect ones, which the church symbolizeth, must be under government, and preserved as one community, having in it no schisms nor divisions; for the body is one, as the Head is one, though the members of the body be many.
To the end therefore of preserving this unity, it is necessary that there should be governments in the church, who may be for the healing of divisions, and for the remedying of evils. This is the ground of all discipline and government in the church, to endeavour to preserve that unity of faith and spirit which is so essential to the election of God; and it would have been impossible to justify the Reformation in constituting a separate church, had it not been expressly written, that the Gentile church was to become apostate, and God’s people were to come out of her. If Rome be not Babylon, then Protestantism is a schism, or a sect. If Rome be a true church, then are the Protestant communions schismatical and sectarian; for there cannot be two churches, either we excommunicate Rome, or Rome hath a right to excommunicate us.—To make the election consist of two separate parts, in opposition to each other, were totally to mar and misrepresent the truth. This remark beareth hard upon the divisions in the bosom of the Protestant church, and shews how necessary it is for a good Christian to maintain brotherly love to those of every church who hold the true faith of Christ, and have not fallen into any heresies.—Out of this same idea of the church, as representing the election, cometh the true meaning of excommunication. Excommunication is the separating from the communion of the brethren, of some one who is depraved in his mind by heresy, or in his conscience by the wickedness that is in him; to the end that, when he is thus set apart, he may feel the more acutely, and perceive the more distinctly, what an awful thing it will be, if, in the end, he should be cast out from amongst the chosen ones of God. Excommunication is not reprobation; but it is the act of the church declaring a man to be in rebellion against the Spirit, and against the church, the dispenser, under Christ, of the Spirit’s gifts. For if it were the symbol of reprobation, then there would be no occasion presented of repentance unto such an one.—All these, and many other ordinances of the church, become plain to the simplest capacity of those who believe in the election of the Father, and see the church as the symbol thereof; but unto one who stumbleth at that stone, the church, with all its beautiful ordinances, with all its perfect organisation, is either a system of foolishness or a system of hypocrisy.
Thus have I shewn at length how any faltering upon the great doctrine of election, bringeth with it necessary confusion into all other departments of Christian doctrine and Christian life: which may all be summed up in this one word; He that doubteth of the election, believing the redemption only, must remain ignorant of Christ’s active ministry, in baptising with the Holy Ghost, and of the Holy Ghost’s active service in delivering the soul from the law of the flesh, and from the curse of the Moral Law.”
Having thus explained how, out of the union of the Godhead and fallen manhood, in the person of Christ, there cometh perfect and complete reconciliation and atonement between God and the fallen creatures, I have now to shew how this is accompanied with the removal of the Law; not any particular law, or part of the law, but law in general, as proceeding from the mouth of God unto his fallen creatures. The grace of God, the goodness of God, is, I may say, hindered from being known and communicated where the Law is present, which is the expression of God’s holy indignation against sin. The Law is the form of the enmity between God and the fallen creatures, which came not into existence from the beginning; for the promise was before the Law, in order that it might be seen, that grace, and not severity, was the end of the Fall. Therefore, God pronounced upon Eve and Adam, and the earth, certain judgments, under the hope of a redemption from them; which judgments still continued to afflict the condition of men. But as yet he gave not the Law; and long before he brought in that excessive bondage, he had given the covenant unto Noah, and the promise unto Abraham. And then, for greater manifestation, and for further punishment of sin, he imposed the Law, which came by Moses, and was removed by Christ. The Law, therefore, is the great sign and standing monument of God’s unreconciled mind towards men. Most necessary therefore it is, that I should set forth, under this head of the atonement and reconciliation, how we are delivered from law, and placed under grace. In the course of which demonstration, it will appear how fertile, how idle and profitless, are the notions of those who will not receive the method of the Incarnation, by the personal union of the Divine nature and fallen human nature; and new strength will be brought to the orthodox doctrine which we maintain.
To open this subject fairly, it will be necessary to go back a little in the history of Creation and Redemption, of which I have demonstrated, in the former discourse, the great end to be the glory of God. And into that general subject I mean not to inquire further, but am willing to discourse somewhat particularly concerning the scheme, as it hath relation unto the Law.—The very end of the Fall was to put the proper difference between the Creator and the creature; and to shew the creature that the source and the continuance of its being was from God, and not in any way from itself. If any one ask me, And could not this, without a fall, have been accomplished? I am ready to answer, As to that I cannot tell; but I believe that this was the best way of accomplishing it. The creature being put to silence, and its pretensions to power and being, in itself, entirely negatived by sin and death, God proceeded by demonstrations of his grace to make known, even from the beginning, his own Son incarnate in the creature, as the only object of its hope for deliverance, and the only source of its strength for endurance; or, in one word, as the life. Of this grace the promise, and the possession also, was first given unto Abraham; wherefore he is emphatically called by the Apostle, “He that had received the promises.” Anterior to Abraham, the world was not without witnesses; yet Abraham is called the Father of the Faithful, and from him the dispensation of righteousness imputed unto faith, is always in the holy Scriptures made to begin. Abraham is the head of the church, or election, and answereth in his circumcised person unto the baptized persons now in the world; but before Abraham, the world, the whole race, had been brought under covenant in the person of Noah, whose preservation in the ark, with all his house, and with all the creatures of the earth, is significant of that common preservation of mankind, and deliverance from the power and thraldom of sin and Satan, which Christ purchased by his death, whereby he is said to be the Saviour of all men, and the propitiation, not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world. And that sanctification of blood, which was part of the covenant with Noah, giving unto sacrifice its peculiar sanctity, doth point unto the blood of Christ, as the propitiation and purchase of man’s life, and the life of the world he dwelleth on, from the just and righteous indignation of God; so that, as in Abraham you have the election according to grace standing represented, so in Noah you have the redeemed race likewise standing represented; and therefore the present constitution of the world and the church, which hath obtained since the coming of Christ, had its existence in promise and expectation, even from the deluge;—sacrifice being unto all men the proclamation of the One Sacrifice, which taketh away the sin of the world; and circumcision, or the putting away the filth of the flesh, being the proclamation unto the church, of the work of the Spirit to crucify the flesh, with its corruptions and lusts. Here, then, from the deluge, we have the world under a dispensation of universal redemption, with a church in it under the dispensation of particular election: and the only difference between our condition and theirs is this, that theirs was prospective, or prophetic,—ours partly retrospective, and partly prophetic; they looking forward unto Him that was for to come; we looking backward unto Him that is come, and forward unto the same One that is to come again. Thus, then, the world stood, under general and particular promise of grace, until the time that the Law was given. Now, be it observed, that the Law was not given unto all the world, but only unto the church, the circumcised church. It went not to the bounds of the covenant of Noah, but was confined within the limits of the covenant of Abraham: and why this limitation? For many reasons, but chiefly for this, that the Jew might have no reason to boast himself over the Gentile, that they who had the covenants of promise might also have the condemnation of the Law; that, their sins being made to abound through the Law, they might be preserved as much as possible from self-righteousness, and taught to prize the special and peculiar grace which they had in the covenant of circumcision. And the world which was without law, was left to the law written on their hearts, to the excusing or the accusing of their own thoughts; they that are without law being judged without law. Hence it is, that the Apostle, in the Epistle to the Romans, being minded to prove all men under sin, and the whole world guilty before God, doth make his case out against the world, in the first chapter, by shewing their sins against conscience, and against nature; but against the Jews, he maketh out his case, by shewing their sins against the Law. The Law is the voice of God, telling us of the evil. When man fell, he came to know both good and evil, whereas formerly he had known only good: this goodness, being all departed out of the physical world, had its visible object only in hope of seeing Christ; and being goodness unto the undeserving, it hath the name of grace. Unto the knowledge and desire of good in man, Christ therefore was addressed, and God in Christ. Unto the evil that is in man, the world which is seen was addressed; and thus religion came into controversy with worldliness, and the future into controversy with the present: the object of good being in the future, the object of evil being in the present visible world. Now, with which of these doth the Law rank? Holdeth it of the conscience of good, or of the conscience of evil? I say it holdeth of the conscience of evil. If the Gospel be the voice of God addressed unto the conscience of good, then, I say, the Law is the voice of God addressed unto the conscience of evil. And out of this opposition, between the Law and the Gospel, arose that heretical notion in the primitive church, that the Law was created by the evil principle, and the Gospel created by the good. The Law is by the Apostle absolutely called sin, even as Christ, when under the Law, is likewise called sin. And that the Law hath sin, and not righteousness, for its object, is well declared in that passage, Rom. 5.13: “Until the Law, sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed where there is no law.” And that it hath not righteousness for its object, is declared in that passage, “If righteousness could come by the Law, then is Christ dead in vain.” The Law therefore, was added, that the offence might abound, and that sin might be shewn to be exceeding sinful.
But before entering at large upon this subject, I would have it confirmed under sanction of the written word; and to this end, I ask you to turn with me to the seventh chapter of the Romans, from the beginning. “Know ye not, brethren (for I speak to them that know the Law), how that the Law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth (or it liveth)? For a woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So, then, if while her husband liveth she be married to another man, she shall be called an adultress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adultress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the Law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” In these verses the church is set forth, as a wife who hath been twice married; in the first instance to the Law, in the second instance to Him that is raised from the dead; of whom the former husband must be dead before she can be wedded unto the second. But seeing that we are wedded unto the risen Christ, the Apostle affirmeth, that either the Law is dead or the church an adulteress. Now, how doth the Law become dead to us, and we dead to the Law? Himself answereth the question,—By the body of Christ, which nailed the Law along with himself unto the cross, took it into the grave, and left it there, along with his body of sin and death, when he took his body of life and righteousness. And so, bridegroom-like, in beautiful garments he went forth from his chamber, like a strong man rejoicing to run his race of glory and of might. Unto him, then, not in humanity under the Law, but unto him in glory above all law, Lord of all, the church is now married, to the end that we should bring forth fruit unto God. Wedded unto this Husband, branches of this Vine, the church bringeth forth much fruit unto God, whereby the Father is glorified. But being wedded unto the Law, what is the fruit that she bringeth forth? A fruit unto death, in direct contrast to the former. For is it not written in the next verse, “When we were in the flesh, the motions of sin (or as it is in the margin, the passions of sin), which are by the Law, did work with energy in our members, unto the end of fruit bearing for death?” What a word is this to those who will live under the Law! It is here expressly declared, that the Law is the seed of sin, which doth quicken the substance of sin, already in our flesh, and make it bring forth fruit unto death; not unto God, but unto death. Now, this is the reason for which I am setting my face steadfastly against the Law; because it is the masculine parent of sin, and doth awaken and fructify the passion for sin which is in the flesh. It is the life of the flesh, the joy of the flesh; and where works are preached, the natural man is glad.—Now what saith the Apostle further in this most wonderful and curious discourse, concerning the Law? Verse 6: “Now, however, are we delivered from the Law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” Can any thing be more explicit to declare our deliverance from the Law, and the Law’s deadness to us, and our deadness unto it? Can any thing be more joyful unto the uncarnal and spiritual man, than such a deliverance from that which engendereth in the flesh only sin and death ?” We are delivered from the law, that being dead,” or, as it is in the margin, “being dead to wherein we were held.” And what is the fruit of this deliverance? Is it licence? No; but it is liberty. Is it adultery? No; but it is honourable and fruitful marriage. Subjection unto the spiritual Parent of good in our spirit, and deliverance from the parent of sin in our flesh. Yes; there is a service still: but it is service, not known until the Spirit was given, or but dimly known by those who being under the Law, yet forget not that they were under the promise,—service in newness of spirit, and not in oldness of the letter. The willing obedience of the law of liberty, “written, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but on the fleshly tables of the heart.” Hear the divine Apostle, still farther, upon his favourite theme; hear the great law-breaker, the great law-destroyer, and magnifier of the grace of God, who boasteth that he had destroyed the Law, and looketh upon himself as a most heinous transgressor, if he should lay a stone to rear it up again, saying. “For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.” (verse 7 “What shall we say then? Is law sin? Be it not spoken, but sin I had not known except by means of the Law; for covetousness had I not seen, except the Law had said, Thou shalt not covet. Sin, however, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all covetousness; for without the law, sin were dead.” This is marvellous exceedingly. The Apostle acquits the Law of the sin, which he had asserted was bred between the Law and the flesh: he will not allow the Law to be sin in itself, though the occasion of sin in him, as it were awakening it from its dormancy; —yea, he saith, quickening it from its death; for without the Law sin was dead, even as unto a wicked lustful person the most virtuous object is the occasion of sin, without any sin in itself, but contrariwise haply the greatest aversion to it.—So the Apostle doth set forth the pure and holy law, the beautiful and perfect law, the chaste virtuous and severe law, as the occasion of all sin in the weak and sinful flesh of man. And as an instance of it, he quoteth the Christian commandment, which forbiddeth covetousness of every thing that is our neighbours; and he declares not merely, that he would not have known the sin of covetousness, but that he would not have seen it, had it not been for that commandment which said, Thou shalt not covet: but so soon as he knew that same commandment, sin in him stirred up all manner of covetousness and concupiscence, spiting as it were the commandment of God, shewing herself to be mistress of the flesh, and more powerful than the commandment. As an usurper, Pharaoh for example, rageth more against his slaves, when the idea or hope of liberty stirreth amongst them; so sin, potent empress of the flesh, kindleth into fury, and violently rageth, and worketh all manner of contradiction and contravention of that holy law, which the flesh knoweth to be good, but skilleth not to keep, because it is overruled by another, and by a greater than itself. Great idea! blessed God, and likewise favoured man, from whom, and through whom, this great idea came! Let my soul learn to embrace it, and to possess it. Let me forget the law, that I may remember my risen Lord, for I cannot be married unto them both. Let me cease from the commandment, that I may cease from sin. Let me die unto the Law, that I may live unto Christ; for, as saith the blessed Apostle, “I through the law am dead to the law, that I may live unto God” Now, brethren, tell me, whether you think the language of such divines as Luther, the language of such preachers as myself be, or be not, consentaneous with the language of the blessed Apostle.
Taking this text for our warrant, we would now set ourselves to discourse concerning the Law and its removal from the church; for the Law is the form of the enmity which came by Moses, between the holiness of God and the wickedness of the fallen creature.
There is in the Law such a purity and fitness for producing human well-being; there is so much good sense in the Ten Commandments, so much right feeling, so much beauty of virtue and righteous judgment, that every good and wise man seeketh earnestly and desireth fervently to put himself under such a goodly system of morality, which is at once the perfection of moral philosophy, the code of justice, the guide of affection, the sum of religion, the bulwark of society, and the stay of life; insomuch, that I know not what preternatural power is required to separate a man from this form of wisdom, which is all redolent with humanity, and with humanity’s noblest forms. The only thing capable of divorcing between the Moral Law and human nature is the inexorable holiness of God, which will not be satisfied with any thing short of its complete obedience. If the Law would relax a little to the infirmities of the flesh; if it would be gentle, and tender, and gracious, and look not so much to our shortcomings as to our attainments; or if it would tarry a while and wait the gradual progress of virtue; or if it would forget the past transgressions in our present endeavour to do our best; or if, moreover, it would quietly stand like a Grecian temple, or a Grecian statue, as the ideal, the beau ideal, of moral beauty and perfection, and suffer us poor sculptors to carry on the work of moulding ourselves the best we can after the model of its beauty, then indeed it might stand and receive the homage of all virtuous and well-disposed men. But it hath such a tongue of iron, and doth ring out again such thunders of revenge against every transgression, and every shortcoming it doth guage with such exact rule, and such a mighty omniscient eye doth watch sleepless over its virgin purity, that while, on the one hand, it doth solicit and attract with its perfect form, on the other it doth repel with its chill and icy coldness. God’s inexorable holiness, I say, is that which maketh the very beauty of the Law, and its perfection, to be most horrible and most revolting unto the heart of a believer. But if we could but persuade ourselves that God’s holiness would relent, and that be would soften and accommodate the Law to our infirmities, all might yet be well; and this truly is the hope and belief of all those who are making shift with the Law for a rule of life. They do, in very deed, believe that God is not so holy, but that he is able to forgive a transgression of the Law. and to overlook our shortcomings from its obedience. And this notion is so firmly rooted in men’s minds, that nothing but a great demonstration to the contrary could overcome it. Men have no right estimate of the evil of sin, of the holiness of God, of the inexorableness of the Law; and before you can wean human nature from the contemplation of its own perfection, and perfectibility in the Law, you must have to offer unto them some indubitable demonstration and stupendous monument of the unalterable holiness of God, the irreducible demands of the Law, and the hideous nature of sin. If such a demonstration and monument of a lasting kind can be given, and established in some grand and conspicuous way, it may be possible; but otherwise it never will be possible to divorce human nature from the high-minded affections which it beareth to the good, and just, and honourable Law, and the easy hope with which it flattereth its good nature, that God will never require of his poor creatures more than they are able in this state of sin and infirmity to perform, especially when he beholdeth in them a devout aspiration after the perfect and blameless righteousness of the Law, together with a continual sorrow and repentance because of our many shortcomings and positive offences. But if, I say, it can be made to appear, beyond doubt and question, that he that offendeth in one point of the Law is guilty of all; that heaven and earth may pass away, but one jot or one title shall not pass from the Law till all be fulfilled; and that God cannot forgive a transgression, the slightest as the heaviest, without a recompense of an infinite price; and that as one transgression brought the world and all its inhabitants into this misery and death, out of life and blessedness, so any one transgression will condemn the soul into the lowest hell for ever; and that this is God’s unalterable, unchangeable being and attribute;—if this, I say, can be made clearly apparent, and undoubtedly true and unchangeable for ever, then men may be brought to see the Law in another light, and to abhor it as a living man abhorreth the dagger of the assassin, or the axe of the executioner, or the grim face of death, or the corruption of the grave, or the pit of hell. Now, I ask, where, by what, hath God made this eternal demonstration of sin’s horrid guilt, and his own inexpressible abhorrence of the sinner? I answer, By sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh; by making the Word flesh; by making him consubstantial with the sinner, and shewing how under this form God hid his face from his own Son, and bruised him, and put him to grief, and called for his sword to slay him, and covered him with the pall of death, and brought him into the humiliation of the grave;—all this, though he was without sin, and saw not corruption, merely because he had become consubstantial with the sinful creatures. Thus, and no otherwise, was that great demonstration made. And I stand in my place, as a preacher of truth, and say, that there is no demonstration of all this, if Christ did not become bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; if he were in any other state than the fallen humanity; if he were in the likeness of sinless flesh, and not in the the likeness of sinful flesh.
Let us for a moment suppose that Christ came in an immortal and incorruptible body; that is to say, in the nature of man before he fell; I have then to ask, in addition to all that hath been said above, what demonstration would be given of God’s holy indignation against a fallen sinful creature, if so be that Christ was in the immortal and incorruptible state of manhood? A demonstration indeed is given of God’s wrath against an unfallen creature, bearing a fallen creature’s sin; but we want the demonstration of God’s wrath upon a fallen creature himself. We are not unfallen creatures, bearing another’s sin; but we are fallen creatures, bearing our own. And the thing to be demonstrated unto us is, that God will take vengeance upon our iniquities, without making any, the least, abatement for our fallen state. This is the very shelter which human nature constructs for herself; and out of this shelter, she must be driven before she will forsake self-righteousness and self-confidence. For hear what the natural man saith, ‘Will God require of me, born in sin and infirmity, and dwelling in this sinful world, perfection; and say you that he will visit my slightest transgression with eternal death?’ The thing which we want is to be able to say to the natural man, ‘Yea, verily, thine every sin eternally separates between thee and God, and eternally doometh thee unto wrath.’ Now this answer cannot be given, if Christ had not a fallen humanity; verily our humanity, verily the natural man; for an unfallen humanity, or a redeemed humanity, is not the thing in question. ‘True,’ the natural man saith, ‘an unfallen man may be, ought to be perfect, but there is the widest difference between an unfallen and a fallen man. And by loading an unfallen man with ever so much sin of another, you do not make him a fallen man; and that he should bear it, and that he should keep the law without offence, is no proof to me, that I shall be called to keep the same law, with the same strictness, or that I shall be visited so fearfully for every transgression of the same. Besides, we want no demonstration of what God requires of unfallen manhood, or what visitation its sins are to be visited withal, for we have it already in Adam. We are the monuments thereof; the world is the monument thereof; but is there to be no allowance for the wide difference between our state and Adam’s? Are you to expect from a miserable sinner, the same straitness and completeness of holiness, as from a being whom God created good, and constituted lord of the lower earth? These are the questions to be resolved, as I have said above, before you can drive men from trusting in the Law, and in their own keeping of the Law; and these are questions which can be resolved only by a demonstration made in our fallen manhood. They understand nothing at all of the problem to be resolved, who say that it could be resolved in the unfallen manhood, or in the angelic or in the archangelic form of being.
Furthermore, I confess myself unable to perceive how it is possible for suffering to reach an unfallen creature without subverting the fundamental principles of the Divine purpose and administration. I do not mean the principle how the eternal Son should consent and condescend to the suffering and humiliation; for this, indeed, he doth in the plenitude of his own Divine freedom; but the difficulty, and impossibility as I think, is, how the suffering should reach him otherwise than by a fallen body. This is the very end of the Fall, that Christ might come at suffering. The Godhead cannot suffer, because it cannot change. Those sufferings which Christ underwent reached him through his creature-part. Now, if that creature-part of Christ was in the unfallen state, how should it suffer? If the unfallen creature can suffer, then is there no difference between the unfallen and the fallen; for suffering and death are the signs and the wages of the Fall. The answer which they make to this question is, He suffered for the sins of others. That I say also, because he had no sin of his own wherefore to suffer. On this we are agreed; but my question is, How can suffering for another reach an unfallen creature? I know of no way by which suffering can reach an unfallen creature, but by the way in which it reached Adam—namely, by his committing sin; and if it be said, that without committing sin, suffering can reach an unfallen creature, then the only difference between the unfallen and fallen is taken away, and the very nature of sin, as an act of the will, is abrogated. But that suffering can come to a fallen creature, without any sinful act of his own, is manifest in every child that is born; and that death can come to a fallen creature, without any sinful act of its own, is manifest in every child that dies. And, therefore, there is no difficulty whatever in believing that, without any sinful act of the will, Christ in a fallen nature should both suffer and die, because this very thing is the universal experience of every fallen creature. But there is not such a thing in the records of being, as that an unfallen creature should suffer. The will must fall first by sinning, before suffering can be felt. But that, in the fallen state, the just should suffer for the unjust, and the innocent for the guilty, is the great truth experienced of all; seeing God visits the sin of the lathers, and the sin of Adam especially, upon those who have as yet no power of will whereby to commit a sin; so that I may truly say the whole history and constitution of man’s estate, under the Fall, is to the very end of schooling us into the method of the Incarnation, of teaching us how without evil actings of the will, suffering and death may be experienced by a creature in the fallen state. If Christ therefore took our fallen nature; if the eternal Godhead, being purposed to extirpate sin and death from flesh for ever, and to bear up through his Almighty and Divine strength, the lapsed creation; it is easy to perceive how, by taking part of flesh and blood with the fallen children, he might do so: but if, by taking an unfallen nature, he could do so, then have I no demonstration whatever that I myself am fallen. For what proveth me to be fallen! suffering and death. If it be added, positive transgression of my will? I answer, No; that should not enter into the definition of a fallen creature, because it applieth not to all fallen creatures, nor indeed to any fallen creature in all its being. Children, and all men while children, are incapable of acting good or evil by the will, and yet they are fallen. And how know we them to be fallen? because they suffer and die. But if an unfallen creature can likewise suffer and die, then the only definition, and the only proof, of a fallen creature is taken away; and if this be taken away, then redemption is likewise taken away. Now, it only makes this conclusion stronger, if they say that the difference between an unfallen creature suffering and a fallen creature suffering is, that the one suffereth by imputation and the other suffereth not by imputation but for his own sin. Then I say, that by this definition children are unfallen; for they suffer not for any sin of their own, but by imputation of the sin of their fathers, and most especially the sin of Adam. Here, then, is another great foundation subverted—to wit, the difference between the unfallen and fallen creatures; and Socinianism marches strait in at the breach, which says that we are just in as good and perfect a state as Adam, and as able to keep the law as he was; and then where is the redemption, when there is no fall? It is completely avoided, and made of no effect.
Oh, it relieveth my heart, in the midst of these painful studies, and deep meditations to find that I am fighting the battle which the Apostle John began, and which the holy Fathers of the church, for seven centuries, ceased not to wage. This heresy of the immortal incorruptible body of Christ, of his supernatural humanity, was broached by Cerdon the disciple of that Simon Magus who is mentioned in the Acts: from him it passed to Marcion, and Valentine, and Manes, all great heresiarchs: in Eutyches it took a more generic form, which was condemned in the fourth general council at Chalcedon. It revived in the Emperor Justinian, who held that Jesus Christ had not a corruptible body, but was resisted by the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Patriarch of Antioch, and all the orthodox church, who said, “It cannot be called incorruptible in any other sense than as it was always unpolluted with any defilement, and was not corrupted in the grave.” It revived again under the new name of the Monotholites, concerning whom it is written in a former head of this discourse; and after surviving for nearly a century, it was condemned again, in a general council, the third at Constantinople, held in the year 680. And now, again, behold it is upon the field; and here I am, a poor despised minister, contending, day by day, for the faith for which holy Martyrs and Apostles contended; of whom it is reported that one, even Polycarp the disciple of John, when he met one of these heresiarchs— I think Marcion—on the streets of Rome, and being asked of him, “Knowest thou me?” the Martyr answered, ” Yes; I know thee to be the eldest born of the devil.”
Now, abandon these heresies, and look at the demonstration as it is in truth, and you will see how grand it is. The eternal Divinity of the Son, Who inhabited the fulness and the dearness of the Father’s bosom, to the end of shewing how holy, and good, and gracious his Father is, and knowing well the Divine hatred against sin, as being himself Divine, and the eternal contradiction between God and the sinful creature, as being himself God, doth nevertheless take up into his person human nature in its fallen state, and is as truly a fallen man, as he is truly God; and thus the eternal and absolute One enforceth the recreant and rebel nature of man to keep the holy law of God: and the Father, though loving him beyond love’s utterance, in the infinite degree, as being of one substance, doth not the less exact from him the utmost measure of a sufferer’s sufferings unto death itself; a death of disgrace, of agony, and of torture. He had no exemption because he was God, but suffered because he had taken part with the brethren of the suffering and doomed thing. If God would ever have relaxed, for any sake, the extreme rigour of the Law, and the imperious curse of death, would he not have relaxed now, when the sufferer was his own Son, holding, by his Divine nature, indissoluble communion with himself? That person, who suffered in his human nature, did by his Divine nature maintain all the while perfect unity with the Father. There was between them perfect oneness of substance; and yet the person of the Son suffered as a man suffereth, was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He who made the law, he whose absolute will is the parent of all laws, did come under the law, in all respects, and did keep it in all points.—After this, can any one doubt that God will exact, to the uttermost jot of that law, from every fallen creature? Why should he spare another who spared not his own Son, his only begotten and well-beloved Son? Beyond this, methinks, demonstration of holiness cannot go. Oh what an awful spectacle unto creation for ever, to see such love as the Father had unto his Son postponed unto holiness, set aside for the manifestation of justice, suspended for the honour of a broken law!—What a word then is Law! the pillar of ages, the stability of worlds, the very word of God! and who, understanding this, will dream of the frangibility, or the changeableness of law? It may not be any longer thought or spoken, that the adamantine law will divide into parts: it dieth by the loss of the least jot; it cannot die while God who spake it endureth. Inflexible law, inexorable law, thou art honoured indeed; very venerable art thou become. Woe, woe to him that toucheth the hem of thy skirt, or meditateth the infringement of thy integrity. I cannot express, and never shall be able to express, the sanction which Christ hath given to the Law. Truly he hath made it honourable. Behold also, what demonstration there is of the sinfulness of sin. That sin should poison life’s fountain, in a creature created so noble as Adam; that sin should poison the streams of life in all their branches; that one sin should engender from its venomous drop enough of suffering to steep a world in misery, is indeed an awful truth;—but that sin should be able to struggle with Godhead itself, that a fragment of the perilous stuff, being assumed into the personality of the Son, should weigh down the Almighty One, from his delectation in the bosom of the Father, and make him say, “Why hast thou forsaken me!” That a fragment of the perilous stuff being taken into the person of the living One, Life of life, should agonise him with hunger and with thirst, and oppress him with weariness, and tempt him with the round world’s idle state; should make the Divine person groan, and weep, and sweat great drops of blood, and be passive to all suffering which flesh is heir to; this is the mightiest demonstration of sin’s iron gripe and deadly hold, proving it to be all but the mightiest power in being.
This, according to the view I have given of it, is not, as it were, the accumulation of the sins of all the elect; but the simple, single, common power of sin diffused throughout, and present in, the substance of flesh of fallen human nature. Such power hath sin in my flesh, in the flesh of every one who heareth me.—They greatly err who make this humiliation of the Son’s person to arise from many thousand measures of sin, as it were, poured into the cup of one man. No, verily; that which a fallen human nature in Christ prevailed to do against a Divine nature, it prevaileth to do in me, and in every single man; and no power whatsoever, but the Divine power which prevailed over it in Christ, can prevail over it in me. This scheme of supposing Christ to have been laden, as it were, with a body that had the sins of many bodies imputed to it, doth take him out of our sphere again, and destroy the application unto us, of those things shewed forth in him; for the sinner might turn upon us, and say, That example of the sinfulness of sin, which you educed from Christ, is not applicable to me, who have but my own sin to bear.—Do I speak herein against imputation of our sins? God forbid. I believe that He bare our sins in his own body on the tree; and this is a point which I have sufficiently handled in my first discourse. It was all our sin, and none of it his: —it was the sin of flesh in general, in common, which he freely undertook to extirpate. But what is sin? Reflect what sin is. It is not a thing, nor a creature, but it is the state of a creature—the second state of a creature, in which it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be. Sin, therefore, is common to us all: it is the creature man working against the Creator God. And the Creator God, to shew that he neither had been nor would be baffled by his own creature, took it up into himself, and, having sanctified it, brought it through the passage of death without seeing corruption, to see immortality and unchangeableness. And the measure of the potency of sin, and of its evil in one man, in any man, in all men, in the region of humanity, is the degree unto which it humbled and reduced one of the persons of the eternal Godhead. I wonder what men mean who will not look at this, and be astonied: it passeth comprehension, it passeth utterance. Holy men are lost in the adoration of it; angels desire to look into it; sinners are saved by it; and none but infidels and heretics withstand it.
It is very painful indeed to me, but nothing new, as you can testify, to witness the obstinacy and perverseness with which men contend against this truth, that Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh, to condemn sin in the flesh. “What mean they by their ignorant gainsaying? Is it not the thing which is to be done in you and me, sooner or later, by God, that we should be sanctified and redeemed, this very flesh of ours, by the indwelling and empowering of the Holy Ghost? If there be something so shocking in the Holy Ghost’s abiding in sinful flesh, let those that think it so shocking do without it, if they can, and go down into the pit for ever. Whether is it more honourable unto God, that he should recover his creature, or lose his creature? And if sinful flesh is the thing to be sanctified and possessed of the Godhead, shall not Christ in this also have the pre-eminence? or shall it be done in us, without being first done in him? But whence this abhorrence? Is it dishonourable to vanquish sin? Doth the man become a serpent who graspeth the serpent in his gripe, and crusheth him? Do I become a devil, by wrestling with the devil and overcoming him? And doth Christ become sinful, by coming into flesh like this of mine, extirpating its sin, arresting its corruption, and attaining for it honour and glory forever? Idle talk! They know not whether they drive. They are making void the humanity of Christ, and destroying his mediation, as virtually as if they denied his Divinity. A mediator is not of one: how truly he is consubstantial with God, so truly is he consubstantial with me, or he cannot be mediator between me and God. The Days-man must be able to lay his hand upon us both.
These demonstrations of the unalterable holiness of God, of the inflexible rigour of the Law, and the exceeding sinfulness of sin, which are no demonstrations at all unto us availing, unless Christ be come in our just and exact nature, are, so far as they bear upon us, profitable in the highest degree by destroying all hope of salvation through the relentings of God, through the yielding of the Law, through our obedience of the Law, or any other method which buildeth upon God’s facility of disposition, or our own self-righteousness. For if God would not relent in behalf of God, but obliged his own Son, when made flesh, to bear the rigours of the Law, then how should he relent towards another? And if it required the informing Godhead of the Son, and the sustaining Godhead of the Spirit, to enable the man Jesus Christ perfectly to keep the Law, how should any mere man expect to keep it? And if no one may expect to keep it, how should any one expect to be saved by it? Whosoever, therefore, rightly apprehendeth the incarnation of the Word, doth dread the Law, with revoltings of soul, and cry out, Oh, thou inexorable Law! how shall I escape thy most certain sentence? Oh, thou most holy God! how shall I find acquittal from thine offended law? If thou art strict to mark iniquity, as it appeareth by thy Son’s experience in the flesh, then how shall I answer for one of ten thousand of my transgressions? I am a lost man—a man lost and undone, unless that awful law be taken out of the way for ever. If it stand, I fall; for I, I am sold under sin. Oh, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Such is the agony of a man who is enlightened by Christ, in God’s character as a sovereign Lord. He is at his wit’s end: yea, ti would drive a man out of his wits, as at times it threatened to do for poor Luther, whose ideas of God the Lawgiver became at times so insufferable to himself, that he would run howling from the hideous thought, and seek to hide himself from the fear of God. Paul, in like manner, in the seventh chapter of the Romans, seemeth to have been all but undone, by his reflections upon the holiness of God the Lawgiver. And I would that every one who heareth me, and I myself, were in like wise amazed and astonished. There would then be no need of argument to drive men from the Law: they would avoid it as they do consuming fire. There would be no need of arguments to persuade men to take refuge in grace: they would snatch at it, and fasten such hold upon it, as the drowning man doth upon the life-boat which hath arrived just in time to save him from the yawning waves. Then would the world know what that word meaneth, “The Law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
What then is to become of that inexorable Law? and what is to become of us, whom it damneth to the lowest hell? Christ, for his part, hath kept the Law, and made it honourable; but we in weak flesh, what can we do to keep it? Nothing whatsoever. We do but mangle it; we do but dishonour it; we do but enrage it, and deceive ourselves. Will it not call out against us then? Yea, and it doth. And what then is to be done? We must die, and see corruption. Our natural man must die, and the Law will be satisfied; for the Law hath claims upon the natural man alone. If my concupiscence die, if my covetousness die, if my destructiveness die, what more would the Law? In one word, if my flesh be crucified, what more would the Law? Now this is what taketh place in every one that believeth in Christ, according to the principle of imputation laid down above; that, as by Adam came the weakness of the flesh, so by Christ came deliverance from its weakness: or rather, in Christ’s death all flesh died, and the Law was satisfied. The Law bore its spite against sin in flesh: Christ condemned sin in flesh: the Law could not do it, Christ did it for the Law; or rather he did it for the Lawgiver, even his Father, of whose holiness, the Law is the bearing and the pressure upon sinful flesh. As the sin of Adam did not need to be done over again in every person of Adam’s kind, but by the principle of imputation death passed upon all men, and the Law appeared in due time to shew the abundance of the transgression; so neither doth the work of righteousness, under the Law, need to be done over again: but, being once done in Christ, is for ever done; and the Law being satisfied with Christ, giveth itself up to Christ, and saith, Thou, O man, art worthy to have, to hold, to exercise me, thou great Lord of law! And Christ having become sole proprietor of the Law, doth say, in his own right, Stand aside, thou grace-eclipsing Law: thou hast had thy time; and a better time awaiteth thee yet, when my throne of righteousness shall be established; but for the present, be thou content to take thyself out of the way, that the grace of my Father, through me, may shine forth unto the ends of the earth. And now, ye swift messengers, ye gentle ministers, go forth and preach the good tidings of great joy unto all men; preach the Gospel of salvation unto every creature under heaven. This message hath been proclaimed unto the earth since the resurrection; that men are no longer under the Law, that God is gracious, that their sins are forgiven, and that God is love. This is the grace, this is the peace, which unto men, unto all men, is proclaimed; and the world is under the Law no longer, but under grace. And thus, by one man the Law hath been satisfied, and by one man the grace of God hath been revealed from behind the eclipse which the Law had brought upon it. For it was but an eclipse, because the promise was before the Law, and the Law which came four hundred and thirty years after, could not make the promise of none effect.
The promise was of grace, and not of merit; of faith, and not of works. Abraham believed, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Abraham lived under a dispensation under which sin was not imputed. “For,” saith the Apostle, “sin is not imputed, where there is no law;” and he quoteth, as applicable to that period, these words of the Psalmist,—” Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered: blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity.” If, then, Abraham and his seed until the Law came were free from the imputation of sin, by virtue of the promise of Christ, surely much more are we free who live under the Gospel of Christ. I say, much more, not in respect of the degree of freedom, but in respect of the clearness with which it is revealed. For, in respect to the substance of the thing, that we have the same with Abraham, he the same with us, is clear, not only from the general reasonings of Paul, in the Romans and in the Galatians, but by two express declarations of the New Testament to that effect. The first in the prophecy of Zacharias, at the circumcision of his son the Baptist, wherein, speaking of Jesus (Luke 1.72), he states, as the end of his mission, “to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he sware to our father Abraham.” Now that which is remembered hath had a previous existence; and that which is performed under a covenant hath been previously promised, in the giving of the covenant of promise. The other passage is still more explicit (Gal. 1.13): “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree; that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” And thus we conclude, that from Abraham until now, the dispensation of grace and imputed righteousness, the dispensation which hath no law and imputeth no sin, hath been in the world; that when given unto Abraham, it was given unto him, for all nations; according as it is written in the same Epistle to the Galatians (3.7), “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” The Law did not annul that dispensation of grace, but was a safeguard unto it; to preserve the hope, and to define the object of it, and to drive men from self-righteousness into the arms of merciful grace: unto which end the Law serveth still, as we have shewn above, or else it will drive men into destruction, and leave them under despair. In this sense, indeed, Christ hath the whips and scourges of the Law, and shall use them too, against the day of judgment, which is the Law’s triumphal and eternal glory. But as to Moses, he is defunct; and let him rest in his grave. The Son of Man is Lord also of the Law, which is with him in better keeping than ever it was with Moses; for he shall make it triumphant in the age to come, when Moses on the one hand, and Elias on the other, shall bear up the glory of the transfigured world. But, meanwhile, the Law being lifted up from present time, and transported unto another age, we have now the Gospel of the grace of God proclaimed by the church unto the wide world. The world is under grace, and is no longer under law. For, as old Luther hath bravely spoken it, “wherefore if sin afflict thee, and death terrify thee, think that it is, as indeed it is, but an imagination, and a false illusion of the devil; for in very deed, there is now no sin, no curse, no death, no devil, to hurt us any more, for Christ vanquished and abolished all these things.”
I said above, that the Law is fraught with so much wisdom and righteousness, as to become an object of adoration to the good feeling of the natural man. But when it thus bristleth with threatenings and terrors against infirm humanity, and will not intermarry with grace or mercy, it doth alienate the affections of the natural man, and become to him the occasion of fear and dread. Being taken out of the way therefore as an offence, a deadly offence, to humanity’s infirm condition, the question ariseth, And what now is there left for man to pay his reverence and worship unto? Taking away this fine ideal of every thing righteous, good, and perfect, what have you to put in its stead? Man cannot be without a model according to which to shape himself, and in which to behold that excellence to which he would attain, and do homage. Brethren, this is a question into the resolution of which I shall enter a little; and, at one and the same time, spite those adorers of Moses, and confound those idle and wicked dreamers about Christ’s immortal body, while I instruct you more perfectly in the method of this great salvation.
The object, then, which now standeth unto our admiration and homage, instead of the Law, is the person of Christ; who, while he is holy as the Law, is tender and pitiful as a brother, and endued with the almightiness of God; who is so far from irritating the weakness and overwhelming the remorse and compunction of sinful flesh, so far from threatening its every backsliding and transgression with death, that he hath himself become touched with the fellow-feeling of our infirmities, being in all points tempted like as we are, hath carried our diseases, and borne our sicknesses, and is the grace of that God of whom the Law is the holiness. The person of Christ Jesus, therefore, by right taketh, as by nature he attracteth, the admiration, affection, and homage of sinful flesh. He taketh us by right of being the living Law, holy as it is, perfect as it is, admirable as it is. He attracteth us by being a person, a living, moving, breathing person; bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. He hath purchased us, moreover, by redeeming us from the curse of the Law, and pouring into the wounded conscience the oil of joy; and finally, he demandeth us as very God, as the very grace of God, who in himself concentrateth all grace, and unto whom God giveth the singular and sole glory of his grace. Compared with this person, thus accomplished, with God’s grace and man’s infirmity, thus recommended by the achievement of holiness, in union with most perfect grace and compassion, object of fearless love, object of doubtless trust; who that hath a heart to feel, or a mind to understand, will ever speak again in praise, will ever revert again in confidence, to that awful iron-hearted Law, which neither knows pity for the fallen, nor shews compassion for the penitent? Yet true it is, and of verity, that, like the Galatians of old, we who have received the Spirit, by the hearing of faith, would go back to be perfected by the Law. We would believe in Christ, we would possess the Spirit, and, so qualified, pay our homage to the Law, which maketh void the work of Christ, and proveth that we have never known the Spirit. Perverseness this, debasement this, which the church would not have come to, had she, unto her faith of the Lord’s atonement, added, the lively faith of his true sympathising humanity, of his merciful and faithful high priesthood in the heavens: and from which base pandering to the Law, and preferring of Moses above Christ, nothing will ever deliver the church, but the revival and frequent reiteration of that great truth, which Satan is attempting to bring into question,—that Christ was in very deed consubstantial with the fallen creature, and hath taken up with him into the heavens, the ever-present consciousness and sympathy of the conditions and trials of his members upon the earth. The church hath been so spoiled in its tenderer and nobler parts, by the continual and exclusive doctrine of debt and payment, of barter and exchange; of suffering for suffering, of clearing the account and setting things strait with God; that she hath lost the relish for discourse of the brotherly covenant, of the spousal relation, of the consubstantial union betwixt her and the Lord Jesus. She hath lost relish for high discourse concerning the mystery of his person, as God-man; the beauty, the grace, the excellency of that constitution of being which he possessed. Strong as the strongest, even of Almighty strength; weak as the weakest,—of all infirmities conscious; holy as the holiest, the only holy thing, yet consubstantial with the sinful creatures, sinful in his substance as they, tempted as they, liable to fall as they. The church likewise, by this profit-and-loss theology, by this divinity of the exchange, hath come to lose the relish of that most noble discourse, which treateth of the grandeur and the glory of the risen Christ wielding the sceptre of the heavens, yet, from his peerless height of place, consenting to cast his eye perpetually upon the poorest, the meanest, the most deeply tried and overwhelmed of all his people.
And now that the Lord has stirred up my mind, and the minds of some others of his servants, to awaken and arouse the church to thoughts, to loves, to hopes of a higher mood, the servants of the wicked one would come in, and fix her for ever at the level of these low waters, by daring to assert that Jesus our Lord had no such sympathies with the fallen creatures, and that the church may not aspire to such close, spousal, sisterly thoughts of him. For if, as they dream, and dare to put forth, Christ was other than a fallen man, and never knew the fellowship of our temptations, from the flesh, from the world, from Satan, how can human nature, in its fallen state, go out with confidence and affection, and without fear, to repose herself upon his intercession and mediation? You say he hath borne her sin, and therefore made her unspeakably his debtor: you say, our sins were imputed to him, and he bore them; he pitied us so much as to bear them; and therefore we ought to have confidence in him. Nay, but, thou half reasoner, art thou so ignorant of human nature as not to know that the debt of obligation is not favourable to the growth of love? It is love which begetteth love, and love annihilates all distance by condescension, and love raiseth through all distance the poor one who hath thus been condescended to in love. Knowest thou not, O man, that a king, who keeps his state and distance as a king, yet by his almoner sendeth gifts to the most distressed and needy of his people, doth not expect that they should thereupon cast themselves into his bosom, or take liberties with his royal state? They are beholden to him, and they shew it in the reverent distance and lowly humility which they bear before him. And if, as thou sayest, the Son of God, in doing us this bounty, did yet keep the distance and the dignity of an unfallen creature, avoiding by an inestimable distance, our devil-haunted, and sin-defiled region, flitting amongst us like a shadow, but not inhabiting our tenement at all; amongst us, but not one of us; then I say, that his bounty conferred, the very magnitude, the very value of it, will only put another impediment and obstruction in the way of that brotherhood, of those espousals, of that fellow-feeling, trust, and confidence, which the soul ought to have towards Him for whom she is called to give up her own high and noble thoughts concerning this fair proportioned and authoritative Law of God. The soul, instead of coming into melting tenderness towards such an one, will be appalled far away from his inscrutable holiness, and will feel it to be her duty to worship him at a distance, and to acknowledge him with fear and trembling. Ah, no: ye half reasoners, ye are not yet so wise as God, whose method of wooing a fallen creature is far more exquisite and far more effectual than yours. You come roughly on, loading her whose affections you would gain with gifts, but all the while keeping in her presence a state whereat she trembleth; more after the manner of an eastern prince purchasing a fair slave, than the manner by which the human soul is won. But God sent his Son to make acquaintance with human kind, upon the lowly level of their condition; as if that eastern prince should lay aside his crown and scepter, and dress himself in humble guise, and be a servant to gain the humble maiden whose hand he desireth. So God wisely purposed; and so Christ wisely, graciously, nobly, divinely performed: speaking of no benefit, though he had given us all; keeping no state, though he was the Lord of creation. In the lowly level of fallen humanity, he wooed his bride, and thus he won her love. By the very act, and in the very act of his humiliation unto her estate, he took away the fear of distance, and the sense of obligation. But still the load would be too great for love to grow under, exalted as he is now, Potentate of potentates, were it not for the same faculty and power of condescension which abideth in him still. He is removed away from us, but not by being above the care of us. Only to lift his handmaiden unto the same dignity hath he gone to claim his birthright crown, that he may raise her to the fellowship of the same; and mean while the Spirit is his messenger, the Spirit is the comforter of his spouse, who cometh not, in the form of infinite Godhead, to overwhelm and consume the faculties of the creature whom he would possess; nor yet, in the form of perfect and unfallen manhood, to rebuke the fallen creature’s weak and sinful condition, but in the form of risen, redeemed manhood—manhood that once was fallen, but now is risen and redeemed.
It is the Spirit of Christ, of the risen Christ, which we receive. Not until he ascended up on high, did Christ receive the Spirit to bestow it upon bis church. It is therefore the Spirit of the risen Christ, the triumphant Christ, Christ the vanquisher of sin and death, which we receive;—a distinct person of the blessed Trinity, condescending from the absoluteness of his Divinity, to carry on the communication between Christ and his people; a communication not made by words merely, but by regeneration and the quickening of a new life, in all things consentaneous unto, and defined by, and identical with, the life of Christ, As my natural life is instinct with all Adam’s fallen propensities, so is my renewed life instinct with all Christ’s risen glories. With the communication of life therefore, kindred life, unto his own, warm, congenial life; the inspiration of all divine, pure, and holy affection, with a new heart, with a right mind; with power from on high, power which sweetly and gently condescendeth to all our weaknesses and infirmities, in order to strengthen them, and make us more than conquerors over all our enemies; with gentle love, which whispereth peace unto our troubled souls, and biddeth its waves to be still; with wisdom from above, which counselleth our ignorance and our folly, and represseth all our way ward violence; with good government and righteous lordship, which doth reprove, rebuke, restrain, chastise and restore us to the paths of righteousness;—with these, the forms of redeemed manhood; with these, the tender respects unto our frailty, and healing treatment of our diseases, and restoration of our health, and renewal of our being after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness, doth the Holy Ghost, as the Spirit of Christ, come forth from the bosom of the risen God-man, to cherish, to revive, to comfort, and to establish the peace, joy, and blessedness of his spouse upon the earth, and to carry on that excellent work of gaining her love, that he may teach her to be obedient and dutiful unto the will of his Father. We say that Christ—first in fallen yet sinless manhood, and next, in fallen manhood redeemed and risen— doth indeed accomplish a perfect work of winning the heart, taking the admiration, possessing the confidence, and occupying all the soul, of those whom the Father hath given to him for an inheritance; those whom he purchased unto himself for an inheritance, those whom the Spirit cleanseth and clotheth, to be unto him for a chaste and holy spouse. Sublime mystery of love! 0 love most excellent, love most glorious! Blessed indeed are the people who are thus beloved. My soul, rejoice in God thy Saviour. All that is within me bless his holy name, and forget not all his benefits, who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases, who redeemeth thy life from destruction, who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies, who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Now, brethren, this is the object, even this man Jesus Christ, which I have to set before you, over and against that Law which our natural man reverenceth so much.— Is the Law holy? Christ is also holy, who hath kept the Law and made it honourable. Is the Law venerable in its antiquity? more venerable is he who was in the beginning with God, who was God. Is the Law good, discerning between the good and the evil, and judging righteously, defending the oppressed, upholding the weak? so good is Christ, who shall bring every hidden work of darkness unto light; who shall judge between the evil and the good, and discern between the just and the unjust, in that day, in that age, in which he will set judgment upon the earth, and establish righteousness among the nations. What is there in the Law holy, and just, and good, which is not in Jesus, the Holy, the Just, and the Good? And for the curse of the Law, you have the blessing of the promise in Christ; and for the certain condemnation of the Law you have the certain justification and salvation of Christ. In the Law there is righteousness, but there is no mercy: in Christ mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other. In the Law there is no help; but in Christ there is the help of the Holy Ghost. In the Law there is no life, but chill cold death: in Christ there is life, more abundant life, everlasting life. In the Law, God’s holiness in terrible thunderings, and lightnings, and darkness, and a fearful voice is set forth; and who can abide it? which, when the children of Israel heard, they prayed that it might not be spoken unto them any more: but in Christ, you have righteousness presented in grace; the grace of God shining forth in the person of the holy One and the Just. In the Law, you have manhood racked, tortured, and slain: in Christ, you have the same fallen manhood sanctified, beautified, glorified, blessed forever. And what more shall I say, than that the Law is the direful expression of that everlasting contradiction which there is between God and a fallen creature, the impassable gulf which had never been passed, and seemed impassable until Christ came forth, made of a woman, made under the Law, who is the expression of God’s grace, God’s pity, and God’s compassion towards the fallen creature, of God’s purpose to redeem it, and to set his glory and his strength in it, for ever and for ever?
Who then, that understandeth these things, will prefer the iron-hearted Law, to the human-hearted Christ; will set up justification by works, in the stead of justification by faith; will prefer to live under the Law, rather than to live under grace? But I say unto you, brethren, that if ye, having believed in Christ, and received the Spirit, will yet make the Law your measure and your master, ye do dishonour unto these Divine Persons; ye do bring Christ back from the right hand of the glory, to travail in flesh again. And, instead of prospering in holiness by such an unworthy preposterous course, you will fall away into legality and formality, and live in fear and trembling. If Christ had intended his people to be under the Law, as he was himself, then would he have bestowed upon them the Holy Spirit before he ascended up on high; the Holy Spirit would have proceeded from the body of his humiliation, and not from the body of his glory. But it is expressly said, that the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified. Besides, if we had to keep the Law over again, there would be no vicariousness in the work of Christ. Imputation and atonement would be empty words, if so were that the Law had a demand upon us still, and that we were, either now to be under its authority, or hereafter judged by its statutes. Christ hath died in vain, if we be still under the Law; or, as Paul saith, “If we be under the Law, we are fallen from grace.” Surely, if the first Adam, begetteth in his likeness, the Second Adam begetteth in his likeness also: and what is that likeness? The likeness not now of sinful flesh, but of glorious flesh; the image of God, the image of the invisible God, which Christ was not in his veiled flesh, but which he is in his transcendent glory; and this is distinctly and unequivocally declared, in that passage of Scripture where it is written, that “we are renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness.”
When, therefore, any legalist will prove to me, that Christ the Father of the regeneration is under the Law, I will believe that the children of the regeneration are under the Law; but not till then: and I think it will puzzle them to prove that the Lord of all is not Lord of the Ten Commandments also. And yet I know that there are men so ignorant and foolish, as to maintain this also, who go about to say, and to affirm, that the Law of the Ten Commandments is the epitome, so to speak, of the Divine will, and that God himself is under the obligations of law; or, as they are pleased to say, that a thing is not right because it is the will of God, but it is the will of God, because it is right. Base theologians, and poor philosophers! would you dethrone God also from his sovereignty, and bring him under the fate, the fatum, of the ancients? Is the Word before God; or doth the Word proceed from God? Doth not the Father generate the Word? Is not the Father alone self-originated? I cannot enough wonder that men should so exaggerate as to put the Moral Law into any connexion with God otherwise than as the giver of it. The object of it is not God; the object of it is not even unfallen man; nor hath it any thing to do with the regenerated man. The only object of it is the fallen man; and I say again, what I have often said, it is the perfection of the fallen manhood, and it is no more. And if, as I believe in the age to come, men, flesh-and-blood men shall be constituted under this Law, and by the ejection of Satan out of flesh, and out of the world holding of flesh, and through the righteous government of Christ instead thereof, shall he enabled to keep the Law ;—if the Law, as I believe, shall then become the statute law of the world, still it would only be a form of fallen humanity; the best form which it can attain unto, but yet not the redeemed, or rather the regenerated form. For still, men will be fallible, and this estate of humanity will end in an apostasy; so that, from the beginning unto the ending of it, the law of the two stone-tables, hath nothing to do with the work of the Spirit, hath no authority over the renewed man, who is wholly devoted unto Christ, and acknowledgeth none but he: and is renewed in the likeness of the risen Christ, or after the image of the risen God, in righteousness and true holiness.
Now, it may seem to many a very idle, and to others it may seem a very dangerous thing, thus to assert the believer’s independence of any law;—the former saying, Why take away any safeguard from morality; the latter saying, You teach licentiousness;—to whom I answer, It is want of faith in you both. The subject which I handle is the most momentous, and lies at the root of all holiness. Doth it serve, O ye objectors, the interests of holiness, or doth it disserve them, to break the Law, and to dishonour the Law? And do ye not daily break it, in thought, word and deed? And if ye be under it, is it not violated and dishonoured by you? and where then is the holiness of God? Can a man, who is familiar with the everyday breaking of the Law, have either it or the Lawgiver long in reverence? And if Christ and the Holy Spirit are to come in and patch up the matter, what a system have we here, but grace fighting with debt, and mercy fighting with justice; or rather grace and mercy becoming the great indulgence of unholiness? I speak not of the dishonour of Christ and of the Holy Ghost in such a scheme,—I speak of the dishonour of the Law itself. O ye gainsayers of the truth, ye dishonour the Law, and the Lawgiver; but we honour the Law, we magnify the Law and make it honourable. We say it standeth the awful and unstained monument of God’s holiness, condemning us, and condemning all. We live not by it; we die before it: we live only by grace; we live only by pardon, and from the time forth of receiving our pardon. We do not go and commit the same offences over again, which we must needs do, if we were under that law of subjection; but we receive the Spirit of adoption from the Father, and from the rank of his subjects we are admitted unto the honour of his family: from the rank of rebels we pass into the freedom of sons; and as sons we receive the Spirit of our Father, and through the Spirit do live unto the praise and the glory of Him who hath redeemed, and recovered, and regenerated us. Now be ye judges, whether one possessed of the Spirit, and under the power of love, is more in a condition to sanctify the living God, than one who is under the Law, and without the Spirit. But, moreover, if it be true that a man who will live under the Law cannot have the Spirit, what a predicament it places you legalists in! And this now is what Paul expressly declareth in the Epistle to the Galatians (3.2—5): “This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain, if it be yet in vain? He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?”
The only escape which it is possible to make from the cogency of this argument, which we have held upon the removal of the Law, is by this question; But if the Law be removed, what model or example have we by which to walk! I answer, The model and example of Christ. But they reply, Was not Christ under the Law; and how can he be a model to those that are not under the Law? To this question I will reply by explaining a little farther the work of the Spirit in the Man Christ Jesus. And this will have the advantage of still further exposing the vile heresy of the immortal and incorruptible body of Christ. For if Christ’s human nature were not in like wise constituted, as ours is, then, in addition to all the results above-mentioned, there must come this also, that the work of the Holy Ghost should not be understood, and should become of secondary, instead of being of primary importance, in the belief of every Christian. And I must confess, that the narrow apprehension of the atonement which prevaileth, and the reducing of the mystery to mere imputation, and I would say, moreover, the mean and meagre views of imputation itself, have brought to pass a very insufficient doctrine on the subject of the Holy Spirit. The work to be accomplished, must always be the measure of the power necessary to accomplish it; and from believing that the work to be accomplished by Christ is merely the bearing of so much inflicted wrath, vengeance, and punishment; it cometh naturally to pass, that the need of the Holy Ghost, towards the accomplishment of his work, is not perceived. The union of the Divine and human nature, in itself sufficeth;—the human nature to suffer the mighty load, the Divine nature to sustain the Sufferer. And besides these, what need of a third principle, and that a person, and a Divine person also? Accordingly, the Holy Spirit in the work of Christ, is almost or altogether avoided; which, however, is in several parts of the Acts, and in the 9th chapter of the Hebrews, expressly declared to have been the power in which he performed his mighty works, and offered his blameless sacrifice. This, now, is made much worse by those who suppose he had not such a human nature in all respects as we fallen men have. For to the difficulty, just mentioned, is added this other, how suffering could in any wise reach him. If so be he was not fallen, or in any middle condition between the fallen and the unfallen, what meaning, or purpose, or use, there could be for the Holy Ghost unto the person composed of the eternal Son and a faultless creature, I cannot for a moment imagine. And the fact is positive and undeniable, that the work of the Spirit in the person of Christ, though formerly a common-place in Divinity, and standing topic of discourse, is no longer either the one or the other; and being so, I will prophecy that the work of the Holy Ghost must in such a case become a very confused and idle theory: for whatever is not seen realised in the person of Christ, ceaseth from being a theological reality, and hasteneth to become a confused hypothesis. And I have some hope that this argument which I have been long waging may haply be profitable to enlighten the mind of the church, upon the work or the Spirit also.
But to come to the question of our model and example: The work of the Holy Ghost in the human nature of Christ, from his conception unto his baptism, was to fulfil all the righteousness of the Law; and I think that word which he spake at his baptism, “Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness,” is the Amen with which he concluded that great accomplishment. The baptism of John was the isthmus which connected the fulfilment of the Law, upon the one hand, with the opening of the spiritual and evangelical holiness upon the other; to which our Lord alludes, in these words: “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence from the baptism of John until now, and the violent take it by force;” giving them to understand that the baptism of John had initiated into the kingdom, as the baptism of Moses in the cloud, and in the sea initiated into the Law. From the anointing with the Dove, I believe that our Lord entered upon a higher and holier walk than mere law-fulfilling, giving to us the example of that spiritual holiness which knoweth no Law, but the Law of liberty; that is, the will inclined unto the will of God. Therefore it was, that our Lord broke the Sabbath without offence; and touched lepers, and otherwise offended the Law; and therefore, also, he went up to the feasts, or went not up, according to his mind. And many things besides he did, which are all expressed in these two similitudes, of which, when challenged for this neglect, he made use: “No man putteth new wine into old bottles; no man putteth a piece of new cloth into an old garment;” signifying that the spirit of his discipleship, of which he was then performing the noviciate, would not piece on to, much less be contained within, the old worn out commandments of Moses. Besides, the works which he did by the Spirit were the self-same works which the Spirit in the Apostles did; and it is continually written, he set us an example that we should follow his steps. Now, it is my conviction, from these and many other grounds which I cannot now enter upon, that our Lord enjoyed, during his public ministry, that measure of the Spirit which his church was to be endowed with after the resurrection, to the end that his life might be the model of every Christian’s life who is regenerated with the Holy Ghost. He walked in liberty, he rejoiced in power, he triumphed in victory from the time he received the Spirit after his baptism, until the time he fell, as it were, plumb down from that elevation into the agony of the garden and the abandonment of the cross. Before entering upon which, he was strengthened with that voice out of the heavens, “I have both glorified my name, and I will glorify it again.”‘ Then came on that hour and power of darkness of which he said himself, “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? but for this cause came I to this hour: Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” This, I think, brought on the great crisis, and put him upon his probation to the very uttermost. And now openeth that scene of agony, that ocean of sorrow, concerning which it is not our present purpose to discourse, save to mark it as a grand epoch in the Redeemers life. It is my conviction, that our Lord’s life between these two points of time, the descending of the Dove, and the bringing of the Greeks unto him, when that fearful hour began, is truly the great realisation and prototype of the Spirit’s work in every regenerate man, in order that his life might not only fulfil the Law of Moses, but give the prototype and the example of all spiritual righteousness. The Father when his Son had accomplished and fulfilled the Law, did bestow upon him a measure of that resurrection-life in the Spirit which he himself should afterwards be honoured and privileged to bestow upon the church. The Father baptized him with the Holy Ghost, who was afterwards to baptise all the elect children; and so he became an example unto us, and must have tasted a great enjoyment of his Father’s countenance, far above and beyond what he enjoyed before, and in the removal of which I deem the misery of that agony and death to have chiefly consisted. He had the Spirit lifting him into a high communion with his Father, to the end of shewing him the regenerate church, and what should be the measure of their enjoyment; and this being accomplished, I say again, he was let plumb down into the former measure of the Spirit, to swim in the tempestuous ocean, which all the elements of moral disorder could raise around him. Fearful chaos! awful valley of the shadow of death I season of the hour and power of darkness!—Thus have we two measures of the Spirit; the first for law-keeping, to be in lieu of the obedience of those elect ones before, who had believed on him under the Law, or, as it is written, “for the transgressions that were under the first covenant;”—the second measure of the Spirit being for an example unto us of that baptism of the Dove with which we should be baptized. And there is a third measure of the Spirit, which quickened him in the tomb, with which also our bodies shall be anointed when we shall be quickened in the tomb.—And thus have we the whole mystery of the Holy Ghost realised in the life of Christ. First, the mystery of law-keeping, done for the sake of those that were under the Law, but not for us: secondly, the mystery of the Holy Ghost, which the church now enjoyeth: and thirdly, the mystery of the Holy Ghost, which shall constitute the New Jerusalem of the risen saints in the millennial kingdom. And thus the work of the Holy Ghost is substantiated and realised in the person of Christ; is a fact, is a thing upon which faith may be rested by every poor creature of whose substance Christ hath taken a part. And thus is answered the only question which remained against the removal of the Law: what model remaineth to us in its stead? Christ’s life from his baptism to his agony is our model of the liberty and power of the Holy Ghost. And let this suffice for the subject of the removal of the Law.
It may be asked, after this discourse concerning the method of the Incarnation, And what serveth it that Christ should thus have reconciled all flesh unto God, and taken away the middle wall of partition which was between Jew and Gentile, and preached peace unto them which were near, and to them which were afar off, seeing that it is only to a chosen and elect portion of the fallen creatures that salvation and blessedness, and glory, do eventually come? Is there not in this method something which is inconsistent with itself, which either makes Christ over generous to cast away his bounty, or the Father over stinted to restrain his Spirit? Hath not some part of the work of Christ been wrought to no effect? or hath not a promise and hope been held out unto men, larger than the Father purposed to fulfil?—Not so, by any means. The purpose of the Father is the purpose of the Godhead: the work of Christ is the will of the Father, shewing forth that purpose of the Godhead; and so also is the work of the Spirit. Though wrought in different persons, it is by the same one absolute will, by the same one substance of God wrought. To explain this matter, I shall now address myself in a few words.
1. The purpose of God, in creating man, was the manifestation and communication of his own glory unto the creatures which he had made, or which he was about to make; and to bring the creature wholly to depend upon him, and to worship him. As he was to make it out of nothing, he would have it remember its nothingness in itself, and to acknowledge the will, the absolute will, from which it derived its form and blessedness; to this single end of bringing the creature to apprehend the nothingness of its substance, and the absoluteness of its dependance upon the Divine will, which is the very truth. This, I say, is the great object which God hath in view, and the great consummation unto which he will attain, by his dealings with the creatures. To this end, a fall was ordained, that the creatures might know their own insufficiency, their own emptiness. Then came the Law, which as a schoolmaster did instruct the creature in its sinfulness, did bring into vision, and openly shew, how far it came short of its own perfection. The Law added no iniquity to the creature; but it brought all its iniquity clearly to view. As there be certain chemical solutions, with which if you anoint the skins of ancient parchments whereon no letter now appeareth, straightway the letters, and words, and sentences come up again from the erasure of time, and the oblivion of ages; even so the Law, operating upon the fleshly being of man, did bring to view volumes of sins which were not known to be there, and did load the conscience, with a weight of dead works, and shew in the heart an ever-open fountain of wickedness from which men needed to be purged by the blood of Christ, ere ever they could be in fit trim to serve the living God. By the Law, therefore, human nature was shewn to be exceeding sinful. The hatefulness of the creature in the sight of a holy God was established: the obstinacy of sin, its remediless poison in the flesh, the creature’s total helplessness in itself, the Creator’s total alienation from God, were excellently displayed; but the Law was only an unfulfilled prophecy, a despised statute, an abortive thing, producing no life, but death, until Christ came. It was a definition of what man in the fallen state should be, and would be, yet which none of the myriads that had been was, until Christ came and perfectly fulfilled it. Christ therefore is the rebuke of men, Christ is the measure of human delinquency, Christ the holy One and the Just, sheweth the unholiness and unrighteousness of all besides himself.—Now behold extremes meet. In him, in whom mercy and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other, the Godhead, taking experience of the fallen manhood by junction and personal union therewith, doth, after seeing, feeling, having its infirmities, freely, fully, for ever discharge them, cancel its sins, and bear away its transgressions. The Law therefore ends in the removal of law. The imputation of sin ends in the forgiveness of sins; and unto the creature grace is preached, peace is preached, glad tidings of great joy are proclaimed, which I do now again proclaim unto every one who hears me, saying, Your sins are remitted, your peace is made: believe, be ye saved. Go home, and tell it to your children; gather your kinsfolk, and tell it unto them: tell it in your villages and towns; pass the seas, and tell it unto the nations. Let the wide world know it, and the races of men believe it, that their sins are forgiven, their peace made, God gracious, abundant in mercy and truth.
This is the Gospel which hath now for eighteen hundred years, yea from the beginning, been proclaimed unto the earth. The creature hath known the grace of God to it, whose power and severity it knew heretofore in the Law. And yet, behold, how fruitless and inefficacious it hath been! Who hath believed the report? Their sound hath gone into all the earth, and their words unto the world’s end; but unto whom have they been welcome, and by whom have they been prized? All the Lord required of those that believe in the glad tidings was, that they should be baptized; and this not for the end of binding them over to be his serfs, or bondsmen, but to bring them to be his sons. All he besought was, that they might receive his Son, laden with unspeakable gifts; and by their baptism signify the same, to the end they might receive power from the Holy Ghost to become the sons of God. No bloody circumcision, no pains and penalties of the law, no burden of ceremonies, no national peculiarities, no local restrictions; liberty, love, peace, joy, hope, holiness, and whatever else most excellent the soul desireth, whatever else most noble the soul aspireth to, this were they entreated, sued to receive by baptism. This single act, acknowledging God for the good gift of Christ, and hoping for the higher gift of the life of Christ by the Holy Ghost, men being entreated unto by the ministers of the Gospel, by the labours of the church, have obstinately rejected for these eighteen hundred years. They have slain the bearers of the good tidings; they have persecuted the believers in the good tidings; they have rejected the grace of God; they have crucified the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame; they have trampled under foot the blood of the covenant with which they should have been sanctified, and counted it an unholy thing.
Tell me now, brethren, if hereby the sinfulness of the fallen creature hath not been awfully illustrated , beyond measure augmented, magnified, until it is become almost unpardonable. What a thing, what an unheard-of thing, that the great God should thus condescend unto his creatures in love immense, and his creatures reject his unspeakable gift! The world is drenched in guilt; the red waters of its guilt flow up unto the very lip, and in a few, few instants, shall overwhelm its life. In blood, in a deluge of blood, its height of hope shall be drowned, its star of hope quenched: the day is far spent, the night is at hand. The night cometh, and likewise the morning. If the Law did bring out the letters of guilt which had sunk beneath the surface, and escaped the knowledge of mankind, then the Gospel hath made these letters to burn like fire, which shall consume to the lowest hell; to flame like the bale-light which, flaming from afar, betokens woe and misery to the land. Oh the guilt, oh the misery of the nations which have rejected the Gospel! Truly, very truly, is it written, “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light, their deeds being evil.” Aye, aye, this indeed is the condemnation, that we sin against the Father and the Son; the gracious Father, the crucified and risen Son. This is the world’s doom, that she hath refused, rejected, and sinned against the Holy Ghost, testifying in Jesus, and in the church. It is not a vain thing, therefore, that Christ hath tasted death for every man; it is a part of God’s great scheme, consistent therewith, yea, the crowning thereof, to shew forth the sinfulness of the creature in all possible advantages in which it could be placed,—to prove that when it was created good, it would not obey the slightest command; that when it fell, it would not receive the completest redemption, the largest grace. Inveterate purpose of sinning! Not a habit, but a law; not an accident, but an essence; the very being, the very essence, the unalterable law of the creature, proving that as it came out of nothing, it hath nothing, it can do nothing, it is void and empty; and therefore if it should ever be brought to something, it must be brought thither and maintained there by the eternal and all-sufficient power of God. And thus is the great truth in the way of being proved, that the creature came out of absolute nothingness; is absolutely nothing in itself, and hath its being, hath its something, whatever it be, only from the all sustaining and absolute will of God. But this is not all: there is yet a deeper view of the question which we now go to inquire into.
2. Besides this object, which the Creator had in his mind, of making the insufficiency and inability of the creature to appear, there is another, which is, to make his own power to appear; his own power and goodness in delivering the creature from its own nothingness and sinfulness, into the estate of regeneration, power, and glory, where it may know, feel, and possess some portion of his own blessedness. And to this part of the purpose, the former is but subservient. Historically, monumentally, and eternally to establish the nothingness, and vileness of the creature, by its successive plunges out of light into darkness, until it reach the very base of being in the second death, is only to the end of shewing, by the negative, more effectually this affirmative, That the power and efficiency, and glory, and blessedness, unto which he should bring the creature, are not due unto itself, but due only unto him the Creator. Therefore parallel and alongside with, yea, and in the very midst of this great historical demonstration of the creature’s sinfulness and weakness we have continually proceeding a demonstration of the Creator’s power, to transcend all these base propensities, and to surmount all these difficulties, insuperable save to himself, and to make, out of such emptiness, fulness to come forth; out of such wickedness, holiness; out of such enmity, love; out of such frailty, infallible strength. This is the demonstration of electing love, and constitutes election as indispensable a part of the great mystery of God as is the sinfulness of the creature. These elect persons, in whom God prevaileth against the natural man’s obstinate aversions, constitute the church; and their souls are now gathering unto Christ, in the New Jerusalem, which is above. These being upon the earth, are a distinct and separate people from the rest; having in them, and upon them, a purpose of God, which the others have neither in them nor upon them. They are written in the Lamb’s book of life, before the foundation of the world. They were the Father’s witnesses unto a coming Christ, until he came: and now they are the Father’s witnesses of a living Christ, of a risen Christ, of a reigning Christ, of a Christ yet about to come. Demonstrations are they of the Trinity, of the Father’s will above the creature’s will, of the Son’s revival and resurrection of the creature by personal union thereunto; of the Holy Ghost’s ability to do this work of revival and regeneration in other creatures besides Christ. Thus are they not mere word-of-mouth witnesses, but witnesses in life, living witnesses, witnesses by their being, of that great truth that God is three persons in one substance. Now, that this election might be known unto men, as a great original principle of the purpose of God, it is not merely written in a book, as our word-idolaters teach; but it is embodied in a living, moving, continued chain of persons, who, beginning from the Fall, shall preserve onward the continuity of the election, until they stand in immutable and infallible glory, to be used by the Creator in the effecting of his still unaccomplished purpose, whatever it may be. This co-fraternity of elected ones, this communion of saints, took an outward symbol, received an outward symbol and definition, in the person of Abraham, the friend of God; from which time, until this present, they have continued defined and separated by an outward symbol, first of circumcision, and then of baptism, unto this day. Unto this end therefore, I say, the church is embodied, even unto the end of enjoying all the blessedness of God’s electing love, and testifying, in the midst of the world, unto that goodness and power of God which riseth strong and sublime above all let and hindrance, and accomplisheth God-like purposes and God-like acts, by means of the empty nothingness of creature-substance, by means of the violent aversions, and ungodly propensities, and Anti-christian determinations of creature substance. Now, as God’s purpose is essentially one and indivisible, like himself, though for the convenience of discourse, we must handle it under several parts, this power of election is given, not here and there, but every where, in the midst and in the duration of the creature’s being: and in like manner, the down-drawing powers of the creature are proved not here and there, but every where in the midst and in the duration of the creature. Therefore it is necessary to the unity of the Divine purpose, and to the demonstration of its pervading omnipresence, that the election should be gathered out of all kindreds and nations, and tongues, and peoples; and, moreover, it is in like manner necessary, that in the election itself there should be an invisibility, an impenetrable secrecy, a hiddenness, beyond the research, and utterly defying the discovery, of man, to the end it may not be possible to describe a bound or limit, whether physical or metaphysical, within which the election is contained. For if that bound could be described, then most clear and manifest it is, that the rest would be excluded; and so God’s upholding and sustaining power, would only be proved over a part of his handy work, and not over the whole. But, by means of the invisibility, that which is only a part hath yet given to it the faculty of proving, for the whole, the mighty power of God to sustain and uphold the creature, so that no creature, defined by any conditions whatever, should be able to say, God cannot uphold me: I am beyond the province of electing power. My wickedness, my infirmity; is greater than God can overcome.
To prevent such a fell conclusion, it is that the election or true church is essentially invisible, and must continue so until the time be arrived for some great manifestation and demonstration of the Divine power, after another kind and manner than that of election. Now, if the election must be invisible, God, when he gives to it a symbol, such as circumcision and baptism, must necessarily admit within the pale thereof, reprobate as well as elect ones; for if only elect ones were admitted within the pale, then, they would at once become visible, have a definite place, a definite number, a definite form; and so exclude all beyond that place, number, and form, from the action of God’s power and love. It is to this intermingling of the election and reprobation in the church, I would call your attention, as being the second great method by which God unfolds the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and which makes the sin of the church of a deeper dye than the sin of the outward world; for I do believe that to this end the church was made visible, and all the evils of a visible church permitted, in order that men might be proved capable of sinning against the Holy Ghost, as well as of sinning against the Son. The Church, by which I mean the glorified Head and the members, invisible as well as visible,—the Church is the fulness of the Holy Ghost: the Church is a greater mystery of God’s power than the Incarnation. The Incarnation shewed the power of God in flesh, when personally united unto the Son. The Church sheweth the power of God in flesh, not personally united unto his Son, but only mystically united with him. The flesh in Christ never sinned, though ever passive and pervious unto temptation of all kinds; but our flesh ever sinneth, and is burdened with an incredible amount of sinfulness, of actual sinfulness; habits innumerable, hardness impenetrable, enmity insurmountable is there in every man, at the time at which electing love begins to exhibit an irresistible almighty power against all these enormities and excesses of the sinful creature. Wherefore, I say again, the work of the Spirit in the Church is a mightier work than in the incarnation of Christ. The former is the forthshewing of God’s good pleasure in his Son; the latter was the forthshewing of his anger against his Son. The former is the putting forth of the power of the Son in his immortal body; the latter was the putting forth of his power in a mortal body. The former is that mighty working of the Spirit which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead; the latter was the working of the same Spirit, when he created a holy thing out of an unholy, and supported a holy thing against unholy conditions. In one word, the Church is the demonstration of the Father’s electing love, of Christ’s mighty power to do God’s will, God’s work, God’s pleasure by the vile impotent creature. The Incarnation is only God’s power to destroy the enmity between himself and the creature, and put the creature upon the footing of grace, favour, forgiveness of sin; to cast Satan out of it; to withhold sin from mastering it; and to reveal Christ the Lord of it, the Redeemer of it, the: Defender of it; and to place it, through Christ, in the equipoise of its own inclination; and so to shew forth the native abhorrence, and disinclination which it hath to God, even when he is manifested, as a Father, as a forgiving, gracious Father. But the Church riseth much higher than this equipoise, and hath the counterpoise of God’s almighty power and efficacy to do in it, and for it the mighty works of his good pleasure. Being so, therefore, that the church is this fuller vessel of God’s power, even the fulness of him that filleth all in all; the fruit of the Father’s love, the power of the Son’s endless life, the work of the Holy Ghost; whoso sinneth against the church doth sin a greater sin than doth he that sinneth against the preached Gospel only.—This is a point which many of my dear brethren cannot understand; but which, by the blessing of God, I hope this discourse may convince them of. I mean those beloved brethren who see the freeness of the Gospel, and the guilt incurred by rejecting it; but who see not the fulness of the church, and the guilt of sinning against its holy ordinances. Such brethren are fit for missionaries; but they have to learn the higher profession of a minister of the church, of the established ministers of a Christian state, and a baptized people. They preach not up to the measure of the people’s privileges as an election; they preach not down to the depth of the people’s sinfulness, as sinning against the peculiar life, love, and holiness of the election. They see the sin against the Son of man, but the sin against the Holy Ghost they see not, they weigh not, they reprove not: yet is it this, and nothing else, which the Apostle alludeth to in the 9th and the 10th of the Hebrews, and which Peter alludeth to in the 2nd chapter of his Second Epistle. But why refer to passages in Scripture, when all Scripture, and all Providence beareth out the greater guilt and heavier judgments of a people in covenant? This is what makes the sin of Babylon so much more awful than the sin of the world; so that the beast and the false prophet feel the anguish of the burning lake, one thousand years before the rest of the world,—yea, one thousand years before the devil himself. The Jews sinned not this sin against the Holy Ghost, because the Holy Ghost was not yet given, and therefore by stripes can their sin be remitted. The unbaptised world, that rejected Christ, shall in a deluge of blood be drenched, and come out from her fearful baptism more beautiful than ever; but the Church, the adulterous Popery, and the gainsaying infidel Protestantism, all who have rebelled against the baptized church, and refused the Spirit-filled ordinances, go down quick into the pit and welter in the lake of fire which shall never be quenched, during the season that Satan abideth in the bottomless pit, during the season that the nations which are saved walk in the light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honour into the gates, of the resurrection city. But, woe is me! who perceiveth this the greater wickedness of the church? who warneth her of this her heavier doom? Are we ministers then? No, the servant of a house understandeth the laws of that house, and in his service observeth them and setteth them forth: but the ministers of the church know not the difference between the world and the church; and how then can they set it forth? This is what I mean, when I preach so much of Baptism; when I preach so much of the Apostasy; and I give God thanks that you, at least, have attained unto the understanding thereof; and I pray you to be diligent in the meditation of this our greater responsibility, and to entreat the church, and by all means set ourselves, to contend against the ignorance of this our heavier account, which pertaineth to us as a church.
Now, by permitting this reprobation, in the midst of the election, sin is shewn to be of a deeper dye than by any other means it could have been proved to be. The sin against the HolyGhost is established, the sin, not only against the incarnate, but against the risen, Christ; the sin against the Father’s love, and the Father’s strength; that sin passing forgiveness, that sin passing remission; whose deepest, blackest, vilest spot, the blood of Christ cannot cleanse; whose weight and misery of eternal woe, the goodness of God will not through eternity remove.
What an awful thought! so awful is the sin, the hideous, enormous sin, under which Christendom now groans; with the wrath of which the heaven is now frowning, for the beginning of the judgment of which the dark portentous clouds are gathering, whose presence I feel in the obstinacy and infidelity of the times; and oh, let me speak the truth,—whose influences I feel every day in my own wicked heart! God deliver me, God deliver my people, whom he hath instructed me to warn. God bring out an election from the midst of us, and in us shew the pillars and foundation, which nothing can shake, and which nothing can remove. With this prayer, with this earnest prayer for you all, I dismiss this second head of conclusions; namely, the greater sinfulness which is shewn forth by a constituted church, over and above that which is shewn forth by an evangelised but unbaptised world.
3. But I cannot conclude such a weighty discourse without a word of opening into every soul, touching the freeness of their door of entrance into the election. That the gift is to be communicated to a part only of the human race is evident, as well from the fact as from the language of Scripture, and the continual doctrine of the church; Universalism having always been regarded as a most damnable heresy. Now, this limitation doth not stand in the thing itself which Christ did: Christ’s work is as capable of being applied to the whole as to a part; and in fact, so far as title of Lordship is concerned, it doth apply unto the whole. In Christ, all shall be made alive; by Christ all shall be judged, and this because he is the Son of man; but in Christ all shall not be saved, but only a chosen portion. Now, the thing which men search into is, What is the cause, and what gives the limitation unto the saved portion? And the answer is in Christ’s own words frequently repeated: “All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6.37.) And again, verse 39: “This is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” And again, verse 44: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” And again, verse 45: “Every man therefore, that hath heard and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” It is a thing, therefore, at no rate to be doubted, but unto the death to be maintained, that the Father hath reserved in his own personal propriety, the measure and extent unto which he will make that redemption to go, which Christ hath wrought out equally and alike for the whole created substance; whereby Christ’s work is put under subjection to the Father’s will, which may extend the benefits of it to whom he pleaseth, to all, if so he had pleased. The election of the Father, therefore, taketh place in Jesus Christ; that is to say, not one could have been elected, but in virtue of the redemption of Christ for sin, both appointed, and, as we say, contracted for by covenant. Yet at the same time, while the Father doth thus preserve and glorify his own holiness, and shew forth all righteousness as as in his Son contained, and from his Son proceeding, and so constitutes him the Head of the church, and the Lord of all; he doth reserve unto his own unrevealed will the extension of that righteousness which in Christ is stored up, unto as many as he pleaseth, unto no one if he pleaseth. The glory of his creative and redemptive power, would have been shewn forth in the act of redeeming that portion of the created substance which Christ had assumed into his own personality; but the glory of his grace would not thus have been manifested, if, without applying the benefit unto another creature, he had merely lifted up Christ, and in him reigned and ruled over all. To shew forth his grace, therefore, in great magnificence, he, according to the good pleasure of his will, according to the riches of his grace, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself (Eph. 1), did graciously resolve to apply the benefits of Christ’s death unto a chosen portion of the human race. But reserving, in the mystery of his own unrevealed and incomprehensible essence, the number and the individual persons of the elect, he instituted the ministry of reconciliation which we fill, and commanded it to be preached unto every creature: “That God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. And now we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” But while we preach reconciliation accomplished between God and a wicked world, and shew forth the wonders of God’s love and mercy in the humiliation of his Son; we preach this, not as the complete message of God, which is able to perfect the salvation of a sinner, because we declare at the same time, that no one can come unto Christ, except the Father which hath sent Christ draw him. We preach the reconciliation in Christ, as mankind’s free passage and safe conduct unto the Father. We preach Christ’s reconciliation as the removal of all lets and hindrances which stood between God and man, in consequence of sin. And so we bring the guilty conscience to be disburdened of its guilt, and the countenance of God to be cleared from its clouds and wrathful frowns. To the sinner Christ bringeth peace; God he presenteth as full of grace; and so, my brethren, the reconciliation being preached, as done for the behoof of mankind in general, mankind in general are visited with the glad tidings, and left without excuse, if they draw not near to a reconciled God. This, our ministry being accomplished, and you believing the same, it remaineth then for you, through Christ’s mediation, to transact with God; and, when your spirit invisible doth with the invisible God transact, through the mediation of Christ, we are taught to declare unto you, that God will manifest himself in your souls in a way which no tongue can tell of. Then beginneth the true work of effectual calling, regeneration, sanctification, and the new life, when the soul, believing to have found redemption in Christ, doth cast itself upon God, and doth receive unto itself the manifestations of his love. But this is an invisible being, a spiritual work. It is a life hid with Christ in God: it is foolishness unto the world, enthusiasm, empiricism, fanaticism, whereof some of the outward manifestations are to be seen in the subjection of the flesh, and the cessation of its works; but whereof the glorious fulness is known only to the soul, which is conscious thereof. This is that which flows from the Father’s fountain-will, directly into the soul of a believer in Christ the Redeemer, and a believing observer of the ordinances of Christ, the great Head and High Priest of the church. Unto the edge of this surpassing blessedness and immortal glory Christ bringeth you all; and saith unto you by our mouth, Pass over, pass over into the enjoyment of God, the invisible and incomprehensible. Commit yourself to him—commit yourself to him in faith, and fearlessly. See what he hath done for you by me: let that be your warrant to trust him for the rest. Pass onward, pass forward into the absolute and unrevealed will of God. And thus all the virtue of Christ’s work, and all the virtue of the preaching of it, amounteth unto this, of shewing the intelligent creation what grace there is in God, and counteracting all murmurings which might have come from the inheritance of a fallen nature; yea, not only counteracting, but through the Fall presenting the universal grace of God in his Son, and there leaving us suspended upon that gracious will, that absolute will of God in Christ, revealed to be gracious. The end of the revealed Godhead is to draw us to worship, and to have intercourse with, the unrevealed Godhead. The revealed Godhead standing in the person of the Son, being, verily, no more than God’s appeal unto the comprehension of his creatures, unto that part of his creature man which holdeth of the visible, in order that the spiritual part, which holdeth not of the visible, may have to do with the unrevealed Godhead standing hidden in the person of the Father. And Redemption endeth where Election beginneth. Redemption is no more than the porch which introduceth unto the temple of election. It appertained, therefore, unto the Father, and to him alone, to seal a soul which Christ hath redeemed.
Having made known unto you these two great truths how Christ’s reconciliation between your sinful substance and the Godhead, hath been produced; and that this the Father hath done, in order to bring you unto the acknowledgment of his right and sovereignty in you; I leave you there to transact for yourselves with the Father. It is vain to ask how the election of the Father proceedeth. If I could tell how, if it depended on any conditions which man can apprehend, then the very end of it would be destroyed: it would come under the visible, the comprehensible, the revealed; under which, if all were brought that concerneth us, then I ask, what would remain to bind us to the invisible? The redemption is comprehensible and visible, and applicable in common, to the very end that the election may be invisible, incomprehensible, and revealed only to the person of the individual. With the same diligence with which we preach the redemption to be the common privilege of mankind, we preach the election to be the special communication of the Father unto individual souls: and this is religion, this is godliness, even such communication and intercourse between the spirit and the Father of spirits. Revelation is not religion, but revelation is unto religion. The church is not salvation, but the church is unto salvation. To the end, therefore, of hanging and suspending the whole creation from his will, through the mediation of Christ, the Father hath limited the salvation unto a portion of mankind, while he hath made the reconciliation common to them all. If he had made the salvation likewise universal, then there would have been nothing left with himself: the creature would have ascribed its salvation unto the revealed Godhead alone, and would never have known nor acknowledged an unrevealed Godhead, which is the beginning and the end of all worship. But, as it now is, we know God in Christ, and knowing what is revealed in him, we commit ourselves to him in faith; and through faith, we receive from the trusted Father the seal of the Holy Ghost. Redemption, therefore, by Christ,—I say it again, Redemption by Christ is only the stepping-stone unto faith in the electing Father; and through that faith in one unknown, at least in that part of his will which is unknown, through such honour of the invisible Godhead we receive the seal of the Holy Ghost, or the impartation and communication of the gift which the Father hath kept in his own power.
The gift of the Holy Ghost is the communication to the individual of the electing love of God unto his soul in particular, as the work of Christ in flesh is the gift of reconciliation unto the world in general. The work of the Spirit is not the mere reconciliation; but it is that which God thereto addeth of his special and electing grace; the fruit of pure faith in the unrevealed will of God. The work of Christ holdeth as much of knowledge as it doth of faith: I mean the work which he wrought in the flesh, and which is recorded in the word of God. This must be known before it can be revealed. It is faith resting upon knowledge. But the faith which is followed by the Christ, the risen Christ, the ruling Christ, by giving unto him power to communicate of his victory over the devil, the world, and the flesh, unto as many as the Father pleaseth, unto all those who, receiving the reconciliation at the hands of the Peace-maker, have, in the faith of the promise, cast themselves upon the gracious Father. “To them that received him, gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; which are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” The invisible Father, I say, doth glorify his risen Son, doth glorify the manhood of his risen Son, by appointing and ordaining that the regeneration, sanctification, and salvation of his elect ones should proceed through the risen man Jesus Christ, unto and upon all who believe in the reconciliation wrought in Jesus Christ, while tabernacling in flesh, and wrestling with its infirmities. Therefore is Christ the Head of the church, by power communicated to him at his resurrection, as he is Head of the creation, by virtue of his holy life, meritorious death, and incorrupt resurrection. All that the Father hath given unto him he feedeth with a rod of love, and bringeth with a rod of power out of the prison house of the grave.—And how then doth Christ communicate of this power which he hath received? Doth he do over again in our flesh what he did in his own? No verily. His own flesh he sanctified, ours he doth never sanctify until the resurrection. Sin never dwelt in his flesh, so as to prevail over the holiness which was in him. But this cannot be said of men; no, not of the greatest saints; in whom there is an original and an actual sin, for which they shall see corruption.
What is it then which Christ bestoweth? As Adam did not communicate unto Cain his unfallen, but his fallen likeness, so doth Christ not communicate unto his children the likeness of his humility, but the likeness of his power. He regenerateth not by power antecedent, but posterior, to his resurrection. The new man therefore is after the likeness of the risen Christ, inheritor of his joy, of his power, and of his glory. And thus the regenerate have a double image in the flesh, bearing the image of the earthly; in the spirit, bearing the Spirit of the Heavenly Adam;—as to the former, holding of the curse; as to the latter, holding of the blessing;— as to the former, holding of the cross; as to the latter, holding of the resurrection. But because Christ is greater than all, and because he is ruling in the church for the Father, we know that the child of Christ, which is born by regeneration of the Holy Ghost in us, is stronger and mightier, and able to subdue and subject the child of Adam, which we have by generation, though upholden by the devil, the world, and the flesh.—Christ’s life in the flesh was a life of law-keeping; and because he kept the law, he arose into a life which knoweth no law, but is of all things the living law; and of this life it is, that he doth communicate unto us. The Holy Spirit, taking possession of us, and making his habitation in us, doth reveal unto us power from on high; whereby we are able to put to death the rebel flesh, and so be done with the condemning law: for when the flesh is dead, the law hath no more to say. The executioner is satisfied, when the traitor is lying dead at his feet. And thus the Spirit of Christ doth satisfy the Law, and make it honourable, by quelling and killing the guilty body of sin and death. This is the way that Christ makes the Law honourable in us now, by putting down, and suppressing that rebel flesh which ever riseth in mutiny against the Law: and there the Law standeth in its iron-crested pride, satisfied the meanwhile to have made clean work with the rebels, but awaiting still the higher satisfaction of serving God as the rule of flesh and blood, the guide, the blessing thereof; no longer its oppressor, its imprisoner. and its murderer. This was not the condition of Christ’s flesh, which the Spirit enabled to keep the Law, and to fulfil all righteousness: so that, though obnoxious to sin, it never sinned; and though obnoxious to death, like other flesh, it did not see corruption, which is the work of death. As sin tried him always, but could prevail over him never, the Spirit ever enabling his soul to reject it; so death took him, but could not prevail over him, that he should see corruption, the Spirit interposing and raising him to see glory. But we both sin with our flesh, and our flesh, so long as it liveth, cannot cease from sin; and when we die, our flesh shall see corruption, because it hath sinned. The only possibility of righteousness therefore, in this fallen, sinful creature, is by a premature death, so to speak; and this is what the Spirit accomplisheth, enabling us, as it were, with our own hand to slay, not our child, but our very self; and in slaying ourself to slay our children also, so that they shall be born holy, and baptized as it were in our baptism. Mystery most profound, mystery most fruitful, which hath been to me the consolation of many unknown, and unutterable wringings of the heart!
This power which Christ hath to change the very being of the living man, and as it were to strike a mighty power to the extremities of the living flesh, is shewn unto us by the triumphant debate which he made with the powers camped in his flesh, and waging war therein; paralysing them, defeating them, destroying them; and, being so, what remaineth that he cannot do? Is he not able, is he not much more able, being glorified, to beat back, and astonish, and freeze into death, those powers of the devil, the world, and the flesh, that are camped in you and me? Verily, verily, as he hath suffered in the flesh himself, he can arm us with the same mind, that we, suffering in the flesh, may cease from sin. So can he bring us into death, as he brought himself into death; and so are we crucified with him. And we are buried with him; and so our bodies, which could not be united with him in this life, are united with him by death, and rest in this grave until the resurrection. But this mortification of the old man, this putting off of his corruptions and lusts, is not the whole of the Spirit’s work, proceeding from the risen Christ. Yea, I may say, it is only the preparation for his work, only the death and burial unto a resurrection; for we rise with Christ to newness of life, we are planted in the likeness of his death, only that we may be in the likeness of his resurrection. The body, every member of the body, is not only separated from being the members of the harlot flesh, but is betrothed and wedded unto the risen body of Christ. Therefore the Spirit killeth only to make alive. If he sendeth the chill touch of death throughout the bounds of flesh and blood, it is but that he may send the touch of life through the bounds of flesh and blood. He begetteth a life from the dead, in every regenerate man; and where his work is, there is not only the agonies of dying flesh, and the shudder of death, but there is the thrill of life, of immortal life, and the power of an irresistible holiness, and the security of an inviolable peace, and the brightness of an indestructible joy. This change in the spirit of our mind, this prevalency of the risen powers of creation in Christ’s hand, wielded over the powers of the fallen creation, resting still in Satan’s withered hand, is the manifestation of the Father’s electing love, in the heart of every chosen one. And can the man who this possesseth, be ignorant that he possesseth it? and must he go and try its measure by the Ten Commandments? Out upon such an idle tale! The man who hath received this baptism of the Holy Ghost, is a man invested with the holiness of a priest, and with the power of a king, and with the knowledge of a prophet. Light is the habitation of his soul; he dwelleth in light; he is in the light. He is holy, as saith the Apostle, and cannot sin, because he is born of God. The flesh, by reason of unbelief and traffic with the law, may awake and sin, yea and attain unto such a prurient lustfulness, as that it may be necessary for the church to give such an one to Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that his Spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord: and such an one may be brought into deep waters; and great straits, and doubts, and perplexities may beset him round: but whence are these doubts? from the devil. And why hath the devil power against him? Because he believeth not that Christ hath bruised his head. How shall such an one be delivered? By doing fo him what I have now been attempting; even by shewing him the common reconciliation, and so leading him onwards into the knowledge, or rather the mystery, of God’s election, and of the Spirit’s procession through Christ to work in him the death unto sin, and the resurrection unto holiness.”