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Spiritual appetite – Sinclair Ferguson

December 24, 2011 Comments off

Sinclair Ferguson

The Book of Psalms has been described as ‘an anatomy of all the parts of the soul’. It is an excellent description. For what we find in the Psalms is a description and analysis of the spiritual life. Nothing is hidden from us. ‘Highs’ and ‘lows’ are alike recorded. That is why, when we read the Psalms, we are often amazed by the way they present a mirror-image of our own experiences and condition.

In the Psalms we see a description of our own experience. But sometimes we also recognise a description of new experiences. These provide insights and guidelines for us, to teach us what to anticipate. Some psalms are really saying to us: ‘This is how God may work. Be prepared to recognise his hand in your life in similar experiences’. Such is the case with Psalms 42 and 43. They are unusually appropriate at this juncture of our thinking about spiritual growth.

These two psalms belong together. Psalm 43 is one of only two psalms in the second book of the Psalter (Ps. 42-72) which has no title. The reason probably is that at one time it was joined with Psalm 42. The theme of both psalms is the same. Indeed you will probably have noticed that there is a chorus or refrain running through both of them. (Ps. 42:5, 11; 43:5):

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.

No wonder the message of these psalms has often been taken to be ‘counsel’ for the spiritually depressed’. They certainly provide such counsel. But that is probably not meant to be the main lesson. For it is characteristic of the Psalms to introduce the chief theme, not in the chorus, but in the opening words. Psalm begins with this statement:

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

Here is someone who is longing to know God! That is an essential part of all true spiritual growth. Of course growing as a Christian involves gaining more knowledge of God’s word; it implies a life of prayer and witness. But these are all the results of something more basic. Being a Christian means knowing God. Growing as a Christian means increasing in our desire to know God. This is the sum of the Christian life. Jesus himself said: ‘This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God’ (Jn. 17:3). The true men and women of faith are ‘the people who know their God’ (Dan. 11:32). That is why, in the Old Testament, one of the anticipated blessings of the new age which the Messiah would inaugurate was that then men and women would ‘know the Lord’ (Jer. 3 1:34).

This is the heart of the Christian life. It is fundamental to all spiritual growth. If we are not growing in the knowledge of God, we are not growing at all.

Does it sound churlish to suggest that our greatest weakness today as Christians (young and old) lies here? That was the complaint of Hosea about his church. God’s people were destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hos. 4:6). Similarly we tend to be a generation of Christians who major on minor matters but do not seem to possess the true measure of the gospel in the knowledge of God. We do not really know God. At best we know about him.

The man who wrote Psalms 42 and 43 may once have been content with a similar level of spiritual experience. But then God began to order his circumstances in such a way that a new desire to grow spiritually filled his horizon. He began to long to know God. He describes his experience in three stages.

LONGING TO KNOW GOD

What is it like to have a desire to know God? These Psalms indicate that it can be an exceedingly painful and disturbing thing. This man felt he was cast down. He realised that he did not know God as he needed to:

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?

Perhaps in his earlier days he had known the presence of God in powerful ways. But now his spirit felt barren and dry. It was parched, and he was crying out for the dew of God’s presence to come to revive and restore him.

It is a great temptation, looking at this man’s condition, to say that he was simply a defeated and disobedient child of God — a backslider. Yet he makes no mention of repentance, or of any specific sin which is barring him from the presence of God. This is not a penitential psalm. Indeed, in some ways the reverse is true. For here is a man who can address God as ‘my Rock’ (v. 9). He is thinking of God as his shelter and protection — as a Crag in which he can hide to find shelter and protection from his enemies. ‘At night’, he confesses, ‘his song is with me’ (v. 8). Hardly the words of a backslider!

God had begun to break up the fallow ground in his spirit (Jer. 4:3; Hos. 10:12). He plans to bring him on to a new stage of spiritual experience. As in ordinary life, so in spiritual life, we experience not only the traumas of birth, but the struggles of growing out of one stage into another stage of life.

But what were the means God employed in his life to bring about this new state of affairs? And, correspondingly, what pattern of experiences may we anticipate he will employ in our lives to bring us into a growing knowledge of him and his ways with us?

SPIRITUAL DESIRES AWAKENED

There are three things which God began to use:

(i) Memories of the past. As he called to God in his perplexity, he said: ‘These things I remember as I pour out my soul’. What did he remember?

In his mind’s eye he was back in Jerusalem. He saw the crowds of pilgrims at one of the great festival services: ‘I used to go with the multitude’. He remembered the atmosphere: ‘shouts of joy and thanksgiving’. He himself was at the head of the procession (v. 4). It all comes flooding back to him — he even uses a rare word in the original to describe the picture of the short, careful steps it is always necessary to take in a vast crowd to avoid everyone stepping on each other. Yes, those were wonderful days!

Sometimes looking back like that can be a symptom of spiritual decay. If all our hopes, all our finest experiences lie in the past and all we do is to complain that things are no longer what they once were, it usually is a sign of personal spiritual decay. But that was not the case with this man. He was remembering the grace and power of God’s presence with his people for a specific reason: to stir up his soul to long for and anticipate it again. That is one of the things a memory is for!

When Paul was concerned about the spiritual growth of his young friend Timothy, he encouraged him to use his memory. Remember the day we laid our hands on you, Paul said. Think of that occasion when the Holy Spirit set you apart through us. Do you not recall how God sealed your calling and wonderfully blessed you? Do you not remember how you gave yourself to the Lord out of a sense of his goodness to you? Remember that hour, Timothy, and let its memory stir you up to seek and to serve God now (see 2 Tim. 1:6-7; 1 Tim. 4:14).

Many of us have similar memories of times and places of unusual blessing in our lives. George Whitefield the great 18th century evangelist used to say that when he returned to Oxford University (where he had studied) he always wanted to go to the spot where he had been converted and kiss the ground. The memory of what God had done for him had proved to be such a great source of continuing blessing that this was the only way he felt he could express his gratitude!

I remember meeting a very elderly Christian in the far north of Scotland. For many years there had been little faithful preaching of Christ in the area where he had his croft. I wondered how he had managed to keep his spiritual fervour (Rom. 12:11). He told me of an event in his teens which had made such an impression on him that he had found enormous encouragement for many years simply by remembering it. At that time the Lord’s supper was celebrated only twice each year. The congregation gathered for several days of special services. On the Sunday afternoon, he had gone out to the back of his father’s croft, and was astonished to discover the ground covered in black. Scarcely a blade of grass was to be seen. ‘It was’, he explained, ‘because the men all wore black suits, and they were kneeling and bowing together in prayer outside the house, calling on God for “the divine unction”. There had been such a sense of the Lord’s presence that he had never forgotten the occasion. Since then he had continued to long to know the Lord more and more.

Do you have a memory of meeting with God like this? Is it as clear in your mind as the memories which the psalmist was recalling? Then let your memory accomplish what God means it to: let it create in you a thirst, a longing, a fresh desire to know God and to sense his presence with you the way you did then.

(ii) Isolation in the present. Why was it that all these things were just memories? He tells us: ‘I will remember you from the land of Jordan, the heights of Hermon — from Mount Mizar’. The reason he has only recollections is that he is now far away from the scenes of his former blessing. He is miles from Jerusalem, isolated in the highlands. He is cut off from the thriving fellowship of God’s people he once knew; he no longer is able to benefit from the various ministries he had formerly enjoyed. There were few resources here to encourage his spiritual growth; few friends with whom to share fellowship with God.

The problem was magnified by another factor. There, in Jerusalem, he had been more than simply one among many. He had been a leader, perhaps the leader: ‘These things I remember . . . how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God (Ps. 42:4).

He was not the last to go through such an acute sense of isolation. How many missionaries experience this! At home they played key roles in their own Christian fellowships. They were leaders. But, removed across the face of the earth, far from being leaders they cannot even speak the language of the people. For many months they may feel they are less than members, never mind leaders. When they return home they may experience exactly the same in reverse. While they have been labouring overseas their contemporaries have moved on in life another four years or more. Returning missionaries do not ‘fit in’ quite so easily as before. Even their own church is at a different stage of development, of which they may no longer feel an integral part.

But we do not need to go overseas to experience isolation. Any major readjustment in our life-style can have this effect of making us feel distanced, disorientated, no longer fulfilling a strategic, purposeful role in our Christian lives. A change of job, of house, of neighbourhood can do this. Bereavement, children leaving home, retirement can all do the same.

What did God want to teach the psalmist? What does he want to teach us in similar situations? God wants to teach us lessons in isolation which he does not teach us, or which we cannot learn, in fellowship. In our loneliness and separation from God’s people we may learn to look to God, trust in God, desire God’s presence. We discover that in the past we have relied too much on the encouragement of others and insufficiently on the Lord himself. While before we knew God (quite legitimately) through the help of our fellow Christians, now we must learn to know him in isolation from them.

This is why the psalm is called a Maskil, that is a song of instruction. The writer is saying to us: this is what God taught me through my experience; it is what he may want to teach you too.

(iii) Hostility in the environment. He is like a deer roving over the crags and rocks in the height of summer looking for water with which to slake his thirst. But he feels more than thirsty; he feels pursued:

As pants the hart for cooling streams,
When heated in the chase,
So longs my soul, O God, for thee
And thy refreshing grace.

There are several indications of this in what he says. People say to him: ‘Where is your God?’ (v. 3). He goes about mourning, ‘oppressed by the enemy’ (v. 9). He prays to be rescued ‘from deceitful and wicked men’ (Ps. 43:1). No wonder he felt that God had cast him off (Ps. 43:2). He must have felt as though God were digging his spiritual grave. He could not stand the pressure much longer. ‘Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause’, he cried (Ps. 43:1).

What was happening to him? There are several strands to be untangled in his experience. God was showing him how much he needed to depend on him for protection. Perhaps at an earlier stage in his experience he felt that he could hold his own with anyone who opposed his faith. Now he was discovering how vulnerable he was. Perhaps too he had taken an altogether too confident view of his own ability to stand firm against the forces of darkness. Now he was beginning to realise that belonging to the kingdom of God meant being a target for the attacks of the Devil. He goes around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). He had sent his emissaries to attack this man. He needed help!

Yet none of this lay outside the control of God himself. While the psalmist felt that God was digging his grave he was only partly right. In a sense he was. God was wanting him to come to an end of himself and his self-confidence. That is always the place where the true knowledge of God begins. But it was not really a grave God was digging at all. It was a well! For out of the depths of this experience would flow a river of spiritual blessing for him, and through him to others. Through it all he was coming to know God. No price was too great to pay for that.

Sometimes we sing:

I thirst, I sigh, I faint to prove
The greatness of redeeming love,
The love of Christ to me.

What we tend to learn all too slowly is that sometimes we do have to thirst, sigh and faint if we are to prove it.

This writer did prove it. So he shares with us one final thing:

SATISFACTION

His testimony is this. He prayed for spiritual satisfaction. In particular he focused his prayers on the twin means by which God would bring this into his life:

Send forth your light and your truth,
let them guide me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.
Then will I go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the harp,
O God, my God.

(Ps. 43:3-4)

What were the means he expected God to use in order to bring him to a deeper knowledge of him?

(i) The word of God. He prays for God’s light and truth. God’s word serves as a lamp to our feet and a light for our path (Ps. 119:105). So a later psalm confesses:

The entrance of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
I open my mouth and pant,
longing for your commands.

(Ps. 119:130-1)

What does he mean? Of course he is missing the opportunity to read God’s word with others. He has no access to the exposition of God’s word in public. But he is wanting much more than the restoration of these lost opportunities. He is asking for God to send forth his light and truth. He is looking for ‘the entrance of your words’.

When we become Christians we are brought out of darkness into God’s marvellous light (1 Pet. 2:9). God, who at creation said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, has shined in our hearts to bring us to know him through Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). Formerly we were darkness, but now we are light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8). One of the things which accompanies this is the penetration of God’s truth into our minds, consciences and hearts. We see our lives in his light for the first time. We are brought to see the kingdom of God for the first time (Jn. 3:3), and we are given a radically new interpretation of our own lives. Illumination, enlightenment takes place (cf. Heb. 6:4).

It is common for young Christians to experience this effect of God’s word regularly. There is so much that is new to learn. I have never forgotten the first occasion on which I heard someone preach on the idea that every Christian is a ‘saint’ according to the New Testament; nor the first time that I appreciated that I was ‘in Christ’. These new truths about our lives as Christians often come to us with unforgettable force.

Accompanying this illumination of the mind there is a deliverance and cleansing in our lives. Chains which formerly bound us, habits which we could not break seem to be overwhelmed and defeated by God’s power. We are not yet perfect (far from it); but we have begun to taste the powers of the age to come (Heb. 6:5). We are new creatures:

At times with sudden glory,
He speaks, and all is done;
Without one stroke of battle
The victory is won,
While we, with joy beholding,
Can scarce believe it true
That even our kingly Jesus
Can form such hearts anew

 — Charitie Lees de Chenez

But it is not only in the lives of recent converts that God is able to do this. He can speak with unusual power whenever he pleases. He can bring fresh illumination, delivering grace, strong assurance. The psalmist was praying for this. There are times in our experience when ordinary means of growth need to be accompanied by special illumination from God if we are ever to make any significant progress. It was such a time in this man’s life. It may also be in our lives too.

(ii) The worship of God. Having prayed for God to come to him, he vows that in response he will come to God. He will climb God’s ‘holy mountain’ (v. 3); he will go to the altar of God; he will find God as ‘my joy and my delight’ (v. 4).

He has now discovered, as we shall discover, that all the experiences of life are ordered by the Lord for one great purpose. Trials and difficulties especially have this purpose in view. It is that we should be brought into the presence of God, so that we worship him with all our hearts. That is an authentic sign of spiritual growth.

There is a special significance in the order of these words: he climbs the hill; he goes to the altar; he discovers God as his great joy. He is thinking of coming to Jerusalem, where God has promised to reveal himself in his temple. He is thinking of drawing near to God at the place where sacrifice is made. He believes that at the altar, because of the sacrifice, he will meet with God in grace and in power.

The order of spiritual experience has not changed since the psalmist’s day. We too need to go to the place where God has promised to meet with us. That is no longer in Jerusalem. It is in Christ. No longer in a place, but now in a person (cf. Jn. 4:21ff). We too need to climb the hill to God — the hill of Calvary, in order to come to Christ in whom alone God makes his presence known to us.

What do we find there? We too find an altar, a place of sacrifice — the cross. We find a victim — our Lord Jesus Christ. We are called to present our bodies on the altar as thank-offerings for his sacrifice for us. This is our spiritual worship (see Rom. 12:1, 2). Only then shall we discover God as our chief joy.

God has made us to ‘glorify and enjoy him forever’. Are we afraid of the cost of glorifying him? Have we never experienced the bliss of enjoying him here and now? We need a new willingness to sacrifice our lives to him and for him, in order that we may know him fully.

We came upon the writer of Psalms 42 and 43 picturing himself as a thirsty seeker. He longed to know God. We leave him as one who has begun to discover the blessings of a promise which he never heard, but which is so familiar to us.

Jesus said: If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. (Jn. 7:37)

He said: Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (Jn. 4:14)

Since we have ‘better promises’ (Heb. 8:6), let us follow on to know the Lord (Heb. 6:1-3).

The first step forward in knowing God better is the awareness that you do not yet know him fully. It is ‘thirsting’ for God. It is discovering that he has water which can satisfy our deepest longings. It is saying to him: ‘Lord, give me this water’ (Jn. 4:15).

Do you know God? Do you realise how little you know him? Do you want to grow? Are you willing for all that is involved? We shall see in the next chapter just exactly what is involved in knowing God better.

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A divine and supernatural light immediately imparted to the soul by the Spirit of God shown to be both Scriptual and rational doctrine (exerpt) – Jonathan Edwards

December 18, 2011 Comments off

All Should Seek This Divine and Supernatural Light

Thirdly, All may hence be exhorted earnestly to seek this spiritual light. To influence and move to it, the following things may be considered.

1. This is the most excellent and divine wisdom that any creature is capable of. It is more excellent than any human learning; it is far more excellent than all the knowledge of the greatest philosophers or statesmen. Yea, the least glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Christ doth more exalt and ennoble the soul, than all the knowledge of those that have the greatest speculative understanding in divinity without grace. This knowledge has the most noble object that is or can be, viz., the divine glory or excellency of God and Christ. The knowledge of these objects is that wherein consists the most excellent knowledge of the angels, yea, of God himself.

2. This knowledge is that which is above all others sweet and joyful. Men have a great deal of pleasure in human knowledge, in studies of natural things; but this is nothing to that joy  which arises from this divine light shining into the soul. This light gives a view of those  things that are immensely the most exquisitely beautiful, and capable of delighting the eye of the understanding. This spiritual light is the dawning of the light of glory in the heart. There is nothing so   powerful as this to support persons in affliction, and to give the mind peace and brightness in this stormy and dark world.

3. This light is such as effectually influences the inclination, and changes the nature of the soul. It assimilates the nature to the divine nature, and changes the soul into an image of the same glory that is beheld. 2 Cor. 3:18, “But we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” This knowledge will wean from the world, and raise the inclination to heavenly things. It will turn the heart to God as the fountain of good, and to choose him for the only portion. This light, and this only, will bring the soul to a saving close with Christ. It conforms the heart to the gospel, mortifies its enmity and opposition against the scheme of salvation  therein revealed: it causes the heart to embrace the joyful tidings, and entirely to adhere to, and acquiesce in the revelation of Christ as our Saviour: it causes the whole soul to accord and symphonize with it, admitting it with entire credit and respect cleaving to it with full inclination and affection; and it effectually disposes the soul to give up itself entirely to Christ.

4. This light, and this only, has its fruit in a universal holiness of life. No merely notional or speculative understanding of the doctrines of religion will ever bring to this. But this light, as it reaches the bottom of the heart, and changes the nature, so it will effectually dispose to a universal obedience. It shows God’s worthiness to be obeyed and served. It draws forth the heart in a sincere love to God, which is the only principle of a true, gracious, and universal obedience; and it convinces of the reality of those glorious rewards that God has promised to them that obey him.

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The old and the new man in believers

January 6, 2011 Comments off

THE OLD AND THE NEW MAN IN BELIEVERS

by Thomas Boston

A Sermon preached, on a sacramental occasion, at Maxton, in the year 1729

“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Romans vi.6

The sanctification of sinners is no less a mystery than their justification: the former springing out of the cross of Christ unto them, through the intervention of faith knitting the sinner to a crucified Christ, as well as the latter. Hence the apostle — having asserted the insurance of the sanctification of believers, that they shall certainly walk in “newness of life,” ver. 4; in “the likeness of Christ’s resurrection,” ver. 5, i.e. as Christ, during the forty days after his resurrection, lived in the world after a new manner, very different from his manner of life in it before his death — brings the ground of it from the cross of Christ, in the words of the text. In which we have,

1. The ground insuring holiness of life in believers united to Christ, “Our old man is crucified with him.” This secures their holiness of life, in such manner as the drying up of the fountain doth the drying up of the streams.

(1) The state the fountain of sin is in believers, “Our old man is crucified with him.” This supposeth that Christ was crucified; that in believers there is a twofold man, a new man, and an old; for while he saith, “our old man,” he intimates that the old man is not the whole man, as in the unregenerate. The new man is the new creature of grace in the believer, or he as renewed. The old man is the corruption of nature, or he as unrenewed.

This old man is the fountain of sin in his heart and life.

Now, the state it is in is a state of crucifixion; it is nailed to the cross, which is a state of death. And its crucifixion is a concrucifixion with Christ, Gal. ii. 20. “I am crucified with Christ.” In so far as the believer is by faith united to Christ, his old man is nailed to the cross of Christ, to fare here as Christ fared: and that was heavy fare.

(2) The issue of this state of the fountain of sin in believers. It is twofold.

1st, The final issue, “That the body of sin might be destroyed.”

The old man is the body of sin, being a complication of the several sinful lusts opposite to the holy law, as the body is of members competent to the human frame. Now, the final issue of this state of the old man, the body of sin, is its destruction and utter ruin.

Crucifixion is not present death indeed, but it is sure and certain death. Pilate would have “chastised Christ, and released him,” Luke xxiii. 16. but the Jews would have him crucified, for that would carry him quite away from among them: even so the old man’ is not to be corrected and amended, but destroyed quite and clean.

2dly, The intermediate issue, “That henceforth we should not serve sin;” that from the moment of our union with Christ we should not serve sin any more, voluntarily living in it, and giving up ourselves to it as its servants, to live and act for satisfying it, as we did before. The old man may live long on the cross before he be destroyed: but then his hands and feet cannot serve him as they did before, there are nails driven through them; he may move them indeed, but then it is with pain and difficulty. So was it with Christ; he behoved to recommend his mother to the care of his beloved disciple John, for that his own hands and feet were not at liberty to act and go for her as formerly.

2. The certainty concerning this ground, “Knowing this.” It is not a matter of uncertain hope, but known for truth. It could not be known by sense; no bodily eye could discern our old man on the cross with Christ: nor yet by rational deduction from natural principles; for the whole mystery of Christ is supernatural. Therefore it is known by faith upon divine testimony; it is a conclusion of faith to be laid down for invigorating us in all our endeavours after holiness of life, and to be firmly held and stuck by in all our struggles with the old man, as ever we would desire to make head against him.

That I may touch the several purposes of this text, I shall offer them in several doctrines to be briefly handled.

DOCTRINE I. There is in believers united to Christ a new man, a holy principle; and an old man, a fountain of sin.

I. Why the holy principle and the corrupt nature in believers are called the new and old man?

1. They are called men, because each of them possesseth the whole man, though not wholly. There are by their means two I’s in every believer, Rom. vii. 15. “For that which I do, I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate that do I.” There is not one part of the man that is in Christ, but grace has a part of it, and corruption has a part of it: as in the twilight there is light over all, and darkness over all too, the darkness being mixed in every part with the light. So my renewed part is I, a man having an understanding enlightened, a will renewed, affections spiritualized, using my body conformably: but my unrenewed part is I too, having an understanding darkened, a will rebellious, affections corrupted, and using my body accordingly.

2. They are called the new and old man, for two reasons.

(1) Because the new nature is brought in upon the corrupt principle, which was the first possessor. The corrupt nature is of the same standing with ourselves from the conception and birth, and possessed us alone till our union with Christ by faith. And then only came in the new nature, and that made the former old.

(2) Because of their different originals; the one being in us from the corrupt first Adam, the other from the holy second Adam. So the believer, looking on the corruption of his nature, may call fallen Adam father; and on the new creature in him, he may call Christ father. The second Adam coming after the first, made the first old: so the produce of them in us is the old and new man accordingly.

II. How the believer comes to be thus split in two, two men. This is done by virtue of his union with Christ, from whence ariseth a communication of grace to him from Christ, 1 Cor. i. 30. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” Concerning which two things are to be noted.

1. That in the moment of one’s union with Christ by faith, there is communicated to him, out of the fulness of grace in the man Christ, a measure of every grace in him, as the wax impressed receives every point in the seal, John i. 16. “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” Eph. iv. 13. “Till we all come — unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” And thus is the new creature formed, being a new man perfect in parts, entire or having all its members, no grace totally wanting.

Hence it is that the new man is formed immediately after Christ’s image, so that it is the very picture of the man Christ, as Eve was of Adam. Therefore the forming of it is said to be the forming of Christ in the believer, Gal. iv. 19.

2. That yet there is not then, nor during this life, communicated to the believer a full measure of any grace, 1 Cor. xiii. 9. “For we know in part.” So all the graces being imperfect, though they remove sin as far as they go, they cannot fill up the room in any part, mind, will, or affections. And thus is there an old man left in the believer still, Rom. vii. 14. which is the image of the first Adam, from whom the corruption composing it is derived.

USE 1. Hence see, that the believer’s life while here cannot miss to be a struggling life, Gal. v. 17. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

The believer is like Rebekah in another case, the two men struggle in him; and like the two armies in the Shulamite.

2. See here the rise of the peace and easy life of it most men have. The flesh in them has no competitor. In the state of glory, grace has all, so there is a perfect peace: in the state of nature, corruption has all; so there is peace too; except what is marred by the struggle between the flesh in one part lusting, and the flesh in another part fearing, as in Balaam, 2 Pet. ii. 15. “who loved the wages of unrighteousness.” Compared with Numb. xxii. 18. “If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more.” Whereas the struggle in the believer is betwixt the flesh and Spirit in the same part willing, and willing the same thing of their proper motion, Rom. vii. 15, 16. forecited.

DOCT. II. The old man in believers is a body of sin, an entire body, lacking none of its members, Rom. vii. 24. “O wretched man that I am I who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” This appears from the account of it already given. As we derive every grace from the second Adam in our regeneration, so every corruption from the first Adam in our natural generation.

USE 1. This may serve to humble believers, when they are at their best. There is an entire body of sin in them while they are here. Do they excel in any grace? yet there is in them a member of the old man opposite to it, as passion in meek Moses. Have they every grace in them? They have every corruption too, though every one does not appear, more than every grace. Therefore they have need to watch against all sin whatsoever; for there is never a snare in the ill world but there is a member of the old man ready to fall in with it, Col. iii. 5. “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness,” &c.

2. No wonder the believer groans being burdened, having a whole body of sin carrying about with him. And they that groan not under it are certainly all flesh; no new man in them. If ye belong to Christ ye cannot want an errand to him for sanctification. Ye have a body of sin to lay before him, which he alone can destroy.

DOCT. III. The old man in believers is crucified with Christ. This bears two things.

I. Christ was crucified. He not only died for us, but died for us the cursed, painful, shameful, lingering death on the tree of the cross; which we are met to commemorate.

Christ was put to this death for us, rather than another kind of death.

1st, That the first sin that let in all sin into the world might be the more clearly read in the punishment. When ye consider the awful and tremendous dispensation of the Son of God, the second Adam, hanging naked on a tree, and dying there at great leisure in exquisite pain, can ye miss to see the fiery wrath of God against the sin of that naked pair in paradise, pleasuring themselves in the fruit of the forbidden tree, and in an instant defacing the image of God in them?

2dly, That the whole world might see what a low and hard state Christ took on him, putting himself in our room. We were bond-men under the curse, and Christ took on him our state of servitude, and that under the curse becoming a bond-man for us under the curse, Philip. ii. 7. “He took upon him the form of a servant.” Hereof the death on the cross was the sign and badge, being the punishment of slaves, and accursed in the law. And to make way for this circumstance, the Jews were subjected to the Romans.

USE 1. Remember a crucified Christ, enter this night deep into the thought of the Son of God hanging, groaning, dying on a cross for us. Admire the matchless love in it. Behold the severity of divine justice against sin in it. Prize the salvation so dearly bought, and receive it with thankfulness.

2. Think not strange, if ye have a crucified life in the world. If ye are Christians, followers of Jesus, why should ye think strange of it, to be thus conformed to your head?

II. The old man in believers is crucified together with him. Here we are to inquire how it is crucified with him; which take in the following particulars.

1. Christ hung on the cross as a public person, a representative of his spiritual seed. For he was the second Adam suffering, as the other the first Adam sinning. So that as they sinned in Adam, they suffered in Christ; the law having them all on the cross in Christ their representative, Gal. ii. 20. “I am crucified with Christ.”

2. Christ hanging on the cross had the body of all their sins upon him, your old man, and my old man. They were on him by the imputation of the guilt of them, though not inherent in him, 2 Cor. v. 21. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Therefore our old man is said to be crucified, not in him, but with him.

3. While he was hanging on the cross, he was meritoriously doing away the guilt of them, and consequently the power, pollution, and very being thereof; inasmuch as the guilt being removed, these must cease of course. For the strength of sin is the law, whereby it stakes down the sinner under the curse, 1 Cor. xv. 56.

4. The sinner being united to Christ by faith, the merit and virtue, of Christ’s suffering on the cross is actually applied to him. So that, his guilt being removed, there is a reigning principle of grace planted in him, going through the whole man, whereby the dominion of sin is broken, Rom. vi. 14 and the pollution removed so far as that new man goes, Tit. iii. 5. So that the believer is an image of Christ on the cross, full of grace in him, and of sin on him; but the former working off the latter.

USE 1. See then, O communicants, that the crucifying of the old man, the body of sin in you, depends entirely on your uniting with Christ by faith. The sacrament is appointed to seal and strengthen that union. Therefore your great business at the table should be, closely to knit with a crucified Christ. The more of that, the more will the death of sin be hastened on. And they that aim not at the destruction of sin in their communicating, while they pretend to remember a crucified Saviour, forget the end of his crucifixion, viz, that the body of sin, being crucified with him, might be destroyed.

2. The old man in believers is in a state of death, though not dead outright. It is crucified with Christ. It may move and stir in them, and vehement struggles it may make, as a dying man struggling with the mortal disease: but whatever efforts it make, it is on the cross, whence it shall not come down till it breathe out its last.

3. The practice of religion is painful work; and Christians must not think it strange, that oft-times they are pained to the heart in it. The saints in glory have no pain in their work; for the old man is destroyed in them: but the saints here have an unrenewed part; and that is on the cross, and cannot but pain them. There are right eyes in them to be plucked out; the man has a painful struggle in denying himself, crossing his own inclinations, wrestling against his own flesh and blood. Providence thrusts a spear into the old man’s side, by piercing trials and troubles; it breaks his legs by cutting disappointments from many airths, to forward his death. This cannot be but painful.

4. The old man is long a-dying out; for crucifying is a lingering death. There must be an exercise of patience in the Christian course; for there may be many a battle ere the complete victory be got. Many a wound the old man will take ere he fall; and after he is worsted again and again, he will get up and renew the battle, till he get the final stroke from the Lord’s immediate hand.

It is a grave question, Why doth the Lord suffer the old man of sin to dwell in his people after their conversion? Why is not sin quite expelled at the first entry of grace? Our text affords one weighty reason for it, viz, that the members may be conformed to the head. Christ did not put off the body of our sins, that by imputation lay on him, at his very first encounter with it: nay, he had a grievous struggle with it for the space of three hours on the cross, till he himself got the first fall, dying by its hand on the cross. Nay, if we reckon rightly, it lay heavy on him the space of thirty-three years; only upon the cross was the heat of the battle, which ended in his death and burial, whereby he put it off quite and clean. So, since imputed sin was on Christ the head all his life, inherent sin is left in believers, the members, all their life. The old man is crucified with him.

DOCTRINE IV. By virtue of the cross of Christ, the old, man in believers shall certainly be destroyed quite and clean at length. Here we may inquire,

I. What destruction is that that is certainly abiding on the old man in believers? It is an utter destruction of it, with all effects of it, all marks and vestiges of it, all belonging with it to the old Adam.

1. The old man himself shall be destroyed, utterly destroyed, out of all that are Christ’s; so that though he has many a time trode them like a field of battle, there shall not be in them the least print of his feet to be discerned, Heb. xii. 23. “The spirits of just men made perfect.” The day will come, when there shall not be the least guilt of it on them, to draw a frown from their Father’s face against them, (Is. xxxiii. ult. “The people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity”); when it shall have no power to prevail over them in the least: nay, when it shall no more have an indwelling in them, Heb. xii. 23. forecited; but shall be utterly cast forth as an abominable branch. So the new man shall possess all alone, without a competitor for ever.

2. The sinful vile body derived from old Adam, which brought him down from Adam to us, Psal. li. 5. and continues to the end the best friend he has in believers, shall be destroyed for his sake. The soul shall leave the sinful flesh to be carried into the grave, where it shall rot and consume, till it return to the dust again, so as not the least lineament of old Adam’s image or likeness shall be discerned on it. And Christ will take the same dust thus purified, and form it anew after his own likeness as second Adam, Phil. iii. 21.

3. The visible heavens that covered him, and this earth that bore him, and furnished fuel to his lusts, shall for his sake be set on flames, and reduced to ashes, 2 Pet. iii. 10. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burnt up.” Compare Gen. iii. 17. “Cursed is the ground for thy sake.” So that it shall no more for ever be to be said, There is the earth where the old man some time lived, and there the heavens that gave him light and air. But Christ will make new heavens and a new earth for the new man, 2 Pet. iii. 13. “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

4. Lastly, All that shall remain of him shall be buried in hell, Rev. xx. 14. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.” Old Adam brought in the old man into the world, and he spread his poisonous efficacy over all: so that look where ye will, ye shall not see in all this world that in which there is not sin, or some effect of sin. But then all shall be gathered from off believers, and from off the now groaning creatures, and cast into the lake of fire; so that there shall not be the least sin, nor effect of sin, without the boundaries of hell.

II. When will the old man be thus destroyed? You will easily conceive, from what is said, that destruction will have two periods.

1. At the death of the believer, and not till then. Till then the child of God must wrestle on with it; for so did Christ with it as imputed to him, till death set him, free. It is a grave question, how come believers to die being freed from the curse of the covenant of works?

ANSWER. They die in conformity to Christ their head; that as death came in by sin, sin may go off by death. It is not dying that does it indeed; for sin goes through death in them that are out of Christ, not moved from off them for all that death can do. But at death, Christ gives the redding stroke betwixt the new and old man, kills the old man outright, as 2 Sam. i. 10. And he does it, by letting in a full measure of every grace from himself into the believer, which takes up the whole man wholly; and so the old man is gone in a moment, as the darkness upon the sun’s displaying his beams over all.

2. At the end of the world. Then comes the utter abolition of all vestiges of it out of hell.

III. The certainty of it. It is even as sure as the death of Christ could merit its destruction, and as the end of his death cannot be frustrated, and as he rose again from the dead free from the imputed guilt of it, and sits in heaven to-day without sin so much as imputed to him.

USE. Let the saints then take courage, and renew the battle vigorously with the old man; for the victory will undoubtedly fall to their side. And as for you that are still for keeping the old man’s head and heart hale; as ye do interpretatively desire none of Christ’s cross, it is an argument ye have as little saving interest in it.

DOCTRINE V. In the meantime, till the old man be destroyed quite and clean by virtue of the cross of Christ, by virtue of the same cross the believer shall not be a servant to the old man more. That is the present piece of freedom from it the believer has.

1. The believer has heartily given up with him for a master. Some time he said, as Exod. xxi. 5. “I love my master, — I will not go out free.” But now he hates him mortally, and would fain be altogether free at any rate, Rom. vii. 24. “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” The very being in the house with the old man is a burden.

2. He will get no work, but forced work, off his hand more, Rom. vii. 15. “For that which I do, I allow not,” &c. He will not yield his members to the old man voluntarily, as before, chap. vi. 13. “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin.” He will never get work with whole good will at his hand more, but half will at most.

USE. This writes death to such as have given their hand to Christ at his table, and are ready to go back into the service of their lusts. If from henceforth ye enter not into a struggling life against sin, ye have not felt the virtue of Christ’s cross.

DOCTRINE VI. ult. Believers should go out against the old man in acts of holiness, in the faith that he is a crucified man; i.e. Believe your old: man is crucified with Christ, and in this belief bestir yourself against him in the use of appointed means. If you believe it not, how can your hands be strong, having all to do yourself alone? But believe it firmly, and it will make you as a giant refreshed with wine.

Crucified with Christ – JC Philpot

October 14, 2010 Comments off

Crucifixion with Christ

Preached at the North Street Chapel, Stamford, on Lord’s Day

Morning, August 19, 1860

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20

The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest mystery of divine wisdom and Almighty power, of eternal love and superabounding grace, which could ever have been displayed before the eyes of men or angels. I call it a mystery, not only as incomprehensible by natural intellect, but because the very essence of a mystery, in the Scripture sense of the term, is to be hidden from some and revealed to others. Thus the Lord said to his disciples when they asked him why he spake unto the multitude in parables, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.”

(Matt. 13:11.) In the same spirit he on another occasion said, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.” (Luke 10:21.) The cross, then, is a mystery, not only as enfolding in its bosom the deepest treasures of heavenly wisdom and grace, but because the power and wisdom of it are hidden from some, and made known to others. The apostle, therefore, begs of the saints at Ephesus that they would pray for him that utterance might be given unto him that he might open his mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which he was an ambassador in bonds. (Eph. 6:19, 20.) And again he says, “Unto me who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 3:8, 9.) Salvation by the cross was of all doctrines the most offensive, and the most unintelligible. That the promised Messiah should be crucified was unto the Jew, who anticipated a triumphant king, a stumbling block; that a crucified man was the Son of God was to the Greek foolishness, for it contradicted sense and reason. Thus the preaching of the cross was to them that perish foolishness. But there were those whose eyes were divinely enlightened to see, and their hearts opened to believe and receive it. He therefore adds, “But unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18.) Though foolishness to the learned Greek, there were those who saw in the cross a wisdom as much surpassing all other as the midday sun surpasses the faintest star; which made the apostle say, “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Cor. 2:6, 7, 8.) This, then, is the mystery of the cross; this is the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory, that the Son of God, who as God the Son, is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Ghost, should take our nature into union with his own divine Person, and in that nature should suffer, agonize, bleed, and die; that by his sufferings, bloodshedding, and death an innumerable multitude of sinners should be redeemed from the curse of the law and the damnation of hell, and be saved in himself with an everlasting salvation. It is not my present object to enter further into the depth of this mystery as a display of the infinite wisdom, love, and grace of God; but I may briefly say that by the cross of our suffering, dying Lord, justice and mercy were thoroughly harmonised; every attribute of God blessedly glorified; the Son of his love supremely exalted; redemption’s work fully accomplished; the church everlastingly saved; Satan entirely baffled and defeated; and an eternal revenue of praise laid up to redound to the glory of a triune Jehovah. Well then may we say, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God manifest in the flesh.” (1 Tim. 3:16.)

But there never lived a man more deeply penetrated, or more thoroughly and inwardly possessed with a sense of the grace and glory displayed in this mystery than the apostle Paul. Such wisdom and power, such love and grace, such fulness of salvation did he see and feel in the cross, that, as a preacher of the gospel, he was determined to know nothing among men save Jesus Christ and him crucified. United to Christ by a living faith, he could declare, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gal. 6:14.) And knowing experimentally what it was to have sacred fellowship with Christ in his sufferings and death, he could speak of himself as being crucified with him, as if he were so one with Jesus in spirit, so conformed to his suffering image, and so baptized into his death, that it was as if Christ and he were nailed to one and the same cross. “I am crucified,” he says, “with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

In opening up these words, I shall, with God’s blessing, direct your minds, I.—First, to the grand foundation on which the whole of the text rests, as intimated in the last clause—the love and gift of the Son of God.

II.—Secondly, the effect of that being made known to the soul by a divine power: it causes it to be crucified with Christ.

III.—Thirdly, the consequence of this crucifixion with Christ; which is not, as we should expect, death, but rather life:”Nevertheless, I live.”

IV.—Fourthly, that self has no hand in this divine life; “Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

V.—Fifthly, that this life is a life of faith on the Son of God.

I.—Union with Christ is the grand, I may say the sole source and spring of vital godliness; for union must precede communion; and “fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” is indeed the very sum and substance, the very life and power and blessedness of all true religion. What fruit can the branch bear without union with the vine? And is not union maintained as well as manifested by abiding communion? “Abide in me, and I in you.

As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” (John 15:4.) But the original source as well as the closeness and individuality of this union and communion with Christ are pointed out by the language of the apostle, “who loved me and gave himself for me.” He had a testimony in his own breast that the Son of God loved him, and gave himself for him; and it was the sweet enjoyment of this inward assurance of Christ’s personal, individual love to his soul, and the flowing forth of faith and love toward him in return, which enabled him to say in the language of holy fellowship with him, “I am crucified with Christ.”

Now, many of the saints of God may not be so highly favoured as to take up into their lips Paul’s language of strong, personal assurance. They may hope, and at times may rise beyond a hope, into a sweet confidence, by the shining in of the Sun of Righteousness, that the Son of God has loved them and given himself for them. But the strength of Paul’s persuasion and the full expression of his confidence so far out-strip both their  assurance and their language, that many real saints of God confess they come short both in heart and tongue. Yet their coming short of this blessed certainty as an enjoyed reality in the heart, and as a declared confidence by the mouth—for conscience and tongue must move together where God works—does not affect the fact. Clouds and mists sometimes obscure the sun, but they do not blot him out of the sky. So the mists and fogs of unbelief may obscure the Sun of Righteousness, yet they do not blot him out of the spiritual hemisphere. He still loved you and gave himself for you who believe in his name, though you may not be able to rise up to the faith of Paul, or speak with the same fulness of assurance. The bud has the same union with the vine as the branch, but not the same strength of union; the babe is as much a member of the family as the grownup son, but has not the same knowledge of its relationship; the foot is as much a part of the body as the eye or the hand, though it has not the same nearness to the head, or the same honours and employments. If, then, you can find any inward testimony, be it but a rising hope of your interest in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he loved you and gave himself for you, look with me to the three particulars connected with Paul’s expression of his confidence:—First, the Person of “the Son of God.” Secondly, the love which he, as the Son of God, bore to his church. Thirdly, the fruit of that love, in giving himself for her; for that the church was the object both of the love and the gift, is plain enough from the apostle’s words, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Eph. 5:25.)

i. In speaking here of the glorious Person of the Son of God, I do not wish to enter into the field of controversy. In fact, with me, the true, proper, and eternal Sonship of our blessed Lord is not a matter of controversy. I receive it as a most blessed truth, no more to be controverted than the inspiration of the Scriptures, the Deity of Christ, or the Trinity itself. Apart, then, from all controversy, looking at the words in the simplicity of faith, receiving them purely and plainly as the Spirit of God dictated them and left them on record by the hand of Paul, I would ask any child of God here present if they do not in themselves afford sufficient proof that the Son of God was the Son of God from all eternity? If any one doubt this conclusion, and I were to ask him “When did the love of Christ begin?” must not his answer, to be consistent with truth, be, “It had no beginning, for his own words are ‘I have loved thee kith an everlasting love; therefore, with loving-kindness have I drawn thee?'” (Jer. 31:3.) And he would rightly add, “It must from the very nature of God, from the eternity of his purposes and the infinity of his perfections, be eternal, for if this love knew beginning, it could know end.” But Jesus, as the Son of God, loved Paul; for we read, “the Son of God loved me;” if, then, this love was eternal, the Son of God must have been eternal, or he would have loved him as the Son of God before he was the Son of God. Thus, without entering into the field of controversy, to seek there for other arguments, in the simplicity and in the strength of faith, as taking our stand upon this one text, were there no other, we at once say, if the Son of God loved his church from everlasting, he was the Son of God from everlasting. But, to bring this to a practical head, to a close and experimental bearing upon our own conscience, how can we know for ourselves that he is the Son of God who loved us from all eternity, unless we have some knowledge of him as the Son of God from all eternity? This makes me say that I have passed beyond the region of controversy—beyond the Arctic Sea ever shrouded in the chilling mists and fogs of dispute and uncertainty into the Pacific Ocean of a southern hemisphere, where we can look at the Sun of Righteousness as shining in the bright, clear sky. Those who doubt or deny his divine Sonship have never seen his glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Theirs is not the faith of Peter, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16); nor of Nathanael, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God” (John 1:49); nor of Paul, when straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues that he is the Son of God (Acts 9:20); nor can they say with holy John, “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20.) If we are to live a life of faith in the Son of God, we must know him in our own souls to be the Son of God, as John so plainly speaks. If we are to believe that he loved us from all eternity, we must have some knowledge of him as the Son of God from all eternity. But, how can we have this knowledge or this faith unless he is pleased to reveal himself to our soul? As Paul speaks in this very Epistle, “When it pleased God who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me.” (Gal. 1:15, 16.) God revealed his Son in Paul’s heart, and by this revelation he knew for himself that he was the Son of God; for he received him as such into his inmost soul and into his warmest affections. And when the Son of God was thus revealed in his soul, the love of God was shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost; and as that love was shed abroad, it raised up a firm persuasion that the same Son of God loved him, and had loved him from all eternity.

For when the Son of God was revealed, love was revealed in him, and with him, and through him. Yea, the Son of God himself came with such power into his soul, shone into his heart with such heavenly beams, and revealed his love and blood and grace so gloriously and so conspicuously that he could say, in the sweet language of assurance, “the Son of God loved me.”

ii. But look with me at this love. When did this love begin? As I said before, this love knew no beginning; for if this love knew beginning, it might know end; if it knew rise, it might know decline. If you can assign an origin to any thing, you must assign to it a termination; for every thing which in time began to be, may in time cease to be.

1. It was then necessarily eternal; and in this consists its peculiar blessedness, that, being from eternity, it will last to eternity; having no beginning, it will know no end. What would heaven be, if it lasted only a few ages, and then an end, a blank, a dissolution, an annihilation, a ceasing of love? What else but a very ceasing to be? for God being love, the end of his loving would be the end of his being. The very thought, the remotest prospect, would change the anthems of heaven into wailings of mourning and lamentation. It would thoroughly damp, if not fully extinguish the joys of the saints, that they could look forward to a period when those joys would cease, and a Triune God, he who is God the Son, would love them no more.

2. But this love was not only eternal: it was infinite. We speak sometimes of the attributes of God, and we use the words to help our conception. But God, strictly speaking, has no attributes. His attributes are himself. We speak, for instance, of the love of God, but God is love; of the justice of God, but God is just; of the holiness of God, but God is holy; of the purity of God, but God is pure. As he is all love, so he is all justice, all purity, all holiness.

Love, then, is infinite, because God is infinite: his very name, his very character, his very nature, his very essence is infinite love.

He would cease to be God if he did not love, and if that love were not as large as himself, as infinite as his own self-existent, incomprehensible essence. The love of the Son of God as God the Son, is co-equal and coeternal with the love of the Father; for the holy Trinity has not three distinct loves, either in date or degree.

The Father loves from all eternity; the Holy Ghost loves from all eternity. The love of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, as one, equal, indivisible, infinite Jehovah cannot be otherwise but One. We therefore read of “the love of God,” that is the Father (2 Cor. 13:14); of “the love of the Son,” in our text; and of “the love of the Spirit.” (Rom. 15:30.) This love being infinite, can bear with all our infirmities, with all those grievous sins that would, unless that love were boundless, have long ago broken it utterly through. This is beautifully expressed by the prophet. “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man.” (Hosea 11:8, 9.).

3. But this love is also unchangeable, “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Mal. 3:6.) “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.” (Heb. 13:8.) Thus this love knows neither variableness nor shadow of turning: but is always fixed on the same objects, without the least change, the least augmentation, or the least declension. It is hard to conceive love that knows no variation, if we measure the love of God by our own. We are naturally mutable creatures, overwhelmed by infirmities through the fall, and, therefore, ever subject to changes; but he changeth not.

Our love to him is ever sinking or rising, as fluctuating as the tides of the sea, as variable as the winds in the sky; but his love to us, whose hearts he has touched by his grace, is as immutable as his own immutable Being.

4. And from this circumstance his love is indissoluble. Our love to each other is soon dissolved. How a little strife, a little envy, a little difference of opinion, an angry word, or a reported tale, may alienate our affections from one another! How soon jealousy, suspicion, or dislike may creep into our warmest feelings and sever the closest ties! Were we to review the chains which have bound us at various times to our warmest friends, how many would lie upon the ground with broken links; links, alas! so severed as to yield scarce any prospect of re-union in this timestate.

I fully admit that a spiritual union is never really broken; but Christian communion and that sweet intercourse which should exist among brethren are often so interrupted that they seem almost utterly gone. What would be our condition for time or for eternity if the love of Christ to us resembled our love to each other? But one of the sweetest features of the love of the Son of God to his saints is, that it is indissoluble.

III. But, now let us look at the fruits, and results of that love wherewith Christ loved his church. And what heart can conceive or what tongue express the height, the depth, the length, and the breadth of that love? As the apostle speaks, “that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge?” (Eph. 3:17, 18.) Could he have afforded a greater, a richer, a clearer evidence of this love than by giving himself for us? There is something in this expression which seems to outstrip all conception and all expression. As viewed by faith, there is something so large, so comprehensive, and yet so inexpressibly touching in the words “gave himself for me,” that I despair of bringing it before your minds as my heart could desire. But let us make the attempt; and in doing so let us first, if the Lord enable, take a view by faith of the Son of God as lying in the bosom of

the Father from all eternity as his only-begotten Son. If thus enabled to contemplate the glories of heaven, the bliss and blessedness that fill those celestial courts, the sweet employments ever going on in the worship and adoration of angels, and what far surpasses all human thought, the holy fellowship and divine intercommunion between the three Persons of the sacred Godhead, and that from all eternity,—shall we then not see what Jesus left in leaving the bosom of God? Now if, lowering our view, we cast a glance at the sins and sorrows of this lower world, what it is in itself, as a mere earthly abode, and what sin has made it with all its dreadful consequences; then to look at the Son of God freely giving himself out of the bosom of his Father and all the bliss and glory of heaven, to come down to this world of sin and grief: we seem for a few moments lost in wonder at love so great, at love so free, at love so self-sacrificing as this. How broad to spread itself over such a seething mass of

sin and sorrow; how long to know neither beginning nor end, but to stretch from eternity to eternity; how deep to sink so low as the gates of the grave; how high to raise from thence poor lost sinners to the glories of heaven! And when we take a further view of what the Lord Jesus Christ gave himself unto as well as gave himself from, for we must take both into consideration; when we see by the eye of faith the condescension of his glorious Majesty in taking our flesh in the womb of the Virgin; when we think how he tabernacled here below amid such scenes of misery and abomination as daily met his eye; when we view him in Pilate’s judgment hall exposed to the buffetings of the rude Roman soldiers, scourged and mangled, as if he were the vilest malefactor, and then see him hanging upon the cross, and there dying the most painful and ignominious death that the cruelty of man had ever devised; and when we remember that he who bled and suffered there was the Son of God who thus gave himself to redeem us from the lowest hell, how lost we seem to be in wonder! These are the things which the angels desire to look into; for they in heaven beheld his glory before they saw him in the manger, ministered to him in the wilderness, strengthened him in the garden, viewed him on the cross, and watched over his sepulchre. A part of the great mystery of godliness is that “God manifest in the flesh” was “seen of angels” (1 Tim. 3:16); seen by them as the Son of God in heaven; seen by them as the Son of man on earth. To see him, then, with angels’ eyes is to look at what Christ came from, and what Christ came unto; what he was in heaven and what he was on earth; the glories of his Father’s house, and the ignominy of Pilate’s judgment hall; the bliss of his Father’s bosom and the tortures of Calvary’s cross; the love of his Father’s heart and the hidings of his Father’s face; the worship of adoring angels and the shouts of the blasphemous multitude; the glory of the only begotten Son and the bloody sweat of Gethsemane.

And do you not see in the expression “gave himself,” how freely, how fully, how voluntarily, how unreservedly he yielded himself up to the lowest depths of shame and sorrow! No force but the gentle force of love; no compulsion but the compulsion of grace; no constraint but the constraint of doing his Father’s will, which was his delight (Psal. 40:8), moved him to give himself. He could give no more; he would give no less. And all this he did to save our souls from the bottomless pit. Now these heavenly mysteries are not matters of mere doctrine or theoretical speculation, but to be received into a believing heart as a matter of personal and living experience; in a word, they are to be revealed to our soul by the power of God, and made experimentally and feelingly ours by the sealing testimony of the Holy Ghost upon our breast. Now just as we are put into possession of these divine realities by an inward experience of their heavenly power, can we make use of the apostle’s language, to which I now come.

II.—“I am crucified with Christ.”

Let us seek, if the Lord enable, some spiritual entrance into the experimental meaning of these words.

i. And take them first in their simple meaning, neither adding to, nor diminishing their literal signification. To be “crucified with Christ” is to be nailed to the cross with him. But this could not be actually done; for Jesus had no partner in his cross, though there were those who were crucified by his side. It was, then, in the feelings of his soul that Paul was crucified with Christ. This blessed man of God had such a view in his bosom of the crucifixion of the Lord of life and glory, that it was as if he were nailed to the same cross with him, as if the same nails that pierced the hands and feet of the blessed Redeemer were struck through his hands and his feet. It was not in body, but in soul; not in his flesh, but in his spirit, that he was thus crucified with him. In this sense he was nailed side by side, or rather to the same cross, with the suffering God-Man. In this sense, therefore he mystically and spiritually suffered as Christ suffered, died as Christ died; and was thus made conformable to his suffering, dying image.

ii. But taking the words in a wider sense, as applicable to all the saints of God, we may lay it down as a certain truth that there are two senses in which every saint is crucified with Christ: first, representatively; secondly, experimentally.

Both these senses I shall now unfold.

1. First, then, there is a union which the Church of Christ has with her Head, which we may call representative; that is, there is such a union between Christ and his Church as exists between the head and its members, between the Husband and the wife; and as this is not a nominal but a real, not a dead but a living union, she has such an interest in all that he did and suffered for her sake, that she may be said to have been one with him in those acts and sufferings. Thus, when he died, she died with him; when he rose, she rose with him; when he went on high, she ascended with him; when he sat down at the right hand of the Father, she was made to sit in heavenly places with him. All these you will remember are scriptural expressions, and are meant to show us not only the intimacy of this union, but its efficacious nature; for the virtue and validity of these acts and sufferings of her glorious Head become hers in consequence of this close, and intimate, and eternal union of person and interests. In the same way, when Christ was crucified, the Church of God was crucified with him; for so intimate is their union, that when the Head was crucified, the members were crucified also. This may seem mysterious and incomprehensible. But why was Christ crucified? Was it for himself? Why did Christ suffer? Was it for his own sins? If a husband go to jail for his wife, or die for her, does she not mystically go with him to the prison and to the scaffold? Thus mystically and representatively, every member of Christ’s body was crucified with their crucified Head.

2. But this is not the only, nor indeed the chief meaning of the passage before us. The apostle was speaking experimentally of the feelings of the soul—what he was daily passing through as a living member of the mystical body of Christ; for though there is a representative crucifying of all Christ’s members in which all the family of God have a share, even those yet unborn, as united to him by eternal ties, this can only be made known by regenerating grace. There is, then, a being experimentally crucified with Christ, made known to the soul by the power of God; and of this felt, inward, daily, experimental crucifixion the apostle here especially speaks.

iii. But you will observe, if you look at the text carefully, that the  apostle uses the word “I” very much through it. And if besides this observation of the letter, you are able to read the text in the light of the blessed Spirit, and understand it experimentally for yourselves by sharing in the same gracious work upon your heart, you will also find there are two “I’s” that run through the whole text, and that these two “I’s” are perfectly distinct. Thus there is an “I” that is crucified, and an “I” that lives; there is an “I” not worthy of the name, which is therefore called a “not I;” that there is an “I” which lives in the flesh, and that there is an “I” which lives by the faith of the Son of God. These two “I’s” are perfectly distinct in birth and being; in beginning and end; in living and dying; in thought and feeling; in word and action; in desire and movement; and they are so essentially distinct as never to unite, but to be at perpetual warfare. There is therefore, a natural “I” and a spiritual “I.” These are the two “I’s” which look upon us from the text; and whose life and death, history and actions, are faithfully recorded by the pen of one who know them both from daily, hourly intercourse. The solution of this mystery is not difficult. Every believer carries in his bosom two distinct natures; as born of Adam, one nature which the Scripture calls the “Old man;” and another which, as being born of God, the Scripture terms the “new man.” The first is the natural “I,” and the second is the spiritual “I;” and it is in the struggle between these two principles, the old man and the new, the fleshly “I” and the spiritual “I,” that so much of the conflict in a Christian’s bosom consists. How vividly has the apostle described these two “I’s” and the conflict between them, Rom. 7.: there we find an “I” which is “carnal, sold under sin;” an “I” which does evil, in which no good dwells; which serves the law of sin, and in which the body of death is ever present. And then we have an “I” which delights in the law of God; which consents unto it that it is good; which serves it and hates everything opposed to it; which cries out, “O, wretched man that I am,” and yet thanks God through Jesus Christ. Is there one born of God who does not daily find and feel these two “I’s?” Is there a living soul in which they are not ever at war?

There being then these two “I’s” in every believer, the question naturally rises in our mind, which “I” is crucified with Christ: the fleshly, natural “I,” or the spiritual, gracious “I?” We cannot for a moment doubt which “I” is crucified when we turn to the language of the apostle. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Rom. 6:6.) We have a similar light cast upon the point by another expression of the apostle in this very epistle, “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Gal. 5:24.) And again, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gal. 6:14.) Thus we see, from God’s own testimony, that it is the old man, the flesh, and the world which are crucified; so that when the apostle says, “I am crucified,” he means his old Adam “I;” his worldly, his fleshly, his sinful, his selfish “I;” in a word, the whole of that native and natural “I” which he derived from our fallen parent. But let us look at these things a little more closely.

1. If we are crucified with Christ, the world is to be crucified to us and we to the world. But which world is crucified, for there are two; a world without, and a world within? Can we take the outward world in our grasp and drive through it the nails of crucifixion? This we can no more do than we can embrace the globe, or drink up the Atlantic. That huge world which lies spread before our eyes is beyond our reach; out of all proportion with our grasp. But we have a worldly “I” in our bosom which is but the reflection of the great world without. For what is the world all around us but an aggregate of human hearts; a motley, mingled multitude of carnal “I’s;” so that each individual is but a specimen of the whole, and the whole but a huge collection of individual specimens? It would indeed then be but lost labour to attempt to nail the outward world to the cross of Christ. This is not the task that lies before the child of grace. His crucifixion is within. His own carnal heart, worldly spirit, proud, covetous, aspiring mind, it is, which is to be crucified with the Lord of life and glory. For it comes to this, that our worldly “I” must either reign and rule; be pampered and petted; fed and nurtured in pride and pleasure; or it must be crucified, mortified, and subdued by the power of God’s grace. The apostle therefore speaks of the world being crucified to him and he unto the world. What attraction would the world, with all its pleasures and profits, have to the eyes of one dying on a cross? Or what charms could he, writhing with pain, groaning in agony, dropping blood from his hands and feet, present to the eyes of the gay and glittering world? The cross killed the world to him; the cross killed him to the world. What was a living world to a dying man? What was a dying man to a living world? Now we cannot be literally crucified. Even if we were, that would give us no spiritual change of heart, nor cause us to be crucified with Christ. It is, therefore, not the actual body or the literal flesh—the mere outward material man which is crucified; but it is the worldly spirit in a believer’s heart, the proud, selfish, carnal “I,” which, by virtue first of his representative, and then by the power of his experimental crucifixion with Christ is crucified with Jesus, nailed to the cross to suffer, bleed, and die with him. This inward crucifixion of the worldly spirit, of the natural “I,” kills the believer to the world. Do you not find this in your own experience? The world without would little attract, influence, or ensnare your mind, unless you had the world within alive to it. As long then as the worldly spirit lives in you unsubdued, unmortified, uncrucified, your religion is but skin deep. A thin coat of profession may film the surface of the heart, hiding the inside from view; but the whole spirit of ungodliness is alive beneath, and as much in union with the world as the magnet with the pole, or the drunkard with his cups. But, on the contrary, if the world within be crucified by the power of Christ’s cross, the world without will have little charm. And this will be in exact proportion to the life and strength of your faith and the reality of your crucifixion. The world is ever the same; one huge mass of sin and ungodliness. That cannot be changed; that can never die. It must be you who are changed; it must be you who die to it. Now, is it not true that it is the meeting of the two worlds in one embrace, which gives the world without all its power to ensnare and entangle your feet? Let the worldly spirit be but crucified in our breast, then we shall be like the dying man who has no sympathy with the living world. The poor criminal that was nailed to the cross, dying there in agony and shame, could look down with expiring eyes upon the crowd below him, or cast his last glance on the mountains and vales, woods and rivers of the prospect before him. Might not such a one say, “O, busy crowd! O, once fair and beauteous world! I am dying to you, and ye are dying to me. O, world, where now are your fashions; where your maxims; where your lusts; where your vain and gaudy shows; where are ye all now that I am dying here upon the cross? My eyes are sinking into the shades of night. I am leaving you, and ye are leaving me. Here we part, and that for ever. I once loved you, and ye once loved me; but there is between us now separation, enmity, and death.” Is not this crucifixion? This at least is the figure of the apostle; and a most striking one, in which he represents the world as crucified to him, and himself to the world.

But you will observe that it is only by virtue of “the cross of Christ,” that is, by a spiritual union and experimental communion with Christ crucified that this inward crucifixion can be really effected. There are two things whereby the inward, spiritual, and experimental crucifixion of a child of God is distinguished from that of a Papist, a Puseyite, or a Pharisee. The first is that it is by “the cross of Christ,” that is, it flows from a spiritual knowledge of union with a crucified Jesus. “I am crucified with Christ.” I do not crucify myself; nor does my flesh crucify my flesh. The second feature is that the whole of the old is crucified; it is not one limb, but the whole body which suffers crucifixion; as the Apostle says, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not sin.” (Rom. 6:6.) In the literal crucifixion, though the nails were driven through the feet and hands, the whole body was crucified; so spiritually, though the nails may chiefly be struck through the working and moving members of the old man, yet the whole of him is crucified with them. So not only our worldly spirit, but our whole flesh, with all its plans and projects, with all its schemes, motives, and designs, is nailed to the cross; and especially our religious flesh, for this is included in the “affections” of it, which are crucified. (Gal. 5:24.)

But now arises another question. Is this crucifixion with our consent, or against our consent? To this I answer that it is partly voluntary, and partly involuntary. We may illustrate this by the example of Peter. The Lord said to him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, when thou wert young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.” (John 21:18.) The Lord was here referring to Peter’s crucifixion, and tells him that “when he would be old, another would gird him, and carry him whither he would not.” Do we not see from this that Peter would shrink from being crucified, but that he would be carried to the cross against his will? Yet we read in ecclesiastical history, that when that time arrived, Peter begged of his executioners to crucify him with his head downwards, because he could not bear to die in the same posture with his crucified Lord. Thus we see in the actual, literal crucifixion of one of the Lord’s most highly favoured followers, there was a shrinking from the cross, and yet a submission to it.

“The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.” The natural “I” was unwilling, the spiritual “I” was willing. So, it is with us in a spiritual sense. The coward flesh rebels against, and cries out under the nails of crucifixion; but the spirit submits, and, when favoured by divine help, counts itself unworthy of such an honour and such a blessing. But no man ever spiritually crucified his own flesh. This is God’s work, who in so doing spares not for our crying. Perhaps we are hugging close some bosom idol, some secret lust, some rising ambition, some covetous plan, or pleasing prospect. This may be as dear to us almost as our natural life. Can we then drive through it the crucifying nails? Or if we could, would that crucify it? No. God himself must take it with his own hand, and drive through it the nails of crucifixion; yes, and so drive them through this worldly spirit, this covetous heart, this proud, unbending mind, this self-righteous, selfpleasing, self-exalting affection, this deceptive, delusive, souldestroying, fleshly religion, that it may ever after live a dying life.

It is he, not you, who thus crucifies it, that its hands can no more move to execute its designs than the hands of a man nailed upon a cross, and its feet no more walk in the plan projected than the feet of a crucified man can come down from the cross and walk abroad in the world. Here is God taking your darling schemes, your favourite projects, your anticipated delights, so that they become to you dying, bleeding, gasping objects. Have you not again and again experienced this in providence? Have not all your airy castles been hurled down, your prospects in life blighted, your hopes laid low, your projects disappointed, in a word, all your schemes and plans to get on in life so nailed to the cross that they could move neither hands nor feet, but kept dying away by a slow, painful, and lingering death? But did you approve of all this? Very far from it; but you were in God’s hands, and could not fight against his cutting strokes. Thus, then, you have a proof in yourself that your worldly schemes and projects were taken by the hand of God, contrary to your wish, for you loved them too dearly to part with them, but were as if torn from your bosom by God’s relentless hand, and nailed to the cross, not by you but by him. And yet mercy was so mingled with these dealings, and your heart was so softened by a sense of God’s goodness in and under them, that there was a sweet spirit of submission given you, which mingled itself with this unwillingness, and subdued and overpowered it. Thus you were made willing in the day of his power that God should take the idols out of your bosom with his own hand; you consented generally, that they should be crucified, because by this lingering death only could the life-blood of your worldly spirit be at all drained out of your breast. For crucifixion is a gradual death which drains life and blood slowly away.

So with the flesh generally, for the whole of our flesh is to be crucified; for “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts.” And again, “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Rom. 8:13.) To mortify means to put to death; and that death is the death of the cross. By his Spirit and grace God gives his people strength at times, to mortify and crucify the deeds of the body, with all the wretched passions and affections of the carnal mind. In this sense they do it; for he fires their soul with a holy hatred of sin, and godly resentment, what the apostle calls “indignation” and “revenge” (2 Cor. 7:11), against its movements and horrid opposition to the will and word of God. So that, in a sense, a believer’s spiritual “I,” under the influence of grace, drives the nails of crucifixion through his carnal “I.” Have you not felt at times that you could with your own hands take vengeance upon that dreadful flesh of yours which has been and is such a deadly

foe, not only to God but to your own soul’s peace? Could you not almost kill your wicked heart for being what it is? Now, as the grace to do this only flows into the soul from union to Christ as crucified for us, we are in this sense “crucified with Christ.” There is no other way whereby sin can be subdued, or the flesh crucified with all its affections and lusts; so that not one, however small, however hidden, can escape the crucifying nail. O, how blessed it is to have a view by faith of the cross of Christ; to derive strength out of that cross, so as to give up our flesh to crucifixion, yield up our bosom idols, and with our own hands crucify our darling lusts, saying to the Lord, “All these evils of my heart are sworn enemies of thee: take them, Lord, and nail them to thy cross, that they may not live in my bosom so as to grieve the blessed Spirit, cause thee to hide thy face, wound and distress my conscience, and bring me into captivity and bondage.” Thus you see that this inward crucifixion is done unwillingly, and yet done willingly. The carnal “I” rebels against the cross, but the spiritual “I” submits to it, sees the will of God in it, and joins with him in the doing of it. We may compare them, perhaps, to the two malefactors who were crucified with Christ. The one felt nothing but the outward agonies of the cross, and rebelled against it to his latest breath: this may be a figure of our fleshly “I.” The other malefactor at first rebelled and blasphemed too; but when grace touched his heart and God revealed his dear Son in him, he could bless the Lord for being crucified with him, and counted it his happiest day and his dearest delight, for out of it came salvation and Paradise. I offer this, however, as a figure, not as an interpretation. Yet we cannot but feel deeply the crucifying nails, and cry out under them; but the Lord will not spare for our crying. The Lord has no compassion for our sins, though he has compassion upon our persons. As he would not take his dear Son from the cross, though as a Father he pitied him, so he may pity you as a child (Psal. 103:13), yet not spare your lusts.

The crucifixion of self is indispensable to following Christ, as he himself said:—”If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” The criminal always carried his own cross. To take up the cross, then, is to be crucified by being affixed to it. What is so dear to a man as himself? Yet this beloved self is to be crucified. Whether it be proud, or ambitious, or selfish, or covetous, or, what is harder still, religious self—that dear, idolized creature, which has been the subject of so much fondling, petting, pampering, nursing, to part with which is to part with our very natural life—this fondly loved self has to be taken out of our bosom by the hand of God, and nailed to Christ’s cross.

Now what can compensate us for this pain and this sacrifice?

Nothing that earth can give. But there is a most blessed compensation which earth never dreamt of, but which is the special gift of heaven. And this compensation begins here below; for as the child of grace is thus experimentally crucified with Christ, the benefits of Christ’s cross begin to flow into his soul. Pardon through his blood; peace through his sacrifice; communion and fellowship with him in his dying love; power over sin; victory over the world; subjugation of his lusts, and the subduing of his iniquities, become more or less experimentally tasted, felt, and realised. For as the soul is thus crucified with Christ, and the flesh nailed to his cross, power passes over from the cross into the soul, to give us victory over self; for “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” And faith in whom? In Jesus as the Son of God, who came “by water and blood”—the blood to cleanse and the water to sanctify. (1 John 5:4, 6.) How deep, how blessed is the mystery that Christ is of God made unto us “sanctification,” as well as “righteousness” (1 Cor. 1:30); and that the same grace which pardons sins also subdues it! Who of you can say, “I am crucified with Christ?” Blessed is such a man! Blessed is such a crucifixion!

III.—But the apostle goes on to add, as I proposed to show in the third place, “Nevertheless I live.” One would think at first sight that this crucifixion would be his death. To be crucified with Christ! to have everything that the flesh loves and idolizes put to death! How can a man survive such a process? In the same way as the three children cast into the furnace were not burnt by the fire. Crucifixion is not death but life to a child of God. This made the apostle say, “Nevertheless I live.” But what “I?” I have shown you that there is a twofold I in the Christian’s bosom—the old Adam “I” and the new Adam “I,” the carnal “I” and the spiritual “I;” and I have also shown you that it is the old Adam “I” which is crucified with Christ. But as this old Adam “I” is crucified, it is not that “I” which lives, but the spiritual “I;” for the death of the carnal “I” is the life of the spiritual “I.” As the old man is put off, the new man is put on; as the world, sin, and self are crucified, subdued, and subjugated by the power of the cross, the life of God springs up with new vigour in the soul. The believing “I,” the hoping, the loving, the praying, the watchful, the broken, the contrite, the humble, in a word, the new “I” lives in proportion as the natural “I” is crucified by the grace of God. Here then, is the mystery, and here is the grand, distinguishing difference between the living saint of God and the dead in sin or the dead in profession. It is death to a worldly man to take the world out of his breast. Here is a man immersed in business, whose whole heart is in it night and day. Let him get into difficulties, become a bankrupt, ruin himself and his family, be arrested for debt, and shut up in prison; the man dies of a broken heart. Here is another whose whole heart is in his money: it is his idol, his god, his all. Maddened by the lust of gain, he speculates to a large amount. A crash comes; down he goes; and what is his end? He puts a  pistol to his head, or drinks a phial of prussic acid, and dies upon a heath. Take another man living in drunkenness, lust, and every other vile abomination. Put him into a penitentiary; shave his head, and feed him with bread and water. He dies from the mere misery of life. Life’s pleasures are gone. He only lived for them. Take them away, and he dies for want of them. Take another person. It shall this time be a lady—full of the world, its fashions, its pleasures, its amusements, its company, its enjoyments. Take away from her those delights of her vain heart; her fine dresses, her admirers, her youthful attractions: the woman is miserable; she dies, if not literally yet inwardly, of vexation and disappointment. But let the world, sin, self, and all that he loves by nature be taken from a child of God. Does he die? Die? What, he die? No; just the contrary. He lives all the more for now he lives more unto the Lord. How martyrs in prison have blessed and praised God. A dungeon did not kill their inward life. Being taken out of the world and shut up in a dark prison was not their death, for the world was not their life. They only enjoyed more of the sunlight of God’s face. Look at Christians on their death bed, when the world with all its gaudy shows is shut out. Does this kill them? Do they not rather live all the more unto God; so that the more the world is shut out, and the more that self is put under their feet, the more they feel a holy joy, a quiet, tranquil contentment, such as God alone is pleased to shower down upon their breast? Just, then, in proportion as the world and the flesh, sin and self, are crucified, does the life of God spring up in the soul of those who fear God. It was this divine life springing up within which made the apostle say—and can we not sometimes echo back his words? “Nevertheless I live.”

Here, then, is the great secret of vital godliness that the Christian lives most within, when everything dies most without; that the more that nature fades, the more grace thrives; the more that sin and self, and the world are mortified, the more do holiness and spirituality of mind, heavenly affections and gracious desires spring up and flourish in the soul. O! blessed death! O! still more blessed life!

IV.—But to come to our next point,—in order to discard all idea that he could do all or any of this—that he had any innate strength or power to carry on this blessed work in his own soul— to dispossess us of any such opinion of his own strength or holiness, he tells us in the most pointed language, “Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” “O,” he would say, “look not at Paul; take not your measure of him as if he were able to do these things in his own strength. Look not at him, but at Christ; in him Paul lives, it is true; but not in his own life, but in Christ’s. He fights against sin and self; not however in his own strength, but in Christ’s. He stands righteous before God. Not however in his own righteousness, but Christ’s. He has both will and action; yet neither is his own, but Christ’s; for Christ works in him both to will and to do his good pleasure.” This made the apostle say “Not I.” It could not be his natural “I,” for that was crucified; and he even disclaims any part of the work as done by his spiritual “I;” for though that lived, yet, it only lived by Christ living in it. But how it may be asked, does Christ live in a believer’s soul? By his Spirit and grace; by being formed in his heart, the hope of glory; by blessing the soul with his presence and power; by communicating and shedding abroad his love. Thus, it is not the believer, but the Spirit of Christ in him, by which he lives unto God. Do you not find this true in your daily experience? If we pray with any life or feeling in our soul, with any access to a throne of grace, or obtain any answer; it is not we that pray: it is the Spirit of God praying in us. If I preach anything that may instruct, comfort, or edify your soul, or write anything that may be blessed to build up the Church of God on our most holy faith; it is not I, but the Spirit of God that speaks in me, and guides my pen. How else could I, or any other man, be made a blessing to the church of God? It is not my abilities or learning, but the dew and unction of the blessed Spirit resting upon me, which glorifies

God or edifies the church. Or take me as a private Christian. If I repent of my sins, it is not I that repent, but the Spirit of God giving me repentance. If I believe in the Lord of life and glory, it is not I that believe, but the Lord giving me faith by his holy Spirit. If I watch, he must watch in me; if I live to his praise, he must live in me; if I act for his honour, he must act in me; if I enjoy his presence, it is he who must communicate a sense of that presence to my heart. So it is not I, but Christ himself that liveth in me. O blessed guest! O gracious inhabitant! Who that fears God would not have such a blessed inmate ever to dwell in his bosom? And who that has had him once does not long again and again for his sweet presence, and to experience renewed and repeated manifestations of his love? It is true that those are rare seasons; but the Lord never leaves the heart into which he has ever come. If you have not the felt presence, you are longing for it; and these longings, breathings, and desires manifest more or less of his power and presence. You will also find from time to time how secretly and yet how blessedly the Lord will come into the soul. He will come sometimes in a word of promise; sometimes in a look of love; sometimes in a sweet smile; sometimes in a soft whisper; sometimes in a heavenly touch. How he will melt at one time your heart into sorrow for sin; how he will at another encourage you with a word when much cast down; will shine upon your soul when it walks in thick darkness; will renew your life that seems almost gone, and revive your spirit. And as you will thus find your dependence upon him for every spiritual breath and for every gracious desire, you will learn that it is not you that live, but Christ that lives in you.

V.—But to come to our last point, the nature of this life. “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.” It is a life still “in the flesh,” with all the infirmities, with all the frailties, all the sins, and all the sorrows of a body of sin and death; a life in the flesh and therefore surrounded with everything that belongs to the flesh. And yet though a life in the flesh, not a life of the flesh, but a spiritual life in a body of sin and death. Christ in the heart the hope of glory; and yet the heart deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. What a mystery of grace is this! That so holy a guest should take up his abode in the breast of a polluted sinner, and yet not partake of the sinner’s pollution; should work in him by his Spirit and grace, and yet keep himself free from all the sinner’s filth and folly.

The great blessedness of a believer here below is that he lives a life of faith in the Son of God. But how can he do this unless he has had a believing view of the Son of God as having loved him, and given himself for him, as having risen from the dead, and to be now ever living at God’s right hand to make intercession for him? It is, then, as he is pleased to send his Spirit down into his heart to testify of his grace, and to draw up faith, and hope, and love, and every sweet affection to centre in himself that he lives a life of faith upon him. “Because I live,” saith the Lord, “ye shall live also;” and we live because he is “the resurrection and the life.” Thus as Jesus lives at God’s right hand, he lives also in the believer’s soul; and as he sends his Spirit down into the believer’s heart, and draws his faith and hope and love to himself, he enables him to live a life of faith upon him as the Son of God.

Viewing the Son of God at the right hand of the Father, he looks to him for the supply of all his wants. He sees him at one time a kind God in providence; he views him at another as a most blessed and suitable Saviour in grace; he looks sometimes to his atoning blood as cleansing from all sin; to his glorious righteousness as his only justifying robe; and to his heavenly love as the sweetest balm that God can shed abroad in his heart. He desires from time to time to have fellowship and communion with the Son of God; to be conformed to his suffering image here below, that he may be conformed to his glorified image above. It is in this way he comes up out of the wilderness, leaning upon Christ as his beloved. By his superabounding grace he is recovered and restored from his innumerable slips and falls and backslidings; by his gracious renewings, his youth is renewed like the eagle’s; and thus day by day, as the blessed Spirit works in his soul both to will and to do of his good pleasure, he lives by the faith of the Son of God. And as all this can only be done by the power of faith, by faith he lives, by faith he acts; by faith he walks; faith being the grand moving principle of every action of his soul, and the uniting chain that links his soul to the Son of God upon his heavenly throne. Thus living a life of faith upon the Son of God, he receives out of this fulness grace for grace; and by God’s help and strength eventually dies in him, and rising up to the glorious mansions of light, lives with him to all eternity.

Now this is a feeble sketch of the life of a Christian; what we must know something of in our own souls, before we can really believe ourselves to be saints of the living God, by the testimony of the Spirit in our breast. We have to confess that we come painfully short in many of these things; and yet we have every reason to praise the Lord if he has put any measure of this experience into our breasts, for where he has begun that good work he will surely perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

The old man and the new – John Bradford

April 11, 2010 Comments off

A COMPARISON BETWEEN THE OLD MAN AND THE NEW, ALSO BETWEEN THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL; CONTAINING A SHORT SUM OF ALL THE DIVINITY NECESSARY FOR A CHRISTIAN CONSCIENCE

by John Bradford (1548)

John Bradford was a fellow of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, and was martyred in 1555. The electronic edition of this preface was scanned and edited by Shane Rosenthal for Reformation Ink. It is in the public domain and may be freely copied and distributed.


A man that is regenerate and “born of God,” consisteth of two men (as a man may say), namely of “the old man,” and of “the new man.” “The old man” is like to a mighty giant, such a one as was Goliath; for his birth is now perfect. But “the new man” is like unto a little child, such a one as was David; for his birth is not perfect until the day of his general resurrection.

“The old man” therefore is more stronger, lusty, and stirring than is “the new man,” because the birth of “the new man” is but begun now, and “the old man” is perfectly born. And as “the old man” is more stirring, lusty, and stronger than “the new man;” so is the nature of him contrary to the nature of “the new man,” as being earthly and corrupt with Satan’s seed; the nature of “the new man” being heavenly, and blessed with the celestial seed of God. So that one man, inasmuch as he is corrupt with the seed of the serpent, is an “old man;” and inasmuch as he is blessed with the seed of God from above, he is a “new man.” Inasmuch as he is an “old man,” he is a sinner and an enemy to God; so, inasmuch as he is regenerate, he is righteous and holy and a friend to God, so that he cannot sin as the seed of the serpent, wherewith he is corrupt even from his conception, inclineth him, yea, enforceth him to sin, and nothing else but to sin: so that the best part in man before regeneration, in God’s sight, is not only an enemy, but “enmity” itself.

One man therefore which is regenerate well may be called always just, and always sinful: just in respect of God’s seed and his regeneration; sinful in respect of Satan’s seed and his first birth. Betwixt these two men therefore there is continual conflict and war most deadly; “the flesh and the old man” fighting against “the Spirit and new man,” and “the Spirit and new man” fighting against “the flesh and old man.” Which “old man” by reason of his birth that is perfect doth often for a time prevail against “the new man,” (being but as a child in comparison), and that in such sort as not only others, but even the children of God themselves, think that they be nothing else but “old,” and that the Spirit and seed of God is lost and gone away: where yet notwithstanding the truth is otherwise, the Spirit and seed of God at the length appearing again, and dispelling away the clouds which cover “the Sun” of God’s seed from shining. Sometimes a man cannot tell by any sense that there is any sun, cloud and wind so hiding it from our sight: even so our blindness and corrupt affections do often shadow the sight of God’s seed in God’s children, as though they were plain reprobates.

Whereof it cometh, that they often pray according to their sense, but not according to truth, desire of God to give them again his Spirit, as though they had lost it, and he had taken it away. Which thing God never doth in deed, although he makes us think so for a time; for always he holdeth his hand under his children in their falls, that they lie not still as others do which are not regenerate. And this is the difference betwixt God’s children which are regenerate and elect before all time in Christ, and the wicked castaways, that the elect lie not still continually in their sin as do the wicked, but at the length do return again by reason of God’s seed, which is in them hid as a sparkle of fire in the ashes; as we may see in Peter, David, Paul, Mary Magdalene, and others.

For these (I mean God’s children) God hath made all things in Christ Jesus, to whom he hath given them this dignity that they should be “his inheritance” and spouses.

This our Inheritor and “Husband” Christ Jesus, God with God, ‘Light of Light,’ co-eternal and consubstantial with the Father and with the Holy Ghost, to the end that he might become our “Husband” (because the husband and the wife must become “one body and flesh”), hath taken our nature upon him, communicating with it and by it in his own person, to us all his children, his “divine majesty,” as Peter saith; and so is become “flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones” substantially, as we are become “flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones” spiritually; all that ever we have pertaining to him, yea, even our sins, as all that ever he hath pertaineth unto us, even his whole glory. So that if Satan shall summon us to answer for our debts or sins, in that the wife is no suitable person, but the husband, we may well bid him enter his action against our “Husband” Christ, and he will make him a sufficient answer.

For this end (I mean that we might be coupled and married thus to Christ, and so be certain of salvation, and at godly peace with God in our consciences,) God hath given his holy word, which hath two parts, as now the children of God consisteth of two men; one part of God’s word being proper to “the old man,” and the other part of God’s word being proper to “the new man.” The part properly pertaining to “the old man” is the law: the part properly pertaining to “the new man” is the gospel.

The law is a doctrine which commandeth and forbiddeth, requiring doing and avoiding: under it therefore are contained all precepts, inhibitions, threats, promises upon conditions of our doing and avoiding, etc. The gospel is a doctrine which always offereth and giveth, requiring nothing on our behalf as of worthiness or as a cause, but as a certificate unto us: and therefore under it are contained all the free and Sweet promises of God, as “I am the Lord thy God,” etc.

In those that be of years of discretion it requireth “faith,” not as a cause, but as an instrument whereby we ourselves may be certain of our good “Husband” Christ and of his glory: and therefore, when the conscience feeleth itself disquieted for fear of God’s judgments against sin, she should in nowise look upon the doctrine pertaining to “the old man,” but to the doctrine only that pertaineth to “the new man;” in it not looking on that which it requireth, that is “faith,” because we never believe as we should; but only on it which it offereth, which it giveth, that is, on God’s grace and eternal mercy and peace in Christ Jesus.

So shall she be in quiet, when she looketh for it altogether out of herself in God’s mercy in Christ; in whose lap if she lay her head, then is she happy, and shall find quietness indeed. When she feeleth herself quiet, then let her look on the law, and upon such things as God requireth, thereby to bridle and keep down the old Adam, to slay that Goliath; from whom she must needs keep the sweet promises, being the bed wherein her sweet spouse Christ and she meet and lie together. As the wife will keep her bed only for her husband, although in other things she is contented to have fellowship with her servants and others, as to speak, sit, eat, drink, go, etc.; so our consciences must needs keep the bed, that is, God’s sweet promises, alone for ourselves and for our “Husband,” there to meet together, to embrace together, to laugh together, and to be joyful together. If sin, the law, the devil, or any thing, would creep into the bed, and lie there, then complain to thy “Husband” Christ, and forthwith thou shalt see him play Phineas’ part.

Thus, my dearly beloved, I have given you in few words a sum of all that divinity which a Christian conscience cannot lack.

Source

The Inward Experience of Believers

June 12, 2009 Comments off
“For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:22-25.
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