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for religion, and may be trained to habits of piety and virtue by external means. Amidst these speculations, the doctrine of human depravity is forgotten or denied, and hence it is not considered that, to attempt to educe religion from our nature as it is, is as absurd as to attempt to elicit the operations of intellect from an irrational animal. Holy actions must proceed from holy principles, and these must be created in the soul, which, since the fall, is barren of all good. Men must be regenerated before they can make progress in religion, or perform a single action which the Searcher of hearts will approve.
There are two states, in either of which every man is,—the one carnal, and the other spiritual ; and his actions correspond to his state. The knowledge of a carnal man, is a cold light glimmering in his mind; his prayers are the service of the lips, or have only such animation as they derive from his natural fears and hopes; his praises are equally defective; his hearing of the Gospel is without faith, and his communicating without penitence and love; his obedience is a form without the substance. Every thing is the reverse in the case of the spiritual man; into whose duties, at least when his frame is good, there are infused the energies of a heart sanctified and moved by the spirit of grace. He prays and praises, and does all things in the Holy ost; he makes advances in holiness, and “his path is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
These two states are essentially different; there is not a single point in which they meet, or touch each other. They are both predicable of human beings; but while the natural endowments of their respective subjects are the same in kind, their moral qualities are of opposite classes. The one is represented as in a state of non-existence, the other is in a state of being; and the change which has been effected upon the latter is called a creation. In the one state, men are dead, like those who are lying in the grave; in the other, they are alive, like those who were re-animated by our Saviour in the land of Judea, or like the saints at the last day, who will exchange corruption for incorruption. There may be an error in the conclusion which individuals draw with respect to themselves, and, from various causes, they may be unable to ascertain their own character with exactness; but between those who have, and those who have not, experienced regenerating grace, there is a radical distinction, and by the omniscient Judge they are never confounded. • We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lieth in wickedness.”+
ON THE UNION OF BELIEVERS TO CHRIST.
Union of Believers to Christ formed in Regeneration—Its Nature illustrated—It is real;
spiritual; without confusion of persons; and indissoluble-Its Effects.
The design of God in calling sinners by his word and spirit, is to bring them to himself by Jesus Christ, who is the only mediator between God and men, “the way, the truth, and the life.” As it is for his sake that God bestows the blessings of salvation upon us, so, according to his constitution, they can be enjoyed only in a state of connexion with him. This connexion, which is formed in regeneration, it shall be the business of the present lecture to explain.
There are two kinds of union between Christ and his people—a legal union, and a spiritual, or, as it is sometimes called, a mystical union. The reason of the latter denomination is, that the union is obscure or mysterious ; but the term is not discriminative, because there are other unions to which it may be applied with equal propriety, as the union of the three persons in the Godhead, and the union of the two natures of our Saviour. Notwithstanding, however, the generality of the term, its meaning is understood in theology, and it may continue to be used as custom has defined and limited it.
The legal union is that which was formed between Christ and his people, when he was appointed their federal head. It is a union in law, in consequence of which he represented them, and was responsible for them; and the benefit of his transactions redounds to them. It may be illustrated by the case of suretyship among men. A relation is formed between a surety and the person for whom he engages, by which they are thus far considered as one, that the surety is liable for the debt which the other has contracted, and his payment is held as the payment of the debtor, who is ipso facto absolved from all obligation to the creditor. A similar connexion was established between our Redeemer and those who are given to him by his Father. He became answerable for them to the justice of God; and it was stipulated that, on account of his satisfaction to its demands, they should receive the pardon of their sins. Neither could their sins have been imputed to him, nor could his righteousness have been imputed to them, if they had not been one in the eye of the law.
But something farther was necessary to the actual enjoyment of the benefits of his representation. God, on whose sovereign will the whole economy of grace is founded, had determined not only that his Son should sustain the character of their surety, but that a real, as well as a legal, relation should take place between them, as the foundation of communion with him in the blessings of his purchase. It was his will that, as they were one in law, they should be also one morally or spiritually; that his merit and grace might be imparted to them, as the holy oil poured on the head of Aaron descended to the skirts of his garments.
There are many passages of Scripture in which this connexion with Christ is represented as the foundation of our fellowship with him in spiritual and heavenly blessings. Thus, it is said that, as we were chosen in him," so we are “ accepted in the beloved;" that in him we “obtain an inheritance," and in him " are sealed with the holy spirit of promise;" that the church is his body, “and that we are baptized into Christ;" " that we are all buried with him in baptism,” “and are planted in the likeness of his death and resurrection; that “we are crucified with him,” and “live with him," and that " he lives in us;" and that the earnest desire of every believer is to be found in him.* These, and many similar expressions, denote a close relation between the Saviour and his genuine disciples; a relation more intimate than any which may be formed by external bonds.
This will be more evident, if we attend to some of the similitudes by which it is illustrated in Scripture. It is compared to the union between a tree and its branches, which constitute one whole, and possess the same principle of vegetable life: “I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”'t-It is compared to the union between the building and the foundation by which it is supported: “To whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as living
Eph. i. 4, 6, 11, 13. Col. i. 24. Rom. vi. 3. 4. Col. ii. 12. Rom. vi. 5, 6,8 Gal. in. 20. Phil. ij. 9.
† John xv. 5.
stones are built up a spiritual house."*—It is compared to the union between husband and wife, who are one in the eye of the law, and have a mutual interest in the person and property of each other: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one fesh. This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church;”?+ that is there is a relation between Christ and the church, of which marriage is a figure. This similitude occurs in the fortyfifth Psalm, where our Saviour is represented as the king, and the church as the queen, standing at his right hand, in gold of Ophir. I—It is compared to the connexion of the head and the members of the body, which receive life and nourishment from the head, and are directed and governed by it. “But speaking the truth in love, we may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in love."'S In these similitudes, not only is there a representation of the union of Christ and believers, and of the communion which takes place between them, but it is imported, that he is the primary source of their life, and strength, and perfection.
There are three great unions mentioned in Scripture, which are totally different in kind, and should therefore be carefully distinguished. The first is the union of the persons of the Trinity ; but, although the union of which we are now speaking, is compared to it in the following words of our Saviour's prayer, " that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us,”'ll yet it is only a general resemblance, consisting in the unity of the members of the body of Christ. The persons of the Godhead have one numerical essence; whereas Christ and believers, in respect of nature, are distinct individuals. The second great union is that which subsists between the two natures of our Redeemer. They are not blended together, but are so closely conjoined, that there is only one person of Christ, and it may be said with truth, that the man is God, and God is man. But there is no such union between him and his people. And this leads me to remark, that the mystical union does not consist in community of essence, or in oneness of person, but in a close relation between different persons. It may be illustrated, but not fully, by the union between a chief or leader, and his faithful and devoted followers, who, although distinct individuals, are engaged in the same pursuits, and are animated by the same spirit, or by the same sentiments and feelings.
It is not fully illustrated, I say, by this, or by any other comparison of a similar kind. Thus, it would be a great mistake to suppose that there is no closer relation between Jesus Christ and his church, than that which subsists between a king and his subjects. This is the only relation which some persons admit. He gives his word, and ordinances, and laws to his people, and they acknowledge his right to govern them, and obey him. But although it should be added, that they feel all the warmth of a sincere attachment to him, yet, according to this opinion, he would be only the political head of the church; and the difference between its relation to him, and that of subjects to their sovereign, would consist solely in the nature of the sentiments and feelings of his followers, which are of a religious kind, and in the superior value of the benefits which they expect to receive from him. The doctrine of Scripture is, that he is the head, not only of government, but of influence ; that the ties which connect him and his people are invisible and spiritual ; and that the conjunction is so intimate, that he lives in them, and they live in him.
• 1 Pet ü. 4, 6.
† Eph. v. 31, 32.
# P's, xlv. 9.
$ Eph. iv, 15, 16.
| John xvü. 21. . 1 Cor. vi, 17. xii. 13.
The bonds of this union are, the Spirit and faith. The Spirit being in him and in them, makes them truly one. The distance between Christ who is in heaven, and believers who are upon earth, is no obstacle, because the Spirit is omnipresent. Through his intervention, not merely a figurative, but a real union is effected; there is one living principle in the head and the members : “ He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit” with him.—" By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Greeks, whether we be bond or free ; and have all been made to drink of that one Spirit.”—“ Hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the spirit which he hath given us." " Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.”* There is much more implied in these words than the reception of the gospel, and the formation of a heavenly temper. They import the actual presence and inhabitation of the Spirit himself. The fact is plainly asserted; but it is mysterious, and cannot be distinctly explained. It may be observed, in order to prevent misconception, that the presence of the Spirit with any individual, is not analogous to the presence of one man with another. He who is willing to give his company to another, goes to the place where the other is, and, while associating with him, separates himself from those whom he does not choose to admit to the same intimacy. The coming and inhabitation of the Spirit must be understood in a different manner, because, being a Divine Person, he is omnipresent; and, consequently, as he is incapable of change of place, he cannot withdraw from one man, and approach to another. In respect of his essence, he is as much present with unbelievers as with believers. His dwelling in the latter must therefore signify, that he manifests himself in their souls in a peculiar manner; that he exerts there his gracious power, and produces effects which other men do not experience. Without knowing him, or being aware of his influence, other men are sustained by his power, and enabled to exercise their natural faculties; for we must conceive hiin to be the source of life and activity throughout the whole intelligent creation; but the regenerated are the subjects of a peculiar work, by which they are transformed into the image of God. We may illustrate his presence with them, as distinguished from his presence with men in general, by supposing the vegetative power of the earth to produce, in the surrounding region, only common and worthless plants, but to throw out, in a select spot, all the riches and beauty of a cultivated garden. By the fruits of the Spirit in the heart and life of an individual, it is known that he is working silently, but powerfully, within him. Where love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith, and temperance are found, there he has taken up his abode. In this way we may understand the inhabitation of the Spirit, and it seems to be the only rational idea which we can form of it. It is impossible to conceive any peculiarity in respect of his essential presence in the case of the regenerated, for he necessarily fills all places and all persons. But he works when and where he will, and is said to enter into the soul, when he begins to exert his gracious operations in it, as God is said to come to the assemblies of his people, and to dwell in Zion, because he there manifests his glory, and dispenses the blessings of his grace.
The principal bond of union between Christ and his people, is the Spirit. But, as the union is mutual, something is necessary on their part to complete it; and this is faith. Hence, Christ is said to dwell in our hearts by faith. This faith is not merely a natural act of the mind, assenting to the truth of the gospel, as it assents to any other truth, upon credible testimony; but it is a supernatural act, an effect produced by the power of the Spirit of grace, and is such a persuasion of the truth concerning the Saviour, as calls forth exercises
1 John üi. 24. iv, 13.
suitable to the nature of its object. It is a cordial approbation of the Saviour, a hearty consent to his offers, an acceptance of him in his entire character, as “ made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption."* Strictly, faith is an act of the understanding alone, and thus logicians would define it; but whatever is the abstract meaning of a term, we should observe whether it is used by a writer in a peculiar sense, and accommodate ourselves to his ideas, instead of rigidly adhering to our own. Here some expounders of the sacred oracles err, and explain them according to the standard of philosophy, instead of allowing them to explain themselves. If we carefully attend to the use of the word faith, in the Scriptures, we shall find that it often signifies more than an assent of the mind, and implies the concurrence of the will, or an exercise of the heart, embracing the truth believed, and trusting in the object revealed. When thus understood, it will appear 10 be a fit instrument for completing our union to Christ, although it might be difficult to perceive how it could have this effect, if it were merely an assent. The Scriptures, in describing faith, represent it by a variety of bodily motions and actions, to express its activity. It is called “a coming to Christ," “ a receiving of him," -"an eating of his flesh, and a drinking of his blood." When man believes with the heart, he obtains an interest in the object of his faith. Christ becomes his, according to the constitution and promise of God. He enters into covenant with him; and while he takes him as his Saviour, he devotes himself to him as one of his people. Thus the union is formed by mutual consent. Our Redeemer expresses his consent, not only in his gracious offers and declarations, but also by sending the Spirit to dwell in his heart, and the Christian expresses consent by his faith. My Lord and my God," is its language. “Lord, I am thine; save thou me. If we consider the Song of Solomon, as intended to describe this union, and the intercourse founded upon it, the following words of the church are apposite to the present subject—"I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine."f
From this account, it appears that it is in truth, and not merely by a figure of speech, that Jesus Christ and his disciples are said to be one. They are one, not only in sentiment and affection, by consent of mind and heart, as Nestorius is reported to have explained the union of the two natures of our Saviour, and Socinians the union of the Father and the Son, but by a real conjunction, their persons being united to his person. The reality of the union is manifest from the similitudes by which it is illustrated; for the stones are a part of the building, the branches a part of the vine, and the members a part of the body. The Spirit of Christ actually dwells in the souls of believers, and, by faith, they receive not only the benefits of Christ, but himself. Hence he is said to live in them, and they are said to abide in him. Some men treat the idea of such a union with ridicule ; in their opinion, it is a dream of enthusiasm ; and they confound it with the wild notions of the mystics, pronouncing what they do not see, and cannot feel, and have not experienced, to be the baseless fabric of a vision. But the humble Christian is content to believe the testimony of Scripture, and cannot withhold his assent to a fact, of which, although he is unable to explain it, the evidence which he finds in himself is conclusive. He who is led by the Spirit, enlightened, assisted, and comforted by him, cannot doubt that Christ dwells in his heart.
Let it be observed, in the next place, that it is a spiritual union. It is on this account that it is difficult to conceive it, and by some it is rejected as imaginary. Influenced as we are by our senses, we are apt to think of it as being like the union of two material substances, by juxta-position, or by commixture; or, if we study more refinement, we may suppose it to be only like