MYSTICAL UNION BETWEEN CHRIST AND BELIEVERS
How A Sinner Is Ingrafted Into Christ
by Thomas Boston
The second benefit flowing from the same spring of union with Christ, and coming by way of justification, is peace; peace with God, and peace of conscience, according to the measure of the sense the justified have of their peace with God (Rom 5.1), 'Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God.' (Chap 14.17), 'For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.' Whereas God was their enemy before, now He is reconciled to them in Christ: they are in a covenant of peace with him, and, as Abraham was, so are they the friends of God. He is well pleased with them in His beloved Son. His word, which spoke terror to them formerly, now speaks peace, if they rightly understand the language. And there is love in all dispensations towards them, which makes all work together for their good. Their consciences are purged of that guilt and filthiness which lay upon them: His conscience-purifying blood streams through their souls, by virtue of their union with Him (Heb 9.14), 'How much more shall the blood of Christ - purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.' The bonds laid on their consciences by the Spirit of God, acting as the spirit of bondage, are taken off, never more to be laid on (Rom 8.15), 'For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear.' Hereby the conscience is quieted, as soon as the soul becomes conscious of the application of that blood; which falls out sooner or later, according to the measure of faith, and as the only wise God sees meet to time it. Unbelievers may have troubled consciences, which they may get quieted again: but, alas! their consciences become peaceable before they become pure; so their peace is but the seed of greater horror and confusion. Carelessness may give ease for a while to a sick conscience; men neglecting its wounds, they close again of their own accord, before the impure matter is removed. Many bury their guilt in the grave of an ill memory: conscience smarts a little; at length the man forgets his sin, and there is an end of it; but that is only an ease before death. Business, or the affairs of life, often give ease in this case. When Cain is banished from the presence of the Lord, he falls to building of cities. When the evil spirit came upon Saul, he calls not for his Bible, nor for the priests to converse with him about his case, but for music, to play it away. So many, when their consciences begin to be uneasy, fill their heads and hands with business, to divert themselves, and to regain ease at any rate. Yea, some will sin contrary to their convictions, and so get some ease to their consciences, as Hazael gave ease to his master by stifling him. Again, the performance of duties may give some ease to disquieted consciences; and this is all which legal professors have recourse to for quieting their consciences. When conscience is wounded they will pray, confess, mourn, and resolve to do so no more: and so they become whole again, without an application of the blood of Christ by faith. But they whose consciences are rightly quieted, come for peace and purification to the blood of sprinkling. Sin is a sweet morsel that makes God's elect sick souls, ere they get it vomited up. It leaves a sting behind it, which one time or other will create them no little pain.
Elihu shows us both the case and cure (Job 33). Behold the case which a man may be in, to whom God has thoughts of love. He darts convictions into his conscience, and makes them stick so fast that he cannot rid himself of them (verse 16), 'He openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction.' His very body sickens (verse 19), 'He is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain.' He loses his appetite (verse 20), 'His life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat.' His body pines away, so that there is nothing on him but skin and bone (verse 21), 'His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen, and his bones that were not seen stick out.' Though he is not prepared for death, he has no hope of life (verse 22); 'His soul draweth near unto the grave', and, which is the height of his misery, 'his life to the destroyers;' he is looking every moment when devils, these destroyers (Rev 9.11), these murderers, or man-slayers (John 8.44), will come and carry away his soul to hell. 0 dreadful case! Is there any hope for such? Yes, there is hope. God designs to 'keep back his soul from the pit' (Job 33.18), although He bring him forward to the brink of it. Now, see how the sick man is cured. The physician's art cannot prevail here: the disease lies more inward than his medicines can reach. It is soul trouble that has brought the body into this disorder; and therefore the remedies must be applied to the sick man's soul and conscience. The physician for this case must be a spiritual physician; the remedies must be spiritual, a righteousness, a ransom, an atonement. Upon the application of these, the soul is cured, the conscience is quieted: and the body recovers (verses 23-26), If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to show unto man his uprightness: then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down into the pit, I have found a ransom. His flesh shall be fresher than a child's, he shall return to the days of his youth. He shall pray unto God, and he shall be favourable unto him, and he shall see his face with joy. The proper physician for this patient is a messenger, an interpreter (verse 23), that is, as some expositors, not without ground, understand it, the great Physician, Jesus Christ, whom Job had called his Redeemer (chapter 19.25). He is a messenger, the 'messenger of the covenant of peace' (Mal 3.1), who comes seasonably to the sick man. He is an interpreter, the great interpreter of God's counsels of love to sinners (Job 33.23), 'One among a thousand,' even 'the chief among ten thousand' (Cant. 5.10), 'One chosen out of the people' (Psa 89.19), One to whom 'the Lord hath given the tongue of the learned - to speak a word in season to him that is weary' (Isa 50.4). It is He that is with him, by His Spirit, now, to 'convince him of righteousness' (John 16.8), as He was with him before, to 'convince him of sin and judgment.' His work now is, to show unto him His uprightness, or His righteousness, that is, the interpreter Christ's righteousness; which is the only righteousness arising from the paying of a ransom, and upon which a sinner is delivered from going down to the pit (Job 33.24) Thus Christ is said to declare God's name (Psa 22.22), and to preach righteousness (Psa 40.9). The phrase is remarkable: it is not to show to the man, but to man, His righteousness: (Job 33.23) which not obscurely intimates that He is more than a man, who shows or declares this righteousness. Compare Amos 4.13, 'He that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought.' There seems to be in it a sweet allusion to the first declaration of this righteousness to man, or' as the word is, to Adam, after the fall, while he lay under terror from apprehensions of the wrath of God. This declaration was made by the messenger, the interpreter, namely, the eternal Word, the Son of God, called the voice of the Lord God (Gen 3.8), and by Him appearing, probably, in human shape. Now, while He by His Spirit, is the preacher of righteousness to the man, it is supposed that the man lays hold on the offered righteousness; whereupon the ransom is applied to him, and he is delivered from going down to the pit, for God has a ransom for him. This is intimated to him by the words, 'Deliver him' (Job 33.24). So his conscience, being purified by the blood of atonement, is pacified, and sweetly quieted. 'He shall pray unto God - and see his face with joy,' which before he beheld with horror (verse 26); that is, in New Testament language, 'Having an high priest over the house of God,' he shall 'draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having his heart sprinkled from an evil conscience' (Heb 10.21,22). But then, what becomes of the body, the weak and weary flesh? Why, 'his flesh shall be fresher than a child's, he shall return to the days of his youth' (verse 25). Yea, 'All his bones,' which were chastened with strong pain (verse ig), 'shau say, Lord, who is like unto thee?' (Psa 3 5. 10).
A third benefit flowing from union with Christ, is adoption. Believers, being united to Christ, become children of God, and members of the family of heaven. By their union with Him, who is the Son of God by nature, they become the sons of. God by grace (John 1. 12). As when a branch is cut off from one tree, and grafted in the branch of another, the ingrafted branch, by means of its union with the adopting branch, as some not unfitly have called it, is made a branch of the same stock with that into which it is ingrafted: so sinners, being ingrafted into Jesus Christ, whose name is the Branch, His Father is their Father, His God their God (John 20.17). And thus they, who are by nature children of the devil, become the children of God. They have the Spirit of adoption (Rom 8. 15), namely, the Spirit of His Son, which brings them to God, as children to a father, to pour out their complaints in His bosom, and to seek necessary supplies (Gal 4.6), 'Because ye are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.' Under all their weaknesses, they have fatherly pity and compassion shown them (Psalm 103-13), 'Like as a father pitieth his children; so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.' Although they were but foundlings, found in a desert land; yet now 'he keeps them as the apple of his eye' (Deut 32.10). Whoever pursues them, they have a refuge (Prov 14.26), 'His children shall have a place of refuge.' In a time of common calamity, they have chambers of protection, where they may be hid until the indignation is overpast (Isa 26.20). And He is not only their refuge for protection, but their portion for provision in that refuge (Psa 142.5); 'Thou art my refuge, and my portion in the land of the living.' They are provided for, for eternity (Heb. 11.16), 'He hath prepared for them a city.' And what He sees they have need of for time, they shall not want (Matt. 6.31,32), 'Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.' Seasonable correction is likewise their privilege as sons: so they are not suffered to pass with their faults, as others who are not children but servants of the family, who at length will be turned out of doors for their miscarriages (Heb 12-7), 'If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?' They are heirs of, and shall inherit the promises (Heb 6. 12). Nay, they are heirs of God, who Himself is the portion of their inheritance (Psa 16.5), 'and joint-heirs with Christ' (Rom 8.17). And because they are the children of the great King, and heirs of glory, they have angels for their attendants, who are 'sent forth to minister for them who shah be heirs of salvation' (Heb 1.14).
A fourth benefit is sanctification (I Cor 1.30), 'But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification.' Being united to Christ, they partake of His Spirit, which is the Spirit of holiness. There is a fulness of the Spirit in Christ, and it is not like the fulness of a vessel, which only retains what is poured into it; but it is the fulness of a fountain for diffusion and communication, which is always sending forth its waters, and yet is always full. The Spirit of Christ, that spiritual sap, which is in the stock, and from thence is communicated to the branches, is the Spirit of grace (Zech 12.10). And where the Spirit of grace dwells, there will be found a confluence of all graces. Holiness is not one grace only, but all the graces of the Spirit; it is a constellation of graces; it is all the graces in their seed and-root. And as the sap conveyed from the stock into the branch goes through it, and through every part of it; so the Spirit of Christ sanctifies the whole man. The poison of sin was diffused through the whole spirit, soul, and body of the man; and sanctifying grace pursues it into every comer (I Thess 5.23). Every part of the man is sanctified, though no part is perfectly, so. The truth we are sanctified by is not held in the head, as in a prison, but runs, with its sanctifying influences, through heart and life. There are indeed some graces in every believer which appear as top-branches above the rest, as meekness in Moses, patience in job; but seeing there is in every child of God, a holy principle going along with the holy law, in all its parts, loving and approving of it, as it appears from their universal respect to the commands of God, it is evident that they are endowed with all the graces of the Spirit. There cannot be less in the effect, than there was in the cause.
Now, this sanctifying Spirit, whereof believers partake, is to them, 1. A spirit of mortification; 'through the Spirit they mortify the deeds of the body' (Rom 8.13). Sin is crucified in them (Gal 5.24). They are planted together with Christ in the likeness of His death, which was a lingering death (Rom 6-5). Sin in the saint, though not quite dead, yet is dying. If it were dead, it would be taken down from the cross, and buried out of his sight: but it hangs there as yet, working and struggling under its mortal wounds. As, when a tree has got such a stroke as reaches the heart of it, all the leaves and branches begin to fade and decay, so, where the sanctifying Spirit comes and breaks the power of sin, there is a gradual ceasing from it, and dying to it, in the whole man; so that he 'no longer lives in the flesh to the lusts of men.' He does not make sin his trade and business; it is not his great design to seek himself, and to satisfy his corrupt inclinations: but he is seeking for Immanuel's land and is walking in the highway to it, the way which is called the way of holiness, though the wind from hell, that was on his back before, blows now full in his face, makes his travelling uneasy, and often drives him off the highway. 2. This Spirit is a Spirit of vivification to them for He is the Spirit of life, and makes them live unto righteousness (Ezek 36.27), 'And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes.' Those who have been 'planted together,' with Christ, 'in the likeness of his death, shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection' (Rom 6.5). At Christ's resurrection, when His soul was re-united with His body, every member of that blessed body was enabled again to perform the actions of life: so the soul, being influenced by the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, is enabled more and more to perform all the actions of spiritual life. And as the whole of the law, and not some scraps of it only, is written on the holy heart, so believers are enabled to transcribe that law in their life. Although they cannot write one line of it without blots, yet God, for Christ's sake, accepts of the performance, in point of sanctification, they being disciples to His own Son, and led by His own Spirit.
This sanctifying Spirit, communicated by the Lord Jesus to His members, is the spiritual nourishment the branches have from the stock into which they are ingrafted; whereby the life of grace, given them in regeneration, is preserved, continued, and actuated. It is the nourishment whereby the new creature lives, and is nourished up towards perfection. Spiritual life needs to be fed, and must have supply of nourishment: and believers derive the same from Christ their Head, whom the Father has appointed the Head of influences to all His members (Col 2. 19), 'And not holding the head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, or supplied,' &c. Now this supply is 'the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ' (Phil 1.19). The saints feed richly, 'eating Christ's flesh, and drinking His blood,' for their spiritual nourishment: yet our Lord himself teaches us, that 'it is the Spirit that quickeneth' (John 6.63), even that Spirit who dwells in His blessed body. The human nature is united to the divine nature in the person of the Son, and so, like the bowl in Zachariah's candlestick (chap 4) lies at the fountain head, as the glorious means of conveyance of influences from the fountain of Deity. He receives not the Spirit by measure, but ever hath a fulness of the Spirit' by reason of that personal union. Hence behevers, being united to the man Christ, as the seven lamps to the bowl, by their seven pipes (Zech 4.2), His flesh is to them meat indeed, and His blood drink indeed: for, feeding on that blessed body, that is, effectually applying Christ to their souls by faith' they partake more and more of that Spirit who dwelleth therein, to their spiritual nourishment. The holiness of God can never admit of an inimediate union with the sinful creature, nor, consequently, an immediate communion with it: yet the creature could not give the life of grace without communion with the fountain of life. Therefore, that the honour of God's holiness and the salvation of sinners might jointly be provided for, the second Person of the glorious Trinity took into a personal union with Himself a sinless human nature; that so this holy, harmless, and undefiled humanity, might immediately receive a fulness of the Spirit, of which He might communicate to His members, by His divine power and efficacy. Suppose there were a tree, with its root in the earth, and its branches reaching to heaven, the vast distance between the root and the branches would not interrupt the communication between the root and the top branch: even so, the distance between the man Christ, who is in heaven, and His members, who are on earth, cannot hinder the communication between them. What though the parts of mystical Christ, namely the Head and the members, are not contiguous, as joined together in the way of corporal union; the union is not therefore the less real and effectual. Yea, our Lord Himself shows us, that though we eat His flesh in a corporeal and carnal manner, yet it would profit nothing (John 6.63); we should not be one whit the holier thereby. But the members of Christ on earth are united to their Head in heaven, by the invisible bond of the self-same Spirit dwelling in both; in Him as the Head, and in them as the members. The wheels in Ezekiel's vision were not contiguous to the living creatures, yet were united to them by an invisible bond of one Spirit in both; so that, 'when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them, and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up' (Ezek 1.19); 'For', says the prophet, 'the Spirit of the livirig creature was in the wheels' (verse 20).
Hence we may see the difference between true satisfaction, and that shadow of it which is to be found among some strict professors of Christanity, who yet are not true Christians, are not regenerated by the Spirit of Christ, and is of the same kind with what has appeared in many sober heathens. True sanctification is the result of the soul's union with the holy Jesus, the first and immediate receptacle of the sanctifying Spirit, out of whose fulness His members do, by virtue of their union with Him, receive sanctifying influences. The other is the mere product of the man's own spirit, which, whatever it has, or seems to have, of the matter of true holiness, yet does not arise from the supernatural principles, nor to the high aims and ends thereof; for, as it comes from self, so it runs out into the dead sea of self again; and lies as wide of true holiness, as nature does of grace. They who have this species of holiness are like common boatmen, who serve themselves with their own oars: whereas the ship bound for Immanuel's land sails by the blowings of the divine Spirit. How is it possible there should be true satisfaction without Christ? Can there be true sanctification without partaking of the Spirit of holiness? Can we partake of that Spirit, but by Jesus Christ, 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life?' The falling dew shall as soon make its way through the flinty rock, as the influences of grace come from God to sinners any other way than through Him whom the Father has appointed the head of influences (Col 1.19), 'For it pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell:' and (chap 2.19), 'And not holding the head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.' Hence see how it comes to pass, that many fall away from their seeming sanctification, and never recover: it is because they are not branches truly knit to the true vine. Meanwhile others recover from their decays, because of their union with the life-giving stock, by the quickening Spirit (1 John 2. 19), 'They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.'
A fifth benefit is growth in grace. 'Having nourishment ministered, they increase with the increase of God' (Col 2.19); 'The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon' (Psa 92.12). Grace is of a growing nature; in the way to Zion they go from strength to strength. Though the holy man be at first a little child in grace, yet at length he becomes a young man, a father (1 John 2-13). Though he does but creep in the way to heaven sometimes, yet afterwards he walks, he runs, he mounts up with wings as eagles (Isa 40.3 1). If a branch grafted into a stock never grows, it is a plain evidence of its not having knit with the stock.
But some perhaps may say, 'If all true Christians be growing ones, what shall be said of those who, instead of growing, are going back?' I answer, There is a great difference between the Christian's growing simply, and his growing at all times. All true Christians do grow, but I do not say that they grow at all times. A tree that has life and nourishment grows to its perfection, yet it is not always growing; it grows not in the winter. Christians also have their winters, wherein the influences of grace, necessary for their growth, cease (Cant 5.2), 'I sleep.' It is by faith the believer derives gracious influences from Jesus Christ, as each lamp in the candlestick received oil from the bowl, by the pipe going between them (Zech 4-2). Now, if that pipe be stopped, if the saint's faith lie dormant and inactive, then all the rest of the graces wll become dim, and seem ready to be extinguished. In consequence whereof, depraved nature will gather strength and become active. What then will become of the soul? Why, there is still one sure ground of hope. The saint's faith is not as the hypocrite's, like a pipe laid short of the fountain, whereby there can be no conveyance: it still remains a bond of union between Christ and the soul; and therefore, because Christ lives, the believer shall live also (John 14-19). The Lord Jesus 'puts in His hand by the hole of the door,' and clears the means of conveyance; and then influences for growth flow, and the believer's graces look fresh and green again (Hos 14.7), 'They that dwell under his shadow shall return: they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine.' In the worst of times, the saints have a principle of growth in them (1 John 3-9), 'His seed remaineth in him.' Therefore, after decays, they revive again: namely, when the winter is over, and the Sun of Righteousness returns to them with his warm influences. Mud thrown into a pool may lie there at ease; but if it be cast into a fountain, the spring will at length work it out, and run as clear as formerly. Secondly, Christians may mistake their growth, and that two ways. 1. By judging of their case according to their present feeling.they observe themselves, and cannot perceive themselves to be growing; but there is no reason thence to conclude they are not growing (Mark 4.27), 'The seed springs and grows up, he knoweth not how.' Were a person to fix his eye never so steadfastly on a growing tree, he would not see it growing; but if he compare the tree as it now is, with what it was some years ago, he will certainly perceive that it has grown. In like manner may the Christian know whether he be in a growing or declining state, by comparing his present with his former condition. 2. Christians may mistake their case, by measuring their growth by the advances of the top only, not of the root. Though a man be not growing taller, he may be growing stronger. If a tree be uniting with the ground, fixing itself in the earth, and spreading out its roots, it is certainly growing, although it be not higher than formerly. So, although a Christian may want the sweet consolations and flashes of affection which he had; yet if he be growing in humility, self-denial, and sense of needy dependence on Jesus Christ, he is a growing Christian (Hos. 14-5), 'I will be as the dew unto Israel; he shall cast forth his roots as Lebanon.'
Question: 'But do hypocrites grow at all? And if so, how shall we distinguish between their growth and true Christian growth?' Answer: To the first part of the question, hypocrites do grow. The tares have their growth, as well as the wheat: the seed that fell among thorns did spring up (Luke 8.7). Only it brought no fruit to perfection (verse 14). Yea, a true Christian may have a false growth. James and John seemed to grow in the grace of holy zeal, when their spirits grew so hot in the cause of Christ that they would have fired a whole village for not receiving their Lord and Master (Luke 9.54), 'They said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elias did?' But it was indeed no such thing; and therefore he turned and rebuked them (verse 55), and said, 'Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.' To the second part of the question it is answered, that there is a peculiar beauty in the true Christian growth, distinguishing it from all false growth: it is universal, regular, proportionable. It is a 'growing up into him in all things, which is the head' (Eph 4. 15). The growing Christian grows proportionably in all the parts of the new man. Under the kindly influences of the Sun of Righteousness, believers grow up as calves of the stall' (Mal 4.2) You would think it a monstrous growth in these creatures if you saw their heads grow, and not their bodies; or if you saw one leg grow, and another not; if all the parts do not grow proportionably. Aye, but such is the growth of many in religion. They grow like rickety
children, who have a big head but a slender body; they get more knowledge into their heads, but not more holiness into their hearts and lives. They grow very hot outwardly, but very cold inwardly; like men in a fit of the ague. They are more taken up,about the externals of religion than formerly, yet as great strangers to the power of godliness as ever. 1f a garden is watered with the hand, some of the plants will readily get much, some little, and some no water at all; and therefore some wither, while others are coming forward; but after a shower from the clouds, all come forward together. 1n like manner, all the graces of the Spirit grow proportionably, by the special influences of divine grace. The branches ingrafted in Christ, growing aright, grow in all the several ways of growth at once. They grow inward, growing into Christ (Eph 4.15), uniting more closely with Him; cleaving more firmly to Him, as the Head of influences, which is the spring of all other true Christian growth. They grow outward in good worh, in their life and conversation. They not only, with Naphtali, give goodly words, but, like Joseph, they are fruitful boughs. They grow upward in heavenly-mindedness, and 'Contempt of the world; for their conversation is in heaven (Phil 3.20). And finally, they grow downward in humility and selfloathing. The branches of the largest growth in Christ, are, in their own eyes, 'less than the least of all saints' (Eph 3.8); 'the chief of sinners' (I Tim 1 -15); 'more brutish than any man' (Prov 30.2). They see that they can do nothing, no, not so much as "'think any thing, as of themselves' (2 Cor 3-5): that they deserve nothing, being 'not worthy of the least of all the mercies showed unto them' (Gen 32. 10); and that they are nothing (2 Cor 12.11).
A sixth benefit is fruitfulness. The branch ingrafted into Christ is not barren, but brings forth fruit (John 15-5), 'He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.' For that very end are souls united to Christ, that they may bring forth fruit unto God (Rom 7-4). They that are barren may be branches in Christ by profession, but not by real implantation. All who are united to Christ bring forth the fruit of Gospel-obedience and true holiness. Faith is always followed with good works. 'the believer is not only come out of the grave of his natural state, but he has put off his grave-clothes, namely, reigning lusts, in which he walked like a ghost; being dead while he lived in them (Col 3.7,8). For Christ has said of him, as of Lazarus, 'Loose him, and let him go.' Now that he has put on Christ, he personates Him, so to speak, as a beggar in borrowed robes represents a king on the stage, walking as he also walked. Now the fruit of the Spirit in him, is in all goodness (Eph 5-9). The fruits of holiness will be found in the hearts, lips, and lives of those who are united to Christ. The hidden man of the heart is not only a temple built for God, and consecrated to Him, but used and employed for Him, where love, fear, trust, and all the other parts of unseen religion, are exercised (Phil 3-3), 'For we are the circumcision which worship God in the Spirit.' The heart is no more than the devil's common, where thoughts go free, for there even vain thoughts are hated (Psa 119.113); but it is God's enclosure, hedged about as a garden for Him (Cant 4.16). It is true, there are weeds of corruption there, because the ground is not yet perfectly cleared, but the man, in the day of his new creation, is set to dress it, and keep it. A live coal from the altar has touched his lips, and they are purified. (Psa 15.1-3), 'Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that speaketh the truth in his heart; he that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.' There may be, indeed, a smooth tongue, where there is a false heart. The voice may be Jacob's, while the hands are Esau's. But, 'if man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain' 1.26). The power of godliness will rule over the tongue, though a world of iniquity. If one be a Galilean, his speech will bewray him; he will speak, not the language of Ashdod, but the language of Canaan. He will neither be dumb in religion, nor will his tongue walk at random, seeing, to the double guard which nature has given the tongue, grace has added a third. The fruits of holiness will be found in his outward conversation; for he has clean hands, as well as a pure heart (Psa 24-4). He is a godly man, and religiously discharges the duties of the first table of the law; he is a righteous man, and honestly performs the duties of the second table. In his conversation he is a good Christian, and a good neighbour too. He carries it towards God, as if men's eyes were upon him; and towards men, as believing God's eyes to be upon hiin. Those things which God hath joined in His law, he dares not put asunder in his practice.
Thus the branches in Christ are full of good fruits. And those fruits are a cluster of vital actions, whereof Jesus Christ is the principle and end. The principle: for He lives in them, and 'the life they live is by faith in the Son of God' (Gal 2.20). The end: for they live to Him, and 'to them to live is Christ (Phil 1.2-1). The duties of religion are in the world, like fatherless children in rags; some will not take them in, because they never loved them nor their father; some take them in, because they may be serviceable to them: but the saints take them in for their Father's sake, that is for Christ's sake: and they are lovely in their eyes, because they are like Him. 0! whence is this new life of the saints? Surely it could never have been hammered out of the natural powersof their
souls, by the united force of all created power. In eternal barrenness would they have continued, but that being 'married to Christ, they bring forth fruit unto God' (Rom 7-4).
If You ask me, 'How can your nourishment, growth, and fruitfulness be forwarded?" I offer these few advices: 1. Make sure work as to your knitting with the stock by faith unfeigned, and beware of hypocrisy: a branch that is not sound at the heart will certainly wither. The trees of the Lord's planting are trees of righteousness (Isa 61-3). So, when others fade, they bring forth fruit. Hypocrisy is a disease in the vitals of religion, which will consume all at length; it is a leak in the ship, that will certainly sink it. Sincerity of grace will make it lasting, be it never so weak; as the smallest twig, that is sound at the heart, will draw nourishment from the stock and grow, while the greatest bough that is rotten can never recover, because it receives no nourishment. 2. Labour to be steadfast in the truths and way of God. An unsettled and wavering judgment is a great enemy to Christian growth and fruitfulness, as the apostle teaches (Eph 4.14,15), 'That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine. But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.' A rolling stone gathers no moss, and a wavering judgment makes a fruitless life. Though a tree be never so sound, yet how can it grow, or be fruitful, if you be still removing it out of one soil into another? 3. Endeavour to cut off the suckers, as gardeners do, that their trees may thrive. These are unmortified lusts; therefore 'mortify your members that are upon the earth' (Col 3.5). When the 1sraelites got meat to their lusts, they got leanness to their souls. She that has many hungry children about her hand, and must be still putting into their mouths, will have much ado to get a bit put into her own. They must refuse the cravings of inordinate affections, who would have their souls to prosper. 4. Improve, for these ends, the ordinances of God. It is in the courts of our God where the trees of righteousness flourish (Psa 92-13). The waters of the sanctuary are the means appointed of God, to cause His people to grow as willows by the water courses. Therefore drink in with 'desire, the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby' (I Pet 2.2). Come to these wells of salvation, not to look at them only, but to draw water out of them. The sacrament of the Lord's supper is in a special manner appointed for these ends. It is not only a solemn public profession, and a seal of our union and communion with Christ, but it is a means of most intimate communion with Him, and strengthens our union with Hiin, our faith, love, repentance, and other graces (I Cor 10.16), 'The cup of blessing, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?' And (chapter 12-13), 'We have been all made to drink into one Spirit.' Give yourselves unto prayer; open your mouths wide, and He will fill them. By these means the branches in Christ may be further nourished, grow up, and bring forth much fruit.
A seventh benefit is, The acceptance of their fruits of holiness before the Lord. Though they may be imperfect, they are accepted, because they savour of Christ, the blessed stock, which the branches grow upon, while the fruits of others are rejected of God (Gen 4.4,5), 'And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and his offering; but unto Cain and his offering he had not respect.' Compare Heb 11 - 3, 'By faith, Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.' O how defective are the saints' duties in the eye of the law! The believer himself sees many faults in his best performances; yet the Lord graciously receives them. There is no grace planted in the heart, but there is a weed of corruption hard. by its side, while the saints are in the lower world. Theirvery sincerity is not without a mixture of dissimulation or hypocrisy (Gal 2.13). Hence there are defects in the exercise of every grace, in the performance of every duty; depraved nature always drops something to stain their best works. There is still a mixture of darkness with their clearest light. Yet this does not mar their acceptance (Cant 6.10), 'Who is she that looketh forth as the morning? or, as the dawning'? Behold how Christ's spouse is esteemed and accepted of her Lord, even when she looks forth as the morning, whose beauty is mixed with the blackness of the night! 'When the morning was looking out,' as the word is (Judges 1.9-26), that is, 'In the dawning of the day,' as we read it. So very dawning of grace and good will to Christ, grace peeping out from under a mass of darkness in believers, is pleasant and acceptable to Him, as the break of day is to the weary traveler. Though the remains of unbelief make the hand of faith to shake and tremble, yet the Lord is so well pleased with it, that He employs it to carry away pardons and supplies of grace from the throne of grace and the fountain of grace. His faith was effectual, who 'cried out and said with tears, Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief!' (Mark 9.24). Though the remains of sensual affections make the flame of their love weak and smoky, He turns His eyes from the smoke' and beholds the flame, how fair it is (Cant 4.10), 'How fair is thy love' my sister, my spouse!' 'The smell of their 'under 'garments' of inherent holiness, imperfect as it is, 'is like the smell of Lebanon' (verse 11); and that because they are covered with their elder brother's clothes' which make the sons of God to 'smell as a field which the Lord hath blessed.' Their good works are accepted; their cups of cold water given to a disciple, in the name of a disciple, shall not want a reward. Though they cannot offer for the tabernacle, gold, silver, and brass' and onyx stones, let them come forward with what they have; if it were but goats' hair, it shall not be rejected; if it were but rams' skins, they shall be kindly accepted; for they are dyed red, dipped by faith in the Mediator's blood, and so presented unto God. A very ordinary work done in faith, and from faith, if it were but the building of a wall about the holy city, is a great work (Neh 6-3). If it were but the bestowing of a box of ointment on Christ, it shall never be forgotten (Matt 26.13). Even 'a cup of cold water only given to one of Christ's little ones, in the name of a disciple, shall be rewarded' (Matt 10-42). Nay, not a good word for Christ shall drop from their mouths, but it shall be registered in God's 'book of remembrance' (Mal 3J6). Nor shall a tear drop from their eyes for Him, but He will 'put it in His bottle' (Psa 56.8). Their will is accepted for the deed; their sorrow for the want of will, for the will itself (2 Cor 8.12), 'For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.' Their groanings, when they cannot well express their desires, are heard in heaven; the meaning of those groans is well known there, and they will be returned like the dove with an olive branch of peace in her mouth. (See Rom 8.26,27.) Their mites are better than other men's talents. Their lisping and broken sentences are more pleasant to their Father in heaven, than the most fluent or flourishing speeches of those who are not in Christ. Their voice is sweet, even when they are ashamed it should be heard; their countenance is comely, even when they blush, and draw a veil over it (Cant 2.14). The Mediator takes their petitions, blots out some parts, rectifies others, and then presents them to the Father, in consequence whereof they pass in the court of heaven.
Every true Christian is a temple to God. If you look for sacrifices, they are not wanting there; they offer the sacrifice of praise, and do good: with such sacrifices God is well pleased (Heb 13-15,16). Christ Himself is the altar that sanctifies the gift (verse 10). 1f we look for incense, it is there too. The graces of the Spirit are found in their hearts, and the Spirit of the crucified Christ fires them, and puts them in exercise, as the fire was brought from the altar of bumt-offering, to set the incence aflame; then they mount heavenward, like pillars of smoke (Cant 3-6). But the best of incense will leave ashes behind it: yes, indeed; but as the priest took away the ashes of the incense in a golden dish, and threw them out, so our great High Priest takes away the ashes and refuse of all the saints' services, by His mediation in their behalf.
An eighth benefit flowing from union with Christ, is establishment. The Christian cannot fall away, but must persevere unto the end (John 10.28), 'they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.' Indeed, if a branch do not knit with the stock, it will fall away when shaking winds arise: but the branch knit to the stock stands fast whatever wind blows. Sometimes a stormy wind of temptation blows from hell, and shakes the branches in Christ the true vine: but their union with Him is their security; moved they may be, but removed they
never can be. The Lord 'will with the temptation also make a way to escape' (I Cor 10-13). Calms are never of any continuance; there is almost always some wind blowing, and therefore branches are rarely altogether at rest. But sometimes violent winds arise' which threaten to rend them from off their stock. Even so it is with saints; they are daily put to it to keep their ground against temptation: sometimes the wind from hell rises so high, and blows so furiously, that it makes even top branches to sweep the ground; yet being knit to Christ their stock, they get up again, in spite of the most violent efforts of the prince of the power of the air (Psa 94.18), 'When I said, my foot slippeth, thy mercy, 0 Lord, held me up.' But the Christian improves by his trial, and is so far from being damaged that he is benefited by it, as it discovers what hold the soul has of Christ, and what hold Christ has of the soul. And look, as the wind in the bellows, which would blow out the candle, blows up the fire; even so it often comes to pass, that such temptations enliven the true Christian, awakening the graces of the Spirit in him; and by that means, discover both the reality and the strength of grace in him. And hence, as Luther, that great man of God, said, 'One Christian, who has had experience of temptation, is worth a thousand others!
Sometimes a stormy wind of trouble and persecution from the men of the world blows upon the vine, that is, mystical Christ; but union with the stock is a sufficient security to the branches. In a time of the church's peace and outward prosperity, while the angels hold the winds that they blow not, there are a great many branches taken up and put into the stock, which never knit with it, nor live by it, though they be bound up with it by the bonds of external ordinances. Now, these may stand a while on the stock, and stand with great ease while the calm lasts; but when once the storms arise, and the winds blow, they will begin to fall off one after another; and the higher the wind rises, the greater will the number be that falls. Yea, some strong boughs of that sort, when they fall, will, by their weight, carry others of their own kind, quite down to the earth with them; and will bruise and press down some true branches in such a manner, that they would also fall off, were it not for that fast hold which the stock has of them. Then it is that many branches which before were high and eminent, are found lying on the earth withered, and fit to be gathered up and cast into the fire (Matt 13.6), 'When the sun was up, they were scorched: and because they had no root, they withered away.' (John 15.6), 'If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth so a branch, and is withered, and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.' But however violently the winds blow, none of the truly ingrafted branches that are knit with the stock are found missing, when the storm is changed into a calm (John 17-12), 'Those that thou gavest me, I have kept, amd none of them is lost.' The least twig growing in Christ shall stand it out, and subsist, when the tallest cedars growing on their own root, shall be laid flat on the ground (Rom 8.35), 'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?' (See verses 36-39.) However severely Israel be 'sifted, yet shall not the least grain,' or, as it is in the original language, 'a little stone', 'fall upon the earth' (Amos 9.9). It is an allusion to the sifting of fine pebble stones from among heaps of dust and sand: though the sand and dust fall to the ground, to be blown away with the wind, and trampled under foot, yet there shall not fall on the earth so much as a little stone, such is the exactness of the sieve and the care of the sifter. There is nothing more ready to fall on the earth than a stone: yet, if professors of religion be lively stones, built on Christ the chief Comer-stone, although they be little stones, they shall not fall to the earth, whatever storm beats upon them. (See I Pet 2.4-6.) All the good grain in the church of Christ is of 'this kind; they are stones, in respect of solidity, and lively stones in respect of activity. If men be solid substantial Christians, they will not be like chaff tossed to and fro with every wind, having much of the liveliness that they have nothing of the stone; and they be lively Christians, whose spirits will stir in them, as Paul's did, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry (Acts 17.16), they will not be like stones, to be turned over, hither and thither, cut and carved, according to the lusts of men; having so much of the stone as leaves nothing of liveliness in them.
Our God's house is a great house, wherein are not only vessels of gold, but also of earth (2 Tim 2.20). Both these are apt to contract filthiness; and therefore when God brings trouble upon the church, he has an eye to both. As for the vessels of gold, they are not destroyed, but purified by a fiery trial in the furnace of affiction, as goldsmiths refine their gold (Isa 1.2-5), 'And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross.' But destruction is to the vessels of earth; they shall be broken in shivers, as a potter's vessel (verse 2.8), 'And the destruction,' or breaking 'of the transgressors, and of the sinners, shall be together.' It seems to be an allusion to that law for breaking the vessels of earth, when unclean; while vessels of wood, and consequently vessels of gold, were only to be rinsed (Lev 15. 12).
A ninth benefit is support. If you are a branch ingrafted in Christ, the root bears you. The believer leans on Christ, as a weak woman in a journey leaning upon her beloved husband (Cant 8-5). He stays himself upon Hiin, as a feeble old man stays himself on his staff (Isa 50.10). He rolls himself on Him, as one rolls a burden he is not able to walk under, off his own back, upon another who is able to bear it (Psa 22.8, marg). There are many weights to hang upon and press down the branches in Christ the true vine. But you know, whatever weights hang on the branches, the stock bears all; it bears the branch, and the weight that is upon it too.
I : Christ supports believers in Him, under a weight of outward troubles. That is a large promise (Isa 43.2), 'When thou passest through the waters, 1 will be with thee: and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee.' See how David was supported under a heavy load (I Sam 30.6). His city Ziglag was burnt, his wives were taken captives, his men spoke of stoning him: nothing was left him but his God and his faith; but by his faith, he encouraged himself in his God. The Lord comes, and lays His cross on His people's shoulders; it presses them down, and they are likely to sink under it, and therefore cry, 'Master, save us, we 'perish;' but He supports them under their burden; He bears them up, and they bear their cross. Thus the Christian, with a weight of outward troubles upon him, goes lightly under his burden, having the everlasting arms underneath him. The Christian has a spring of comfort which he cannot lose; and therefore never wants something to support him. If a man have all his riches in money, robbers may take these away; and then what has he more? But though the landed proprietor may be robbed of his money, yet his lands remain for his support. Those who build their comfort on worldly goods, may quickly be comfortless; but those who are united to Christ shall find comfort, when all the streams of worldly enjoyments are dried up (Job 6.13), 'Is not my help in me? and is wisdom driven quite from me?' that is, Though my substance is gone; though my servants, my children, my health, and soundness of body, are all gone; yet my grace is not gone too. Though the Sabeans have driven away my oxen and asses, and the Chaldeans have driven away my camels, they have not driven away my faith, and my hope too; these are yet in me; they are not driven from me; so that by them I can fetch comfort from heaven, when I can have none from earth.
2: Christ supports His people under a weight of inward troubles and discouragements. Many times 'heart and flesh fail them;' but then 'God is the strength of their heart' (Psa 73.26). They may have a weight of guilt pressing them. This is a load that will make their backs bend, and their spirits sink: but He takes it off, and puts a pardon into their hand, while they cast their burden upon Him. Christ takes the soul, as one marries a widow under a burden of debt: and so when the creditors come to Christ's spouse, she carries them to her Husband, confesses the debt, declares she is not able to pay, and lays all upon Him. The Christian sometimes, through carelessness, loses his discharge; he cannot find it, however he search for it. The law takes that opportunity, and proceeds against him for a debt paid already. God hides His face, and the soul is distressed. Many arrows go through the heart now; many long accounts are laid before the man, which he reads and acknowledges. Often does he see the officers coming to apprehend him, and the prison door open to receive him. What else keeps him from sinking utterly under discouragements in this case, but that the everlasting arms of a Mediator underneath hiin, and that he relies upon the great Surety? Further, they may have a weight of strong lusts pressing them. They have a body of death upon them. Death is a weight that presses the soul out of the body. A leg or an arm of death, if I may so speak, would be a terrible load. One lively lust will sometimes lie so heavy on a child of God, that he can no more remove it than a child could throw a giant from off him. How then are they supported under a whole body of death? Their support is from that root which bears thein, from the everlasting arm that is underneath them. 'His grace is sufficient for them' (2 Cor 12.9). The great stay of the believer is not the grace of God within him; that is a well whose streams sometimes run dry; but it is the grace of God without him, the grace that is in Jesus Christ, which is an ever-flowing fountain, to which the believer can never come amiss. For the apostle tells us in the same verse, it is 'the power of Christ."Most gladly therefore,' says he, 'will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me,' or 'tabernacle above me,' as the cloud of glory did on the Israelites, which God spread for a covering, or shelter, to them in the wilderness (Psa 105-39; compare Isa 4.5,6). So that the believer in this combat, like the eagle, first flies aloft by faith, and then comes down on the prey Psa 34-5),' They looked to him, and were lightened.' Finally, they have a weight of weakness and wants upon thern, but they 'cast over that burden on the Lord,' their strength, 'and He sustains them' (Psa 55.22). With all their wants and weakness they are cast upon Him; as the poor, weak, and naked babe coming out of the womb, is cast into the lap of one appointed to take care of it (Psa 22.10). Though they be destitute, as a shrub in the wilderness, which the foot of every beast may tread down, the Lord will regard them (Psa 102-17). It is not surprising that the weakest plant should be safe in a garden: but our Lord Jesus Christ is a hedge for protection to His weak and destitute ones, even in a wilderness.
TO BE CONTINUED
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