The Method of Grace

by John Flavel

The Saints coming home to God by Reconciliation
and Glorification
, opened and applied.  

 
"For Christ has once suffered for sins, the just for the
 unjust, that he might bring us to God." 1 Peter 3:18     
     
    The scope of the apostle in this place is to prepare and
fortify Christians for a day of suffering. In order to their
cheerful sustaining whereof, he prescribes two excellent rules of
mighty use for all suffering Christians.
    First, To get a good conscience within them, ver. 16,17.
    Secondly, To set the example of Christ's sufferings before
them, ver. 18. "For Christ has once suffered for sinners;" the
sufferings of Christ for us, is the great motive engaging Christians
to suffer cheerfully for him.
    In the words before us we have,
    First, The sufficiency and fullness of Christ's sufferings
intimated in that particle [once]; Christ needs to suffer no more,
having finished and completed that whole work at once.
    Secondly, The meritorious cause of the sufferings of Christ,
and that is sin, Christ once suffered for sins; not his own sins,
but ours; as it follows in the next clause, which is the third thing
here observable, namely,
    Thirdly, The admirable grace and unexampled love of Christ to
us sinners, the just for the unjust; in which words the substitution
of Christ in the room and place of sinners, the vicegerence of his
death is plainly expressed. Christ died not only nostro bono, for
our good, but also nostro loco, in our stead.
    Fourthly, Here is also the final cause or design and scope of
the sufferings of Christ, which was to bring us to God.
    Fifthly, Here is also the issue of the sufferings of Christ,
which was the death of Christ in the flesh, and the quickening of
Christ after death by the Spirit. Many excellent observations are
lodged in the bosom of this scripture; all which I must pass over in
silence at this time, and confine my discourse to the final cause of
the sufferings of Christ, namely, that he might bring us to God:
where the observation will be plainly and briefly this.
     
    Doctrine. That the end of Christ's cursed death, and bitter
         sufferings, was to bring all those for whom he died unto
         God.
     
    In the explication and preparation of this point for use, two
things must be spoken unto, namely,
    1. What Christ's bringing us to God imports?
    2. What influence the death of Christ has upon this design of
bringing us to God?
    First, What Christ's bringing us to God imports? And certainly
there be many great and excellent things contained in this
expression: more generally it notes our state of reconciliation, and
our state of glorification. By reconciliation we are brought near to
God, Eph. 2: 18. "You are made near," that is reconciled, "by the blood
of Christ," Heb. 12: 22, 23. we are said "to come to God the Judge
of all." By reconciliation we are brought near unto God now; by
glorification we shall be brought home to God hereafter, 1 Thes. 55:
17. "We shall be ever with the Lord." But more particularly this
phrase, "that he might bring us to God," imports,
    First, That the chief happiness of man consists in the
enjoyment of God: that the creature has as necessary dependence upon
God for happiness, as the stream has upon the fountain, or the image
in the glass upon the face of him that looks into it. For as the sum
of the creature's misery lies in this, depart from me; separation
from God being the principal part of damnation, so, on the contrary,
the chief happiness of the creature consists in the enjoyment and
blessed vision of God, 1 John 3: 2. Psalm. 17: 15. "I shall be
satisfied when I awake with your likeness".
    Secondly, It implies man's revolt and apostasy from God, Eph.
2: 12. "But now in Christ Jesus, you who were some time afar off; are
made near by the blood of Christ." Those whom Christ brings unto
God were before afar off from him, both in state and condition, and
in temper and disposition: we were lost creatures, and had no desire
to return to God. The prodigal was said to go into a far country,
Luke 15: 80.
    Thirdly, Christ's bringing us to God, implies our inability to
re turn to God of ourselves; we must be brought back by Christ, or
perish forever in a state of separation from God: the lost sheep is
made the emblem of the lost sinner, Luke 15: 5. The sheep returns
not to the fold of itself, but the shepherd seeks it, finds it, and
carries it back upon his shoulders. And the apostle plainly tells
us, Romans 5: 6. That when we were without strength, that is any ability
to recover, help, or save ourselves, in due time Christ died for the
ungodly.
    Fourthly, Christ bringing us to God evidently implies this,
that God's unsatisfied justice was once the great bar between him
and man. Man can have no access to God but by Christ: Christ brings
us to God by no other way but the way of satisfaction by his blood:
"He has suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might
bring us to God." Better ten thousand worlds should perish forever,
than that God should lose the honor of his justice. This great
obex, or bar to our enjoyment of God, is effectually removed by the
death of Christ, whereby God's justice is not only fully satisfied,
but highly honored and glorified, Romans 3: 24. And so the way by
which we are brought to God is again opened (to the wonder and joy
of all believers) by the blood and sufferings of Christ.
    Fifthly, and lastly, It shows us the peculiar happiness and
privilege of believers above all people in the world: these only are
they which shall be brought to God by Jesus Christ in a reconciled
state: others, indeed, shall be brought to God as a Judge, to be
condemned by him: believers only are brought to God in the
Mediator's hand, as a reconciled Father, to be made blessed forever
in the enjoyment of him: every believer is brought singly to God at
his death, Luke 16: 22. And all believers shall be jointly and
solemnly presented to God in the great day, Col. 1: 22. Jude, ver.
24. They shall be all presented faultless before the presence of his
glory with exceeding joy. Now the privilege of believers in that day
will lie in divers things.
    First, That they shall be all brought to God together. This
will be the general assembly mentioned, Heb. 12: 22. There shall be
a collection of all believers, in all ages of the world, into one
blessed assembly; they shall come from the east, and west, and
north, and south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God, Luke 13:
29. 0 what a glorious train will be seen following the Redeemer in
that day!
    Secondly, As all the saints shall be collected into one body;
so they shall be all brought or presented unto God, faultless and
with out blemish, Jude, ver. 24. "A glorious church, without spot or
wrinkle, or any such thing," Eph. 5: 27. For this is the general
assembly of the spirits of just men that are made perfect, Heb. 12:
23. All sin was perfectly separated from them when death had
separated their souls and bodies.
    Thirdly, In this lies the privilege of believers, that as they
shall be all brought together, and that in a state of absolute
purity, and perfection, so they shall be all brought to God: they
shall see his face, in the vision whereof is "fullness of joy, and at
whose right-hand are pleasures for evermore," Psalm. 16: 11. The
objective blessedness of the saints consists in their fruition of
God, Psalm. 72: 25. To see God in his word and works, is the
happiness of the saints on earth; but to see him face to face, will
be the fullness of their blessedness in heaven, 1 John 3: 2. This is
that intuitive, transforming, and sanctifying vision, of which the
scriptures frequently speaks, Psalm. 17: 15. 1 Cor. 15: 28. Rev. 7:
17.
    Fourthly, To be brought unto God, must needs imply a state of
perfect joy and highest delight. So speaks the apostle, Jude 14.
Christ shall present, or bring them to God with exceeding joy. And
more fully the joy of this day is expressed, Psalm. 45: 15 "With joy
and rejoicing shall they be brought; they shall enter into the
king's palace." It will be a day of universal joy, when all the
saints are brought home to God in a perfected state. For,
    1. God the Father will rejoice when Christ brings home that
precious number of his elect, whom he redeemed by his blood: he
rejoices in them now, though imperfect, and under many distasteful
corruptions and weaknesses, Zeph. 3: 17. How much more will he
rejoice in them when Christ presents them without spot or wrinkle to
him, Eph. 5: 27.
    2. Jesus Christ will exceedingly rejoice; it will be the day of
the gladness and satisfaction of his heart; for now, and not until
now, he receives his mystical fullness, Col. 1: 24. beholds all the
blessed issues of his death, which cannot but give him unspeakable
contentment, Isa 53: 11. "He shall see of the travail of his soul,
and shall be satisfied."
    3. The day in which believers are brought home to God, will be
a day of unspeakable joy to the Holy Spirit of God himself. For unto
this all his sanctifying designs in this world had respect: to this
day he sealed them: towards this day he stirred up desires, and
groanings in their hearts that cannot be uttered, Eph. 4: 30. Romans
8: 28. Thus the great and blessed persons, Father, Son, and Spirit,
will rejoice in the bringing home of the elect to God. For as it is
the greatest joy to a man to see the designs which his heart has
been long projecting, and intently set upon, by an orderly conduct,
at last brought to the happy issue he first aimed at; much more will
it be so here; the counsel and hand of each person being deeply
concerned in this blessed design.
    4. The angels of God will rejoice at the bringing home of
believers to him: the spirits of just men made perfect, will be
united in one general assembly, with an innumerable company of
angels, Heb. 2: 22 Great is the affection and love of angels to
redeemed ones; they greatly rejoiced at the incarnation of Christ
for them, Luke 2: 13. They greatly delighted to pry into the mystery
of their redemption, 1 Pet. 1. 12 They were marvelously delighted
at their conversion, which was the day of their espousals to Christ,
Luke 15: 10. They have been tender and careful over them, and very
serviceable to them in this world, Heb. 1: 14. and therefore cannot
but rejoice exceedingly, to see them all brought home in safety to
their father's house.
    5. To conclude, Christ's bringing home all believers unto God,
will be matter of unspeakable joy to themselves; for, whatever
knowledge and acquaintance they had with God here, whatever sights
of faith they had of heaven and the glory to come in this world, yet
the sight of God and Christ the Redeemer will be an unspeakable
surprise to them in that day. This will be the day of relieving all
their wants, the day of satisfaction to all their desires; for now
they are come where they would be, arrived at the very desires of
their souls.
    Secondly, In the last place, let it be considered, what
influence the death of Christ has upon this design, and you shall
find it much every way. In two things especially, the death of
Christ has a blessed casualty and influence in this matter, namely,
    1. It effectually removes all obstacles to it.
    2. It purchases (as a price) their title to it.
    First, The death of Christ removes all obstacles out of the way
of this mercy: such were the bars hindering our access to God as
nothing but the death of Christ could remove, and thereby open a way
for believers to come to God. The guilt of sin barred us from his
gracious presence, Romans 1: 2, 3. Hos. 14: 2. The filth of sin
excluded us from God, Hab. 1: 23. Heb. 12: 14. The enmity of our
nature perfectly stopped up our way to God, Col. 1: 21. Romans 8: 7.
by reason hereof fallen man has no desire to come unto God, Job 21:
14. The justice of God, like a flaming sword turning every way, kept
all men from access to God. And Lastly, Satan, that malicious and
armed adversary, lay as a lion in the way to God, 2 Pet. 5: 8. 0,
with what strong bars were the gates of heaven shut against our
souls! The way of God was chained up with such difficulties, as none
but Christ was able to remove; and he by death has effectually
removed them all: The way is now open, even the new and the living
way, consecrated for us by his blood. The death of Christ
effectually removes the guilt of sin, 1 Pet. 2: 21. washes off the
filth of sin, 1 John 5: 6. takes away the enmity of nature, Col. 1:
20, 21. satisfies all the demands of justice, Romans 3: 25, 26. has
broken all the power of Satan, Col. 2: 15. Heb. 2: 14. and
consequently the way to God is effectually and fully opened to
believers by the blood of Jesus, Heb. 10: 20.
    Secondly, The blood of Christ purchased for believers their
right and title to this privilege, Gal. 4: 4, 5. "But when the
fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,
made under the law; to redeem them that were under the law, that we
might receive the adoption of sons," that is both the relation and
inheritance of sons. There was value and worth enough in the
precious blood of Christ, not only to pay all our debts to justice,
but over and above the payment of our debts, to purchase for us this
invaluable privilege. We must put this unspeakable mercy of being
brought to God, as my text puts it, upon the account, and to the
score of the death of Christ: no believer had ever tasted the
sweetness of such a mercy, if Christ had not tasted the bitterness
of death for him. The use of all you will have in the following
deductions of truth.
    Deduction 1. Great is the preciousness and worth of souls, that
the life of Christ should be given to redeem and recover them to
God. As God laid out his thoughts and counsel from eternity, upon
them, to project the way and method of their salvation, so the Lord
Jesus, in pursuance of that blessed design, came from the bosom of
the Father, and spilt his invaluable blood to bring them to God. No
wise man expends vast sums to bring home trifling commodities: how
cheap soever our souls are in our estimation, it is evident by this
they are of precious esteem in the eyes of Christ.
    Deduct. 2. Redeemed souls must expect no rest or satisfaction
on this side heaven, and the full enjoyment of God. The life of a
believer in this world, is a life of motion and expectation: they
are now coming to God, 1 Pet. 2: 4. God, you see, is the center and
rest of their souls, Heb. 4: 9. As the rivers cannot rest until they
pour themselves into the bosom of the sea, so neither can renewed
souls find rest until they come into the bosom of God. There are four
things which do and will break the rest, and disturb the souls of
believers in this world; afflictions, temptations, corruptions, and
absence from God. If the three former causes of disquietness were
totally removed, so that a believer were placed in such a condition
upon earth, where no affliction could disturb him, no temptation
trouble him, no corruption defile or grieve him, yet his very
absence from God must still keep him restless and unsatisfied, 2
Cor. 5: 6. "While we are at home in the body, we are absent from
the Lord."
    Deduct. 3. What sweet and pleasant thoughts should all
believers have of death! When they die, and never until they die,
shall they be fully brought home to God. Death to the saints, is the
door by which they enter into the enjoyment of God: the dying
Christian is almost at home, yet a few pangs and agonies more, and
then he is come to God, in whose presence is the fullness of joy. "I
desire (says Paul) to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far
better," Phil. 1: 23. It should not affright us to be brought to
death, the king of terrors, so long as it is the office of death to
bring us to God. That dreaming opinion of the soul sleeping after
death, is as ungrounded, as it is uncomfortable: the same day we
loose from this shore, we shall be landed upon the blessed shore;
where we shall see and enjoy God forever. O, if the friends of dead
believers did but understand where, and with whom their souls are,
while they are mourning over their bodies, certainly a few
believing thoughts of this would quickly dry up their tears. and
fill the house of mourning with voices of praise and thanksgiving!
    Deduct. 4. How comfortable and sweet should the converses and
communication of Christians be one with another, in this world!
Christ is bringing them all to God through this valley of tears: they
are now in the way to him; all bound for heaven; going home to God,
their everlasting rest in glory: every day, every hour, every duty
brings them nearer and nearer to their journey's end, Romans 13: 11.
"Now (says the apostle) is our salvation nearer than when we
believed." O, what manner of heavenly communications and ravishing
discourses should believers have with each other as they walk by the
way! O, what pleasant and delightful converse should they have with
one another about the place and state where Christ is bringing
them, and where they shall shortly be! What ravishing, transporting,
transforming visions they shall have that day they are brought home
to God! How surprisingly glorious to them the sight of Jesus Christ
will be, who died for them to bring them unto God! how should such
discourses as these, shorten and sweeten their passage through this
world, strengthen and encourage the dejected and feeble-minded, and
exceedingly honor and adorn their profession? Thus lived the
believers of old, Heb. 11: 9, 10. "By faith he sojourned in the land
of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with
Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he
looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is
God." But, alas! most Christians are either so entangled in the
cares and troubles, or so ensnared by the delights and pleasures
which almost continually divert and take up their thoughts by the
way, that there is but little room for any discourses of Christ and
heaven, among many of them: but certainly this would be as much your
interest as your duty. When the apostle had entertained the
Thessalonians with a lovely discourse of their meeting the Lord in
the air, and being ever with the Lord, he charges it upon them as
their great duty, to comfort one another with these words, 1 Thes.
4: 17,18.
    Deduct. 5; How unreasonable are the dejections of believers
upon the account of those troubles which they meet with in this
world! It is true, afflictions of all kinds do attend believers in
their way to God; through many tribulations we must enter into that
kingdom. But what then? must we despond and droop under them as
other men? Surely no; If afflictions be the way through which you
must come to God, then never be discouraged at affliction; troubles
and afflictions are of excellent use, under the blessings of the
Spirit, to further Christ's great design in bringing you to God. How
often would you turn out of that way which leads to God, if he did
not hedge up your way with thorns, Hos. 2: 6. Doubtless when you
come home to God, you shall find you have been much beholden (it may
be a great deal more) to your troubles than to your comforts, for
bringing you there: however, the sweetness of the end will
infinitely more then recompense the sorrows and troubles of the way:
nor are they worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be
revealed in you, Romans 8: 18.
    Deduct 6. How much are all believers obliged, in point of
interest, to follow Jesus Christ whithersoever he goes! Thus are the
saints described, Rev. 14: 4. "These are they which follow the Lamb
whithersoever be goes: these were redeemed from among men, being
the first fruits unto God, and to the Lamb." If it be the design of
Christ to bring us to God, then certainly it is our duty to follow
Christ in all the paths of active and passive obedience through
which he now leads us, as ever we expect to be brought home to God
at last: "We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning
of our confidence steadfast unto the end," Heb. 3: 14. If we have
followed him through many sufferings and troubles, and shall turn
away from him at last, we lose all that we have wrought and suffered
in religion, and shall never reach home to God at last. The crown of
life belongs only to them who are faithful to the death.
    Deduct. 7. Let all that desire, or expect to come to God
hereafter, come to Christ by faith now. There is no other way to the
Father, but by Christ, no other way to Christ but faith. How vain
therefore are the hopes and expectations of all unbelievers? Be
assured of this great truth, Death shall bring you to God as an
avenging Judge, if Christ do not bring you now to God as a
reconciled Father: without holiness no man shall see God: the door
of hope is shut against all christless persons, John 14: 6. "No man
comes unto the Father but by me." O what a sweet voice comes down
from heaven to your souls this day, saying, As ever you expect or
hope to come to God, and enjoy the blessing that is here, come unto
Christ, obey his calls, give up yourselves to his conduct and
government, and you shall certainly be brought to God! As sure as
you shall now be brought to Jesus Christ by spiritual union, so sure
shall you be brought to God in full fruition.
    Blessed be God for Jesus Christ, the new and living way to the
Father.
    And thus I have finished the motives drawn from the titles and
benefits of Christ, serving to enforce and quicken the great gospel
exhortation of coming to, and effectually applying the Lord Jesus
Christ in the way of faith. O that the blessings of the Spirit might
follow these calls, and fix these considerations as nails in sure
places! But seeing the great hindrance and obstruction to faith is
the false opinion and persuasion of most unregenerate men, that they
are already in Christ; my next work therefore shall be, in a second
use of conviction, to undeceive men in that matter; and that, by
showing them the undoubted certainty of these two things:
    First, That there is no coming ordinarily to Christ without the
application of the law to our consciences, in a way of effectual
conviction.
    Secondly, Nor by that neither, without the teachings of God, in
the way of spiritual illumination. The first of these will be fully
confirmed and opened in the following sermon.




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