The Method of Grace

by John Flavel

Christ, "The Desire of All Nations"
                           
"And the desire of all nations shall come." Haggai 2:7      
     
    The former chapter is mainly spent, in reproving the negligence
of the Jews, who, being discouraged from time to time, had delayed
the rebuilding the temple: and, in the mean time, employed their
care and cost in building and adorning their own houses: but, at
last, beings persuaded to set about the work, they met with this
discouragement, that such was the poverty of the present time, that
the second structure would no way answer the magnificence and
splendor of the first. In Solomon's days the nation was wealthy,
now drained; so that there would be no proportion between the second
and the first. To this grand discouragement the prophet applies this
relief; that whatever should be wanting in external pomp and
glory, should be more than recompensed by the presence of Jesus
Christ in this second temple. For Christ, "the desire of all
nations," says he, shall come into it. Which, by the way, may give
us this useful note: That the presence of Jesus Christ gives a more
real and excellent glory to the places of his worship, than any
external beauty or outward ornaments whatever can bestow upon
them. Our eyes, like the disciples, are apt to be dazzled with the
goodly stones of the temple, and, in the mean time, to neglect and
overlook that which gives it the greatest honor and beauty.
    But to return. In these words we have both the description of
Christ, and an index pointing at the time of his incarnation: he is
called "the desire of all nations;" and the time of his coming in
the flesh, is plainly intimated to be while the second temple
should be standing. Where, by the way, we find just cause to admire
at and bemoan the blindness that is happened to the Jews, who,
owning the truth of this prophecy, and not able to deny the
destruction of the second temple, many hundred years past, will not
yet be brought to acknowledge the incarnation of the true Messiah
notwithstanding.
    But to the point. The character, or description of Christ,
stiled the desire of all nations, who was to come into the world in
the time of the second temple, Mal. 3: 12. and that, after grievous
concussions and shakings of the world, which were to make way for
his coming; for so our prophet here speaks, "I will shake all
nations, and the desire of all nations shall come," to which the
apostle alludes, in Heb. 12: 26. applying this prophecy to Jesus
Christ, here called the "desire of all nations:" putting the act for
the object, desire for the thing desired: as in Ezek. 24: 16. "The
desire of your eyes," that is the desirable wife of your bosom; so
here, the "desire of all nations," that is Christ, the object of the
desires of God's elect, in all nations of the world: a Savior
infinitely desirable in himself, and actually desired by all the
people of God, dispersed among all kindreds, tongues, and
nations of the world. From whence this note is,
     
    Doctrine. That the desires of God's elect in all kingdoms, and
         among, all people of the earth, are, and shall be drawn out
         after, and fixed upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
     
    The merciful God beholding the universal ruins of the world by
sin, has provided an universal remedy for his own elect, in every
part of the earth. Christ is not impropriated to any one kingdom or
nation in the world; but intended to be God's salvation to the ends
of the earth; and accordingly speaks the apostle, Col. 2: 11. "There
is neither Greek, nor Jew, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but
Christ is all and in all." In the explication of this point two
things must be enquired into.
    1. Why Christ is called the desire of all nations.
    2. Upon what account the people of God, in all nations, desire
him.
    First, Why he is called the desire of all nations, and what
that phrase may import; and there are divers things that are
supposed, or included in it.
    First, That God the Father has appointed him as a common remedy
for the sins and miseries of his people, in all parts and quarters
of the world. So in the covenant of redemption, between the Father
and the Son, the Lord expresses himself, Isaiah 49: 6. and he said,
"It is a light thing that you should be my servant, to raise up
the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the presented of Israel: I will
also give you for a light to the Gentiles, that you may be my
salvation unto the end of the earth." Suitable thereunto is that
prophecy, Isaiah 52: 15. "He shall sprinkle many nations." If God had
not appointed him for, he could not be desired by all nations.
    And, indeed, herein the grace of God does admirably shine forth
in the freeness of it, that even the most barbarous nations are not
excluded from the benefits of redemption by Christ. This is what the
apostle admires, that Christ should be preached to the Gentiles, 1
Tim. 3: 16. a people that seemed to be lost in the darkness of
idolatry; yet even for them Christ was given by the Father, "Ask of
me (says he) and I will give you the Heathen for your
inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your
possession.
    Secondly, Christ, the desire of all nations, plainly notes the
sufficiency that is in him, to supply the wants of the whole world;
as the sun in the heavens suffices all nations for light and
influence, so does the Sun of righteousness suffice for the
redemption, justification, sanctification and salvation of the
people of God all over the world; Isa 14: 22. "Look unto me, and be
you saved, all you ends of the earth."
    Thirdly, It implies the reality that is in godliness. It shows
you that religion is no fancy, as the atheistical world would
persuade us; and this evidently appears in the uniform effects of it
upon the hearts of all men, in all nations of the world, that are
truly religious: all their desires, like so many needles touched by
one and the same loadstone, move towards Jesus Christ, and all meet
together in one and the same blessed object, Christ. Were it
possible for the people of God to come out of all nations, kindreds
and languages in the world, into one place, and there confer and
compare the desires and workings of their hearts, though they never
saw each other's faces, nor heard of each other's names, yet, as
face answers to face in a glass, so would their desires after Christ
answer to each other. All hearts work after him in the same manner;
what one says, all say: These are my troubles and burdens, these my
wants and miseries; the same things my desires and fears: one and
the same Spirit works in all believers throughout the world; which
could never be if religion were but a fancy, as some call it; or a
combination or confederacy, as others call it: fancies are as
various as faces; and confederacies presuppose mutual acquaintance
and conference.
    Fourthly, Christ, the desire of all nations, implies the vast
extent his kingdom has, and shall have in the world; out of every
nation under heaven some shall be brought to Christ, and to heaven
by him; and though the number of God's elect, compared with the
multitudes of the ungodly in all nations, is but a remnant, a little
flock; and, in that comparative sense, there are few that shall be
saved; yet considered absolutely, and in themselves, they are a vast
number, which no man can number, Matthew. 8: 11. "Many shall come
from the east, and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and
Isaac, and Jacob, in the Kingdom of heaven." In order whereunto, the
gospel, like the sun in the heavens, circuits the world. It arose in
the east, and takes its course towards the western world; rising, by
degrees, upon the remote, idolatrous nations of the earth: out of
all which a number is to be saved, even "Ethiopia shall stretch out
her hands to God," Psalm. 68: 31. And this consideration should move
us to pray earnestly for the poor Heathens, who yet sit in darkness,
and the shadow of death; there is yet hope for them.
    Fifthly, It holds forth this, that when God opens the eyes of
men to see their sin and danger by it, nothing but Christ can give
them satisfaction: it is not the amenity, fertility, riches and
pleasures, the inhabitants of any kingdom of the world do enjoy,
that can satisfy the desires of their souls: when once God touches
their hearts with the sense of sin and misery, then Christ, and none
but Christ is desirable and necessary, in the eyes of such persons.
Many kingdoms of the world abound with riches and pleasures; the
providence of God has carved liberal portions of the goody things of
this life to many of them, and scarce left anything to their
desires that the world can afford. Yet all this can give no
satisfaction without Jesus Christ, the desire of all nations, the
one thing necessary, when once they come to see the necessity and
excellency of him: then take the world who will, so they may have
Christ, the desire of their souls. Thus we see upon what grounds and
reasons Christ is stiled the desire of all nations.
    Object. But there lies one great objection against this truth,
which must be solved; namely, if Christ be the desire of all nations,
how comes it to pass, that Jesus Christ finds no entertainment in so
many nations of the world among whom Christianity is hissed at, and
Christians not tolerated to live among them? Who see no beauty in
him that they should desire him.
    Sol. First, We must remember the nations of the world have
their times and seasons of conversion; those that once embraced
Christ, have now lost him, and idols are now set up in the places
where he once was sweetly worshiped. The sun of the gospel is gone
down upon them, and now shines in another Hemisphere; and so the
nations of the world are to have their distinct days and seasons of
illumination. The gospel, like the sea, gains in one place what it
loses in another; and in the times and seasons appointed by the
Father, they come successively to be enlightened in the knowledge of
Christ; and then shall the promise be fulfilled, Isaiah 49: 7. "Thus
says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his holy One, To him
whom man despises, to him whom the nation abhors, to a servant
of rulers; kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship,
because of the Lord that is faithful.
    Secondly, Let it also be remembered, that although Christ be
rejected by the rulers and body of many nations; yet he is the
desire of all the elect of God dispersed and scattered among those
nations.
    In the next place, Secondly, we are to enquire upon what
account Christ becomes the desire of all nations, that is of all those
in all the nations of the world, that belong to the election of
grace. And the true ground and reason thereof is, because Christ
only has that in himself which relieves their wants, and answers to
all their need. As.
    First, They are all, by nature, under condemnation, Romans 5: 16,
18. under the curse of the law; against which, nothing is found in
heaven or earth, able to relieve their consciences, but the blood of
sprinkling, the pure and perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus:
and hence it is, that Christ becomes so desirable in the eyes of
poor sinners, all the world over. If anything in nature could be
found to pacify and purge the consciences of men from guilt and
fear, Christ would never be desirable in their eyes; but finding no
other remedy but the blood of Jesus, to him, therefore, shall all
the ends of the earth look for righteousness, and for peace.
    Secondly, All nations of the world are polluted with the filth
of sin, both in nature and practice, which they shall see, and
bitterly bewail, when the light of the gospel shall shine among
them; and the same light, by which this shall be discovered, will
also discover the only remedy of this evil to lie in the spirit of
Christ, the only fountain opened to all nations for sanctification
and cleansing: and this will make the Lord Jesus incomparably
desirous in their eyes. O how welcome will he be that comes unto
them, not by blood only, but by water also, John 1: 5, 6.
    Thirdly, When the light of the gospel shall shine upon the
nations, they shall then see, that by reason of the guilt and filth
of sin, they are all barred out of heaven; those doors are chained
up against them, and that none but Christ can open an entrance for
them into that kingdom of God! that "no man comes to the Father but
by him," John 14: 6. "Neither is there any name under heaven given
among men, whereby they must be saved, but the name of Christ," Acts
4: 12. Hence the hearts of sinners shall pant after him, as a deer
pants for the water-brooks. And thus you see upon what grounds
Christ becomes the desire of all nations. The improvement of all
follows, in five several uses of the point; namely,
    1. For information.
    2. For examination.
    3. For consolation.
    4. For exhortation.
    5. For direction.
     
                     First use for information.
     
    First, Is Christ the desire of all nations? how vile a sin is
it then in any nation, upon whom the light of the gospel has shined,
to reject Jesus Christ? And say, as those in Job 21: 14. "Depart
from us, we desire not the knowledge of your ways." To thrust away
his worship, government, and servants from among them; and in
effect to say, as it is Luke 19: 14. "We will not have this man to
reign over us." Thus did the Jews, Acts 13: 46. they put away Christ
from among them, and thereby judged themselves unworthy of eternal
life. This is at once a fearful sin, and a dreadful sign. How soon
did vengeance overtake them like the overthrow of Sodom? O. let it
be for a warning to all nations to the end of the world. He would
have gathered the children of Israel under his wings as a hen does
her brood, even when the Roman Eagle was hovering over them, but
they would not; therefore their houses were left unto them desolate,
their city and temple made an heap.
    Secondly, If Jesus Christ be the desire of all nations, how
incomparably happy then must that nation be, that enjoys Christ in
the power and purity of his gospel-ordinances! If Christ, under a
veil made Canaan a glorious land, (as it is called) Dan. 11: 41.
what a glorious place must that nation be, that beholds him with
open face in the bright sun-shine of the gospel! O England, know your
happiness and the day of your visitation: what others desire, you
enjoy: provoke not the Lord Jesus to depart from you, by
corrupting his worship, longing after idolatry, abusing his
messengers, and oppressing his people, lest his soul depart from
you.
     
                     Second use for examination.
     
    If Christ be the desire of all nations, examine whether he be
the desire of your souls in particular; else you shall have no
benefit by him. Are your desires after Christ true spiritual
desires? Reflect, I beseech you, upon the frames and tempers of your
heart. Can you say of your desires after Christ, as Peter did of his
love to Christ? Lord, you know all things; you know that I
desire you. Try your desires as to their sincerity by the following
characters:
    First, Are they vehement and ardent? Has Christ the supreme
place in your desires? Do you esteem all things to be but dross and
dung in comparison of the excellencies of Jesus Christ your Lord?
Phil. 3: 8. Is he to you as the refuge city to the man-slayer? Heb.
6: 18, 19. As a spring of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a
great rock in a weary land? Isaiah 32: 2. Such vehement desires are
true desires.
    Secondly, Are your desires after Christ universal; that is is
everything in Christ desirable in your eyes? The hypocrite, like
the harlot, is for a divided Christ; they would be called by his name,
but live upon their own stock, Isaiah 4: 1. If his holiness and
government, his cross and sufferings be desirable for his saints:
such universal desires are right desires.
    Thirdly, Are your desires after Christ industrious desires,
using all the means of accomplishing what you desire! you say you
desire Christ, but what will you do to obtain your desires? If you
seek him carefully and incessantly in all the ways of duty; if you
will strive in prayer, labor to believe, cut off right hands, and
pluck out right eyes, that is be content to part with the most
profitable and pleasant ways of sin that you may enjoy Christ, the
desire of your souls; then are your desires right desires.
    Fourthly, Are your desires after Christ permanent desires, or
only a sudden motion or fit which goes off again without effect? If
your desires after Christ abide upon your hearts, if your longings
be after him at all times, though not in the same height and degree,
then are your desires right desires. Christ always dwells in the
desires of his people; they can feel him in their desires, when they
cannot discern him in their love or delight.
    Fifthly, Will your desires after Christ admit no satisfaction,
nor find rest any where but in the enjoyment of Christ? then are
your desires right desires. The soul that desires Christ, can never
be at rest until it come home to Christ, 2 Cor. 5: 2, 6. Phil. 1: 23.
The devil can satisfy others with the riches and pleasure of this
world, as children are quieted with rattles; but if nothing but
Christ can rest and terminate your desires, surely such restless
desires are right desires.
    Sixthly, Do your desires after Christ spring from a deep sense
of your need and want of Christ? Has conviction opened your eyes to
see your misery, to feel your burthens, and to make you sensible
that your remedy lies only in the Lord Jesus? then are your desires
right desires. Bread and water are made necessary and desirable by
hunger and thirst; by these things try the truth of your desires
after Christ.
     
                     Third use for consolation.
     
    Do you indeed, upon serious trial, find such desires after
Christ as were described above? O, bless the Lord for that day
wherein Christ, the desire of all nations, became the desire of your
souls; and for your comfort, know that you are happy and blessed
souls at present.
    First, Blessed in this, that your eyes have been opened to see
both the want and worth of Christ. Had not Christ applied his
precious eye-salve to the eyes of your mind, you could never have
desired him; you would have said with them in Isaiah 53: 2, 3. "He
has no form nor loveliness, and when we shall see him, there is no
beauty that we should desire him:" Or, as they to the spouse, Cant.
5: 9. "What is your beloved more than another beloved." O, blessed
souls, enlightened of the Lord, to see those things that are hid
from them that perish!
    Secondly, You are blessed in this, that your desires after
Christ are a sure evidence that the desire of Christ is towards you:
had he not first desired you, you could never have desired him. We
may say of desires, as it is said of love, we desire him because he
first desired us: our desires after Christ are inflamed from the
desires of Christ after you.
    Thirdly, Blessed in this, that your desires shall surely be
satisfied, Matt. 5: 6. "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst
after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Proverbs 10: 24. "The
desires of the righteous shall be granted." God never raised such
desires as these in the souls of his people, to be a torment to them
forever.
    Fourthly, Blessed in this, that God has guided your desires to
make the best choice that ever was made in the world; while the
desires of others are hunting after riches, pleasure, and honor in
the world; toiling themselves like children in pursuit of a painted
butter fly, which when they have caught, does but daub their
fingers: God, meanwhile, has directed your desires to Christ, the
most excellent object in heaven or earth. Any good will satisfy some
men; O, happy soul, if none but Christ can satisfy you! Psalm. 4: 6.
    Fifthly, Blessed in this, that there is a work of grace
certainly wrought upon your soul; and these very desires after Christ
are a part thereof.
    Sixthly, Blessed in this, that these desires after Christ keep
your soul active and working after him continually in the ways of
duty, Psalm. 27: 4. "One thing have I desired, that will I seek
after." Desire will be a continual spring to diligence and industry
in the ways of duty; the desire of the end quickens to the use of
means, Proverbs 18: 1. Others may fall asleep and cast off duty, but it
will be hard for you to do so, whose souls burn with desire after
Christ.
    Seventhly, Blessed in this, that your desires after Christ will
make death much the sweeter and easier to you, Phil. 1: 23. "I
desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ, which is far better."
When a Christian was once asked, Whether he was willing to die? He
returned this answer, "Let him be unwilling to die, who is unwilling
to go to Christ." And much like it, was that of another, 
I refuse this life, to live with Christ.

     
                     Fourth use for exhortation.
     
    In the fourth place, let me exhort and persuade all to make
Jesus Christ the desire and choice of their souls. And here I fall
in with the main scope and design of the gospel. And O that I could
effectually press home this exhortation upon your hearts; let me
offer some moving considerations to you, and may the lard accompany
them to your hearts.
    First, Every creature naturally desires its own preservation;
do not you desire the preservation of your precious and immortal
soul! If you do, then make Christ your desire and choice, without
whom they can never be preserved, Jude, ver. 1.
    Secondly, Do not your souls earnestly desire the bodies they
live in? How tender are they over them, how careful to provide for
them? though they pay a dear rent for those tenements they live in.
And is not union with Christ infinitely more desirable than the
union of soul and body? O covet union with him! then shall your
souls be happy, when your bodies drop off from them at death, 2 Cor.
5: 1, 2. yes, soul and body shall be happy in him, and with him for
evermore.
    Thirdly, How do the men of this world desire the enjoyments of
it? They pant after the dust of the earth; they rise early, sit up
late, eat the bread of carefulness; and all this for very vanity:
Shall a worldling do more for earth, than you for heaven? Shall the
creature be so earnestly desired, and Christ neglected?
    Fourthly, What do all your desires in this world benefit you,
if you go Christless? Suppose you had the desire of your hearts in
these things, how long should you have comfort in them, if you miss
Christ?
    Fifthly, Does Christ desire you, who have nothing lovely or
desirable in you? And have you no desires after Christ, the most
lovely and desirable one in both worlds? "His desires are towards
you," Proverbs 8: 31. O make him the desire and choice of your souls.
    Sixthly, How absolutely necessary is Jesus Christ to your
souls? Bread and water, breath and life, are not so necessary as
Christ is; "One thing is necessary," Luke 10: 42. and that one thing
is Christ. If you miss your desires in other things, you may yet be
happy; but if you miss Christ you are undone forever.
    Seventhly, How suitable a good is Christ to your souls!
comprising whatever they want, 1 Cor. 1: 30. Set your hearts where
you will, none will be found to match and suit them, as Christ does.
    Eighthly, How great are the benefits that will redound to you
by Jesus Christ! In him you shall have a rich inheritance settled
upon you: all things shall be yours, when you are Christ's, 1 Cor.
3: 22. And is not such a Christ worth desiring?
    Ninthly, All your well-grounded hopes of glory are built upon
your union with Christ, 1 Cor. 1: 21. If you miss Christ, you must
die without hope. Will not this draw your desires to him;
    Tenthly, Suppose you were at the judgment seat of God, where
you must shortly stand, and saw the terrors of the Lord in that day;
the sheep divided from the goats; the sentences of absolution and
condemnation passed, by the great and awful Judge, upon the
righteous and wicked: would not Christ be then desirable in your
eyes? As ever you expect to stand with comfort at that bar, let
Christ be the desire and choice of your souls now.
     
                      Fifth use for direction.
     
    Do these, or any other considerations, put you upon this
enquiry; how shall I get my desires kindled and inflamed towards
Christ? Alas! my heart is cold and dead, not a serious desire
stirring in it after Christ. To such I shall offer the following
directions.
    Direct. 1. Redeem some time every day for meditation; get out
of the noise and clamor of the world, Psalm. 4: 4. and seriously
bethink yourselves how the present state of your soul stands, and
how it is like to go with you forever: here all sound conversion
begins, Psalm. 69: 59.
    Direct. 2. Consider seriously of that lamentable state, in
which you came into the world; children of wrath by nature, under
the curse and condemnation of the law: so that either Your state
must be changed, or you inevitably damned, John 3: 3.
    Direct. 3. Consider the way and course you have taken since you
came into the world, proceeding from iniquity to iniquity. What
command of God have you not violated a thousand times over? What sin
is committed in the world, that you are not one way or other guilty
of before God? How many secret sins upon your score, unknown to the
most intimate friend you have in the world? Either this guilt must
be separated from your souls, or your souls from God to all
eternity.
    Direct. 4. Think upon the severe wrath of God due to every sin;
"The wages of sin is death," Romans 6: 23. And how intolerable the
fullness of that wrath must be when a few drops sprinkled upon the
conscience in this world, are so insupportable, that has made some
to chase strangling rather than life, and yet this wrath must abide
forever upon you, if you get not interest in Jesus Christ, John 3:
36.
    Direct. 5. Ponder well the happy state and condition they are
in who have obtained pardon and peace by Jesus Christ, Psalm. 32: 12.
And seeing the grace of God is free, and you are set under the means
thereof; why may not you be as capable thereof as others?
    Direct. 6. Seriously consider the great uncertainty of your
time, and preciousness of the opportunities of salvation, never to
be recovered, when they are once past, John 9: 4. let this provoke
you to lay hold upon those golden seasons while they are yet with
you; that you may not bewail your folly and madness, when they are
out of your reach.
    Direct. 7. Associate yourselves with serious Christians; get
into their acquaintance, and beg their assistance; beseech them to
pray for you; and see that you rest not here, but be frequently upon
your knees, begging of the Lord a new heart, and a new state.
    In conclusion of the whole, let me beseech and bear all the
people of God, as upon my knees, to take heed, and beware, lest by
the carelessness and scandal of their lives they quench the weak
desires beginning to kindle in the hearts of others. You know what
the law of God awards for striking a woman with child, so that her
fruit go from her, Exod. 21: 22, 23. O shed not soul-blood, by
stifling the hopeful desires of any after Christ.
     
     Blessed be God for Jesus Christ!




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