By William S. Plumer, 1867
"Come, let us shout joyfully to the Lord, shout
CHRIST ALL IN ALL
When I was a youth, in the bond of iniquity and in the gall of bitterness, I fell into distress concerning my soul. I feared I should be lost forever. Being in the company of two Christian ladies, one of them kindly expressed the wish that my impressions might not be transient. This I understood. The other expressed the hope that Christ might yet be to me all in all. To me, whose heart was covered with a veil of unbelief, her words were as the speech of a barbarian. Yet they made an impression. From them I learned that some persons knew a secret hidden from me and I longed to learn what it was. I hope I have gained some insight into it, and I propose to present some of the views I have obtained.
The great central truth of the religion of sinners relates to the person, character, work, sufferings, offices, and glory of Jesus Christ. These are vital in Christianity. As one is sound or corrupt here—so is he substantially right or wrong in the main. Both now and in the last day, the great question in determining character and destiny is the same: "What do you think of Christ?"
On this subject the controversy is old. It goes back to the first two men ever born. Cain and Abel split on this point. In the immediate family of Adam the strife began, and it has never ceased. In the days of Moses the hardest thing to be borne in the profession of the true religion, was "the reproach of Christ." When Messiah was born, the strife was resumed with more warmth than ever. The wise men brought their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; but when Herod heard of his birth, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him, and he sought to destroy the young child. And when Christ became a public teacher, some said—He is a good man; others, He deceives the people. One party worshiped him—the other crucified him. Even when he was on the cross, the spectators were divided—some looking on with unutterable grief; others wagging their heads and deriding him. In fact, the very thieves who died with him were not of one mind; one reviling him, the other calling him Lord.
On the day of Pentecost the controversy was renewed with great vigor, and with great advantage to the cause of truth; and it has been kept up ever since. All the friends of God have at heart been on one side, and all his enemies substantially on the other—if not openly, yet secretly; if not by profession, yet in practice. For eighteen hundred years a large portion of all the heresies that have arisen have related to the person or work of Christ. Infidelity is most bitter against Christ, while piety feeds upon the truth—of which he is the sum. Many scoff and more refuse; while some admire and adore. Some obey; others cry—We will not have this man to reign over us. In no age has malice against Christ been more envenomed than in the present.
Jesus Christ is a wonderful, a glorious person. To look away from self and one's own works to Christ—is to lay hold on eternal life. Safety consists in fleeing to him and abiding in him. When he is in the ascendant, the night flees away, and the morning comes—a morning without clouds. His names and titles are as important as they are significant. Every one of them is as ointment poured forth. His lips drop as the honeycomb; honey and milk are under his tongue, and the smell of his garments is like the smell of Lebanon. His people sit under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit is sweet to their taste. To them he is altogether lovely.
He is theirAdvocate, the angel of the covenant, the author and finisher of faith. He is as the apple-tree among the trees of the forest; the alpha and the omega.
He is their theBeloved, the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, the bread of life, the righteous Branch, the bridegroom, the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person. He is a bundle of myrrh.
To his saints he is and is owned to beCreator, captain, counselor, covenant, cornerstone, a covert from the tempest, and the chief among ten thousand.
He is to them as theDew, the door into the fold, a days-man, a day-star, a deliverer, a diadem, and the desire of all nations, ranks, and generations of pious men.
In their eyes he is theElect, Emmanuel, the everlasting Father and eternal life.
He is aFountain of living waters to thirsty souls, of joy to troubled souls, of life to dying souls. He is the foundation on which His people of all ages safely build their hopes of heaven. He is the father of eternity, the fir-tree under whose shadow the saints rejoice, the first and the last, the first fruits of the greatest harvest ever gathered, the first-born among many brethren and the first-begotten from the dead.
To his chosen he is as the most fineGold, a guide, a governor, a glorious Lord, God, the true God, God over all blessed forever.
He is theHead of the church, the health, the hope, the husband, the heritage, the habitation of his people. He is the horn of their salvation.
He rides upon the heavens by his nameJAH. He is the Jehovah, the inheritance, Judge and King of his saints. He is their Light, their life, their Lord, their leader, their lawgiver, their atoning lamb, the lily of the valley, the lion of the tribe of Judah.
He is theMan Christ Jesus, the master, the mediator, the messenger of the covenant, the minister of the true sanctuary, which the Lord pitched and not man. He is the mighty God of Isaiah, the Michael of Daniel, the Melchisedek of David and of Paul, the bright and morning star of John, and the Messiah of all the prophets.
He is theOnly-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. He is at once the root and the offspring of David.
He is thePeace, the prince, the priest, the prophet, the potentate, the purifier, the propitiation for our sins, the physician of souls, the plant of renown, the power of God unto salvation, the passover of all saints. He is a polished shaft in the quiver of God.
He is theRock, the refuge, the ruler, the ransom, the refiner, the Redeemer, the righteousness and the resurrection of all who walk in white. He is the rose of Sharon.
He is theSeed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, the seed of David, the stem of Jesse, the Son of God, the son of man, the shield, the strength, the surety, the Shiloh, the sacrifice, the sanctuary, the salvation, the sanctification, and the sun of righteousness to all believers.
He is theTruth, the treasure, the teacher, the temple, the tree of life, the great testator of his church.
He is theWay, the well of salvation, the Word of God, the wisdom of God, the faithful witness. He is THE WONDERFUL.
His person is one; his natures are two. He is both human and divine, finite and infinite, created and uncreated. He was before Abraham, though not born for ages after that patriarch slept with his fathers. He was dead, and behold he is alive for evermore.
On earth he had not where to lay his head; yet he disposes of all diadems. By him kings rule and princes decree justice. He has the arm of a God, and the heart of a brother. To him all tongues shall confess and all knees bow; yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered. None loves like him, none pities like him, none saves like him!
It is not surprising that such a person lives and reigns in the hearts of his people. No marvel that the virgins love him, and the saints praise him, and the martyrs die for him, and the confessors are not ashamed of him, and the sorrowing sigh for him, and the penitent lie at his cross and pour out their tears before him, and the humble trust in him, and the believing lay fast hold of him and will not let him go. His frown shakes the frame of universal nature, his smile gives life, his presence converts dungeons into palaces, his blood cleanses from all sin, his righteousness is the white robe of the redeemed.
If men would be safe, or wise, or holy, or happy, or useful, or strong, or victorious—let them look to JESUS! Let them look to none else, let them walk in him, abide in him, glory in him, and count as loss all things besides. You may look at the law until the spirit of bondage overwhelms you with terrors and torments. You may go about to establish your own righteousness until you can boast, and sin, and perish like a Pharisee. You may weep until the fountain of your tears has gone dry, you may have all gifts, understand all mysteries, bestow all your goods to feed the poor, and yield your body to be burned; but all these things will not atone for sin, will do nothing toward regaining the lost favor of God, will not make you fit for the inheritance of the saints in light. "None but Christ! None but Christ! None but Christ!" has been the cry of the faithful witnesses of all ages when truth has triumphed, when oracles were struck dumb, when sinners were converted, when saints shouted for joy, when the word of God mightily grew and prevailed.
True piety begins, continues, and is perfected, by our union with Christ. We are cleansed through his blood, we are clothed in his righteousness, we are purified by his Spirit. We meet the demands of the law of this day of grace, when we walk as he walked, and have the same mind that was in him. In proportion as men are truly pious, they make Jesus the foundation and the top-stone, the sum, and substance, and centre of all their hopes and rejoicings before God. He is accepted and believed on in the world, not merely because there is no other Saviour, but because his way of saving sinners precisely suits their case, and because it brings glory to God in the highest. The true believer not only trusts in Christ, but makes his boast in him. He not only makes mention of him; he admits none into comparison with him. To all the ends, parts, and purposes of salvation, Christ stands alone. There is none like him, there is none with him, there is none before him, there is none after him, there is none beside him. He had no predecessor; he has, and shall have, no successor. He has no vicegerent; he has no assistant; he wears an undivided crown, and wields a perfect sovereignty over an undivided kingdom.
If God's people exalt him above all others, so does his holy and eternal Father. If they crown him Lord of all, God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name that is above every name. If they surpassingly admire and extol him, there is cause for this preference. It is a holy, reasonable thing, to fall before him and cry, My Lord and my God! If he is the delight of his redeemed people, he is also the delight of his Father. Listen to the voice from the excellent glory: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
We sadly err when we begin in the spirit and end in the flesh; when we regard Christ as the Author, but not as the Finisher, of our faith. A legal spirit is the bane of piety. It is as great a foe to holy comfort as it is to gospel grace. Through the law believers are dead to the law, that they may live unto God. This is the evangelical plan. Here is the secret of growing conformity to God. Here is power, here is life, here is wisdom. We are complete in him.
In the wars of opinion, the greatest contests ever known have been on the question whether Christ is the sole and sufficient cause of salvation to men. Strange that any who have God's word should be at a loss on this subject. The language of Scripture could not be more clear: "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." This is the sum of inspired teachings on the subject. This doctrine is quite beyond the suggestion of human wit, but wholly accordant with right reason. The gospel is not the progeny of human wisdom, but it is the proper remedy for human woes. The heart of man is strongly wedded to a plan that will not abase pride nor silence boasting. Although in regeneration, this folly is so far cured that the soul reclines upon Jesus; yet even the converted sometimes fall into sad declensions, and lose their clear and lively apprehensions of the one way of salvation provided by God. Then follow darkness, dejection, and strange perplexities. They are then "bewitched," and "obey not the truth."
Christ is our life; severed from him, we are withered branches. It is only when Christ is clearly seen and cordially embraced that our peace is like a river, and our righteousness like the waves of the sea. The entire Christian race is run by pressing towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. All the acts of faith are the fruit of the Spirit; the object of them all is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ; the warrant of them all is the promise of God, the offer of the gospel: and while they utterly renounce self, they bring Christ into the soul, the hope of glory.
Oh that men would learn that mount Sinai is far from Jerusalem, and that Calvary is near by it. The nearer we are to the law as a covenant of life, the farther we are from Christ, from deliverance. The multitudes of saints who have finished their course and gone home to God all found in themselves sin, guilt, folly, misery, and helplessness; while in him were hid all the treasures of wisdom, grace, and glory! Hear their sayings:
John Brown of Haddington said: "The command is, 'Owe no man any thing.' What a mercy that there is no such precept as this, Owe a Savior nothing; or even this, Study to owe him as little as possible. Oh what a mercy that my admission into eternal life does not depend on my ability for anything; but as a poor sinner, will win in leaning on Christ as the Lord my righteousness; on Christ, made of God unto me righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. I have nothing to sink my spirits but my sins; and these need not sink me either, since the great God is my Savior."
McCheyne said: "Live within sight of Calvary, and you will live in sight of glory."
When dying, Dr. Nevins said: "I recommend Christ to you; I have nothing else to recommend."
Well was it said of old, "It is better to die with Christ, than to reign with Caesar."
Paul says, "God forbid that I should boast—except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
This subject suggests a few remarks to two classes of people:
1. To Christians. In choosing Christ, you acted wisely. Exquisite suffering for him is better than exquisite enjoyment with the world. It is better to be a prisoner for him than a prince without him. To die in Christ is to fall asleep in Jesus, and be forever with the Lord. Hold fast your profession of his name. Stick to him, stand up for him, live unto him, look to him, be ready to die for him, let your desires center in him, let your motives to holy living be drawn from him, let your sorrows be sanctified by him, let your joys be heightened, chastened, sweetened by him. Keep to him alone. We are as much bound to believe that there is but one Mediator as that there is but one God. 1 Tim. 2:5. None else can do us any good. Devotion to Christ cannot be excessive. Many love, and serve, and trust, and praise him too little; but whoever loved, or served, or trusted, or praised him too much? "There is no love of duty, where there is no love to Christ."
2. To such as have not fled to Christ, and are yet in their sins. Will you not embrace the Savior? If Christ shall not be taken as your surety, you must pay your own sin debt. Despise not his cross. It is the life of men. By wicked men it was designed to be, and is still esteemed, the seal of infamy, the badge of ignominy. Christ crucified was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness. But see to it that you follow not their wicked ways. Come to Christ; he died for our sins; he offered himself without spot to God, a ransom for many, a sweet-smelling savor. Cast yourselves upon him. Believe in him, and the law has no more penal demands against you; believe in him, and God will accept you in the Beloved; believe in him, and your right to the tree of life is at once complete; believe in him, and the sting of death is extracted; believe in him, and you shall have part in the first resurrection; believe in him, and you shall have boldness in the day of judgment. But reject him a little longer, and your heart will be harder than it is now; reject him a little longer, and the call to light and life will reach you no more; reject him a little longer, and the day of grace will be gone forever; reject him a little longer, and you will awake to shame and everlasting contempt! "There is a fearful chasm in that heart, which has no love for Christ."