Faith at the Foot of the Cross
"God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." Romans 3:25
"Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood." Romans 3:25
"For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God's anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us." Romans 3:25
If there be a grace of the Christian, a divine principle wrought in the heart by the power of the Spirit of God, that has its source in Christ, is by Christ sustained and strengthened, it is the grace, the principle of faith. The faith of God's elect- the faith that justifies, sanctifies, and saves- is pre-eminently a divine plant, having its root and nourishment in a crucified Savior. And all professed faith that is not thus engrafted upon the cross of Christ, that has not Christ Jesus for its author, sustainer, and finisher, is a spurious, dead, notional faith, that never will, because it never can, bring its possessor within the realms of glory.
In the further prosecution of our subject, illustrating the graces of the Christian, as clustered around and engrafted upon the cross of Christ, we bend our thoughts to the consideration of this precious grace, the faith of the true believer, showing that it has directly and exclusively to do with a crucified Redeemer. "Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood."
The first view which will engage briefly our attention is the OBJECT OF FAITH'S TRUST- CHRIST JESUS OUR PROPITIATION. The very idea of faith, which, in other words, is simple trust or credence, implies an object in every respect worthy of its confidence. There are things in nature and beings in the world in which we repose confidence only to be betrayed. We cherish human hopes but to see them crushed and die; worldly expectations but to prove the illusory phantoms of imagination. But in the great matter of our salvation it is of infinite moment that the object in which our souls trust for a blessed futurity should be worthy of our implicit and solemn confidence. If, when the shadows of eternity are darkening around you, it be found that the object upon which your faith has been reposing- perchance your legal obedience or your religious duties- betrays you at a moment when more than ever you will need the peace and joy and hope which true faith in Jesus inspires, what a fearful discovery to find that you have placed confidence for salvation in an object which, when most you needed its supports and succourings, woefully and utterly fails you! We hasten, then, to place before you, my reader, the one exclusive object on which saving faith exclusively reposes- it is Christ Jesus our propitiation.
Now, with regard to this PROPITIATION, there are three points of light in which we would briefly present it. The first is the idea of satisfaction. Christ Jesus, our propitiation, has given a satisfaction to the claims, demands, and requirements of God's moral government, upon the divine basis of which the most hell-deserving sinner, repenting and believing, may be eternally saved. Need we argue the necessity of such a propitiation? There must be a satisfaction made to the righteous government of God, because we have sinned against Him. We have cast off God. We have rebelled against Him. We have trampled upon the glory of His name. We have done outrage to His love and rendered ourselves obnoxious to His righteous displeasure. Now, before God can take a step in restoring us to His divine favor, and in reinstating us among His people, there must be such an equivalent satisfaction made to His moral government, as shall vindicate His righteousness, satisfy His justice, illustrate and guard His holiness.
There are two ways by which many endeavor either to avoid the force of this truth, or entirely to ignore it. The first is, by denying any necessity of a satisfaction to God's government, in order that a sinner may be saved. The individual who wraps himself up in the attribute of Divine mercy at the expense of every other perfection of God, denies this truth, that God's justice demands satisfaction, that His moral government requires a vindication before He could be merciful or gracious to the sinner. He, in effect, says, "I expect to be saved without this satisfaction of which you speak."
Then, there are others who deny this truth by presenting a satisfaction of their own. All who have not simple faith in the propitiation of the Lord Jesus Christ are endeavoring to provide a satisfaction of human invention. "They, being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." The Papal Church is fruitful of these human satisfactions, nor are they lacking outside its pale.
But we come to the great truth that the Lord Jesus Christ is our propitiation; in other words, He is our satisfaction. Oh, what a marvellous and precious truth is this! Christ has given all the satisfaction that the divine government required. He has vindicated God's honor, has satisfied His justice, and has upheld His truth by the offering of Himself in our stead, by the shedding of His most precious blood for our sins, by bringing in a new and everlasting righteousness for our justification; and now, on the ground of his satisfaction, God can be propitious, pardoning our sin and accepting our person. "I am perfectly satisfied," says Justice. "I demand no more," responds the Law. And thus, through the one offering of Christ as our satisfaction, God is glorified and the sinner is saved.
The second idea suggested in the doctrine of Christ our propitiation is covering. Literally, it means the covering of the mercy-seat, from above which God would hold converse with His people. Now, Christ is our propitiation. In other words, he is our covering. He covers our transgressions and hides our sins from the eye of God's justice and the eye of His law. Christ's imputed righteousness, which is "unto all and upon all those who believe," thus becomes the clothing, or the covering of the saints. ''Blessed is the man whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sin is covered."
Another idea involved in propitiation is reconciliation. Christ has reconciled us unto God by His blood. He has brought us into a state of friendship with Jehovah, into a state of oneness with the Father. The atonement, as we have intimated, literally means at-a-one-ment. The work of Christ annihilates the enmity and brings us into a state of peace with the righteous and Holy One. Mistake not this reconciliation, beloved. Some seem to suppose that Christ's sacrifice procured the love of God- that the Father loved us because the Son died for us- yes, died to inspire that love? But this is an egregious fallacy. What Christ did was to remove the obstruction in the way of God's love. There were insuperable obstructions- obstructions which all the angels in heaven never could remove. Christ undertook their removal. The everlasting love of God towards His Church panted to be free, struggled for an outlet. Christ came into the world to open a channel through which it might flow down freely to poor sinners. He honored and magnified the law by His obedience, gave to justice its full requirement, by His sufferings vindicated the righteousness of God's government, and so divine love gushed forth to man. Thus, Christ stood in the breach, spanned the mighty gulf between God and the soul, bridged the chasm with the cross, and now, through His pierced and bleeding heart, God's everlasting love flows uninterruptedly, freely, to poor, guilty sinners; and those who accept in faith his propitiation; are in a state of reconciliation with God. Oh, blessed reconciliation!
Reconciliation in any form is delightsome. To see disturbed friendship restored, alienated affections won back, a rebellious child replaced in a parent's love, is a spectacle that moves to its depths the most callous sensibility. But oh, transcendent spectacle that moves all heaven- God and man at peace through Christ Jesus! "All things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ." "And you, that were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight." All now is peace between God and the Christ-believing sinner. The enmity is removed, the controversy has ceased, harmony is restored, friendship exists, and God and man once more are reconciled and at peace.
Now, this satisfaction which Christ has made to God, is faith's confidence. Is it, my reader, the ground upon which your professed faith reposes, or is it some phantom of your own? Are you building your hope of heaven upon the divine atonement of which we have been treating, or upon an obedience wrought by yourself? I ask you as one having upon you the sentence of death, as an accountable being, a being possessed of a solemn immortality, where is your professed faith resting in reference to the salvation of your soul? If it is not resting on Christ's righteousness as the covering of your soul, you are not in a state of reconciliation with God through Christ Jesus, and it will go hard with you when summoned to meet your God. You will appear before Him without the wedding-garment.
We are now conducted to the consideration of THE MATERIAL OF FAITH'S NOURISHMENT. Here the great truth of faith's vital nourishment is brought out- the atoning blood of Christ. "Through faith in His blood." Now, in what sense is atoning blood the support and sustenance of that faith which sanctifies and saves the soul?
In the first place, faith is nourished by accepting all the blessings which flow from Christ's atoning blood- the blessings which result from the sacrifice of Christ are many, vast, and glorious. The pardon of all your sins- complete and free justification- adoption into the family of God- peace and friendship with God- hope that makes not ashamed- filial fellowship and communion with the Invisible- holy motives, added to filial obedience- submission to God's will in all His various dispensations- these untold blessings flow to us through the channel of the atoning blood of Christ. That blood of Christ, beloved, was so divine in its efficacy, a thing so transcendently precious to God, so unspeakably costly, that it freely purchased and eternally secured every blessing that we can be the recipients of in this vale of tears. Now we return again to the truth, that our faith is fed and nourished by its simple, unquestioning reception of all the blessings which flow to the believer through the atoning blood of Christ. Do not put away from you any of these blessings. Be careful how you reason, "I put in a plea for this blessing, or a plea for that, but I dare not put in a plea for all." What is this but robbing your own soul? Oh, trifle not with the atoning blood of Christ! It has secured all the blessings of the new covenant, and you have an individual inalienable right to all the costly blessings of that covenant. And if your simple faith will receive all the good things which the blood of Christ has purchased and secured, you crown faith with its brightest diadem. The moment you begin to hesitate and question your title to any of these blessings, the divine principle of faith becomes impaired; but when it lays its hand upon the Magna Charta of redemption, when it takes the whole string of precious pearls and says, "They are each and all mine;" when it lays its hand upon the everlasting covenant, and fully believes that all its fulness is yours, and that you are Christ's, you will find that, as your faith grasps these precious truths, it will strengthen and grow with the grasp.
Faith is also nourished by the vitalizing influence of the atoning blood of Christ. Your faith has a spiritual and deathless vitality. According to the physical law of our material structure, the life is in the blood. What a grand truth does this illustrate in regard to the essential power of the atoning blood of Christ! My reader, our souls' spiritual vitality is in the blood of Jesus. One drop of that precious blood applied by the Holy Spirit to the soul of a poor, penitent sinner, vitalizes that soul with spiritual life. Now, your faith, dealing closely and habitually with the blood of Christ, realizing its personal application, accepting the blessings it has purchased and sealed, you will find that, as it thus deals with the cross it will be nourished, strengthened, and fruitful- its root being fed and kept alive by the atonement of the crucified Savior.
Faith is nourished, too, by the changeless efficacy of the atoning blood of Christ. The blood of Christ has a perpetual and deathless efficacy. In nature there are some remedial things which in time lose their curative influence in disease; and so the physician is perpetually compelled to change his recipe. My reader, it is the glory of a child of God that the atoning blood of Jesus is that divine remedy that never loses its efficacy; its virtues never decay, its sovereign power never changes. Come to this sacred recipe when and how you may, you shall find that faith, simply dealing with it, brings peace and assurance, comfort and hope, to the heart. Come to that blood with fresh accumulations of guilt, new failures, new surprisals, new falls, yet mourning over and confessing your sin, with your mouth in the dust, you shall find that, washing in it, His blood is as powerful, as healing, as precious as ever- and thus the blood nourishes and strengthens faith.
Dear reader, the blood shall never lose its sovereign, sanctifying and saving virtue. In heaven, at this very moment, it is pleading for the saints. The grand argument of our Great High Priest in glory is the blood He shed on earth. "By His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." As an Intercessor, He could only enter heaven with blood- that blood His own. Through no other door, and with no other plea, can we follow Him to glory. While the atoning blood of Jesus is pleading for us in heaven, we must plead it upon earth. The plea is one and the same- the plea of the Advocate and the plea of the client, the Savior and the sinner- the blood of Jesus. Having liberty to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, hesitate not to draw near and claim all the costly and precious things His blood has fully purchased, and His grace freely bestows.
We will only add that faith is fed and strengthened by constant exercise with the blood of Jesus. You will find this in your experience unmistakably the case. If you hesitate in repairing constantly to the blood, if you walk remote from the fountain, and for days, and weeks, and months trifle with a guilt-stained conscience, sin unconfessed at the foot of the cross, the heart unquieted by a present application of the blood, you will inevitably find your faith become weaker and weaker, until at length you shall begin to doubt whether you have any real faith in Christ at all. And we would earnestly, solemnly inquire if, while you are without the enjoyment of peace with God, and a comfortable assurance that your sins are pardoned, and that your person is accepted in the Beloved, may it not be traced to this as the primary cause- your remote distance from the blood? You have not been washing constantly in the fountain, and consequently you have lost its immediate and hallowed effect. But, returning to the blood perpetually, bathing in the cleansing fount constantly, your faith will become stronger and stronger, your peace will flow like a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea. Thus the more you deal with the blood of Christ, the stronger will be your faith in, and the closer your communion with, the Crucified One.
We have to advert, before we close this chapter, to THE DIVINE WARRANT FOR THE CONFIDENCE OF FAITH. "Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood." If GOD has devised and revealed the plan of saving sinners, we may be well satisfied that it meets all the requirements of His own glory, and is in all respects suitable for us. "Whom God has set forth." This, beloved, is your divine warrant.
In the first place, this divine expedient of propitiation meets all the requirements of God's own glory. God has declared, in effect, that He has confided the interests both of His glory and His Church with Christ- that Jesus having fully atoned for sin in His own person, God is now prepared to be propitious, merciful, and gracious to all who believe in His name. Consequently, you have, my reader, no reason for one moment to suppose that, if you venture your soul, guilty and sinful as it is, upon the Lord Jesus Christ, that you are contravening God's glory. Oh, no! it will be to God's greatest honor and glory that you do now believe the record He has given of His Son; and that, believing that record, you accept the free grace and salvation which is in Christ Jesus, and walk holily and happily as one, all whose sins are pardoned, and whose person is fully accepted through Jesus Christ the Beloved.
This divine warrant also sets forth God's love. What is the grand perfection of God that shines the most resplendent in the redemption of man? It is not justice, awful though it is; not holiness, beautiful though it is; not truth, immutable though it is. What, then, is it? Oh, it is love! If there is one perfection that shines out more luminously and transcendently than another, it is this. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and gave His Son to be a propitiation for our sins." Read these words thoughtfully and devoutly. Do they affirm- "In this was manifested the justice of God, that He gave His only-begotten Son?" or, "In this was manifested the righteousness of God, in that He made him a propitiation for our sins?" or, "In this was manifested the wrath of God, in that He punished Christ for our transgressions?" Oh, no! but, "in this was manifested the LOVE of God." Here, beloved, is the warrant for your faith to believe in the Lord Jesus, for your trusting in Him, for committing your immortal interests into His hands, and for rolling the burden of your guilt upon the Savior. God loved you, and gave His Son to die for you, and you have his warrant now to believe in the Lord Jesus that you may be saved. With such a divine warrant to accept Christ, will you, can you hesitate? The Holy Spirit having convinced you of sin, may He open your eye to see it all laid by God upon Christ, and then enable you to believe in the Lord Jesus, to the salvation of your soul.
Then, there is the Word of God as the warrant for your simple faith in the propitiation of Christ. His own Word has declared that, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." The promises and invitations with which the gospel so richly and freely abounds, are your warrant to come to Jesus; and God will never countervail His blessed Word. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one promise of pardoning mercy to a poor sinner shall fail. Oh, come to Jesus, then, on the credit of His Word.
But if you still hesitate and demur, if you desire to believe in the Lord Jesus, yet fear a repulse, I repeat the encouragements to you- first, your simple faith will glorify God; secondly, you have the warrant of God's love to recline upon Christ, and thus you possess the invitations and promises of Christ himself. Can you, then, hesitate believing in the Lord Jesus Christ?
"Through faith in His blood." Again, and yet more emphatically and solemnly, we reiterate this truth- faith, in the matter of the soul's salvation, deals directly and solely with Christ's blood. Not only in the first and earliest stage of our salvation, but in every subsequent one- in our progressive sanctification, in our growing peace, in our deepening joy, in our endurance of trial, in our conflict with the foe, and in our advancing fitness for heaven- it is still directly and only with the blood that faith has to deal. Nothing else, not the holiest, the most essential, the most useful duties and engagements of our holy religion, can be a substitute for the blood. "What! not my devout study of the Bible? not my holy converse with God? not a spiritual ministry, refreshing ordinances, the communion of the saints, the self-denying service, in all of which I find so much that is congenial with, and helpful to, the life of God in my soul?" No, my reader, emphatically, no! The faith of your soul, if it be a principle wrought by the Holy Spirit, will no more find perfect repose in any of these substitutes than the needle of the compass pointing to the south pole. Nothing, nothing but the Blood of Jesus. Not the ministry, though it were the most Christ-exalting; not the Word, though it unveiled its richest treasures; not the throne of grace, though its sacrifice rose to heaven in purest, sweetest fragrance; not Christian usefulness, though it won its thousands to the Savior, and made the wilderness to bloom and blossom like the rose- Oh, no! the blood, the blood of Christ alone is the object to which real faith travels, on which it rests, and from which it draws the sense of pardon and acceptance with God, peace of conscience, purity of heart, and deep, intense breathings after divine conformity.
And now comes the climax of the whole- this blood of Jesus cleanses from ALL Sin. "What," you exclaim, "from all sin? From heart sins? from presumptuous sin? from conscience sin? from mental sin? from lip sins? sins after conversion, after communion, after confession, after forgiveness? sins against light, and conviction, and truth?" Yes, my reader, from ALL Sin! It is written, yes, it is written!- "the blood of Jesus Christ, his son, cleanses us from all sin." Who will dare alter, or modify, or limit, or dispute this divine declaration? Let him do so at the peril of
his soul! It is the blood that cleanses. No part of our adorable Lord but His blood! Not His gospel, not His teaching, not His example, but His blood. It is the blood that made the atonement, and it is the atonement that provides for the pardon of sin- and thus it is to the blood of Jesus alone that the true faith of the sin-burdened conscience travels. Come in faith, then, to the blood of Christ. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool"- for "the BLOOD of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses from ALL Sin." Once more we repeat the words- "Through Faith in His Blood."
"Faith is a very simple thing,
Though little understood;
It frees the soul from death's dread sting,
By resting in the blood.
"It looks not on the things around,
Nor on the things within;
It takes its flight to scenes above,
Beyond the sphere of sin.
"It sees upon the throne of God,
A Victim that was slain;
It rests its all on his shed blood,
And says, I'm born again.
"Faith is not what we feel or see,
It is a simple trust
In what the God of love has said
Of Jesus as 'the Just.'
"The Perfect One that died for me,
Upon His Father's throne,
Presents our names before our God,
And pleads himself alone.
"What Jesus is, and that alone,
Is faith's delightful plea;
It never deals with sinful self,
Nor righteous self in me.
"It tells me I am counted 'dead'
By God in His own Word!
It tells me I am born again
in Christ, my risen Lord.
"In that He died, He died to sin;
in that he lives- to God;
Then I am dead to nature's hopes,
And justified through blood.
"If He is free, then I am free,
From all unrighteousness;
If He is just, then I am just,
He is my righteousness.
"What lack I more to perfect bliss
A body like His own
Will perfect me for greater joys
Than angels round the throne."
We have thus given a brief outline of this precious subject- faith fed and nourished beneath the cross. But little remains for us to add save a few words of exhortation and encouragement.
If Christ is the root of faith, then see that by its continuous exercise in Christ this divine grace of the Spirit is kept vigorous and fruitful. It is humble only as it sits at the foot of the cross; it is mighty only as it entwines around the stem of the cross; it is fruitful only as it draws its life from the sacrifice of the cross; it is victorious only as it overcomes by the blood of the cross. It is nourished by the blood of Christ, it is sustained by the grace of Christ, it is shielded by the intercession of Christ, it is crowned by the diadem of Christ. "Through faith in His blood." What marvellous words are these! Angels' chimes breathe no melody so sweet. They speak of an infinite depth of mercy, of a fathomless sea of love, of a boundless ocean of grace, of pardon for the vilest, of cleansing for the guiltiest, and a full and free blotting out of all sin. Faith in Christ's blood! -it will conduct us into the very holiest. Faith in Christ's blood! -it will throw open every chamber of God's heart. Oh, have faith in Christ's blood, it will unbind the heavy burden from your shoulder, it will break the galling yoke from your neck, it will speak peace to your troubled conscience, joy to your sad heart, will turn your mourning into dancing, and the gloom and depression of despair into the sunshine and exuberance of hope.
Run with your weak and tempted faith to the foot of the cross. Is it tried? Is it sifted as wheat? Are its efforts of resistance languid? Is its vision of Christ dim? of the good land which is very far off misty and obscure? Oh, take it just as it is to Christ's cross, and the blood that streams from it, and the life that springs from it, and the light that beams from it, and the peace and joy and hope that flow from it, will strengthen, energize, and elevate this precious grace of your soul, and you shall be "strong in faith, giving glory to God."
See the instrument by which faith battles and conquers- the cross of Jesus. Let us go forth with any other weapon to meet the vaunting foe, be it the Goliath that defies the armies of the living God, or the little maid in Pilate's hall, defeat and shame are certain. But faith battling beneath the cross, battling with the cross, shall foil and triumph over all its foes. "They overcame by the blood of the Lamb." Oh, then, let your faith deal much with Christ's wounds. Read your pardon there, see your peace there, behold your shelter and safety there. Christ's wounds invite you to their asylum, speak peace to you on earth, and plead for you in heaven. Only let your faith rest at the Savior's cross, and life shall be to you a continuous pleasant song of praise to Jesus; death shall swell the music in the lone and shaded valley; and heaven shall take up and prolong its joyous strains through eternity.
"The cross! my hope, my boast, my theme,
There's music in the very word;
Compared to it, how worthless seem
All earthly thoughts, and how absurd
The thoughts and aims of men appear
To those to whom the cross is dear.
"The cross! the cross! mysterious tree,
On which the Savior breathed His last;
You wondrous cross, I look to Thee!
The bitterness of death is past;
The sense of guilt so keen before,
So terrible- is felt no more.
"The cross! the cross! how safe he is
Who trusts in it, and it alone;
The promise and the blessing his,
It is better than a royal throne.
A throne, what is it but a toy,
Compared to what the saints enjoy?
"The cross! the cross! Tis shame I know;
It may be death- I love it still!
The cross be mine, come weal, come woe,
From it can come no real ill;
It is fraught with blessing rich and free,
And he who has them, blest is he." -Kelly.