Christ Precious to
Those Who Believe
The preciousness of Jesus Christ, to those who
believe—practically considered and improved.
By John Fawcett
"Yes, He is very precious to you who believe!"
1 Peter 2:7
Chapter 4. In what WAYS Jesus Christ is precious those who believe.
To you who believe, he is precious, or he is your honor. You account him your glory and your gain. He is not only precious to you—but preciousness itself. He is your jewel, your treasure; and should you be robbed of all besides, in him you are superlatively and everlastingly rich. By the faith which you have in him, you are enabled to discern his excellency, who is fairer than the children of men, nay, the chief among ten thousands, and altogether lovely. As such you must account him precious, and bestow the choicest affections of your hearts upon him. If the question is proposed to you, "What is your Beloved more than another beloved?" you will not be at a loss for an answer. He is precious in every view, and under every consideration. All that is in him, all that is done or spoken by him, and all that appertains to him—is precious. Let us enumerate a few particulars, by way of illustration.
Section 1. The HISTORY of Christ is precious to those who believe.
This is given us by the four evangelists, under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They have related every material circumstance concerning the birth, the life, the sufferings, the death, the resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus Christ—in a manner so simple, so sincere, and yet so sublime—as must captivate the attention, and touch the heart of every unprejudiced reader. The facts they record, are the most interesting that ever employed the pen.
The incarnation of the Savior of mankind was one of the most important, one of the most glorious events which ever took place in the revolutions of time. Then the virgin conceived and brought forth a Son, whose name is God with us. The Lord of glory took up his dwelling in mortal flesh. The purposes and promises of God relating to this wonderful transaction, were then fulfilled. The fullness of the times was then completed, and God sent forth his Son, made of a woman. Angels descended from heaven to bring the joyful news. A multitude of the heavenly host made their appearance on the occasion. Celestial music was heard by mortal ears. The glorious messengers had no sooner delivered the glad tidings, than they united in one of the anthems of heaven. The morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy; "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good-will towards men."
The Son of Righteousness was now to arise and shine upon a benighted world, and a new star appeared in the heavens, as a signal of this brighter day. Wise men from the east, taught of God to know the significance of this sacred token, came, under the guidance of its shining rays, to present their gifts, and pay their adorations to the new-born Savior. Such is the history of his birth. Abraham, the patriarch, rejoiced in the distant prospect of this day; he saw it by faith, and was glad.
A certain writer enumerates the circumstances attending the Savior's birth in the following animated manner, 'Herod turns pale on his throne; the powers of darkness tremble; the eastern sages suspend their speculations, and attend to no sign in the skies, excepting that which connects them to the new-born Savior. A minister of light is the herald of the astonishing event, and cries to the wakeful shepherds, who mingled their midnight devotions with their care for their flocks, "Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people; for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." And straightway, a multitude of the heavenly host inform the shepherds, on the Son of God's assumption of mortal flesh.
The celestial spirits wondered to behold their Creator and Lord—become a Babe at Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. From the moment of his nativity, how deep were his humiliation and abasement! Yet in that inglorious place where oxen fed—the heavenly hosts adore him! The Magi paid divine honors to the incarnate God. His presence changed the stable into a temple of glory, and ennobled the manger where he lay, so as to make it in some way—a throne of grace.'
The account given us of the public life and ministry of Jesus is precious. His entrance on the important work he had to do, was signalized by the manifestation of the glorious Trinity. When he was baptized of John in Jordan, the heavens were opened unto him, and John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him and a loud voice from heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.' After his herald had directed the sinful multitude, who surrounded him, to behold him as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world—Jesus began to preach the glad tidings of the kingdom, and to confirm his divine mission by a vast variety of astonishing miracles. He went about doing good, and healing all who were diseased. The blind received their sight, the lame were made to walk, the dumb to speak, the deaf to hear; demons were expelled from those who had been tormented by them; those who were sick of the palsy were restored to the perfect use of their limbs; the lepers were cleansed, and even the dead were called back to life—by his omnipotent Word.
This was the day for which the church of God had looked and longed, for the space of almost four thousand years. Patriarchs, prophets, and kings had waited for it, with earnest expectation. Now it was come. The glory of the Lord was revealed; the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, was made manifest. The greatest honor was conferred on this earthly globe at that period, when he who formed it by his almighty power became its inhabitant. The glory of the second temple was greater than that of the first, because the Son of God himself made his appearance in it. If a poor man should be favored with the presence of a prince, or an emperor under the roof of his cottage, he would think it a great honor. What an honor then was conferred on this world, when the King of Glory became its inhabitant!
The sojourning of the Son of God on earth, is the chief event which adorns the records of time, and enlivens the history of the world. It is the glory of the air, that he breathed in it; of the sun, that its beams once shone upon him; of the ground, that he trod upon it; and of the sea, that he walked serenely on its glassy surface. It is the glory of the elements, that they once nourished him who is the bread of life; of the water, that it quenched his thirst; of men, that he lived among them; and of Judea, that it was the land of Immanuel, where he sojourned more than thirty years. It is the glory of our nature that he assumed it, and, by so doing, exalted it to a high degree.
The dispensations of Providence, through successive ages, like so many lines, point at this period, as their center. Before his appearance, they made way for his coming; and since that period, they are subservient to the great ends to be answered by it.
The history of his sufferings and death is equally interesting, and equally precious. That he should suffer, bleed, and die—was the design of the Father in sending him into the world. The Spirit of God, in the ancient prophets, foretold the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
Led by the sacred historians, let this solemn and affecting scene employ my meditation. Think, O my soul, on that most tragic—and yet most glorious event, on which your salvation depends. Call to mind the astonishing, the almost incredible history of your Savior's love. He who upholds all things by the Word of his power, who thought it not robbery to be equal with God—humbled himself so as to become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Behold him loaded with those sorrows which he willingly bore for our sakes. Follow him into the garden of Gethsemane; see the awful combat which he there sustained; a combat in which he defended himself only by his prayers, his cries, and his tears; a combat which led on to something still more formidable, the very thought of which so overwhelmed his holy soul, that his sweat was as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground, and he cried out, "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me."
Let me proceed still farther, and review that torrent of sufferings which the adorable Redeemer endured, from the period of his being led away out of the garden by a band of ruffians, to the hour of his crucifixion. Behold him accused by the loud clamor of a thousand revengeful and blaspheming tongues. Hear the fatal sentence pronounced against him by a prevaricating judge, who declared, that he believed him to be perfectly innocent. See his lovely visage marred, his face defiled with spitting; his hands bound with cords; his temples crowned with pricking thorns; his body bruised with crude blows, and his back scourged with whips, until he could count all his bones. See him, after all this, trembling under the weight of that cross on which he was to expire, in agonies which cannot be described. Ascend with him to Golgotha—the place of skull—the theater of the greatest wonder which omnipotence itself ever wrought!
Behold there the Lamb of God! Behold that Jesus, who is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person; see him stripped of his garments, nailed to the notorious gibbet, treated as the vilest malefactors, and, during that awful period, having, as it were, lost sight of those favorable regards of his divine Father, which constituted all his joy. Hear him, hear him crying out, "My God, my God—why have you forsaken me!"
Nature was thrown into convulsions. The earth quaked. Rocks were torn apart. The heavens were clad in mourning. The very graves being opened resigned their prey, and many of those who slept arose and showed themselves alive after his passion. On this great day, for which all other days were made, atonement was offered up for human guilt; solemn, avenging justice, which called for our blood—was fully and completely satisfied; the price was paid for the ransom of our souls; eternal redemption was obtained; our old man was crucified, that the body of sin might be destroyed; principalities and powers were conquered; the world was overcome; death and the grave were subdued; the eternal law of God, which we had violated—was magnified and made honorable; and all the attributes of Deity were infinitely glorified!
The justice of God is magnified by the punishment of impenitent sinners in hell; his goodness is magnified by the happiness of saints in heaven. But the death of Christ magnifies them both in a degree unspeakably higher. In this divine expedient, mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace embrace each other. By consequence, a way is opened for the communication of every blessing, which we perishing sinners, stand in need of, to make us completely and everlastingly happy. Pardon, peace, justification, acceptance, perseverance, and eternal life—are all ensured by the Savior's death. The wretchedness of that state, out of which we are delivered—can only be equaled by the blessedness of that into which we are brought, by our dying Redeemer.
Section 2. The PERSON of Christ is precious to those who believe.
His glory is so great—as to surpass the comprehension of finite minds. But that degree of knowledge which a Christian has of his person by faith, is more valuable than any other kind of knowledge whatever. The apostle Paul, who knew how to estimate it, calls it "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord." He justly counted all things but loss in comparison with this, which shows how precious Christ was to him. Our future blessedness will consist in being with him—and beholding his glory.
The evangelist John, speaking of the person of Christ, tells us, "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." But what or whom does he mean by the Word? "That Word who was in the beginning, who was with God, who was God, by whom all things were made, and without whom was not anything made that was made." The Word was made flesh by the assumption of human nature, so as to be Immanuel, God with us. This was set forth in the divine prediction concerning his incarnation. "Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."
Such is the dignity of Christ's person, that "he who has seen me—has seen the Father also." He tells us in another place, that he is in the Father, and the Father in him; that is, in the unity of the same Divine essence; for he and the Father are one.
He only who is over all, God blessed forever, was able to execute the work of our salvation, which required the exertion of unbounded wisdom and almighty power.
But it was necessary, in order to the accomplishment of the great work of our redemption, that he should appear in our nature. For in his Divine nature, simply considered, he could not bear our sins, give his life a ransom for our souls, nor rise again for our justification. Neither was there that peculiar relation between his Divine nature and ours, which could give us a special interest in what was done by him. Forasmuch therefore as the children were partakers of flesh and blood—he himself likewise took part of the same. This alliance between him and us was needful, to entitle us to the benefits of his meditation. It was thus, that he became our near kinsman, to whom belonged the right of redemption, and from whom alone we could claim relief in our ruined condition. On his becoming man, therefore, our deliverance from misery and destruction absolutely depended.
He, in infinite compassion and condescension, sanctified a portion of our nature unto himself, and took it to be his own, in a holy and mysterious subsistence in his own person. By so doing, he has exalted our nature above the whole creation. For the Father has set the incarnate Savior at his own right hand, in the heavenly places, far above all principalities, and powers, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world—but also in that which is to come.
In this view, the Lord Jesus ought to be, and really is precious to those who believe. They see their own nature delivered from the lowest degree of debasement into which it was brought by sin, and most gloriously and divinely exalted in the person of their Redeemer. This consideration affords consolation and delight to their souls. He must surely be precious unto them—who has assumed their very nature into union with himself, so that all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, substantially, and eternally in it. Never can we sufficiently admire the depths of Divine wisdom, condescension, and love, displayed in this mystery of godliness!
In his incarnation, he becomes the representative image of God to us—without whom our understandings cannot make any intimate approaches to the Divine nature. We behold the glory of the Deity in the face of Jesus Christ. With great propriety he is therefore said to be "The image of the invisible God; and the brightness of his Father's glory; and the express image of his person."
The wonderful union of the divine and human natures in Christ, renders him an object of admiration and adoration both to angels and men. "Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory." In the person of Christ we behold the most wonderful and astonishing display of Divine wisdom, grace and power. The whole mystery of godliness is resolved into this one article—that God was manifest in the flesh. This is the foundation on which alone faith can rest with security, and the distressed conscience find peace. The inspired apostle does not scruple to say, that "God has purchased the church with his own blood." That is, He did so who was both God and man in one person. His blood is of sufficient efficacy to cleanse us from all sin, and to purge our consciences from dead works.
He is the sovereign Lord of all. The whole universe is under his government, and at his control. He does whatever he pleases in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. The mightiest monarchs are but as worms beneath his feet. The thrones, principalities and powers of heaven are subject unto him. He is "higher than the heavens," with all their shining multitudes.
"Who," it is asked, "has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?" According to the representation of the enraptured prophet Isaiah, who saw his glory, and spoke of him—it is even he who shall feed his flock like a shepherd, who shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom. "All the nations of the world are nothing in comparison with him. They are but a drop in the bucket, dust on the scales. He picks up the islands as though they had no weight at all."
His knowledge is without bounds or limits; for he knows all things. His wisdom is perfect; for he is the wisdom of God. His power is infinite; for he is the Almighty. His riches are immense. "The unsearchable riches of Christ."
Whatever benefit or blessing we stand in need of, his grace is sufficient, more than sufficient to bestow it. He is able to save sinners to the uttermost. Being one with the divine Father, he knows, he wills, he performs the same things as the Father does. In his mediatorial capacity, he is the absolute Lord of life and death. He is the head over all things, and manages all providences as he pleases, for the church's good. The book of life, and the keys of hell and death are in his hand. He executes his office with the greatest fidelity, for the honor of the Father, and the salvation of men. What a safe, what a suitable object of faith—is Immanuel! There is all the ground that we can desire, for the firmest confidence in him, and reliance upon him.
Being in the form of God, he thought it no robbery to be equal with God; he counted it no usurpation to claim a full equality of nature with the Father, since he and the Father are essentially one. Hence all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father. To him the following address is made, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever." All the angels in heaven are commanded to worship him, or to pay the same adoration to him as to the Father. For there is no perfection attributed to the Father—but the same is attributed to the Son, in equal degree, and equal glory. As such, he is infinitely worthy of all possible esteem, love and service, both from men and angels.
He claims equality with the Father in his Divine operations, "My Father works hitherto, and I work." His work and authority are the same with those of the Father, in the preservation and government of all things. And hence the apostle assures us, that "by him, and through him, and to him are all things."
That the Divine Redeemer is man, cannot be doubted by those who, with proper attention, read the history of his life upon earth. His hunger and thirst, his labors and sorrows, his stripes and wounds, his offering up strong cries and tears, his pains and his death, fully prove his real manhood. But when we contemplate him in his transfiguration on the holy mount, we behold his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Then the Divinity, enshrined within his manhood, communicated its radiance outwardly to his body, and even to his garments. "His face shined as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light." He was "clothed with majesty and honor; he decked himself with light as with a garment."
When we contemplate the wonderful works which he performed, we see that he is the true God, and eternal life. The most boisterous elements in nature cease from raging, and compose themselves into a perfect calm, when he gives the powerful command, "Peace, be still." The most foul and inveterate leprosy is perfectly removed, and that in a moment, when he says, "Be clean!" The body which had been dead for four days, returns to life, and rises from the tomb, when he says, "Lazarus, come forth!" Disease and death, yes, the legions of darkness are obedient to his omnipotent Word! Surely this is the Lord of nature; this is God manifest in the flesh. This is he who says of himself, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last."
The nature which sinned, according to the rules of justice—was to suffer for sin. The Word, or the Son of God was therefore made flesh, that he might, as he said at his baptism, "fulfill all righteousness." He was incarnate, that he might have something to offer, more valuable and efficacious than the flesh of bulls and of goats. "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God." And as Christ took manhood, that by it he might be capable of death; so, because manhood is the proper subject of compassion and sympathy, he, who without our nature could not suffer for the sins of men on earth, does now, by means of that nature, make intercession for sinners, and exercise dominion over all men, with a true, a natural, and a sensible touch of pity. (Hooker)
I must beg leave to refer the reader to the learned John Owen, and other able writers, who have given us at large the Scripture doctrine concerning the person of Christ. My present design is only to contemplate the subject in a cursory and devotional way. I freely admit, that I am lost when I meditate on the glory of Immanuel. He formed the heavens by his Word, and all their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He fills the whole universe with his immensity. My faith ascends to him in the palace of his glory, surrounded with thousands of thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand mighty angels, always ready to execute his will. And did he become incarnate for us men, and for our salvation? I look down upon myself and say, What am I? Lord, what is man, that you should be thus mindful of him, and the son of man that you should so regard him? I am but an atom, I am but dust and ashes, and all overspread with pollution and deformity. And can this atom, this dust, this deformed mass of impurity—be the object of redeeming mercy? What motive could entice the Lord of glory to become man for my sake, and to communicate himself in a manner so intimate, so endearing, to a creature so base and vile? The seraphim around his throne cover their faces with their wings, and cry one to another, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty! The whole earth is full of his glory." Struck with a sense of his majesty, how justly may I exclaim with the prophet, "Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips." May one of the seraphs come and touch my lips, with a live coal from his altar!
There is an incomparable and transcendent excellency in the person of Christ, in every respect. He is fairer than the children of men; he is altogether lovely. The excellencies which are found in any of his creatures are as nothing, when compared with his excellency. Wisdom in them is but a beam; but he is the glorious Sun of Righteousness. Goodness in them is but as the drop of a bucket; but he is the fountain, the ocean of goodness. Holiness in them is but a glimmering spark—but he is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person. He is equal in all glorious excellencies with the Father. His divine nature puts infinite dignity on his amazing condescension, gives eternal efficacy to the sacrifice which he offered up to expiate our sins, and to the righteousness which he wrought out to justify our persons.
The righteousness of a mere creature, however highly exalted, could not have been accepted by the Sovereign of the universe, as any compensation for our disobedience. For whoever undertakes to bear the penalty of the law, and fulfill its precepts in the place of others, must be one who is not obliged to obedience on his own account. Consequently, our surety must be a divine person; for every mere creature is under indispensable obligations to perfect and perpetual obedience. And, as our situation required, so the gospel reveals—a Mediator and substitute thus exalted and glorious. For he is described as one who could, without arrogance, or the least disloyalty, claim sovereignty, and full equality with the Father. Hence it was by his own voluntary condescension that he became incarnate, and took upon him the form of a servant. And, by the same free act of his will, he was made under the law, to perform that obedience in our stead, to which, as a divine person, he was in no sense obliged.
The nature of our Redeemer's work, as Mediator, made it necessary that he should be both God and man in one person. Deity alone was too high to treat with man; humanity alone was too low to treat with God. The eternal Son, therefore, assumed our nature, that he might become a middle person—a Mediator between God and men, capable of "laying his hands upon both," and of bringing sinful man and his offended Maker into a state of perfect friendship. He could not, in office, have been a Mediator, if he had not, in his natures, been a middle-person.
The constitution of the Redeemer's person is the effect of infinite wisdom, almighty power, and unbounded love. It is here that the foundation is laid for our hope of everlasting happiness. There is enough in this subject to excite astonishment, gratitude and joy through eternal ages. It is not sufficient to say that it is mysterious; it is mystery itself; the mystery of godliness; the wisdom of God in a mystery. Yet the truth and certainty of it are clearly revealed; and though it is a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence to those who stumble at the Word, being disobedient; yet to those who believe, it is, and forever will be, precious!
Section 3. The NAMES of Christ are precious to those who believe.
The very sound of his name gladdens the hearts of those who believe. He is called by a variety of names, to set forth that variety of excellencies which meet in him. The prophet gives us a pleasing catalogue of some of those in one verse: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Every one of these names is instructive, significant, and expressive of what he is in himself, and what he is to us, wretched sinners, who are enriched by his benefits. They may well therefore be precious to us. They administer peace to the troubled conscience, healing to the broken heart, and consolation to the desponding mind.
Some have counted up over one hundred and fifty different names, by which the divine Savior is called in the Old and New Testaments. It may suffice us to single out a few of these. In that divine canticle, the Song of Solomon, where many of the amiable appearances in nature are employed to set forth his love, the excellency of his person, and the happiness of those who have communion with him—we have the following beautiful passage, "Your name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love you." As ointment and perfume rejoice the heart, so those titles given to our Redeemer, which are peculiarly expressive of his work, his grace, or his glory, afford pleasure and edification to those who are desirous of giving their choicest affections to him.
I hope the reader will excuse me, if I add a short note from John Owen; speaking of communion with Christ, he says, 'As this is intimated in many places of Scripture, so there is one entire book designed to set it forth. This is the divine Song of Solomon. It is a gracious record of the divine communications of Christ in love and grace unto his church, with her returns of love to him, and delight in him. A man may judge himself to have somewhat profited, in the experience of the mystery of a blessed fellowship and communion with Christ, when the expressions in that holy dialogue, give light and life to his mind, and efficaciously communicate unto him an experience of their power. But because these things are little understood by many, the book itself is much neglected, if not despised. Yes, to such impudence have some arrived, in foaming out their own shame, as that they have ridiculed the expressions of it; but we are foretold of such mockers in the last days, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.'
1. The name JESUS signifies a Savior. This name was given to him, because he saves his people from their sins; therefore is a name very dear to those who believe. They have seen the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and beheld themselves in a perishing condition because of it; as such the news of a Savior is to them as life from the dead. That news of his name and salvation, which the gospel brings to their ears, is like the breaking and pouring forth of a box of precious ointment, removing that sadness and sorrow of heart, which are occasioned by a sight and sense of their own sin and misery.
Pearson seems to have set the etymology of the name Jesus in the clearest light, by observing that Jah, one of the incommunicable names of God, enters into the composition of the Hebrew name Jehoshuah, to which Jesus answers. This derivation most plainly shows, how Christ's being called Jesus was, as the sacred historian suggests, in effect, an accomplishment of the prophecy, that he should be called Immanuel. "You shall call his name Jesus." This was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, "They shall call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted, is, God with us." It is intimated here, that the name Jesus is, in signification, equivalent to that of Immanuel, or God in our nature. He must be man as well as God—and God as well as man; otherwise he could not be the Savior of ruined sinners. But being both in one person, he was capable of suffering what was necessary to be suffered, and of performing what was needful to be performed, in order to accomplish the great design.
The reason given by the heavenly messenger, why he must be called Jesus, serves to set forth the signification of the name, "For he shall save his people from their sins." To save them is, on the one hand, to rescue them from evils which it is not in the power of language to describe; and, on the other, to confer upon them an infinite good.
Some of the grandest titles of the Almighty are joined in the Old Testament, with this term Savior. "I, even I, am Jehovah, and besides me there is no Savior. I am Jehovah, there is no God else besides me; a just God, and a Savior; there is none besides me. I am the Lord your God, the holy one of Israel, your Savior. All flesh shall know that I the Lord am your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. O the Hope of Israel, the Savior thereof!" Of such a Savior we wretched sinners stood in need, and such a Savior Jesus is, as appears from the united testimony of the inspired writers.
How full of comfort then must this precious name be, to every believing soul! Jesus, the Savior, God with us, the Son of God in our nature, full of tenderness, unbounded love, almighty in power, able to offer up a sacrifice for our sins of infinite value, able to conquer all enemies, to overcome all opposition, to bestow every saving blessing upon us, and to fulfill in us all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power. The blessedness derived from him is immense and everlasting. All that is experienced of it in this world, is but a pledge of what is reserved for that which is to come. Well may every Christian say, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! He has a name above every name—at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Jesus! I love your charming name,
'Tis music to my ear;
Fain would I sound it out so loud
That earth and heaven should hear.
Yes, you are precious to my soul,
My transport and my trust:
Jewels to me are gaudy toys,
And gold is sordid dust.
All my capacious powers can wish,
In you does richly meet;
Not to mine eyes is light so dear,
Nor friendship half so sweet.
Your name still dwells upon my heart,
And sheds its fragrance there;
The noblest balm of all its wounds,
The cordial of its care.
I'll speak the honors of your name
With my expiring breath;
Then speechless clasp you in my arms,
And thus be blessed in death!
2. He is called MESSIAH, and in that character is also precious to believers. With a lively faith they behold in him—the exact accomplishment of the various prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Redeemer of mankind. The seed of Abraham, and of David; born of a virgin, poor and obscure, and yet one whom David called his Lord; a great king, an everlasting priest, though not of the tribe of Levi; born at Bethlehem; a prophet like unto Moses—but greater than he. They behold him as one who would preach good tidings to the meek and the poor; as one who would proclaim liberty to the captives, as one would comfort the mourners, and heal the broken in heart; as one who would publish his gospel first in Galilee of the Gentiles, and then throughout the coasts of Israel; as one who would have a forerunner in the spirit and with the power of Elijah, crying in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'
They see from the prophets, that the Messiah was to be one who would come unto the daughter of Zion—meek, lowly, and riding upon a donkey; as one who would work miracles more than Moses and all the ancient prophets, miracles of a mild, merciful, and beneficent kind; as one who would open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, make the tongue of the dumb to sing, the lame man to jump as an deer.
They perceive that the Messiah was to be one, who notwithstanding all the displays of his power and goodness, would be rejected by the greater part of the Jews, to whom he would be a stumbling block, and a rock of offence. They see that he was to be one who would be despised and afflicted, a Man of sorrows, and cut off from the land of the living; who would have numerous enemies, that would hate him without a cause. They see that he was to be accused by false witnesses, betrayed by a pretended friend, sold for thirty pieces of silver, which money would be given for a potter's field, after it had been thrown away by the treacherous traitor, who would come to a miserable end.
They see that the enemies of the Messiah would use him in a very barbarous and shameful manner; that they would buffet him, and spit in his face; that he would be led like a lamb to the slaughter, not opening his mouth, but only to intercede for these transgressors; they would strip him of his clothing, dividing it among themselves by lot; they would surround him like furious bulls, pierce his hands and his feet, mock him in the midst of his agonies, shaking their heads at him, and giving him gall and vinegar to drink; that he would be reduced to such a state by his sufferings, that his heart would melt within him like wax, his bones be dislocated, and his tongue cleave to the roof of his mouth; that his hands and his feet would be pierced, and yet not one of his bones broken; that in his expiring agonies he would cry, "My God, my God—why have you forsaken me!"
They see that he would be numbered with transgressors, and after he had been put to a shameful death, be laid in the sepulcher of a rich man, whence he would rise again the third day, before he had seen corruption; that he would ascend up to heaven, sit at the right hand of the Father, be crowned with glory and honor, see his seed, the happy fruits of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied.
While all these, and many other prophecies are found to have their exact accomplishment in Jesus Christ, even as face answers to face in a looking-glass, he certainly ought to be endeared to our hearts. We would say with the enraptured Nathaniel, that Israelite indeed, "We have found the Messiah, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets wrote, even Jesus of Nazareth! He is indeed the very Christ, the anointed of God, and the Author of eternal salvation!"
3. He is called, The PRINCE of PEACE. Sin had put an end to all friendly fellowship between man and his Maker—but Jesus undertook to make up the breach. Let others dream of reconciliation with God, on the ground of absolute mercy, without satisfaction for sin; I can form no idea of such a reconciliation, as there is a total silence about it in the Scriptures of truth.
"Your mercy, O my God, is never exercised to the harm of your solemn justice. The severity of your justice is not lost in the freeness of your mercy—nor the freeness of your mercy in the strictness of your justice. It is daring insolence in any sinful creature, to imagine he can have peace with you, in a way dishonorable to truth and righteousness.
"We have violated that holy law, by which you govern the world. The penalty must fall on the delinquent, if an interposing Mediator does not make up the breach. But your own eternal Son, in order to make peace, has brought a price in his hand, a price adequate to the wrong done to you, O my God, and to the offence committed against you. A price, which was sufficient to stop the course of your solemn justice, sufficient to accomplish the wonderful design, that you might be abundantly satisfied, and well pleased with those who once were enemies. Your wrath is laid aside—he who was a rebel and a traitor, being once subdued, is received into the bosom of your favor, and enjoys that friendship with God, which shall abide forever. The virtue of my Redeemer's sacrifice is such that it reaches back to the first Adam, and forward to the end of the world, and will be as efficacious then as it was the first moment it was offered.
"Blessed Jesus, Prince of Peace, there is none but yourself to screen my guilty soul from Divine wrath. How precious are you to me, when I consider what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God! Who can dwell with devouring fire? Who can endure everlasting burnings? Yet these must have been my portion, if you had not espoused my cause. And these will be the portion of all those who reject your mediation. Were there any other expedient, something might be said to excuse their folly. But this is the only sovereign remedy.
"And may this remedy be ever dear to my heart! Dearer than the light which salutes my eyes; dearer than the food which supports my life; yes, dearer than life itself! To you, blessed Savior, my everlasting thanks are due, for your kind interposition in my favor, to make peace by the blood of the cross. Without this, I could never have had access to the Father; I could never have enjoyed communion with God here, nor the pleasing hope of being admitted into his presence hereafter. But a new and living way is now opened. Through the Prince of Peace, I have boldness and access with confidence. And the blessing of reconciliation is permanent as well as great. Jesus everlastingly maintains that peace which he has once procured. It is a lasting blessing, since he has obtained eternal redemption for us."
4. He is called the "Lord of glory." So the apostle Paul, in his former epistle to the Corinthians, speaks of him: "Which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." His person is glorious. His works are glorious. The liberty he grants to those who had been the captives of sin and Satan, is a glorious liberty. The gospel which reveals him, is a glorious gospel. The church, which is his mystical body, is a glorious church; such indeed it will be, when he presents it to himself, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. His kingdom is a glorious kingdom, and his throne is the throne of glory.
His essential glory, as God, and one with the Father, is not only unspeakable—but inconceivable. His honor, his name, his essential properties and perfections, his nature, and his will are the same with those of the Father. Of this he assures us, when he says, "All things that the Father has, are mine."
The glory which belongs to him as Mediator, and head of the church, is exceedingly great. Of this the apostle speaks, when he tells us, that "God has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee would bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue would confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
As he is the Lord of glory, he has that at his disposal, and will bestow it on his followers. Thus when addressing his divine Father, he said, "The glory which you gave me, I have given them." He will therefore appoint unto them a kingdom, as the Father has appointed unto him. They know that when he shall appear, they must also appear with him in glory. Their souls shall be filled and adorned with glory, and even their vile bodies shall be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.
His name, as the Lord of glory, is precious to those who believe. They desire to have daily more and more acquaintance with him, and to grow in the sweet and powerful experience of that fellowship which is carried on between a glorious Redeemer in heaven, and his saints on earth. Let us suppose the true Christian, in his retired moments, addressing God in such manner as the following:
'You O God are unchangeable in Your nature, glorious in Your essence, wonderful in Your perfections, wise in Your counsels, and holy in all Your works. It is my greatest good and highest happiness--to enjoy Your favor, and to behold Your glory. Permit me to say, with Your servant Moses, I beseech You, show me Your glory! Show me the glory of Your wisdom, Your holiness, Your power, Your grace, and Your mercy in Christ Jesus. This will give me a distaste for the gaudy vanities of the present world. I shall then look with indifference on all that, after which the covetous are eagerly panting. I shall then pity the ambitious, in their restless solicitude to make themselves great, and to obtain the veneration of their fellow worms. Your Divine beauty and infinite loveliness, as displayed in the glorious Mediator, will captivate my desires, inflame my love, and excite my joy and delight!
"A more intimate view of Your holiness will embitter every sin, and lead me, in deepest humiliation, to abhor myself, and repent as in dust and ashes. Give me such a sense of Your majesty--as may dispose my heart to reverence You supremely. Afford me such discoveries of Your omnipotence, Your love, and Your goodness--as may support my fainting heart under the toils of this warfare, and all the afflictions attending this state of mortality. Let the impressions which Your adorable perfections make upon me, be deep and powerful, so as to transform my soul into Your own amiable and holy likeness. Thus by beholding Your glory--may I be changed into Your image.
"It is habitual, and not transient communion with Jesus, the Lord of glory, which will satisfy my desires, and produce those happy effects which I seek--of nearer conformity to Him in knowledge, righteousness and true holiness. How much will communion with Christ--tend to refine my understanding, rectify my soul, and purify my heart! Grant me, O Author of all good, by frequent converse with You, to have my affections spiritualized, that I may look with indifference on all other objects, and have my mind in heaven. In fellowship with You, I shall find a source of delights, infinitely superior to anything that this world can afford. For Your loving-kindness is better than life itself. You are the inexhaustible treasury of blessedness. O Lord God Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in You!"
5. He is called STRENGTH. "The Lord Jehovah is my Strength, and my Song; he also has become my Salvation." It is he who gives strength and power to his people. In him they have not only righteousness, but strength. He is precious to the believer under this consideration, who is emboldened to say, with the apostle Paul, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me."
God has formed all his works, both in nature and grace, so as perpetually to need his supporting hand. By so doing, he has laid us under a happy necessity of being dependent on him. I am a weak—and therefore must be a dependent creature. I have to strive against numerous enemies, stronger than myself, and cannot stand my ground without strength from above. There is a necessity for the same power to keep it, as was at first exerted in subduing it. Such is the state of my soul. It relieves me to think that my precious Savior knows my need, and has promised to give strength according to the day. Strengthen, O Lord, that which you have wrought!
'I would humble myself under a consciousness of my own unspeakable weakness, and would ever be sensible, that danger is near; but I would at the same time, rejoice in the happy necessity I am under of being constantly dependent on him, who is mighty to save.
'Lord, you have taught me, by daily experience, that I stand in need of your supporting power on all occasions. May your everlasting arm be underneath me, and your strength be made perfect in my weakness. Renouncing all confidence in the flesh, may I, by a lively faith—be strong in the grace which is in you.
'I am not sufficient of myself even to think anything properly and spiritually, much less am I able to perform any holy purpose, in a right and acceptable manner. It is the Lord who gives strength both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Having formed the soul for heavenly motion, and regulated the springs of action, his presence and agency are still continually necessary to bring it forward in the way of holiness. He is the author, the sustainer, and the finisher of all good. When to will is present with me—yet how to perform that which is good I find not—but only as Christ strengthens me. If I attempt to engage in any spiritual exercise, I no longer keep close to it than his Almighty hand upholds me, and leads me on. If I pray, I know not what to pray for as I ought, unless his Spirit helps my infirmity. If I would hear the Word, I need the same divine hand to open my heart, that I may profit by what I hear. In the whole of my Christian course, I find the words of my precious Redeemer verified, "Without me—you can do nothing."
6. He is called, the "Consolation of Israel." He is not only a comforter—but comfort itself. Other comforts, when compared with him, scarcely deserve the name. True believers rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. A command is given them to rejoice in him always. The gospel which reveals him is a joyful sound, the tidings it brings are glad tidings.
Jesus may well be called the Consolation of his people, as he saved them from everlasting misery, relieves them under present troubles, and advances them to the regions of eternal joy and felicity. All the consolation they have in this world, is derived from him. If they have joy in God—it is through Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom they have now received the atonement. If they glory—it is in his cross. If they are of good cheer—it is because he has forgiven their sins. If they rejoice in hope of the glory of God—it is because Christ is in them, the hope of glory.
Hence we hear those who believe, expressing themselves in such language as this, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with jewels."
Christ is to his people—everything they can need, and everything they can enjoy. Happy are those who can claim interest with him—who is all and in all to those who love him. If they renounce the pleasures of sin, they have joys infinitely beyond them.
Reader, you, like the rest of your fellow-creatures, are in quest of happiness; but, permit me to ask, Where do you seek it? Do you seek it in the wealth of this world? That is but a splendid encumbrance. Do you seek it in the honor which comes from men? That is but a puff of noisy breath, a glittering bubble, which breaks almost as soon as it is formed. Do you seek happiness in the pleasures of sin? They are but for a season; they leave a sting behind, and end in misery and torment! Nay, even while you are in pursuit of them, you will find, that, like the briny waters of the ocean to a thirsty palate, they irritate rather than satisfy. Do you seek to get rid of disquieting thoughts, in mirthful and jovial company? Alas! this is only a temporary opiate—not a lasting cure. And it is well, if, like an opiate when its power is spent, it does not leave the spirits disordered, flattened and sunk. Learn to look for peace and happiness in him who is the Consolation of Israel; in the discoveries of his boundless love, the precious promises of his gospel, and the hope of complete salvation and everlasting glory through him. Here the true health, ease, and felicity of our nature, are to be found.
Section 4. The OFFICES and CHARACTERS of Christ, are precious to those who believe.
The evangelist John tells us, that when Christ was upon earth, he and others "saw his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." He cannot be understood to speak here of the glory of his outward condition; for Christ made himself, in this respect, of no reputation, taking on him the form of a servant. Nor is this to be interpreted directly and absolutely of the eternal, essential glory of his divine nature; for this cannot be seen in the present state. But the evangelist rather speaks of his glory as Mediator; for it is in the administration of that office that he is "full of grace and truth." This indeed implies his divine nature, as "the only-begotten of the Father." This glory of the Redeemer was seen, not with bodily eyes—but by faith; for John immediately afterwards tells us, that what he speaks of was the privilege only of those who received him, and believed on his name.
God gave to his church, under the Old Testament, kings, priests, and prophets. He anointed them to their several offices, gave them directions as to the discharge of those offices, was present with them in their work, and accepted their services. These offices are all united in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. He is a PRIEST forever after the order of Melchizedek. His priesthood was foretold in the writings of the prophets, and it is particularly insisted on by the apostles. The priestly office consists of two branches, the offering of sacrifice, and making intercession. The sacrifice which Jesus had to offer was his life, which he gave as a ransom for many. He offered himself without spot to God; and on this account, he is called the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. For the same reason he is said to be set forth as an atoning sacrifice. Both the parts of his priestly office are mentioned by the apostle John, and their mutual relation to each other is hinted at, in the following words, "We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins." His intercession with the Father, as our Advocate, is grounded on his being an atoning sacrifice for our sins. But we are indebted to the apostle to the Hebrews, for the largest and clearest account of Christ's priesthood.
Jesus may well be precious in this capacity to those who believe, for his priesthood is the principal foundation of the faith and comfort of the church. The subject is interesting and important in the highest degree; but instead of a farther discussion of it in this place, I shall only add the following aspiration:
'O great and glorious High Priest, who is higher than the heavens; you condescended to dwell with men upon earth, and offer up yourself as an offering and a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savor. By that one offering you have perfected forever those who are sanctified. Our sins stood between God and us, like a dreadful wall of separation—but by your glorious and all-sufficient atonement, you have effectually removed the obstruction, and made the way of access to God and happiness free and open, that the offended Majesty of heaven, and offending mortals when brought to repentance, might be united in the bond of perpetual love.
'When sojourning here upon earth, you called sinners, by your own voice, to partake of this privilege: and you call them still by the ministers of reconciliation, and by your blessed Word and gospel. You said to the trembling sinner, "Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven!" Let me also hear your pardoning voice; let me know, by happy experience, that I have redemption through your blood, the forgiveness of my sins, according to the riches of your grace. Let my conscience be purged from dead works, that I may serve the living God. So shall I rejoice with the felicity of your chosen people, and the gladness of your heritage!
'You bled and died for sinners upon earth—and ever live to make intercession for them in heaven. You are therefore able to save to the uttermost! O let me experience the benefit of your intercession. Surely you are precious to my soul in your priestly attire. No hope, no peace, no joy springs up in my bosom—but what is connected with your atoning sacrifice, and powerful intercession. Send down your blessed Spirit into my heart, to seal me for your own! Say to my soul, "I am your salvation;" then shall I joy in God through Jesus Christ the Lord, the unchangeable and everlasting High Priest of the church, by whom I now receive the atonement.'
2. As KING in Zion, all power is given to Jesus in heaven and in earth. He has all the dignity, and all the authority of a king. He is the Lawgiver of the church, who is able to save, and to destroy. All acts of worship are to be performed in his name. Ministers preach in his name. Christians pray in his name. Believers are baptized in his name. Christians partake of the holy supper in remembrance of him. Censures on disorderly people are given to his name. All the officers in his church have their commission from him. And the judgment of the world, at the great day, will be administered by him, when "he shall sit upon the throne of his glory!"
But the Redeemer could not be precious to us in his kingly office—if he were not really and properly God, equal and one with the Father. For, as a learned Divine justly observes, since whatever the Father does in respect to the church, is done in and by his Son; if the Son is not possessed of the same properties and perfections with the Father, the foundation of our faith is cast down, and the spring of our consolation utterly stopped. If Christ is no more than man, or a created being, however dignified or exalted, the committing of all rule, authority, and judgment to him, is so far from being a source of encouragement and comfort—that it may justly be considered as the greatest disadvantage to the church, which can be imagined.
He who is King in Zion, would be always present with every member of his church; he would know all their hearts, and all their needs; and he would be able to give them immediate relief and protection in every time of danger. This is only possible to one who is possessed of infinite wisdom, of almighty power, and who is omnipresent, or present in all places at one and the same moment. If Christ be able, at all times, to relieve us, to support us, to deliver us, and to save us from the power of our spiritual enemies—he is precious to us, while we behold the scepter of government in his hands. We may then say, "The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice!" But if we once suppose that he, of whom it is said, "The government shall be upon his shoulders," is not the Mighty God, or the Lord Jehovah, our faith, our hope, and our joy in him will be effectually overthrown. We must then hang our harps upon the willows, and give way to all the horrors of despondency and despair.
The rule of him who is King in Zion, is internal and spiritual. It relates to the minds, the souls, and the consciences of all his subjects. Whatever they do, in a gracious way, either in opposition to sin, or in the discharge of pious duty, is done under the influence, the guidance, and the support which they receive from him, in the exercise of his kingly power. His own words corresponding with the constant experience of his people, are a full confirmation of this truth; "Without me you can do nothing; that is, nothing successfully, in the Christian warfare. In all the internal actings of their minds, they look unto Jesus, as to one who is more present with their souls, than they are with themselves. And under this consideration he is ever precious to them.
But no man can depend on Christ's sovereign power, who is not persuaded that all his secret groans and sighs, all the inward laborings of his soul against sin, and after a conformity to his image, are immediately and continually under the Redeemer's eye and notice. Some dare to deny this great truth—but Jesus Christ has declared that all his churches shall be convinced of it. "For I will make all the churches know, that I search the heart, and try the thoughts of men." And the apostle has assured us that "all things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do." Without a full persuasion of this, there can be neither faith in his name, love to his person, dependence on his power, nor obedience to his authority. But to you who believe the truth concerning him—he is precious.
The day is approaching, when the Lord Jesus Christ will openly, in the face of the whole assembled world, vindicate the honor of his kingly government. God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he has ordained. For the Father judges no man—but has committed all judgment to the Son; that all men would honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. And it is highly proper, as Dr. Smith observes, that this holy and Divine Person, who was buffeted and affronted, condemned and crucified, by an ungrateful and injurious world, would then judge his judges, and be as far advanced above the highest pinnacle of human greatness, as he was once below it. It is fit that Herod may see that he persecuted, not the infant king of a petty province—but the Sovereign of angels and men; and that Pilate and the Jews may be convinced, that he whom they called a king in scorn—is really an Emperor, infinitely greater than Caesar; that Jesus is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords forever and ever!
3. He is precious as the great PROPHET of his church. In consequence of man's apostasy from his Maker, the world is enveloped in spiritual darkness. Until we are enlightened by the wisdom which comes from above, we sit in the region and shadow of death. We are alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance which is in us, and because of the blindness of our hearts. That men are insensible of their native blindness, is but a farther proof of the reality of it. For the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. All who are taught of God, learn to know their own ignorance, and consequently they are led to put a just value on the teachings and guidance of Jesus Christ, in his prophetic office.
The glad tidings of pardon, of peace, and reconciliation with God, come by him. The gospel of salvation is the gospel of Christ. He preached this gospel himself when on earth. "He has anointed me," said Jesus, "to preach good tidings to the meek." The ministrations of his servants in every age, whereby they instrumentally turn men from darkness to light, are all by the appointment of Christ, in the fulfillment of his prophetic office.
Nay, the same may be said of all the precious instructions contained in the Scriptures of truth; and therefore the sacred writings are emphatically called "The Word of Christ, which should dwell richly in us." Whatever has been revealed unto men, of the mind and will of God, from the beginning of time, has been revealed by him in the execution of that office, concerning which we now speak. Hence he himself has said, "All things are delivered unto me by my Father; and no man knows who the Father is—but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." He is the Light of the world, the glorious Sun, in whom all the rays of divine and intellectual light are concentrated. "All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in him." How precious then must he be in his prophetic office! It is on this account, I presume, among others, that he is so often called by that name, which no one but himself can bear, the WORD OF GOD.
The Father solemnly pointed him out to men, as their prophet, when he sojourned upon earth, by an audible voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son—hear him." With convincing evidence and authority, he has revealed to the world—the secrets which lay hidden in the Divine mind. He brought his doctrine from the bosom of the Father, according to the declaration of the evangelist John, "The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father—he has declared him." Jesus tells us, that the words which the Father gave him—he gave unto us, and that he spoke to us that which he had been with the Father. No wonder therefore is it, that the following solemn declaration is made concerning him, "It shall come to pass, that every soul which will not hear this prophet, shall be destroyed, from among the people."
That spiritual illumination, by which sinners are brought the saving knowledge of God, and of the way of peace—is granted unto them by Jesus Christ as the prophet of his church. He gives unto them the Spirit of truth—to convince them of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, and to guide them into all truth. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, are the sons of God; but if any man, in this sense, has not the Spirit of Christ—he is none of his. How necessary, how important, and consequently, how precious are his divine illuminations! By them we are favored with that knowledge of God, and of the Mediator, who is life eternal.
How greatly endeared then, should Jesus Christ be unto us, as our prophet! He who lay in the bosom of the Father, has made a fuller and brighter discovery to us what he is, in his admirable and glorious perfections, than we can learn from any other. The light of nature dictates many things to us concerning him, and the ancient prophets have given us farther information. But none knows the Father as the Son does, and those to whom the Son reveals him. The knowledge he has of the Father, far transcends the ideas and conceptions of the wisest man who ever existed in the world. He was sent down from heaven to bring life and immortality to light, to reveal the will and the glories of the Father, to make him appear infinitely lovely and desirable in the eyes of sinners—by representing him in all the wonders of his compassion, and forgiving mercy. That great, that just, and holy Being—is lovely and amiable in the sight of guilty creatures, when he appears as reconciling the world unto himself, by his Son Jesus Christ, not imputing their trespasses unto them.
The great Prophet has informed us, what were the eternal counsels of his Father's love, and what kind designs he formed for our recovery from sin and ruin, when, in his own foreknowledge, he beheld us in a fallen and miserable condition. He has told us, what provision the Father made for us, by committing us to the hands of his Son—to be redeemed and saved by him. It is he who has informed us, that "God so loved the world, as to give his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish—but have eternal life." Whatever was spoken to men in former ages, by angels and by prophets, concerning the great salvation, Jesus has confirmed; and he has added many rich and precious promises of a glorious resurrection, and a future state, and set them before us in a divine light, beyond what either prophets or angels ever revealed! (Isaac Watts.)
How happy are those whom he calls out of darkness into his marvelous light! He adopts them into his family—and conforms them to his blessed image. He continues to supply them with light and life; he guides them with his counsel, and afterwards receives them to glory.
4. He is the SHEPHERD of his flock, to conduct, guard and defend them, to feed them in the green pastures of his grace, to cure and heal their spiritual diseases, to restore them when they wander, to gather the lambs with his arm, to carry them in his bosom, and gently to lead those which are with young. His power, his care and compassion are infinite. His followers are as sheep in the midst of wolves. We hear one of them saying, "My soul is among lions!" These lions may gape and roar, they may seek to devour—but the sheep are safe in the Almighty Shepherd's hands! For he has said, "My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" Such a Shepherd must be precious!
5. Jesus is the REDEEMER of His people, and under that consideration, He is unspeakably precious. The price which He paid for their ransom, was a price of infinite value! "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect!" 1 Peter 1:18-19. The redemption which He has wrought out--is the fruit of his amazing love! It is free, it is every way complete, and it is everlasting; for He has obtained eternal redemption for us! "He entered the holy of holies once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption!" Hebrews 9:12
When Titus, the Roman emperor, delivered the enslaved Greeks from their bondage, he was endeared to them in such a manner, that all the night long they celebrated the honor of their deliverer with music and dancing, crying out in raptures of delight, as they surrounded his tent, 'A Savior! a Savior!' But as the redemption obtained by Christ is infinitely more important than the deliverance granted by that noble and victorious prince, it demands still more elevated returns of gratitude, love and praise.
"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law." This could be done no other way—but by his standing in our place, and enduring what we deserved; or, as it is more emphatically expressed by the apostle, by "being made a curse for us." He who was innocent, suffered that very curse which we deserved in our place--that we, who are guilty, might escape our just condemnation! He subjected himself to that very sentence which the law denounced upon us. For it is written, "Cursed is everyone that continues not in all things." Now if Christ endured that very curse which we deserved, that by this means he might deliver us from condemnation, it is evident that he suffered in our stead.
This was absolutely necessary, according to the tenor of the first covenant. For, as God had absolutely declared, "In the day that you eat (of the forbidden fruit) you shall surely die." No second Adam could restore the ruins of the first—but by taking this curse upon himself. The truth and justice of the Most High, stood absolutely engaged to execute the threatening.
Die man—or justice must; unless for him
Some other able, and as willing, pay
The rigid satisfaction—death for death.
6. He is, the Everlasting FATHER. "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6. How venerable and amiable, how solemn, and yet how endearing is the character of a Father! It commands reverence, and softens that reverence into endearment. It awes—and yet it cheers the mind. It inspires the heart with holy boldness, and fills it with delight and joy. Among men—a wise, a prudent, a tender, and an affectionate father—is truly an exalted character. What will not such a father do for his dear children—who look up to him for support, for protection, for instruction, and for comfort?
With what pleasing sensations, may we contemplate our Lord Jesus Christ—as a Father! When among his disciples on earth, He often addressed them not only as children—but endearingly called them little children. As a father pities his children, so the Lord Jesus pities those who fear him; for he knows our frame, he remembers that we are but dust. We see all, and more than all the tenderness of a Father in the following words, "Isn't Ephraim a precious son to Me, a delightful child?" asks the Lord. "I had to punish him, but I still love him. My heart yearns for him—I have great compassion for him." Jeremiah 31:20.
7. He is the BRIDEGROOM of his church, and so unspeakably excellent in that view, that none in heaven or earth can rival him. We were deformed, polluted, and in every respect, unworthy of standing in so near and intimate a relation to him. There was no excellency in us, to render us desirable in his eyes—but everything to provoke his resentment. And yet he was resolved to betroth us to himself forever, in loving-kindness, in faithfulness, and in mercy!
Sin had reduced us to a state of absolute beggary, poverty, and wretchedness; yet it was his good pleasure to take us into union with himself—that we might share in his unsearchable riches. Nay, though he was rich, for our sakes he became poor—that we through his poverty, might be made rich!
Do we speak of the Bridegroom's love? It is absolutely without parallel. There is nothing of the kind among men, which will bear any comparison with it. Though it is immutable in itself—yet in the progressive discoveries of it, it is like the waters in Ezekiel's vision, increasing and rising from the ankles to the knees, from the knees to the loins, until at length it becomes as waters to swim in; a river, a boundless ocean of love. Its height and depth, its length and breadth are immeasurable! It passes the knowledge of men or angels. It is stronger than death—for Christ loves his church, and gave himself for it. In its commencement, it is from everlasting: in its continuance, it endures forever. The pattern of it, is the Father's love to his dear Son. Jesus himself says to those who, according to the language of inspiration, are married unto him, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you." The love of the nearest relations among men, falls inconceivably short of setting forth the nature, or the ardency of this love. No husband loves the dearest wife—as Christ loves his church.
Believers, by their union with him, are advanced to great riches and honors. God is their Father. They are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. The riches of eternity are their own! They are taken from the dust and the dunghill—and set among glorious princes! The angels in heaven think it no dishonor to be their servants; for they are all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation. "Your Maker is your Husband, the Lord Almighty is his name." Isaiah 54:5. The contract is made, and it will be consummated at the great day, when the marriage supper will be celebrated with solemnity, triumph, and glory—suited to the dignity of the heavenly Bridegroom. "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb!" Revelation 19:9
Without enlarging on other particulars, I may observe in general, that to those who believe in Jesus to the saving of the soul—he is precious under every consideration. He is the bread of God coming down from heaven, and giving everlasting life to their souls. By him they are really, constantly, daily supported, fed and sustained. As bread is sweet and precious to a hungry man—so is Christ sweet and precious to those who live by him. The entertainment he gives to them is a divine, a spiritual feast. "Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast."
He is to them the Sun of Righteousness; the beams of his grace are healing, enlightening, cheering, and full of consolation. If natural light is sweet, if it is a pleasant thing to behold the sun—how much more pleasant to experience the irradiating influences of the Light of life! "On you who fear my name, shall the Sun of Righteousness arise, with healing in his wings."
He is the fountain where they bathe their weary souls, and in which they are cleansed from all sin and impurity. He is the tree of life, under the shadow of which they sit with great delight, and his fruit is sweet to their taste. He is a rock, a strong tower, a hiding-place, where they find protection from every storm, and security from every foe. He was precious to the Psalmist under all these views, "I will love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my strength in whom I trust; my shield, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower."
All the strength of believers, all their light, all their life, all their consolation, and all their joy—are in him, from him, and by him. Through him they are brought into the nearest alliance and friendship with God, the firmest union, and the sweetest communion with him, that they are capable of enjoying in the present state, and they shall be introduced into the presence of his glory in the world to come!
It is therefore the delight of their lives—to know him, to love and honor him with their whole hearts, and to aspire after conformity to his blessed image, and his holy will. They are the true circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
'O blessed Redeemer, I find in you all that my poor helpless soul stands in need. Though I have the greatest reason for shame and humiliation, on account of what I am in myself—yet in you I behold everything to elevate my hopes, and to afford me relief and encouragement! May my soul magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoice in God my Savior! The characters and relations in which you have revealed yourself to me in your Word, exhibit a balm for every wound, a cordial for every fear. If I am naked—you are the Lord my righteousness; if I am sick—you are my physician; if I am weak and helpless—you are my strength; if I am neglected and despised—you are my compassionate and faithful friend; if I am ignorant—you are made unto me wisdom; if I am polluted and enslaved—you are made unto me sanctification and redemption; if I am nothing but emptiness and vanity—you are full of grace and truth.'
O if I had a thousand tongues,
And could be heard from pole to pole,
I would to all the listening world
Declare your goodness to my soul!
Section 5. The BLOOD and RIGHTEOUSNESS of Christ, are precious to those who believe.
The complete atonement which Jesus Christ has made for our sins, by the sacrifice of himself, is the life and center of the evangelical system, and that which endears it so much to the hearts of those who believe. Here we see pardon procured, and the sinner saved—while sin is condemned and punished. Here we see the most solemn display of justice and holiness, in conjunction with the freest exercise of mercy. Here we see sinful rebels delivered from deserved punishment, and advanced to a state of dignity and honor; and at the same time, the rights of that divine government against which they had rebelled, inviolably preserved and maintained. Through what Jesus Christ has done and suffered for us, we behold the righteous law of God magnified, in justifying those who had violated its precepts, and brought themselves under its curse. In the death of that Lamb of God, we perceive at once, the Almighty's eternal abhorrence of that which is evil, and his infinite love to his offending creatures.
We see how precious this subject was to the apostle Paul, "But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." He was struck with a kind of horror at the thought of making anything the ground of his joy or triumph—but the complete work of Jesus, which he finished on the cross: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." While others consider Christianity only as an improvement of natural religion, containing a more refined system of morality, he represents it as the religion suitable for sinners, revealing a method of salvation for the guilty, the helpless, and the miserable. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." His fellow-laborers heartily concurred with him in this for, says he, "We preach Christ crucified!"
To a condemned malefactor—a pardon sent from his offended sovereign must be precious. Just so, nothing can be matter of greater comfort—than to know that we have redemption though the blood of Jesus, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of his grace. As soon may light and heat be separated from the beams of the sun, as peace and consolation from the voice of pardon. Hence when our Lord sojourned on earth, the relief which he administered to the distressed was generally comprehended in these words, "Son, daughter, be of good cheer—your sins are forgiven."
"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." 1 Peter 1:18-19. The blood of our Divine Savior is emphatically called precious blood. The shedding of his blood was the finishing act of his obedience to the law, as our surety, in our room and stead. It procures our pardon, our peace with God, and our everlasting salvation. "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!" Romans 5:9
What he did and suffered was not on his own account—but on account of those whom he came to save. To consider him simply as an individual, is highly injurious to his character, as Mediator. The ideas of substitution and imputation are necessarily included in that character; the imputation of our sins to him, and of his righteousness to us. Without admitting these considerations, the sufferings which Christ underwent, had they been greater than they were, could avail us nothing. But the divine word assures us, that "through the obedience of the one man (Jesus Christ) the many will be made righteous." We are made the righteousness of God in him, as he wrought out that righteousness by which we are justified, not only in our nature—but in our name, considered as our Head and Representative. Without admitting the idea of substitution, there is no ground for reliance on the obedience of Christ.
This truth, being of the greatest importance to our relief and comfort—is set forth in the clearest light by the sacred writers. They assure us, that in our Redeemer, personally considered, there was no sin, neither was any deceit found in his mouth; he was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he was smitten of God and afflicted," but on what account? "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:5-6. Hence his obedience unto death is the only ground of our hope and joy. "We rejoice in God through Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom we have now received the atonement." We look to Calvary, and view the suffering Savior—as bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, and putting them away by the sacrifice of himself. Believing the beneficial truth, an acquittal from guilt and condemnation is announced to our consciences, and we are filled with the peace of God.
We see that, through what Jesus Christ has done and suffered, as our substitute, that holy law which we have broken is highly honored; and that holy justice which we have provoked is completely satisfied. His obedience in life, his obedience unto death, and his obedience in death, is sometimes in Scripture, by an usual figure, called his blood, his precious blood, and the blood of God. At other times it is expressed by the term righteousness; the righteousness of God, which is unto all and upon all those who believe. It is evident that the different terms mean one and the same thing—the complete work of the great Surety on our account, and in our stead.
That obedience, which Jesus thus performed, is every way as excellent as eternal wisdom itself could devise—and as perfect as divine rectitude could require. The Father declares himself well-pleased with it. All the divine attributes are glorified by it, while it fully answers every saving purpose to those who believe, and ensures the richest blessings unto them, both in this world, and that which is to come. On all these accounts—it is unspeakably precious. The evangelical prophet, personating the whole church, triumphs in it in the following manner: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God—for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with jewels."