« PreviousContinue »
The first is to be without Christ. time," says the Apostle, to the Ephesians, "ye were without Christ." This is true of the heathen, and it is true of all those who are living in sin, even in a land of vision. "The light shineth in darkness,
and the darkness comprehendeth it not." This is the state of nature.
The second is to be with Christ.
"I long," says
Paul, 66 to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better." "And so," says he, "shall we be for ever with the Lord." This is the state of glory.
The third is to be in Christ. This is the state of grace. I need not remark how frequently the Scripture speaks of this condition. Let us reduce its declarations to some easy and brief arrangement. Of this state let us consider,
I. The NATURE.
I. The NATURE.-What is it to be in Christ? It is to be a Christian. Paul, speaking of certain individuals, says, "who were in Christ before me:" that is, they embraced Christianity before he did. "The churches," says he, "which are in Christ :" that is, Christian churches, in distinction from Heathen and Jewish. "Salute," says he, "Appelles approved in Christ:" that is, an approved, Christian.
It is needless to multiply examples, as the thing is undeniable. But admitting the fact, there must be some reason, and some very powerful reason, not only for the frequency of the expression, but for the
expression itself. The language is perfectly peculiar. There are indeed various relations and connexions in life; and some of our fellow-creatures are much attached to others, and very dependent upon them; yet we never say, a patient is in his physician; or, a servant in his master; or, a disciple in his teacher. But we constantly read of our being in Christ-and, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God." New terms imperceptibly make way for new doctrines; nor has any subtlety of the enemy of souls succeeded better in corrupting the mind from the simplicity there is in Christ, than modernizing the language of divinity. When men are shy of the "words the Holy Ghost teacheth," we are always afraid they are beginning to be ashamed of the things.
The expression means a state of union with Christ. This union may be considered as visible and professional; or real and vital. This is not a distinction without a difference: there is a foundation for it, in reason; and it is even necessary, to harmonize the testimonies of divine truth. Thus our Saviour says, "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." Thus a man may be in him, and be fruitless; and be in him, and perish. But can either of these be true, when applied to those who are Christians indeed, and of whom, by a change of metaphor, it is said, "I will put my Spirit within them, and cause them to walk in my statutes, and to keep my judgments and do them ?" and, "I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall
any pluck them out of my hand?" We therefore must admit, that a person may be in him by profession, when he is not in him in reality in him, by a form of godliness, while he denies the power thereof; in him, by an external alliance with his church, and by the use of his ordinances, while he is a stranger to the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and the grace of God in truth. As religion ceases to be persecuted, and becomes respectable, such pretensions will be frequent; and they may for awhile impose upon men, and even good men: but God is not mocked-and what is the hope of the hypocrite though he hath gained, when God casteth away his soul?
But there is another union with Christ: and this union is not only real and vital, but the most intimate, and entire, and indissoluble; independent of the changes of time, unaffected by the diseases of the body, uninjured by death, untouched by the destructions of the last day.
Let us look at it.-But how shall we do this? Here the sacred writers lead the way; and were we like-minded with them, our senses would minister to our faith, and every thing would admonish us of the Lord of all. The sun would tell us, that there is another orb above him, "with healing under his wings." The wind would remind us that "so is every one that is born of the Spirit." We should think of Christ, and of Christians as one with him, whenever we saw a foundation and a building; a fountain and a stream; a shepherd and his sheep; a king and his subjects; an advocate and his client. None of these indeed can do justice to the subject; the subject being so peculiar in its nature, and so boundless in its extent. The sacred writers feel
this, and therefore, to increase their efficiency, they throw off from the images they employ every imperfection in their kind; they add to them attributes which are not naturally inherent in them; and they multiply their number, that they may accomplish by combination what could not be done by individuality: and thus, though these allusions fall short of the glory they are applied to illustrate, they aid our meditations. With many of these we are furnished in the Scripture. Let us glance at a few of them; and let us be thankful that instead of their having any thing novel in them, they are well known and familiar. We are in Christ as we are in Adam. "In Adam all die so in Christ shall all be made alive." From the first we derive our natural being, and from the second our spiritual. By the one we fell, by the other we rise again. By the disobedience of one many were made sinners, and by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. From the one, sin reigned unto death; by the other, grace reigns though righteousness unto eternal life. "The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly and as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."
It is commonly supposed that the ark was designed to be a type of Christ: but if we cannot prove this, it certainly affords a striking image of him. A deluge was coming on, and Noah and his family were exposed to the flood as well as others. But they escaped uninjured; for they availed themselves of the shelter provided. They entered it in time, and the
Lord shut them in; and they could not have been safer had they been in heaven. Not a drop of the torrents from above, or of the deep below, touched them; and through the universal wreck they sailed out into fair weather and into a new world. But there was no other mode of deliverance. Swimming was useless; a boat was a vain thing for safety; and truly in vain was salvation hoped for from the hills and the multitude of mountains. All were overwhelmed that contemned the Divine appointment; for though there were abysses of destruction every where, there was only one ark. "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name given under heaven among men whereby they must be saved," than the name of Jesus. "I am," says he, "the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me."
A peculiar provision under the law was also an emblem of our subject. The man committing casual murder was exposed to the avenger of blood, who had a right to kill him wherever he should be found, unless in one of the cities of refuge. The place of immunity was situated on an eminence, to be visible from afar. The road to it was open, and wide, and prepared; and when there was any danger of mistake, a direction pointed, "Refuge, Refuge." To this, therefore, the offender, incapable of trifling or tarrying, fled for his life; and it is easy to imagine what were his feelings, his anxiety, his anguish, till he had entered the asylum; and the calm and confidence he enjoyed as soon as he could turn and face the foe, and say, "Thou canst not touch me here." To this, the Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who would well understand the allusion, refers, when