|RPM, Volume 11, Number 20, May 17 to May 23 2009|
Robert Traill (1642-1716): Friend of William Guthrie of Fenwick, attendant of James Guthrie of Stirling on the scaffold, son of the Greyfriars Church manse where the 1638 Covenant was signed, Scot ordained in England, exile in Holland, prisoner on the Bass Rock, scholar, preacher and saint — Robert Traill lived to span the ripest period of the Puritan age. Distinguished in the classes at Edinburgh University, Traill early felt the inner constraint to preach Christ. Too intimate an association with the younger John Welsh drew the swift displeasure of the civil arm upon him. Denounced as a ‘Pentland Rebel' he fled to join the bright galaxy of British divines weathering the storm of Stuart Absolutism in the Low Countries (1667).
Traill's literary output began there. As assistant to Nethenus, professor at Utrecht, he prepared Samuel Rutherford's Examination of Arminianism for the press. Back in London in 1692 he took up his pen, as Isaac Chancy (Owen's successor) and the younger Thomas Goodwin were having to do, to defend the doctrine of Justification against the new Legalism. After serving Presbyterian charges in Kent and London he died at the age of 74.
The Works of Robert Traill are available through the Banner of Truth.
JOHN xvii. 24.
Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
THIS great subject, the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he hath received of his Father, is that which his people see somewhat of here by faith, Heb. ii. 9. and are called to the hope of full beholding of it hereafter, when this prayer of our Lord shall be fully answered. It is so deep a theme, that it is not easy to enter upon it, but impossible to declare the thing plentifully as it is. All I mean to speak on it, I shall confine to two heads the glory of Christ, as representing God unto us; and his glory, as representing us to God. In the first, he represents God unto us, to our saving knowing of God: in the other, he represents us to God, unto our saving acceptance with God. I began to speak of the former last day, and did proceed to it by these three steps: 1. That the true knowledge of God is simply needful for man's happiness, both in this and the next life. 2. That God in himself is incomprehensible, unbeholdable, unknowable, unless he is pleased to make himself some way known to men. 3. That yet men in all ages have been still framing representations of God in their own minds. A little of nature's light remains, and of the ruins of that estate God made man at first in; but so defiled and mixed with the darkness brought on men by the fall, that natural light and sinful darkness, mixed together, are but like the chaos in the beginning of the creation, Gen. i. 2. So that we may apply that to this case of men's inquiring after God, in Eccl. vii. 29. Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright: but they have sought out many inventions. A man can think of nothing, but in and by that thought there is some idea or representation of it made in his mind. When we think of our own souls, (by which we do think), how dark is our idea of them? But when we begin to think of creatures higher and nobler than ourselves, as angels are, what a dark idea do we frame of them? When we say they are spirits, what know we what a spirit is? When we say a spirit is an intelligent being, free of matter; how far is this from planting a just representation in our minds of those noble creatures? If we raise our thoughts above all creatures, unto the perfect Former of all things, the great JEHOVAH; every thought of him, every name and perfection of his, swallows us up; as Job xxxvii. 19. Teach us what we shall say unto him; for we cannot order our speech (or our thoughts) to him by reason of darkness. Our own light in us, is but darkness; and the infiniteness of his light and glory, is as darkness to us. Shall it be told him that I speak? If a man speak, surely he shall be swallowed up, ver. 20. If a man know, either who he is that speaketh, what he either speaks or thinks, or who be is that is spoke or thought of. The world hath been striving, either by their wisdom to know God, 1 Cor. i. 21. or in their folly to represent an invisible God to their bodily senses. And this last hath filled so great a part of the earth with idols; an old abomination, which, it may be, will continue fill this earth be purged by the last fire. And these things led me to the only relief in this dismal state of mankind, as to the right and saving knowledge of God; that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, clothed with man's nature, and with the office of Mediator between God and men, is the only true representative of God to men. That he is such, and of his glory in being so, I have spoke somewhat; and shall enter upon the use we should make of him, as the representative of God unto his church, after I have given you a little account of the gradual rising of this light in and Unto the church.
When our first parents had sinned, and were ashamed of themselves, and afraid of God, and ignorantly thought to hide themselves from him, he calls them to his bar, arraigns them for their sin; and when they had no reason to expect any thing but present judgment and execution, instead of that, the Lord, in a threatening against the serpent, brings forth the first promise of salvation by Jesus Christ, called there the seed of the woman; who, though he should suffer by the serpent, should yet bruise his head, Gen. iii. 15. In the faith of this, and it may be of other explanations of it not recorded, the believing fathers before the flood lived and died. And Abel and Enoch are noted, Heb. xi. 4, 5. the one a martyr, the other translated to heaven. And Noah, before, in, and after the flood, ver. 7. is called an heir of the righteousness which is by faith: which none but a believer is. No righteousness is by faith, but that that hath both the Lord our righteousness in it, the light of God's word to discover him and it, and a promise of the covenant to warrant faith's apprehending of it. If we go on to the patriarch Abraham, we find the light growing more bright, especially if we read Gen. xii. 14, 15, 17, &c. with Paul's comments on them, in Rom. iv. in Gal. iii. and iv. and in Heb. xi. 8,-20 and what our Lord said of Abraham in John viii. 39, 40, 56, 58. Who can read these, and not be persuaded, that Abraham knew the Son of God, and God in him, and justification and salvation by him? Let us next take a view of the church-state which the God of Israel brought his people into; first, in a more transient manner in the wilderness, and thereafter fixed them in it in Canaan. In this state, we find that the tabernacle and temple, their ordinances, priests, and sacrifices, and all their ceremonies, were all but types and shadows of Jesus Christ, Heb. ix. and x. There were many things in that dispensation that had some appearance and semblance of idolatry; but there was none in it, for two reasons. 1. Because they were all of God's own appointment. 2. Because they were instituted on purpose to prefigure the Messiah to come. If therefore any of Israel had devised of his own head a worship of this sort, then that man had been as guilty of transgressing the second command, Thou shalt not make unto thyself any likeness, &c. as if he had served Baalim. And because they were all types and shadows of Christ, and of the good things to come by him I therefore if any church or person, now after the substance is come, and the shadows are gone, should attempt to bring Christians under the Levitical dispensation of the Old Testament church, they might be justly called Antichristians, and deniers that Christ is come in the flesh; 1 John iv. 9. Come we to the prophets, David in the Psalms, Isaiah, and all the prophets, we find a fair dawning of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, wrought in their hearts by the Spirit of God, and shining in their ministry to the church. This is so plain, that it need not be insisted on; and so full, that it would be too great a digression to insist on it as it deserves. We find Stephen, Acts vii. and Paul, Acts xiii. preaching Christ by such a narration; warrant enough for this small account. Let us now go forward to Christ's coming into the world. The angels proclaim him, a born Saviour, Christ the Lord, Luke ii. 11. Old dying Simeon calls him, when a babe in arms, God's salvation, and the light of the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel, ver. 30, 31, 32. Yea, Elizabeth calls him, when in the womb, My Lord, Luke i. 43. What a great anointing of the Holy Ghost was on this good woman, and how strong was her faith in Christ? When he is to be made manifest to Israel, John Baptist proclaims him to be the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world; to be the baptizer with the Holy Ghost; to be the Son of God; and that all grace is received out of his fulness, John i. 15,-34. When he is baptized, what a glorious testimony is given from heaven to him, Matth. iii. 17.? When he lived on the earth, and went about doing good, all that knew him, paid him divine worship, in faith, and love, and prayer, and obedience; and were never checked for it; as Peter did Cornelius, Acts x. 26.; and the angel, John the divine, twice, Rev. xix. 10. and xxii. 9., Yea, when be was dying, one saw him to be God, and dealt with him by faith for eternal life: the rarest faith in all the scriptures. When dead, and supposed by Mary Magdalene to be still so, she called him, My Lord, John xx. 13. Thomas calls him when risen, My Lord and my God, John xx. 28. Yea, when he had led them out as far as to Bethany, and had lift up his hands and blessed them; and while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and was carried up into heaven; (a blessed parting; and there will be shortly as blessed a meeting again); they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem, with great joy, Luke xxiv. 50, 51, 52, 53. Strange joy! when, at the tidings of Christ's leaving them, sorrow had filled their hearts, John xvi. 6. But, now their Lord had done all his work on earth, and was received up into glory, they worshipped him joyfully still; knowing, that though now no more could they worship him as they did, when he was with, them, with the help of that bodily presence of Christ with them, and with that sight they had of him by the eyes of their bodies terminated on his visible appearance; yet by faith, and with joy from that faith, they worshipped him still. But when Christ was not only ascended into heaven, but had sent down the promise of the Father, his Holy Spirit, upon the infant Christian church, Acts ii. the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, shone out as the sun in its strength. All believers, all preachers, all ordinances, were filled with Christ's glory. In this gospel-temple, did every one, every thing, speak of his glory; as the word is Psal. xxix. 9. All divine worship was given to him, and to God by him; all grace dispensed by him. And thus it will be until his coming again. While God hath a church on earth, it is gathered together in Christ's name; built on Christ as the rock and foundation, 1 Cor. iii. 10, 11.; grows up in him, and on him, Eph. ii. 20, 21, 22. 1 Pet. ii. 4, 5.; worships him, and the Father in him and by him; is fed and nourished by his Spirit, and the influence thereof, until that blessed state it is to be brought to at the last appearance of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, Tit. ii. 13.
I would finish this narration with two singular texts amongst many, to the same purpose; one in the Old Testament, and another in the New Testament. That in the Old Testament is in Numb. xii. 8. ; that in the New Testament is in Col. ii. 9.
The first in Numb. xii. 8. I would labour to explain. What the matter was that occasioned the strife betwixt Moses, and Aaron and Miriam, we know but little; whether Moses did right or wrong about the Ethiopian woman whom he married, ver. 1. Yet one would think, that Aaron the high-priest, and his eider brother, and Miriam his sister, and a prophetess, might have reproved him for what they thought was amiss, without so severe a rebuke from the Lord. But their sin lay in reflecting on the high station God had put him in. And their sin was something akin to that of Korah and his company against both Moses and Aaron: Numb. xvi. 3. You take too much upon you. To this strife between Moses and his brother and sister, the Lord puts an end by very extraordinary words. I will read them, because one part of them belongs evidently to our present purpose: Numb. xii. 6. Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, (as there were seventy set apart in the preceding chapter), I the Lord will make myself known to him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. (And these were the usual ways and means of God's darting in prophetical light into the minds of his prophets; either when awake, by visions; or when asleep, by dreams; and both were attended, doubtless, with such signatures of God's interest therein, as did satisfy and secure their faith). Ver. 7. But my servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all my house. ("I have set him above those ways and ordinances"). Ver. 8. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, (the same with face to face, Exod. xxxiii. 11. as a man speaketh unto his friend; and in Deut. xxxiv. 10. So Moses saith of God's way of giving the law Deut. v. 4. The Lord talked with you face to face in the mount, out of the midst of the fire), even apparently, and not in dark speeches, (as Psal. lxxviii. 2. I will utter dark sayings of old); and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold, (as much beyond the other, as seeing is beyond hearing darkly of a person or thing): Wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? Now, what was this similitude of the Lord that Moses beheld, and was so dignified by reason of this singular privilege? You know he tells them, Deut. iv. 15, 16, Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves, (for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spoke unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire), lest you corrupt yourselves, &c. It is like, if there had been any seen that day, that they might rather incline to make the resemblance of that in their idol, than of the Egyptian ox or calf. There are divers opinions, about this similitude of the Lord that Moses did behold. But that I like best, and think nearest the truth in so dark and deep a matter, is what you have in the Annotations of Mr. Poole, a learned and godly divine, on this place: "That the Son of God appeared to Moses in an human shape: which he took up for a time, that he might give Moses a foretaste of his future incarnation." And many grave divines think, that most of the appearances of God to Abraham, and to the patriarchs and prophets, were made by the Son of God in a human shape, foretelling his being made flesh in the fulness of time. Man was made in the image of God, after his likeness, Gen. i. 26. If this sense be not approved, that it was so done, because God had purposed, that one of the blessed three, even his eternal Son, the natural and essential image of the Father, should in time be sent in the likeness of man; yet this is certain, that the first man was made in the image of God, and, by his fall, got on him and his posterity the image of the devil: and to recover us from this woeful likeness, and to bring us to a better likeness to God than Adam was made in and lost, God's Son takes to him the likeness of sinful flesh, Rom. viii. 3. yet without sin, that in and by that likeness men might come to know God savingly, and be made like unto God.
The other scripture is in Col. ii. 9. For in him (Jesus Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. A remarkable text, and so is the context. What dwells in Jesus Christ? The Godhead, the fulness of the Godhead, and all the fulness of the Godhead. How dwelleth it in him? Bodily, really, substantially, not typically, as in the temple and sanctuary. The fulness of the Godhead did not only thus dwell in Christ when he was on earth, but it dwelleth in him still, and for ever. Where then can a man find God, but in this man Jesus Christ, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead, really, substantially, and eternally? The context hath two things in it. 1. A warning against seduction, ver. 8, 18, 19. Their and our danger lay in two things, that then were, and to this day are, the chief springs of apostasy from Christ, and the simplicity that is in him, as 2 Cor. xi. 3. The one is, adhering to the Old Testament ordinances and ceremonies, antiquated by Christ, the end and substance of them all. The other is, man's reason, wisdom and philosophy; which never could, nor can, find out God, so as to direct men to know God savingly, and to worship God acceptably, 1 Cor. i. 21. And therefore, by its poor principles, and beggarly elements, (as Gal. iv. 9.), this wisdom of man rebels against the saving wisdom of God in his Son Jesus Christ; and doth but puff up men by their fleshly mind, Col. ii. 18. And from those two cursed springs, all the heresies, apostasies, and the grand Antichristian defection, have evidently flowed.
2. In the context we have the privileges of Christians by Christ, that should endear him to them, and engage them to that stedfastness in the faith which he had exhorted them to in ver. 5, 6, 7. Those privileges are many and great. The Christian is complete in him, ver. 10. and needs not hunt after any good out of him. All is to be found in Christ, and in him only. He is circumcised in him, that is, sanctified, ver. 11. He is buried with Christ, and risen again, ver. 12.; made to die to sin, and to live to God. He is quickened with Christ, ver. 13. and forgiven. All the Christian's enemies conquered, the law cancelled, and the devil overcome, and triumphed over by Christ, at and by his lowest, ver. 14, 15.
Now, to come to the APPLICATION of this doctrine so oft named, That the Lord Jesus Christ, God-man, Mediator, is the only true representative of God unto the church: There are three exhortations I would give from it. 1. Study God in Christ. 2. Content yourselves with this knowledge of God in Christ. 3. Use and improve the knowledge of God you have in and by Jesus Christ.
Exhort. 1. Study God in Christ. You must know God, if ye be saved. You cannot know him, but as he reveals himself; he reveals himself no other way but in Christ, so as to be savingly known. There are four books (if I may so call them) that many use in their studying to know God; but they are, and will be but poor scholars, if they have not better, and fitter, and plainer books. 1. Some will study an absolute God; God as in himself. An absolute God is a pit, and an abyss, that all that go near it, fall into it, and will be destroyed. It was a bold word of blessed Luther, "Let hypocrites and unbelievers do as they please, I will have nothing to do with an absolute God." God as in his Son, God as in covenant with us in his Son, God as clothed with grace and mercy, shining in his promises in Christ, is the God we must study to know; and when by his grace we attain it, we may glory humbly in it; Jer. ix. 24. Let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord, which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord. 2. Some study God in his works. And much of his glory shineth therein, and we ought to observe it. But what is all the fruit of this alone! Only to render men inexcusable, Rom. i. 20. This light of the knowledge of the glory of God, is both dim and cold light. It hath no heat nor power in it. Never did a man come by the saving knowledge of God by the study of the book of creation and providence, though a true Christian may both study and profit much by it, when he hath known God, or rather is known of God, Gal. iv. 9. 3. Some study to know God in his holy law. And in it is a glorious discovery of God. But it is of a holy, just, sin-hating, sin-forbidding, sin-threatening God. Here he is seen as a terrible judge. No man ever did, or can know God savingly, in bare law-light. Only God can be savingly known in that representation of him wherein he is manifested as a saving God; and that is, only in his Son Jesus Christ. 4. Some study to know God in and by his ordinances. Precious appointments of God, much to be valued and used by us; and their profit great, when blessed by their appointer, and when used by us in the right manner. But we must know, that as the virtue, of all the Old Testament ordinances lay in their relation to, and shadowing forth the Messiah then to come; so all the virtue of New Testament ordinances lieth in their relation to, and shewing forth of Christ come. If therefore a man now shall study to know God savingly in and by the greater light of the gospel-appointments, without regard to Christ's interest in them, that man will as surely perish in ignorance of God, as a carnal Jew, uncircumcised in heart; as Jer. ix. 26. Rom. ii. 20, 29. Phil. iii. 3.
But, above, all these, if you would know God savingly, study to know him in and by that only saving representation he hath made of himself in his Son.
1. For here it is you have the only true, and new place to find God in. Job in his distress said, O that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat, or throne! Job xxiii. 3. He is only to be found in Christ. God dwelleth in Christ, Col. ii. 9. There, and there only, you must seek him, and find him, and know him savingly; and acquaint yourselves with him and be at peace, Job xxii. 21. There is no creature, no part of the work of God's hands, that is so nearly related to God, as the nature of the man Christ, assumed by the divine person of the Word, the begotten of the Father. This is the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man, Heb. viii. 2. This is the new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, his flesh, Heb. x. 20. And this is the only way to the holiest, ver. 19. The devil, Christ's great enemy, hath done much to darken and disgrace this way to the world; on the one hand, by the gross idolatry of Antichrist, wherein a vain show is made, by images of Christ, and of his flesh, and sufferings in it; all obscuring and perverting of Christ as the ordinance of God for our salvation. On the other hand, when men by their reason see the vanity of this Popish pageant and puppet-shew, into which Antichrist hath turned the true gospel-representation of Christ, Satan hath brought in a mystical and meta-physical gospel, on the pretence of greater spirituality; wherein the flesh of Christ, and his saving performances in that flesh, are either hid, or turned into allegories, and mysteries, and notions, that have no room but in their vain minds that hatch them, and are quite unprofitable to them that harbour and hug them. But let Christians beware of both, as of ways of perdition; and by faith fix on the flesh of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, which was given by him for the life of the world, John vi. 51. In this tabernacle of his body we by faith see God the Son personally dwelling, and by the same faith see the Father dwelling in the Son. And thus only do we savingly know God.
2. In Christ only we have the new names and relations of God, in and by which God only can be savingly known. When God sent Moses to Israel, and to Pharaoh, to bring Israel out of Egypt, Moses saith to the Lord, Exod. iii. 13. If they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? (And what a deep answer is given to this bold question, ver. 14.?) So may we, What is that name and relation of God that he only can be savingly known by? It is easily answered, God can only be savingly known in and by that saving name by which he makes himself known; and that is his name in Christ. The Lord said to Israel in Exod. xxiii. 21. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not: for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. And this awful word about Christ, the angel of the covenant, that he will not pardon refusers of him, is but the same we have in Heb. xii. 25. But all the saving names and relations of God unto us, are all in and from his names in Christ, and relations to Christ. He is Christ's God and Father, and so ours, John xx. 17. But more of those anon.
So much for the first exhortation, Study God in Christ.
Exhort. 2. Learn to be content with the knowledge of God in Christ. Seek no more knowledge of God, seek no other knowledge of God, save in Christ. Ask not Philip's question; or if you do, take Christ's answer to it, and seek no other, John xiv. 7, 8, 9. Christ had told them, that they knew his Father, and had seen him. Philip, not understanding this, saith unto him, Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. "Thou hast told us much of thy Father, of his love to us, and of his mercy in sending thee to save us; Lord, give us but one sight of the Father, and we will ask no more." To this Christ answers, Have I been so long time with you, (and three or four years was no long time, but that one day of being with Christ was a vast mercy), and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He saith not, "Have I been so long time with you, and hast thou not yet known the Father?" (as he told the unbelieving Jews, John viii. 19. Ye neither know me, nor my Father; and chap. xvi. 3. They have neither known the Father nor me:) but, Hast thou not known me? "You do know the Father, because you know me; though you do not know so distinctly that you do know him." Therefore Christ adds, He that seeth me, hath seen the Father; as John xii. 45. He that seeth me, seeth him that sent me. "But thou, Philip, hast seen me, both with thy bodily eye, and with the eye of faith," (as this same Philip saith to Nathanael, John i. 45. We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write. "He hath been long promised by God, long looked for by Israel; now he is come, and we have found him; Come and see.):" How sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not, that l am in the Father, and the Father in me? "If thou truly believest in me, this thou must believe, and dost believe." And to this way of believing he exhorts him, ver. 11. It is no easy thing to hold a strait rein on an inquisitive mind, and to confine all our knowledge of God's glory unto that that shineth in the face and person of Jesus Christ. There is enough there to busy us happily in time, and to eternity; and no good can be got in transgressing this landmark. If men go but one step in studying God out of Christ, they wander immediately, and they do wander dangerously; as every man may feel in himself, and see it visibly in many others.
Exhort. 3. Use and improve this representation of God in Christ. It is our greatest privilege to have it; and our greatest care and diligence should be used in the improvement of it; and our greatest profit comes to us by that improvement. This I would insist upon in these particulars: —
1. Improve this representation of God in Christ for fixing and determining your spirits, in all your thoughts of God. There must be thoughts of God. His people are called thinkers on his name, Mal. iii. 16. On the contrary, of the wicked it is said, Psalm x. 4. God is not in all his thoughts. There are two thoughts about God in Christ, that I am afraid some deceive themselves by. 1. Some think that they do know God in Christ, when they know that Christ is God. This is indeed absolutely needful to salvation. But it is not all. A notional assent unto this truth, that shineth so brightly in every page of the New Testament, may be in an ungodly man. The devil knows, and believes it, Mark v. 7.; and he only puts a wicked if upon it, in his tempting of Christ, Matth. iv. 3. 2. Some think they know God in Christ, when they know that Christ only can reveal God unto men, Matth. xi. 27. and John i. 18. This is indeed a proper work for Christ only; but that pertains to his prophetic office. But we must go further; not only to believe that Jesus Christ is true God, and the only true and effectual teacher of the knowledge of God; but that all the right knowledge we have, or can have of God, is of God as he is in Jesus Christ. What Paul resolved on in his office, (and it may be that he meant more than his way in his office of apostleship), you must take up in all your religion: 1 Cor. ii. 2. I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And if we had more ministers of Paul's spirit in their preaching, we should see more of Christianity in the people's religion. But when some ministers preach, as if they had taken up the reverse of Paul's determination, even to know, and to make known any thing, every thing, save Christ and him crucified; is it any wonder, if many of their hearers may say, as they did about the Holy Ghost, and his dispensation, Acts xix. 2. We have not so much as heard whether there be any Jesus Christ, and that crucified? And such may justly say also of the Spirit, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost: for the Spirit is received only by believers on Christ, John vii. 39.; and by the hearing of faith, and not by the works of the law, Gal. iii. 2.
2. Improve this representation of God in Christ, in your dealing with him for eternal life. Whoever would be saved, must have some heart-dealings with God about it, and for it. You know it is the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Rom. vi. 23. Any way, every way of dealing with God for salvation, will not succeed. There is one special, and the only right way; and that is with God in Christ. Can you deal with God as the Creator of the world, and as a Law-giver? Unless God had revealed himself in Christ, no sinner durst lift up his face before God's throne, to beg eternal life, or to expect it.
3. Improve this representation of God in Christ, in all your worshipping of God. The word is the word of Christ, Col. iii. 16. We pray; but how? We must pray in Christ's name, and ask, whatever we ask of the Father, in Christ's name, John xiv. 13, 14. and xvi. 25, 24. The God that the apostle prayed to, is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, Eph. iii. 14, 15.; and to him he gives glory by Christ Jesus, ver. 20, 21. O that men did know, that to worship God out of Christ, is to worship they know not what! as Christ saith in John iv. 2. But we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. Out of them the Messias cometh, and salvation by him; and in him God is savingly known, and knowingly worshipped.
4. Let all Christians improve this doctrine in their spiritual exercise, and in the actings of the graces of the Spirit. All those graces are from God in Christ, and dispensed and enlivened by the Spirit of grace. And they are (if you take the expression rightly) as so many distinct members and powers of the new man, whereby it acts on its original. I would name several of them, and shew of what use this representation of God in Christ is in their acting.
1st. Faith. We by Christ believe in God, who raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory, 1 Pet. i. 21. Faith is justly called the fundamental, radical grace in the new creature; because it is that grace whereby he is built on Christ the foundation, and taketh root in Christ, in whom is all the Christian's life, sap, and fatness. There are two acts of faith I would speak of; an act of faith for peace, and an act of faith for supply.
(1.) Faith acts for peace. There is a sad quarrel betwixt God and us by sin, which must be taken away, or no peace can be. God hath provided the way; Christ hath made the way, yea, is become the way; the gospel reveals it, and faith improves and useth it. I shall give you four names of God in Christ, which you will know and use, if you ever know what believing is. 1. The name of God is love to sinners, John iii. 16. 1 John iv. 8, 9, 10, 16. It is impossible that a sinner can act any dependence on God for salvation, unless there be some manifestation of his name, as love. Whenever any beam of this love darts in upon a poor sinner, the man begins to live and hope immediately. I mean not, that every one should believe this proposition, That God loves me; but only, that God hath a wonderful great love to save sinners, which he hath proved in giving his own Son to be a Saviour; that this love runs out to men in and by Jesus Christ; and all that would have it for themselves, should strive to get near to this Sun, that when its light and heat is seen and felt, they may be saved. 2. Another name of God, that faith acts on, is God with his redeeming blood. Stumble not at the phrase; it is that of the Holy Ghost, Acts xx. 28. When the apostle is counting the privileges of Christians under the New Testament, see how he riseth, Heb. xii. 22, 23, 24. Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels; (all beyond what the Old Testament church was brought to); to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. But is it not terrible to be brought to God the Judge of all? No; for ye are come to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. As if the apostle had said, "Fear not to come to God the Judge of all, when ye see Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and his blood, that sealed and confirmed that covenant, so near to God. God the Judge is your friend, and will absolve you; and the blood of the covenant (as it is called, Heb. xiii. 20.) will speak better things for you, and speak louder for your salvation than the guilt of sin, and the thunders of the law, can speak against you." And never had a sinner, been saved, if the voice of Christ's blood had been outcried by any voice from heaven, or earth, or hell. 3. Another name of God in Christ, is, he is a God that justifies the ungodly, Rom. iv. 5. Papists, and others, in their pretended zeal for holiness and good works, do either desire that this name of God were not in the Bible, or the true sense of it were taken out of the church. It is this plainly, That as no man needs the blessing of justification, but a sinner and an ungodly man; so whenever God gives this blessing, he gives it freely to a man that is ungodly till he get it. And when a sinner pleads for it, he doth plead as guilty and ungodly. He begs it of God as an alms of free grace; the Lord gives it as such; and he that gets it, holds it, and praiseth for it, as such an alms of mere grace. God be merciful to me the sinner, said the justified publican: Let the unjustified Pharisee boast of his fastings, prayers, and good works, Luke xviii. 9-14. 4. The way by which peace with God is brought about in and by Jesus Christ, is a name of God in Christ that faith hath much to do with. When God proclaimed his name to Moses, Exod. xxxiv. 5, 6, 7. (Moses had earnestly desired to see the Lord's glory, God promiseth it graciously, chap. xxxiii. 18, 19.): Let us read this glorious proclamation: And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands (of generations, as Exod. xx. 6. and Psalm cv. 8.) forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin, and that will by no means dear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the father upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third; and to the fourth generation: Here was much of the glory of God's grace discovered; and Moses made good use of it, ver. 8, 9. But yet how dark and dreadful was this name! how hard to understand it! Here is both grace in pardoning sin, and justice in visiting for sin. By this name we cannot tell when, and whom God will pardon; and when, and whom he will not clear; for all are guilty. By this name we cannot tell how God can do both; he can pardon, and yet not clear the guilty; how he can pardon without reflecting on his justice; or how he can punish iniquity, and not reflect on his grace and mercy. In chap. xxxiii. 19. the Lord saith, I will make all my goodness (Or beauty and glory) pass before thee. Yet was it short of New Testament light: for the bright gospel-name of God in Christ resolves sweetly this riddle, Rom. iii. 24, 25, 26. In Christ only mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other, as Psalm lxxxv. 10. And by this meeting and kiss, we are saved; and when we see it by faith, we are comforted. By these, God's glorious names of justice and mercy kiss one another, and do kiss and save the believer; and the believer by faith kisseth the Son of God, as Psalm ii. 12.: and then the Father, as a reconciled God, in him. I would speak somewhat of this from two scriptures, both, deep in themselves, and yet full of light and comfort to believers. One in 2 Cor. v. 19, 20, 21. In this place, the apostles tells us what his gospel was, as committed to him and preached by him. It was this good news, That God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, (But the world lieth in wickedness, 1 John v. 19. and God is holy, and a hater of wickedness; how then can such, a God as he is, be reconciled to such a world as this is?), not imputing their trespasses unto them. God out of Christ judgeth and condemneth the sinful world for their trespasses; and this is the glory of his justice, But God in Christ does not impute their trespasses unto them; and this is the glory of his grace. But how can this be? The world is guilty; trespasses they have committed; sin is not a transient act, no more to be heard after it is committed; but as it is in US, it flows from a depraved sinful nature, and contracts a permanent guilt, binding us over unto eternal vengeance, and is only removeable and dissolved by pardoning grace. The nature of God, and his law, requireth that this high crime of sin be either avenged on us, or satisfied for by us, or by another for us. The just revenge of sin, is the eternal ruin of the sinner; and satisfaction to justice for sin, is eternally beyond the power of the sinner, or of any creature whatsoever. How then can God be just, and not impute sin to the sinner? It is answered in ver. 21. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. The sinless Son of God in man's nature, is by God made sin for us, that the sinful sons and daughters of men may be made the righteousness of God in him. How can this be; that one that is sinless is made sin, and that such as are true and real sinners are made righteous, yea, made the righteousness of God in him that was made sin; and they are made thus righteous, by his being thus made sin? Is not this to depress Christ too low, and to exalt believers too high? No; it depresseth Christ no lower than his Father did lay him for our salvation, and exalteth believers no higher than saving grace designed them. How is he made sin? By the bearing of, and being a propitiation for sin. Sin was imputed to him: not his own; for he had none, and could not have been our Saviour if he had had any: Heb. vii. 26. For such an High-priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. But the iniquity of all his flock was laid on him, Isa. liii. 6.; for this was he bruised by law and justice, and by these stripes are we healed, Isa. liii. 5. Christ was sinless in himself, and only made sin for us. We are sinners in ourselves, and far from, and void of all righteousness in ourselves, yet by grace are made the righteousness of God in him; not, nor never in ourselves. The sanctified believer is made truly holy in himself, by Christ's holiness imparted to him by the Spirit of Christ. The glorified are made perfectly holy. But neither of them are made sanctification or righteousness for themselves, or for others. The glory of this is Christ's crown and property, 1 Cor. i. 30. and the blessing of it is the glory and salvation of his people. Another scripture, among many to this purpose, is in Gal. iii. 13, 14. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, (a great mercy; but how?), being made a curse for us; (How proves he it?): for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree; (taken from Deut. xxi. 23.) For he that is hanged, (i.e. on a tree, as ver. 22.), is accursed of God, or the curse of God: Hanging to death on a tree, was named in the law an accursed death, (though it probably be one of the easiest ways of putting malefactors to death, as it is generally used in Christian kingdoms), on the account of one Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who was to die this way:.— that the blessing of Abraham might, come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ. What is the blessing of Abraham? It is that that comes to men by faith in Christ: Gal. iii. 9. So then they which be of faith, are blessed with faithful (or believing) Abraham. Both are blessed with the same blessing, and by the same Blesser, and in the same way of believing in Christ. These two scriptures (as Christ himself was) have been a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, and as signs to be spoke against. But can any say or think, that the inspired writer of them did not highly honour his Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, or that he did not wisely consult the edification of the church, in his using these words? No; no mere man excelled him in both. Zeal for Christ's glory, and love to sinners' salvation, did eat him up. If we rank these words amongst some of the things that are hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction, 2 Peter iii. 16.; yet surely they are most needful to be understood, are capable of a very good meaning, and are made very plain unto many. Sin against God, and the curse of God for sin, are the worst things in this and the other world. Sin, and the curse for it, are inseparable. If sin be committed, it is imputed, and the curse follows in course of law. If the curse fall on man, sin did precede it, and deserve it, Yea, when our Saviour bare our sin by imputation, the curse must follow that charge. But observe the dialect of the Holy Ghost in these two scriptures, and see what provision is made for the honour of Christ in this way of speaking, as well as for our peace and salvation in what is spoken. 1. Christ is said to be made sin. This no sinner was, or can be. When angels fell, they were made sinners, but not made sin. So of Adam; when he sinned, he became a sinner, and a sin and death-conveying head to himself, and to all his natural posterity; but he did not become sin, though he came nearer it than ever any other sinner did or can. When we sin, (and, alas! when do we not sin?) we were sinners by nature, before we commit actual sin; but by sinning we only become greater sinners, and are not made sin. Jeroboam did sin, and made Israel to sin, 1 Kings xiv. 16. The idols he set up, became a sin, 1 Kings xii. 30. But neither he, nor they were made sin. So Christ is said to be made a curse. And this is not to be said properly of any, but Christ. A sinner unpardoned hath the curse lying on him, and he is under it, as Gal. iii. 10.; but he is not made a curse. 2. Christ is said to be made sin by God. All sinners are made such by Satan and themselves. God makes no sinners; but to save them, he makes his Son to be sin. So Christ was made a curse, and that by God too. He that laid sin on him, laid the curse also. 3. Christ is made sin and a curse for others. So it is in both places, for us. A proper sinner hath both his own sin charged on him, and God's curse laid on him, for himself. He hath none to blame but himself; Hosea xiii. 9. The sin is committed by himself, charged on himself, and punishment lights on himself. All quite contrary to God's way in dealing with his Son. All the charge on him was for others. 4. Christ's sinlessness and blessedness in himself is expressed in 2 Cor. v. 21. and hinted in Gal. iii. 13, 14. He knew no sin, yet is made sin. He was the great blessing of his church, yet is made a curse for it. Lastly, Observe the fruit, design, and effect of this marvellous way of God's making of Christ. He is made sin, that we might be made righteousness. That imputed righteousness in which believers stand before God, is the fruit of Christ's being made sin for them. Our blessing we have, springs out of Christ's being made a curse for us.
So much for the grace of faith, and its acting for peace with God. Whenever you are in good earnest in dealing with God for his favour, and reconciliation with him, one or more of these names of God in Christ, God as love, God with his redeeming blood, God that justifies the ungodly, God making his Son to be sin and a curse for his people; I say, some of these names of God must either be your anchor-ground, or you will perish in the sea and storm of your sin, and of God's wrath and curse. I know, that while men are secure, (as the most are) and know not what God, nor sin, nor conscience are, they may either deride them, or wantonly talk pro and con of these sacred things of God: but I can assure you of this, that if ever (and woe to you, if you never felt) the terrors of God, and the power of his law, break in upon your awakened consciences; if you ever think in earnest of death and judgment, you must have your recourse unto God in Christ, or perish eternally. No refuge but in him, Heb. vi. 18, 19.; no hope but from him, and on him.
2. There is an act and exercise of faith for supply. When sinner is made by grace a believer, and hath peace with God, be is yet in a wanting condition. He may be poor and needy, not only in his own eyes, but really, on whom the Lord thinketh favourably, Psal. xl. 17. Every believer can tell something, none can tell all he wants. How are they supplied? Phil. iv. 19. My God shall supply all your need, according to his riches in glory, by Jesus Christ. It hath pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell, Col. i. 19. And how pleasing should it be to his people, that it is lodged in so sure a hand? And how pleasant ought it to be to them, to come, and ask, and receive, till their joy be full? John xiv. 13, 14. and xvi. 23, 24. We all know, by natural light, that God is the fountain of all our supplies, from whom cometh every good gift, and every perfect gift, James i. 17. But gospel-light tells us by whom he giveth, and on what ground; even out of Christ's fulness, and according, to his promises in Christ.
So much for the grace of faith.
2dly, Another grace that this representation of God in and by Christ directs us in the acting and exercise of, is, repentance unto life, as it is called in Acts xi. 18. There is a saving repentance, as well as there is a saving faith. Both are given to them whom God saveth. No impenitent person is saved, nor unbeliever. Two things only I would note about repentance. 1. Never man did truly repent, but a believer in Christ. 2. Never did a man truly repent, but for his sins against God in Christ. If you know nothing more of repentance but what you feel in the twinges of your conscience, by the light and heat of God's holy law, you are not yet come to gospel-repentance. Poor and confused are the notions that most sinners have. They think that all their sins are against God, and all their relief is in Jesus Christ; but they do not know, and lay to heart, that all their sins are against God in Christ, and that all their relief against sin is likewise in God in Christ. Men sin against Christ, 1 Cor. viii. 12.; they are forgiven by Christ, Col. iii. 19. He is exalted with the right hand of God, to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins, Acts v. 31., If, in the exercise of your repentance, you forget that you have pierced Christ by your sins, you are not acted by the promised Spirit of grace, Zech. xii. 10. And all expectations of pardon that are not wholly grounded on Christ and his mediation, are not only vain, but sinful.
3dly, I might speak of the grace of love, that precious and everlasting grace. Love must act on God in Christ. It is sad to see and hear people busying their heads with speculations about the excellencies and perfections of the Divine nature, and imagining by the force of their reasoning on these things, to blow, up a fire of love to God. But let men know, that till God be known to us as love, no love that is true, will ever kindle in our hearts. Now, God as love is only discovered as he is in Christ: 1 John iv. 8,-19. 19. We love him, because he first loved us.
4thly, All holy obedience is to be performed unto God in Christ Col. iii. 17,-24. And whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Yea, relative duties are urged by most spiritual motives and patterns; husbands love to their wives, by Christ's love to his church; wives subjection to their own husbands, by the church's subjection to Christ, who is its Head and Saviour, Eph. v. 20,-33., Even Christian servants obedience to, and serving of their masters, is required and sweetened by this, that therein they serve the Lord Christ. It is not unlike, that, in those times, Christian servants might be slaves and servants of infidels, and of such as served the devil; yet, saith he, "in your lawful service of such masters, ye serve Christ, though they do not know him." Surely, the spiritual tincture of true worship is lost, when Christ is forgotten in it; and the savour of Christian obedience is perished, when it is not done as to the Lord.
5thly, Patience under affliction is a grace that every saint hath need of, as Heb. x. 36.; and must use in all his race heavenward, Heb. xii. 1. Let us run with patience the race that is set before us. There is not a step in our journey wherein patience is needless. Running and patience seem inconsistent; but he that runs without patience, makes but fools haste. Now, this needful and useful grace can only be exercised by faith in God through Christ. If God afflicts us as our Creator, as our Judge, as our Lawgiver, reason and morality may afford not a few arguments to patience and submission to his will: but true Christian patience will never be found, unless the love of the afflicter be in some measure seen by the afflicted. Our blessed Lord gave us an example to follow, John xviii. 11. The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? If men or devils only had given it, (and they had no little hand in it), the matter had been otherwise. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth, Isa. liii. 7. Christ's cup was more bitter, his sufferings greater, than ever any of his people tasted and felt. His patience was invincible, and that because his faith was perfect, Isa. 1. 6,-9. David saith, Psal. xxxix. 9. I was dumb, I opened not my month, because thou didst it. When God is seen as an enemy, affliction will rather work fretting than patience. Therefore when the apostle is directing Christians how to bear God's afflicting hand rightly, without fainting, or despising it; his main argument is, that in all of them the Lord dealeth with them as a father with his children, Heb. xii. 5,-11. And surely no man can have the comfort of this relation to God, of a child to his heavenly Father, that by faith takes not up the high foundation of this relation, that God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
6thly, lastly, The hope of glory ariseth from, and acts on God, as God in Christ. This grace is a great mercy; and that all that have it know. It should be tenderly cherished. But this is a great fault in many Christians, that they do not seek it so diligently as they ought, when they want it; nor act it so carefully, when they have any of it: and sorely do they smart for this, in walking mourning without the sun, so many days, as Job xxx. 28. See the exhortation in Rom. xii. 12. Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer; and all this is to be done in serving the Lord, ver 11. You all readily think, that murmuring under afflictions, and restraining prayer before God, are ungodly practices; and yet you do think it no fault (but a great misery you will own it to be) to neglect the leading duty, to rejoice in hope, and in the hope of the glory of God, Rom. v. 2. This hope is in Christ; yea, he is our hope, 1 Tim. i. 1. Christ in you is the hope of glory, Col. i. 27. The hope of glory grows on no root but Jesus Christ. He is eternal life, 1 John i. 2. He that knows him, knows eternal life. He that hath Christ, hath eternal life, 1 John v. 11, 12, 13.; and he that hath Christ dwelling in his heart by faith, Eph. iii. 17. hath eternal life abiding in him, which the apostle denieth of a murderer. 1 John iii. 15.
And thus I would conclude this truth, of the glory of Christ as he is the representative of God to his church, and of the good use we should make thereof. I have insisted upon it longer than I designed. But the importance of the subject may excuse it. But when all is said, we need to begin again, that we may inculcate this truth deeply into the heart and consciences of Christians. Assure yourselves, that God out of Christ is an idol whom all the world worshippeth, (as Demetrius said of Diana, Acts xix. 27.) except the few that can say, as 1 John v. 20, 21. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding that we may know him that is true: and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ: this is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. All representations of God, save what is made to you in his Son, are idols. And as you love his glory, and your own eternal well, watch, and ward, and keep yourselves from all, or any of them.
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