« PreviousContinue »
The Believer exalted together with Jesus Christ.
EPHESIANS ii. 4, 5, 6.
God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith
he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace yè are saved) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
ON studying the history of the lives of those eminent saints of God, whose memory Scripture hath transmitted to us, we can with difficulty refrain from deploring the extreme difference which God has been pleased to make between their privileges and ours. Nay, we are sometimes disposed to flatter ourselves, that if these privileges had been equal, our attainments in virtue might have made a nearer approach to those which have rendered them so respectable in the church. Who would not surmount the difficulties of the most painful career, if he were to enjoy, like Moses, intimate communications with Deity ; if his eyes were strengthened to behold that awful majesty which God displayed on mount Sinai? Who could retain the slightest shadow of incredulity, and who would not be animated to carry the gospel of Christ to the utmost boundaries of the
globe, bad he, like Thomas, seen the Lord Jesus after his resurrection; had Jesus Christ said to him, as he said to that apostle: "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands : and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless but believing ?” John xx. 27. Who could remain still swallowed up of the world, had he seen, with the three disciples, Jesus Christ transfigured on the holy mount; or had he been with St. Paul, “ caught up to the third heaven, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter?' 2 Cor. xii. 2, 4.
I have no intention, my brethren, to inquire how far this conception may be illusory, and how far it may be founded in truth : but I wish you attentively to listen to the declaration made by the apostle, in the words of my text. They stand in connection with the last verses of the preceding chapter. St. Paul had advanced, not only that God bestows on every believer, the same privileges in substance, which he has vouchsafed to saints of the first order, but that he actually works in them the same wonders which he operated in Jesus Christ when he restored to him that life which he had laid down for the salvation of mankind, and when, ainidst the acclamations of the church triumphant, he received him into paradise.
In the text, our apostle expresses in detail, what he had before proposed in more general terms. He says, that as Jesus Christ, when dead, was restored to life, and raised from the tomb ; in like manner We, who, were dead in trespasses and sins, have been
quickened, and raised up, together with him: and that as Jesus Christ, when raised up from the dead, was received into heaven, and seated on his Father's right hand, in like manner we, after our spiritual resurrection, are admitted to a participation of the same glory. Let us view these two texts in their connection, in order to comprehend the full extent of the apostle's idea: God, as we read in the conclusion of the preceding chapter, the “God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, has displayed what is the greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power; which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, . . . . and put all things under his feet." And in the words of the text, “God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” Eph. ii. 4, 5, 6.
This proposition, I acknowledge, seems to present something hyperbolical, which it is not easy to reconcile to the strictness of truth: but the difficulties which prevent our comprehending it, do not so much affect the understanding as the heart. It would be much more intelligible, were the love of the creature less predominant in us, and did it less encroach upon the feelings necessary to our perception of a truth, which is almost altogether a truth of feeling. We should accordingly, have been cautious how we ventured to treat such a subject, at our ordinary seasons of devotion; but, on this day, we believe all things possible to your pious affections. We believe that there can be nothing too tender, nothing too highly superior to sense, on a solemnity,* when it is to be presumed that with the apostles, you are looking steadfastly toward heaven, after an ascending Saviour, that you are following him with heart and mind, and saying, Draw us, Lord, we will run after thee.
Before we enter farther into our subject, there are a few advices which we would beg leave to suggest, which may pre-dispose you more clearly to comprehend it.
1. Learn to distinguish the degrees of that disposition of mind, which our apostle is describing. He represents the Christian as a man on whose heart divine grace has made impressions so lively, that he is already quickened, already raised up, already made to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. This disposition, in whatever it may consist, (which we shall endeavour presently to explain with greater precision) this disposition admits of degrees; I mean' to say, that it-is possible to be a Christian not only in name, and by profession, but a Christian in truth and reality, without having as yet attained it in the most eminent degree. It was necessary to make this observation, by way of prevention of a mental malady, as commonly to be met with in these provinces as any where else.
* Ascension day.
Certain circumstances peculiar to yourselves, have constrained your preachers frequently to inculcate the doctrine of the efficacy of divine grace, and of the sentiment which it impresses on the heart. This doctrine has sometimes been misunderstood. Some have considered certain rapturous emotions, excited in the souls of a few highly favoured Christians, by the power of the Holy Spirit, as the essential character of Christianity. It has been erronously sup-' posed, that to be destitute of these was to be abandoned of God. Hence have arisen those gloomy and desponding ideas which weak minds form respecting their own state, especially at those seasons when the Lord's Supper is administered. The books generally read, as a preparation for participating in tbis solemn service, tell us, that it is at the table of the Lord, in a particular manner, the communicant experiences those comịnunications of the fulness of joy. Ps. xvi. 11. that joy unspeakable and full of glory, 1 Pet. i. 8. that peace of God which passeth all understanding, Phil. iv. 7. that white stone, and in the stone a new name written which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it," Rev. ii. 17. that anticipated resurrection, that heaven upon earth.
What has been written on this subject is liable to misconception on the part of the reader, as it may have been expressed with too much precision by the composer of such manuals of devotion. Hence it comes to pass, that real Christians, who, notwithstanding the imperfection which cleaves to their best services, have most sincerely devoted the remainder of life to God, are haunted with the apprehension