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UNION WITH CHRIST.
“He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit.”—1 Cor. vi. 17.
III. I proceed now to the third general head, which was,—To consider the bonds of union with Christ. An union so inviolable as this hath need of strong ligaments or bonds. As Christ and believers are the parties in this union, the bond of it on Christ's part is the holy Spirit ; and the bond on the believer's is holy faith, wrought and increased by the Spirit.
1. The bond of this mysterious union on Christ's part is the Holy Spirit.--"By one Spirit we are all baptised into one body," 1 Cor. xii. 13. Hereby we know that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit,” 1 John iv. 13. “ Hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us," 1 John iii. 24. Christ, finding the poor sinner connected with the first Adam, that killing root, by the bonds of the covenant of works and his own legal temper, comes to him in the time of love, and unites himself to him by his Spirit, as a spirit of life. Though the elect sinner, in his natural state, is actually united to the first Adam as his head of sin and death, yet, as he is at the same time federally united to the Lord Jesus, as his Head of righteousness and life, Christ comes at the time appointed, and apprehends him by his quickening Spirit. The same Spirit that in Christ as the living Head, is now communicated to the sinner dead in sin, never to depart from him; but to be in him as a quickening and sanctifying Spirit. Thus Christ, as the Prince of life, unites himself to him, takes hold of him, and keeps him in his own gracious hand. Now, this bond is infinitely powerful, and it renders the union of Christ and the believer indissolvable, and so inviolable, that it is impossible for it to be broken. "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand,” John X. 28. When the Holy Spirit hath once entered the soul, he never departs from it, nor ceases for a moment to dwell in it, John xiv. 16, 17.
2. The bond of this union on the believer's part is faith, the faith of God's operation.-" That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith,” Eph. iii. 17. When the Lord Jesus apprehends and embraces the dead soul by his Spirit, as a spirit of faith, the soul, thus quickened and endued with the principle of faith, embraces Him in its turn by the acting of faith, by which the union becomes mutual and complete. “Having the same spirit of faith, we also believe, and therefore speak,” 2 Cor. iv. 13. No sooner does the spirit of faith enter the dead soul than the soul begins to believe. The sinner thus quickened believes first the precepts of the law as a covenant, so as to be convinced that he is a sinner in heart and in life; and he believes its dreadful threatening with application to himself, so as to be deeply sensible that he is inexpressibly miserable. The Spirit working in him the faith of the law, persuading him that he can never live in union with the first Adam, under the covenant of works, dissolves his union with the law as a covenant, and separates his heart from it; so that he sees it is in vain to cleave to it any longer, Rom. viii. 2. While he is enabled thus to believe the precepts and curses of the law, so as to despair of life by the works of it, he is helped so to believe also the offers and promises of the gospel, as to apply the Saviour and his whole salvation to himself. Accordingly, he applies Christ, as the head of the new covenant, to himself, and expects righteousness and life from Him. Thus Christ having embraced the sinner by his Spirit, and the sinner having embraced him by faith, the union is completed. Saving faith is the consent of the heart
to match with the Lord Jesus, the heavenly Bridegroom of the Church, and Head of the body. When therefore it is exercised, Christ and the believer are joined together as in a marriage-covenant. « Thou shalt not be for another man, so will I also be for thee,” Hos. iii. 3. Now, this bond is inviolable as well as the former. For though the actings of faith are sometimes interrupted, the habit of it shall never be permitted totally to fail. “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” Should one ask which of these two bonds is it that unites the soul to Christ ? it might be replied, that both of them concur in this act. So much for the bonds of union with Christ.
IV. The fourth general head was,—To consider the representations which we have of this union in the Scripture.
1. It is represented in Scripture by five metaphors, or resemblances.
1st, The union between the foundation and the superstructure is employed to represent it.-“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious ; and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded," 1 Pet. ii. 5, 6. - Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught,” &c. Col. ii. 7. As the building is joined to and supported by the foundation, so believers are united to and sustained by Jesus Christ, the sure foundation laid in Zion.
2d, It is compared to the union that is between the root and branches of the vine.-"I am the vine,” saith Jesus, “ye are the branches; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing." “ Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine ; no more can ye, except ye abide in me,” John xv. 4, 5. Now, as an intimate union is between the branch and the root, by which the former is supported by, and derives vital sap and juice from the latter, so there is a vital union between Jesus, the Root of David, the true vine, and believers who grow up into him. In consequence of this union, they partake of vital influence from him, by which they grow up as trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord. Sooner shall a branch lopped off from the stock derive vital nourishment from it and grow, than a man who is not united to the Saviour partake of grace from him. This union is also represented by the connexion between the stock and the graft that is set into it. “For if we have been planted together," says an apostle “in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection,” Rom. vi. 5. The true believer is implanted, or, as the word is sometimes rendered, ingrafted into Christ, so as to partake of vital nourishment from his fulness.
3d, It is represented in Scripture by the union between husband and wife.—Thus says an apostle,
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ ; that
should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God,” Rom. vii. 4. “ For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, and he is the Saviour of the body,” Eph. v. 23. As the husband and the wife are no more two, but one flesh, by virtue of the marriage covenant, so the Lord Jesus and his believing people are one Spirit.
4th, It is compared to the union of two pieces of wood, joined by glue. He that is joined, or, as the original word literally signifies, is glued to the Lord, is one spirit. The word signities, not only to cement compactly, but to cement with glue. “ From whom," says Paul, “the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth,” &c. Eph. iv. 16.
th, It is represented by the union that is between the head and the members of the natural body." He is the head of the body the church,” Col. i. 18. “ Speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things,
which is the head, even Christ," Eph. iv. 15. As the head and the members are so connected as to become one natural body, so Christ and believers are so intimately united as to become one mystical body, of which he is the Head, and they the members. As one spirit or soul animates both head and members of the natural body, so one quickening spirit animates both the Head and the members of this mystical body. This is the fullest representation of union with Christ to be found in Scripture.
Though this great mystery is represented by these different sorts of union, yet not one of them, nor all of them together, can sufficiently express the nature of it. The union between the foundation and superstructure cannot do it ; for every stone in the building cannot be alike near to the head; but every believer is alike near as to union with Christ, the foundation laid in Zion. The union between the root and the branches cannot sufficiently represent it, for that union can easily, be dissolved; but this cannot. Nor can the union between husband and wife, for this can be dissolved by death, and the one party may live without the smallest connexion with the other ; but this stands proof against death and the grave. The union between such things as are glued together cannot do it. This union is indeed very intimate; but the union between Jesus and the believer is vital, as well as intimate. Nor can the union between the head and members of the natural body sufficiently do it ; for in this union every member is not equally near to the head ; whereas in that mysterious union the lowest member is as near to Jesus the living Head as the highest.
2. It is represented in Scripture by words the most expressive of it, and the most comprehensive.--" That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.—Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.--I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one,"