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and depth, and height ; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God."Ephes. iii. 17. The knowledge of Christ, we have now to consider, does not consist in a mere acquaintance with his supereminent dignity, and the transcendent purposes for which he became incarnate; such a speculative acquaintance with him is far from constituting the practical intimacy that leads to unreserved confidence in him, and fervent lore to him ; many acquire the one who have no pretensions to the other ; the one may be gained by directing the understanding to the truth of the Gospel, as any other knowledge is to be acquired by the exercise of the intellectual faculties; the other can be gained only by a union of the desires and affections of the heart with the convictions of the understanding ; one may render a man an accomplished theologian ; the other is essential to the formation of a living and active Christian. The first necessity of a human soul is the forgiveness of sin ; not only of the transgressions of former days and years, but the present and immediate cleansing of the conscience from the renewed guilt which abiding frailty and sinful compliance with temptation induce in the consciousness of Christians, of every degree of advancement, as long as they continue in “the earthly house of this tabernacle.” No settle peace of heart, nor any joyful approach to God, can be attained, but by receiving Christ as he is presented in the Gospel, and looking to him for daily forgiveness and perfect righteousness. The continued habit of depending on him, and expecting every present and future blessing from him, will facilitate and improve a cordial acquaintance with him, which will ripen into unreserved confidence and love. The more his excellence, truth, power, and grace, are contemplated, the less effect will our corrupt conceptions of our own sufficiency and rectitude have upon us ; and in proportion as our hearts are emptied of themselves, we shall be filled with his fulness, in whom alone “we have righteousness and strength, in whom all the seed of Israel shall be justified, and shall glory.” Every experienced believer is aware of the reluctance with which the heart thus yields itself to Christ ; it is a course altogether at variance with our early prepossessions, and with our conceptions, both of God and of ourselves. Nature knows nothing of a Saviour, reason prompts our own obedience to the laws of God, as the only method of obtaining acceptance with him ; infidelity proclaims the utter absurdity of a system, by which the sin of man is transferred to a Saviour, and his righteousness is made over to the guilty; and superstition suggests her self-inflicted penances, labours, and mortifications, as the only price by which pardon may be attained, and heaven secured. Against influences derived from such sources, the well-instructed Christian again and again looks up to him who lived, died, and rose again ; and triumphs in the appropriation of the words to himself, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Nothing can be more opposed to the Scriptural teaching, than the views entertained by multitudes, who have little more of Christianity than the name, respecting the character of Christ, and the confidence which his disciples are warranted to repose in him. It is said of the first Norman king of England, that when he was expiring, he observed, “I commend my soul to my lady, the mother of God, that by her holy prayers she may reconcile me to her son, my Lord Jesus Christ.” This instance of popish superstition would appear shocking to numbers, whose notions of Christ are, in reality, much of the same cast. What are the methods by which it is supposed to be requisite to prepare the soul, and communicate to it a fitness, to trust in the grace of the Divine Redeemer, but so many indications of ignorance, and unacquaintedness with him ? Forgetful of his words who said, “Whoever will, let him come unto me,” and “him that cometh, I will in no wise cast out,” men imagine they must have some medium of interesting themselves in the notice and favour of him, who, they imagine, will not receive them in all their guilt and moral deformity, unless they cleanse and adorn themselves, to attract his regard and win his patronage. How little, even at this day, is it understood, that Christ came, “not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance!” Nay, are not Christians, who have made some progress in the life of faith, often betrayed into an imagination, that they must make some further advances in piety and religion, before they may securely rely upon Christ? Alas! it is more characteristic of human nature than of popery itself, to be looking out for something which may recommend us to Christ, beyond, and in addition to his unsearchable love, the sole motive by which he was prompted “ to seek and to save the lost.” Let it ever be deeply contemplated, that as no worth or excellency of man induced the Son of God to become incarnate, an effect which flowed altogether from his surpassing love and compassion to a fallen race, involved in an unnatural apostacy from all that is essentially good and pure, and leagued in concert with infernal spirits to frustrate the purposes of Heaven, and degrade the Highest from his unchangeable supremacy ; so let it ever be felt by us, that as we have not, and cannot by any means possess or acquire in ourselves, anything recommendatory to Christ, we want nothing of the kind, and our every approach to him, from the commencement to the end of our mortal course, must be prompted by the consciousness of our own helpless, perilous, and miserable condition, and an entire belief that he is just as willing to become our Saviour, on our earnest application to him, as he is able to rescue us from all guilt, condemnation, and peril, and to conduct us, by his mighty power, to the heaven which he has gone before to prepare. Never may we forget, that Christ is glorified, in the highest degree, by the faith and confidence of those who come to him; and that the greatest satisfaction he derives from men, in his present exalted state, is, when renouncing their own wisdom, strength, and righteousness, they commit themselves to his truth, and power, and love. The continued exercise of “ looking to him,” for all these purposes, will, in the greatest degree, confirm our acquaintance with him, and induce us to rest in our love to him, after the example of the unspeakable complacency with which be rests in his love to us.
The third effect of “Looking to Jesus” which I commend to attention is, the moral refinement and spiritual elevation of character which it will not fail to impart. Among the many injurious mistakes that are made respecting the religion of Christ, one of the most serious is the requirement of good works before faith ; an error by which the Scriptural order and arrangement are entirely subverted. A kindred mistake is, that if acceptance with God and the forgiveness of sins are attainable by faith alone, the rule of life is superseded, and men are at liberty to yield themselves, without control, to the passions and affeetions of their hearts. It is not the design of this paper to engage in a detail of the several parts of that obedience which is required by the instructions of Christianity, but to place before its readers such a statement of the effects which genuine faith in Christ will produce, as may evince the erroneous character of the notions to which a reference has just been made. It is necessary for this purpose only to consider the moral and spiritual condition, in which the Gospel finds men, and the purposes for which the Son of God was manifested. They are said, in the sacred record, to be “in the flesh,” with the further declaration, that “ they who are in the flesh cannot please God;" vide John iï. 6, and Rom. viii. 8. The purpose of the Gospel, the end for which Christ appeared, is, that men may be freed “from the law of sin and death," through the influence of “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus," Rom. viii. 2. What then becomes of the notion of good works before faith ? and how is it to be shown, that they who have placed their dependence on Christ, for the accomplishment of those purposes for which he lived, and died, and rose again, can so grossly stultify their own determinations, as to yield the reins to licentiousness and sinful indulgence, while living under the daily influence of the blessed hope of the Gospel, that by it they shall be delivered from the punishment due to their sins, and from the influence and dominion of sin itself?
“ Looking to Jesus” necessarily involves an agreement with him, in the purpose for which he lived and died : no other sense, that can be tolerated, may be puton this language of inspiration. If, then, we think of moral refinement, and spiritual elevation of character, where shall we find them, if not in “ the Holy One of God ?” If the most consummate love of moral purity is not apparent in Christ, and if his elevation of character is not to be discerned in his disinterested, untiring love of mankind, in his perfect submission to the will of his Father, and in his
utter renunciation and abandonment of all but the highest, noblest, and most enduring moral and intellectual good, we shall in vain look through the universe of being, to discover it; and shall be compelled to conclude that it is merely a creation of the fancy, which has, in nature and reality, no substance in which it is embodied. All this, however, and infinitely more than human words can express, is found in him, in whom “all the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily.” And can it be, that so transcendent an object may be daily contemplated, by stedfast faith, and intense desire of resemblance, without effect? Then all moral and spiritual influence is language without meaning, and we may sink into hopeless despair of rising above our present degraded condition, and of being ever fitted to love, admire, and adore the highest beauty and unchanging excellence. But it is not so; and the disciple of Christ, whose heart is touched by Divine love, and who lives habitually in the contemplation of the blessed Redeemer, looking to him as the source of all grace, and to his example as that which he is bound by every conceivable obligation to imitate, will be changed into a participation of his image, “from glory to glory ;” and be prepared for “the entrance that shall be ministered to him abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
The fourth and last effect of “Looking to Jesus,” to which I shall advert, is, the firm and peaceful assurance which it has power to impart, in the contemplation of the most momentous events of futurity. In the estimation of nature, death is a dark and fearful transition; to say nothing of the separation from every mortal delight and endearment, which it involves :
“ For who to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing, anxious being, e'er resigned;
Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind ?" it is attended by anxious forebodings and guilty apprehensions, which nature knows not how to repress or assuage. How often, in the progress and decline of life, does it chill the heart, and impress terror on the soul! No age, no condition, no attainments can secure us from such fears; nor can any such imperfect virtues as men possess, liberate us from the consciousness of unnumbered failings, or assure us that any penitence we may exercise will screen us from the displeasure of the righteous judge, in whose sole hands our immortal destinies are lodged. Revelation verifies the presages of nature and conscience, by proclaiming, that “the wages of sin is death,” and that “without shedding of blood, there is no remission.” The revelation, however, stops not here, but teaches, that the Son of God was manifested “to deliver them who, through fear of death, are all their lifetime subject to bondage.” The sting of death has been extracted by him who died for us ; and if we know him, as the Redeemer to whom we have confided all our interests, we are safe. The establishment and increase of our peace from the fear of death will and must depend on the improvement of our faith in Christ, and the stedfastness with which we contemplate his unchanging love and his never-failing power. Be it then our care to look to Jesus, as he who was dead and is alive again ; and who has the keys of death and of the unseen world ; that we may, with triumphant hope and unshaken confidence, rejoice in him who died for us and rose again, that we may ever live with him.
The apprehension of eternal judgment, as it inflicts intolerable anguish on multitudes who are strangers to Christ and averse to his kingdom, so it is often pregnant with painful solicitude to many Christians, who either misunderstand, or with insufficient purpose and energy contemplate, the advocacy and immutability of the adorable Saviour. Has he taught us, that “there is no condemnation to them that are in him," that our justification is of him, and our whole salvation ? and shall we not say, “who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?” Shall we not, in the person of the awful Judge, behold the glorified Saviour into whose hands, invited by himself, we have committed our whole welfare ? And will he then, for the first time, be ignorant of our persons, forgetful of our interests, or inattentive to our happiness? This cannot be : “he cannot deny himself,” for he “is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” The infinite love, which induced him willingly to lay down his life for his sheep, will as powerfully influence him on the throne of judgment as it did when he hung upon the cross, or when he said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished !” We shall find relief, when pressed by vivid apprehensions of that “great and terrible day of the Lord,” neither by a vain endeavour to diminish the number of our past transgressions, or to extenuate their aggravated guilt, or to set against them our faith, our penitence, or our obedience ; but by a fixed and persevering effort to look to him, “the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.” Dismissing, then, from our bosoms all dependence on ourselves, let it be our never-failing purpose to look to him, in whom only “we have righteousness and strength.” Thus having our faith sustained and increased by habitual exercise, we shall possess a safe retreat, which no danger can reach, where every fear shall be repressed, and where “possessing our souls in patience," we shall calmly wait for the glorious appearing of our Lord and Saviour, when he will “come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.”
Such is our Christian course, such that life of faith to which we are called, that things invisible may obtain an ascendancy over the objects of sense and fancy by which we are ever surrounded. “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” We are called to peace; but this blessed inmate cannot dwell with us unless our thoughts are habitually conversant with
called, that things by which we are to peace; b