This house is set apart for the purposes of edification, but, my God, how much is requisite for this purpose! It is first of all requisite that we possess hearts desirous of edification and seriously seek to acquire them from the Lord our God. Next, that we be powerfully convinced that no individual can teach and edify another without the grace of God and the co-operation of His Spirit. Let us, therefore, turn at this time to the Lord Jesus, our dearest Savior and mighty Prophet, and most humbly entreat Him to enter into our midst, instruct us, enlighten and warm our hearts, and establish us in His truth.
O Lord Jesus Christ, Thou Son of the Most High God, we thank Thee, that through Thy gracious condescension we may venture to approach unto Thee. O may it be in Spirit and in truth! O Jesus! Jesu! Thou most lovely Name! Thou Name, in which the delight of our souls, the consolation of our hearts, and their beauty and excellency is alone to be found! Thou Name, which angels reverence and adore, before which, at this very moment, the choirs and hosts in glory above are prostrating themselves. O touch our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit, that in our inmost souls we may know Thee as great and adorable, and that our hearts with all the blessed above may bow themselves in Thee, Thou saving Name!
O Lord Jesus Christ, we have to thank Thee alone that we still exist and that we have been spared and preserved unto this present hour! Thanks be to Thee, O Jesus, that by Thy precious blood, Thou hast wrought out and brought in such an everlasting righteousness for us! Grant us grace that we may become duly acquainted with it during the present life! But grant us also, an eternity in which we may eternally adore, worship, and thank Thee and Thy grace, Thee and Thy name, and the power of Thy divine love!
We have also to thank Thee alone, O Jesus, Thee the great Shepherd and Teacher of Thy Church, for having assembled us together at this time. Thou hast gathered us together outwardly; O collect us also inwardlly! Collect our hearts, collect the hunger and desires of our hearts! Yea, turn our hearts to Thee, O Lord, and detach our senses from earthly things that they may not go astray from Thee.
Favor us, O Lord Jesus, with Thine enlightening and Thy blissful presence, at this time. Thou hast promised that "Where two or three are gathered together in Thy name, there Thou wilt be in the midst of them." Make it, therefore, manifest, O Jesus, that Thou art in our midst, by the powerful operation of Thy Spirit, as a present and beautifying Savior. O put Thy word into the heart and mouth of those who are to speak, that nothing may be spoken but what is pleasing and acceptable to Thee! Accompany likewise Thy word, O Lord Jesus, with the power of Thy Divine Spirit, and let it be taken deeply to heart by each and every one, that the hearts of all may be as a well-prepared soil and field, in which Thy word, as good seed, shall take root, spring up gloriously, and bring forth an hundredfold, to the glory of Thy Name!
Remember, dear Savior, Thy bitter sufferings, Thy agony and bloody sweat. Remember Thy death on the cross and all the woe Thou hast endured. Was it not for immortal souls? Was it not endured also for the benefit of those here present? O let Thy grace, therefore, be poured out upon us! Let our souls be precious in Thy most holy sight, that we may be powerfully affected and inflamed by Thee and drawn to Thee. Dearest Immanuel! Glorify Thyself and Thy word in our hearts! O that Thou mightest become every day dearer, every day greater, and every day more adorable in our esteem!
Now, Lord Jesus! Thou knowest me. Thou knowest the hearts of all present. Thou knowest how every heart is constituted in its interior, in Thy sight. O cast a look into our inmost souls, and have compassion upon Thy people, that they may obtain some crumbs of grace, each according to his need. Have mercy upon us all, and bless us! Amen.
The words which will form the subject of our consideration at present stand written in 1 Cor. 6:19,20.
"Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
Satan, the subtle enemy of our souls, is always intent upon recommending his deceitful wares, and, on the contrary, upon making godliness suspected in the sight of men. On which account he represents true religion as a base, miserable, and utterly despicable matter. The children of God, indeed, appear outwardly the meanest of men, a spectacle to angels, an abomination to the world, and a despised people. But, O how would anyone who possessed real eyes of faith be astonished at their inward beauty, excellence, and glory, in which they shine in the sight of God and enlightened men!
The enemy of our souls, as well as the rude multitude, exclaim against religion as mere hypocrisy, and abuse, to this end, the Gospel itself. The pious are then looked upon as high minded Pharisees who seek to appear better than others, whilst those who have no desire to amend themselves, and take no pleasure in godliness, willingly continue poor sinners and pretend that true godliness is self-righteousness. To which must be added also, that with their reason and their evil eye, they pay most minute attention to the faults of those who are devoted to godliness.
Hypocrisy is an abomination before God, and no mere appearance of sanctity can exist before Him. He that regards and considers godliness, not as a mere work of nature, but as a work of the Holy Spirit, is never guilty of hypocrisy and counterfeit holiness, but all is truth with Him and reality in Christ Jesus. True godliness, as well as true and perfect virtue, is to be found nowhere else but with those who are found true Christians in Christ.
The subtle deceiver, the devil, represents godliness also as a melancholy, gloomy, and vexatious life, in which it is impossible to have a happy hour. The individual must always hang down his head, torment himself, and make his life very bitter. Now it is certainly true that those whose eyes God opens to perceive and feel the burden of their sins, by true repentance, grieve and mourn. This is a sorrow according to God, a repentance which no one repents of. But after this sorrow, and their subsequent sufferings, there follows a thorough and most inward consolation. O he who could have seen into the heart of these mourners before their conversion would have been convinced that before they were reconciled unto God in Christ they had never enjoyed a really happy hour. In short, true godliness is a holy, glorious, and complete state which alone can cause us true delight.
We will endeavor to investigate this more closely, in the consideration of the words of our text, in which is presented to our consideration,
The Glorious State of Godliness of a True Christian which leads us to consider:
I. The high dignity of a true Christian.
II. The great obligation of a true Christian.
III. The well-founded and unshaken consolation of a true Christian.
If I were asked wherein the greatest dignity of a Christian man consists, I would answer, with the apostle Paul, "He is not his own, but bought with the blood of Christ:" he is God's, and no other's. If I were asked what is the most important and obligatory basis of that which is incumbent upon a Christian, I would again reply, "A Christian is not his own, but God's." If I were asked further, wherein consists the real and immutable consolation of a Christian man, I would repeat the above reply, and say, "It consists in this, that a Christian is not his own, but God's, being bought by Jesus Christ."
A. According to the right of creation;
B. According to the right of redemption:
C. According to the right of presentation;
D. According to the right of possession.
A. According To The Right Of Creation
Man is not his own, but God's, according to the right of creation. God hath made body and soul, and not we ourselves. Not an atom is our own. We belong, by the right of creation, entirely to our Creator. It is, therefore, the most evident injustice, the most abominable outrage, nay, the most dreadful and criminal sin, when we resign ourselves, whether in body or soul, to anything else than to our God. It is likewise an injustice when we devote and offer ourselves up to another beside Him Who hath made us and Whose workmanship we are. To Him alone we owe our thanks for all that we have and are, Whom we ought therefore alone to serve, and Whom we are under supreme obligation alone to love, praise, honor, admire, and adore.
Indeed the whole world, with all that is therein, is God's, according to the right of creation, but man is so in a peculiar and exclusive manner. All subjects belong to their king, but the king's children belong to the king in a very exclusive and more intimate manner. All the cities in the whole kingdom belong to the king, but the royal residence, the royal palace, belongs to the king above all others, and in the most peculiar way and manner.
God has made us, children of men, according to His most wise counsel. He has formed us with His own hand; He has breathed life into us, has given us a spirit, a noble spirit, and has impressed upon this spirit His divine image. Therefore we are God's in a very superior and exclusive manner by creation. Do but read the genealogy of our Savior in Luke three, the last verse of which says, "Enoch was the son of Seth, who was the son of Adam, who was the son of God." Man belongs therefore to God by creation since he bears upon him the image of his Father, which consists in righteousness and true holiness.
At the creation of man, God gave him a spirit, a noble spirit, which was capable of knowing, beholding, loving, and glorifying its Creator. He gave him a spirit which, at its creation. was destined by God to be and continue to all eternity the dwelling of its God--the temple, the palace, and residence of its God, in which God would glorify Himself and impart His divine virtues to it, so far as the creature is capable of them. Such is the dignity we possess by creation!
O if we knew what capacities, qualities, and what a noble spirit we bear about in us, to what it was destined at its creation, and whereunto it may again attain by redemption, we should never more act so basely! We should never love the creature, sin, and vanity, nor suffer them to enter into our inmost souls. We should never desire, with the prodigal son, to eat of the husks which the swine devour. We should regard ourselves as much too high and too noble.
Now it is but too true that man has certainly lost his high dignity since the fall. Alas! I, and every other child of man, no longer bear the image of our heavenly Father! The original dignity is lost. The glory is vanished. We no longer evince this image. We are become dark. We are become abominable. We are become perverse and miserable by the fall. The heart, which ought to be the temple and habitation of God, and was destined for that purpose, has, alas, made room for sin and Satan, and would continue for ever in their possession if God in Christ had not again compassionated the sinner.
B. According To The Right Of Redemption
Listen, therefore, to this comfortable Gospel, this kind message, these sweet words, "Ye are not your own." Ye children of men, ye are become God's, and that, not alone by the right of creation, but also chiefly by the right of redemption and the purchase of Jesus Christ, even as Paul says in the words, "Ye are not your own." But why not? Because, "Ye are bought with a price." And wherewith? Not with gold or silver, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Pet. 1:19).
Thus dignified, noble, and precious were our immortal souls in the estimation of God! Ah, if we only duly knew it, we should not act so inattentively, nay, in fact, so licentiously with our souls! Christ has purchased us from the free inclination of His love. And by this purchase, we are again become God's, and are therefore no longer our own. Christ, by the shedding of His blood, has again reconciled us unto God, to Whom we had become obnoxious by sin. He has, I say, reconciled us unto God, by taking away the sin which separated us from God so that God now again takes pleasure in us. By the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ, God is again become ours, so that now the most wicked of mankind may again find God, as their God, in the atonement of Jesus Christ, if they only truly repent, and approach in faith unto God through Christ.
God is not only ours by the redemption and purchase of Christ, but we are also become God's, as it respects both body and soul. Hence Christ was obliged to take a body and a soul, in order that by the shedding of His blood He might sanctify us again, both in body and soul, and place us in a situation to belong again to our God. Therefore, both our bodies and our souls belong to God in Christ.
Christ has, by this purchase, obtained a new right and a new claim to our body and our soul. He can demand them. He can lay claim to them. They are now become His. By the shedding of His precious blood, He has deprived the devil of his right over us. Satan has now lost all right to us, and, through the ransom paid by Christ, all sin has lost its right and claim to the children of men. Therefore no one ought reasonably to despair, as though he could not be delivered from the devil, the world, and sin. Hence, however much our foes may rage, they must nevertheless leave us entirely at liberty, if we only sincerely give ourselves up to the Savior. God said to Pharaoh, "Let my people go, that they may serve me" (Exod. 9:1). But Pharaoh would not because he supposed he had another and more peculiar right to them. Yet, notwithstanding, no sooner was the paschal lamb slain than he was compelled to let them depart, whether he would or not. . .
C. According To The Right Of Presentation
But, as far as we are true Christians, we are not only God's according to the right of creation and redemption, but we are also Christ's by the right of voluntary presentation and the giving up of ourselves to Christ. Christ has bought us; ought we not therefore to be peculiarly His? O that we might apprehend and believe this, with a still more thorough conviction of the heart and not merely with the understanding! But if we are desirous of really partaking of the redemption of Jesus Christ, the thing purchased must be actually delivered up and given over to Him. If Christ has purchased body and soul, if He has obtained the right of property over them, it remains, therefore, that we give them up to Him, and place them in His hands. We must be unwilling any longer to continue our own. We must entirely yield ourselves up to Christ with body and soul, with heart and will.
Now the commencement of this is made in true conversion. But conversion, my dearest friends, does not consist in a mere outward propriety of conduct, in refraining from gross sins, in practicing this and that virtue, in occasionally making some good resolutions, and offering the Lord God many fine and sweet words. In these and such like things, I say, conversion does not consist but rather in this, that through the grace of Jesus Christ, we become poor, weary, and heavy-laden sinners.
Christ, as we have heard, in virtue of His purchase, has Obtained a right over us. He seeks to legitimate this right in everyone of us by all the convictions, emotions, and knockings He causes us to feel. He is desirous that His purchase should be delivered over to Him. This, my dearest friends, is His object with us. Therefore, a person who is desirous of sincerely giving and devoting himself to Christ must previously have thoroughly perceived, felt, and experienced his sinful, damnable, and entirely helpless state. He must feel most assuredly convinced that out of Christ he must be lost, both in time and eternity.
He must, then, entirely surrender himself to Christ at discretion, like a poor culprit and malefactor who is well aware that he has merited death, but who still consoles himself with the hope of mercy from his judge, and continually cries, "Is there no more mercy for me, a poor sinner?" Or, like the publican in the Gospel, who, beating upon his breast exclaimed, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" But these were not mere words, which only came from the lips. They were words which proceeded from a lively acquaintance with his misery, from the most inward feeling of his pitiable condition, and from the deepest grief of his heart.
We must give ourselves up to Christ like a patient resigns himself to his physician, with these words, "I resign myself to your directions. If you know of any means to heal me, prescribe them; and whether they be bitter or sweet, I will take them. I will be obedient to you, if you are but able to help me and restore me to health." Thus it is we must surrender ourselves to Christ, as the only Savior and Physician of our souls, that by His grace and the operations of His Spirit He may make entirely new and different people of us, and redeem us from sin and all our misery.
We must present and yield up ourselves to Christ Who has bought us, even as a bride gives and resigns herself to her bridegroom. As soon as the bride gives her consent to the bridegroom, she immediately presents him also her whole heart and her whole will. She is ready to follow him wherever he chooses to go and do what pleases him. She desires nothing else than to depend upon his command, his will, and his good pleasure.
See, it is thus we must also present and resign ourselves to Christ, our dearest Redeemer, by our actual consent and by a real surrender and transfer of our hearts, our wills, our bodies, and our souls. We must come to Him as we are, and not wait till we have become pious, or rather have made ourselves pious. But we must come to Christ in our true characters, as miserable, as wretched, as sinful, and without strength as we feel ourselves. We must resign ourselves to Him, give Him our consent, and, by the co-operation of His Spirit, be and continue ever resigned to Him both in sorrow and in joy.
O happy hour, when the individual, by a thorough and real conversion of his heart, thus renounces all right over himself, closes his eyes against himself and all his wretchedness, necessity, and weakness, and devotes, resigns, and surrenders himself to Christ as His Savior! Blessed hour, over which the angels of Heaven rejoice! It is an hour which, if I may so speak, stands inscribed in the Chancery of Heaven and will continue written as an everlasting memorial in these words, "On such and such a day, and such an such an hour, this or that poor sinner surrendered himself to Christ, and is resolved henceforward to belong to Him." For such characters He will also provide; such He will also justify, sanctify, and bless.
D. According To The Right Of Possession
We must, however, not only yield up ourselves but also become, in deed and in truth, God's property, so that Jesus Christ, by His precious and Holy Spirit, may really take possession of us, according to the right He has most sacredly obtained over us, and henceforth be able to fix His abode with us. "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"
As soon as an individual. . . yields and devotes himself sincerely and to the best of his knowledge to Christ--from that hour, from that moment, the Holy Spirit takes possession of such a heart to work upon it by His gracious operation. He prepares it for a holy temple of God, and carries this on continually during the whole course of our lives. By increasing and daily progress in sanctification and the renewing of the heart, He takes ever closer and more complete possession of the hearts of believers, whilst delivering them more and more, by His gracious operation, from all evil, and making them partakers of the divine nature.
Therefore, my beloved friends, let us be continually mindful of the high purposes of God in our creation and redemption. God created man chiefly that He might manifest and glorify Himself in his inmost part, in his heart and spirit, both in time and eternity. That this was the high purpose of God is testified both in the Old Testament, and particularly in the New. Thus, for instance, it is said in John 14:23, "He that loveth me will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."
In 2 Corinthians 6:16, we have also the following precious promise of God, "I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." It is also in many other places, especially in the New Testament where the greatest promises of God are proposed to us, and His high intentions, which He had with respect to us, both in creation and redemption, are clearly made known to us.
The supreme dignity of a Christian, therefore, consists in this, that God, by His Holy Spirit, will Himself dwell in our hearts. Of this, the late John Arndt has written very effectively, in his third book of True Christianity, where he considers and represents the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers as a most valuable treasure which so very few recognize, seek, and find.
"God," says this pious divine, "would rather dwell in a man's heart, and glorify Himself there, than in Heaven and all the earth." Now, observe! This is that of which it is said, "Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, which is in you?" The Holy Spirit continually meets those who have resigned themselves to Christ, by His gracious operation, to purify themselves from all pollution of flesh and spirit and to complete their sanctification, in order that they may become partakers of this great promise, as you may read in the connection with 2 Cor. 7:1. The Holy Spirit, in all His inward instructions, suggestions, and incitements to the denial of ourselves and all other things, has no other object than to purify our hearts more and more from all the dross of sin, and from all the corruption, misery, and woe which still attaches to us, that God may continually abide in our hearts as in His temple, and may reveal and glorify Himself unceasingly in them.
We will by no means venture, on this occasion, upon a copious explanation of the great, nay, the very greatest of wonders, how God, by His Holy Spirit, enters into the hearts of believers, and there takes up His abiding residence. We will only exhort each and every one unremittingly to proceed in the denial of themselves and of all created things, in order that the Holy Spirit may the more unobstructedly continue with them and dwell in them.
In order that the heart may become the habitation of the Holy Spirit, it is necessary that this impure and corrupt receptacle be first cleansed, and, by a thorough eradication of all creature love, be prepared for his fit habitation. The individual must, with the most inward desire and heartfelt prayer, retire into the center of his heart, and there, by prayer, wait for His coming, and when He comes make room for Him, that He may do and work in him according to His good will and pleasure. We must resign ourselves entirely to His operation, filially follow His guidance and direction, without any opposition, in order that He may remain with us, and that we may experience and enjoy His presence immutably and continually.
O my dear friends, let us therefore love God! Let us make room for God and His Spirit within us. Let us frequently celebrate a holy Sabbath in our hearts unto Him! O we must not always frustrate the Holy Spirit in our prayers, but most humbly say with the holy apostle, "We know not what to pray for as we ought." And if we then sink down in the consciousness and acknowledgment of our helplessness, the Holy Spirit will come to our aid and make intercession for us with sighs that are unutterable, according to the will of God. God and His Holy Spirit then gradually acquire a more entire possession of our hearts, and we become more and more His temple and dwelling place.
But what is it that the Holy Spirit operates in the hearts of believers? Truly, He is not there as a dead and lifeless image. Let no one suppose so. Oh no! He continually works one gracious work after another. First, He reveals Jesus Christ in our hearts, according to the word of the Savior, "When the Holy Spirit is come, he shall glorify me" (John 16:14). But what is meant by the expression, "He shall glorify me?" I reply, He will give us to know and experience Jesus in our hearts, as a most inwardly present Savior, whilst making His love, His grace, and His treasures appear to us so great and glorious that we are as much astonished as rejoiced at the unsearchable riches of grace in Christ Jesus.
When the Holy Spirit glorifies Christ in our hearts, the Latter becomes daily more lovely, beautiful, estimable, and pleasant to us. We then experience how it is that the knowledge of Christ is not a knowledge of the understanding. It is not a thing that one person can teach another, but a work of the Holy Spirit. We experience what Saint Paul means when he says, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ" (Phil 3:8). Then it is that the Holy Spirit is operative and present in our hearts, when Christ is so estimable, dear, and precious to us. For His sake we regard sin, the world, and all transitory things, however beautiful they may appear, as loss and dung, in order that we may win Christ.
When the Holy Ghost inhabits and animates the heart, He becomes the origin and source of every real virtue in the soul. Hence it is that the virtues of Christians are described in Galatians 5 as fruits of the Holy Spirit. For it is there said, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, Joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance." And in Ephesians 5:9, he says, "The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth." A Christian man attains these virtues when the Holy Spirit comes to reside in his heart. Such virtues then proceed more and more out of his heart as fruits of the Spirit.
If we poor mortals were to martyr and torment ourselves even to death, we should still be unable to practice a single real and genuine virtue without the assistance and powerful cooperation of the Holy Spirit. For if the Holy Spirit Himself does not impart virtue to us, it is only the semblance of virtue, a shadow without substance. But the Christian's virtue is not a mere shadow, nor a mere moral thing, founded on the principles of outward decorum. It is a work proceeding out of the center of a renewed and sanctified heart, and consequently from a divine source, a work arising solely and wholly from a participation of the divine nature, by virtue of which the virtues become quite natural to us. The harshest character then becomes friendly and kind, and the most wrathful, meek, the haughtiest, humble, and the most voluptuous, chaste. Hence the true dignity of a Christian consists in this, that he draws and deduces his godliness and his virtues originally from the source of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit not only glorifies Christ in the heart, but He also glorifies the soul, more and more, in and through Christ, by daily making the heart which He inhabits more beautiful, amiable, cordial, ingenuous, and radiant as well in the sight of the world as in God's sight. Hence Paul says, "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor 3:18). The Holy Spirit re-establishes more and more the lost image of God, imparts to the soul anew its lost glory, and forms it again into a child in the entire likeness of God. The image of God and of Christ is impressed upon it by the Holy Spirit.
O the high degree of glory to which a man, a Christian man, may attain here during the time of grace! Let us not be afraid of soaring too high in self-love in this respect, or of carrying the matter further than the Holy Scriptures allow. Oh no! The Holy Scriptures confirm all this in the most clear and impressive language. These are promises, nothing but God's gracious promises. Although the man in whom the Holy Spirit dwells receives from this source grace upon grace, yet still he does not presume upon it in the least, partly because the glory with which true believers are arrayed generally continues hidden from them here, since their life is hid with Christ in God, and partly because their hearts are always deeply penetrated by the words, "Which ye have of God."
True Christians ascribe nothing to themselves of all they have that is good, but wholly and solely to God, the Giver of every good and perfect gift. They always consider themselves, in the deepest abasement of their hearts, as poor and wretched, and such as are entirely destitute of the praise they ought to have before God. They know they are that which they are from the grace and mercy of God, in order that to Him alone may be given the glory which is due to Him both in time and eternity.
Observe, therefore, whether true Christians do not possess, even here in this life and during the time of grace, a high and very exclusive dignity. We are obliged to show all due honor and obedience to magistrates and persons of rank, because they are the ministers of divine justice. But in other respects, the glory of the great ones of this world is a mere fancy compared with that of the true children of God. Emperors and kings entitle themselves, it is true, "by the grace of God," but it is a far other dignity to be able to say with truth that the individual has become, by divine grace, a child of God and a temple of the Holy Spirit. Now, to this dignity we may all attain, if we only will, through the mercy of God which is offered to sinners in Christ Jesus.