The beloved! This was a golden name which the ancient Church in her most joyous moments was wont to give to the Anointed of the Lord. When the time of the singing of birds was come, and the voice of the turtle was heard in her land, her love-note was sweeter than either bird or turtle, as she sung My beloved is mine and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. Ever in her song of songs doth she call him by that delightful name, My beloved! Even in the long winter when idolatry had withered the garden of the Lord, her prophets found space to cease from uttering the thunders of judgment, to lay aside the burden of the Lord for a little season, and to say, as Esaias did, Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. Though the saints had never seen his face, though as yet he was not made flesh, nor had dwelt among us, nor had man beheld his glory--the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, yet he was the consolation of Israel, the hope and joy of all the chosen, the beloved of all those who were upright before the Most High. Brethren, in the summer days of the Church, let us not fail to call Christ our Beloved. Both in our prayers and songs in public, and in those nearer and dearer approaches which we make to him in private, when we may use more tender epithets than we would venture to do in a mixed as assembly, we are wont to speak of Christ as the best Beloved of our soul, and to feel that he is to us very precious, the chiefest among ten thou sand, and the altogether lovely. So true is it that the Church loves Christ, and claims him as her beloved, that the apostle dares to defy the whole universe to separate her from the love of Christ, and declares that neither persecutions, distress, affliction, peril, or the sword, have been able to do it; nay, he joyously boasts, In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that hath loved us; and he concludes his bold utterance by declaring that he is persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We think we should not be trespassing into the realms of imagination, if we ventured to say that Christ is also the beloved of the angels. To him cherubim and seraphim continually do cry; for in that thrice-repeated strain, there is a word for the second person of the Trinity, as well as for the first and the third: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. And, certainly, the blood-bought call him their loved, for their incessant strain is, Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his blood, unto to him be glory for ever and ever.
Yet, my dear friends, the main reason why Christ is thus styled by the Holy Spirit the beloved, doubtless is because he is the beloved of the Fathers heart. This, said the mysterious voice from heaven in the midst of the waters of Jordan, this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. And again, at the resurrection of Lazarus there came the same voice from heaven, announcing the perpetuity of the Fathers love. None of us can tell how dear Jesus must be to his Father. We have, however, abundant proofs of the fact that he is very near unto him, for he is privy to all his Fathers counsels. From the counsels of the Most High, Christ was never absent. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him. Let us make man, said God. in our own image,--calling Christ into creations work. Without him was not anything made that was made, is the declaration of John the divine. Beside this, we know that everything which is done of the Father by his divine decree is that he may glorify his Son; while, on the other hand, the Son lived and died, and lives again that he may glorify the Father. Such is their mutual interest in one another that we cannot suppose a relationship closer, nor a love more intense than that which exists between the Father and the Son. It were foolish and ridiculous in me to attempt to dive into the awful depths of the divine unity. We know that the Father is one with the Son, and that Jesus is one with Jehovah. The unity of essence is a well so deep, that I cannot expect to find its bottom; and the love which springeth up from this essential unity must be more deep and profound than the wit of man can guess, or than the language of man can utter. I repeat the confession of our ignorance, it is impossible for us to form even a guess of the intensity of the affection that must exist between the eternal Father and Jesus Christ, his Son; since their essential union from which this affection springs is a doctrine beyond our comprehension, and is meekly to be received of our faith. Certainly we know that never was the term beloved so full of meaning, never did human word become so divinely rich as when God himself, by the Holy Ghost, applied it to Jesus the beloved of the Father.
No more, however, concerning this word the beloved, except that I trust there are many of us here who can thus salute our covenant Head. Yes, he is very dear to us. We love him because he first loved us. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and it hath kindled in our poor souls a flame undying, which neither life nor death shall quench, but which shall burn brighter and brighter till it consumes flesh and self, and we shall be all on flame with love to Christ.
Now, dear friends, having thus brought forward the title of Christ, I shall, in dependence upon the Eternal Spirit, call your attention, first of all, to the words in the beloved, or positive union; secondly, to the words accepted in the beloved, or glorious condition; and then to the whole text, he hath made us accepted in the beloved, or divine operation.
I. First then, here is a matter most worthy of your best and profoundest thoughts IN THE BELOVED, or, POSITIVE UNION.
A thousand sermons would never exhaust the theme of the union of the Church with Christ. No divinity is sound which does not recognize this; and no experience can be very profound which does not lead the soul more clearly and more fully to rejoice in this most glorious truth. Probably it is a doctrine more suitable to advanced Christians than to young believers; but where the Lord enables the heart to feed upon it it will be found to be food at once nourishing, delicious, satisfying, and strengthening. They who feed upon it will be found like Daniel and his companions, to be fairer in countenance and fatter in flesh than any others.
1. In explaining this positive union, let us begin by saying in Christ,--that is, in his heart, and in his heart from all eternity. With prescient eye Christ beheld his people before they were yet formed. He looked forward through eternity and the rolling years of time, and he foresaw that God would make man, and that man in Adam would fall and be ruined. His eye looked over all the sons of Adam, and selected those whom he saw fit according to the counsel of his will: and these at once were put into his heart to be his darlings, his favourites for ever and ever. It was not in time that Christ first wrote the names of his people upon his heart: it was a time before all times, when there was no day but the ancient of days; when creations first year had not commenced; when all things slept in the mind of God as a thought, but had not come forth from his hand as a deed. We look upon the rocks with their long deposits of sand and shells: we go deeper down and see the long ages that must have passed while the stony strata were being formed; we wonder at the period that the aqueous and igneous rocks must have occupied in their formation; and sometimes we are staggered at the thought of what a great thing time is.
We find we cannot grasp the idea of In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; it is so far back that the wings of our imagination flag before they reach it as a resting place. But there was an eternity before all this; and all these ages are but as the drop of a bucket compared with the deep and bottomless sea of the eternity of God. Yet, when we fly back into the dread eternity, where thought is lost and mind faileth, we discover in the breast of Christ eternal thoughts of love towards his children. Is it not a joy that can make your spirits dance, like David before the ark, that we are always Jesus beloved ones, always in the heart of him whose heart was afterwards in the fullness of time pierced for us? Hath he not said, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with the bands of my kindness have I drawn thee. As the Father hath loved me, even so have I loved you. That is, without beginning; ever since there was a Father and a Christ. It were blasphemy to suppose that Gods love to Jesus was not always existent, or that Christ had a beginning in the Fathers affections. Even from that time Jesus had chosen his people, and they were in his heart. Beloved, as they were in his heart; so they have been in his heart ever since. When they fell in Adam they did not fall out of Christ; when they lived in this world a life of iniquity, yet still there was his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins. When they scorned his grace, his love defied, trampled on his cross, ahead despised his blood, yet still never from his heart were they erased, for they had been engraven there too deeply by the nails, for sin to destroy the remembrance. And now, today, now that we are continually backsliding, nothing has been able as yet to tear us from his heart. We are there, and we shall be there, in deaths dark gloom and in eternitys mysterious splendor-dear to Jesus still, for is it not written, He hateth putting away? Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. So, then, beloved, we are in Christ in the sense that we are in Christs heart, and we always were so if we are his people.
2. But, secondly, we are also in Christs book. Having loved us, we were chosen in him and elected by his Father. We were not chosen separately and distinctly, and as individuals alone and apart. We were chosen in Christ. As Watts well puts it
Christ, be my first elect, he said;
Then chose our souls in Christ our head.
By Christs love we were one with him. The Fathers election chose the whole Christ, both the head and the members too. Christ can well say, In thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. We all know that Christ is elect and precious; that God singled out the humanity of Christ from many thousands of forms that he might have created, and ordained that the seed of the woman--the child that was born in Bethlehem, and laid in the manger--should become the body and the human soul which should be taken into union with divinity. Here was election; and as Christ was thus chosen both in the divine and human natures, so are all his people chosen-chosen in him. Blessed fact! the same register which includes Christ as first-born, includes all the brethren; and until the flames of hell can consume the record which certifies Christ as a Son of God, our sonship in Christ towards God must remain safe from all the attacks of Satanic craft. Disprove Christs Sonship, and you disprove ours. Prove the union of Christ with God as his Son, and since Christs people are in him, you prove their sonship too. Look down the red roll which God wrote with his eternal finger, according to the counsel of his will, and you see the names of all that should enter into eternal life; they are all there secure, because the first one is secure; and until the pen of hell can run through the first one in the catalogue, it shall never be able to run through any of the others, for there stand the names of all the elect, covered, protected, and defended, by the name of Christ, which standeth at the head. We are in that book which is sealed with seven seals, which none but the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to open.
3. Thirdly, we are in Christs hand. We are in Christs heart as our heavenly lover. We are in Christs book as the medium of our election. We are in Christs hand as our surety. You will remember, beloved, them when Laban gave up his flock to Jacob, Jacob took them upon the condition of suretyship. Jacob said unto Laban That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Now, all those wholl the Father gave to Christ were bestowed upon Christ as a surety, and at the last great day, at the Redeemers hand will God require the souls of all that were given to him. He is the great Shepherd of the sheep, responsible as the Mediator, responsible to him who possesseth all in all. Sponsor for his people, surety for all the chosen, he standeth at this hour before the eternal throne. And think ye, beloved, he will lose us? Never. He hath made us the choicest objects of his care. Shall his eye sleep? Shall his heart forget? Shall his hand grow weary? Shall he lose the force and strength which anciently he possessed? He hath sworn by himself that he will bring us safely to the Father-will he be defeated? He hath said, I give unto my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. And shall the infernal lion rend that which He hath deigned to keep? What! shall he put his hand upon his People and shelter them there, and clutch them as the choicest treasure and the rarest jewel that he ever had, and shall death or hell unlock his fingers or wrench his chosen from his mighty grasp? Who shall defeat Omnipotence, or pluck the sinner from the Almighty grasp? Rejoice, believers, ye are saved just because we are in the hand of Christ. I marvel at those who try to slip from that text, None shall pluck them out of my hand, and think that souls can be lost after that: for the text doth not admit of any other meaning than their safety. They shall never perish, and I give unto them eternal life, are plain, literal, positive statements, which none can misunderstand. Happy are the men who are thus in Christ.
4. But, fourthly, we are in Christs loins. This may convey a thought somewhat different from being in Christs hands. We were all of us in the loins of Adam, and have all sprung from him by natural generation. Adam was our federal head. All his acts were representative acts. While he was obedient we were obedient in him. Had he continued obedient, we his descendants should have been partakers of the privileges which accrue to obedience. Adam offended; we offended in him. Being the inheritors of his nature we have partaken of his original corruption; and being moreover in him as our representative, we became partakers of his condemnation. In Adam all die. By the offense of one man condemnation came upon all men. As being then in the loins of Adam we fell; and we should have fallen into everlasting perdition, if we as Gods chosen had not been also in the loins of Christ. But all the chosen were in the loins of Christ from old eternity; so that what has done he did for them. When he obeyed the law and made it honorable, they are regarded before God as having kept the law and having honored it in every jot and little. When he did hang upon the tree, the chosen who were in him were virtually suffering the wrath of God. Justice looks upon the chosen as though they themselves had suffered all that Christ suffered, as though they had drunk the wormwood and the gall and had descended into the lowest depths. When he was buried we were buried with him; for we are dead with Christ unto the world, and buried in baptism with him unto death. When Christ ascended from the tomb we rose in him. He rose again, not as a private individual, but for our justification. Virtually every elect soul rose from the eternal death of its deserved perdition in the day when Christ startled the keepers and rolled away the stone. And when Christ ascended up on high we ascended in him. Up with him we entered into the spheres; and with him to-day we are risen in Christ, and made with him to sit in heavenly places even in Christ Jesus. Today, beloved, the language of the psalmist is more true than he thought concerning man, Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands, the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. We see not all things yet put under man on earth; but we see Jesus, who as the representative man sits in heaven, triumphant over all things, having all things put for ever under his feet; and representatively under our feet too, since we are in Christ. Just as the apostle Paul argues concerning Levi, that Levi is inferior to Christ; for he says, Abraham was less than Melchisedec, for without doubt the less is blessed of the greater, so also Levi was less than Melchisedec, for he was in the loins of Abraham when Melchisedek met him. So beloved, as Levi was in the loins of Abraham and paid tithes to Melchisedek so we were in the loins of Christ and paid the debt due to divine justice, gave to the law its fulfillment, and to wrath its satisfaction. In the loins of Christ we have passed through the tomb already, and have entered into that which is within the veil, and are made to sit down in heavenly places, even in him. This day the chosen of God are one with Christ and in the loins of Christ.
5. As we are in the heart of Christ, in the book of Christ, in the hand of Christ, and in the loins of Christ, there is yet another thought dearer and sweeter still. We are in the person of Christ, for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. When the Spirit of God comes into the sinner and convinces him of sin, that sinner is led to look to Christ only for his salvation, Christ then becomes unto him the way and the life. By the mysterious operations of the quickening Spirit the sinner begins to live a spiritual life. Now, in the moment when the spiritual life was first given, there commenced in that soul a vital and personal union with the person of Christ Jesus. There had always been in that soul a secret mystical union in the divide purpose; but now there comes to be a union in effect, and the soul is in Christ from that hour, in a sense in which it never was before. Oh, do you understand what it is to be in Christ vitally? Beloved, no explanations can set this forth. The natural man discerneth not the things which be of the Spirit of God. These are things which must be known experimentally by each man for himself. Have you felt a life in you that is far superior to the vital principle which you inherit from your parent? Have you known that regeneration has given you another existence which generation did not confer upon you? Have you felt principles alive within which no education could have developed, and which no persuasion could have implanted? Have you within you the living and incorruptible seed of God, which abideth for ever? Have you been made partakers of the divine nature, having escaped that corruption which is in the world through lust?
Have you been begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? If so, the life in you is Christ in you the hope of glory; and your life is sustained by the fact that you are one with Christ, and suck the nourishment of your life from him just as the branch draws from the trunk the sap whereby it is invigorated and made to live.
I can do nothing without thee, My strength is wholly thine:
Witherd and barren should I be If severd from the vine.
I trust, brethren, that we are in union with Christ, not in theory, but in fact; not as a matter of doctrine, but as a matter of experience, till we can say,
Christ is in me, and I am in him; the life that I live in the flesh is no more I, but Christ that liveth in me.
In the beloved, then, is a thought which is not very easy for us to bring out in so short a space of time.
Now, I want to put you to the test this morning, by appealing to you all whether you know anything about this. A great many will say, Well, it is a very odd thing, we do not understand it. Take heed to yourselves, then; deal honestly with your spirits; inasmuch as you do not know what it is to be in Christ, then you are without Christ; and then you are without hope, and there remaineth nothing for you but a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation. No man out of Christ can be saved. In Christ the branch lives; but divided from Christ, men gather up the useless branches and cast them into the fire and they are burned. Come, now, I want to try you, The first question I ask you, to ascertain whether you are in Christ, is this--Is he all your dependence? For the union of the saint with Christ is set forth by the union of the stone with the building. Now, the stone in the building lies upon the foundation; there it resteth and abideth, being cemented fast to it. Do you rest upon Christ? I ask you, is he all your trust? There is a blessed text in one of the prophets, I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place, and they shall hang upon him all the glory of his Fathers house, as well the cups as the flagons, they shall all hang on him So dost thou hang on him? Canst thou feel today that without a falsehood all thy trust on him is set, that thou bringest from him all thy standing, all thy confidence, all thy peace? If so, let us hope that thy union is a true one.
And if it be so, then, as I have sometimes seen stones in the old walls of Roman castles, which could scarcely have been separated from the fabric, even by gunpowder itself, without the blasting of the fabric too; so is it with you, unless the foundations can be removed you cannot be moved, for if you depend on him by a living faith, you are so a part of Christ that the living stone has grown into the living foundation, and separated from him you never can be in time or in eternity.
Another question. If thou art today in Christ, then thou bringest forth some fruit unto him; for Christians are represented as being in Christ, as the branch is in the vine. Every branch in me, said Christ, that beareth fruit, he purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit. What say you? What are your fruits? Is there humility of mind? Holiness? Do you seek to walk like Jesus did? My dear hearers, this is a very sharp question to put to you, but I do put it to you personally, for by your works you must be judged at the last great day. His servants ye are whom ye obey; if ye give yourselves up to the pleasures of this world, to the lusts of the flesh, to your own selfishness, then ye are the servants of sin. Be not deceived, God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. Do ye of the Spirit bring forth fruits of the Spirit? Do ye walk and act as the elect of God, putting on bowels of mercy and compassion? Have ye a single eye to Christs glory, and do ye live to his service? If so, then thanks to God, no pruning knife shall cut away the branch that bringeth forth fruit. It is the branch which brings forth no fruit, which is not in Christ vitally, that is to be severed, cast away; but if thou be in him so as to bring forth fruit unto him, then fruit to eternal life shalt thou bear evermore.
Another question; dost thou love Christ? Does thy heart go out after him? Dost thou pant to be in his arms? Is his company thy heaven, is his absence thy hell? Remember, another figure which is used, is the union of the husband with the wife. Marriages that are made in heaven are cemented not by gold or beauty, but by love. In Christ there is an infinite love towards his people, insomuch that he left his Father and did cleave unto his wife, and they twain became one flesh. This is a great mystery, said Paul, when he spoke concerning Christ and his Church. Art thou wedded to him by an affection which no time can alter except it be to deepen it? Are there ties which bind thy heart to him, which torture and racks cannot sunder? If there be, then thou art married unto one that will never put thee away, one that will never leave thee a widow, for thy Maker is thy husband and he loveth faithfully; one that calleth thee his Hephzibah, his soul delighteth in thee; and thy land he calleth Beulah, for he hath married it. Is there such a union? Art thou thus in Christ?