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For the Christian Observer.
CHRIST LIVING FOR US.
HERE is a portion of our blessed Lord's offices in regard to his people to which the Scriptures attach much interest, but whichChristians are too little in the habit of considering in all its importance-namely, what St. Paul emphatically calls Christ living for us. If asked what are the sources of our hopes and joys, we perhaps point to the first and second advent of our Redeemer ;his coming in his humiliation, to procure our pardon by his obedience unto death; and his coming in glory at the last day, to receive us to himself. But, intervening between these two periods, there is a portion of our Lord's existence which is of great moment in the work of Divine mercy to our souls, and without which neither the object of his first nor of his second coming would be complete.
The Apostle Paul places this matter in a very striking light where he says (Rom. v. 10), "If when we were sinners we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." By the life of Christ, in this passage, he clearly means his present existence in heaven : not his life in the days of his flesh upon earth; nor his eternal duration after he shall have given up the Mediatorial kingdom into the hands of the Father; but his session, during the Christian dispensation, at the right hand of God, from which flow blessCHRIST. OBSERV. No. 358.
ings manifold and abundant to his church. The Apostle says, that, as through his life, death, and resurrection upon earth, the Christian is "reconciled" to God, so by this his life in heaven he is "saved:" nay, "much more," he adds, "being reconciled by his death, shall we be saved by his life." It is, if possible, a yet stronger cause of consolation: that was the beginning, this is the continuation; that opened the way of pardon, this applies it; and the second coming of Christ consummates it. In all views, therefore, is the present life of our Redeemer in heaven a most important and interesting subject of the Christian's faith, hope, and joy; important and interesting, as connected both with the cross of Calvary and the crown of glorywith the welfare of the believer on earth, and his expectations in heaven
with his pardon, his adoption into the household of God, the renewal of his mind, his peace with his reconciled Father in Christ Jesus, his growth in grace, his repose in death, and his blessedness in eternity.
It will enable us to see the force of the emphatic words "much more,” as used by St. Paul in the passage just quoted-and thus to gain a better estimate of the advantages resulting to us from the life of Christ in glory-if we examine the two branches of spiritual benefit which the Apostle places in contrast ; namely, Christ dying for us, as connected with reconciliation; and Christ living for us, as connected with sal4 F
vation. The Scriptures afford us much information, in various places, on both of these points; but, not to diverge into too large a field, the present remarks shall be confined chiefly to those declarations which stand in the neighbourhood of the passage before alluded to, and which are amply sufficient to shed a glowing splendour upon the subject.
The Apostle, it will be remembered, had been setting forth the alienation of the heart of man from God, in consequence of the Fall; together with his actual transgressions; his guilt and misery; the scheme of Divine grace and mercy in Christ Jesus; its application, by faith, for justification; then adoption and reconciliation; and, lastly, peace, access to God, preservation, hope, joy, love, and the everlasting blessedness of heaven. The connexion of this latter class of mercies with the former-that is, of privilege with pardon, of salvation with reconciliation-the Apostle affirms with the strong assertion of "much more." What, then, is the first class of mercies comprised under the general term of "reconciliation?"
The term itself implies a previous state of enmity; and this, the Scriptures declare, had actually existed. The natural mind, they teach us, is enmity against God: it loves not his purity, his justice, his omniscient search, his displeasure against sin, or his threatenings of eternal vengeance. The Gospel, which teaches us how this enmity is to be slain, which shews in what manner God is reconciled to man, and implores men to be reconciled to God, is called the ministry of reconciliation." It tells us that "it pleased the Father that in Christ should all fulness dwell; that, having made peace by the blood of his cross, he should by him reconcile all things unto himself, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven." "And you," it is added, "that were sometime alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh, through
death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight." And what St. Paul thus states relative to the Colossian converts-namely, their natural alienation from God, and their reconciliation "in the body of Christ's flesh through death"-is not confined to the particular persons there spoken of: for the declaration is universal in its application; all mankind being by nature in a state of alienation, and all believers, through grace, in a state of reconciliation. Hence St. Paul commences his Epistle to the Romans with a description of the deplorable condition of the Gentile world, and with the awful announcement that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness ;”"ungodliness," perhaps, being meant to comprise every offence against the first table of the Law, and "unrighteousness" every offence against the second. Then, having proved the Gentiles to be under sin, he proceeds to prove the Jews to be under it likewise; thus shewing, that no external privileges, no national profession of pure religion, not even having the word of God and the administration of the sacraments in a land, is to any man individually a proof that he is himself in a state of reconciliation with God: "For," adds the Apostle, "he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh :" just as we may say now, He is not a Christian who is only one outwardly, and by the sacrament of baptism; for though he is a Christian in name and profession, as the Jew was a Jew in name and profession also, this may be without the individual being truly, spiritually, and practically, as well as outwardly, visibly, and sacramentally, in covenant with God. Notwithstanding the exterior signs and seals of reconciliation, the heart might remain unreconciled; there might be neither pardon nor peace: the individual might be living utterly without God and without hope; as St. Paul shews
is the case with every man by nature. Are we, he says-we, who call ourselves Jews, who boast of being a peculiarly religious and favoured nation, better than others? Are we, as individuals, less sinful, less under wrath, less exposed to danger? No, he replies; "We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none that understandeth ; there is none that seeketh after God." Hence, then, the need of reconciliation. And how is reconciliation to be obtained? The Apostle proceeds to answer this question where he "All have sinned and come says, short of the glory of God:" but we justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith."
The Apostle having thus arrived at the point of our justification before God; having shewn its necessity on account of sin; having exhibited its source-namely, the Divine mercy in Christ Jesus, and pointed out the mode of its application-freely, by faith, and not by man's deserving, proceeds to mention its blessed fruits. Being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God: and not only so, but we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
Such are the exalted privileges of all true believers. But, lest any who
are such should doubt their interest in them, or in any portion of them, the Apostle proceeds to the powerful argument before noticed. Christ died," says he, " for the ungodly:" "God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us: much more, then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him: for if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." The Apostle's reasoning is to this effect: If God hath begun the good work, will he not complete it? If he reconciled us when we were enemies, will he cast us off now we are friends? If he spared not his own Son for us, will he not with him freely give us all things? If when we were living at a distance, and were justly exposed to his wrath and to eternal condemnation, he brought us nigh by the blood of Christ, and justified us freely through faith in his atonement; now that we are nigh will he cease his favours, banish us from his presence, and place us in a worse condition than we were in before? If he adopted us into his family, will he not confer on us the privileges of his children? Being reconciled, shall we not be at peace? Being pardoned and accepted, shall we not rejoice in his favour? Can we doubt of the love of the Father, who devised the eternal counsel of mercy? or of the Son, who became incarnate, and suffered and died on our behalf? or of the Holy Spirit, who brought us to the knowledge of his salvation, and wrought in us faith for our justification and our renewal after the image of Christ? The first steps in the progress of this great work required, so to speak, much cost and toil; and the way was beset with numerous impediments. As regarded the Father, his love was to be magnified and his justice exalted; and this required no less a sacrifice than that of his own co-equal and well-beloved Son. As regarded Christ, the cross was to
-be borne; and through the gate of suffering, humiliation, and death was he to achieve his victory. And when all this was effected, still, as regarded man, the enmity was to be slain in his heart by the power of the Holy Ghost and the constraining influence of the cross of Christ. We cannot, indeed, say, that to God one thing is more difficult than another; yet, if we might so speak, there were preliminary obstacles to be overcome which required an especial outlay of his power. The whole of this plan of mercy was most astonishing; particularly when it is recollected that we had no claim upon God for its exercise; that we were estranged from him by wicked works; and that the death of his Son was the only medium through which Divine Wisdom decreed that it should be displayed.
But now, all these preliminaries being completed; Christ also having ascended on high as the Head and Representative of his people, and ever living to make intercession for them; and they, on their parts, being brought nigh to God through the ministry of reconciliation; those circumstances which seemed the greatest obstacles are done away, and faith may, with steady confidence, lay hold of the hope of salvation. Had we witnessed the Redeemer sinking in the arms of death, we might possibly, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, have been tempted to doubt whether it was indeed He who should deliver Israel; but now that we behold him risen, a victor over sin, the grave, and hell, and King of kings and Lord of lords, doubt is exchanged for full assurance. His life completes the purchase of his death, and our final salvation finishes the blessing of reconciliation. If the first was accomplished through a Saviour incarnate for man, an enemy, surely nay, "much more "-shall the second be accomplished through a Saviour triumphant, for man now reconciled. If the weakness of death was powerful, shall the strength of eternal life be less so? If the hu
miliation of Gethsemane availed much, shall the glories of heaven avail nothing? If those intercessions were heard which were offered up with strong crying and tears upon earth, shall not those which are presented at the right hand of God with infinite majesty in heaven? Indeed, the very appearance of Christ there, in his once crucified but now glorified body, is itself a perpetual intercession: it is a constant memorial of his suffering, a proof of his victory, and a pledge of his reward.
We see, then, that the Apostle speaks of two classes of blessings procured by Christ for man-namely, those which directly spring from his cross, and those which flow from his intercession; those which are antecedent to our reconciliation to God, and those which are subsequent to it and end in final salvation. Not, indeed, that we can, strictly speaking, consider the work of Christ as otherwise than one great whole: its parts are all connected and complete; they are portions of an all-wise and unchangeable plan. But still, for the purpose of discriminating the effects of this manifold grace in their application, and also to strengthen our faith and joy, we may properly divide it into these two eras of mercy, distinguishing what God has done for us, and what he does in us; what Christ effected before our conversion, and what he continues to effect in the heavenly world. The Christian is not satisfied with contemplating the humiliation of his Saviour; he delights also to behold his glory. He is not content to have come to him for the pardon of his sin and the acceptance of his person; but he desires to live upon his fulness, and to rejoice in the light of his countenance. His first application to him was in reference to his atonement: he came as a trembling penitent to his cross; he cast himself before him with overwhelming guilt and self-abasement: now, humbly trusting to his sacrifice for pardon, clothed in the unspotted robe of his
righteousness, and sanctified by his Holy Spirit, he contemplates him as the great High Priest of our profession, ascended into the Holy of Holies, bearing his name upon his breastplate, touched with the feeling of his infirmities, and efficaciously pleading on his behalf. He would not think it enough that the way of salvation was opened by Christ dying, if it were not followed up and completed by Christ living: for he daily perceives his own weakness, his proneness to cleave to the world, and his deadness to God; and he feels that he requires One ever present and ever watchful, to strengthen and support him. He has spiritual enemies which his own feeble arm cannot conquer: there are dangers which his own blindness could not foresee; snares, which his ignorance could not avoid; wants, for which his own wisdom could not provide. So long as he remains in the body he is compassed with sinfulness and misery, and needs a High Priest who can be touched with the feeling of his infirmities. of the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension, is too far back to supply all he needs for the passing moment: he recurs, indeed, to these events as the solid ground of his immortal hopes; but he also rises above them, to the heaven of heavens, where his Redeemer now reigns in power as the Captain of his salvation, dispensing to him such supplies of strength and consolation as he every moment needs. He sees Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; and is hence, as the Apostle says, incited to hold fast his profession, and to come with boldness unto the Throne of Grace, that he may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. As a throne, it is the emblem of Majesty; as a throne of grace, it is the symbol of Mercy: and hence he knows that he may come with humble confidence, seeing the golden sceptre stretched out to welcome him. Faith has respect to Christ in heaven
interceding, as much as to Christ upon earth atoning: it beholds him as the harbinger of his people, the earliest fruit of the harvest, the firstborn from the dead, a pledge of the resurrection of his servants, and their admission into those eternal mansions which he has gone before to prepare.
Thus, then, faith receives Christ, both dying for us as the source of reconciliation, and living for us as the source of salvation. The former involves the elements of true religion; the latter, its higher stages. Reconciliation is the first step, salvation the last; and all the other links in this golden chain of mercy are indissolubly joined together. If we are not reconciled to God by the death of Christ, we have no scriptural ground of hope for salvation by his life if we have not repaired to him as sinners for the benefits of his passion, we cannot repair to him as believers for the benefits of his intercession. We must first be at peace before we can enjoy the blessings of peace. And on this point ought we seriously to try our spirits. Are we brought nigh to God? Is the enmity slain in our hearts? Do we truly love him as our reconciled Father in Christ Jesus; as having pardoned our transgressions and blotted out our iniquities? Then may we aspire still higher for then there is access, there is union, there is fellowship; the presence of Christ in heaven is no longer to us a barren doctrine, but a source of never-ceasing joy and consolation: all may be dark below, but the Sun of Righteousness shines brightly above: here we have powerful enemies, there we have an Almighty Friend: the love which brought him from heaven to earth he took back with him from earth to heaven: he lives; and because he lives we shall live also. "Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having a High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart,