« PreviousContinue »
thy time was the time of love : yea, I swear unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, and thou becamest mine."
O what say you, Christian brethren, to this? Is it not most true ? Christ, the Lord of glory, set his love upon you, even when you were perishing in sin; why you know not, save for this, and in truth it was the cause, that had He not done so, you must have been for ever lost. · He remembered us in our low estate, for his mercy endureth for ever." not our merit, moved Him then. Truly “the love of Christ passeth knowledge."
Here then, is the first thing in our text : the free and spontaneous act of the Lord Jesus Christ in taking compassion on sinners, and for their very misery setting his heart upon them.
II. We learn in our text, what the love of Christ led him to do for the Church :“ HE GAVE HIMSELF FOR IT : that is, He redeemed it.
The Church by reason of sin was amenable to the judgment of God. God had already declared that judgment. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.' That wrath was due to the Church. Had God dealt with his people as they of themselves deserved, then must he have poured upon
them the fierceness of his anger to their eternal perdition. Why has He not done it?
not done it? The answer is before us.
Christ gave himself for the Church. He voluntarily offered himself to stand in his
people's place, and to endure the vengeance which their sin had merited.
This offering was accepted. Eternal justice approved the proposal. It was settled, yea before the worlds were made, that Jesus the Son of God should become the surety for the Church, and taking on himself her sin, should suffer in her stead.
Accordingly, “ when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son.” He came from heaven. He clothed himself in flesh. He was made man. 'Lo,' said He, 'I come to redeem thy children, O my Father; I come to pay their debt, the debt contracted by their sin, the debt they owe to thy broken Law, thy outraged holiness : on me let all thy anger fall : only let them go free.
free. I am prepared, - first to keep thy Law myself, so that I shall owe nothing on my own account, and then, whatever the weight of punishment which they deserve, whatever the terror of that curse which lies against their sin, on me let it all be poured. I give my life to ransom them.'
Such was the undertaking of the blessed Jesus. And He fulfilled it. He did obey his heavenly Father's law. He magnified it by his obedience so perfect and complete. The strictest scrutiny could find no flaw. Justice acknowledged that she had no claim against Him. He was without blemish and without spot. Sin was not in Him. Therefore for Himself He had nothing to suffer.
And for that very reason He was able to do what otherwise He could not have done. He could give himself to bear our suffering. He
received his people's guilt. The whole burden of that guilt was laid upon his head. And so He stood in the day of wrath. He presented Himself before the justice of God. Justice laid her hand on Him. Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts.” The stroke of vengeance fell.
“My soul,” said the gracious sufferer, “ is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” The terrors of his Father's anger are upon him. His body languishes. His human spirit fails. “My God,” he cries, “My God, why hast Thou forsaken me ? ” He bows his head, and gives up the ghost.
There, Christian brethren, see the mystery of your redemption. Christ hath given himself for you.
“He bare our sins in his own body on the tree. The good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” To ransom the Church, the Lord of glory is accursed, and dies !
O the depth of the riches of redeeming love ! Believer, think on this. Christ loved you, and this was the proof of his love, that he gave Himself for you.
His blood was shed, and his spirit was broken, and at length he died, and all to set you free from guilt and punishment, and bring you to eternal life.
O, my brethren, how lightly we speak of these things, how little we feel of them, compared with what we ought to do! And how little do we live under the practical influence of them! Alas, who would think we owed such mercies to our Lord ? Why do we not love Him more? think of Him more? speak of Him more? and live more to his glory? May God the Holy Spirit come and soften every heart, and teach us to feel deeply and increasingly our adorable Redeemer's love.
III. Our text carries us still further: it tells us what was the object which the Saviour had in view, when thus he gave Himself for the redemption of his Church from sin and death. It was this, THAT HE MIGHT SANCTIFY AND CLEANSE IT WITH THE WASHING OF WATER BY THE WORD,”
" That he might sanctify and cleanse it.” The Church was not only guilty, but defiled. The Lord's people are by nature not only sinners in need of a redemption, but sinners in need of a purification. Now their redemption, as we have seen, is obtained by the suffering of their blessed Surety in their stead. This frees them from guilt. But they want more than this. Their natures are evil. Their hearts are vile. They want new hearts. They want to be freed not only from the guilt, but also from the power of sin. Now how is this effected ?
Jesus provides for it. It is the object He has in view': “ that He might sanctify and cleanse” his Church: might give to his people a new heart, and a right spirit, might deliver them from the dominion of the devil in their souls, might subdue their iniquities, might implant in their breasts true holiness, might produce, in their dispositions and their lives, all goodness and righteousness and truth, yea, might renew them after his own most blessed image.
But what is the power by which this change is to be brought about ? How is the Church, redeemed as she has been by the suffering of Christ, thus to be sanctified and cleansed, as He designs that she should be ?
The Apostle answers in our text ;—" with the washing of water” it is the Church is sanctified.
“The washing of water,”—what is this? Is it baptism? Yes, we answer, baptism rightly understood, the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, such baptism as Jesus spoke of in his conversation with the Jewish ruler Nicodemus, the baptism not of water only, but of the Spirit ; or as St. Paul expresses it, “the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”
Readers of the Bible need not be told how often water is the symbol there made use of to designate the grace of the Holy Spirit. And the washing of water, with which the Church is cleansed and sanctified, can be nothing else : it is the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is that for which we every Sunday pray, in that ancient and scriptural collect of the Communion service, “ Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee, and worthily magnify thy holy
Here then is the power by which Christ sanctifies the Church. He pours out of the grace of the Holy Spirit, that Spirit which He promised that he would send down upon his people, and