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Christ Is All
by Stephen Tyng
I knew a man in Christ -- II Corinthians 12:2
I have selected this simple statement of the Apostle, because it precisely affirms the one great fact of man's condition, which I desire now to present to the consideration of my readers. "In Christ." It is a state of hope, of grace, and of acceptance with God. It is the condition of those who have been begotten again by the power of the Holy Ghost, to the enjoyment of a lively hope, through the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Several different aspects of this spiritual condition I desire, by the Divine blessing, to present to your notice. They will be all designed to bear upon the one great point of our previous consideration, "Christ is all." The Apostle says, "I knew a man in Christ." Let us adopt his expression, and consider some of the facts which distinguish such a man, from other men who are "without Christ." Of this peculiar condition of man, what have we known?
The title "Christ" points out the official character of the glorious Son of God, as the anointed Saviour of mankind. To be in Christ is therefore readily understood to mean, to be a partaker of the benefits of those gracious offices which the Son of God has been anointed to fulfil; to have embraced the blessed Gospel which this Saviour has proclaimed, and the religion which He has established among men, in sincere faith and love; to have been made personally one with Him, by his Holy Spirit living and dwelling in the soul, and forming Him there, as the hope of glory; to be a Christian not only in outward profession, by union with the ordinances of the visible church, but in heart and character also, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. The expression indicates a completely new condition of being in relation to his Divine Redeemer and Lord, to which a man has been brought by the power of God; a condition which is filled with varied retrospections, with prospects and experiences, both of joys and griefs, entirely peculiar to itself. The statement of this new condition immediately calls to mind, a period of life, at which the man was brought to this new state; and the power, and the means, by which he was led from being "without Christ," his natural condition of want and danger, to be "in Christ," his present state of security and peace.
He was inwardly convinced of sin by the Holy Ghost, because he believed not in Christ. By the same Spirit, he was led in godly sorrow for sin, to seek the Saviour whom he had before rejected, that he might win Him, and be found in Him. This Saviour, offered to him, and found by him, in the open revelation of His Gospel, he received as his own Redeemer with gratitude and joy. He embraced the message which presented him, with sincere faith, as a personal message from God. He was thus justified freely by the grace of God, through the redemption which was provided in Jesus Christ the Lord. He was thus engrafted by the Holy Spirit into Christ, and made one body with Him. And now in regard to his relation to God, and to his standing before God, he is "in Christ;" known and received, as a member of Christ; and made an eternal partaker of all His glory and triumph. Of such an one, the Apostle says, "I knew a man in Christ," -- a man who was accepted before God, in Christ as his perfect righteousness, and was made a partaker of the Divine nature, in Christ as his entire sanctification. Of some of the attributes and characteristics of such a man, I wish to speak.
I knew him, standing at a point for most important and useful retrospection. I knew him, in a situation, in the experience, and the interests of his spiritual being, from which, he might look back, with great profit and advantage, upon the different events and characteristics of his past life.
The powers of memory and reflection have been given to man, that he may acquire and employ for his future benefit the full advantage of his own experience in life that is past. True wisdom will lead him often to sit down, and recall to mind, events through which he has passed; difficulties which he has been enabled to overcome; and trials of character and feeling which he has been required to endure. Even in the limited and transitory concerns of his present life, he finds it useful and necessary, to permit the errors of former days to teach him a wiser system of labour and improvement for the time to come; and thus to gain valuable instruction, even from the follies which memory recounts. The man who is in Christ, renewed in the spirit of his mind, and sustaining an entirely new relation towards God, from his connection with his Gracious Saviour, looks back from his present condition of happiness and safety, both upon the old things, which have passed away; and upon the beginnings of the things which have been made new. Some few facts, which are contained in this useful retrospection, first of the old things which have passed away, it will be profitable for us to consider.
From his present position of gracious acceptance with God, he looks back upon his former hardness of heart, under the dispensations of divine mercy, with amazement. The heavenly messages of the Gospel, which now so deeply affect his soul, and call into exercise the most tender and anxious feelings of his nature, in his former condition, produced upon him no softening impression. The contrast between his present and his former state of mind, in regard to the power and influence of the divine word upon him, fills him with astonishment. Then, the terrors of God did not persuade him, whether they spake in the awakening dealings of a Divine Providence, or in the solemn threatenings to the ungodly, of a judgment to come. The fidelity of Christian ministers often seemed to him, the mere cant of their profession. The solemnity and earnestness of their appeals to his conscience, he considered a mere artifice for influence and effect. The wonderful love of Christ for a lost world, did not attract or move him. The affectionate entreaties of the Gospel, so exciting, now that their need is felt, then passed upon his ear without a trace behind. The frequent repetition of the Saviour's name, in the ministration of his word, now to him like the sweetest fragrance poured out, was tedious and annoying. The daily long-suffering of God, now so manifest, and so arresting to his attention, was then unnoticed, and produced in him no repentance. He thought not of God, nor of any of His marvellous works. The word of God, now so filled to his mind, with the riches of wisdom and knowledge, opening to him views of truth, so exhilarating and so delightful, conveyed no salutary teachings to him then. The letter was sometimes read, but its spirit was unfelt and unnoticed. In his present condition, when the whole effect of God's gracious dispensations upon his mind and heart, is so different, he cannot but be amazed at his former carelessness and inattention.
He finds it difficult to account for a state of affection and character, which was so unsuited to his necessary dependance upon God, and so unworthy of his ability to enjoy and honour him. He is sometimes ready to imagine, that the Saviour could not have spoken to him then, as he does now. He is now surprised to observe in others, under faithful exhibitions of the truth, which arrest every thought, and awaken every energy of his own mind, -- the same total unconcern which once marked himself. He looks back upon this native hardness of heart towards God, in himself, with unqualified amazement and distress. But it is one of the old things which have passed away. And grieved as he is, in contemplating it, he is able to say, "Such indeed was I; but I have been washed from this guilt in the blood of Christ my Lord; and by the Spirit of God, have been brought from this state of darkness and hardness of heart, to the marvellous light and love which shine forth in the Lord Jesus Christ."
He looks back upon his former devotion to this perishing world with shame. He has now been taught to make the Apostle's comparison, between the things which are seen, and are temporal, and the things which are unseen, and are eternal; and he reckons with him, that the one are not worthy to be compared with the other. As the practical result of this contrast, he forgets the things which are behind, as objects of his desire and pursuit, and reaching after the things before, presses forward, that he may lay hold on eternal life. But from this, his present state of mind, he looks back upon one which was very different from it.
There was a time, when the pleasures of the world attracted him, and he loved them. The seductive scenes of giddiness and mirth invited his affections, and he yielded to their influence. It formed, then, no part of his plan to ask counsel of God. It was no repelling fact to him, that the curse rather than the blessing of God rested upon any recreation or employment to which he was called. But now, he calls to mind, with shame and pity for himself, the low and grovelling spirit which made his immortal powers stoop to such pursuits. He feels the solemn truth of the divine assertion, "He that liveth in pleasure, is dead while he liveth." The emoluments of the world then seemed to him also, of vast importance and worth. He thought not of the inevitable end of such things, or of the danger that they might be pursued to the everlasting ruin of the soul. His time and powers were unreservedly devoted to their acquisition. Even the fearful question of the Saviour, "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" never caused him to hesitate in this vain pursuit. And yet, while he loved the pleasures, and eagerly sought the gains of the world, its cares and losses, the suspense which it required in getting, the uncertainty which attended its possession, and the remorse which it occasioned after enjoyment, constantly agitated and harassed him, and more than counterbalanced, all the gains the world could give.
Now, when he looks back, from his present high, honourable, and happy station, as a redeemed man, a man renewed and justified in Christ, he sees the exceeding folly of this whole system of life. He is ashamed to think he could ever have been such a slave, to that which he knew, must eventually leave him to perish; that he could have so long willingly sacrificed all the blessings and hopes which were offered him in Christ, for the mere transitory pampering of a subject of condemnation and death. Bunyan's description of the man with the muck rake, in the Pilgrim's Progress, shows him the very sottishness and degradation, which he now sees to have marked himself. And he is conscious of a deep sense of shame, as he recurs to the time which he passed, in his former lusts, in ignorance of God, and in contempt for the noble objects which God presented. But this also is one of the old things which have passed away. The love which he once gave to the world, and the things of the world, he now gratefully devotes to God his Saviour, and to the glories of his inheritance, and the pleasures of his service.
He looks back upon his former opposition to God with unfeigned sorrow. He sees that he was a fighter against God, in all the conduct and purposes of his former life. When the Lord graciously called him, he refused to hear. Nor was he ever obedient to his voice. There could have been no addition, it seems to him, to the variety of the methods, or to the tenderness of the expedients, by which God attempted to gain his affections, and win his heart to his own service and favour. And yet they were all unsuccessful. Nothing could induce him to submit himself to the will of God. The chastisements of a Divine Providence produced no good effect upon him. He resisted the kind and salutary operation of them all. The affectionate admonitions of the Holy Spirit, that would so often have led him back to holiness and God, were rejected and expelled. While God was employing every instrument, and applying every influence, to raise his darkened spirit from the earth, and to inspire him with a wish to feed on angels' food, he was turning the whole bent of his affections and mind, to an aversion as wide as possible from him. He was always resisting the Holy Ghost; and pursued his chosen course of sin, in defiance of every effort that could be made for his recovery and salvation.
Now, he sees the inestimable worth of all God's operations of love for him, and he feels a deep sorrow, in the recollection that he neglected them so long; -- that their beneficial influence was wholly cast away, through so large a portion of the time which was given him as a preparation for a happy eternity. He mourns that he did not commence the work of his salvation, with the commencement of his reasoning powers. He grieves to see, that his childhood and youth, and perhaps a large part of his maturity also, were wasted and thrown away, in the pursuit of idle vanities, while no provision was laid up for a future rest. He deeply regrets that he should have so spurned the grace of God, so mocked his law, so disregarded his loving-kindness, and thus counted himself unworthy of eternal life. These are sources of deep sorrow, in every retrospection of his life. But these tears are precious, and this is a sorrow which is permanently useful. It leads him to be far more jealous of the rising again of this spirit of opposition to God; to be vigilant in submitting himself to the divine will; and to be earnest and diligent, in making full improvement of the opportunities and privileges, which are still remaining for his enjoyment.
He looks back upon his former condemnation in sin with awe and terror. He sees the rock whence he was hewn, and the hole of the pit whence he was digged. He feels a deep solemnity pervading his spirit, as he reverts to the dangers, from which Almighty grace has rescued him. Like a man who has escaped from a shipwreck, and stands upon the shore, to look upon the angry waters, from which the hand of God has plucked him, pitying and praying for, those who are still struggling in the billows; so the Christian meditates upon the fearful dangers of his soul, when he was at enmity with God, and lying under his righteous indignation, for his unbelief.
He sees now, that God would have been holy and just in his everlasting condemnation. He sees that he long stood ignorantly and blindly, upon the very brink of eternal perdition, provoking the justice of God to punish his transgressions; and defying Him by continued rebellions to fulfil the threatenings which he had made. He now sees, that his unjustified and sinful soul lay under the sentence of eternal death; and that nothing but the despised longsuffering of God kept back that sentence, from its full and final execution. Boundless compassion alone held him up from going down into the pit. Hell had enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure, to receive him in all the pomp and glory of his sin. Satan was saying in malicious triumph, "There, there, so would I have it;" -- when the despised love of a Saviour snatched him from ruin, -- rolled away the curse from his soul, -- rescued him from the condemnation which he had brought upon himself, -- converted him by His own Holy Spirit, and bound him as a living sacrifice to himself forever.
Through the exceeding riches of divine grace, he is now in Christ, accepted and forgiven. He has been reconciled unto God, by the Saviour's one offering for sin. And he looks back upon the blackness of this cloud of indignation which has passed over him, with unfeigned gratitude, but with the deepest awe. He ascribes it singly to the great love wherewith God has loved him when he was dead in sins, that this condemnation has passed away, and that he is no longer a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction. He gives unceasing glory to God, who, when he was far off, made him nigh by the blood of Christ. And he looks with sorrow and pity, upon the condition of those who are still wandering in the blindness of their minds, without Christ, having no hope, and without God in the world.
This is a part of the retrospection which distinguishes the man in Christ. These are some views of the old things which are passed away. Now, in these respects, all things have become new. His heart is not hardened against the truth, -- his affections are not devoted to the world, -- his spirit is not arrayed in opposition to God, -- his soul is no longer under the condemnation of death. He is a new man in Christ Jesus. Such indeed was he; but he has obtained mercy from a pardoning God. He has passed from death unto life. He is renewed in the spirit of his mind. He has been born again from above. There is no longer any condemnation for him. He is walking not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. He is washed, -- he is justified, -- he is sanctified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of his God.
In this habitual retrospection of his former guilty life, he feels that now for him, Christ is all. It is by no human power or might, that this darkness has passed from his soul. The truth which he has learned and feels, he was not taught by man. The Saviour alone brought deliverance and peace to him. Jesus alone rescued him from his condemnation, and has established him in grace. And whatever may have been the instruments employed by this Redeeming Lord, -- and however he may have honoured and blessed the ministry of man, to lead his sinful soul to himself, -- still the man looks up to His power and to His personal presence and agency, above all possible dependance upon any instruments, -- to say and to realize, that Christ is all. Every instrument without His presence and blessing, would have been dead and useless. To Him belongs all the praise, for the exceeding riches of His grace, which He has thus freely bestowed upon a guilty and perishing soul. And the redeemed sinner delights to consider his Divine Lord, as having pitied him when he was cast out to perish, and spoken the words of life and healing to his soul.
This retrospection upon old things which have passed away, is one of the peculiar attributes of the man in Christ. Those of my readers who have been brought to this blessed condition, can hardly fail to realize their own experience, in the facts which I have thus stated. As you consider them, let your past experience teach you wisdom in your present state. You are safe, and tranquil, and happy now, in the simple proportion, in which you cling with humble faith to Christ. Cultivate, then, the spirit of thankfulness, for the unsearchable riches of His mercy. Realize that all you have, or can have, is laid up in Him, -- and that in the possession of Him as your Lord, you are rich in the exceeding riches of His grace. Vast is the importance to you, of a constant recurrence to this great fact, of your entire dependence upon the Lord Christ. He is your sun and your shield. Seek life, light, and security, only and always in Him. Live upon Him by faith, and grow up into Him, in the knowledge of His grace and truth.
Be not entangled by any of the superstitious vanities, which would lead you to a dependance upon human ministries, or human works. Remember that the hour has come for you, when neither upon this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father; when no outward appointments or human services, are to take the place of that spiritual worship, which distinguishes those whom the Father seeketh to worship Him. Cultivate, too, a spirit of tenderness and compassion for unconverted souls. Grace has made you thus to differ. Look upon those from whom you differ, with an anxious desire that they may be partakers of your grace. Be willing to spend, and to be spent, -- with no reference to earthly remuneration, -- that you may glorify God in their salvation. Consider that you are kept upon the earth, though your souls are renewed for the atmosphere, employments, and society of heaven, that you may be made useful to others, in leading them to taste and see the grace and loving-kindness of the Lord. O seek a heart to feel for them, -- a spirit to labour for their salvation. Be ready to give; to act, and to suffer, that those who are without Christ, -- ready to perish, -- may be made to know His truth, and to rejoice in His salvation. By all means, save some. Life is valuable for no other end. Upon you, must depend the Saviour's honour, and the Saviour's triumph. May He give you grace, ever to set Him forth, as the only refuge and hope of suffering, dying man.
But I pray you forget not, that the retrospection of the Christian, is the actual state of the sinner's soul. What the one was, the other still is. O think of this, you, who to-day are far off, that you also may be brought nigh by the blood of Christ. God hath set before you an open door, in the all-sufficient and glorious work of His own dear Son. Rise ye also, from this state of death, and fly to Him, whose power can make all things new, for you as well as for those who are now alive in Him. Your mean of grace are most abounding; your opportunities of deliverance are most pressing; your dangers are also extreme. For you the Lamb has died, -- for you the Ransom lives. He calls you to come to Him without doubt or fear; -- to cast your load upon Him, -- to trust yourselves to His all-sufficient grace, -- to rejoice in His great salvation.
O, awake to a sense of your privileges, as well as your dangers, that you may lay hold of the hope which is set before you; and in the security which He will impart to your souls, be able to say, "Thanks be to my God, which giveth me the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ." Think of the increased condemnation which must come upon you, if after you have thus known the way of truth, and seen a Saviour lifted up before you, evidently crucified for you, you shall still reject His offered mercy, and love darkness rather than light. I beseech you by the mercies of God, that ye will not harden your hearts against the love of Christ, and the power of His Spirit: that ye will not bring upon you the awful curse, "Behold ye despisers, wonder and perish, for I work a work in your days, which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you:" -- "I have sworn in my wrath, ye shall not enter into my rest."
Reflect how soon thy life will end,
And think on what thy hopes depend,
What aim thy busy thoughts pursue,
What work is done, and what to do.
Eternity is just at hand!
And wilt thou waste thy ebbing sand,
And careless view departing day,
And throw thy span of time away?
Eternity! tremendous word,
To souls unpardoned and abhorred;
But oh, if Christ and heaven be thine,
How sweet the accents, how divine!
Be this thy chief, thy only care,
Thy high pursuit, thy ardent prayer --
An interest in thy Saviour's blood,
Thy pardon sealed, thy peace with God.
This page Copyright © 2003 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the King James Version. This article appears on the site: http://www.peterwade.com/.
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