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Christ Is All
by Stephen Tyng
The spiritual condition of a man in Christ, I have proposed to consider, in several of the attributes and facts which distinguish it. The first view of this condition which I have selected for our consideration, is as an useful position for profitable retrospection. From his present point of attainment in grace, the man who is in Christ looks back, upon what he was by nature, and upon the course of folly and sin which he then pursued; and also, upon the way through which God has led him by His grace to forgiveness and hope, and upon the mercies which he has already received at the Lord's hands. The first of these views, is of old things which have passed away. The second is of the beginnings of things which have been made new. The first we have already considered. The second comes before us for our present meditation. We are now to consider the man in Christ, as contemplating some of the new things which God has been pleased to do for his soul.
The whole of the present life may be considered, and well described, as but the beginnings of the things which are made new for the child of God. It is all childhood in reference to eternity. We see not yet what we shall be. The whole of the present work of grace for man, is but the earnest, of the riches of divine glory in Christ Jesus. The whole attainments of Christian character here, are but the commencement of the eternal character of God's redeemed. And when the man in Christ has passed through the whole of his mortal life, and looks back upon all its scenes, from the margin of the grave, he sees in the whole retrospect, but the commencement of a work, which God will carry on for him, throughout an everlasting state. Upon this commencement of a divine work for his soul, we suppose the man in Christ now to look back. The facts which he sees in it, are various. The feelings also with which he looks upon them, differ very widely. Some of these facts and feelings we will successively consider.
He looks back upon the first awakening of his soul from his natural state of guilt, with ardent gratitude. He thinks of the time, when the momentous concerns of religion, as they are presented in the Gospel, first really arrested his attention. This awakening of his mind, to things eternal and unseen, was wholly new to him. Perhaps it was equally unexpected; -- he was thinking of nothing less. God looked upon him in His amazing kindness, when he was perishing without the least concern for himself. The instrument which was appointed to arouse him, may have been severe and painful. But the grace which directed it, and which applied it so successfully to his soul, is worthy of all gratitude and praise. The views of himself, not only of his outward conduct, but of his inward heart and life, which were opened to his mind, were repulsive and dreadful. But they were necessary, and they proved to be wholesome. The pride of his glory was stained. His boasting spirit was overcome. His vain conceits were broken in the air. Every aspect of his own character, became to him humbling and distressing. He saw and felt that there was no good thing in him.
At the time, perhaps, the operation seemed to be a hard and unreasonable one. But now he sees its worth, and the mercy which ordered it. He looks up to God with unspeakable gratitude, that he was willing to have mercy upon a creature so wholly unworthy; -- that he did not suffer him to press on in his chosen course of ruin; -- that he did not leave him to fill himself with his own devices. He now sees, that the excited feelings of that period of his life were not disproportioned to the occasion which called them out. He has now, far deeper views of his own sinfulness, than he had then. And in reflecting upon that period, he wonders that he felt so little, rather than feels surprise that he mourned so much. Upon this event of his life, he daily reflects with thankfulness and praise. He feels that God hath showed forth in him, a pattern of long-suffering.
Above all the blessings of a munificent Providence, and the tenderness of his daily preservation, he places the great love which rescued him from misery and sin, and would not suffer him to remain unmoved and hardened in guilt. He sees that this love of God was boundless in its operation. Though he resisted the divine grace, and drew back from the first exhibitions which were made to him, of his own depravity and hardness of heart, the divine hand still led him on, and brought him at last, a willing captive, to his present state of security and peace. He now calls upon his soul, to bless the Lord, who had mercy upon him, when he was sinning ignorantly in unbelief. And he gives the whole glory for this work of mercy, to Him who pitied him, and sought him when he was far off, and brought him nigh by the blood of Christ.
He looks back upon the first devotion of himself to the service of his Redeeming Lord, with a single determination to adhere to this covenant, to the end of life. Long had divine mercy called upon him in vain. No earnestness of admonition, no tenderness of appeal, could persuade him, to take upon himself the easy yoke and burden, of union with Christ, and obedience to Him. But when the hour came, that he was made willing to enter upon the heavenly path, he united himself affectionately unto his Lord, in an everlasting covenant, never to be forgotten. And now he recalls this solemn dedication of himself to the service of his Lord, as the happiest moment of his life.
He thinks of his secret submission to God, -- of the hour, when his heart first really accepted the perfect righteousness which was offered him in the Gospel, and gave up its affections to God, in a voluntary and cheerful devotion to His will. He feels it to have been a privilege, as well as a duty; -- honourable and filled with comfort. It was honourable, because he was then truly exalted to be a child of God, and an heir of the kingdom which He had promised. It was filled with comfort, because it removed from him the burden of his guilt, and gave him peace in reconciliation with the God whom he had offended by such repeated transgressions. He calls to mind, the first public devotion of himself to the service of God, in the ordinances of the sanctuary; when, perhaps, in baptism, he entered into the door of the fold; -- or when in confirmation, he publicly renewed and established his covenant with his Great Redeemer; -- or when at the Lord's table, he again recorded his obligations to his crucified Lord, and determined to be his alone.
He is not ashamed, that he has thus openly confessed the name of Christ, and arrayed himself upon the Lord's side. He remembers his former state of life, but with no desire to return to it. He has put away childish things. All his salvation and all his desire are in Christ, -- and he presses forward to the measure of a perfect man in Christ Jesus. He would hold fast that which he has attained, and glory in the riches of a Saviour's love, unto his life's end. He ceases not to give praise to God, who has called him by His grace to this unspeakable privilege, of forsaking all to follow Him. He feels that he then only began to live, when he began to live for Him who had bought him with a price. This was the actual birth-day of his real life. And it is his single and fixed purpose to maintain, even unto death, the covenant of service which he has thus made; -- and to be ever, a faithful soldier and servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He looks back upon his limited progress in grace and religious knowledge, with sincere humiliation. He thinks of what he might have been amidst the abundant privileges which he has enjoyed. He contrasts with that, what he acknowledges himself still to be. He confesses, that whereas he ought to have been a teacher of others, he has often need, that some one teach him again, what be the first principles of the Gospel of Christ; and he is still such an one, as has need of milk, not of meat, being so unskilful in the way of righteousness. He finds so many unholy habits of thought and feeling, still unsubdued, -- so much selfishness and pride still unhumbled, -- so much forgetfulness of God still marking his days; that he is often ready to exclaim, "If I am a child of God, why am I thus? -- why is this insensibility to religious joys? -- this restless chase after earthly vanities? -- this partial preparation for eternity? -- this clinging to time and sense?"
He cannot but feel himself deeply humbled, over such a retrospection as this. Were there not a surer foundation for hope, than his own character and holiness affords, he would be ready to despair of ever entering into rest. There is nothing within himself which gives him comfort, amidst all these evident deficiencies of character, but the witness that God has really given to him, the Spirit of adoption, the desire for obedience, and the determination to persevere in His service unto the end. Though humbled by a consideration of his own actually sinful character, he is conscious of a single purpose to strive to enter into the strait gate, and to endure unto the end, that through grace he may be saved. His holiness of character has in fact, every day increased, and he has been continually growing more conformed to God. But his views of his own sinfulness; his quick and tender sense of personal guilt; and his apprehensions of the holiness of the character and the law of God, have also so much advanced, that he feels himself in the end, far more vile and unworthy, than he was at first. He casts himself wholly and simply at the feet of Jesus, to be saved according to the good pleasure of His grace, freely by His blood. In himself, there dwelleth no good thing. His own righteousness, is worthless and unclean. And he feels himself to be excluded from all boasting, but in the Lord alone.
He looks back upon the partial benefits which he has conferred upon mankind, with the deep conviction that he has failed much in his duty to others. The heavenly treasure which has been placed in his hands, was for distribution to them. The light which he has received, was to have been set upon a candlestick. Perishing sinners on every side were looking to him for spiritual benefits. The heathen world, like a thirsty land, was gasping for the grace, for the dispensation of which he has been made an instrument. How many precious souls might have been saved and blessed, if he had acted up to the measure of his responsibility, he fears to think. But when he realizes, how few have actually been blessed through him, -- how little he has really done to promote the salvation of mankind, -- how often, and how much, selfishness and indolence, and pride and covetousness, have come in to hinder his desires and his purposes to do good, -- he cannot resist the solemn conviction, that he ought to have done far more, for the glory of God, and for the spiritual benefit of mankind. His time, and powers, and money, ought all to have been the Lord's.
He trembles to think, how much he has hid his talent under a bushel, or buried it in the earth. His only hope in this retrospect of life, is that God may have made him an instrument of blessing, beyond his own knowledge or conception. And if he shall meet in glory, a single child of man, who can say, "I owe my salvation under God, to you," -- he feels that the remembrance of such a fact, will be the brightest spot in the deeds of life, on which his memory can rest. The usefulness of a Christian to others, and in this, the glory that he shall bring to God, is the great purpose of his continued life. Certainly this usefulness may be extended, far beyond his own opportunities of knowledge or observation; and he is not always to determine the measure of the results, merely by the facts which are open to his notice. But no Christian can forget this purpose of life, or be indifferent to its attainment. And it will always be, on the one side, a subject for thankfulness, when God has seemed to own, and to bless his efforts; and on the other, of humiliation and sorrow, that he has appeared to do so little, that can be for the divine glory. The man in Christ sees far more of his defects than of his faithfulness in duty, in this retrospection. He has done far less than he has desired, -- and he looks back upon the whole view of himself with self-condemnation and sorrow.
But amidst all his own unworthiness and guilt, and the unprofitableness of his Christian course and character, he looks back upon the wonderful grace of God which has thus far held him up, with confidence that it will keep him to the end. His hope rests in no degree upon his own personal character. It is fixed wholly upon the infinite sufficiency of the divine provisions, the everlasting merit of the Saviour, and the unfailing power of His Spirit. But resting here, it has among its comforting attendants and evidences, the recollections of what God has been pleased to do for him, through the riches of His grace. God was mercifully pleased to pluck his feet out of the net; -- to set him upon a rock; -- to teach him to sing a new song of praise to Him, -- the song of Moses and the Lamb. When he was an enemy to God, God reconciled him unto himself, through the blood of His Son.
This precious fact becomes clear to his mind, as he discerns the blessed testimonies which are brought out to his view, that his conversion of heart was not by his own will, or by the will of man, -- but by the power of God. The all-powerful grace of which he was then made the subject, has never forsaken him. It rescued him then from condemnation, -- and it has sustained him in all his conflicts, -- comforted him in his trials, -- given him joy in the midst of suffering, -- and inspired him with a continually rejoicing hope. This grace is all-sufficient, and everlasting.It supplies every want, and removes and overcomes every difficulty. It enables him to confide in the assurance, that God who has begun a good work in him, will carry it on, in His own way, and to His own glory.
With this habitual recollection of mercies which are passed, he reposes with confidence and joy, in the favour and acceptance of the Most High God, who hath led him all his life long, unto this day, and who will still keep his eyes from tears, and his feet from falling; and will give him an inheritance of glory in the land of the living. All his comfort and hope are in this mighty power of God, covenanted for his salvation. The Saviour who loved him when he was dead in sin, exercises an everlasting love. And he cheerfully renounces all other things, for this single, all-sufficient ground of hope. That which God has already done for him, becomes the earnest, and the assurance to his mind, of what he purposes to do for him forever. If when he was an enemy to God, he was reconciled by the death of Christ, much more, being reconciled, he shall be saved by His life. In this humble, but joyful hope, he presses forward, praising God for all that is past; -- giving Him all the glory, for the greatness of His love; -- and committing every thing for time and for eternity, to His hands.
These are some of the retrospections of the man in Christ. Self is humbled under the burden of conscious sin; -- and personal excellence, as a foundation for hope, is entirely renounced. God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is adopted and received by his soul, as his own God, and rejoiced and confided in, as a source of comfort entirely unbounded. The old things which belong to his state of nature, have passed entirely away. The new things which belong to his state of grace, are encouragements to his hope, that he shall be kept even unto the end. With sincere gratitude, he thinks of the hour of his awakening from sin, and of the day of his dedication unto God. With humiliation, he reflects upon his partial attainments in religious character, and his limited efforts for the spiritual benefit of other men. With humble joy, he calls to mind, the love which has pardoned him, and endured with him, and brought him on thus far in a path of peace.
All these retrospections are most profitable to him. They teach him where he may rest his hope, and where he must avoid all confidence. They bring him completely out of himself, and every thing which is his own. They show him how truly and really "Christ is all;" -- and cast him entirely upon that grace, which is all-sufficient and unfailing. They teach him how completely every thing is laid up for him, in the power and grace of one Lord, in whom all fulness dwells, and from whom all mercy and spiritual life proceed. It is a lesson hard to acquire, but one most precious when it has been learned, -- to live out of ourselves, in spiritual dependance, entirely upon the presence and all-sufficiency of our Glorious Redeemer. And every reflection upon his own life, the more thoroughly convinces the man in Christ, that this is his only course of peace, or safety, or success. It is thus, that retrospection is made a blessing; and experience teaches him a wisdom, which can in no other way be obtained.
And now, that we have taken these views of the condition of the man who is in Christ, allow me to ask, my readers, -- how far do you identify in them, your own experience and state? Permit me to urge upon you, a more simple and uniform cultivation and exercise of the principles which are involved in them. Realize how certainly you are nothing, and less than nothing, and strive to live with entire self-renunciation, upon Him who has accomplished every thing for you, and is alone able, to sanctify and to save you. This is a spiritual exercise, which you never fully learn, and which you cannot learn too fully. There is no magnifying beyond the certainty of its truth, the fact, that in all your spiritual interests, welfare and prospects, "Christ is all." Seek to be taught it by the Holy Spirit, more and more completely, as you make these inevitable reflections upon life past. Make it the practical fact in your experience, as well as the foundation of your views of doctrine, that all your fulness dwells in Christ.
Allow me to urge you all, to cast away every self-righteous feeling and view, and to enter into the privileges, and possess the benefits, which are freely offered you in the Lord Jesus Christ. Intrust yourselves with entire confidence to Him, as the life and light of your souls, and you will never find yourselves straitened or disappointed there. Consider how much the simplicity of the Gospel condemns those who reject it. God brings these mercies to your very doors. He invites you to partake of them and live. He urges you not to lose a participation in their rich provisions. He warns you that their rejection will be your increased condemnation. What excuse can you offer for rejecting them? You may enjoy them all. Why do you not? Why are not all who read these lines, voluntary and sincere professors of the Gospel of the Son of God, -- happy partakers of His promises and inheritance? Surely from no want of conviction of duty, -- from no want of ability, or opportunity, to follow out this conviction; -- from no want of external privileges and means. But from a strange perverseness of will, -- an alienation of affections from God, -- an aversion to His government, -- and to the plan of His salvation. It is an aversion which contends with all your convictions, and overcomes all the constraint of your sense of need. Even while you feel the danger, it is leading many of you into captivity to ruin, -- a ruin, from which you will find no future means of escape. I beseech you therefore, stir up yourselves, to take hold of God's offered mercy, and in your day of visitation, to make your calling and election sure. The Saviour stands ready to receive and bless you. He will heal your backslidings, and cover your unrighteousness. He will give you grace and glory, -- and no good thing will He withhold, as your heritage forever.
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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