EFFECTUAL APPLICATION OF CHRIST TO THE SOUL
1, “The general Nature of effectual Application stated” (by John Flavel)
John Flavel (1628-1691) was a Presbyterian minister at
England, whose teaching is still
highly valued as most helpful and strengthening. The son of a minister who died
in prison for his noncomformity, John Flavel knew what it was to suffer
hardship, and in his life he showed the evangelical graces of a strong man
of God. Under his influence, a union of the Presbyterian and Congregational
(Independent) churches in his area was accomplished.
Cor. 1: 30
of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and
righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.
that enquires what is the just value and worth of Christ, asks a question
which puts all the men on earth, and angels in heaven, to an everlasting
highest attainment of our knowledge in this life, is to know, that himself and
his love do pass knowledge, Eph. 3: 19.
how excellent soever Christ is in himself, what treasures of righteousness
soever lie in his blood, and whatever joy, peace, and ravishing comforts,
spring up to men out of his incarnation, humiliation, and exaltation, they all
give down their distinct benefits and comforts to them, in the way of
never was any wound healed by a prepared, but unapplied plaister. Never any
body warmed by the most costly garment made, but not put on: Never any heart
refreshed and comforted by the richest cordial compounded, but not received:
Nor from the beginning of the world was it ever known, that a poor deceived,
condemned, polluted, miserable sinner, was actually delivered out of that
woeful state, until of God, Christ was made unto him, wisdom and
righteousness, sanctification and redemption.
look as the condemnation of the first Adam passeth not to us, except (as by
generation) we are his; so grace and remission pass not from the second Adam
to us, except (as by regeneration) we are his. Adam's sin hurts none but those
that are in him: and Christ's blood profits none but those that are in him:
How great a weight therefore does there hang upon the effectual application of
Christ to the souls of men! And what is there in the whole world so awfully
solemn, so greatly important, as this is! Such is the strong consolation
resulting from it, that the apostle, in this context, offers it to the
believing Corinthians, as a superabundant recompence for the despicable
meanness, and baseness of their outward condition in this world, of which he
had just before spoken in ver. 27, 28. telling them, though the world
condemned them as vile, foolish, and weak, yet "of God Christ is made
unto them wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption."
which words we have an enumeration of the chief privileges of believers, and
an account of the method whereby they come to be invested with them.
Their privileges are enumerated, namely, wisdom, righteousness,
sanctification, and redemption, mercies of inestimable value in themselves,
and such as respect a fourfold misery lying upon sinful man, viz. ignorance,
guilt, pollution, and the whole train of miserable consequences and effects,
let in upon the nature of men, yea, the best and holiest of men, by sin.
man is not only deep in misery, but grossly ignorant, both that he is so, and
how to recover himself from it: Sin has left him at once senseless of his
state, and at a perfect loss about the true remedy.
cure this, Christ is made to him wisdom, not only by improvement of those
treasures of wisdom that are in himself; for the benefit of such souls as are
united to him, as an head, consulting the good of his own members; but also,
by imparting his wisdom to them by the Spirit of illumination, whereby they
come to discern both their sin and danger; as also the true way of their
recovery from both, through the application of Christ to their souls by faith.
alas! simple illumination does but increase our burden, and exasperate our
misery as long as sin in the guilt of it is either imputed to our persons unto
condemnation, or reflected by our consciences in a way of accusation.
design therefore to remedy and heal this sore evil, Christ is made of
God unto us righteousness, complete and perfect righteousness, whereby our
obligation to punishment is dissolved, and thereby a solid foundation for a
well-settled peace of conscience firmly established.
but although the removing of guilt from our persons and consciences be an
inestimable mercy, yet alone it cannot make us completely happy: For though a
man should never be damned for sin, yet what is it less than hell upon earth,
to be under the dominion and pollution of every base lust? It is misery enough
to be daily defiled by sin, though a man should never be damned for it.
complete therefore the happiness of the redeemed; Christ is not only made of
God unto them wisdom and righteousness, the one curing our ignorance, the
other our guilt; but he is made sanctification also, to relieve us against the
dominion and pollutions of our corruptions: "He comes both by water and
by blood, not by blood only, but by water also," 1 John 5: 6. purging as
well as pardoning: How complete and perfect a cure is Christ!
yet something is required beyond all this to make our happiness perfect and
entire wanting nothing; and that is the removal of those doleful effects and
consequences of sin, which (not withstanding all the fore-mentioned privileges
and mercies) still lie upon the souls and bodies of illuminated, justified,
and sanctified persons. For even with the best and holiest of men, what swarms
of vanity, loads of deadness, and fits of unbelief, do daily appear in, and
oppress their souls! to the embittering of all the comforts of life to them?
And how many diseases, deformities, and pains oppress their bodies, which
daily boulder away by them, till they fall into the grave by death, even as
the bodies of other men do, who never received such privileges from Christ as
they do? For if "Christ be in us (as the apostle speaks, Rom. 8: 10 .)
the body is dead, because of sin:" Sanctification exempts us not from
from all these, and whatsoever else, the fruits and consequences of sin,
Christ is redemption to his people also: This seals up the sum of mercies:
This so completes the happiness of the saints, that it leaves nothing to
four, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, take in all that
is necessary or desirable, to make a soul truly and perfectly blessed.
We have here the method and way, by which the elect come to be invested with
these excellent privileges: the account whereof the apostle gives us in these
words, "Who of God is made unto us," in which expression, four
things are remarkable.
That Christ and his benefits go inseparably and undividedly together: it is
Christ himself who is made all this unto us: we can have no saving benefit
separate and apart from the person of Christ: many would willingly receive his
privileges, who will not receive his person; but it cannot be; if we will have
one, we must take the other too: Yea, we must accept his person first, and
then his benefits: as it is in the marriage covenant, so it is here.
that Christ with his benefits must be personally and particularly applied to
us, before we can receive any actual, saving privilege by him; he must be
[made unto us] i.e. particularly applied to us: as a sum of money becomes, or
is made the ransom and liberty of a captive, when it is not only promised, but
paid down in his name, and legally applied for that use and end. When Christ
died, the ransom was prepared, the sum laid down; but yet the elect continue
still in sin and misery, notwithstanding, till by effectual calling it be
actually applied to their persons, and then they are made free, Rom. 5: 10-11.
reconciled by Christ's death, by whom "we have now received the
That this application of Christ is the work of God, and not of man: "Of
God he is made unto us:" The same hand that prepared it, must also apply
it, or else we perish, notwithstanding all that the Father has done in
contriving, and appointing, and all that the Son has done in executing, and
accomplishing the design thus far. And this actual application is the work of
the Spirit, by a singular appropriation.
and lastly, This expression imports the suitableness of Christ, to the
necessities of sinners; what they want, he is made to them; and indeed, as
money answers all things, and is convertible into meat, drink, raiment,
physic, or what else our bodily necessities do require; so Christ is
virtually, and eminently all that the necessities of our souls require; bread
to the hungry, and clothing to the naked soul. In a word, God prepared and
furnished him on purpose to answer all our wants, which fully suits the
apostle's sense, when he saith, "Who of God is made unto us wisdom and
righteousness, sanctification and redemption." The sum of all is,
Doct. That the lord Jesus Christ, with all his precious benefits,
becomes ours, by God's special and effectual application.
is a twofold application of our redemption, one primary, the other Secondary:
The former is the act of God the Father, applying it to Christ our surety, and
virtually to us in him: the latter is the act of the Holy Spirit, personally
and actually applying it to us in the world of conversion: The former has the
respect and relation of an example, model, or pattern to this; and this is
produced and wrought by the virtue of that. What was done upon the person of
Christ, was not only virtually done upon us, considered in him as a common
public representative person, in which sense, we are said to die with him, and
live with him, to be crucified with him, and buried with him, but it was also
intended for a platform, or idea, of what is to be done by the Spirit,
actually upon our souls and bodies, in our single persons. As he died for sin,
so the Spirit applying his death to us in the work of mortification, causes us
to die to sin, by the virtue of his death: And as he was quickened by the
Spirit, and raised unto life, so the Spirit applying unto us the life of
Christ, causeth us to live, by spiritual vivification. Now this personal,
secondary, and actual application of redemption to us by the Spirit, in his
sanctifying work, is that which I am engaged here to discuss and open; which I
shall do in these following propositions.
1. The application of Christ to us, is not only comprehensive of our
justification, but of all these works of the Spirit which are known to us in
scripture by the names of regeneration, vocation, sanctification, and
all these terms have some small respective differences among themselves, yet
they are all included in this general, the applying and putting on of Christ,
Rom. 13: 14 . "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ."
expresses those supernatural, divine, new qualities, infused by the Spirit
into the soul, which are the principles of all holy actions.
expresses the terms from which, and to which, the soul moves, when the Spirit
works savingly upon it, under the gospel call.
notes an holy dedication of heart and life to God: our becoming the temples of
the living, God, separate from all profane sinful practices, to the Lord's
only use and service.
denotes the great change itself, which the Spirit causeth upon the soul,
turning it by a sweet irresistible efficacy from the power of sin and Satan,
to God in Christ.
all these are imported in, and done by the application of Christ to our souls:
for when once the efficacy of Christ's death, and the virtue of his
resurrection, come to take place upon the heart of any man, he cannot but turn
from sin to God, and become a new creature, living and acting by new
principles and rules. So the apostle observes, 1 Thess. 1: 5, 6. speaking of
the effect of this work of the Spirit upon that people, "Our gospel
(saith he) came not to you in word only, but in power; and in the Holy
Ghost:" There was the effectual application of Christ to them. "And
you became followers of us, and of the Lord," ver. 6. there was their
effectual call. "And ye turned from dumb idols to serve the living and
true God, ver. 9. there was their conversion. "So that ye were ensamples
to all that believe," ver. 9. there was their life of sanctification or
dedication to God. So that all these are comprehended in effectual
2. The application of Christ to the souls of men is that great project and
design of God in this world, for the accomplishment whereof all the ordinances
and all the officers of the gospel are appointed and continued in the world.
the gospel expressly declared to be its direct end, and the great business of
all its officers, Eph. 4: 11, 12. "And he gave some apostles, and some
prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers; till we all
come in the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God; to a
perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ,"
i.e. the great aim and scope at all Christ's ordinances and officers, are to
bring men into union with Christ, and so build them up to perfection in him;
or to unite them to, and confirm them in Christ: and when it shall have
finished this design, then shall the whole frame of gospel-ordinances be taken
down, and all its officers disbanded. "The kingdom (i.e. this present śconomy,
manner, and form of government) shall be delivered up," 1 Cor. 15: 24 .
What are ministers, but the bridegroom's friends, ambassadors for God, to
beseech men to be reconciled? When therefore all the elect are brought home in
a reconciled state in Christ, when the marriage of the Lamb is come, our work
and office expire together.
3. Such is the importance and great concernment of the personal application of
Christ to us by the Spirit, that whatsoever the Father has done in the
contrivance, or the Son has done in the accomplishment of our redemption, is
all unavailable and ineffectual to our salvation without this.
is confessedly true, that God's good pleasure appointing us from eternity to
salvation, is, in its kind, a most full and sufficient impulsive cause of our
salvation, and every way able (for so much as it is concerned) to produce its
effect. And Christ's humiliation and sufferings are a most complete and
sufficient meritorious cause of our salvation, to which nothing can be added
to make it more apt, and able to procure our salvation, than it already is:
yet neither the one nor the other can actually save any soul, without the
Spirit's application of Christ to it; for where there are divers social
causes, or concauses, necessary to produce one effect, there the effect cannot
be produced until the last cause has wrought. Thus it is here, the Father has
elected, and the Son has redeemed; but until the Spirit (who is the last
cause) has wrought his part also, we cannot be saved. For he comes in the
Father's and in the Son's name and authority, to put the last hand to the work
of our salvation, by bringing all the fruits of election and redemption home
to our souls in this work at effectual vocation. Hence the apostle, 1 Pet. 1:
2. noting the order of causes in their operations, for the bringing about of
our salvation, thus states it, "elect, according to the foreknowledge of
God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, and
sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." Here you find God's election
and Christ's blood, the two great causes of salvation, and yet neither of
these alone, nor both together can save us: there must be added the
sanctification of the Spirit, by which God's decree is executed; and the
sprinkling (i. e. the personal application of Christ's blood) as well as the
shedding of it, before we can have the saving benefit of either of the former
4. The application of Christ, with his saving benefits, is exactly of the same
extent and latitude with the Father's election, and the Son's intention in
dying, and cannot possibly be extended to one soul farther.
he did predestinate, them he also called," Rom. 8: 30. and Acts 13: 48 .
"As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed;" 2 Tim. 1: 9.
"Who has saved and called us with an holy calling, not according to our
works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Jesus
Christ, before the foundation of the world."
Father, Son, and Spirit, (betwixt whom was the council of peace) work out
their design in a perfect harmony and consent: as there was no jar in their
council, so there can be none in the execution of it: those whom the Father,
before all time, did chose; they, and they only, are the persons, whom the
Son, when the fulness of time for the execution of that decree was come, died
for, John 17: 6. "I have manifested thy name unto the men, which thou
gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them me;"
and ver. 19. "For their sakes I sanctify myself;" i.e. consecrate,
devote, or set myself apart for a sacrifice for them. And those for whom
Christ died, are the persons to whom the Spirit effectually applies the
benefits and purchases of his blood: he comes in the name of the Father and
Son. "But the world cannot receive him, for it neither sees, nor knows
him," John 14: 17 . "They that are not of Christ's sheep, believe
not," John 10: 26.
has indeed a fulness of saving power, but the dispensation thereof is limited
by the Father's will; therefore he tells us, Mat. 20: 23. " It is not
mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my
Father." In which words he no ways denies his authority, to give glory as
well as grace; he only shows that in the dispensation proper to him, as
Mediator, he was limited by his Father's will and counsel.
thus also are the dispensations of grace by the Spirit, in like manner,
limited, both by the counsel and will of the Father and Son. For as he
proceeds from them, so he acts in the administration proper to him, by
commission from both. John 14: 26. "The Holy Ghost whom the Father will
send in my name:" and as he comes forth into the world by this joint
commission, so his dispensations are limited in his commission; for it is
said, John 16: 13 . "He shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he
shall hear, that shall he speak," i.e. He shall in all things act
according to his commission, which the Father and I have given him.
Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do, John 5: 19. And
the Spirit can do nothing of himself; but what he hears from the Father and
Son; and it is impossible it should be otherwise, considering not only the
unity of their nature, but also of their will and design. So that you see the
application of Christ, and benefits by the Spirit, are commensurable with the
Father's secret counsel, and the Son's design in dying, which are the rule,
model, and pattern of the Spirit's working.
5. The application of Christ to souls, by the regenerating work of the Spirit,
is that which makes the first internal difference and distinction among men.
is very true, that in respect of God's fore-knowledge and purpose, there was a
distinction betwixt one man and another, before any man had a being, one was
taken, another left: and with respect to the death of Christ, there is a great
difference betwixt one and another; he laid down his life for the sheep, he
prayed for them, and not for the world; but all this while, as to any relative
change of state, or real change of temper, they are upon a level with the rest
of the miserable world. The elect themselves are "by nature the children
of wrath, even as others," Eph. 2: 3. And to the same purpose the apostle
tells the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 6: 11. (when he had given in that black bill,
describing the most lewd, profligate, abominable wretches in the world, men
whose practices did stink in the very nostrils of nature, and were able to
make the more sober Heathens blush; after this he tells the Corinthians)
"And such were some of you, but ye are washed," &c. q. d. look,
these were your companions once: as they are, you lately were.
work of the Spirit does not only evidence and manifest that difference which
God's election has made between man and man, as the apostle speaks, 1 Thes. 1:
4, 5. But it also makes a twofold difference itself; namely in state and
temper, whereby they visibly differ, not only from other men, but also from
themselves; after this work, though a man be the "who", yet not the
"what" he was. This work of the spirit makes us new creatures,
namely; for quality and temper, 2 Cor. 5: 17. "If any man be in Christ,
he is a new creature; old things are past away, behold, all things are become
6. The application of Christ, by the work of regeneration, is that which yield
unto men all the sensible sweetness and refreshing comforts that they have in
Christ, and in all that he has done, suffered, or purchased for sinners.
unsanctified person may relish the natural sweetness of the creature, as well
as he that is sanctified; he may also seem to relish and taste some sweetness
in the delicious promises and discoveries of the gospel, by a misapplication
of them to himself. But this is like the joy of a beggar, dreaming he is a
king; but he awakes and finds himself a beggar still: but for the rational,
solid, and genuine delights and comforts of religion, no man tastes them, till
this work of the Spirit has first passed upon his soul: it is an enclosed
pleasure, a stranger intermeddles not with it. "The white stone, and the
new name," (denoting the pleasant results and fruits of justification and
adoption) "no man knows but he that receives it," Rev. 2: 7. There
are all those things wanton, in the unsanctified (though elect) soul, that
should capacitate and enable it to relish the sweetness of Christ and
religion, namely, propriety, evidence, and suitableness of spirit.
is the sweetest part of any excellency; therefore Luther was wont to say, that
the sweetness of the gospel lay mostly in pronouns, as me, my, thy, &c.
who loved [me] and gave himself for me, Gal. 2: 20 . Christ Jesus [my] Lord,
Phil. 3: 18. So Matt. 9: 2. Son, be of good cheer, [thy] sins are forgiven.
Take away propriety, and you deflower the very gospel of its beauty and
deliciousness: and as propriety, so
is requisite to joy and comfort; yea, so necessary, that even interest and
propriety afford no sensible sweetness without it. For as to comfort, it is
all one not to appear, and not to be. If I am registered in the book of life,
and know it not, what comfort can my name there afford me? Besides, to
capacitate a soul for the sweetness and comfort of Christ there is also an
agreeable temper of spirit required; for how can Christ be sweet to that man's
soul, whose thoughts reluctate, decline, or nauseate so holy and pure an
object? Now, all these requisites being the proper effects and fruits of the
Spirit's sanctifying operations upon us, it is beyond controversy, that the
consolations of Christ cannot be tasted, until the application of Christ be
7. The application of Christ to the soul effectually, though it be so far
wrought in the first saving work of the Spirit, as truly to unite the soul to
Christ, and save it from the danger of perishing; yet it is a work gradually
advancing in the believer's soul, whilst it abides on this side heaven and
is true, indeed, that Christ is perfectly and completely applied to the soul
in the first act for righteousness. "Justification being a relative
change, properly admits no degrees, but is perfected together, and at once, in
one only act; though as to its manifestation, sense, and effects, it has
various degrees." But the application of Christ to us, for wisdom and
sanctification, is not perfected in one single act, but rises by many, and
slow degrees to its just perfection.
thought we are truly said to be come to Christ when we first believe, John 6:
35. yet the soul after that is still coming to him by farther acts of faith, 1
Pet. 2: 4. "To whom [coming] as unto a living stone;" the participle
notes a continued motion, by which the soul gains ground, and still gets
nearer and nearer to Christ; growing still more inwardly acquainted with him.
The knowledge of Christ grows upon the soul as the morning light, from its
first spring to the perfect day, Prov. 4: 18. Every grace of the Spirit grows,
if not sensibly, yet really: for it is in discerning the growth of
sanctification, as it is in discerning the growth of plants, which we perceive
rather crevisse, quam crescere; to have grown, rather than grow. And as it
thrives in the soul, by deeper radications of the habits, and more promptitude
and spirituality in the acting; so Christ, and the soul proportionally, close
more and more inwardly and efficaciously, till at last it is wholly swallowed
up in Christ's full and perfect enjoyment.
8. Lastly, Although the several privileges and benefits before mentioned are
all true and really bestowed with Christ upon believers, yet they are not
communicated to them in one and the same day and manner; but differently and
divers, as their respective
four illustrious benefits are conveyed from Christ to us in three different
ways and methods; his righteousness is made ours by imputation: his wisdom and
sanctification by renovation: his redemption by our glorification.
know the communication of Christ's righteousness to us by imputations is not
only denied, but scoffed at by Papists; who own no righteousness, but what is
(at least) confounded with that which is inherent in us; and for imputative
(blasphemously stiled by them putative righteousness, they flatly deny it, and
look upon it as a most absurd doctrine, every where endeavouring to load it
with these and such like absurdities, That if God imputes Christ's
righteousness to the believer, and accepts what Christ has performed for him,
as if he had performed it himself; then we may be accounted as righteous as
Christ. Then we may be the redeemers of the world. False and groundless
consequences; as if a man should say, my debt is paid by my surety, therefore
I am as rich as he. "When we say the righteousness of Christ is made ours
by imputation, we think not that it is made ours according in its universal
value, but according to our particular necessity: not to make others
righteous, but to make us so: not that we have the formal intrinsical
righteousness of Christ in us, as it is in him, but a relative righteousness,
which makes us righteous, even as he is righteous; not as to the quantity, but
as to the truth of it: nor is it imputed to us, as though Christ designed to
make us the causes of salvation to others, but the subjects of salvation,
ourselves;" it is inhesively in him, communicatively it becomes ours, by
imputation, the sin of the first Adam becomes ours, and the same way the
righteousness of the second Adam becomes ours, Rom. 5: 17. This way the
Redeemer became sin for us, and this way we are made the righteousness of God
in him, 2 Cor. 5: 21. This way Abraham the father of believers was justified,
therefore this way all believers, the children of Abraham, must be justified
also, Rom. 4: 22, 23. And thus is Christ's righteousness made ours.
in conveying, and communicating his wisdom and sanctification, he takes
another method, for this is not imputed, but really imparted to us by the
illuminating and regenerating work of the Spirit: these are graces really
inherent in us: our righteousness comes from Christ as a surety but our
holiness comes from him as a quickening head, sending vital influences unto
all his members.
these gracious habits being subjected and seated in the souls of poor
imperfect creatures, whose corruptions abide and work in the very same
faculties where grace has its residence; it cannot be, that our sanctification
should be so perfect and complete, as our justification is, which inheres only
in Christ. See Gal. 5: 17. Thus are righteousness and sanctification
communicated and made ours: but then,
redemption, that is to say, absolute and plenary deliverance from all the sad
remains, effects, and consequences of sin, both upon soul and body; this is
made ours, (or, to keep to the terms) Christ is made redemption to us by
glorification; then, and not before, are these miserable effects removed; we
put off these together with the body. So that look, as justification cures the
guilt of sin, and sanctification the dominion of sin, so glorification
removes, together with its existence and being, all those miseries which it
let in (as at a flood-gate) upon our whole man, Eph. 5: 26, 27.
thus of God, Christ is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, sanctification
and redemption; namely, by imputation, regeneration, and glorification.
shall next improve the point in some useful inferences.
1. Learn from hence, what a naked, destitute, and empty thing, a poor sinner
is, in his natural unregenerate state.
is one that naturally and inherently has neither wisdom, nor righteousness,
sanctification nor redemption; all these must come from without himself, even
from Christ, who is made all this to a sinner, or else he must eternally
no creature (in respect of external abilities) comes under more natural
weakness into the world than man, naked, empty, and more shiftless and
helpless than any other creature; so it is with his soul, yea, much more than
so: all our excellencies are borrowed excellencies, no reason therefore to be
proud of any of them, 1 Cor. 4: 7. "What hast thou that thou hast not
received? Now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst
not received it?" q. d. that intolerable insolence and vanity would it be
for a man that wears the rich and costly robe of Christ's righteousness, in
which there is not one thread of his own spinning, but all made by free-grace,
and not by free-will, to jet proudly up and down the world in it, as if
himself had made it, and he were beholden to none for it? O man! thine
excellencies, whatever they are, are borrowed from Christ, they oblige thee to
him, but he can be no more obliged to thee, who wearest them, than the sun is
obliged to him that borrows its light, or the fountain to him that draws its
water for his use and benefit.
it has ever been the care of holy men, when they have viewed their own
gracious principles, or best performances, still to disclaim themselves, and
own free-grace as the sole author of all. Thus holy Paul, viewing the
principles of divine life in himself, (the richest gift bestowed upon man in
this world by Jesus Christ) how does he renounce himself, and deny the least
part of the praise and glory as belonging to him, Gal. 2: 20. "Now I
live, yet not I; but Christ liveth in me": and so for the best duties
that ever he performed for God: (and what mere man ever did more for God?) Yet
when, in a just and necessary defence, he was constrained to mention them, 1
Cor. 15: 10. how carefully is the like [Yet not I] presently added? "I
laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which
was with me."
then, let the sense of your own emptiness by nature humble and oblige you the
more to Christ, from whom you receive all you have.
2. Hence we are informed, that none can claim benefit by imputed
righteousness, but those only that live in the power of inherent holiness; to
whomsoever Christ was made righteousness, to him he also was made
gospel has not the least favour for licentiousness. It is every way as careful
to press men to their duties as to instruct them in their privileges, Tit. 3:
8. "This is a faithful saying; and these things I will that ye affirm
constantly; that they which have believed in God, might be careful to maintain
good works." It is a loose principle, divulged by libertines, to the
reproach of Christ and his gospel, that sanctification is not the evidence of
our justification. And Christ is as much wronged by them who separate holiness
from righteousness (as if a sensual vile life were consistent with a justified
state) as he is in the contrary extreme, by those who confound Christ's
righteousness with man's holiness, in the point of justification; or that own
no other righteousness, but what is inherent in themselves. The former opinion
makes him a cloak for sin, the latter a needless sacrifice for sin.
is true, our sanctification cannot justify us before God; but what then, can
it not evidence our justification before men? Is there no necessity, or use
for holiness, because it has no hand in our justification? Is the preparation
of the soul for heaven, by altering its frame and temper, nothing? Is the
glorifying of our Redeemer, by the exercises of grace in the world, nothing?
Does the work of Christ render the work of the Spirit needless? God forbid:
"He came not by blood only, but by water also," 1 John 5: 6. And
when the apostle saith, in Rom. 4: 5. "But unto him that worketh not, but
believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for
righteousness", the scope of it is neither to characterise and describe
the justified person, as one that is lazy and slothful, and has no mind to
work, nor the rebellious and refractory, refusing obedience to the commands of
God; but to represent him as an humbled sinner, who is convinced of his
inability to work out his own righteousness by the law, and sees all his
endeavours to obey the law fall short of righteousness, and therefore is said,
in a law-sense, not to work, because he does not work so as to answer the
purpose and end of the law, which accepts of nothing beneath perfect
when (in the same text) the ungodly are said to be justified, that character
describes not the temper and frame of their hearts and lives, after their
justification, but what it was before; not as it leaves, but as it found them.
3. How unreasonable, and worse than brutish, is the sin of infidelity, by
which the sinner rejects Christ, and with him all those mercies, and benefits,
which alone can relieve and cure his misery!
is by nature blind and ignorant, and yet refuses Christ, who comes to him with
heavenly light and wisdom, he is condemned by the terrible sentence of the law
to eternal wrath, and yet rejects Christ, who renders to him complete and
perfect righteousness: he is wholly polluted and plunged into original and
actual pollution of nature and practice, yet will have none of Christ, who
would become sanctification to him. He is oppressed in soul and body, with the
deplorable effects and miseries sin has brought upon him, and yet is so in
love with his bondage, that he will neither accept Christ, nor the redemption
he brings with him to sinners.
what monsters, what beasts has sin turned its subjects into! "You will
not come to me that ye may have life," John 5: 40 . Sin has stabbed the
sinner to the heart, the wounds are all mortal, eternal death is in his face;
Christ has prepared the only plaister that can cure his wounds, but he will
not suffer him to apply it. He acts like one in love with death, and that
judges it sweet to perish. So Christ tells us, Prov. 8: 36 "All they that
hate me, love death:" not in itself but in its causes, with which it is
inseparably connected. They are loth to burn, yet willing to sin; though sin
kindle those everlasting flames. So that in two things the unbeliever shows
himself worse than brutish, he cannot think of damnation, the effect of sin,
without horror; and cannot yet think of sin, the cause of damnation, without
pleasure; he is loth to perish to all eternity without a remedy, and yet
refuses and declines Christ as if he were an enemy, who only can and would
deliver him from that eternal perdition.
do men act therefore, as if they were in love with their own ruin! Many poor
wretches now in the way to hell, what an hard shift do they make to cast
themselves away! Christ meets them many times in the ordinances, where they
studiously shun him: many times checks them in their way by convictions, which
they make an hard shift to overcome and conquer. Oh how willing are they to
accept a cure, a benefit, a remedy, for any thing but their souls! You see
then that sinners cannot, (should they study all their days to do themselves a
mischief), take a readier course to undo themselves, than by rejecting Christ
in his gracious offers.
the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is less than this sin.
itself is exasperated by it, and the damnation of such as reject Christ, (so
prepared for them, with whatever they need, and so seriously and frequently
offered to them upon the knee of gospel entreaty), is just, inevitable, and
will be more intolerable than to any in the world beside them. It is just, for
the sinner has but his own option, or choice: he is but come to the end which
he was often told his way would bring him to. It is inevitable, for there is
no other way to salvation, but that which is rejected. And it will be more
intolerable than the damnation of others, because neither heathens nor devils
ever aggravated their sins by such an horrid circumstance, as the wilful
refusing of such an apt, offered, and only remedy.
4. What a tremendous symptom of wrath, and sad character of death, appears
upon that mans' soul, to which no effectual application of Christ can be made
by the gospel.
with his benefits, is frequently tendered to them in the gospel; they have
been beseeched once and again, upon the knee of importunity, to accept him;
those entreaties and persuasions have been urged by the greatest arguments,
the command of God, the love of Christ, the inconceivable happiness or misery
which unavoidably follow the accepting or rejecting of those offers, and yet
nothing will affect them: all their pleas for infidelity have been over and
over confuted, their reasons and consciences have stood convinced, they have
been speechless, as well as Christless: not one sound argument is found with
them to defend their infidelity: they confess in general, that such courses as
theirs are, lead to destruction. They will yield them to be happy souls that
are in Christ; and yet, when it comes to the point, their own closing with
him, nothing will do; all arguments, all entreaties, return to us without
what is the reason of this unaccountable obstinacy? In other things it is not
so: If they be sick, they are so far from rejecting a physician that offers
himself, that they will send, and pray, and pay him too. If they be arrested
for debt, and anyone will be a surety, and pay their debts for them, words can
hardly express the sense they have of such a kindness: but though Christ would
be both a physician and surety, and whatever else their needs require, they
will rather perish to eternity, than accept him. What may we fear to be the
reason of this, but because they are not of Christ's sheep, John 10: 26. The
Lord open the eyes of poor sinners, to apprehend not only how great a sin, but
how dreadful a sign this is.
5 If Christ, with all his benefits, be made ours, by God's special
application, what a day of mercies then is the day of conversion! What
multitudes of choice blessings visit the converted soul in that day!
day (saith Christ to Zaccheus, Luke 19: 9) is salvation come to this
house." In this day, Christ comes into the soul, and he comes not empty,
but brings with him all his treasures of wisdom and righteousness,
sanctification and redemption. Troops of mercies, yea, of the best of mercies,
come with him. It is a day of singular gladness and joy to the heart of
Christ, when he is espoused to, and received by the believing soul: it is a
coronation day to a king. So you read, Cant. 3: 11. "Go forth, O ye
daughters of Sion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother
crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his
under the type of Solomon in his greatest magnificence and glory, when the
royal diadem was set upon his head, and the people shouted for joy, so that
the earth did ring again, is shadowed out the joy of Christ's heart, when poor
souls, by their high estimation of him, and consent to his government, do, as
it were, crown him with glory and honour, and make his heart glad.
if the day of our espousals to Christ be the day of the gladness of his heart,
and he reckons himself thus honoured and glorified by us, what a day of joy
and gladness should it be to our hearts, and how should we be transported with
joy, to see a King from heaven, with all his treasures of grace and glory,
bestowing himself freely, and everlastingly upon us, as our portion! No wonder
Zaccheus came down joyfully, Luke 19: 6; that the eunuch went home rejoicing,
Acts 8: 39. that the gaoler rejoiced, believing in God with all his household,
Acts 16: 34 . that they that were converted, did eat their meat with gladness,
praising God, Acts 2: 41, 46. that there was great joy among them at Samaria ,
when Christ came among them in the preaching of the gospel, Acts 8: 5, 8. I
say, it is no wonder we read of such joy accompanying Christ into the soul,
when we consider, that in one day, so many blessings meet together in it, the
least of which is not to be exchanged for all the kingdoms of this world, and
the glory of them. Eternity itself will but suffice to bless God for the
mercies of this one day.
6. If Christ be made all this to every soul, unto whom he is effectually
applied, what cause then have those souls, that are under the preparatory work
of the Spirit, and are come nigh to Christ and all his benefits, to stretch
out their hands, with vehement desire to Christ, and give him the most
important invitation into their souls!
whole world is distinguishable into three classes, or sorts of persons; such
as are far from Christ; such as are not far from Christ; and such as are in
Christ. They that are in Christ have heartily received him. Such as are far
from Christ, will not open to him; their hearts are fast barred by ignorance,
prejudice, and unbelief against him: But those that are come under the
preparatory workings of the Spirit, nigh to Christ, who see their own
indispensable necessity of him, and his suitableness to their necessities, in
whom also encouraging hopes begins to dawn, and their souls are waiting at the
foot of God for power to receive him, for an heart to close sincerely and
universally with him; O what vehement desires! what strong pleas! what moving
arguments should such persons urge, and plead to win Christ, and get
possession of him! they are in sight of their only remedy; Christ and
salvation are come to their very doors; there wants but a few things to make
them blessed for ever. This is the day in which their souls are exercised
between hopes and fears: Now they are much alone, and deep in thoughtfulness,
they weep and make supplication for a heart to believe, and that against the
great discouragements with which they encounter.
if this be the case of thy soul, it will not be the least piece of service I
can do for thee, to suggest such pleas as in this case are proper to be urged
for the attainment of thy desires, and the closing of the match between Christ
Plead the absolute necessity which now drives thee to Christ: Tell him thy
hope is utterly perished in all other refuges. Thou art come like a starving
beggar to the last door of hope. Tell him thou now beginnest to see the
absolute necessity of Christ. Thy body has not so much need of bread, water,
or air, as thy soul has of Christ, and that wisdom and righteousness,
sanctification and redemption, that are in him.
Plead the Father's gracious design in furnishing and sending him into the
world, and his own design in accepting the Father's call. Lord Jesus, was thou
not "anointed to preach good tidings to the meek, to bind up the
broken-hearted, and to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of
the prison to them that are bound?" Isa. 61: 1, 3. Behold an object
suitable to thine office: whilst I was ignorant of my condition, I have a
proud rebellious heart, but conviction and self-acquaintance have now melted
it: my heart was harder than the nether millstone, and it was as easy to
dissolve the obdurate rocks, as to thaw and melt my heart for sin; but now God
has made my heart soft, I sensibly feel the misery of my condition. I once
thought myself at perfect liberty, but now I see what I conceited to be
perfect liberty, is perfect bondage; and never did a poor prisoner sigh for
deliverance more than I. Since then thou hast given me a soul thus qualified,
though still unworthy, for the exercise of thine office, and execution of thy
commission; Lord Jesus, be, according to thy name, a Jesus unto me.
Plead the unlimited and general invitation made to such souls as you are, to
come to Christ freely. Lord, thou hast made open proclamations; "Ho,
every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, Is. 55: 1. And Rev. 22: 17.
"Him that is a-thirst come". In obedience to thy call, lo, I come;
had I not been invited, my coming to thee, dear Lord Jesus, had been an act of
presumption, but this makes it an act of duty and obedience.
Plea the unprofitableness of thy blood to God; Lord, there is no profit in my
blood, it will turn to no more advantage to thee to destroy, than it will to
save me: if thou send me to hell, (as the merit of my sin calls upon thy
justice to do,) I shall be there dishonouring thee to all eternity, and the
debt I owe thee never paid. But, if thou apply thy Christ to me for
righteousness, satisfaction for all that I have done will be laid down in one
full, complete sum; indeed, if the honour of thy justice lay as a bar to my
pardon, it would stop my mouth: but when thy justice, as well as thy mercy,
shall both rejoice together, and be glorified and pleased in the same act,
what hinders but that Christ be applied to my soul, since, in so doing, God
can be no loser by it?
and lastly, Plead thy compliance with the terms of the gospel: tell him, Lord,
my will complies fully and heartily to all thy gracious terms, I can now
subscribe a blank: let God offer his Christ on what terms he will, my heart is
ready to comply; I have no exception against any article of the gospel. And
now, Lord, I wholly refer myself to thy pleasure; do with me what seems good
in thine eyes, only give me an interest in Jesus Christ; as to all other
concerns I lie at thy feet, in full resignation of all to thy pleasure. Never
did any perish in that posture and frame; and I hope I shall not be made the
first instance and example.
7. Lastly, If Christ, with all his benefits, be made ours, by a special
application; how contented, thankful, comfortable, and hopeful, should
believers be, in every condition which God casts them into in this world!
such a mercy as this, let them never open their mouths any more to repine and
grudge at the outward inconveniences of their condition in this world. What
are the things you want, compared with the things you enjoy? What is a little
money, health,* or liberty, to wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and
redemption? All the crowns and sceptres in the world, sold to their full
value, are no price for the least of these mercies. But I will not insist
here, your duty lies much higher than contentment.
thankful, as well as content, in every state. "Blessed be God, (saith the
apostle) the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all
[spiritual blessings] in heavenly places in Christ:" O think what are men
to angels, that Christ should pass by them to become a Saviour to men? And
what art thou among men, that thou shouldst be taken, and others left! And
among all the mercies of God, what mercies are comparable to these conferred
upon thee? O bless God in the lowest ebb of outward comforts, for such
privileges as these.
yet you will not come up to your duty in all this, except you be joyful in the
Lord, and rejoice evermore after the receipt of such mercies as these, Phil.
4: 4. "Rejoice in the Lord ye righteous, and again I say rejoice."
For has not the poor captive reason to rejoice, when he has recovered his
liberty? The debtor to rejoice when all scores are cleared, and he owes
nothing? The weary traveller to rejoice, though he be not owner of a shilling,
when he is come almost home, where all his wants shall be supplied? Why this
is our case, when Christ once becomes yours: you are the Lord's freemen, your
debts to justice are all satisfied by Christ; and you are within a little of
complete redemption from all the troubles and inconveniences of your present
Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ.
bodily health etc., compare with the last paragraph in The
Promise of Temporal Benefits by Thomas Boston
of John Flavel (6 volumes) are published by The Banner of Truth Trust.