Union With Christ: The Ground of Security
An address given at the Mildmay Conference in 1883.
I suppose, dear Christian friends, that a speaker at any time may feel the weight of his responsibility in addressing a company of the people of God at these Conferences. More especially do I feel this now after the eloquent addresses we have listened to to-day on this subject. But still more do I feel that responsibility when I consider what that subject really is; for if there is one topic more than another on which we should seek with all reverence, and in the spirit of the worshipper, with unshod feet and bowed head and worshipping heart, to speak, it is surely that of our ‘Union with Christ.’ Whether we consider it in the height of the glory of the character of Him to Whom we are united, or in the depth of the ruin and the shame in which we were found, and whence we were taken up and united to Him----the ever-blessed and ever-glorious Son of God----surely we cannot but fall at His feet and reverently worship Him. May God give us in that spirit still to consider this subject to-night.
If I repeat during the little while allotted to me some of the lines of truth already brought out to-day by more eloquent lips, I pray you to bear with me, especially as you have just sung the words----
"Sing them over again to me,
Wonderful words of life."
And He Who condescended to take a few loaves and fishes from a little lad, perchance may take up some crumbs to-night once more to feed His people with.
In the North of England, a week or two since, I was asked by a well- known Christian what subject had been chosen for the next, that is this Mildmay Conference. I replied, it was "Union with Christ;" and he said, "Don't you think they might have a more practical subject, bearing on Christian honesty, truthfulness and work?" That remark was doubtless made in all sincerity, under the conviction that Christians, speaking generally, fall very far short of carrying out in detail in their every-day life, the glory of that character which they bear as being linked with the ever adorable Son of God. It is perfectly true, that the professing Church of God fails to realize the true character that God has imparted to her, as also in integrity, in truthfulness, in self-surrender, and in outright consecration to God. How is this? Is it not because she fails to apprehend the spirituality of the calling wherewith she is called, and the glory that God has attached to that calling, and the wondrous prospect that awaits the child of God? And so, failing to understand her true position and calling, and the dignity and hope of that calling, we, the members of that Church, fail in detail practically to manifest in our every-day life, in our every footfall, as we ought, the heavenly character of the child of God, of the Bride of Christ.
We have been hearing great and solemn things to-day about this union with Christ. May God in His infinite mercy grant a resurrection of all the truth we know about it, so that we may not only know it intellectually, but know it in our hearts. "The eyes of your hearts being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." Not merely our inheritance in Him, but also His inheritance in the saints.
Were I a politician, and came to any one of you, and said, "Do you know an important Cabinet Council has been held to-day?'' You might say, ''Indeed! what is the special business?" I might reply, Oh, the great Irish question." Well, perhaps you are not much interested in the affairs of Ireland; and I come again, and tell you another Cabinet Council has been held on the Egyptian question; but you are not greatly interested in that either. Then I may come and say another Cabinet Council has been held on the Basuto question. "Well," you reply, "it is important, I think." But I come again and tell you of another meeting of the Cabinet, and when you ask the subject of their deliberations, I reply, they have been consulting about a matter which concerns yourself: "Indeed!" you say, and at once wake up and inquire what it is; and if the Government were about to appoint you to some very high office, or to confer upon you some great dignity, something to be handed down from generation to generation, and which would cover your name with glory; methinks from that moment your interest would be thoroughly awakened, and you would watch eagerly for every particle of intelligence about it, and yield your whole being to that business. But, dear friends, I tell you, as I remind myself, that a Cabinet Council has been held in the highest Court in the Universe, the Holy Trinity in Heaven, back in the circles of eternity, and the important business that occupied the mind of the Eternal was something that intimately concerns you and me. It was none other than that we should be created, that we should be redeemed, and called into wondrous union with the Son of God, securing to us unutterable dignity and glory, and an inheritance that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive," but which the Holy Spirit would discover to us, and through faith, bring into our practical possession and enjoyment, as declared in the Scriptures, "Called unto the fellowship of His Son," ''and predestinated unto the adoption of children, and chosen in Him before the foundation of the world." We want to enter into the great fact. Is it true? Oh! we have need to ask ourselves----are we really believers in the great facts brought under our notice in the Word of God, and through the ministry of His dear children? Who of us realizes, as God would have us realize it, that before this world was made, before this planet was fixed in its orbit, before yon sun gave forth its light, or the moon streamed forth its brightness----before God said, "Let us make man in our image,'' there was provided the wondrous sacrifice in the second Person of the ever-blessed Trinity, the only-begotten Son, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world;" and further, that the Holy Spirit should come to bring about this wondrous union with Him Who is the Son of the eternal Father. Do we realize this glorious fact? Surely not, or else we would live more like the millionaires we are, and not like beggars or those whose incomes are limited. Assuredly there is no standing or position between outright Christianity and outright infidelity. Yet, alas! do we not try to make for ourselves a middle track?
But let us observe more in detail the nature of this union. It is the union of the creature with the Creator, the union of the sinner with the Saviour, the union of Christ and His Church----as living stones on the great Foundation-stone forming one great Temple, the "Temple of the living God," "and in His Temple, every whit of it uttereth His glory." (Psalm xxix. 9). Furthermore, it is a union as of branches to the vine; we receive the sap, the life, alone from Him, in order to bear fruit. It is the union of sons in the family of the great Elder Brother, Who is not ashamed to call us brethren. And He Who is the great Forerunner and Head of the family, makes us also His joint-heirs---- heirs together with Him of an inheritance that beggars all description; "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (Rom. viii. 17; I Peter i. 4.) “All things are ours in Him." (I Cor. iii. 22). This also involves our being partakers of His resurrection glory. Again, this union means a union as of the joints to the body, and of the body to the head. "Now ye are the body of Christ," saith the Holy Ghost, '' and members in particular." (I Cor. xii. 27). He was given to be "Head over all things to the Church, which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.'' (Eph. i. 22, 23).
And lastly, and perhaps, brightest and best of all, we have the union of the Bride and Bridegroom, that we may be the object of His heart's affections and the sharers of His eternal love. (Eph. v. 25-27). In the beginning He said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." Dear friends, I ask you, before God and in the light of all these types, do you realize these Divine facts? Do you enter into the glory of that union? Or do you listen to this statement as simply so much doctrine found in the Book, and not as facts in which you are immediately concerned and will be throughout eternity? You are the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty. As He hath said, "I will dwell in them and walk in them, and they shall be My people, and I will be their God." But I ask again, Have we risen to the dignity of this? or have we been accepting it, as the mere dogma of the schools and not as Divine truth that burns in our hearts, separating us from all that is unclean and worldly, and low and grovelling, delivering us from unbelief, and from everything that means spiritual incapacity, and leading us into the magnitude of the stupendous realities God has declared in His precious Word? These are truths or else mere fiction; they are the revelations of God to us, or else they are the mere dogmas of men. Beloved Christian friends, have we not lived as if the latter were true and not the former? Look at the unevangelized world to-day; look at the minions of perishing heathen, and ask yourselves, as I ask myself, Wherein lies the secret----the cause of all this? Surely the cause is that the Church of God has failed to understand how she has been saved and called with a holy calling----lifted from the dunghill and placed among the princes, brought from the far-off land and "made nigh through the blood of Christ.'' That in Christ, by Whom were created the heavens and the earth, in Him, the darling of His Father's heart, the brightest Jewel in Heaven, the only Begotten of the Father, in Him who rose, saying, "All power is given unto Me in Heaven and on earth," in Him Who now lends glory to the throne on which He sits, Who fills Heaven with the splendour of His person and the glory of His name, and Who will yet fill the earth with His praise and hell with His fear; in Him before Whom we believe Heaven to-night, falls prostrate, saying, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory and blessing''; in HIM we are accepted-to HIM we are united by indissoluble ties forever. The weakest believer, the most unintelligent Christian, the veriest babe in Christ, is there represented in Him, for there is no difference as regards our standing. As we heard just now, whatever may be our state, in Him we are one. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature;" and of such we read, "As He is, so are we in this world.”----a string of monosyllables that God has given for the babes to wear, as well as the fathers in Christ.
But that is not all. We see there is indeed a spiritual interpenetration----we in Christ and Christ in us. Why, this is perfectly past comprehension, that the blessed Son of God should find an inheritance in us, and live in us, and dwell in us; but it is so. In Col. i. 27, we read of "Christ in us the hope of glory."
Now observe the BASIS of this union. First, it is by Covenant predestination; and there, beloved brethren, it is written in the documents (Eph. i. 4, 5). There have been covenants and documents written which moulder in the cellars of the Parliament Houses or somewhere else, that will perish and pass away. Many covenants made by Cabinets on earth are not worth the paper on which they are written; but it is not so with the covenant of eternity, the covenant concerning the Church, the covenant between God and His people; that covenant is "ordered in all things and sure," because it is secured by Him Who has made it, and that sure covenant will never pass away.
We are His also by Promise (Gal. iii. 8). "In Thee shall all nations be blessed " and there is promise upon promise given. The Bible is full of promises to God's people, and these blessed words of promise never fail.
Then, thirdly, we are His by Oath. God has backed His promise with an oath (Heb. vi. 17). "God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath.''
Further, we are His by Gift. The Son was given, and the eternal life is given in the Son, and we are given to Christ. A threefold gift. We have Christ given for us, the Holy Spirit given to us, and we are given to Christ. We are His by gift. How sweetly did Jesus utter those words: "Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me"! And we who possess an interest in Christ, and have Christ in us, have we not received Him as God's free, spontaneous and gracious gift?
We are His by Blood. Our union is secured by the blood of the Lamb. "Ye who sometimes were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Eph. ii. 13). That blood sprinkled upon our consciences and hearts. Do we realize that in this very world, our hearts are sprinkled from an evil conscience? and that the precious blood of the sacrifice has been shed for us? and that we are redeemed, cleansed and made nigh by it; and that He thus died, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God? (I Peter iii. 18).
We are His by the Word of Truth; "we are born again of incorruptible seed, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever" (I Peter i. 23).
And we are, lastly, united to Him by the indwelling Spirit given to us. The Holy Spirit, the third Person in the ever-blessed Trinity, renewing and dwelling in us, and leading us to cry "Abba, Father" (Rom. viii. 15). Let me ask you again, which of us realizes that great fact?
Thus we have a seven-fold basis of union with Christ. We are His and He is ours by Covenant, by Promise, by Oath, by Gift, by the Blood, by the Word of Truth, and by the Holy Spirit.
Thus united to Him, surely here is that wondrous sight repeated over and over again of the fire in the bush, and yet it was not consumed. And so in Christ, we see the glory of the Godhead dwelling in the human body, and yet "the bush is not consumed." We see the glory of this Divine life, of this indwelling Spirit of the indwelling Christ; and though He dwells in us, shining and burning, yet the bush is not consumed.
Surely this Divine union is so secure that it can never be broken; surely it can never fail! As we heard this morning, WELCOME to the blessing of this union, welcome to the blessings it secures. No wonder the Holy Ghost, by the apostle, says, “Let us draw nigh;'' for are we not already "made nigh''?
"So nigh, so very nigh to God,
Nearer I cannot be;
For in the Person of His Son
I am as near as He.
"So dear, so very dear to God,
More dear I cannot be;
The love wherewith He loves His Son,
Such is His love to me."
And so within the veil, worshipping in the light of the Shekinah glory, we lose ourselves in the love of God. Do we bathe in the light of that glory, and dwell in it? "Then, beholding, as in a glass (or reflecting as in a mirror) the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord" (II Cor. iii. 18).
Hence our SECURITY:----from judgment, and from death, from the dominion of sin, and from the power of the devil. But do we realize this? That we are secure against all our enemies, from the guilt and dominion of sin, secure from the power of the Evil One, and the fear of death, so that we can exclaim as the dear dying saint at Willow Park did, "Oh! it's a beautiful thing to die!" Or like the beloved Henry Bewley, who, when dying, said, "It were worth thirty deaths to see my Lord. Lay nothing black upon my bed; white becomes the conqueror. This is only the robing-room for a glorious eternity." Ah! the child of God is secure from all the shafts of death; for we can look it in the face and say, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ '' (I Cor. xv. 57).
Furthermore, we are secure in order to enter into the magnificent possessions of the Lord Jesus Christ, to enjoy the wealth of His resurrection life. Do we really believe that verse in the Bible (I Cor. iii. 22), "All things are yours: whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." And so we are secure in order that we may be possessors of this magnificent portion, in order that we may enter into all the glory of this calling, and enjoy the wealth of this inheritance. Secure in order to enjoy the peace which Christ gives, as well as the peace which He has made; for there are two. He says, ''Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you.'' Thousands, perhaps, have the peace in the first case, but know little of the other. The peace that keeps us near Him, and enables us to say----
"I stand upon the mount of God,
With sunlight in my soul;
I hear the storms in vales beneath,
I hear the thunders roll.
"But I am calm with Thee, my God,
Beneath these glorious skies;
And to the height on which I stand
Nor storms nor clouds can rise.
“O this is life! O this is joy!
My God, to find Thee so;
Thy face to see, Thy voice to hear
And all Thy love to know."
Oh may the God of peace ever give us this peace! Not peace at the Mildmay Conference merely; not peace only when everything is calm; but that peace which leads us to say, "Although the fig-tree shalt not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (Hab. iii. 17, 18). That peace which keeps us when circumstances are dark, when the wife lies ill, or the children are taken, singly or all together; as it kept a Christian who lost £30,000, yet testified, "I am thankful to say I feel happier in Christ than ever before in all my life." When asked why? "Oh," he said, "I realize as I never did before that I have an inheritance which is incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” We have this security in order to joy, but how few joyful Christians there are! We seem rather to be as the little girl in America, who put her spoon out in the sunshine and said, "I have just taken a spoonful of sunshine;" and that is just what we are too often content to do.
Now let us see to it that this union produces fruitfulness in service for Him; surely this should stir our souls to more abiding communion, in order, by His grace, to be fit instruments for Him to use. You have heard of Duncan Matheson. He visited a dying Christian, and he asked her to give him a last message. "Yes, Duncan," she said, "I will give you a message. Remember you are a polished shaft, but a breath may dim you." Remember, we are in the enjoyment of the Divine life, but we may easily spoil our Christian fruitfulness. We were told this morning about the indwelling of Christ, and His power to check sin; but sin, if allowed, will check our communion, and stop the flow of that fulness that is in Him, and render us unfit for His work. The little foxes spoil the vines and the tender grapes; and dead flies cause the apothecaries' ointment to send forth an ill savour.
Let us then, as the outcome of these meetings, go to Him in prayer and faith, that by His grace, every blot and stain upon us may be cleansed away; every little fox taken that spoils the grapes; every dead fly taken from the ointment; that by God's grace, we may go forth three thousand men and women, sons and daughters of God, filled with the Spirit, linked with the living Saviour, in communion with the risen Son of God. Who shall tell what would be the outcome to London, to the whole country? Who shall tell what the result would be to China, Africa, India, and the isles of the sea? Oh, that we were thus filled as the result of this day's consideration of this important subject;----Union with Christ. Oh, to realize the blessedness of that word, "I am my Beloved's, and He is mine!" And, saturated with His love, filled with His Spirit, and anointed with His power, we shall then be witnesses according to His word, "As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." "Ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord."
God grant this may be one outcome of the precious gatherings of this day, for His name's sake.