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This light shining in man, is that very face of Jesus Christ, in which we receive, and out of which no man possibly can receive, this knowledge of the glory of God. God hath“ spoken unto us by his son,” hence the son is called the word of God, that by which the Father speaketh to the states of all men individually. The life of this eternal word shining in all, speaks plainly God's will unto them and their duty; and unseals unto their understandings, who believe in it, the otherwise sealed book, it being, as before observed, the key of David. By this it is, that our rational faculties are so opened and enlarged in divine things, that we see with clearness, and comprehend what we could not otherwise do, by all our study and investigations. Our faculties being depraved, in a state of alienation, we reason according to our various customs, prepossessions, and inclinations.
Reason of itself is so inadequate to the knowledge of divine mysteries or truths, that her most dignified champions are at this day, and for many ages have been strenuously combatting each other's most finished systems of divinity (so called by them.) Like the potsherds of the earth, they dash one against another, greatly to the confusion and reproach of every babel in Christendom. Such is the wisdom of God, that " a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand ;" but after all the pains taken by the very masters in Israel, to establish a kingdom, or house upon the sand of human reasonings, their buildings do and will fall; “ for God will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” A superstructure thus erected on the sand, may have been so propped up by sophistry and art as to maintain a considerable degree of credit and even veneration, for several ages; but sooner or later all such grow out of estimation, as the fallacy of their pretended support has been perceived. People's eyes have been so far opened, as to see some part, more or less, of the deception, and so the tottering building has tumbled, and great has sometimes been the fall thereof.
And yet,--alas for the frailty of human nature, with all its boasted abilities, its rational, and as some would have it, almost infallible faculties !--no sooner has the absurdity of one once celebrated system been clearly discovered, and the system itself therefore rejected, but the minds of the same men, who have just seen and rejected the one, have readily, (such is the tyrannic sway of human reasonings, when once believed sufficient for the discovery of divine truths,) with eagerness and avidity, embraced another babel of confusion, as ill founded and as unsupported as the other. And some have thus revolved from one confused system and absurd opinion to another, till they have, in the course of life, embraced much of the many false doctrines which have prevailed in their day, and some have finally landed in an opinion, as foreign from truth as any they have rejected, or perhaps come about to the first they held; and I doubt not but multitudes will still go the round of this uncertain circle, seeing there is but one infallible way for any to escape it entirely, and that is, for all who think seriously of religious things, to attend to truth in the inward parts.
Pilate asks “ what is truth ?" Christ says, “ I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” He surely is so. He speaks truth in all, whether they will hearken to it or not. He enlightens all: and his words of truth in all, and his light in all, will in time and eternity be the condemnation of all that live and die regardless thereof, or rebellious against it; for the word which he has spoken in the heart shall judge us all at the last day.
Many ignorantly deny this, and that Christ is by his light, grace, or spirit in all. Oh! how little they are aware that some do certainly know that they could not possibly deny these truths unless they were ignorant of the true knowledge of the Father and the son. All that rightly know them, know that the same which formerly condemned them for all evil, even though they then knew not what it was, and positively denied its divinity, is now known to be Christ in them, the hope of glory, their light, their life, and consolation. They know and are well acquainted with him ; they have the witness in themselves; others may deride, but they still know and believe, yea, " know in whom they do believe,” know that it is he and not another. Moreover, they know that there is no clear knowledge of him without this inward acquaintance with bim.
Some deny his actual indwelling in the saints, and his inward
appearance in all the wicked to condemnation; this is no less than at once ayowing that they themselves know him not. They talk of him as at a distance, as if they knew him by the scriptures only after the flesh; he was once known after the flesh,“ yet now henceforth know ye him no more," said the apostle, and himself said, “ He dwelleth with you and shall be in you." John xiv. 17.
“ Behold I stand at the door and knock!" Is this only through the scriptures? By no means, it is universal, at the door of all hearts, in all ages of the world. Burn the Bible and he still will knock. Though we heartily bless God for the use of the scriptures, in our own language, and are highly edified and comforted in reading them, when opened by the light of Christ, but we may be deprived of these. Many good Christians have been 80 all the days of their lives, and many others for many years, by one circumstance or other; but no man, no circumstance, or complication of circumstances, can deprive us, if we love God, of the true light that enlightens all. A light to lighten the very Gentiles, and the true glory of God's inward Israel; yea, in them the very hope of their glory. And it is in order that he may come in and sup with them, and they with him, and thus become the hope of their glory too, that he knocks at the doors of all, who have not yet opened to him, nor received him.
There is a vast difference between his indwelling in those who have willingly received him, in the way of his coming, in whom he has taken up his abode,--and the manner of his being, appearing, and knocking in those who do all they can to get rid of him, keep him out, and stifle his convictive voice and knockings. So that, though he must be really in all such in a certain sense and manner, at whose doors he knocketh, for his knocking is not an external thing or act, it is called knocking to convey the idea of his striving, in love to the soul, so to come into full possession of the heart and affections, as cordially and joyfully to sup with the soul, and the soul with him; yet, I say, though he is and must be really in all, in a true sense, at whose hearts he thus knocketh, still this hinders not but that he does truly “ come in” to those who open to him.
He is in all; and if it were not so, he could not by his light
be the condemnation of sinners, but he is not in their affections, nor their guide in their actions; and this is the entrance which he delights in, and is knocking and pleading for, and until he obtains it in good degree, he cannot be their actual saviour, or their hope of glory.
Thus we see he is all in all, both in condemnation and justification ; for being in all, such as are governed by his holy influence must unavoidably feel peace and reconciliation ; whilst such as strive against him, resist his spirit, and do despite thereunto, must as unavoidably feel condemnation. Thus he is a flaming sword, turning every way to guard the tree of life, against all that have any thing in them, that wars against the life of the Lamb, in their own souls.
The Lamb, or in other words, the life of the Lamb, is the tree of life that grows in the midst of the paradise of God, for the healing of the nations. Nothing can heal the nations, but . Christ the Lamb. He is the life, he is the healer, the binder up;“ ] wound and I heal, I kill and make alive.” This Christ the life, may say in regard to the work of life in every true Christian ; something in depraved man must be wounded and slain, and something in him must be healed and made alive, before he can live to God in that life that is hid with Christ in God. Now, what can kill, but he that can bind the strong man, and cast him out, and spoil his goods; he that can finish sin and make an end of transgression ? And then, who or what can make alive, but he that brings in everlasting righteousness instead thereof? And if this be so, then it is clear that Christ the light, the life, the tree of life, the bread of life, the righteousness and justification of him that believes in the light, and so becomes a child of the light, is also the condemnation of him that believes not in, but rebels against the light. And there is no getting rid of this condemnation, but by wholly submitting to the ministration thereof; if it be rightly submitted to, with full purpose of heart, to bear the indignation of the Lord, because the soul has sinned against him, it will in due time be clearly seen, how it is that the ministration even of condemnation is glorious ; and that because being rightly endured, it leads the soul directly on to the ministration of justification, which is much more glorious.
Here the poor, tried, but submitting soul, even in the very agonies of extreme condemnation and righteous judgment, still says, with Job, “ though he slay me, yet will I trust in him;" and with Peter, or the disciples,“ to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” Here a hope takes place, that he whọ kills will make alive; and this hope was never yet disappointed in any, who bave rightly endured the day of the Lord's indignation and fierce wrath against sin; for this, rightly endured, never fails to destroy the devil and all his works; thoroughly, not in part only, but thoroughly to cleanse the floor of the heart. This slays the enmity; here the life is lost, is slain, and crucified, on the cross of Christ; and this soul must and will live; nor can all the gates of death prevail against his life in God; he thus abiding in the death and loss of his own life.
This is salvation by Christ; this is being saved by his life: it is immutably ordained, " he that will save his life, shall loose it.” There is a great ado about imputation of Christ's righteousness to souls defiled with, and living in sin; but the life in sin, yea, the very life of sin, must be lost, or else eternal life will be lost. It is the very doctrine of him, whom many are striving to make to“ serve with their sins," and as a “ cloak for their sins,” by imputation; though himself has declared, that now he has come and done what he has, “ they have no cloak for their sins."
The doctrine of imputation, rightly understood, is very precious to the true believer in Christ; though he knows it belongs not to a state of present sinfulness, but to those who are washed and made clean, and to no soul any whit further than he is so, really so. This soul feels the blessed benefit of imputation, and of non-imputation also. This is the blessed man to whom the Lord will not impute sip; no, he forgives his sins. Here is the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance and mercy of God in Christ; here his former sins are covered, as it were, or blotted out, or passed by; here he is reconciled to God by the death of his son; the mighty, immense score of his old sins, however formidable, is not equal to the love of God in Christ, and so is not suffered to prevent his being saved by the life of Christ. Indeed, every soul that is saved, is saved by his life