by John Fawcett
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The subject to which the reader's attention is invited in these pages is of the highest importance; since love to the divine Redeemer is the distinguishing characteristic of a real Christian, and most indispensably requirement in order to our serving God acceptably in this world, and to our dwelling with him in the next world. Without a sincere and loving attachment to the Author of eternal salvation, whatever works of morality we may perform, our obedience will be materially and essentially defective, as not flowing from a proper principle.
Love is the parent and promoter of everything excellent and amiable in the Christian character. It diffuses itself through the whole train of holy actions. It gives them all their motion, and dignifies them with all their real value. The eloquence of men, or even of angels, the gift of prophecy, the knowledge of all mysteries, the power to work miracles, the most extensive liberality to the poor, and even the suffering of martyrdom, are all insignificant and unprofitable without love to Jesus.
He who loved us so as to give himself a ransom for our souls, who was lifted up upon the ignominious cross, that he might draw all men unto himself, proposes to those who profess to be his disciples, the solemn and important inquiry, "Do you love me?" He values not our service—if the heart is not in it. He knows what is in man; he sees and judges the heart, and has no regard to outward acts of obedience, if no devout affection is employed in them. It is not enough for the eye to be lifted up to him, or the knee to bow before him; it is not enough for the tongue to be employed in speaking of him, or the hand in acting for his interest in the world. All this may be done by those whose religion is mere pretense! But the heart with all the inward powers and passions of the soul, must, in the first place, be given to him. "Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity;" and as the natural consequence of that, keep his commandments.
I would ground the following observations on the words of the apostle Peter, "Yes, He is very precious to you who believe!" 1 Peter 2:7. The word precious, signifies honor, price, or preciousness itself; that which is of infinite value.
The people to whom Christ is precious, are, with great propriety, said to be those who believe. Unbelievers see no beauty or majesty in him, nor any loveliness that they should desire him. Hence have we so many strange notions advanced, concerning his adorable person. Many daringly deny the only Lord that bought us with his own dear life, and substitute a mere creature in his room. There are others who have such low and irreverent conceptions of him, as if they knew not the value of his person, his work, and his sacrifice, in the business of our salvation. Whereas, there is nothing in our religion which has either truth, reality or substance—but by virtue of its relation to Christ, and what he has accomplished on earth on our behalf.
Perhaps in no age, since the establishment of Christianity in the world, was greater opposition made to the real dignity and glory of the Son of God, than in the present. It is a consideration which may justly affect the hearts of all who love him in sincerity. The doctrine of his proper Deity, is the ground of all our hope and salvation by him, and the very foundation of the Christian religion; yet the disbelief of this is openly avowed by many, who strenuously maintain, and industriously diffuse their sentiments in the world.
It is awful to consider, how many ruin their own souls by stumbling on the rock of safety, and dash themselves in pieces on that which is laid as the only foundation of hope. Yet in this the Scripture is fulfilled. The same Jesus, who is precious to those who believe, is "a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to those who stumble at the Word, being disobedient." The reason here assigned why men stumble at the Word, and at what it reveals concerning Jesus Christ, is disobedience; and, perhaps it will be found, that, in many instances, the cause of men's rejecting the Savior, is a rooted aversion to that purity of heart and conduct which the evangelical system requires. "This," says our blessed Lord, "is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil."
Christ is not precious to those who do not, under a sense of their absolute need of him, manifest that regard for him which the sacred Scriptures everywhere require. The religious system, adopted by many at this day, has very little of real Christianity in it. Many labored performances are now published to the world, in which we find the duties of morality recommended with peculiar elegance of style, and acuteness of reasoning, wherein we meet with little or nothing concerning the person, the work, or the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is like raising a superstructure, without a solid foundation. The great mystery of redemption by the blood of that Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, appears to be of little or no use with such people, in their attempts to promote piety and obedience.* There may be many things in such performances highly worthy of attention; there may be a striking display of learning and ability; but at the same time, that which constitutes the real essence of Christianity, and which is the proper spring of all true obedience, is entirely omitted.
*A modern writer, of distinguished eminence, justly remarks that towards the close of the last century, divines professed to make it their chief object to inculcate the moral and practical precepts of Christianity; but without sufficiently maintaining, often even without justly laying the grand foundation of a sinner's acceptance with God; or pointing out how the practical precepts of Christianity grow out of her peculiar doctrines, and are inseparably connected with them. By this fatal error, the very genius and essential nature of Christianity underwent a change. She no longer retained her peculiar character, or produced that appropriate frame of spirit by which her followers had been characterized.
The example thus set was followed during the present century, and its effect was aided by various causes. The fatal habit of considering Christian morals as distinct from Christian doctrines, has insensibly gained strength. Thus the peculiar doctrines of Christianity went more out of sight; and, as might naturally have been expected, the moral system itself also began to wither and decay, being robbed of that which should have supplied it with life and nutriment. At length, in our own days, these peculiar doctrines have almost altogether vanished from the view. Even in many sermons scarcely any traces of them are to be found. Wilberforce's Practical View, Chapter 6.
'It is not so,' says a very respectable writer of the present age, 'it is not so in our view of things. We find so much use for Christ, that he appears as the soul which animates the whole body of our divinity; as the center of the system, diffusing light and life to every part of it. Take away Christ, and the whole ceremonial of the Old Testament appears to us little more than a dead mass of uninteresting matter; prophecy loses almost all that is interesting and endearing; the gospel is annihilated, or ceases to be that good news to lost sinners, which it professes to be; practical religion is divested of its most powerful motives; the evangelical dispensation of its peculiar glory, and heaven itself of its most transporting joys.
The sacred penmen appear to have written all along, upon the same principles. They considered Christ as the all in all of their religion, and as such, they loved him with their whole hearts. Do they speak of the first tabernacle? They call it a "figure for the time then present. But when Christ came as a high priest of good things to come, by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Do they speak of prophecy? They call the testimony of Jesus the spirit of prophecy. Do they speak of the gospel? It is Christ crucified. Do they speak of the medium by which the world was crucified to them, and they unto the world? It is the cross of Christ. One of the most affecting ideas which they afford us of heaven, consists in ascribing everlasting glory and dominion "to him who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood." (Fuller's Calvinistic and Socinian Systems compared, page 217, 218.)
All the lines of evangelical truth meet and center in Jesus Christ, and therefore he himself says, "I am the truth." Were he to be excluded, the several parts of the glorious system would be disconcerted, and the whole frame would be broken in pieces. What would become of the doctrine of redemption, of pardon of sin, of justification, of preservation, or of future felicity?
Jesus is the life of all the graces and comforts of a Christian. By the knowledge and contemplation of him, and of his death in our stead—faith lives, and is strengthened from day to day. All the springs of repentance are opened, and flow freely, when the heart is melted by views of a dying Savior. Love feels the attractive power of its glorious object, and is kindled into a holy flame. Sin is mortified. The world is subdued. The hope of future glory is supported, enlivened, and confirmed, so as to become sure and steadfast, like an anchor of the soul. But without him, whom having not seen we love, these graces would wither and die; or, to speak more properly, they would have no existence.
What is said in the following pages concerning the glory and preciousness of Jesus Christ, is not to be understood as if spoken to the exclusion of the Father, or of the Holy Spirit. But I would beg permission to say, that I am not able to form any clear, satisfactory, comfortable thoughts of God, suited to awaken my love, or encourage my hope and trust—but as he has been pleased to reveal himself in the person of Jesus Christ.* God was once manifested in the flesh on earth, and he is now manifested in the same human nature in heaven, exercising universal dominion, having the government of heaven, earth, and hell upon his shoulders! "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself." The light of his glory is seen in the face, or person, of Jesus Christ. This is the foundation on which the Christian's hope is built, the fountain whence he derives all his refreshment and consolation.
Until God in human flesh I see,
My thoughts no comfort find;
The holy, just, and sacred Three
Are terrors to the mind.
* Jesus Christ says, "I am God, and there is none else." This does not exclude the God-head of the Father. I think it is sufficiently evident from many places of Scripture, that the Father and the Son have an inconceivable communion, and that one and the same Divine nature, which is in the Father, dwells in the Son. For, since divine names and attributes, works and worship, are ascribed to both, they must both be truly God; and since there is but one true God, they must both have fellowship in the same God-head. Hence there is no other God-head but that which dwells in Christ; that God-head in which he partakes by his being One with the Father. "I and my Father are one. I am in the Father, and the Father is in me." Therefore the apostle says, "All the fullness of the God-head dwells bodily in him."
But if Immanuel's face appear,
My hope, my joy begins;
His name forbids my slavish fear,
His grace removes my sins. —Isaac Watts.
The outlines of our plan, in the ensuing discourse, are:
1. The character of the people to whom Christ is precious.
2. The evidence they give that Christ is precious to them.
3. In what respects Christ is precious.
Table of Contents
Chapter I. Introductory Remarks
Chapter II. The character of the people, to whom Christ is precious
Chapter III. The evidence believers give, that Christ is precious to them
Chapter IV. In what ways Jesus Christ is precious to those who believe
Chapter V. Practical improvement of the subject